The billionaire industrialists and their political operatives strive to ensure the anonymity of the wealthy conservatives who fund their sprawling political operation—which funneled more than $400 million into the 2012 elections—and to keep their plans private. Attendees of these summits are warned that the seminars, where the Kochs and their allies hatch strategies for electing Republicans and advancing conservative initiatives on the state and national levels, are strictly confidential; they are cautioned to keep a close eye on their meeting notes and materials. But last week, following the Kochs’ first donor gathering of 2014, one attendee left behind a sensitive document at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort outside of Palm Springs, California, where the Kochs and their comrades had spent three days focused on winning the 2014 midterm elections and more. The document lists VIP donors — including John Schnatter, the founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain — who were scheduled for one-on-one meetings with representatives of the political, corporate, and philanthropic wings of Kochworld. The one-page document, provided to Mother Jones by a hotel guest who discovered it, offers a fascinating glimpse into the Kochs’ political machine and shows how closely intertwined it is with Koch Industries, their $115 billion conglomerate. [Continue reading...]
Allow me to introduce you to Dan Snyder. He owns the Washington Redskins football team. Before Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins were one of the most hallowed franchises in the National Football League, with a history as rich as any. Coach Joe Gibbs stalking the sidelines, quarterback Joe Theismann under center, wide receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders — nicknamed “the Posse” — lined up on the flanks. Super Bowl wins in ’83, ’88, and ’92. Under Dan Snyder, however, the Redskins have burned through seven head coaches in 14 years and made zero Super Bowl appearances. Snyder moved the team from Washington, D.C., to a corporate-sponsored stadium in suburban Maryland. He’s charged fans to watch team practices, raised ticket prices, and sued the local alternative weekly newspaper when it wrote an unflattering story about him. The best part? He never even read the offending article.
Dan Snyder may be the most hated man in Washington, D.C.
His latest misdeed to garner attention took place not on the gridiron but on the manicured grounds of his riverfront mansion in swanky Potomac, Maryland. In the latest issue of the Washington Monthly magazine, Tim Murphy tells the story of a “secret sweetheart deal” Snyder finagled with the help of a George W. Bush appointee to cut down some trees on nearby federal parkland so that he would have an unobstructed view of the Potomac River. “What’s clear is this,” Murphy writes, “by April of 2004, with his new home nearing completion and still no progress on the trees, Snyder was growing frustrated and [former NRA lobbyist turned National Park Service aide P. Daniel] Smith was determined to settle the matter.
“That spring, according to the inspector general’s report, Smith met with Snyder’s attorney for a business lunch at the Potomac estate, where Snyder had just completed an expansion to build a massive new ballroom, and followed it up with a phone call to the park official who dealt with land acquisitions. Over the phone, the official told the investigators, Smith seemed agitated that nothing had been done yet, and suggested an exit strategy, which he later alleged had come from the Redskins’ attorney: most of the trees in question were nonnative; why not clear-cut them and call it an exotic-plant extermination program?”
Snyder got the trees removed. When, as Murphy notes, a park ranger and devoted civil servant named Robert Danno blew the whistle on his bogus “exotic-plant extermination program,” Danno was promptly intimidated, demoted, and almost thrown in jail. In the end, a National Park Service inspector general’s report vindicated Danno — but by then, of course, it was too late to save those trees and Snyder had his view.
So it goes in Dan Snyder’s Washington. Yet there may be no bigger headache for the team owner than the matter of his franchise’s name: the Redskins. It’s offensive, and a growing number of activists and commentators want it changed. But as TomDispatch contributor Jeremiah Goulka writes, there is at least one bloc of public figures that fully supports the name — and that is the Republican Party. Allow Goulka, a TomDispatch regular and former Republican himself, to explain why. Andy Kroll
Win today, lose tomorrow
Why Republicans protect the “honor” of offensive team names
By Jeremiah Goulka
Every once in a while a small controversy comes along that helps explain a big problem. This National Football League season has provided such a controversy. The name of Washington D.C.’s football team, the Redskins, is under fire. “Redskins” is an offensive term and therefore inappropriate for the team representing our nation’s capital. That’s kind of obvious, right?
Most Republicans don’t think so. They defend the name, as they do other Native American-based team names, such as the college football champion Florida State Seminoles, calling them tokens of “honor.” They claim that the names celebrate a “heritage” and “tradition” of “bravery” and “warrior-spirit,” and they publicly wonder: What’s the problem?
The Onion, that fine news source, captured it in one neat, snide sentence: “A new study… confirmed that the name of the Washington Redskins is only offensive if you take any amount of time whatsoever to think about its actual meaning.” So what’s keeping Republicans from thinking about it?
For one thing, Republicans tend to wear a set of blinders, crafted and actively maintained by the party’s functionaries and its media priesthood. They also suffer from mental roadblocks shared by American whites more generally, including a thin, often myth-based “knowledge” about Native Americans. Collectively, all of this blinds Republicans to what it’s like to be on the receiving end of power at home and abroad.
That said, the GOP’s power brokers know the party is facing a demographic time bomb, so why do they let their media minions form an offensive line to protect the Redskins name? Nationally, the Republicans’ short-term hopes and long-term survival may hinge on whether they can manage to make the party welcoming to non-whites. Yet they proudly wear these blinders, as I once did, continuing to “honor” American Indians — as they never would a team called the Whiteskins, the Brownskins, the Blackskins, or the Yellowskins. Here’s a little breakdown on why.
Gallup: Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.
The results are based on more than 18,000 interviews with Americans from 13 separate Gallup multiple-day polls conducted in 2013.
In each of the last three years, at least 40% of Americans have identified as independents. These are also the only years in Gallup’s records that the percentage of independents has reached that level.
Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.
Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24%, identified as Republicans than is the case now. That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession. By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30%, a level generally maintained until 2007.
Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.
The Washington Post reports: The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents.
The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.
The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.
Key players in the Koch-backed network have already begun engaging in the 2014 midterm elections, hiring new staff members to expand operations and strafing House and Senate Democrats with hard-hitting ads over their support for the Affordable Care Act.
Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors. [Continue reading...]
Public Policy Polling: 41% [of Republicans polled] say they consider this to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment. Only 10% of Democrats and 20% of independents share that feeling. Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it’s worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it’s worse than Iran Contra.
One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.
Here is Newt Gingrich and Sheldon Adelson‘s campaign to support Occupy Wall Street! Well, not really. Ostensibly it’s a 30-minute attack ad on Mitt Romney. Beyond needing to know that this as a production by Gingrich’s super PAC, “Winning Our Future,” this video speaks for itself.
More than anything, this is a demonstration of the degree to which the OWS anti-corporate narrative is now at the core of American political discourse.
Do any of the GOP candidates truly believe they can credibly co-opt this message? This seems like a spectacular collision between rampant hubris and profound contempt for the average American.
Josh Ruebner writes: “No Aid to Israel?” wonders a recent Facebook ad sponsored by US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. “Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich say they would start foreign aid to Israel at zero. Reject their extreme plan now!” the ad implores, directing people to sign a petition to that effect on my.barackobama.com (“Stand against “zeroing out aid to Israel””).
After signing the petition, the caption underneath a beaming photo of the president declares that “Any plan to cut foreign aid to zero across the board is dangerous and ignorant. It’s up to us to get the word out about it. Donate now to help us spread the facts about the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan to wipe out foreign aid to allies like Israel.”
As Salon writer Justin Elliott correctly notes, “the Obama ads are incredibly dishonest. First of all, the Republican candidates were talking about setting foreign aid at zero each year as a starting point in discussions about how much to give, not setting it at zero as a matter of policy” (“Obama’s dishonest Israel ads, Salon, 12 December 2011).
However, the Obama campaign is far from unique in employing a breathtakingly simplistic strategy of artifice and vituperation (both against opposing candidates and against Palestinians) to bolster their pro-Israel street cred in a transparent ploy to attract campaign donations and votes. US support for Israel, once a carefully nurtured bipartisan consensus, is fast degenerating in the context of the 2012 presidential election into a mud-slinging partisan contest as to which party, in the words of Mitt Romney, who leveled the accusation against Obama, is more guilty of having “thrown Israel under the bus” (“Mitt Romney accuses Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”,” CBS News, 19 May 2011).
The Atlantic Wire provides a well-rounded briefing on Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate whose support for Newt Gingrich might not help him win the GOP nomination but “could be enough to burn down the Republican front runner in the process.”
Atlantic Wire: Adelson grew up in the working class neighborhoods outside Boston and got started in business selling toiletries to hotels. He later dropped out of college, became a mortgage broker and ran a tour business. According to this profile from The New Yorker in 2008 (which is an excellent primer on Adeleson's rise to power), he made and lost more than one fortune, but then in 1979, he started a computer trade show in Las Vegas. (Comdex, an ancient ancestor of this week's CES.) Within a decade, his success with the show led him to purchase the old Las Vegas Sands Hotel. That was when he started his climb from "merely rich" to becoming a billionaire. He built a massive convention center next door, turning the city into a huge business gathering destination, then tore down the aging casino itself and built The Venetian, a massive hotel complex with high-end shopping, restaurants, spacious rooms, indoor canals, and of course, a glittery casino that exemplified the "new" opulent Las Vegas.
It was around the time that he bought the Sands that Adelson, who grew up as a Massachusetts Democrat, had a conversion to Republicanism, after befriending William Bush, the brother of George H. W. Bush. A relative newcomer to the world of the super rich, Adelson had the same proverbial epiphany that most newly wealthy people make when they see their 1040, arguing: “Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?” The rest is obvious history.
As Adelson gained influence in Vegas, he began to spread his reach around the globe. In 2004, he made a deal with the Chinese government to open the first American-owned casino in Macao, a move that multiplied his wealth fourteen times in the last decade. (As a demonstration of his closeness China, he allegedly helped kill a Congressional bill denouncing Beijing's 2008 Olympic bid.) He has also been a major player in Israel-American politics, donating millions to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, until abandoning the group after they supported an increase in aid to the Palestinians, who he considers an "invented people." He met with President George W. Bush in the White House to lobby against peace negotiations and worked to oust former Israeli Prime Minister (and former friend) Ehud Olmert after he declared a willingness to negotiate a two-state solution. In 2007, he opened in his own free daily newspaper in Israel that has been called a mouthpiece for current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In America, the 78-year-old billionaire has aligned himself with Gingrich who shares similar views on Israel. He was the biggest supporter of American Solutions for Winning the Future, a different PAC that Gingrich personally ran before he was a candidate, and was replaced with the "independent" Winning Our Future. Legally, Winning Our Future and the Gingrich campaign must remain separate, but this latest move only underscores how flimsy those rules are and how massive an influence super PACs are having on the primary. When essentially one person can keep an entire ad campaign alive, even after the candidate it means to support ceases to be viable, that's a discouraging fact of American politics. It's also one that won't quell any fears about the power of the 1%.
Brad Reed writes: Since this past Christmas season coincided with the final campaign push before the Iowa caucus, every Republican candidate for president worked extra hard to out-pander one another in claiming that God is supportive of his or her particular flat-tax plan.
But you have to wonder watching some of the Republican debates and press conferences if the GOP hopefuls have actually read the New Testament. Say what you will about Jesus, but he didn’t seem like the sort of guy who would support showering rich people with tax cuts, gutting social programs for the poor and middle-class, or launching multiple wars with Middle Eastern countries. Yet these are the sorts of things that his purported acolytes have been endorsing throughout the year, all the while claiming to be Jesus’ number-one fan in the whole world.
In this article we’ll tackle the five most cringe-inducing moments of the GOP primary, where candidates and their supporters have wantonly broken the Lord’s Commandments with seemingly gleeful abandon.
1. Candidates fall all over themselves to kiss the asses of rich people and trash the downtrodden.
Jesus once said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Well, the Republicans must want to compensate for this by making rich peoples’ time on Earth as heavenly as possible through a wonderful blend of tax cuts and blatant ass-kissing.
The entire Republican economic philosophy can basically be boiled down thusly: Rich people are magical wealth-creating leprechaun fairies who sprinkle their sparkle dust over all of us worthless dirtbags to bless us with the gift of employment. But if any nasty populist ever says anything relatively nasty about rich people, they will vanish from the realm and take their magical job-creating powers with them and none of us will ever work or have food to eat ever again. [Continue reading...]
Mary Meehan writes: Voters who are weary of endless war may have no choice at the presidential level next November. This is a very large group to be denied a vote on a key issue.
A CNN/ORC poll released in November found that 68 percent of Americans opposed the war in Iraq and 63 percent are against the one in Afghanistan. Yet, we keep hearing that only hawks have a chance to be elected president.
Or, in the case of Barack Obama, reelected. Although President Obama has withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq, the war in Afghanistan grinds on. Mr. Obama expanded the drone warfare that has killed many civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He ordered military action in Libya without even consulting Congress.
President Obama also supports war-related violations of the Bill of Rights, such as the misnamed Patriot Act and the indefinite detention — without trial — of terrorism suspects. And his administration failed to prosecute U.S. officials from the previous administration who authorized or practiced torture.
All of this makes many people think about voting for Rep. Ron Paul, the anti-war Republican congressman from Texas. Establishment political observers insist Dr. Paul has no chance to win the Republican nomination. They have been shocked, though, by recent headlines such as “Ron Paul rising in Iowa polls” and “Can Ron Paul win New Hampshire?”
BuzzFeed reports: Ron Paul — poised to finish strong in the Iowa caucuses – has begun to implement a quiet, complex plan to force a long battle with Mitt Romney for delegates to the Republican National Convention in August. His advantages: Experience, organization, and the legacy of the 2010 Tea Party revival, which convinced Republicans that anti-government figures like Paul just aren’t as weird as they’d thought.
Paul is following the roadmap set by Barack Obama’s 2008 strategy: Start early, learn the rules, and use superior organization and devoted young supporters to dominate the arcane but crucial party procedures in states your rivals are ignoring — states where caucuses and conventions that elect the delegates who will ultimately choose the Republican candidate. The plan begins in places like Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb where Paul has based his state headquarters, and where staffers have already begun running “mock-auses” — practice runs for Minnesota’s February 7 caucuses.
Paul’s rivals dismiss his chances. “Ron Paul’s not going to be our nominee,” Mitt Romney said flatly in December. But Paul’s organization is girding for the long haul, and while the 76-year old Texan is vanishingly unlikely to be the nominee — primaries in big states like New York and California could shut him out — observers in the caucus states say they expect Paul to win, and perhaps sweep, dozens of delegates from unexpected corners of the map. Those delegates, in turn, will give him at least a prominent position at the Republican National Convention, and a plausible shot at emerging as a kingmaker if a strong mainstream challenger to Romney emerges.
Matt Stoller writes: The most perplexing character in Congress, ideologically speaking, is Ron Paul. This is a guy who exists in the Republican Party as a staunch opponent of American empire and big finance. His ideas on the Federal Reserve have taken some hold recently, and he has taken powerful runs at the Presidency on the obscure topic of monetary policy. He doesn’t play by standard political rules, so while old newsletters bearing his name showcase obvious white supremacy, he is also the only prominent politician, let alone Presidential candidate, saying that the drug war has racist origins. You cannot honestly look at this figure without acknowledging both elements, as well as his opposition to war, the Federal government, and the Federal Reserve. And as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out years ago by Christopher Laesch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing, and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. So while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.
My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on issues of war and the Federal Reserve. Paul was one of my then-boss Alan Grayson’s key allies in Congress on these issues, though on most issues of course he and Paul were diametrically opposed. How Paul operated his office was different than most Republicans, and Democrats. An old Congressional hand once told me, and then drilled into my head, that every Congressional office is motivated by three overlapping forces – policy, politics, and procedure. And this is true as far as it goes. An obscure redistricting of two Democrats into one district that will take place in three years could be the motivating horse-trade in a decision about whether an important amendment makes it to the floor, or a possible opening of a highly coveted committee slot on Appropriations due to a retirement might cause a policy breach among leadership. Depending on committee rules, a Sub-Committee chairman might have to get permission from a ranking member or Committee Chairman to issue a subpoena, sometimes he might not, and sometimes he doesn’t even have to tell his political opposition about it. Congress is endlessly complex, because complexity can be a useful tool in wielding power without scrutiny. And every office has a different informal matrix, so you have to approach each of them differently.
Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. My main contact in Paul’s office even had his voicemail set up with special instructions for those calling about HR 1207, which was the number of the House bill to audit the Federal Reserve. But it wasn’t just the Fed audit – any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war. [Continue reading...]
Robert Scheer writes: It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; “Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul’s current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.
Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it “claptrap” for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That’s the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.
It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.
Why does the newspaper of the Establishment feel the need to knock down the Paul campaign?
Up until recently, the mainstream media treated Paul as the invisible candidate — a man supposedly so marginal that “serious” pundits could ignore him. But his growing popularity means he can no longer be dismissed and thus the Times editorial writers feel driven to try and swat this persistent irritant.
Even so, given that the Times will undoubtedly endorse Obama and given that the odds are at this point stacked quite heavily in the incumbent’s favor, why the need to attack Paul?
Because the New York Times thinks it is entitled not only to endorse its favored presidential candidate but also choose his opponent and that most likely would be Mitt Romney.
In a contest between Obama and Romney, the president can cast his opponent as the representative of Wall Street and present himself as a man of the people. And the newspaper that represents the status quo can disingenuously pose as an agent of change.
Paul has the power to upset that scenario and turn this into an election about issues instead of the usual beauty contest. The candidate who we are repeatedly told can’t be taken seriously threatens those whose vested interests are served by the trivialization of the electoral process.
This isn’t an endorsement for Ron Paul — simply a statement of what should be obvious: he has a positive role to play in 2012.