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Congress passes the Public Utilities Holding Act, which bars public utility companies from making federal campaign contributions. Essentially, the act extends the ban on corporate contributions (see 1925) to utility companies, as they are not covered under existing law, and, under the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt, are growing rapidly in power and influence. Roosevelt had been elected to office in 1932 on a platform of “good government,” a longtime staple of Democratic Party platforms. The message played particularly well with voters after the economic policies and political corruption of the administration of President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, were widely blamed for the Great Depression. Republicans, stung by the failures of the Hoover administration, also declare their support for campaign finance reform, and the act passes with little resistance. (Campaign Finance Timeline 1999)
The Smith-Connally Act restricts contributions to federal candidates from labor unions as well as from corporate and interstate banks (see 1925). The law is passed in response to the powerful influence of labor unions in elections beginning in 1936, where some unions used labor dues to support federal candidates (Center for Responsive Politics 2002 ) , and by public outrage at a steelworkers’ union going on strike for higher wages during the war, an action characterized by many as unpatriotic. The law was written both to punish labor unions and to make lawmakers less dependent on them and their contributions. (Campaign Finance Timeline 1999) One example held up to scrutiny is the 1936 donation of $500,000 in union funds to the Democratic Party by John L. Lewis of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). (Geraci 2006 ) Motivated by anti-union and anti-liberal sentiment after the war’s end, the Taft-Hartley Act (see June 23, 1947) will make the ban permanent. (Campaign Finance Timeline 1999)
The Supreme Court, in the case of Federal Election Commission v. NCPAC, rules that political action committees (PACs) can spend more than the $1,000 mandated by federal law (see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976). The Democratic Party and the FEC argued that large expenditures by the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) in 1975 violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which caps spending by independent political action committees in support of a publicly funded presidential candidate at $1,000. The Court rules 7-2 in favor of NCPAC, finding that the relevant section of FECA encroaches on the organization’s right to free speech (see January 30, 1976). Justice William Rehnquist writes the majority opinion, joined by fellow conservatives Chief Justice Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Lewis Powell, and liberals Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, and William Brennan. Justices Byron White and Thurgood Marshall dissent from the majority. (Oyez (.org) 2012; Moneyocracy 2/2012)
During the Republican National Convention, Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) challenges the Democratic Party’s claims to embrace the values of the family. In a speech to the party faithful, Gingrich derides the Democrats’ claim that “governments don’t raise children, people do,” and says: “If they had tried to use the words ‘families raise children’ in Madison Square Garden [which hosted the Democratic National Convention days before], half their party would have rebelled and they would have had a bloody fight. So they tried to finesse it, to sound conservative without being conservative.” Gingrich gives the following example of what he calls Democratic “family values”: “Woody Allen having non-incest with a non-daughter to whom he was a non-father because they were a non-family fits the Democratic platform perfectly.” (Media Research Center 3/12/1998; Tapper 3/9/2007) (Gingrich is referring to film director and comedian Woody Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his former lover Mia Farrow. Previn was of the age of consent when she and Allen began their affair, though Allen had served as Previn’s putative stepfather and many perceive the relationship as incestuous; they will eventually marry.) (Toufexis, Sachs, and Willwerth 8/31/1992; CNN 12/24/1997) The Washington Post’s David Broder calls Gingrich’s charges “feeble,” and Newsday writes, “For spewing the weekend’s best non sequitur, Trash Watch nominates Newt for the Hall of Surly Surrogates.” Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton (D-AK) says that Gingrich’s remark is “off the wall and out of line,” and says Gingrich “has no shame.” (Media Research Center 3/12/1998)
During the Republican National Convention, Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Rich Bond, in speaking about Democrats, says that “we are America, they are not America.” (Hunt 9/1/2009, pp. 21)
Pundit and editor Michael Kelly, recently fired by the New Republic for his continued partisan attacks on the Gore campaign, accuses Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and his campaign of trying to steal the Florida election, and the presidency, through the courts. Kelley says that Gore’s “theft” is being facilitated by the Democratic Party. Kelly falsely states that most polls show “60 percent to 70 percent” of Americans want Gore to concede immediately (see November 12 - December 10, 2000), and says, again falsely, that Democratic “leaders and elders” are working in “virtual lockstep” to “stand behind their defeated candidate’s unprecedented defiance of democracy’s national edict” (see November 8, 2000, Morning, November 8, 2000, and November 10, 2000). The “Clinton-Gore crowd,” Kelly writes, has “created a crisis that would wreak more destruction than” the Clinton impeachment. “But with these men of fathomless selfishness, there is always more damage to be done. There is always another institution, another principle, another person that must be destroyed—for the greater good of their greater power.” Kelly says that Gore has relentlessy ignored “the results of a fair and full recount that confirmed his loss (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000), and demanded hand recounts only in selected Democratic counties” (see November 9, 2000). Kelly goes on to claim that Gore manipulated the Florida courts to “rewrit[e] Florida election law” to continue the standoff, “and still lost—a third time—to Bush.” When Gore promises to stand by the results of the manual recounts, Kelly says he is “lying” and has no such intentions. Kelly calls into question the Democratic election officials’ figures in Broward County, accusing the two Democratic officials of inventing votes over the objections of the single Republican official. Kelly concludes: “Democrats accuse Republicans of seeking to delegitimize a Gore presidency. Gore seeks more; if he doesn’t get his way he threatens to delegitimize democracy itself. Got to burn that village down.” (Kelly 11/29/2000; Alterman 12/9/2010)
Conservative pundit and author David Horowitz publishes an op-ed in his Front Page Magazine calling all Democrats “racists,” and claiming that the Democratic Party is “the party of special interest bigots and racial dividers” for its alleged support of “racist school policies.” Horowitz writes, “The Democratic Party has shown that it will go to the wall to preserve the racist laws which enforce these preferences, and to defend the racist school systems that destroy the lives of millions of children every year.” At some point, Horowitz will delete the op-ed from the Front Page Magazine Web site, but it will be quoted in a December 2004 article by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. (Media Matters 12/1/2004)
The co-founder and editor of the American Prospect, Robert Kuttner, subjects the 2002 House of Representatives to scrutiny, and concludes that under the rule of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), it is well on its way to becoming what he calls a “dictatorship.” Kuttner writes that such authoritarian rule in “the people’s chamber” of Congress puts the US “at risk of becoming an autocracy.” He explains: “First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). [DeLay] has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing.… Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal, or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split.… Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election. Taken together, these several forces could well enable the Republicans to become the permanent party of autocratic government for at least a generation.” Kuttner elaborates on his rather sweeping warnings.
Legislative Dictatorship - The House, and to a lesser extent the Senate, used to have what was called a “de facto four-party system”: liberal Democrats; Southern “Dixiecrats” who, while maintaining their membership as Democrats largely due to lingering resentment of Republicans dating back to the Civil War, often vote with Republicans; conservative Republicans; and moderate-to-liberal “gypsy moth” Republicans, who might vote with either party. Rarely did one of the four elements gain long-term control of the House. Because of what Kuttner calls “shifting coalitions and weak party discipline,” the majority party was relatively respectful of the minority, with the minority free to call witnesses in hearings and offer amendments to legislation. In the House, that is no longer true. While the House leadership began centralizing under House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) between 1987 and 1989, the real coalescence of power began under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) between 1995 and 1999. The process, Kuttner asserts, has radically accelerated under DeLay and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL).
Centralized Legislation - Under current practices, even most Republicans do not, as a rule, write legislation—that comes from DeLay and Hastert. Drastic revisions to bills are often rammed through late in the evening, with little or no debate. The Republican leadership has classified legislation as “emergency” measures 57 percent of the time, allowing them to be voted on with as little as 30 minutes of debate. Kuttner writes, “On several measures, members literally did not know what they were voting for.” Legislation written and proposed by Democrats rarely gets to the floor for debate. Amendments to legislation is also constrained, almost always coming from Hastert and DeLay. “[V]irtually all major bills now come to the floor with rules prohibiting amendments.” DeLay enforces rigid party loyalty, threatening Republican members who resist voting for the leadership’s bills with loss of committee assignments and critical campaign funds, and in some circumstances with DeLay’s sponsoring primary opponents to unseat the uncooperative member in the next election.
Democrats Shut out of Conferences - In the House, so-called “conference committees,” where members work to reconcile House and Senate versions of legislation, have become in essence one-party affairs. Only Democrats who might support the Republican version of the bill are allowed to attend. The conference committee then sends a non-amendable bill to the floor for a final vote.
No Hearings - The general assumption is that House members debate bills, sometimes to exhaustion, on the chamber floor. No more. Before DeLay, bills were almost never written in conference committees. Now, major legislation is often written in conference committee; House members often never see the legislation until it has been written in final, non-amendable form by DeLay and his chosen colleagues.
Abuse of Appropriations - Appropriations, or funding of events authorized by legislation, are ripe for use and misuse by the one-party leadership. Many appropriations bills must pass in order for Congress or other entities of the government to continue functioning. While “earmarks”—“pork-barrel” appropriations for individual members’ pet projects and such—are nothing new, under Gingrich and later Hastert/DeLay, the use of earmarks has skyrocketed. Huge earmarks are now routinely attached to mandatory appropriations bills. DeLay has perfected a technique known as “catch and release.” On close pending votes, the House Republican Whip Organization, made up of dozens of regional whips, will target the small but critical number of Republicans who might oppose the legislation. Head counts are taken; as members register (and change) their votes, some are forced to vote against their consciences (or their constituents) and others are allowed to vote no. Kuttner writes, “Basically, Republican moderates are allowed to take turns voting against bills they either oppose on principle or know to be unpopular in their districts.” This allows the member to save at least some face with their constituents. Under Wright, Republican members such as then-Representative Dick Cheney (R-WY) were outraged when Wright held a vote open for 15 minutes after voting was to end; Cheney called it “the most arrogant, heavy-handed abuse of power I’ve ever seen in the 10 years that I’ve been here.” It is not unusual for DeLay to hold votes open for up to three hours to get recalcitrant members in line. (Kuttner 2/1/2004) In 2006, author John Dean will note that when the Republicans took control of the House in 1999, there were 1,439 earmarks in that year’s legislation. By the end of 2005, “there were a staggering 13,998 earmarked expenses, costing $27.3 billion.” Dean will write, “Needless to say, there is nothing conservative in those fiscal actions but there is much that is authoritarian about the wanton spending by those Republicans.” (Dean 2006)
Lack of Opposition - Kuttner notes that Congressional Democrats have not mounted a systematic, organized denunciation of the DeLay operation. Kuttner believes that many Democrats believe voters are uninterested in what they call “process issues,” and that voters will dismiss complaints as “inside baseball,” of little relevance to their lives. Worse, such complaints “make… us look weak,” as one senior House staffer says. Kuttner writes that many Democrats believe such complaints sound “like losers whining.”
Permanent Republican Majority - If DeLay and his confreres in the White House have their way, there will be, in essence, a permanent Republican majority in the House and hopefully in the Senate as well. Bill Clinton routinely practiced what he called bipartisan “triangulation,” building ad hoc coalitions of Democrats and Republicans to pass his legislative initiatives, and in the process weakening the Democratic leadership. Kuttner writes, “Bush’s presidency, by contrast, has produced a near parliamentary government, based on intense party discipline both within Congress and between Congress and the White House.” Republicans have been busy reworking the district maps of various key states to ensure that Republicans keep their majorities, concentrating perceived Democratic voters to have overwhelming majorities in a few districts, and leaving the Republicans holding smaller majorities in the rest. Both parties have been guilty of such “gerrymandering” in the past, but with DeLay’s recent “super-gerrymandering” of his home state of Texas, the Republican makeup of the Texas House delegation is all but assured. DeLay and other House Republicans are working to redistrict other states in similar fashions. As of the 2004 midterm elections, of the 435 House seats, only around 25 are considered effectively contestable—over 90 percent of the House seats are “safe.” Democrats would have to win a disproportionate, and unlikely, number of those “swing” seats to take back control of the House. Kuttner writes: “The country may be narrowly divided, but precious few citizens can make their votes for Congress count. A slender majority, defying gravity (and democracy), is producing not moderation but a shift to the extremes.”
Control of Voting - Kuttner cites the advent of electronic voting machines and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) as two reasons why Republicans will continue to have advantages at the voting booth. The three biggest manufacturers of electronic voting machines have deep financial ties to the Republican Party, and have joined with Republicans in opposing a so-called “verifiable paper trail” that could prove miscounts and possible fraudulent results. HAVA, written in response to the 2000 Florida debacle, requires that voters show government-issued IDs to be allowed to vote, a provision that Kuttner says is ripe for use in Republican voter-intimidation schemes. Republicans “have a long and sordid history of ‘ballot security’ programs intended to intimidate minority voters by threatening them with criminal prosecution if their papers are not technically in order,” he writes. “Many civil rights groups see the new federal ID provision of HAVA as an invitation to more such harassment.” The only recourse that voters have to such harassment is to file complaints with the Department of Justice, which, under the aegis of Attorney General John Ashcroft, has discouraged investigation of such claims.
Compliant Court System - Increasingly, federal courts with Republican-appointed judges on the bench have worked closely with Republicans in Congress and the White House to issue rulings favorable to the ruling party. Kuttner notes that if President Bush is re-elected: “a Republican president will have controlled judicial appointments for 20 of the 28 years from 1981 to 2008. And Bush, in contrast to both his father and Clinton, is appointing increasingly extremist judges. By the end of a second term, he would likely have appointed at least three more Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and locked in militantly conservative majorities in every federal appellate circuit.” The Supreme Court is already close to becoming “a partisan rubber stamp for contested elections,” Kuttner writes; several more justices in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia (see September 26, 1986) and Clarence Thomas (see October 13, 1991) would, Kuttner writes, “narrow rights and liberties, including the rights of criminal suspects, the right to vote, disability rights, and sexual privacy and reproductive choice. It would countenance an unprecedented expansion of police powers, and a reversal of the protection of the rights of women, gays, and racial, religious, and ethnic minorities. [It would] overturn countless protections of the environment, workers and consumers, as well as weaken guarantees of the separation of church and state, privacy, and the right of states or Congress to regulate in the public interest.” (Kuttner 2/1/2004)
After the loss of presidential contender John Kerry (D-MA), Democratic media consultant Harold Ickes and a team of media and technology consultants begin building what becomes known as “Catalyst,” a database on some 200 million Americans containing information about their voting intentions, stances on issues, relative income levels, family structures, and the times they could best be contacted via telephone or “cold call” visits. Catalyst, created at a cost of some $15 million, is based on a model called VoterVault that the George W. Bush campaign had used in 2000 and again in 2004. It is a for-profit business and putatively independent of party alliance, though it will be used to great effect by the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). It will remain independent because if it is owned by a political party, it is subject to campaign laws. Just as VoterVault was putatively independent but worked exclusively with the Bush campaigns and the Republican Party, Catalyst works exclusively with Democratic campaigns. Catalyst depends entirely on publicly and commercially available voter information, and has no means of user interaction. (Lachkovic 12/19/2011)
President Bush’s top political adviser, deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, tells a meeting of the Republican National Committee that the warrantless wiretapping controversy (see December 15, 2005 and December 18, 2005) can be used to boost Republicans’ election chances in the 2006 midterm elections. Republicans should emphasize that the wiretapping proves that Bush is willing to do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism and keep Americans safe. Critics of the program, therefore, can be painted as weak on terrorism. “The United States faces a ruthless enemy, and we need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment America finds itself in,” Rove says. “President Bush and the Republican Party do; unfortunately, the same cannot be said of many Democrats.… Let me be clear as I can be: President Bush believes if al-Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interests to know who they’re calling and why. Some important Democrats clearly disagree.” (WIS-TV 1/20/2006; Savage 2007, pp. 203)
Discussing the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama (D-IL), conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells listeners that the Democratic Party is “go[ing] with a veritable rookie whose only chance of winning is that he’s black.” Limbaugh’s comments are reported by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. (Media Matters 6/2/2008)
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh repeatedly tells his listeners that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama “believes [in] and favors infanticide. Not just abortion, but infanticide.” Limbaugh also claims that Obama “approves of abortion in the fourth trimester.” (Media Matters 9/4/2008; Callard 9/23/2008) (According to an online medical dictionary, there are only three trimesters in a typical pregnancy.) (Medicine (.net) 2008) According to the progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Limbaugh supports his claim by misrepresenting Obama’s opposition for a 2001 anti-abortion bill during his tenure as an Illinois state senator. Obama and other opponents said the “born alive” bill was unnecessary because Illinois state law already prohibited the conduct addressed in the bill (the abortion of fetuses in the last trimester before birth) and gave unconstitutional legal rights to unborn fetuses. (92nd General Assembly 2001; Media Matters 9/4/2008) Limbaugh calls Obama a supporter of “infanticide” from August 19. On August 20, he claims that “Obama lobbied for infanticide” and adds: “You know, abortion’s one thing; infanticide is quite another, and it is now widely known that Obama was all for infanticide. It’s the only way you can put it.” On August 22, Limbaugh says that Obama “really admires” China’s mandatory one-child policy, and adds: “[M]ost people want a son. And if they are pregnant with a daughter, what do they do? They abort, and they keep aborting until they get a son. Now that’s a policy Obama can support. That’s a policy Obama likes. He’s for infanticide. It is not an overstatement to say so.” On August 26, Limbaugh expands his claim to include the entire Democratic Party: “So, here’s a party trying to present itself as a newly-found faith party—that they understand people’s values—and their nominee believes in infanticide.” On August 28, Limbaugh, after calling Obama a “thug,” says: “What has complicated [Obama’s] mental journey are his political ambitions. His desire to hold high public office has required this confused man to lie about his sometimes bizarre judgments such as supporting infanticide.” On September 2, Limbaugh accuses Obama of “support[ing] the killing of babies born alive as the result of botched abortions.” On September 3, Limbaugh again expands his claim, calling “liberals” “child abusers—partial birth abortion, infanticide…” (Media Matters 9/4/2008)
Conservative radio host Michael Savage calls the Democratic Party “the minority party,” Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is “a minority, a half minority at least,” and both Obama and the Democratic Party are “against the white person.” According to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Savage goes on to say of the Democratic Party, “The membership is made up largely of minority blocs, the Hispanic caucus and the gay caucus—caucuses that are all against the white person.” Savage says that Democrats are “trying to pose as a centrist party, trying to win over the white male voter” and continues: “Now, the white women generally are not as hard-nosed about things as the white male, and so many white women don’t even understand that they’re being duped, and they vote for a Democrat, not knowing that they’re digging their own grave.… But now they’re going after the working-class white male, who is traditionally leery of the Sister Helen Prejeans [an opponent of capital punishment], the gay lobby, the caucuses and the other lobbies that are trying to take away his child’s birthright.” (Media Matters 8/26/2008)
Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA), chairman of the Democratic Party, defends his party’s difficulties in moving its health care reform proposals through Congress. Interviewed by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Kaine says: “This is a heavy lift. Every president since President Truman has said, we need to find a health care future where we have a competitive insurance market and all Americans receive coverage. What we’ve seen happen in the last month or so is we now have bills that have passed through three different committees in the Senate and House. Two other committees are expected to take action very soon. We’re farther than we’ve ever been. It’s heavy lifting. It ain’t easy. We’re going to have to take the various bills and then make them into a workable plan.” Part of the reason why the legislation is moving so slowly is that Democrats are ideologically diverse, Kaine says. “[A]n awful lot of this debate is ultimately getting the Democrats to pull together and be results-focused rather than what has to be my plan or I’m not getting onboard.” The situation in the Republican Party is quite different, he continues: “What I’m looking for among Republicans is, you know, are there any Republicans who are going to stand up and say, ‘You’re right, this system needs fundamental reform and change?’ A system where 15 years ago, more than 60 percent of small businesses provided health insurance to their employees, and today, 38 percent do, and that number is dropping like a stone while the percentage of GDP that we spend on health care is going up. That system is broken. You don’t hear a single voice really among Republican leadership standing up and acknowledging that and saying we’ve got to make some changes.” (MSNBC 7/30/2009)
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh calls Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “deranged” for her assertion that some anti-health care reform protesters are carrying swastikas and other Nazi symbols to health care discussions (see August 4, 2009). He then accuses Democrats of being like Nazis in their ideology and agenda: “The speaker of the House accusing people showing up at these town hall meetings of wearing swastikas—that is not insignificant, folks. This woman is deranged. They are unraveling. But that is not insignificant. You have the Democrat speaker of the House saying that people—citizens—who are concerned about health care are now wearing swastikas. She’s basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis.… This party, the Democrat [sic] Party, and where it’s taken this country—the radical left leadership of this party—bears much more resemblance to Nazi policies than anything we on the right believe in at all.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that numerous instances of Nazi symbols have been photographed at various health care forums, including one poster of President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache and several posters with swastikas prominently displayed (see July 25, 2009 and August 6, 2009). (Media Matters 8/6/2009; Terkel 8/6/2009) At another rally, a Democratic lawmaker was compared to Nazi torturer Dr. Josef Mengele (see August 4, 2009).
Freshman House Democrat Alan Grayson (D-FL) takes to the floor of the House to lambast both Democrats and Republicans for not being active proponents of health care reform. Grayson’s tirade begins by criticizing his fellow Democrats for spending six months trying to persuade a single Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to vote “yes” on the reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee. “We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform,” Grayson says. “I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America’s population. What America wants is health care reform. America doesn’t care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn’t even care about that, it doesn’t care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over one million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that’s 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it’s not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don’t need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn’t care about that at all.” Grayson then turns to his “Republican friends” and says: “[L]ast week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report… because they have no health insurance (see September 17, 2009). That’s an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their [Republicans’] response was to ask me for an apology. To ask me for an apology? That’s right. To ask me for an apology! Well, I’m telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn’t care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America’s attention, I think a lot of people didn’t know about it beforehand. But America does care about health care in America. And if you’re against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow, or you can get out of the way. And I’m telling you now to get out of the way. America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why. They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon. But that’s not what America wants, America wants solutions to it’s problems and that begins with health care, and that’s what I’m speaking for tonight.” (Crooks and Liars 10/9/2009)
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican candidate for vice president, tells a crowd of Republican activists and tea party members in Little Rock, Arkansas, that the tea party movement must choose between the Republican and Democratic parties if it is to survive as a political force that elects its members to public office. “Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this tea party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party,” she says. “Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the tea party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they’re going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: ‘R’ or ‘D.’” Palin recommends that tea partiers choose the Republicans, though she notes that her husband Todd Palin is not a registered Republican and the movement should be open to including independents. (Both Palins have been affiliated with the far-right, secessionist Alaskan Independence Party—see March 2008 and October 15, 2008). Much of her speech is drawn from her 2008 campaign speeches. Much of the 18,000-seat Verizon Arena is empty, with the entire upper level closed off and the bottom level less than half full. In the hours before the event, the Arkansas Republican Party slashed prices on tickets to the speech to $20. The dining tables on the arena’s floor are crowded with donors who paid $175 for a ringside seat. Palin’s recommendation for the tea partiers to join the GOP draws mixed results from influential bloggers. “Allahpundit” at HotAir says Palin is correct in her statement about embracing the GOP over running Quixotic third-party races that are doomed to fail, and such races will just put more Democrats in office. Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice says the tea party is through as an independent movement if it follows Palin’s advice; many tea partiers are equally critical of both parties, and joining one to battle the other is just more politics as usual. And John Tomasic of the Colorado Independent says Palin’s recommendation is essentially moot, as the tea party has always been “a subsection of the Republican Party.” (Conroy 2/17/2010; The Week 2/18/2010)
Congressional Democrats are calling on Republicans and tea party leaders to curb the harassment and death threats being directed at Democratic lawmakers and their families. The harassment and threats stem largely from tea party members and others who are virulently opposed to the health care reform proposed by Democrats and the Obama administration. As lawmakers head home for spring recess, the FBI, the Capitol Police, and the House sergeant-at-arms meet with the Democratic Caucus to hear lawmakers express their worry for the safety of themselves and their families. Phil Hare (D-IL) says he knows Democrats who have told their families to leave their home districts while the lawmakers are in Washington. “If this doesn’t get under control in short time, heaven forbid, someone will get hurt,” Hare says. Hare is holding eight town hall meetings in his district over the recess, and has requested that the Capitol Police coordinate with local law enforcement authorities to provide security. Hare’s wife has asked him to cancel the events, but Hare intends to go forward. “My wife is home alone, and I’m worried for her,” Hare says. “I am about to have my first grandchild. I don’t want to have to be worried.” In recent weeks, an unknown perpetrator cut the gas lines at the home of Thomas Perriello (D-VA)‘s brother, prompting an FBI investigation; the gas lines were cut after a tea party activist posted the brother’s address online, believing it to be Perriello’s (see March 19, 2010 and After). Steve Driehaus (D-OH) has had his address posted on tea party Web sites with exhortations for protesters to visit him at his home to protest his support for health care reform; a photo of Driehaus’s family was printed in a recent newspaper ad attacking Driehaus’s support for health care reform. A brick was recently thrown through the window of the Democratic Party’s office in Cincinnati (see March 19, 2010 and After). Bart Stupak (D-MI) says he has received numerous death threats (see March 19, 2010 and After). Hank Johnson (D-GA) says Democrats need to coordinate an internal security plan. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says he fears that violence may erupt in the districts. Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) has condemned the threats, but Driehaus has complained that Boehner has implied his own threat towards himself and his family, calling Driehaus a “dead man” for voting for the health care legislation (see March 18, 2010 and After). Boehner blames Democrats for causing the violence: “I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening,” he says in a statement. “But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard—but let’s do it the right way.” Hare says Boehner needs to apologize for his own words and restrain fellow House Republicans, whom Hare says often “rile up” protesters from the Capitol balcony. “If he can’t control his members, they have to find someone who can,” Hare says. At least one Democrat has stood up to the threats; when tea party activists paid a visit to the office of Jim Moran (D-VA) earlier this week, aides got between the protesters and the clearly angry Moran. When the activists asked the aides if Moran needed “bodyguards” to protect him, one aide responded: “We’re not protecting him from you. We’re protecting you from him.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says he believes that Democrats and their families are in real danger from protesters. (Sherman 3/25/2010) House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) denounces “this crazy stuff the Republicans are doing here,” and says Boehner and other GOP leaders “ought to be ashamed of themselves for bringing these people here to Washington, DC, and they’re acting like this.” Tim Ryan (D-OH), on the House floor, criticizes “these tea bagger protesters who have been out today” and “call[s] on the Republicans to say shame on the tea party for that type of behavior.” Many Republicans and tea party officials claim that the incidents are fabrications, and have called on Democrats to apologize for making false accusations. Some say the racial epithets and death threats come from Democratic supporters who want to cast a poor light on the tea parties. Memphis tea party organizer Mark Skoda says there is an orchestrated attempt among Democrats and liberals to falsely paint the tea parties as racist. (Vogel 3/22/2010)
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck tells his viewers that in order to stop Democratic leaders from imposing a communist regime on America, they are going to have to “shoot them in the head.” He specifically cites Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as one of those leaders. He says that while Democratic leaders such as Pelosi and President Obama are not themselves communists, they use “avowed communists” such as former union leader Andy Stern to force America towards a communist system. “These people are politicians and they knew—they’re progressive politicians,” Beck says. “They’re not—they’re not total government. They’re not communists. They do not want to be communists. They don’t. But they would like it here. And they would like all the control they have, so dollars—so money could go into their—money could go in their pockets. That’s right.… So, this is what you have to understand. These people saw these people as fuel. If we can just unite, then it becomes a united front. This is your strong arm. This will do all the bad things for you. Okay?” He says that the Democratic Party is infested with “communist revolutionaries” who are driving the party, and thereby the nation, towards a Stalinist state. “The radicals have infected the party. They have been brought in by politicians who don’t really care about anything. They just want to win. They’ve been tolerating the revolutionaries—the Democrats have.” Beck says that “tea partiers” and other right-wing elements must oppose the “radicals” in the Democratic Party at all costs. He says: “Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing—change the pose. You will get the ends. You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you. They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them—they’re revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about.… They want to overthrow our entire system of government, and their words say it. Why won’t you believe it?… The revolution of 1776 was a picnic compared to what the revolutionaries of today would like to do. It’s not a lot of fun. Usually, millions of people die.” (Fox News 6/10/2010; Raw Story 1/20/2011) Months later, Beck will claim that he was actually warning Democratic leaders about the prospects of being shot by “radical leftists” (see January 21, 2011).
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explains his lack of affection for the far-right “tea party” movement that currently wields great influence in the Republican Party. The tea party organizations, he says, deride him for being willing to work with Democrats on selected issues. Some accuse him of being a closet homosexual, with at least one organization accusing him of submitting to “blackmail” by the Obama administration and doing the White House’s legislative bidding in return for Obama administration members keeping quiet about his alleged homosexuality (see April 20, 2010). Tea party organizations such as Resist.net have lambasted Graham for indulging in what it calls “his old reach-across-the-aisle tricks again,” and South Carolina gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley (R-SC), a tea party favorite, considers Graham a traitor to the Republican Party. Graham says, “Everything I’m doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo [the Guantanamo Bay detention facility] is completely opposite of where the tea party movement’s at.” He recalls earlier contentious meetings with tea party leaders and says that during one meeting, he challenged the leaders by asking: “What do you want to do? You take back your country—and do what with it?” The response, Graham says: “Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.” Of the tea party movement itself, Graham has said that “[i]t will die out” because “it’s just unsustainable… they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country.” Now, Graham adds: “We don’t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats.… Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says of Graham: “He’s willing to work on more things than the others. Lindsey, to his credit, has a small-government vision that’s out of fashion with his party, which stands for no government.… He’s one of the last big voices to give that vision intellectual energy.” Graham has earned a rating of 90 (out of a possible 100) from the American Conservative Union for his conservative views and legislative votes, though the anti-tax Club for Growth calls him the “worst” Republican in the Senate. New York Times reporter Robert Draper believes that Graham has brought much of the derision from the tea party onto himself by saying good things about President Obama, including characterizing him as “a good role model” and “an American just as much as anybody else.” His worst sin, Draper writes, may be his “willingness—even eagerness—to seek common ground with Democrats.” Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck routinely mock and vilify Graham, while conservative bloggers routinely vow that his alleged homosexuality drives his willingness to work with Democrats. (On that subject, Graham tells Draper with a “smirk”: “Like maybe I’m having a clandestine affair with [openly gay singer] Ricky Martin. I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men—I’m sure hundreds of ‘em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge—but I ain’t available. I ain’t gay. Sorry.”) Unlike most tea partiers, Graham wants to save Social Security instead of transforming it into a private, voucher-driven entity; prosecute terrorists under civil as well as military law; implement immigration law reform that would allow “illegal immigrants” a pathway towards citizenship; and other positions that they do not support. His admiration for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the recently deceased Senate Democrat Ted Kennedy are other positions Graham holds that sets him apart from most tea party members, as does the occasional complement bestowed upon him by Emanuel or other White House members. (Draper 7/1/2010)
In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff, Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), falsely claims that Democrats are outspending Republicans in the midterm election campaigns. The elections are tomorrow, November 2. Barbour agrees with projections that Republicans will do very well in tomorrow’s elections, probably taking back control of the US House and perhaps the US Senate as well. Barbour predicts a stronger sweep than the 1994 elections, which put Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, motivated by Americans’ “anger and even fear” at what he calls “the lurch to the left given us by [Democratic House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [President Barack] Obama.” Barbour goes on to claim that one difference between 1994 and 2010 is that “this year, we got outspent pretty heavily. The labor unions saw this coming early, and they have poured money in to try to save Democrat seats. And it hasn’t been any secret to the news media or the Democratic incumbents that this was going to be a hard year for them because the president’s policies are unpopular.” Woodruff does not challenge Barbour’s claims. (PBS 11/1/2010) In reality, Republican and Republican-supporting organizations have outspent Democrats and their supporters by a 3-1 ratio (see September 13-16, 2010, October 2010, and Around October 27, 2010). Data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows that while the Democratic Party does outspend the Republican Party in the 2010 elections, pro-GOP outside groups have vastly outspent labor unions and other organizations supporting Democrats. The four biggest outside groups spending money on the elections—the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network (see Mid-October 2010), American Crossroads, and Crossroads GPS—all spend their money on behalf of Republicans. Together those four groups spend $99.6 million, far more than the $28.1 million spent on behalf of Democrats by the two largest labor unions. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS intend to continue spending money to attack Obama and the Democrats even after the election. “It’s a bigger prize in 2012, and that’s changing the White House,” says American Crossroads chairman Robert Duncan. “We’ve planted the flag for permanence, and we believe that we will play a major role for 2012.” American Crossroads and other such groups, on both Republican and Democratic sides, intend to continue fundraising in the wake of the midterm elections and begin campaigning almost immediately for the 2012 presidential elections. Privately, some Democratic strategists say they are not sure how they will answer the challenge posed by Republican-supporting “independent” groups and the huge amounts of cash they raise from wealthy corporate donors. Obama’s senior political advisor David Axelrod says that special interests “have driven a huge truck filled with undisclosed cash through a legal loophole to try and buy this election… is it any surprise that this same, stealthy crowd will try to move on to the White House next? Whatever the outcome Tuesday, this issue is not going away.” (Rutenberg 10/31/2010; Zwick 11/1/2010; Somanader 11/2/2010)
The liberal news Web site Think Progress, an affiliate of the Center for American Progress, reports that it has discovered evidence of a potentially illegal scheme to entrap and destabilize political organizations, including Think Progress, that support President Obama and other Democrats. The scheme, in development since November 2010 at least, centers around the US Chamber of Commerce (USCOC), a large trade organization that makes large secret donations to Republican candidates and organizations (see January 21-22, 2010 and October 2010), and a law firm, Hunton and Williams, hired by the USCOC. According to emails secured by Think Progress, Hunton and Williams is working with a set of private security firms—HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called “Team Themis”)—to develop tactics to damage progressive groups and labor unions. Some of the organizations and unions targeted include Think Progress, a labor coalition called Change to Win, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. The last two are small organizations dedicated to exposing some of the secretive practices of the USCOC. One project proposed by Team Themis is an entrapment scheme. The proposal called for the creation of a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the USCOC, and then exposing the document as a fraud, thus undermining the credibility of the organization. Another proposal involved using potentially illegal computer-hacking techniques to create what the group calls a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win and to undermine the credibility of US Chamber Watch. The proposal actually advocates the creation of two such personas, one to be used “as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the identity of the second.” Together, “Team Themis” asked for $200,000 for initial background research and another $2 million for an active disinformation campaign. It is unclear from the emails whether any of the proposals were accepted, and if the disinformation campaign was ever launched. Think Progress was recently provided with the emails by members of “Anonymous,” an online “hacktivist” community responsible for attacking the Web sites of oppressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, along with American corporations that have censored the online information repository WikiLeaks. The emails were secured from HBGary Federal after one of that firm’s executives, Aaron Barr, tried to take Anonymous down. Barr claimed to have penetrated the group and intended to sell the data he collected to Bank of America (BoA) and to US federal authorities. In return, Anonymous hackers penetrated Barr’s email account and published some 40,000 company emails. Barr intended to approach Bank of America, Think Progress writes, because WikiLeaks is believed to have sensitive information about the firm that it intends to publish later in the year. BoA hired Hunton and Williams and other law firms to pursue WikiLeaks. BoA’s legal team also targeted Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks, saying that it had plans for “actions to sabotage or discredit” him. The USCOC posts a response to Think Progress on its blog dismissing the report as “baseless attacks.” And prominent liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler (see April 18, 2009) says that the Think Progress report will probably “cause the Chamber of Commerce to rethink the spying work with HBGary it apparently has been considering.” (Berico Technologies 11/3/2010 ; Fang 2/10/2011) Liberal blogger Brad Friedman, who has spent years covering voter suppression tactics by political organizations, will soon learn that he is targeted by Team Themis. An email sent by Barr and provided to Friedman “focused on me included names, personal information, home addresses, etc. of myself, family members, and a number of other members of VR,” Friedman will write. (Velvet Revolution is an “umbrella group” that includes StopTheChamber.) “Part of the plan included highlighting me as a ‘Tier 1’ player in a sophisticated disinformation/discrediting scheme that relied on high-tech tools developed for the US government’s ‘War on Terror.’ Team Themis’ US Chamber of Commerce plan was to deploy the very same techniques and technology used to track terrorists, terror organizations, and nations such as Iran, against private non-profit political advocates and citizens in the US.” The email also lists the names of people whom Barr clearly believes to be Friedman’s wife and two children (Friedman says the names listed are not family members—he is not married and has no children). The email also lists a Maryland address as Friedman’s home—another error, as Friedman lives in another state. Friedman will write that obviously Barr and his researchers found another, unrelated person named Brad Friedman and learned personal details about that person and his family. Prominent officials such as Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org and Robert Weissman of Public Citizen are also listed for “targeting.” (Brad Friedman 2/14/2011)
The New York Times reports that labor unions are attempting to change the way they engage in political activities in light of the 2010 Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010), so as to counter enormous corporate donating and influence nonunion households for the 2012 elections. Labor unions had opposed the ruling, but that opposition has borne little fruit. Now the unions are beginning to use an element of the ruling that for the first time allows unions to reach out to nonunion households. Unions can also form their own super PACs, and some are doing just that. Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, says organized labor will function independently of the Democratic Party, refusing to support Democratic candidates who are not union-friendly and perhaps even opposing individual Democrats in some elections. Trumka says the time for Democrats to take union support for granted has ended. Some labor leaders have been critical of Democrats after unions spent more than $200 million to help elect President Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2008, but did not get some of the legislative attention the unions desired from the newly elected Democrats. The Times writes, “In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own—in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.” Trumka says the AFL-CIO will infuse $10 million into a new, as-yet-unnamed super PAC in order to begin building a permanent political structure for labor. “The way we used to do politics is we’d set up a structure six months before the election, and after Election Day we’d dismantle it,” he says. “Now we’re going to have a full-time campaign, and that campaign will be able to move, hopefully, from electoral politics to issue advocacy and accountability.” The AFL-CIO’s political director, Michael A. Podhorzer, says that the unions learned a lesson in 2010, when labor-backed Democrats such as former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) lost to Republican challengers. “It became apparent that even in races where union members voted overwhelmingly in support of a pro-worker candidate, we could still lose,” says Podhorzer. “President Trumka asked, ‘How do we get programs that win elections and not just put up a good fight?’” (Greenhouse 9/25/2011)
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