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Journalist Daphne Eviatar writes that during the eight years of the Bush presidency, prosecutions and enforcement of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE—see May 1994) “cratered,” with Justice Department officials refusing to prosecute or sometimes even investigate complaints of vandalism, harassment, and assault. After the recent murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009), Eviatar and the Washington Independent obtained government data showing that enforcement of the FACE law, and other federal laws designed to protect abortion providers and clinics, declined by 75 percent during the Bush presidency. Between 1994 and 1999, when President Clinton was in office, the Justice Department filed 17 complaints under the FACE Act. Between 2001 and 2009, when President Bush was in office, the Justice Department only filed a single case. Tiller’s own clinic was vandalized numerous times, but complaints against the actions were ignored by the department. Statistics provided by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) show that over 3,200 acts of violence against abortion providers in the US and Canada were committed between 2000 and 2008, and the organization says the number of actual incidents was probably “much higher.” The number does not include threats, vandalism, and harassment. NAF statistics show that at least 17 cases of “extreme” violence against abortion providers in the US were reported, including arson, stabbings, bombings, and fake anthrax mailings. But the Bush Justice Department only prosecuted 11 individuals for these attacks. The two highest-profile anti-abortion prosecutions were those of anthrax mailer Clayton Waagner (see 1997-December 2001) and bomber Eric Rudolph (see April 14, 2005). However, none of Waagner’s or Rudolph’s associates in the extremist organization Army of God (see 1982) were ever prosecuted as accessories to the two activists’ crimes. Neither was the Army of God ever investigated as a potential domestic terrorist organization (see Early 1980s). [Washington Independent, 6/12/2009]
In an 8-1 decision, the US Supreme Court refuses to rule against one of the main components of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA—see August 6, 1965 and June 29, 1989). Many conservatives had seen the case as an opportunity for the Court conservatives to either drastically narrow or entirely gut the VRA, and were hopeful of that outcome in light of a recent Court decision narrowing the VRA’s effect on districting (see March 9, 2009). Instead, the Court chooses not to rule on the central tenet of the case of Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, which is that the VRA is largely unconstitutional. The case was brought by a Texas utility district that claimed in arguments that the VRA was unconstitutional and unnecessary in a time when the nation has elected a black president. The plaintiff argued that districts and other governmental entities should be allowed to “bail out” from being covered by the VRA. [New York Times, 6/22/2009; New York Times, 6/22/2009] Many observers were concerned that the conservative wing of the Court would use the case to overturn large portions of the VRA, especially in earlier questioning, when Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio. The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.… No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act. The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.” [New York Times, 4/29/2009] Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, says that the Court should avoid tackling large constitutional questions when it can. “We are now a very different nation” than the one that first passed the Voting Rights Act, he writes. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.” Roberts’s opinion says that “a broader reading” of the VRA’s bailout provision should be implemented. Moreover, he writes, the federal oversight of states and areas with a history of discrimination may have served its purpose and may need to be phased out, a position supported by the lone dissenter, Justice Clarence Thomas, who writes that the oversight provision of Section 5 of the VRA should be overturned entirely. It is possible that others will take advantage of the Court’s hesitation to file other “opt out” or “bailout” challenges to the VRA. Some legal experts found the basis of the case to be lacking. Ellen Katz, a law professor at the University of Michigan, calls the Court’s ruling “improbable,” and Richard Hasen of Loyola Law School says “virtually no lawyer” sees the Court’s interpretation as reasonable. NAACP lawyer Debo P. Adegbile says that regardless of questions surrounding the Court’s verdict, the ruling is one to celebrate: “This case was brought to tear the heart out of the Voting Rights Act, and today that effort failed.” [New York Times, 6/22/2009]
The US Supreme Court says it will schedule a hearing on the controversial “Citizens United” case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (see March 15, 2009), for September 2009, in an unusual second presentation before the Court (see September 9, 2009). According to the justices, the lawyers for both Citizens United (CU) and the federal government should argue whether previous Court rulings upholding federal election law should be overturned based on First Amendment grounds. Both sides are asked to argue whether the Court should overrule the 1990 Austin decision (see March 27, 1990), which upheld restrictions on corporate spending on political campaigns, and/or the 2003 McConnell decision (see December 10, 2003), which upheld the bulk of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA—see March 27, 2002). Law professor Nathaniel Persily says of the directive: “The Court is poised to reverse longstanding precedents concerning the rights of corporations to participate in politics. The only reason to ask for reargument on this is if they’re going to overturn Austin and McConnell.” The New York Times observes, “The Roberts court [referring to the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts] has struck down every campaign finance regulation to reach it, and it seems to have a majority prepared to do more.” Previous lower court rulings have found that CU’s attempt to air a film attacking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was an attempt to engage in “electioneering,” and thus came under the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold campaign law (see March 27, 2002). The film was financed in part by donations from corporations and individuals whom CU has refused to identify. [United Press International, 6/29/2009; New York Times, 6/29/2009] CU previously attempted to have its case heard by the Court, but the Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court, which ruled in favor of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and against CU (see March 24, 2008). Law professor Richard Hasen agrees with Persily and the Times that the decision to reargue the case a second time indicates that the Court’s conservative majority is prepared to overturn both Austin and McConnell, and allow essentially unlimited corporate spending in federal elections. Hasen writes that if the Court does indeed rule in favor of unlimited corporate spending, it will be in response to the fundraising advantage currently enjoyed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) over his Republican counterpart, John McCain (R-AZ). [Slate, 6/29/2009] The decision will indeed overturn both Austin and McConnell, and gut most of the BCRA (see January 21, 2010).
Entity Tags: Hillary Clinton, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Barack Obama, Federal Election Commission, US Supreme Court, New York Times, John G. Roberts, Jr, Richard L. Hasen, Nathaniel Persily, John McCain, Citizens United
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Senator-elect Al Franken (D-MN) acknowledges his victory in front of his Minneapolis home. His wife Franni Franken looks on. [Source: Jeffrey Thompson / Getty Images / Zimbio]The Minnesota Supreme Court rejects Senate candidate Norm Coleman’s motion to reconsider the vote recount that found his opponent, Al Franken (D-MN), the winner of the November 2008 Senate race (see January 5, 2009). Coleman, a Republican and the incumbent, concedes the election in a brief appearance after the ruling. Hours later, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) signs the election certificate for Franken, clearing the way for Franken to take his seat in the US Senate. “I can’t wait to get started,” Franken says. “I won by 312 votes, so I really have to earn the trust of the people who didn’t vote for me.” Coleman says he chose not to appeal to federal courts given the likelihood that the results would not have gone his way, and says he respects the high court’s decision. The court rejects Coleman’s contention that hundreds of absentee ballots ruled invalid should be counted, ruling that voters have the expectation of filling out the ballots properly and should understand that improperly completed ballots will be rejected. Franken’s seating gives Democrats a 60-vote majority in the Senate, theoretically giving them a “filibuster-proof majority” that would overcome Republican efforts to block legislation by refusing to allow cloture votes. However, Democrats rarely vote in unified “blocs” as Republicans often do, and two Senate Democrats, Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert Byrd (D-WV), are hospitalized and unable to cast votes. Franken will be seated after Congress’s July 4 recess. [Associated Press, 6/30/2009; Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 7/1/2009] Politico describes the ruling as “remarkably decisive, picking apart and rejecting one Coleman legal claim after another.” Law professor Larry Jacobs says, “Norm Coleman has gotten shellacked in the court room—by judges who were appointed by Pawlenty.” The Minnesota Republican Party protests the ruling, claiming that it “wrongly disenfranchised thousands of Minnesotans who deserve to have their votes counted,” but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he accepts the decision, stating: “While I am very disappointed in the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision today, I respect Norm’s decision not to pursue his case any further. After having more votes on Election Day, he made a great personal sacrifice to pursue an accurate account of the vote for Minnesotans. For that, and his dedicated service on behalf of Minnesota, he should be commended.” [Politico, 6/30/2009]
Entity Tags: Politico, Larry Jacobs, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Al Franken, Minnesota Republican Party, Minnesota Supreme Court, Robert C. Byrd, Mitch McConnell, Norm Coleman, Tim Pawlenty
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2008 Elections
Paul Topete of Poker Face. [Source: AmericanFreePress (.net)]A thousand people attend a “tea party” rally in Washington, DC. Speakers include members from a number of anti-tax “reform” groups, the lobbying organization and tea party sponsor FreedomWorks (see April 8, 2009 and April 14, 2009), and a number of radio talk show hosts. A rock band, Poker Face, provides entertainment and technical support. Poker Face’s lead singer, Paul Topete, has publicly called the Holocaust a “hoax” and has written for Holocaust-denial publications. Poker Face was refused permission to play at a Rutgers University event in 2006 and a Ron Paul (R-TX) campaign event in 2007 because of the band’s open bigotry and anti-Semitism. However, as the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights’s Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind will later note, “they made it to the stage of the tea party without any questions asked.” [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, again delves into the ever-widening controversy surrounding President Obama’s supposed lack of US citizenship. A year ago, the organization attempted to debunk the wildly varying claims that Obama is not a US citizen (see June 27, 2008). Since then, the number and nature of the various claims against Obama’s heritage and citizenship have continued to swell. PolitiFact examines one aspect of the controversy, the question about “long form” vs. “short form” birth certificates. According to PolitiFact researcher Robert Fairley, so-called “birthers” claim that Obama has never produced a valid “long form” birth certificate, only an easily faked “short form” certificate that is generated via a computer database in Honolulu, the city of Obama’s birth. In August 2008, researchers from FactCheck stated that they had verified the authenticity of a physical and true copy of the birth certificate, though the verification did little to stem the tide of claims and conspiracy theories. The “long form”—kept in state vaults by Hawaiian law—is the actual “birth certificate,” birthers claim; the “short form” is merely a “certification of live birth,” and, they say, useless for proving anyone’s actual status as a citizen. Many “birthers” believe that the “hidden” long form would prove Obama’s foreign birth, and claim that Hawaii’s refusal to release it (a violation of state law) is proof of Obama’s hidden heritage. Some claim that Hawaii does not accept a “certification of live birth” as proof that an individual was physically born in Hawaii, and point to a statement on the Web site of the Hawaii Department of Home Lands, which reads in part: “In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original certificate of live birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the certification of live birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original certificate of live birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated certification requires additional verification by DHHL.” DHHL spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka says the statement is somewhat misleading. In order to be eligible for Hawaii’s Home Lands program, an applicant must be able to prove that his ancestry is 50 percent native Hawaiian or indigeneous. Obama has never asserted that his ancestry is native Hawaiian. The DHHL Web site now states: “The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both certificates of live birth (original birth certificate) and certifications of live birth because they are official government records documenting an individual’s birth. The certificate of live birth generally has more information which is useful for genealogical purposes as compared to the certification of live birth which is a computer-generated printout that provides specific details of a person’s birth. Although original birth certificates (certificates of live birth) are preferred for their greater detail, the State Department of Health (DOH) no longer issues certificates of live birth. When a request is made for a copy of a birth certificate, the DOH issues a certification of live birth.” Janice Okubo of the Hawaii Department of Health says there is no real difference between the “long form” and “short form” for any useful purposes. The terms are “just words,” she says. Obama’s birth certificate as posted on the Internet (see June 13, 2008) “is considered a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. There’s only one form of birth certificate.” Hawaii has followed the same practice of keeping the “long form” on file and issuing copies of the “short form” since the 1960s, she says. The forms have changed somewhat in appearance over the ensuring decades, she notes, and says there are no doubt differences between certificates issued in, say 1961 and those issued now. “When you request a birth certificate, the one you get looks exactly like the one posted on his site,” she says. “That’s the birth certificate.” The so-called “short form” “certification of live birth” would show if Obama had been born in a foreign land, she says. The certificate states that he was born in Honolulu. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/1/2009]
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, finds that claims of a bill pending in Congress is intended to “cloak” “proof” about President Obama’s supposed foreign birth are entirely specious. The 2009 Free Flow of Information Act, passed by the House of Representatives in March, is, according to some in the “birther” movement, actually intended to protect Obama from having to produce his long-form birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). Some conservative bloggers are calling it the “Obama Birth Certificate Protection Act.” An email making the rounds of the Internet claims the bill “would guarantee Barack Obama will never be held accountable for producing forged birth documents,” and asks recipients to protest its passage in the Senate. PolitiFact finds that the Free Flow of Information Act is designed to prevent a citizen from providing “testimony or produce any document related to information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism, unless a court determines by a preponderance of the evidence” due to compulsion by federal authorities. It is primarily designed to protect journalists who fear retaliation if they print sensitive or embarrassing information in their publications. However, the “birthers” say the bill would protect federal employees from being compelled to release documents. The bill is clear in stating that “covered persons” are journalists, bloggers, and anybody else “who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.” Sophia Cope of the Newspaper Association of America says: “[A] covered person is simply a journalist. The White House would not fall under that.… The bill’s intent is to protect reporters and their confidential sources from being subpoenaed to testify, or from having to disclose the identity of those sources. I don’t see how it would relate to Obama’s birth certificate.” The bill was introduced in 2006, well before Obama announced his candidacy for president; PolitiFact writes, “The idea that it is a covert attempt to block Obama from producing his birth certificate is absurd.” It is also anything but a partisan bill; it passed the House on a simple voice vote, and passed earlier on a vote of 398-21. It is expected to pass the Senate with little difficulty. PolitiFact concludes: “One could argue that this law has simply been misread by some well-intentioned government watchdogs. But this is just the latest conspiracy theory from the fringe of a conservative group convinced that Obama hasn’t provided sufficient documentation to prove he was born in the United States, and therefore cannot serve as president. Even among these folks, the claim about the Free Flow of Information Act is more than a stretch.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/1/2009] The bill will bog down in the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009. [Review, 2011]
Lawyer Orly Taitz (left) and Army Reserve Major Stefan Cook, during an interview for a television news crew. [Source: Anna Raccoon (.com)]US Army Reserve Major Stefan Frederick Cook says he should not be deployed to Afghanistan because President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore lacks the constitutional authority to order troops to do anything. Cook’s counsel, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009), files a request in the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia asking that the court bar Cook from deploying, and seeking conscientious objector status for her client. Taitz says in the filing that Cook believes Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009) and therefore has no obligation to obey orders from his superior officers that generate from Obama. Moreover, the filing says, Cook “would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this president’s command.… simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties.” Cook is ordered to mobilize for active duty tomorrow. He is to report to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, and then report to Fort Benning, Georgia, for overseas deployment. A week later, the Army revokes Cook’s deployment orders, instead ordering Cook to await an upcoming hearing on his court filing. Army Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Colonel Maria Quan says that reservists such as Cook have the right to ask for revocation of their orders up to the day they are scheduled to report for active duty, but adds that Cook has not asked for such revocation. The Army has learned that Cook volunteered for deployment in May 2009, while simultaneously conferring with Taitz to file the complaint. [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/14/2009; Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/14/2009] Cook has posted on the Free Republic, a far-right Web site and forum, for six years under the moniker “roaddog727.” As early as March 2010, Cook had exchanged emails with Taitz, suggested that he was one of a number of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship, and had posted a long discourse on Obama’s lack of citizenship on the Free Republic. Taitz has repeatedly solicited soldiers to take part in her anti-Obama lawsuits. [Washington Independent, 7/14/2009; Mudville Gazette, 7/15/2009] On July 16, the day of the hearing, Cook is joined in the complaint by retired Army Major General Carol Dean Childers and active reserve Air Force Lieutenant Colonel David Earl Graeff. The government says that because Cook’s orders have been revoked, the complaint filed by Taitz is “moot”: “The commanding general of SOCCENT (US Special Operations Central Command) has determined that he does not want the services of Major Cook, and has revoked his deployment orders.” Taitz revises the complaint to add Childers and Graeff to the suit, “because it is a matter of unparalleled public interest and importance and because it is clearly a matter arising from issues of a recurring nature that will escape review unless the Court exercises its discretionary jurisdiction.” The lawsuit now says the injunction is necessary to encompass the possibility of Cook receiving future orders for deployment as well as to address and prevent “negative collateral consequences such as retaliation against” Cook. The filing notes that Cook lost his job at defense contractor corporation Simtech because of the lawsuit, and complains that Cook is the target of “gossip” from people who believe he was “manipulating his deployment orders to create a platform for political purposes.” [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/16/2009] Federal judge Clay Land dismisses the suit, siding with the defense which calls the lawsuit “moot.” Land rules: “Federal court only has authority of actual cases and controversies. The entire action is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” Cook says after the ruling: “I love the Army and I want to continue to serve in the Army. If we can establish that [Obama] is in fact president of the United States legally, I’m on the airplane the next day over to Afghanistan… if they cut my deployment orders, so I can do the job that I want to do.… If one cannot establish the validity and legality of the order… we would be following illegal orders and subject to prosecution. I could be prosecuted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and if captured I would not be privy to protections under the Geneva Convention.” [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 7/16/2009] Taitz claims victory. The military has shown its cards “and they have nothing to play with,” she says. “By revoking the orders, it’s clear to anybody. Think reasonably: Why would the military undermine itself by revoking its orders?” She says the Army revoked Cook’s orders because the government could not prove in court that Obama was born in the United States and is therefore the legitimate commander in chief. CENTCOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Bill Speaks calls Taitz’s claim “ridiculous” and Cook’s position “a bizarre conspiracy theory. Suffice to say [that revoking the orders] is certainly not an acknowledgement or validation in any way of his claims.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/30/2009]
Entity Tags: Orly Taitz, Maria Quan, Clay Land, Carol Dean Childers, Free Republic, Bill Speaks, US Department of the Army, Stefan Frederick Cook, David Earl Graeff, Barack Obama
Timeline Tags: US Military, Domestic Propaganda
The national tea party organization Tea Party Patriots (see August 24, 2010) holds a series of rallies and protests in locations throughout the nation to protest the Obama administration’s push to reform the nation’s health care system. Most of the protests take place outside the offices of US Congressional members. Don Mashak, a tea party activist writing for the Minnesota Examiner, accuses the national media and both the Democratic and Republican Parties of working together to deny media coverage to the protests, even lumping Fox News into the “conspiracy.” Mashak writes, “Apparently American News Reporters are a bunch of Political Cuckolds who prefer to nurse at the bitter teat of Tyranny.” Mashak estimates, “Hundreds, if not thousands,of protests like this occurred across the USA simultaneously”; a reporter in Atlanta notes definitively that 254 protests under the Tea Party Patriots banner take place. One protester in Atlanta tells the reporter that Canadian citizens routinely come to America to “pay regular prices” for health care “[b]ecause they cannot get that free stuff in Canada.” [WXIA-TV, 7/17/2009; Minneapolis Examiner, 7/18/2009]
Author Jerome Corsi, who has made a number of disproven and debunked claims concerning President Obama’s citizenship (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, and October 9, 2008), now claims that he has “proof” Obama’s attendance and exemplary performance at Harvard Law School were engineered by a Saudi prince through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical. He points to Obama’s decision not to release his college transcripts as circumstantial evidence (see September 11, 2008), saying that decision “prevents resolution of a continuing controversy over whether radical Islamic influences promoted his admission and financed his legal education there.” The “continuing controversy” centers on a lawyer named Percy Sutton, who claims that Islamic radical Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, “one of the world’s wealthiest men,” asked him to write a letter of recommendation to Harvard Law School for then relatively unknown Barack Obama. Sutton says al-Mansour, a Saudi citizen, introduced him to Obama, and says al-Mansour was raising money for Obama to attend Harvard. Sutton says al-Mansour was a “principal adviser” to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who, Sutton says, actually engineered Obama’s acceptance to Harvard. According to Sutton, he was told in a letter from al-Mansour: “There’s a young man that has applied to Harvard. I know that you have a few friends left there because you used to go up there to speak. Would you please write a letter in support of him?” Sutton says he did write the letter, and told friends at Harvard, “I thought there was going to be a genius that was going to be available and I certainly hoped they would treat him kindly.” The Obama campaign denied the story during the 2008 presidential campaign. Sutton, who is in his 80s and apparently suffers from some sort of senile dementia or memory loss that precludes him being contacted by Corsi or other members of the press, has made his allegations in a YouTube video that Corsi cites as his “proof.” In 2008, Politico reporter Ben Smith contacted al-Mansour, who confirmed Sutton was “a dear friend, his health is not good” and said he’s sure Sutton wrote a letter for someone else, “and he got it confused.” Corsi has requested that the White House release all of Obama’s law school records to “resolve the issue.” Al-Mansour, Corsi claims, was originally Don Warden, a member of the 1960s Black Panthers. [WorldNetDaily, 7/21/2009]
Reporter and columnist Philip Klein, writing for the conservative American Spectator, lambasts conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh for giving the “birther” conspiracy theory his support. Klein says he has refrained from writing about it up until now, “because I don’t want to give those who claim [President Obama] is not a US citizen the attention they so desperately seek. I don’t even want to describe the matter as a ‘controversy,’ because to do so suggests that there is a serious dispute over Obama’s place of birth. To any sane human being, there is no controversy. Obama has produced an authentic certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii that clearly shows he was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, at 7:24 p.m. (see June 13, 2008). State officials have confirmed the document as legitimate (see October 30, 2008) and have stated that such facts would have to be verified by the state before they appear on the document. And if that isn’t enough, the fact is corroborated by a contemporaneous newspaper birth announcement” (see July 2008). Klein writes that instead of questioning Obama’s citizenship and demanding that he produce a “real” birth certificate, “Limbaugh should be using his perch to explain why this story is complete nonsense. Doing so would help to keep these citizenship conspiracy theorists in the fringe, where they belong. Instead, he’s just encouraging them. I’ve lost a ton of respect for Limbaugh this week.” Klein goes on to denounce Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), who with nine other Republican House members has sponsored a bill requiring presidential candidates to produce “official” birth certificates. All 10 “should be embarrassed,” he writes. It would be pointless for Obama to try to settle the issue by releasing a different version of the certificate, Klein writes, because “it would obviously not put the issue to rest… the conspiracy theorists have demonstrated that they do not care about facts.” Secondly, “there’s absolutely no reason for Obama to cave into these people. Doing so would set a standard in the future so that people can start whatever insane rumors they want about an elected official, and then the burden is on the official to dispute them. It’s no different than those calling for an investigation of whether 9/11 was an inside job.” [American Spectator, 7/22/2009]
Conservative radio host Glenn Beck accuses the Obama administration of colluding with ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) to construct a “modern-day slave state” in the US. Beck tells his listeners: “So, now, inside the health care bill is an organization where your tax dollars are going to go to go find information out about minority health. It creates a group of slaves to the government—a group of people working for the government—most likely minorities, working for the government, under the auspices of community organizers, going door to door to find out information about people’s health. This is a modern-day slave state that is being created.” [Media Matters, 7/23/2009]
Right-wing talk show host and convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy (see March 23, 1974) claims to have evidence that President Obama was born in Kenya and not in the US. MSNBC host Chris Matthews interviews Liddy about the claim, which rests on long-discredited statements purporting to be from Obama’s “grandmother” Sarah Obama. Liddy says that Sarah Obama, who is not Obama’s biological grandmother but the second wife of Obama’s grandfather and a woman the president calls “Granny Sarah,” filed “a deposition, which is a sworn statement, from the step-grandmother, who says, ‘I was present and saw him born in Mombasa, Kenya.’” The “deposition” claim comes from street preacher Ron McRae, who interviewed Sarah Obama in her Kenyan home via telephone. Through a translator, Vitalis Akech Ogombe, Sarah Obama apparently misspoke and told McRae that she saw Barack Obama born in Mombasa; when McRae pressed for details, Ogombe and other family members present quickly corrected Sarah Obama’s error and repeatedly affirmed Obama’s birth in Hawaii. McRae, however, continued to press for what he considered a blurted-out truth the family was trying to hide (see October 16, 2008 and After). Salon columnist Alex Koppelman writes: “No matter, though, because people who believe in a conspiracy theory simply hear what they want to hear. So some birther sites have posted transcripts and YouTube clips that end abruptly with the mistranslation and don’t include the corrections. McRae, for his part, included the full translation in his affidavit—he thinks it’s all just part of the conspiracy.” McRae then filed a deposition claiming that Ogombe and the other family members he interviewed “have obviously been versed to counter such facts with the common purported information from the American news media that Obama was born in Hawaii.” Though Matthews attempts to elicit this material during his interview with Liddy, the radio host will continue to promulgate the claim that “Obama’s grandmother” watched his birth in a Mombasa hospital. [Chicago Tribune, 12/3/2008; Salon, 7/23/2009] Obama’s presidential campaign released a verified copy of Obama’s birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), and a number of non-partisan organizations have subsequently verified its validity (see June 27, 2008 and August 21, 2008).
US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) attempts to delay a Congressional resolution introduced by Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood. Bachmann, who has publicly expressed support for so-called “birther” claims that President Obama is not a real US citizen (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008), apparently opposes a line in Abercrombie’s resolution that states, “Whereas the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961” (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). According to Abercrombie spokesperson Dave Helfert, “birthers” have claimed that the line is an attempt to get Congress to affirm Obama’s citizenship. Bachmann objects to the resolution coming to a vote, saying a quorum is not present. The House later votes 378-0 to approve the resolution; Bachmann votes in favor. [Honolulu Advertiser, 7/28/2009]
The editors of the conservative National Review criticize the “birther” movement, which has for years claimed that President Obama is not a US citizen despite all evidence to the contrary (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, and December 3, 2008). Although the editorial mocks Obama’s character and political stances, it asserts that Obama is, indeed, a US citizen, and the evidence presented by the Obama campaign in 2008 is enough for anyone to accept that as fact (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, and July 28, 2009). “Much foolishness has become attached to the question of President Obama’s place of birth, and a few misguided souls among the Right have indulged it,” the editors write. They call the idea that Obama is not a citizen a “myth” that “represents the hunt for a magic bullet that will make all the unpleasant complications of his election and presidency disappear.” The editors say that conspiracy theories such as “birtherism” are usually promulgated by liberals and progressives, citing the “9/11 truther” movement and the various arguments made against the Iraq invasion and occupation as “left-wing” conspiracy theories. The editors believe that the White House, while probably not actually encouraging “birther” speculation, certainly takes advantage of it, because, they write, “[t]here is nothing that President Obama’s coterie would enjoy more than to see the responsible Right become a mirror image of the loopy Left circa 2003.” The editors write: “The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his ‘real’ birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested. If one applies for a United States passport, the passport office will demand a birth certificate. It defines this as an official document bearing ‘your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.’ The Hawaiian birth certificate President Obama has produced—the document is formally known as a ‘certificate of live birth’—bears that information. It has been inspected by reporters, and several state officials have confirmed that the information in permanent state records is identical to that on the president’s birth certificate—which is precisely what one expects, of course, since the state records are used to generate those documents when they are requested. In other words, what President Obama has produced is the ‘real’ birth certificate of myth and lore. The director of Hawaii’s health department and the registrar of records each has personally verified that the information on Obama’s birth certificate is identical to that in the state’s records, the so-called vault copy. Given that fact, we are loath even to engage the fanciful notion that President Obama was born elsewhere, contrary to the information on his birth certificate, but we note for the record that his mother was a native of Kansas, whose residents have been citizens of the United States for a very long time, and whose children are citizens of the United States as well.” However, the editors note, “[t]he hallmark of a conspiracy theory is that a lack of evidence for the theory is taken as yet more evidence for the theory. Indeed, the maddening thing about dealing with conspiracy hobbyists of this or any sort is the ever-shifting nature of their argument and their alleged evidence: Never mind the birth certificate, his step-grandmother said he was born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After)! (No, she didn’t.)” [National Review, 7/28/2009]
Hawaii’s health director, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, releases a second statement that verifies President Obama was indeed born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, and therefore is a valid US citizen. Fukino is responding to persistent rumors that Obama is not a valid US citizen and therefore is ineligible to serve as president. The statement reads: “I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago.” Fukino released a similar statement before the 2008 presidential election (see October 30, 2008), which was derided by “birthers” who are convinced Obama is not a true American citizen. CNN’s Lou Dobbs has demanded to see Obama’s “long form” birth certificate, even though Hawaiian law states that all such documents remain under lock and key and are not publicly released; Dobbs continues to push the “birther” story on his nightly talk show, even though CNN’s US president Jon Klein has told Dobbs’s staffers that the issue is a “dead” story. Birthers dispute the fact that Obama was born in Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu on August 4, 1961, despite the release of a verified copy of the certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, and August 21, 2008), court rulings, and statements by Fukino and Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI). [Honolulu Advertiser, 7/28/2009]
The press learns that in the final months of the 2008 presidential campaign, the McCain-Palin campaign investigated claims that then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) may not be a legitimate US citizen. The campaign investigation was spurred by reports of a court filing in Pennsylvania (see August 21-24, 2008). A lawyer contacted by the McCain-Palin campaign called the court filing “idiotic,” but the filing prompted the campaign to do some investigating of its own. Trevor Potter, a Washington attorney who served as general counsel to the 2008 McCain campaign, recalls: “We monitored the progress of these lawsuits against the Obama campaign. The McCain campaign faced a series of lawsuits like this, too, alleging that he could not be president because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Both campaigns took the position that these plaintiffs lacked standing.” Potter and other McCain legal experts quickly ruled out any chance of those lawsuits holding up in court. They also investigated the claims underlying the lawsuits. “To the extent that we could, we looked into the substantive side of these allegations,” Potter recalls. “We never saw any evidence that then-Senator Obama had been born outside of the United States. We saw rumors, but nothing that could be sourced to evidence. There were no statements and no documents that suggested he was born somewhere else. On the other side, there was proof that he was born in Hawaii. There was a certificate issued by the state’s Department of Health (see June 13, 2008), and the responsible official in the state saying that he had personally seen the original certificate (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). There was a birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, which would be very difficult to invent or plant 47 years in advance” (see July 2008). [Washington Independent, 7/24/2009] McCain’s own citizenship has also been unsuccessfully challenged in court (see March 14 - July 24, 2008).
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly provides harsh criticism towards CNN talk show host Lou Dobbs for promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that President Obama is not a US citizen (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, and December 3, 2008). O’Reilly says he and his staff have investigated the claims and found them groundless. He questions Dobbs’s choice to continue promoting the idea on his show, but in an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Richard Cohen, defends Dobbs’s right to make the statements. O’Reilly says: “That theory has been around for a while. The Factor [O’Reilly’s talk show The O’Reilly Factor] investigated, found out it’s bogus. But Mr. Dobbs is still engaged.… Again, we found out that President Obama was born in Hawaii… we were sent the documents. And what are you gonna do? I don’t know why it’s still around.” When Cohen says that CNN should remove Dobbs from the airwaves, O’Reilly disagrees, saying: “Why are you guys overreacting?… It’s not true. Mr. Dobbs is, is trying to get ratings, trying to be provocative.” Cohen calls O’Reilly’s explanation a “poor excuse” and accuses Dobbs of “trading in right-wing baseless conspiracies for years.” [Huffington Post, 7/27/2009]
Stars and Stripes, the official news outlet for the US military, publishes an analysis of a lawsuit filed by Army reservist Major Stefan Cook, who asked a court to stop his deployment to Afghanistan because of his doubt that President Obama is a US citizen and therefore lacks the authority of commander in chief. The lawsuit was dismissed after the Army rescinded its deployment orders for Cook (see July 8-16, 2009). Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey writes: “[T]he Army reservist’s intention appeared not so much to fight for America as to fight against President Barack Obama, in furtherance of a bizarre conspiracy theory.… Cook is one of the so-called ‘birthers,’ a small group of activists who subscribe to a fringe conspiracy theory alleging that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore cannot legally serve as president. The conspiracy theory, proven false by numerous media investigations as well as officials in the state of Hawaii where Obama was born (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009), first surfaced early in the presidential campaign, but in recent months it has continued to fester on the Internet.” McCloskey theorizes that the lawsuit was engendered by Cook’s attorney, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009), in order to “gain [her] a few more minutes of screen time on the cable news networks. Taitz, a Russian-born dentist who got her law degree online, is the public face of the birthers. She has been trying to get the conspiracy theory heard in court since before the election. So far, all of the lawsuits brought by the birthers have been summarily dismissed.” The Army, McCloskey writes, “refused to be baited” by this lawsuit. Lieutenant Colonel Holly Silkman, a spokesperson for SOCCENT (US Special Operations Central Command), says Cook’s critical engineer billet could not be “hijacked by further legal wrangling.” Cook was scheduled to deploy on July 15, and his position cannot sit empty. The officer Cook was supposed to replace “is going to have to remain in Afghanistan a while longer,” Silkman says, and adds that the Army is working to find a replacement: “No one has been identified yet, but it is a priority fill, so we’re working on it and expect to fill it soon. Engineers are in high demand.” Taitz, interviewed by McCloskey, tells the reporter: “I have one question: Why would any member of the US military risk his life or take any orders… from someone who is refusing to prove he is the legitimate president? We can’t stand for the arrogant, obnoxious behavior of Obama. He wants to defraud the whole nation.” Taitz refuses to allow McCloskey to interview Cook. Brandon Friedman of VoteVets (.org), a political action committee seeking to elect veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to public office, says of Cook: “That’s not leadership. That’s not the way Major Cook was trained and brought up in the Army. You don’t leave a unit like that, and you certainly don’t do it because you’re trying to make a political statement.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/30/2009]
A screenshot from a Democratic National Committee ad highlighting phrases from the memo. [Source: Weekly Standard]The conservative Web site and political action committee (PAC) Right Principles releases a memo entitled “Rocking the Town Halls: Best Practices,” written by Bob MacGuffie, a founder of the organization and a volunteer with the “Tea Party Patriots,” a subsidiary of the conservative lobbying group FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). [Think Progress, 7/31/2009; Tea Party Patriots, 8/6/2009] The organization is very small—basically MacGuffie and four friends—and although MacGuffie volunteers with the aforementioned tea party group, he insists he and his organization have no connections to the much larger and well-funded FreedomWorks or other lobbying organizations that support anti-health care protests. “We are recommending with that memo that other grassroots groups that share our view should go to the town halls of their members and use the strategy that we did,” MacGuffie says. “We are trying to get into that town halls to make them understand that they do not have the unanimous support from people in their communities.” [TPMDC, 8/3/2009] Although the site either never posts the memo or takes it down shortly after, it quickly circulates throughout the conservative community (see July 23, 2009), and will be used to disrupt “town hall” meetings by Democratic House members, who intend to spend time during the August recess holding such meetings to discuss the Obama administration’s health care proposals. [Right Principles, 2009; Think Progress, 7/31/2009] MacGuffie later claims to have first e-mailed the memo to “8-10 community activists” in June. [Weekly Standard, 8/5/2009]
'Best Practices' - The memo advises conservative activists and protesters of the best ways to dominate and disrupt the town hall meetings. Basing the memo on actions conducted by Right Principles members and supporters during a May 2009 town hall meeting held by Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT), MacGuffie writes, “We believe there are some best practices which emerged from the event and our experience, which could be useful to activists in just about any district where their congressperson has supported the socialist agenda of the Democrat leadership in Washington.” Some of the steps include:
Artificially inflating numbers. “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
Being disruptive from the outset. “You need to rock the boat early in the rep’s presentation. Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the rep’s statements early.” The memo also advises, “Don’t carry on and make a scene, just short, intermittent shout-outs.”
Attempt to rattle or goad the speaker. “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
The memo also attaches some possible questions for the representatives, “which apply to most any Democrat that is supporting the socialist agenda,” it says. [Bob MacGuffie, 7/2009 ; Think Progress, 7/31/2009] Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress will note that the questions closely resemble talking points handed out in July by FreedomWorks. [Think Progress, 7/31/2009] Liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will accuse Right Principles of crafting a “how-to” manual for disruptive “rent-a-mob” activities. [Washington Times, 8/6/2009] The conservative Weekly Standard will accuse “liberal media” outlets such as Think Progress and MSNBC of “manufacturing outrage” over the memo, and prints MacGuffie’s denials of having any connections to FreedomWorks. “There is no formal connection,” he says. “I don’t know anyone from FreedomWorks.” [Weekly Standard, 8/5/2009]
Entity Tags: Weekly Standard, Tea Party Patriots, Right Principles, Jim Himes, Obama administration, Rachel Maddow, Think Progress (.org), FreedomWorks, Bob MacGuffie
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
The fraudulent birth certificate presented by California lawyer Orly Taitz ‘proving’ that Barack Obama was born in a Kenyan hospital. [Source: Snopes (.com)]California attorney Orly Taitz posts an image of what she says is President Obama’s “true” birth certificate, this one issued in Kenya (see June 13, 2008). Taitz then files a motion in federal court to prove its authenticity. The conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND) quickly publishes an article repeating Taitz’s claim. WND notes that the Kenyan document lists Obama’s parents as “Barack Hussein Obama and Stanley Ann Obama, formerly Stanley Ann Dunham.” The birth date is August 4, 1961, and the hospital of birth is Coast General Hospital in Mombasa, Kenya. The document lists no attending doctor. It does list the signature of the deputy registrar of Coast Province, Joshua Simon Oduya. According to the document, it was issued as a certified copy of the original in February 1964. WND claims that it has compared the Taitz document to other Kenyan birth certificates, and, it concludes, “the form of the documents appear to be identical.” WND admits that other fraudulent Kenyan birth certificates have recently been posted on the Internet, but, it says, “[t]he new document released by Taitz bears none of the obvious traits of a hoax.” Critics note that the Taitz document was certified as being issued by the Republic of Kenya on February 17, 1964, though the Republic of Kenya did not come into existence until December 1964. However, WND says, “Kenya’s official independence was in 1963, and any number of labels could have been applied to government documents during that time period.” According to WND, Taitz says she received the document “from an anonymous source who doesn’t want his name known because ‘he’s afraid for his life.’” Taitz’s court filing, in the US District Court for the Central District of California, requests the purported evidence of Obama’s birth—both the alleged birth certificate and foreign records not yet obtained—be preserved from destruction, asks for permission to legally request documents from Kenya, and seeks a subpoena for deposition from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Taitz tells WND: “I filed the motion with the court asking for expedited discovery, which would allow me to start subpoenas and depositions even before Obama and the government responds. I am asking the judge to give me the power to subpoena the documents from the Kenyan embassy and to require a deposition from Hillary Clinton so they will be forced to authenticate [the birth certificate]. I’m forcing the issue, where Obama will have to respond.… Before, they said, ‘You don’t have anything backing your claims.’ Now I have something. In fact, I have posted on the Internet more than Obama has (see June 13, 2008). My birth certificate actually has signatures.” Taitz says she plans to file more documents with the court in the following days. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009; WorldNetDaily, 8/2/2009]
Forgery - PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, asks for clarification from Salim Lone, the spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Lone says via email: “It’s a forgery. Kenya only became a republic in December, 1964. Other arguments could also be marshaled, but they are not needed.” Blogger Steve Eddy then finds a nearly-identical document on the Internet using Google Search, posted on a genealogy Web site by an Australian, David Jeffrey Bomford. Eddy compares the two and, according to PolitiFact: “Same format. Same book and page number in the birth registry. Some of the officials’ last names were even the same.” Eddy tells PolitiFact, “At that point, it was pretty obvious the Kenyan one was a fake, that someone had used this real one from Australia to make their version.” An ABC affiliate in Australia asks Bomford, a public service clerk in Adelaide, about the controversy, and Bomford replies: “That is ridiculous. Little old person in Adelaide, the president of the United States. I don’t know whether to laugh about it or not, be worried about it.” Bomford says he had nothing to do with the hoax. “It’s little old me and my mum and everything else up there,” he says. The birth certificate he posted online is his own, he says. “Oh, I definitely confirm that the birth certificate was mine. That was quite easy to see—my address, even the style of the birth certificate was an old South Australian one. So it’s quite easy to identify that it’s mine.… It’s definitely a copy of my certificate. It’s so laughable it’s ridiculous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009] The Washington Independent’s David Weigel notes , “The image is part of the extremely ill-informed conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Mombasa—conveniently, one of the more Muslim parts of the country.” The Obama family lives in an entirely different part of Kenya, over a thousand miles from Mombasa. Moreover, at the time of Obama’s birth, Mombasa was not a part of Kenya, but part of Zanzibar. [Washington Independent, 8/3/2009]
Rebuttal - Taitz posts on her Web site that Bomford’s certificate, not her own, is the fake, and says Bomford or someone else altered that certificate from the “original” Obama certificate to discredit her. Eddy says of Taitz’s claim, “There’s no reasoning with some of these people.” A blogger from “Obama Not Qualified” writes a long screed detailing his or her belief that the Taitz document is real, though noting his or her belief that the photo Taitz originally posted may not be real, and giving a step-by-step walkthrough of how to create a falsified document. PolitiFact receives a response from Val Edyvean, registrar of births, deaths and marriages for South Australia, saying: “It appears that a South Australian loaded an image of his own birth certificate onto a family history Web site and that the format was used by others to ‘create’ a document which purported to be a Kenyan birth certificate for Barack Obama. As the South Australian man has now removed this image, and the date of his birth is in the period of certificates which are restricted from public access, I do not intend to add to speculation by commenting on details of either that certificate or any aspects of it.” [Obama Not Qualified, 2008; St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009]
Conclusion - WND publisher Joseph Farah publishes a column expressing his feeling that the Taitz certificate is “probably” a forgery, and claims that WND never made any assertion of its validity. (Farah also says that the State of Hawaii has “steadfastly refused” to state that the birth certificate posted by the Obama campaign in 2008 is valid, a false statement—see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). “The Kenyan document could be real. I haven’t seen a single disqualifying error pointed out in the last 24 hours. But I still strongly suspect it is not,” he writes. Instead, he says, WND posted the certificate and the accompanying article so that it could be fact-checked. He then claims that Obama has “hidden” his real birth certificate and “virtually every other meaningful document in his life” from public scrutiny. [WorldNetDaily, 8/4/2009] PolitiFact concludes that the Taitz certificate “is a fake.” However, “we have no delusions this changes anyone’s mind in the birther movement.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/2/2009]
Entity Tags: Steve Eddy, US District Court for the Central District of California, WorldNetDaily, Salim Lone, Val Edyvean, Orly Taitz, David Jeffrey Bomford, David Weigel, Barack Obama, PolitiFact (.org ), Joseph Farah, Joshua Simon Oduya, Hillary Clinton
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Pamela Geller, who owns and operates the far-right blog Atlas Shrugs, continues to claim that “forensic analysis” performed on President Obama’s birth certificate by a blogger on her site she calls “Techdude” proves the certificate is forged, even though independent analysis has long since proven that “Techdude’s” analysis was fraudulent (see July 20, 2008). She claims that the analysis was never subjected to “peer review,” ignoring a review and analysis by an actual computer forensics expert, Dr. Neal Krawetz, who showed how cunningly “Techdude” manipulated the data to produce his fraudulent results. Nevertheless, Geller continues to say that her blog’s analysis “proves” Obama’s birth certificate, as posted on his Web site (see June 13, 2008), confirmed by Hawaiian officials (see October 30, 2008), and independently analyzed and verified as accurate (see June 27, 2008 and August 21, 2008), is “an altered document.” Geller claims that a year after her blog “exposed” the birth certificate, the “birther” issue “is on fire. Why? Perhaps because the American people, in their sudden desperation at having made a shotgun wedding, are looking for an annulment. And just as you couldn’t get Al Capone on his heinous crimes of murder and racketeering, but got him on tax evasion, so they hope they can get Obama on this technicality regarding eligibility. Obama’s refusal to release the vault copy has only increased interest, with the speculation now creating a veritable birth certificate circus.” Geller speculates that the recent release of an obviously fraudulent “Kenyan birth certificate” (see August 1-4, 2009) is the result of “something more sinister at work,” perhaps a “psyop” by either Obama administration officials or Obama’s supporters “to smear the Republicans in general as ‘birthers,’ conspiracy nuts who have given themselves over to right-wing nuttery.” Conservatives, she writes, are the victim of the birth certificate conspiracy, and Obama is entirely to blame for not releasing what she calls the “vault copy” (see July 1, 2009), “whether because it contains something damaging or simply because it enables him to wield the weapon of ridicule against the right. At this point, the effect is the same regardless of which of those possibilities is true. This carnival of conspiracy has become a deliberate distraction from the real issues and the real destruction being wrought by the Obama administration.” [NewsMax, 8/4/2009]
Screenshot of Scott Oskay’s Twitter message urging health care reform protesters to ‘hurt’ ACORN and SEIU members ‘badly.’ [Source: TPMDC]Anti-health care reform protester Scott Oskay, who lives in New Mexico, sends out Twitter messages under the moniker “ScottEO” urging his hundreds of followers to attend health care debates with weapons. If members from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) attend the events “for disruption,” Oskay tells his Twitter followers to “stop being peaceful and hurt them. Badly.” He also urges his followers to take photographs of pro-health care advocates “on anticipation of disruption,” and “If ACORN/SEIU attends, remind them that your target is centralized, while you and your allies, are not.” Oskay includes the “hashtag” #iamthemob in some of his messages, an identification tag popularized in part by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. According to TPMDC, the particular hashtag “has gone viral on Twitter, appearing several times a minute according to a recent search.” Oskay, asked via Twitter if he advocates violence against SEIU or ACORN members, replies, “I would advocate retaliation for intimidation, be it verbal or physical.” [TPMDC, 8/7/2009; RootsWire, 8/7/2009] After news of Oskay’s call to violence goes public, posters on Malkin’s blog will accuse him of being a “liberal plant,” and one says: “The individuals going to protest at town halls have no idea who Scott Oskay is, nor care. To suggest that his foolish tweet(s) (whether he truly is a ‘libertarian’ or not) influences all those protesters is preposterous. There has been nothing to substantiate the claim. If it weren’t for TPM bemoaning his Twitter, it’s likely he would have gone completely unnoticed (by both sides). If you wish to be ‘afraid’ of those scary protesters because of this one guy’s Twitter page, be my guest, but let’s not pretend that he’s the leader of some movement.” Oskay’s Twitter page has since been removed, according to posters on Malkin’s blog. [Michelle Malkin, 8/10/2009]
Conservative Fox News and radio talk show host Sean Hannity urges fellow conservatives to turn out in force at town halls in their area to protest health care reform. On his Web site, Hannity urges protesters to “Become a part of the mob! Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!” Hannity’s site lists a number of town halls; at the bottom of the page, he credits the “Astroturf” lobbying group Conservatives for Patients Rights (see August 4, 2009) as the source of the list. [Sean Hannity, 8/2009; New York Times, 8/7/2009]
The influential conservative blog HotAir promotes tea party activist Kenneth Gladney’s tale of being “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” during a recent town hall forum in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Blogger Ed Morrissey writes of Gladney’s claims: “Pay attention, America. This is a glimpse into the next three years of the Obama administration, at least using the same logic by which the Left accuses health care reform opponents of ‘astroturfing.’ If its policies get organized opposition, especially at events designed to allow for public debate, purple-shirted thugs will appear to crack heads and scare off the opposition. And if nothing else, it’s a great look at how the unions will act once the secret ballot gets eliminated from organizing elections.” [Ed Morrissey, 8/7/2009] HotAir’s Patrick Ishmael posts an update later in the day giving more details about Gladney’s “brutal” “beating.” [Patrick Ishmael, 8/7/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries.
Columnist Mary Katharine Ham of the Weekly Standard reports on a recent altercation at a town hall forum in St. Louis, where tea party activist Kenneth Gladney has charged he was “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” for selling anti-Obama merchandise (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Ham writes that the Gladney altercation has been twisted “by liberals looking to paint the violence as caused by critics of the administration.” According to a conversation with Gladney’s lawyer David Brown, who claims to have witnessed the altercation, a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) approached Gladney and called him a “n_gger.” Then, according to Brown: “Kenneth didn’t say anything to the guy. Before Kenneth could even say anything or act in any way shape or form, the SEIU representative punched him in the face. He went to the ground. Subsequently, two other SEIU representatives or members, however you want to say it, jumped on top of him, yelled racial epithets at him… kicked him, punched him.” Gladney has claimed being kicked by a woman as well, but Brown says he did not witness that. Gladney subsequently went to the hospital, and will begin making appearances on Fox News and at other tea party events in a wheelchair. “He sustained some injuries to his back, some bruising,” Brown says. Ham includes a video of the altercation, which as Media Matters columnist Eric Boehlert writes, “pretty much undercuts the entire tale of run-away union violence.” Boehlert writes: “Go watch the YouTube video.… The first thing you notice when the camera starts rolling is a union member already sprawled out on the ground with somebody standing over him. No explanation of how he got there (pushed, shoved, punched?) and Ham couldn’t care less. Then yes, Gladney is pulled to the ground by somebody wearing a union shirt. (At the :06 mark.) But instead of Gladney being beaten and punched, as his attorney describes, and instead of union ‘thugs’ standing over him and threatening him, Gladney bounces right back on his feet in approximately two seconds and the scuffle ends. That was the savage ‘beating’ the conservative blogosphere can’t stop talking about? The only real mystery from the incident is why Tea Party member Gladney, who’s seen up-close after the brief encounter walking around and talking to people and who appears to be injury-free, then decided to go to the hospital to treat injuries to his ‘knee, back, elbow, shoulder, and face.’ All that from a two-second fall to the pavement? Also unclear is why he contacted a newspaper reporter, or why his attorney wrote up lavish accounts and sent them to conservative bloggers, or why Gladney and his attorney appeared on Fox News.” [Weekly Standard, 8/7/2009; Media Matters, 8/8/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries in the altercation.
Discussing the anti-health care reform protests, Fox News host Sean Hannity asks his guest, conservative radio host Mark Levin, “You think the president [Obama] bears any responsibility for this conflict now that is emerging in these town halls” (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6-8, 2009)? Levin responds, “[L]et me suggest that if there’s anything that happens at these town hall meetings, if anybody’s hurt or if anything really stupid happens, this White House has some responsibility for it.” Levin justifies his claim: “This White House is calling out its dogs. The president sent out an e-mail to millions of, uh, his supporters. [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, behind the scenes, is pushing too, so is [White House political coordinator David] Axelrod. If something terrible happens at one of these town hall meetings, I think the president in part can be held accountable.” [Media Matters, 8/8/2009]
Niki Tsongas. [Source: Boston Herald]Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) holds a town hall to discuss health care reform in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. The crowd is relatively evenly divided between supporters and opponents. One audience member later writes about the event on the liberal blog Daily Kos. According to the blogger, some of the reform opponents sport the now-ubiquitous “Obama as Hitler” sign (see August 6, 2009); someone tells the blogger that the sign is being provided by an organization affiliated with the extreme right-winger Lyndon LaRouche. The school gymnasium hosting the event rapidly reaches its maximum capacity of 220, with people standing along the sides and in the back as well as occupying all of the available seats. The event is marked by frequent outbursts of shouting, booing, and name-calling, but Tsongas and the audience are somewhat able to ask and answer questions. The Lowell Sun later reports, “Supporters tried to counter with applause and cheer, but could not compete with the decibel level of the plan’s opponents.” One opponent screams, “We’re turning into a Communist country!” Others complain that illegal aliens will be covered, using monies that should be allocated for citizens’ care, and that health care will be strictly rationed, both claims that have been sharply disputed by President Obama and other Democrats (see August 8, 2009). Tsongas is frequently shouted down by protesters who, according to the Sun, “rush… the microphone” to ask questions and make statements. Exchanges among audience members are equally heated. One man receives cheers when he identifies himself as a retired Marine, but is booed when he declares his support for reform. A woman is booed when she identifies herself as a cancer survivor, but is cheered when she says she opposes reform. Listening to her tearful statement, one supporter calls out, “She’s an actress!” Another woman discusses her son, who has graduated from college but cannot find a job and suffers from debilitating kidney disease. When she asks Tsongas what her son can do, a reform opponent shouts, “He can go to work for McDonald’s!” A Sun reporter asks two elderly bill opponents about their views; the seniors refuse to give their names. “I won’t give my name because of the Gestapo politics,” one says. “The Obama administration will be investigating us if we give our names.” After the event, Tsongas says: “We managed to have a serious discussion. Different opinions were expressed and there were moments when people were very animated, but they respected the need to go forward.… Some people seemed genuinely concerned. I wasn’t suprised by it. We knew people would come and there would be strong opinions.” [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009; Boston Herald, 8/9/2009; Lowell Sun, 8/9/2009; MetroWest Daily News, 8/12/2009]
Anti-Obama protester at the discussion sponsored by Joe Donnelly. [Source: Daily Kos]Representative Joe Donnelly (D-IN) holds a meeting at a supermarket in South Bend, Indiana. He expects a few constituents to show up and discuss issues with him, including health care. Instead, several hundred people appear. One person attending the event later writes about it on the liberal blog Daily Kos. According to the blogger, about 70 percent of the attendees are vocally against health care reform. Many of them wear red T-shirts emblazoned with slogans claiming that reform is tantamount to government tyranny. “In all my life,” the blogger writes, “I have never heard such uninformed, paranoid, and downright ignorant discussion of an important issue as the conversation that went on before Donnelly arrived.” Numerous comparisons to Nazi Germany are made both before and during the event, with one woman directly comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. The same woman claims that Obama wants to use reform as an excuse to begin euthanizing senior citizens (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, and August 7, 2009) and enslaving American citizens. Other arguments being advanced include health care taking money from Americans to cover illegal aliens, mandatory abortions, health care rationing, and more. Several opponents claim that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Republicans Nazis, a falsehood spread by conservative talk radio (see August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 7, 2009). After the meeting, Donnelly says: “I don’t think it was heated. People are passionate about these issues. They expressed their ideas and gave me a chance to tell them what I think.” [Daily Kos, 8/8/2009; WSBT-TV, 8/8/2009]
David Vitter. [Source: The Earmark (.com)]Senator David Vitter (R-LA) holds a “town hall” meeting in Pineville, Louisiana, to discuss health care reform and other issues. In Louisiana University’s Guinn Auditorium, Vitter tells a relatively calm and cooperative crowd of some 1,500 people that he is “totally and unalterably opposed” to the proposals being put forth in Congress. One attendee asks Vitter about the disruptions and confrontations taking place at Democratic town halls around the country (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6-8, 2009). Liberal news and advocacy site Think Progress writes that “Vitter seemed to mock his colleagues,” saying that although he had been advised to have “security” at his meeting, he “told them the best security is to do what the people want you to do.” He adds, “[T]he angry mob is always welcome at my events.” Perhaps the reason why the meeting is so controlled is that Vitter, unlike most of his Democratic colleagues, is using pre-screened questions chosen ahead of time. No one is allowed to ask impromptu questions. [Think Progress, 8/9/2009; Alexandria Town Talk, 8/9/2009]
House Democratic leaders Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) publish a jointly written op-ed in USA Today, pressing for the Democrats’ health care reform package. They acknowledge the innate controversy inherent in the issue, and write: “We believe it is healthy for such a historic effort to be subject to so much scrutiny and debate. The failure of past attempts is a reminder that health insurance reform is a defining moment in our nation’s history—it is well worth the time it takes to get it right. We are confident that we will get this right.” They declare flatly that the House “will approve” a reform bill “in September.” However, they note, “an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue” (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, and August 6-8, 2009).… These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views—but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades. Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts.” After this screed, Hoyer and Pelosi give a brief defense and explanation of the health care reform package:
It will provide more patient choice;
It will allow Americans the freedom to keep their current plan or move to a different plan;
It will take away the power of the insurance companies to determine health care choices;
It will lower health care costs;
It will promote preventative care.
“This month, despite the disruptions, members of Congress will listen to their constituents back home and explain reform legislation,” they write. “We are confident that our principles of affordable, quality health care will stand up to any and all critics.” [USA Today, 8/10/2009]
In an op-ed, the Miami Herald decries the attempt by protesters to disrupt and block discussion at health care forums around the country (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, and August 8, 2009). “[D]on’t confuse the rowdy protests in the health care reform forums with the fine American tradition of talking back to those who wield political power,” the Herald writes. “In forum after forum around the country, including Florida, members of Congress have been shouted down, cursed out, and forced to cancel town hall meetings on health care reform because of bully tactics by opponents of health care proposals. This doesn’t promote debate and the exchange of ideas. Rather, it promotes fear and intimidation—similar to the Cuban government’s goon squads, the so-called repudiation brigades.” The Herald cites a recent forum held by Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009) as an example of an attempted discussion derailed by orchestrated attempts to shout down speakers and audience members alike. The protests often “tak[e] on the character of anti-administration rallies and much of the venom [is] directed at President Obama himself.” The editorial also criticizes the display of posters depicting Obama as Hitler (see August 6, 2009), and notes, “Such outrageous tactics were used against President Bush in protests about the war on terror.” The anger and concern among citizens is real, the Herald acknowledges, “[b]ut staging raucous protests and drowning out real discussion is no way to win the argument. It only leads to more argument.” The Herald goes on to note: “Some of the disruptions, without doubt, are politically motivated and orchestrated by organized opponents of reform. Conservatives for Patients’ Rights and Americans for Prosperity have been linked to some of the public outcries. Genuine grassroots opposition is discredited when the forums turn into shouting matches designed to embarrass public officials and tarnish the reform effort. The anger of protesters at some of these forums is fueled not by the content of health care reform proposals but by disinformation, the hallmark of an orchestrated campaign.” The editorial concludes: “Urge your elected representative to support reform—or not—but give others a chance to speak and be heard. That’s the American way.” [Miami Herald, 8/10/2009]
Andrew Breitbart. [Source: Media Bistro (.com)]Conservative activist and blogger Andrew Breitbart uses recent allegations by St. Louis tea party activist Kenneth Gladney to attack the Obama administration, the “liberal” media, and others. Gladney claims to have been “savagely beaten” by “union thugs” during a recent town hall forum in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Gladney is “under fire” from what Breitbart calls “the Democrat-Media Complex (the natural coalition of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media)”; CNN’s Anderson Cooper, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, and others, Breitbart writes, have “led the charge” in attacking tea party members, who they derisively call “tea baggers,” a term Breitbart says tea party members find offensive. The media, along with many Congressional Democrats, are working in collusion to deride and delegitimize the tea parties, Breitbart says. Breitbart turns to the Gladney incident, saying that Gladney was “viciously attacked” by “Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members,” one of whom called him a “n_gger,” Breitbart alleges. “These union thugs were directed by the White House to go to the protests and ‘punch back twice as hard,’” Breitbart continues, “[a]nd they did.” Only Fox News is reporting the Gladney story, Breitbart claims, while the “liberal media” resolutely ignores it. He concludes: “With the Democratic Party in control of all branches of government and the Fourth Estate acting as the Democratic Party’s protector, the tea party movement is the closest thing America has to checks and balances. If that isn’t enough to motivate you, perhaps showing your solidarity with Kenneth Gladney, a fellow patriot, is.” [Washington Times, 8/10/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries.
Hundreds wait in line for dental care at the Remote Area Medical clinic at The Forum. [Source: UPI / Jim Ruymen]The New York Times cites an eight-day health care event in Inglewood, California, as evidence of the overwhelming need for health care reform. Thousands of residents, who either lack any health insurance at all or are underinsured, line up every day outside The Forum, where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play professional basketball, to see a doctor, dentist, or nurse. The event serves 1,500 people per day; hundreds more are unable to get in to be seen. “It looked as if it was happening in an underdeveloped country, where villagers might assemble days in advance for care from a visiting medical mission,” the Times writes. “But it was happening in a major American metropolitan area. This vast, palpable need for help is a shameful indictment of our health care system—one that politicians opposed to reform insist is the world’s best.” The event is run by an organization called Remote Area Medical, originally formed to provide critical care to natives living in the Amazon basin. But the group realized that tremendous need exists within America itself, and began delivering free services in rural areas of the country. It has now expanded into urban areas. The first day, the group sees around 1,000 patients, and asks hundreds more to return the next day. By August 13, it has all available slots for the eight-day event committed. The Times writes: “The clinics are an inspiring example of what dedicated volunteers can do. But they are temporary events and come nowhere near to meeting the nation’s needs. Health care reforms under consideration in Congress could make big strides toward filling the gaps: by offering less costly insurance on new exchanges; by expanding Medicaid to cover more poor people and reaching out more vigorously to enroll them; by subsidizing coverage for low-income people; by helping increase the supply of primary care doctors; by requiring insurers to offer essential benefits and preventing them from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.… Americans deserve to know all of the facts, including that tens of millions of their neighbors and friends have no health insurance coverage at all or insurance that is grossly inadequate. If they still have doubts about why reform is so necessary, they should take another look at those lines in Inglewood.” [Guardian, 8/12/2009; New York Times, 8/15/2009; United Press International, 8/15/2009]
Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), fresh from a contentious “town hall” meeting on health care reform, holds another such forum in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Though the Lebanon auditorium seats only 250, over 1,000 show up for the forum. Those who arrive first get in first, and therefore many anti-reform protesters enter the auditorium to grill Specter, while many union members and pro-reformers are left to mill about in the parking lot outside. Many of the protesters come in response to e-mail alerts sent from local and national anti-tax, anti-reform, and “tea party” organizations, along with Specter’s own mailings. The New York Times reports that many protesters repeat slogans and questions recently aired on conservative talk radio shows, though when asked about their propensity to parrot material from such sources, the reporters receive indignant protestations of the protesters’ independence. Many shout that they are not mob members or puppets, though the chants seem orchestrated, and some of the protesters were bused in by the lobbying organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009). Many of the protesters, according to the Times, are there to protest about issues other than health care. One protester says health care reform is just one aspect of the Obama administration’s plans for “the dismantling of this country,” a line which draws loud applause. “We don’t want this country to turn into Russia.” One local “tea party” organizer, John Stahl, says the issues debated at the forum go well beyond health care. “We believe there are several issues out there that leave the existence of the Republic at risk,” he says, “not the least of which is this Obamacare.” Many want to talk about enforced euthanasia of elderly citizens (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009), immigration policy, and other concerns. In an attempt to impose some order on the forum, Specter imposes a rigid format, allowing only the first 30 people who wish to speak to submit cards with their questions. He also stands face-to-face with questioners, and allows them to speak fully before giving answers. The auditorium is patrolled by three uniformed Capitol Police officers from Washington as well as local law enforcement. One protester, Craig Miller, becomes involved with the police when he stands close to Specter and bellows, “You are trampling our Constitution!” The officers move in to restrain him but Specter asks them to give Miller his space and allow him to leave the venue under his own power. Miller refuses to leave, and instead shouts, “One day, God is going to stand before you, and he’s going to judge you!” Specter then informs the rowdy, cheering protesters that anyone who disrupts the proceedings will be removed. [New York Times, 8/11/2009]
Protester William Kostric, bearing his sign and wearing a gun strapped to his leg. [Source: London Daily Mail]President Obama holds a “town hall” meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to discuss health care. Although the audience is allowed to attend on a first-come first-served basis, it is comprised mostly of health care reform supporters. During the event, Obama repeatedly solicits questions from skeptics of his health care plan, telling the audience, “I don’t want people thinking I have a bunch of plants in here.” In his remarks, Obama addresses what he calls some of the “wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what’s in the [reform] bill.” He says for years, patients have been “held hostage” by insurance companies, and adds that “for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary” and risky would be the status quo, such as projections that Medicare will be in the red within five years. [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009] Seventy percent of the participants in the town hall were chosen in a random, online lottery, without consideration of political affiliation. The questions Obama answers are not prescreened. [MSNBC, 8/12/2009]
Debunking 'Death Panels' - Obama opens by saying: “I do hope that we will talk with each other and not over each other. Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.… Because the way politics works sometimes is that people who want to keep things the way they are will try to scare the heck out of folks. And they’ll create boogeymen out there that just aren’t real.” [MSNBC, 8/12/2009] Obama notes the claim of so-called “death panels that will pull the plug on Grandma,” directly referring to former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)‘s recent claim that the Democrats intend to create “death panels” that would decide who lives and dies (see August 7, 2009). Obama responds: “[I]t turns out that this, I guess, rose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care,” as well as living wills, hospice care, and the like. The “intention” is to help patients prepare for “end of life on their own terms.” Ironically, Obama adds, one of the chief sponsors of this idea is a Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who “sensibly thought this would expand people’s options.” (Isakson takes issue with being identified as a sponsor of “end-of-life” counseling—see August 11, 2009). Obama says that beneath the false claims of “death panels” exists a real concern: “if we are reforming the health system to make it more efficient that somehow that will mean rationing of care.” He gives an example of such a concern: “some bureaucrat” saying “You can’t have this test, you can’t have this procedure” because “some bean counter” says so. This will not be the case, Obama says. The reform package would ensure that doctors and patients, not bureaucrats, make such decisions. He notes that insurance company bureaucrats “right now are rationing care.… So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies making those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?” Obama tells his listeners: “I want to be very clear” about the “underlying fear that people won’t get the care they need. You will have the care you need, but also care that is being denied to you right now—that is what we are fighting for.” [ABC News, 8/11/2009; Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Countering Claims of 'Enemies List' - Obama also counters recent claims that the White House is attempting to compile a list of “enemies” in asking that emails containing “fishy” health care information be forwarded to it. “Can I just say this is another example of how the media just ends up completely distorting what’s taking place?” he says. “What we’ve said is that if somebody has—if you get an email from somebody that says, for example, ‘ObamaCare is creating a death panel,’ forward us the email and we will answer the question that is being raised in the email. Suddenly, on some of these news outlets, this is being portrayed as Obama collecting an enemies list. Now, come on guys, here I am trying to be responsive to questions that are being raised out there—and I just want to be clear that all we’re trying to do is answer questions.” In recent days, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) claimed that the White House “want[s] information on opponents of its health care plan.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009]
Advocating Violence outside the Venue - Outside the venue, a man, William Kostric, stands in the crowd with a gun strapped to his leg. Under New Hampshire law, he is within his rights to openly carry a handgun. He carries a sign that reads, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow notes: “It’s a reference, of course, to Thomas Jefferson’s famous words, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ For perspective on the implication of Jefferson’s words in this context being quoted by the guy with the gun at the event as which the president was speaking, when Timothy McVeigh was arrested 90 minutes after the Oklahoma City bombing, he was wearing a t-shirt with that slogan and a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front and a tree dripping with blood in the back” (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). Maddow later notes that McVeigh’s shirt bore the words “Sic Semper Tyrannis”—“thus always to tyrants”—the words shouted by Lincoln’s assassin after firing the fatal shot. Another anti-reform protester, Richard Terry Young, is arrested by security officials after sneaking inside the building hours before Obama arrives. He is carrying a knife on his person and a .38 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his truck with a round in the chamber. A number of anti-reform protesters from the New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition also stage a protest outside the event. One advocates murdering all undocumented immigrants: “Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they come from? We don’t need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time. Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty—it’s coming, baby.” [Think Progress, 8/11/2009; MSNBC, 8/12/2009; MSNBC, 8/13/2009]
Entity Tags: William Kostric, Rachel Maddow, Medicare, New Hampshire Republican Volunteer Coalition, Barack Obama, John Cornyn, Johnny Isakson, Obama administration, Richard Terry Young
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2010 Elections
11-year-old Julia Hall asking her question during the Portsmouth town hall. [Source: Puma By Design (.com)]Conservatives attack an 11-year old girl who asks President Obama a question at a “town hall” rally held in New Hampshire (see August 11, 2009). Julia Hall, a sixth-grader from Malden, Massachusetts, asks: “As I was walking in, I saw a lot of signs outside saying mean things about reforming health care. How do kids know what is true, and why do people want a new system that can—that help more of us?” Obama gives a long response about the false rumors surrounding health care reform, including the debunked idea of “death panels” (see August 7, 2009). In their own responses, conservative pundits attack Hall for being an “Obama plant.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners that the entire town hall was “a stacked deck. That thing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was totally phony. The little girl that asked a question is the daughter of a huge Obama supporter.” One blogger makes the unsubstantiated claim that he could see a “mysterious” woman mouthing the girl’s question as she spoke, and shows a video of a woman saying something during Hall’s question, though it is unclear exactly what she is saying or whether she is speaking to the girl. Hall’s mother, Kathleen Manning Hall, later tells a Boston reporter that she had her daughter write down her question beforehand, and was “shocked” that her daughter had decided to try to ask a question of Obama. A Boston blogger notes, correctly, that Manning Hall is an Obama supporter, and adds that the White House said “that audience members are selected randomly.” Conservative author and pundit Michelle Malkin claims that Manning Hall “has donated thousands of dollars to Obama, as has her law firm,” and adds: “Now, look for Dems to play the kiddie human shield card to the hilt. Anyone who mentions Hall’s political pedigree will be attacked as a vicious meanie stalker.” The Washington Times adds its own criticism, misidentifying the girl’s age as 13 and stating, “It’s a sad commentary on the health care debate that the president has to resort to this kind of stunt to attempt to insulate his plan from criticism.” Hall herself later says she was thrilled to have been part of the debate, saying, “It was like a once in a lifetime experience.” She says she would like to “work in politics” when she gets older. [Raw Story, 8/12/2009]
President Obama as ‘The Joker.’ [Source: Paul M. Jones]Representative David Scott (D-GA), whose office was recently vandalized with a spray-painted swastika (see August 11, 2009), receives an anonymous fax depicting President Obama with a swastika drawn on his forehead. The fax also contains racial slurs and the statement, “[T]he Ethiopian cannot make himself white.” Last week another lawmaker, Brian Baird (D-WA), received a fax depicting Obama as the Joker (the villain from the popular Batman series of comics and movies), and proclaiming: “Death to All Marxists! Foreign and Domestic!” The Secret Service says the faxes are “potentially an investigative intelligence matter.” [Think Progress, 8/12/2009]
Folk singer Joan Baez discusses health care reform with a reform opponent. [Source: Dutch Shots]Folk singer Joan Baez, who made a reputation as a staunch progressive anti-war protester in the Vietnam War era, confronts angry health care reform opponents at a pro-reform concert and rally in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with composure, successfully defusing what could have been a potentially harsh situation. According to a writer who attends the forum and later posts his account on the liberal blog Daily Kos, Baez conducts herself “according to [her] unshakeable ideals of non-violence and compassion.” Some of the protesters bear signs accusing Baez of supporting killing children and accusing her of committing treason during the Vietnam War era. Before the concert, she approaches the protesters, who themselves are more reasonable than their signs may indicate; one of the first things said to her is, “We appreciate the work you did on civil rights and women’s rights.” Baez listens as the protesters, many of them Vietnam veterans, express their feelings of betrayal by anti-war protesters, and assures them that she stood by the veterans then and now. Baez is supported by her merchandise salesman, Jim Stewart, himself a Vietnam veteran. Though some rather heated words are exchanged, as the writer notes, “Joan’s continuing acceptance of their stories and her willingness to hear them out began to melt their anger.” Some even ask her to autograph the posters that vilify her; she says she will sign the back but not the front of “those horrible things.” One protester, carrying a sign accusing her of killing babies, says he will remove her name from the poster if she signs it, which she does. During the concert, Baez dedicates a song to the protesters, and says: “You know, they just wanted to be heard. Everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I made four new friends tonight.” The writer concludes: “She took the high road, as always. It wasn’t my name on those signs, yet I gave in to anger. She never did. As we deal with tea parties and increasingly violent right-wing protests it would do us all good to remember the example of non-violence and compassion that Ms Baez has exemplified for the 50-plus years of her career.” [Daily Kos, 8/12/2009]
The press releases a confidential, “sensitive” memo from the American Petroleum Institute (API) detailing a plan to create “Astroturf” rallies at which industry employees posing as ordinary citizens will urge Congress to fight climate change legislation. The memo was obtained by the environmental group Greenpeace and sent to several reporters. It urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will “put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy,” and will urge senators to “avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill.” The campaign is funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups called the “Energy Citizens” alliance, which includes the anti-health care reform group 60 Plus, the industry “grassroots” organization FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009), Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, and the National Taxpayers Union. API president Jack Gerard, who signed the memo, asks recipients to give API “the name of one central coordinator for your company’s involvement in the rallies.” And it warns, “Please treat this information as sensitive… we don’t want critics to know our game plan.” At least two major oil corporations, BP and Shell, are members of API and also belong to the US Climate Action Partnership, which supports the House legislation sponsored by Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). API has spent over $3 million lobbying against that bill this year. API spokesman Bill Bush says his organization is not trying to deceive anyone. “I don’t think anyone’s hiding the ball about this,” he says. “I don’t think anyone’s trying to suggest that this doesn’t have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.” Greenpeace has asked API to reveal the member companies funding the Astroturf efforts. Shell Oil Company later informs reporters that it will not take part in the rallies. In a statement, the corporation says, “Shell’s position is not aligned with the consensus opinion of the API on Waxman-Markey, therefore Shell will not participate in the rallies.” [Gerard, 8/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/14/2009]
Entity Tags: British Petroleum, American Conservative Union, 60 Plus Association, American Petroleum Institute, Bill Bush, Greenpeace, National Taxpayers Union, Energy Citizens, FreedomWorks, Royal Dutch/Shell, Americans for Tax Reform, Jack N. Gerard
Timeline Tags: Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda
Two Democratic House members say that the media should not “glorify” the contentious, sometimes-riotous anti-reform protests that have recently occurred at health care debates (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, and August 11, 2009). Alan Grayson (D-FL) cites the violence that occurred at a debate featuring Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL—see August 6, 2009), saying that the “disrepect” shown at the debate reflects badly not on Castor, but “on the people who show the disrespect for the democratic process.” He adds: “I think in any society, you’re always going to have a certain percentage of people who are nuts. But these are not people who deserve any special recognition, much less glorification. You don’t treat people the way those people treated Kathy Castor. It’s wrong.… I look for intelligent, well-founded criticism of any bill because that’s how you make the bill better. But if you have people running around saying this bill is going to kill every old person in the country (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, and August 13, 2009), how could you possibly show any respect for that silly point of view? It makes no sense to me.” Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says that the contention that the reform proposal threatens Americans’ freedoms is simply wrong: “I had a guy yesterday try to say to me, ‘You know, I’m worried about my freedoms.’ I say, ‘Sir, I fought for your freedoms [Murphy is a veteran of the Iraq war]. I’m going to protect those freedoms. I took an oath to support and defend those freedoms. And I take that responsibility very seriously. But, you know, we need to understand that the current path for small business, for everday families, for seniors, is unsustainable.” [US House of Representatives, 2009; Think Progress, 8/15/2009]
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issues a “fact check” press release attempting to debunk what it calls the “falsehoods” surrounding recent allegations that two of its members “savagely beat” tea party activist Kenneth Gladney during a recent town hall in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). According to the SEIU, Gladney was not the victim of any assault; instead, SEIU member Elston McCowan, a disabled minister, was assaulted, presumably by Gladney. The video documenting the incident begins with McCowan already on the ground and clutching his shoulder. McCowan suffered a chipped bone and dislocated shoulder during the assault. Gladney, who later claimed to have suffered injuries to most of his body, is only seen being pushed to the ground by another union member, presumably coming to the defense of McCowan. Allegations that Gladney was beaten and kicked by multiple union members are not supported by the video. Some media reports alleged that Gladney was “rushed to the hospital” after the attack; in reality, Gladney, who was pushed to the ground during the incident, leapt to his feet and began walking around the event talking to others and even conducting live television interviews. He also took part in a live television interview after the town hall. Gladney later took himself to the hospital, where he alleged he suffered injuries to his “knee, back, elbow, shoulder, and face.” Two days later, Gladney made television appearances while “confined” to a wheelchair and “under heavy medication,” according to his lawyer. Gladney told people at the event and afterwards that he had no health insurance and could not afford to have his “injuries” properly treated; that was a lie refuted by his own lawyer, David Brown, who later admitted Gladney has coverage through his wife. Gladney has repeatedly insisted that he has no ties to the tea party movement and that he was at the town hall selling anti-Obama buttons merely as a part-time job. However, Gladney and Brown are both tea party activists. In February, Brown formed an LLC in Missouri called “The Political Mint” that has publicized its efforts to raise funds for tea party groups. Gladney has also been involved in tea party activities. [Service Employees International Union, 8/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against McCowan and another union member; both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011).
After today’s media reports that a man armed with an automatic rifle patrolled back and forth in front of the venue where President Obama gave a speech on health care reform (see August 17, 2009), MSNBC progressive host Rachel Maddow interviews former Secret Service agent Joseph Petro, a 23-year veteran of the force. Maddow notes that aside from the man with the automatic weapon, about a dozen armed people were outside the venue in Phoenix today. Petro says the Secret Service does not routinely plan for this kind of situation, because “it’s not something the Secret Service often encounters.” He adds: “You know, the Secret Service is protecting [sic] presidents for a long time. And there are a whole series of processes and procedures that they go through to create perimeters. And each of those perimeters become more and more difficult to penetrate, up right to the end where the agents are actually around the president. But I think this is less a Secret Service issue and more as an issue for all of us. You know, you said a few days ago that the possibility of American politics turning to violence or terrorism at the fringe is not all that theoretical. I would argue that the vitriolic political rhetoric we’re hearing from some seemingly responsible people is stimulating a lot of these foolish stunts, and they’re not very helpful. And I think they’re dangerous actually. And I think they’re dangerous for two reasons. One is, it’s hard enough to protect the president. The Secret Service and the local police are being distracted from that—from that duty to keep our president safe. And I think the second reason, and maybe even more serious, is the fact that it could incite or encourage one of those individuals at the fringe that you mentioned, from doing something really dangerous and perhaps violent against the president or some other person. So, I think it’s—this is not a helpful situation and maybe the politicians should look at lowering some of the rhetoric to try to create a more positive atmosphere.” Petro again calls the display of firearms at a presidential event a “stunt” and “irresponsible.” Maddow goes further, calling it “an implied threat of force.” Petro notes: “It’s not in the Secret Service’s interest to have this kind of these theatrics going on around. Clearly, those people are not dangerous to the president at that moment. You know, they’re outside the building. They’re a block away or, you know, they’re not going to—they’re not an immediate danger to the president. But what they’re creating is an atmosphere that is—that could become dangerous for the president. And that’s what would concern me, and I’m sure it concerns the Secret Service.” [MSNBC, 8/18/2009]
Militia member Chris Broughton stands in front of a Phoenix VFW where President Obama is speaking. Broughton wears a pistol on his hip and an assault rifle strapped to his back. [Source: Arizona Republic]Twelve anti-health care reform protesters openly carry firearms outside an event in Phoenix featuring President Obama as the main speaker. One, a man initially identified only as “Chris,” carries an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle strapped to his back. Carrying such weapons is legal in Arizona if the bearer has a permit to carry. Obama is speaking at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Outside the venue, people both supporting and opposing health care reform stage contentious, but peaceful, protests. [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009]
'Forcefully' Opposing Will of Majority - “Chris,” interviewed by fellow protester Ernest Hancock on a home video posted on YouTube, says, “We will forcefully resist people imposing their will on us through the strength of the majority with a vote.” He also speaks against taxation: “Just because you sic the government on people doesn’t make it morally okay to steal money from people. Taxation is theft.” Asked why he is carrying a weapon, “Chris” responds: “Because I can do it. In Arizona, I still have some freedoms.” He tells Hancock that “it would be insane” not to be armed, and says he wears a gun at all times. “Chris” is asked at the beginning of the video, “You gonna water the tree of liberty?” a reference to a Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” He responds, “I hope not.” He also comes out “absolutely, totally against” health care reform, saying such a plan would amount to “stealing it from people.” The video is uploaded by two small Phoenix-area libertarian groups, Freedom’s Phoenix and 4409. [TPM LiveWire, 8/17/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009]
Veteran: 'I Gave Them the Right' to Protest - Another anti-reform protester, Jim Mariman, identifies himself as a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and says protesters are simply “speaking their hearts and minds.… These people can protest because I gave them the right.” [Arizona Republic, 8/17/2009]
Interview Staged by Violent Militia Supporter - Hancock, who organized “Chris’s” trip to the Obama event and interviewed “Chris” with a 9mm pistol strapped to his leg, is later shown to have close ties to members of the violent Viper Militia group convicted and jailed for plotting to blow up at least seven federal buildings in 1996 (see July 1, 1996). Hancock tells CNN that the entire event, including the “interview,” was staged and planned well in advance. He has known “Chris” for two years because of their mutual work for 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX). Hancock had contacted the Phoenix police two days before the event to alert them to their intent to come armed to the event. He says he was partially motivated to display his weapon because of the controversy surrounding William Kostric, who brought a pistol to a previous Obama event in New Hampshire (see August 11, 2009). CNN’s Rick Sanchez tells Hancock, “A lot of people are going to look at this and say it was a publicity stunt,” and Hancock replies, “Absolutely—you guys are so easy.” Hancock says he, “Chris,” and the 10 other armed protesters all belong to local militia groups. [TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; TPM LiveWire, 8/18/2009; MSNBC, 8/20/2009] “Chris” will later be identified as Chris Broughton, a member of Tempe Baptist Church, whose pastor has repeatedly called for the divine assassination of Obama (see January 18, 2009). [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]
Entity Tags: Rick Sanchez, Jim Mariman, Tempe Baptist Church, Freedom’s Phoenix, Barack Obama, Chris Broughton, Ernest Hancock, 4409, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Viper Militia
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
An August 2009 sermon by Arizona pastor Steven Anderson calling for the immediate death of President Obama (see January 18, 2009) triggers an inquiry by the Secret Service. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, after playing video excerpts of the sermon to his viewers, interviews ex-Secret Service agent Scott Alswang, who says that Anderson is treading very close to violating a federal law prohibiting threats against the president. “He is walking a fine line,” Alswang says. “The problem I have with it is that he seems to be inciting his congregation to go and act in a direction toward the president. And that, at least on a local level, would seem to me to be an inciting charge. And if someone in that congregation had mental disabilities or were prone toward violence or had a direction of interest toward the president or his family, there could be grave consequences.” CNN analyst Mike Brooks says that his sources confirm that Anderson has been interviewed by the Secret Service. [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]
Denies Calls for Assassination - After his August sermon, titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” Anderson insisted he was not calling for anyone to actually assassinate Obama. “Nowhere in the sermon did I advocate vigilantism,” he said on August 27. “It’s a spiritual battle.… I’d rather have him die of natural causes anyway, that way he’s not some martyr. I’m praying for him to die just so he gets what he deserves.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/27/2009] Later, Anderson is more ambivalent, telling an ABC reporter: “I don’t care how God does it, I’m not going into further detail than that. It would be better now than later.” [ABC News, 9/1/2009]
Says Congregation Is Armed and 'Ready to Protect' Itself - Chris Broughton, who recently brought an AR-15 to an event featuring Obama (see August 17, 2009), is a member of Anderson’s church, and says he moved to Tempe to join that church. “I actually moved to the area because this church was preaching the message I believe in,” he says. Anderson says his congregation has received death threats over his sermons, and adds: “Guns are a great deterrent. We haven’t had any violence because people know if they come down here swinging a baseball bat, we’re ready to protect ourselves.” Anderson makes a practice of posting YouTube videos of his conflicts with law enforcement officials; in April 2009, he claimed he was beaten by Border Patrol and Arizona police officers after being stopped for speeding. Anderson is facing disorderly conduct charges. He has posted other videos from previous confrontations with Border Patrol authorities, and with a police officer at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. [Arizona Republic, 8/29/2009; ABC News, 9/1/2009]
A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider. [Source: Women's Rights (Change.org)]A women’s clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Family Reproductive Health Clinic, is targeted with a series of “Wanted” posters naming the clinic’s doctors, and claiming they are “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the “crime” of abortion. The posters read in part: “We would like to introduce you to [two named doctors]. Their specialties are obstetrics, gynecology, and murder. Not only do these two men assist women and deliver babies, but they also harm women and kill babies.… You may contact them at their office or the clinic in which they perform the abortions.” The posters list the addresses of the named doctors’ private practices. The practice of anti-abortion organizations using such posters began as early as 1995 (see 1995 and After) and was ruled an illegal threat in 2002 (see May 16, 2002). The practice has allegedly resulted in the murders of three abortion doctors (see March 10, 1993, December 30, 1994 and After, and October 23, 1998), who were all named in similar “Wanted”-style posters. The practice has continued in spite of the court verdict (see January - April 2003). The clinic has been targeted for closure since 2002, when the Reverend Flip Benham, the head of Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue—see 1986), moved to the Charlotte area and vowed to shut it down. Since then, Benham and his group’s members have harassed and intimidated the clinic’s staffers and patrons; Benham has been videotaped screaming at patients that “Satan will drink the blood of your babies” and that the women will “go to your deaths” if they have abortions. Benham and his followers often use microphones amplified to what a clinic official calls “deafening levels” to speak to the patients, “swarm” patients’ cars as they enter the parking lot, and follow them up to the doors of the clinic, often stepping within inches of the patients as they harangue them. The clinic official says of the patients, “We try to prepare them for this when they make their appointment, but until you go through something like this, you can’t imagine what it’s like.” The police do little to curb the protesters’ actions, the official says. [Ms. Magazine, 9/2009]
Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), sends an email to colleagues defending himself against charges of racism and calling President Obama “our half white, racist president.” Williams writes: “CNN went over more than 7,000 articles on my site; likely they also listened to the shows archived there too. No doubt they did a Lexis Nexis on me and found 30 years of work by and about me. The best that they could do as a result was string together three quotes, out of context, and throw in a false allegation of me calling Obama a ‘Nazi.’ I was in the streets marching for civil rights while _sshole southern sheriffs were swinging nail-studded baseball bats at black’s heads, and stood between black kids and even more fucked up northern assholes were throwing rocks and gas bombs at school buses in my hometown during forced busing for deseg. Two things you can always count on: I will defend my record on race to no one [sic], under any circumstances and, I will call out any racist, any time, without regard to who they are… and that includes our half white, racist president.” Williams has called Obama “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009). Williams is considered a leader of the Tea Party Express, which was created by a Republican consulting firm in 2009. [TPM Muckraker, 2/23/2010]
Conservative radio and Fox News television host Glenn Beck exhorts his radio audience to take part in the “massive” demonstration planned for September 12 as part of his “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After). “I’m telling you, they [liberals, Democrats, and the Obama administration] have their hands around the neck of the republic,” he warns his listeners. “They are much farther ahead. We are just figuring it out. They have their hands around the neck of this republic and they are about to snap it.” He tells his audience to “get on your knees and pray, turn the other cheek, never in anger, never in anger, pray for more time, stand up in your community, and speak without fear.… You are the guardian and protector of liberty. You may be the only thing that stands between freedom and slavery. And if you can, join those who are willing to take a stand, on Washington, DC, on 9/12. If not, stand together, somewhere in your community, on 9/12. Get involved. They’re very well organized in their communities. And I didn’t realize how many socialist communities there were.” [Media Matters, 9/1/2009]
The second round of arguments in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, and June 29, 2009) is heard by the US Supreme Court. The first round of arguments, which unexpectedly focused on an unplanned examination of government censorship, ended in a 5-4 split, with the majority of conservative justices readying a decision to essentially gut the entire body of federal campaign finance law in the name of the First Amendment (see March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003), but an angry dissent by Justice David Souter that accused Chief Justice John Roberts of failing to follow the procedures of the Court in rendering the opinion prompted Roberts to temporarily withdraw the opinion and offer a rare second argument (see May 14, 2012). Newly appointed Solicitor General Elena Kagan argues her first case before the Court. Citizens United, the plaintiff, is represented by former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Olson, a veteran of Court arguments, quickly discerns from the new round of “Questions Presented” that the Court is prepared to not only find in the plaintiff’s favor, but to use the case to render a broad verdict against campaign finance law as a whole. Olson argues cautiously, not wanting to extend the case farther than the Court may desire. The four minority liberal justices, knowing the case is lost, try their best in their questioning to raise awareness in the public once news reports of the arguments are made public. One of those justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, asks: “Mr. Olson, are you taking the position that there is no difference” between the First Amendment rights of a corporation and those of an individual? “A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights. So is there any distinction that Congress could draw between corporations and natural human beings for purposes of campaign finance?” Olson replies, “What the Court has said in the First Amendment context… over and over again is that corporations are persons entitled to protection under the First Amendment” (see January 30, 1976, April 26, 1978, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). Ginsburg follows up by asking, “Would that include today’s mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?” Olson replies, “The Court in the past has made no distinction based upon the nature of the entity that might own a share of a corporation.” Kagan then takes her turn, and begins: “Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, I have three very quick points to make about the government position. The first is that this issue has a long history. For over a hundred years, Congress has made a judgment that corporations must be subject to special rules when they participate in elections, and this Court has never questioned that judgment.” She begins to make her second point before Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the conservative majority, interrupts her. In 2012, author and reporter Jeffrey Toobin will write that Kagan almost certainly knows hers is a legal “suicide mission,” and can only hope that her arguments may sway the Court to narrow its decision and leave some of the existing body of campaign finance law intact. She tells Roberts later in the questioning period, “Mr. Chief Justice, as to whether the government has a preference as to the way in which it loses, if it has to lose, the answer is yes.” Justice John Paul Stevens, the most senior of the liberal minority, attempts to assist Kagan in making her argument, suggesting that the Court should content itself with a narrow ruling, perhaps creating an exception in the McCain-Feingold law (see March 27, 2002) for the plaintiff’s documentary (see January 10-16, 2008) or for “ads that are financed exclusively by individuals even though they are sponsored by a corporation.” Kagan agrees with Stevens’s proposal. Stevens then says: “Nobody has explained why that wouldn’t be a proper solution, not nearly as drastic. Why is that not the wisest narrow solution of the problem before us?” Kagan, with help from Ginsburg, undoes some of the damage done by Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart during the first argument, where he inadvertently gave the conservative justices the “censorship” argument by which they could justify a broader verdict. Ginsburg asks: “May I ask you one question that was highlighted in the prior argument, and that was if Congress could say no TV and radio ads, could it also say no newspaper ads, no campaign biographies? Last time, the answer was yes, Congress could, but it didn’t. Is that still the government’s answer?” Kagan replies: “The government’s answer has changed, Justice Ginsburg. We took the Court’s own reaction to some of those other hypotheticals very seriously. We went back, we considered the matter carefully.” Unlike Stewart, Kagan specifically says that the government cannot ban books. But the censorship argument remains. After the arguments, the justices render the same verdict: a 5-4 split favoring Citizens United. Roberts, Scalia, and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas vote in the majority, while Ginsburg, Stevens, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor vote in the minority. The second round of questioning, with its much broader scope, gives Roberts and his conservative colleagues the justification they need to render a broad verdict that would gut existing campaign finance law (see January 21, 2010). [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Entity Tags: Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court, Citizens United, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, John G. Roberts, Jr, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, Sonia Sotomayor, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malcolm Stewart, Clarence Thomas
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Mark Williams, speaking on Anderson Cooper’s CNN broadcast. [Source: TPM Muckraker]Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), appears on a CNN panel during that network’s Anderson Cooper 360° and, while defending his organization against charges of racism, himself uses racist allegations against President Obama. Williams denounces those who carry openly racist signs against Obama during tea party events (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 11, 2010), and September 12, 2010), calling them “no more part of the mainstream of America than the hippies who wear nipple clips and feather boas in San Francisco streets during so-called peace demonstrations.” Cooper informs Williams, “What you’re saying makes sense to me here when I’m hearing what you say but then I read on your blog, you say, you call the president an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.” Williams shrugs and answers, “Yeah, that’s the way he’s behaving.” Cooper asks Williams if he really believes Obama is an Indonesian Muslim and a welfare thug, to which Williams responds: “He’s certainly acting like it. Until he embraces the whole country what else can I conclude.” [Huffington Post, 9/15/2009] TPE is one of the most “establishment” of the various tea party organizations. It was founded and run by Republican operatives and lobbyists, in a similar fashion to the Washington conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). Williams is a key element in making TPE a large and influential organization, and has publicly associated the organization with conservative Republican 2010 candidates such as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller. [TPM Muckraker, 7/19/2010]
Judge Clay Land. [Source: TruTV (.com)]US District Court Judge Clay Land throws out a complaint questioning President Obama’s birth, and seeking to halt the deployment of Army Captain Connie Rhodes to Iraq on the grounds that Obama is not the legitimate commander in chief. Rhodes is represented by “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009). In the complaint, Taitz writes on behalf of Rhodes: “This plaintiff cannot in good conscience obey orders originating from a chain of command from this merely de facto president. This plaintiff cannot be lawfully compelled to obey this de facto president’s orders.” Land, clearly angered by the complaint, says Taitz will face sanctions if she ever files a similar “frivolous” complaint or lawsuit in his court again. Rhodes, Land rules, “has presented no credible evidence and has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as president of the United States. Instead, she uses her complaint as a platform for spouting political rhetoric, such as her claims that the president is ‘an illegal usurper, an unlawful pretender, [and] an unqualified imposter.’” The evidence presented by Taitz in the complaint is groundless, Land rules, noting allegations that Obama might have used 149 addresses and 39 Social Security numbers before becoming president and the existence of what Taitz claims is Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. “Finally, in a remarkable shifting of the traditional legal burden of proof,” he writes, “plaintiff unashamedly alleges that defendant has the burden to prove his ‘natural born’ status. Any middle school civics student would readily recognize the irony of abandoning fundamental principles upon which our country was founded in order to purportedly ‘protect and preserve’ those very principles. Unlike in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ simply saying something is so does not make it so.” Land orders that Rhodes pay any costs incurred by the defendants, who include President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Colonel Thomas Manning, a garrison commander at Fort Benning, Georgia. Taitz says she believes Land is guilty of treason by dismissing her complaint, saying, “Judge Land is a typical puppet of the regime—just like in the Soviet Union.” She adds that she intends to keep fighting for Rhodes if Rhodes desires her to, telling one reporter, “Listen, Nelson Mandela stayed in prison for years in order to get to the truth and justice.” Three days later, Rhodes renounces Taitz as her lawyer, and informs Land that she did not authorize the emergency request for stay of deployment that Taitz filed on her behalf. “I did not authorize it and do not wish to proceed,” Rhodes writes in a letter to Land. “Ms. Taitz never requested my permission nor did I give it.” She adds: “I do not wish for Ms. Taitz to file any future motions or represent me in any way in this court. It is my plan to file a complaint with the California State Bar due to her reprehensible and unprofessional actions.” Rhodes is deployed days later; an Ohio lawyer files a separate complaint with the California State Bar (see September 17, 2009). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 9/16/2009; Huffington Post, 9/16/2009; TPM Muckraker, 9/16/2009; Washington Independent, 9/19/2009] Taitz responds by telling a reporter she believes Rhodes’s letter is a forgery. “I don’t know if this letter came from her,” Taitz writes in an email, “since she is in Iraq now and the Office Max store from where it came, states that they don’t send faxes for customers. The signature on her notarized letter from Kansas and this letter looks different.” An Office Max clerk confirms that he faxed the letter on behalf of Rhodes, and the letter itself notes that she would fax it to Judge Land. Taitz goes on to claim that she believes Rhodes “was pressured by the military” to renounce her and consider filing a complaint with the California State Bar. “It appear to be a concerted effort to quash all free speech, particularly any legal challenges to Obama’s legitimacy.” [TPM Muckraker, 9/21/2009] In October, Land will sanction Taitz, fining her $20,000 for professional misconduct (see October 13-16, 2009). Land recently dismissed another, similar lawsuit filed by Taitz on behalf of Army Major Stefan Cook (see July 8-16, 2009).
Ohio lawyer Subodh Chandra, an inactive member of the California State Bar, files a formal complaint against California lawyer Orly Taitz for calling Georgia judge Clay Land “corrupt” and suggesting he is guilty of treason (see September 16-21, 2009). Chandra writes: “I respectfully request that you investigate Ms. Taitz’s conduct and impose an appropriate sanction. She is an embarrassment to the profession.” Chandra, who ran for attorney general of Ohio in 2006, writes that Taitz’s comments about Land violate section 6068(b) of the California Business & Professions Code. That section of the law requires attorneys to “maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers.” Chandra’s complaint also alleges that Taitz is filing frivolous lawsuits and pursuing actions based on “corrupt motive of passion of interest, namely, discriminatory and political motives.” If a violation is assessed against Taitz, she could face actions ranging from private reproval to disbarment. [TPM Muckraker, 9/17/2009]
Portion of Fox News ad asking why other networks ‘missed’ the story of the 9/12 rally. [Source: Huffington Post]Fox News takes out a full-page ad in the Washington Post demanding why other news networks did not cover the 9/12 rally (see September 12, 2009). “How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?” the text reads. Huffington Post columnist Jason Linkins writes that it took him “all of 30 seconds” to find coverage on CNN and MSNBC. He writes that on September 12, “CNN ran no less than 14 reports on the Tea Party rally, beginning at approximately 7:00 a.m. During the same time period, MSNBC offered viewers four reports on the Tea Parties.” NBC, CBS, and ABC also covered the rally. “No one missed the story,” Linkins concludes. He goes on to note that ABC was the news network that debunked attempts to inflate the crowd numbers to make the rally seem larger than it really was (see September 13-14, 2009). [Huffington Post, 9/18/2009] This afternoon, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez declares of the ad, “You lie!” Fox News defends the ad, with its vice president Michael Tammero issuing a statement that says in part, “Generally speaking, it’s fair to say that from the tea party movement… to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it, or misrepresented the significance of it altogether.” A Fox News executive calls Sanchez a “sucker” and “a gift that keeps on giving” for his on-air reaction. CNN retorts in its own statement: “Fox News’ ad today is blatantly false regarding CNN’s coverage of the 9/12 rally. CNN provided live coverage of the rally in Washington throughout the day Saturday, Sept. 12. CNN dispatched more than a dozen personnel and multiple camera crews, including the CNN Express, to cover the event. CNN’s deputy political director Paul Steinhauser was live at Freedom Plaza, CNN correspondent Kate Bolduan live from the West Front of the Capitol and roved the crowd, CNN’s Jim Spellman provided live hits all day after traveling for weeks on the actual Tea Party Express, and CNN’s Lisa Desjardins was live from the National Mall.” [Mediaite, 9/18/2009]
Entity Tags: Jason Linkins, Washington Post, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News, Rick Sanchez, Tea Party Express, NBC, Lisa Desjardins, Kate Bolduan, Jim Spellman, Paul Steinhauser, MSNBC, CNN, Michael Tammero
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Craig Rosebraugh, the former spokesman for the environmental activist Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997 and 1996 and After), announces the launch of a new quarterly magazine, Resistance, Journal of the Earth Liberation Movement. Rosebraugh, a Portland, Oregon, native, operates the magazine out of Arizona, where he attends law school at Arizona State University; he co-edits the magazine with a number of other environmental and animal rights activists. The magazine calls itself “radical” and names Shell Oil Company as its “Ecoterrorist of the Season.” The magazine is nationally distributed and is available through chain bookstores. Rosebraugh tells an interviewer that he wants his readers to understand that the environment “is being destroyed because government and industry are making a lot of money off that destruction.… ‘Resistance’ was created to inform readers not only of the dangerous state of the planet, but also the urgency of action. The magazine features discussions on the strategy, theory, news, and frontline actions of a new emerging environmental movement.” The magazine advocates boycotts, sit-ins, and “economic sabotage,” which Rosebraugh describes as “nonviolent property destruction” that targets profits made by environmental exploitation. Rosebraugh says he became active in the environmental resistance movement (which some call “ecoterrorism”—see 1970s) because in 50 years of acceptable, aboveground protests and resistance, little progress has been made in reversing global warming and other environmental depredations: “It is the profit motive that is driving environmental destruction. So it only makes logical sense to work to directly remove that profit motive from these entities so they either are persuaded to stop their harmful practices or go out of business.” He says he “definitely” supports environmental activists breaking the law: “Historically, in order for any major social or political movement to make progress people in each case had to step outside social law.” Rosebraugh says he and many other ELF activists departed the ELF after a 2006 federal crackdown that saw many ELF members go to jail; since that crackdown, he says, “the more radical end of the environmental movement has really kind of dropped off.” [Oregonian, 10/19/2009; Eugene Weekly, 10/28/2009]
The Middle District Court of Georgia levies a $20,000 fine on “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz. The court accuses Taitz, who has filed a lawsuit alleging that President Obama is not a US citizen and asking the court to bar his deployment of military personnel overseas (see September 16-21, 2009), of wasting the time and resources of the Georgia court system. The judgment, issued by Judge Clay Land, against Taitz calls her “delusional.” The judgment finds: “Counsel Orly Taitz is hereby ordered to pay $20,000.00 to the United States, through the Middle District of Georgia Clerk’s Office, within 30 days of the date of this order as a sanction for her misconduct in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Land writes: “The Court finds that counsel’s conduct was willful and not merely negligent. It demonstrates bad faith on her part. As an attorney, she is deemed to have known better. She owed a duty to follow the rules and to respect the Court. Counsel’s pattern of conduct conclusively establishes that she did not mistakenly violate a provision of law. She knowingly violated Rule 11. Her response to the Court’s show cause order is breathtaking in its arrogance and borders on delusional. She expresses no contrition or regret regarding her misconduct. To the contrary, she continues her baseless attacks on the Court.… Counsel’s frivolous and sanctionable conduct wasted the defendants’ time and valuable judicial resources that could have been devoted to legitimate cases pending with the Court. When she filed the Rhodes case, counsel indicated that it was urgent that the matter be heard because her client was facing imminent deployment. The Court rearranged its schedule, took time to read the legal papers, and conducted preliminary research in preparation for the hearing. The Army had to activate its legal team on short notice, sending a major from the Army Litigation Division in Washington, DC, and a captain from the CONUS Replacement Center at Ft. Benning. In addition, the Assistant US Attorney had to accompany them. Like the Court, the government attorneys had to prepare in an expedited manner for the hearing. During the week preceding Captain Rhodes’s deployment, the Court was in the midst of a jury trial. Therefore, the Court had to alter the trial schedule to conduct the hearing during an extended lunch break, thus affecting other counsel and jurors. The Clerk’s Office was burdened by Ms. Taitz’s inability to follow the Court’s rules regarding pro hac vice admission and the Court’s rules for electronic filing. On five separate occasions in a short period, the Clerk’s Office personnel error-noticed counsel for her failure to follow simple rules. At the hearing, counsel failed to make coherent legal arguments but instead wasted the Court’s time with press conference sound bites and speeches.” [Washington Independent, 10/13/2009] Land notes that in one of her filings, Taitz accused him of meeting secretly with Attorney General Eric Holder outside the court. Holder had actually been thousands of miles away that day, giving a speech in Los Angeles. [Washington Examiner, 7/7/2010] Land includes a footnote that says one of Taitz’s supporters had contacted him, challenged him to a “round of fisticuffs on the Courthouse Square,” and asserted that “the president is not human.” Taitz says she will appeal the judgment, and accuses Land of being in the pocket of the “oppressive” Obama administration. “He’s scared to go against the regime,” she says. “He’s trying to intimidate me and other lawyers to stay away from this issue.” [Orange County Register, 10/16/2009] An appeals court will reject Taitz’s appeal and order her to pay the $20,000 (see March 15, 2010). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 3/15/2010]
Michael Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that according to blogger Brian Lancaster, Time reporter Joe Klein has been allowed to read the first 10 pages of Barack Obama’s college thesis, written while the president was an undergraduate at Columbia University. According to Ledeen and Lancaster, the thesis was titled “Aristocracy Reborn,” and contains the following excerpt: “[T]he Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy.” Ledeen calls the statement “quite an indictment, even for an Ivy League undergraduate,” and says Obama’s supposed take on the Constitution is “revolutionary.” He concludes, “And what about the rest of the thesis?” Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh broadcasts extensively on the thesis, claiming that it is proof of Obama’s intention to “redistribute” America’s wealth to the poor by forcibly stripping the wealthy of their financial resources. Two days later, Ledeen reports that the “thesis” is entirely fictitious. Klein never wrote about it for Time and never read it. “It’s a hoax, or a satire, depending on your point of view,” Ledeen admits, having learned it was produced by Lancaster in August. Lancaster posted it on his Jumping in Pools blog on August 25, and clearly labeled it as “satire.” Ledeen writes: “So he got me, and lots of others. It worked because it’s plausible. I’ve done satirical pieces myself, and I know how they can take off.… So I should have picked up some hint, but I didn’t. Shame on me.” [Brian Lancaster, 8/25/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/21/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/23/2009; Time, 10/23/2009] According to the Obama campaign, Obama did not write a senior thesis while at Columbia. He did write a paper during his senior year for an honors seminar in American Foreign Policy, but neither Obama, the university, nor the professor of the seminar, Michael Baron, have a copy of the paper any longer. [Snopes (.com), 10/25/2009]
Judge David Carter. [Source: HubPages (.com)]US District Court Judge David Carter dismisses a lawsuit brought by a group claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, is not qualified to be president (see August 1-4, 2009). Carter lambasts lead lawyer Orly Taitz, ruling that he is “deeply concerned” that Taitz “may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this court.” Carter notes in his ruling that he has received “several sworn affidavits” showing that Taitz “asked potential witnesses” to lie under oath. Additionally, he rules, Taitz engaged in “improper and unethical” conduct by encouraging her supporters to phone and write him in an “attempt to influence this Court’s decision.” Carter rules that Taitz and her co-plaintiffs have not presented any usable evidence to bolster their claim of Obama’s supposed Kenyan citizenship. Instead, Taitz “favored rhetoric seeking to arouse the emotions and prejudices of her followers rather than the language of a lawyer seeking to present arguments through cogent legal reasoning.” Taitz’s inflammatory rhetoric, Carter finds, “often hampered the efforts of her co-counsel, Gary Kreep… to bring serious issues before the Court.” Carter rules that he exhibited “extreme patience” with Taitz and Kreep’s filings, noting that while Taitz and Kreep filed their lawsuit on January 20, 2009, they failed to serve the defendants in the case until August 25, 2009, and only then after repeated court orders to do so. “Taitz also continually refused to comply with court rules and procedures,” he notes, and even tried to get Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakasato removed from the original case because Nakasato required her to follow the court rules. And, he writes, Taitz attempted to dismiss two of her clients from the suit because she did not wish to work with their co-counsel. “Plaintiffs have encouraged the Court to ignore [the] Constitution; to disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution; and to effectively overthrow a sitting president who was popularly elected by ‘We the People’—over sixty-nine million of the people,” Carter writes. “Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction. Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic. Quite the contrary, this Court considers commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.” [The Smoking Gun, 10/29/2009; United States District Court for the Central District of California, 10/29/2009] Taitz and Kreep have filed a similar lawsuit with failed presidential candidate Alan Keyes, which has also been dismissed (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009). Taitz was recently fined $20,000 for judicial misconduct (see October 13-16, 2009).
Oil billionaire David Koch (see August 30, 2010), the founder of “astroturf” advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, and August 6, 2009), makes a rare public appearance at an AFP gathering designed to celebrate the organization’s victories against Obama administration policies (see January 2009 and After). President Obama’s poll numbers are declining, and to a man, Republican senators are refusing to cooperate with the White House or with Congressional Democrats on any issues. Political pundits are labeling Obama “inept,” and “tea party” groups are accusing him of initiating “a government takeover.” Koch praises the AFP members at the event, saying: “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.… We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.… Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, political activist Virginia Thomas. [Source: Associated Press]In November 2009, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a former Republican campaign operative and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, establishes a new “tea party” organization she calls Liberty Central. (Some media sources claim that Liberty Central begins operations in January 2010.) She describes the group as intended to bridge the gap between the conservative Republican establishment and the anti-government tea party movement. “I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Nebraska, who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she says at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country. I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” She also says she started the group because of her reaction to what she calls President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.” The group also intends to work to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats, and provide political strategies and “talking points” for conservative candidates. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Commission, 7/1/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011] In May 2010, the organization officially declares itself open for business, launching a $27,000 Web site, and touting partnerships with a number of prominent conservative groups and the backing of prominent conservatives such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo, whom Justice Thomas has called “my good friend.” [Politico, 7/6/2010]
Questions of Conflict of Interest, Ethics - Almost immediately, legal ethicists assert that Virginia Thomas’s role as the head of a partisan, openly political advocacy organization could taint her husband’s impartiality, especially in light of the Citizens United Court decision, in which her husband sided with the 5-4 majority (see January 21, 2010), that allows her group to accept donations and spend them without publicly disclosing information about them. The group could have benefited from the Court’s decision, and Justice Thomas’s decision could be seen as being influenced by his wife’s decision to start the group. Law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a Court historian, says, “I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics.” The expectations for spouses are not so clear, he adds, saying, “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it.” Legal ethicist Stephen Gillers, another law professor, says, “We expect the justice to make decisions uninfluenced by the political or legal preferences of his or her spouse.” Moreover, the press learns that while the Court was deliberating the Citizens United case, Liberty Central received an anonymous $550,000 donation. Government watchdog organization Common Cause wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking if Justice Thomas should recuse himself from the case, and wrote that “the complete lack of transparency of Liberty Central’s finances makes it difficult to assess the full scope of the ethics issues raised by Ms. Thomas’s role in founding and leading the group.” (The media later learns that $500,000 of the anonymous $550,000 donation for the organization comes from Dallas real estate investor Harlan Crow, who also hosts a fundraising event for the organization at his home. Crow once gave Justice Thomas a $19,000 “Frederick Douglass Bible” as a gift, and donated $150,000 to build a new wing named for Justice Thomas on a Savannah, Georgia, library that he visited frequently in his youth.) Common Cause also notes that Justice Thomas had failed to report on his financial disclosure filings his wife’s income over the last 13 years, prompting him to file amendments to the filings that indicated the sources, but not the amounts, of his wife’s income. Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from the case.
Period of Success - Liberty Central flourishes for a brief time, with Virginia Thomas assembling a veteran staff and forging relationships with conservative donors, with most of whom she and her husband had long, close relationships. Carl Graham of the Montana Policy Institute, one of the over 30 state and national tea party groups that are listed as partners in Liberty Central’s affiliate network, says, “Her association with Justice Thomas clearly provides a level of credibility that others wouldn’t be able to have, just because of the beliefs that he has and the stands that he has on the different positions that align with our own.” Liberty Central’s connection with Justice Thomas, Graham says, “gets you to open the email, if nothing else, as opposed to some other one that you may not even open.” Liberty Central hires the services of CRC Public Relations, a prominent Washington communications firm that has garnered some $15 million in fees from a number of clients, including top Republican Party committees and the presidential campaigns or political committees of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, among others. Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a tea party lobbying organization also partnered with Liberty Central (see April 14, 2009 and April 15, 2009), says, “Ginni was able to raise the seed capital to have a real launch” because of her connections in small-government conservative circles. Kibbe says most people are unaware that she is the wife of a Supreme Court justice. Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin calls Thomas a “mentor” for many tea party organizations, and says she helps these organizations “to navigate some of the waters in DC.… She’s been kind of a mentor, and when we had questions about things that we were doing, we bounced a few of the ideas off of her and also off of a few other people in DC just to make sure that what we were doing made sense.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Media Attention - In a June 2010 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Thomas says she is sure “liberals” will “persecute” her just as she says they did when her husband was undergoing confirmation for the Supreme Court. “They’re after me now sometimes,” she says. “And so, we’re not going to be dissuaded. We are in the fight for our country’s life.” She and Hannity engage in a lively conversation about the “tyranny” of the Obama administration. She also promises to “watch for conflicts” between herself and her husband. In October 2010, the media reports that Virginia Thomas leaves a voice mail for former college professor Anita Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings for the Court (see October 8, 1991, October 8-12, 1991, and October 11-12, 1991), demanding that Hill issue an apology to her husband. The voice mail says: “Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.” The attention from the voice mail prompts more negative media attention, and some donors begin distancing themselves from the organization. (Virginia Thomas later admits that her voice mail message for Hill was “probably a mistake,” though she will call the media’s response to it “laughable.” She will call the message “an olive branch” she extends to Hill. For her part, Hill says: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”) [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Fox News, 6/8/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 10/19/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010]
Thomas Steps Down, Group Merges with Another Organization - In November 2010, Virginia Thomas steps down from her leadership post at Liberty Central. The group then merges with another, similar group called the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, an organization founded by ex-CIA agent Gary Aldrich, who wrote a largely discredited book “exposing” the “secrets” of the Clinton administration. Sources later tell reporters that Virginia Thomas sells off Liberty Central because it cannot raise the funds needed to support its large staff and high overhead. According to CRC spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll, Thomas will “take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions. After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization.” However, Sarah E. Field, general counsel of Liberty Central, disagrees, saying: “There are many opportunities being presented to Liberty Central, but there is no agreement at this time.… The sources of this story appear to be people without full understanding of the facts.” Keith Appell of CRC tells a reporter that the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner “breached confidentiality” by reporting her conversation with Carroll. Gardner responds, “Everything I attributed to Caitlin Carroll comes from an on-the-record conversation we had by telephone this morning.” Within hours, Thomas files incorporation papers for a new political lobbying and consulting firm, Liberty Consulting (see February 4, 2011). [Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 11/15/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Entity Tags: Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Liberty Central, US Department of Justice, Matt Kibbe, Leonard Leo, Obama administration, US Supreme Court, Sean Hannity, Virginia (“Ginni”) Thomas, Keith Appell, Stephen Gillers, Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, Jenny Beth Martin, Sarah E. Field, Gary Aldrich, Barack Obama, Anita Hill, Amy Gardner, CRC Public Relations, Caitlin Carroll, Harlan Crow, Clarence Thomas, FreedomWorks, Carl Graham, Donald Rumsfeld, Common Cause, Conservative Political Action Conference
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
An Oklahoma law requiring that information about abortions be made public goes into effect. The law requires the collection of personal details about the women who have abortions, and mandates that the information be posted on a public Web site. The information includes:
Date of abortion;
County in which abortion performed;
Age of mother;
Marital status of mother (married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married);
Race of mother;
Years of education of mother (specify highest year completed);
State or foreign country of residence of mother;
Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother, including live births, miscarriages, and induced abortions.
The law does not collect names, addresses, or “any information specifically identifying the patient.” However, pro-choice group Feminists for Choice notes that the information that is collected can easily be used to identify a woman, especially in a smaller community. “They’re really just trying to frighten women out of having abortions,” says Keri Parks of Planned Parenthood. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the law. [Think Progress, 10/8/2009] Salon columnist Lynn Harris writes: “According to proponents of the law, this extensive abortion data—which will include the reason the procedure was sought—will help health officials prevent future abortions. Yeah, I can see that. Because the requirement itself would scare the sh_t out of me.” Harris continues: “It isn’t unique for a state to post health data on its Web site. However, Oklahoma’s requirements are by far the most extensive as such. The law’s supporters claim they want this information to be made public so it can be used for ‘academic research,’ but according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, its collection method makes it useless for that purpose.” [Salon, 10/7/2009]
Fox News host Glenn Beck accuses Missouri law enforcement officials of covering up the “savage beating” allegedly suffered by tea party activist Kenneth Gladney at the hands of “union thugs” at an August town hall forum in St. Louis (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). Beck asks: “Why haven’t charges been filed? I would like to know what game is being played.” Apparently Beck’s questioning of the lack of prosecution of Gladney’s “assailants” is sparked by a recent blog post by conservative Matthew Vadum, who alleges that the “cover-up” is being mounted because of the involvement of Buffy Wicks, the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, whom Vadum says organized an “Obama truth squad” at the St. Louis town hall forum. Media Matters columnist Eric Boehlert writes, “[T]he right-wing’s selfish, and often comical, attempt to turn Kenneth Gladney into a political martyr continues to be a sad spectacle to watch.” [Matthew Vadum, 11/4/2009; Media Matters, 11/5/2009] Misdemeanor assault charges will be filed against two union members (see Late November, 2009); both will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries in the altercation.
An image of Dede Scozzafava, altered by a conservative activist to make her appear as Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. [Source: Saberpoint (.com)]Democratic candidate Bill Owens wins an unexpected, narrow victory in a special election for the US House seat representing New York State’s 23rd District, a win widely seen as a setback to the national tea party movement. Owens ran against Conservative Party candidate Douglas L. Hoffman in a race that saw the original Republican Party candidate, Dede Scozzafava, drop out under heavy pressure from local, state, and national tea party organizations to give way to Hoffman, their preferred candidate. Scozzafava was the unanimous choice of the 11 county chairs of the district’s Republican Party organization. The 23rd District is traditionally Republican. Conservative figures identified with the tea party, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who has presidential aspirations, came out strongly in favor of Hoffman and against Scozzafava, as did talk show hosts Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fred Thompson, and the editorial pages of the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal. Scozzafava is a moderate Republican who supports gay and abortion rights, and the federal economic stimulus package promoted by the Bush and Obama administrations. The Republican National Committee (RNC), which had backed Scozzafava, applauded her decision to withdraw and endorsed Hoffman. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who like the RNC had supported Scozzzafava but in the days before the election endorsed Hoffman, says he worries that having third-party candidates routinely enter races would split conservative votes and give Democrats control of federal and state governments. “This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this,” he says.“If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] speaker for life and guarantee [President] Obama’s re-election.… I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.” After Hoffman’s loss, some tea party figures blame the Republican Party for the defeat, saying that if the party had gotten behind Hoffman from the outset, he would have defeated Owens. Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, agrees, saying: “I think Doug Hoffman likely would have won if he had been the Republican candidate from the get-go. It wasn’t a spike in the end zone for the Democrats. They got that seat not because Democrats were brilliant, but because Republicans were stupid.” Some conservatives attempt to frame the loss as a victory because they forced the more moderate Scozzafava out of the race. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) says, “Our number one goal was to make clear that the Republican Party cannot take someone as liberal as Dede Scozzafava and thrust her out on the voters and expect the voters just to accept it.” The seat became vacant after Representative John M. McHugh (R-NY) was appointed by President Obama to become secretary of the Army. After facing a barrage of heavy criticism from Limbaugh, Palin, and the like, Scozzafava abruptly withdrew from the race and threw her support to Owens. Some critics questioned Hoffman’s eligibility to run for the seat, noting that his home in Lake Placid, New York, is not in the district. The conservative Club for Growth spent $1 million promoting Hoffman’s candidacy, and other conservative organizations such as the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List and NOM also supported Hoffman. The groups funneled cash into Hoffman’s campaigns, printed up literature, and sent volunteers from other areas in the country to work for Hoffman. Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who now heads the conservative lobbying group FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009), says the race proves Republicans need to stop fielding moderate candidates. “My own view right now is the myth that you have to be a moderate—a Democrat lite—to win in the Northeast probably has less standing now than in any time since I’ve been in politics,” Armey says. “The small-government candidate in the Republican Party—or running as an independent—is going to be the one to draw the energy of these voters.” Marilyn Musgrave, a former representative from Colorado who works for the Anthony List, says after the election that the conservative backing of Hoffman proves to Washington lawmakers that they should not take conservative votes for granted. “Don’t just assume we’re yours,” she says. [Christian Science Monitor, 10/29/2009; New York Times, 10/31/2009; New York Times, 11/3/2009]
Entity Tags: Dick Armey, Dede Scozzafava, Tim Pawlenty, Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, Brian Brown, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Bill Owens, Rush Limbaugh, Susan B. Anthony List, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Fred Thompson, Douglas L. Hoffman, John M. McHugh, Republican National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, Mike Huckabee, National Organization for Marriage, Marilyn Musgrave, Club for Growth
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Banner at the Capitol Hill rally depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an ‘Unamerican McCarthyite.’ [Source: MSNBC]Conservatives gather on Capitol Hill to protest the Obama administration’s push towards health care reform, in a rally featuring guest speaker Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). [Media Matters, 11/6/2009] Bachmann called the rally the “Super Bowl of Freedom,” and told Fox News viewers that “socialized medicine is the crown jewel of socialism. This [health care reform] will change our country forever.” [TPM LiveWire, 11/3/2009; Mediaite, 11/11/2009] Actor Jon Voight, speaking to the crowd, says of President Obama: “His only success in one year as president is taking America apart piece by piece. Could it be 20 years of ‘subconscious programming’ from Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright [Obama’s former pastor] to damn America?” And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) tells the crowd, “Pelosi care [referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA] is the greatest threat to freedom I’ve seen in my 19 years in Washington.”
Signs Use Racial Images; Call Obama Communist, Nazi - Signs visible in the crowd proclaim, among other sentiments:
“Get the Red Out of the White House”;
“Traitor to the US Constitution” (featuring a photo of Obama);
“Ken-Ya Trust Obama?” (referring to theories that Obama is a citizen of Kenya—see January 24, 2007, January 16, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, and August 11, 2009—and with autographs from Representatives Steve King, R-IA and Ron Paul, R-TX);
“Un-American McCarthyite” (featuring a photo of Pelosi);
“I’m the King of the World: Remember the Titanic?” (featuring a drawing of Obama as the “Jovial Sambo” character from the Jim Crow era);
“National Socialist Health Care” (featuring a photograph of a pile of corpses from the Holocaust, and claiming that health care reform is the next “holocaust”).
Nine rally participants are arrested for attempting to force their way into the Hart Senate Office Building. Hundreds more attempt to force themselves into nearby government office buildings while chanting, “Kill the bill!” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Sponsored by GOP - MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes: “It is important to know that this rally was set up by the GOP. While other groups certainly got people to show up, the folks who came here ultimately came at the invitation of the Republican Party. The GOP provided the speakers and the music, etc.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Fox Pundit Inflates Crowd Estimates - While other media sources use local police reports to estimate the crowd at around 4,000, Fox News’s Sean Hannity tells listeners that the crowd is closer to 20,000 in size. Hannity later drastically scales back this claim. Hannity, who along with other Fox News pundits and on-air anchors had heavily promoted the rally for days beforehand, predicted the crowd would be “massive” in the hours before the protest. On his radio show, aired on ABC Radio Network, Hannity tells listeners: “We announced on Hannity Friday night on the Fox News Channel, we had Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on, and she mentioned that there was going to be on Thursday, she was going to put together in less than a week a little town hall on—what do you want to call it—march on our nation’s Capitol. And anyway, 20,000 people showed up today.” Hannity echoes the claim several times on his radio show. However, with no explanation, he concludes his radio broadcast by saying, “I heard there was, like, 5,000 people plus there.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009; Media Matters, 11/6/2009] On Hannity’s Fox News broadcast later that evening, he returns to his earlier estimates of “20,000” rally participants, and shows viewers old footage from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 rally (see September 12, 2009) to bolster his claim. [Crooks and Liars, 11/11/2009] On November 11, Hannity will admit that he “screwed up” in showing the footage, and claims it was merely “an inadvertent mistake.” [Think Progress, 11/12/2009] Hannity does not address how the mistake came to be made. [New York Times, 11/11/2009] Media critic Rachel Sklar will write, “It’s really blatant and remarkable… this sort of misrepresentation is simply not an accident.” [Mediaite, 11/11/2009] A week later, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett will make a similar mistake (see November 18-19, 2009).
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, John Boehner, Fox News, Gregg Jarrett, Glenn Beck, Steve King, Domenico Montanaro, Ron Paul, Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Jon Voight, Rachel Sklar, Republican Party, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Prosecutors in St. Louis file charges against six people in connection with an altercation outside a health care forum in August. Two of them are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who are alleged to have beaten up a tea party activist, Kenneth Gladney (see August 6-8, 2009 and August 8, 2009). They each face a charge of misdemeanor assault against Gladney. Gladney and right-wing columnists, commentators, and bloggers have alleged that Gladney was “savagely beaten” by “union thugs,” who are also accused of using racial slurs against Gladney, an African-American (see August 7-8, 2009). Some have called the assault a “hate crime,” and some have accused the “beating” of being ordered by White House officials (see August 7, 2009 and August 10, 2009). The other charges are also misdemeanors. [Media Matters, 11/25/2009] Both SEIU members will be found innocent of any wrongdoing (see July 12, 2011). The only person injured in the altercation was one of the union members (see Mid-August, 2009), though Gladney falsely claimed to have suffered severe injuries in the altercation.
Reporter Lee Fang of the liberal Center for American Progress writes an op-ed for the Boston Globe comparing the current political attacks against Democratic efforts to reform health care being coordinated by the Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, and November 2009) with the efforts of their father, Fred Koch (see 1940 and After), to label former President John F. Kennedy a traitor and a Communist tool. David Koch recently helped coordinate, from behind the scenes, a protest that compared health care reform to the Holocaust, and other protests that have turned violent. More systematically, he and his reclusive brother Charles have funded such conservative organizations as Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004) and other front groups, none of which bear the Koch name. Fang writes: “Americans for Prosperity’s tactics are not new. Just as Koch inherited his oil business from his father, Americans for Prosperity borrows from the ultra-right group also founded in part by his dad, the John Birch Society” (see 1945 and After, March 10, 1961, 1963, August 4, 2008, and April 26, 2010). Fred Koch helped conceive the far-right, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS), which, Fang writes, “cloaked its pro-business, anti-civil rights agenda in the rhetoric of the Cold War.” The JBS labeled Kennedy a Communist-inspired traitor and advocated his impeachment (see November 1963), stood against taxation as another aspect of “creeping Communism” inside the federal government, and claimed that the civil rights movement was being directed by the Soviet Union (see April 13, 2009 and December 11, 2009). The JBS helped promote the 1964 presidential candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and helped Republicans win key Congressional seats in 1966. AFP and the JBS are alike, Fang notes, in that they rarely acknowledge their funding from wealthy corporate magnates. Both portray themselves as grassroots organizations that are dedicated to promoting freedom. For a time, the JBS succeeded in aligning the interests of the very rich with the idea of anti-Communist patriotism. Similarly, AFP promotes the interests of the extremely wealthy, including the Koch brothers, as synonymous with patriotic opposition to health care reform, financial regulation, net neutrality, and the estate tax. All are labeled as “socialist,” a favorite JBS epithet. Fang concludes that “[w]ith his millions,” David Koch will have “contributed greatly to the obstruction of universal health care, the denial of climate change, and the derailment of much of President Obama’s domestic agenda. His dad would be pleased.” [Boston Globe, 12/6/2009]
A portion of the poster for the film ‘Invictus,’ starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. [Source: Movie-list (.com)]The John Birch Society (JBS—see December 2011), the anti-Communist far-right organization, condemns a recent film treatment of the life of South African President Nelson Mandela, who led the battle against white apartheid in that nation. The film is Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and written/directed by Clint Eastwood, one of a relatively small number of Hollywood conservatives. The JBS is outraged by the film’s sympathetic depiction of Mandela. Art Thompson, writing for the JBS Web site, notes: “The ‘conservative’ President George W. Bush awarded [Mandela] the Medal of Freedom. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him. The Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded him their prize, just as they did [President] Obama (see October 13, 2009). And, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in 1988. This is a clue as to who Mandela really is.” Thompson labels Mandela a communist, citing “many, many pictures showing Mandela at communist functions, standing below the hammer and sickle and giving the communist salute. Presiding [sic] over communist conventions and other events staged by the South African Communist Party.” Thompson says the mainstream media chooses not to publicize these photographs: “A variety of techniques have been used to deprive us of pertinent facts, but none have been more successful than simply not reporting or showing the facts. You do not need to twist the facts, only withhold the facts.” Instead of being a hero of South Africa and for Africans worldwide, Thompson writes, “Mandela is nothing more than a communist terrorist thug, placed in prison because he was about to launch a terrorist campaign against South Africans, aimed more against the black population than the white.” He blames Mandela and his then-wife Winnie for “necklacing” black Africans, a practice carried out by both white apartheid supporters and black anti-apartheid activists in which opponents had gasoline-soaked automobile tires placed over their heads and set ablaze. Thompson claims that Mandela and his “thugs” “necklaced” their “anti-communist victims.” Americans have been lied to for years about Mandela, Thompson claims, and explains why: “Even today, Americans can not be allowed by our controlled media to understand that South Africa has a communist government. Africa is rapidly going communist as are the nations south of our own border. We are being manipulated into keeping our eyes on the Middle East. The danger looms elsewhere. Communism is really only dead in the minds of the American people. It is too bad that we do not see a reality show in television about that.” [John Birch Society, 12/11/2009] While there is no proof that Nelson Mandela endorsed or tolerated “necklacing,” it has been well established that his former wife Winnie did so during her time as a spokesperson for the African National Congress (ANC). [Associated Press, 6/13/1992; BBC, 11/29/1997] US Representative Ron Paul, seen by many as the “father” of the US “tea party” movement, is a staunch JBS supporter, though he is not an official member (see August 4, 2008). Paul has attacked Mandela in his newsletters, labeling him a “communist” (see 1978-1996).
A screenshot of a television news report showing County Commissioner Bill James asking fellow Commissioner Vilma Leake if her dead son was ‘a homo.’ [Source: Pam's House Blend (.com)]Bill James, a Mecklenburg County (North Carolina) commissioner, insults fellow commissioner Vilma Leake, who speaks out about her support for gay county workers receiving benefits if they are in committed relationships. After Leake’s presentation, James asks her, “Your son was a homo?” Leake responds: “Don’t make me hurt you. Don’t do that to me. Don’t talk to me about my son.” In a statement, James tells a local Fox News affiliate that Leake “is a religious hypocrite” because “[s]he was married to a bishop in the AME Zion church. This church has historically opposed homosexuality.” He vilifies Leake’s mention of “her son’s ‘lifestyle’ and his death from HIV-AIDS to justify voting for benefits to allow individuals to use tax dollars to engage in the same behavior that resulted in her son’s death. It is akin to someone whose son is an alcoholic and died from the disease, using his death from drinking as justification to have the taxpayers pay for more booze. Her position was that her ‘faith’ demanded that she do this to support her son and his ‘lifestyle,’ which she acknowledges killed him. In doing so, it is legitimate to ask her what ‘lifestyle’ and in particular whether her son was a homosexual. Her response was to threaten me with physical violence (typical for her). Of course, this isn’t the first time she has threatened elected officials. On the school board she had a long and checkered history threatening to harm those she disagrees with. Well, if she didn’t want to make her ‘son’ an issue—why did she use him, his lifestyle, and his tragic self-inflicted death from AIDS as the reason for her vote?” [Michael B. Hamar, 12/17/2009] The county commissioners approve domestic partner benefits for gay couples who work for the county, splitting along party lines in their 6-3 vote; James and his two fellow Republicans vote “no.” After the vote, a Mecklenburg County resident, Jason Colley, complains: “I’m from the old school and I know what is right and I know what is wrong. I know what is good and I know what is bad. I do not wish my taxes to go to something of this nature. It seems like to me the minorities always get their way in whatever minority class it may be. I thought we were governed by majority rule. It doesn’t seem that way.” George Dunlap, an African-American Democrat on the commission, tells Colley, “The majority hasn’t always been right.” Either James or one of his fellow Republicans attempted to influence the vote by submitting a report that claimed “the incidence of AIDS among 20- to 30-year-old homosexual men is roughly 430 times greater than among the heterosexual population at large.” The report was issued by the Corporate Resource Council (CRC), which issued it in efforts to derail attempts by local and state governments to approve domestic-partner benefits. The claim is from Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, an anti-gay activist who says Prozac can cure homosexuality and has made a number of other false claims. [Pam Spaulding, 12/16/2009] In 2005, James sent an inflammatory email vilifying homosexuals and using false statistics to back up his claims (see April 29, 2005).
Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV), vying for the seat held by Harry Reid (D-NV), advocates armed insurrection to bring about conservative change in America, and implies that she is ready to use violence to defeat Reid in the race. Angle tells radio talk show host Lars Larson that she believes the US is ripe for an armed revolution, and if “this Congress keeps going the way it is,” Americans will implement “Second Amendment remedies.” The Second Amendment grants citizens the right to own firearms. Larson asks Angle where she stands on the Second Amendment, and she replies: “You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, ‘My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?’ I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” Larson later says that he believes Angle means exactly what she says, particularly about supporting armed insurrection against Congress. “If it continues to do the things it’s doing, I think she’s leaving open that possibility,” Larson will say. “And I think the founders believed that the public should be able to do that when the government becomes out of control. It just matters what you define as going too far.” [Washington Post, 6/15/2010] At least one other time during the primary, Angle publicly advocates that Reid be “take[n] out” with “Second Amendment remedies” (see June 16, 2010). After winning the Nevada Republican primary for the Senate, Angle will retract her remarks (see June 30, 2010).
Recently Left Hard-Right Independent American Party - Angle is a relatively recent convert to the Republican Party. For much of the 1990s, she belonged to the Independent American Party (IAP), a hard-right group that combines libertarianism—gun advocacy, tax repeal, and states’ rights—with Christian social conservatism and an avowed fear of what it calls the “North American Union,” a supposed union of Canada, Mexico, and the US. According to IAP members, Angle left the party in 1998 when she ran for the Nevada state assembly. IAP executive director Janine Hansen will tell a reporter: “It was because she wanted to run for office. And it was difficult for members of our party to get elected at that time. It was a strategic move on her part.” The IAP considers the Republican Party “corrupt and socialistic,” according to its Web site. IAP founder David Hansen drew national attention in 1992 by bringing a sign to a political rally that read, “If Guns Are Outlawed, How Can We Shoot the Liberals?” [TPMDC, 6/15/2010]
Supports Violent Militia - Angle is also a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group that enjoins its members—which include many soldiers and police officers—to refuse to follow orders they consider unconstitutional, and warns that the government intends to turn American cities into “giant concentration camps” (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010). The organization has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a violent militia group that is actively recruiting members for an upcoming armed revolt. Angle’s husband Ted Angle will say in June 2010 that while he is not sure whether he or his wife are full-fledged members, both of them stand firmly behind its principles. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes will later say that because neither Angle nor her husband are members of a uniformed service, they can only be associate members, and he is not sure whether Sharron Angle is a member. Rhodes will also deny that Oath Keepers is a militia. “We are an education outfit,” he will say. [TPMDC, 6/9/2010]
Entity Tags: Stewart Rhodes, Ted Angle, Sharron Angle, Lars Larson, David Hansen, Oath Keepers, Harry Reid, Janine Hansen, Independent American Party, Southern Poverty Law Center
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
A protester holds a Confederate battle flag during a tea party rally in Olympia, Washington. [Source: credit Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights]Some 300 tea party members and supporters from throughout Washington State gather in Olympia for the “Sovereignty Winter Fest.” The rally features state legislators, candidates for state and federal seats, tea party leaders, and activists from a number of far-right and white supremacist groups. The rally is to support a number of “state’s rights” 10th Amendment “sovereignty” resolutions in the Washington legislature (see March 23, 2011). Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights later writes, “This turn away from anti-tax and anti-healthcare rhetoric towards state sovereignty language points to a possible radicalization of the [tea party] movement.” Many slogans and symbols associated with white supremacists are prominently displayed during the proceedings, including the Confederate battle flag and the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Some signs read: “Kick _ss America. Remember 9-11”; “Armed and Dangerous with my Vote”; “Had enough? Reclaim State Sovereignty”; “The 10th Amend. States Rights. Yes We Can”; “FOX News for the truth”; and “Kill Government Take Over NOT our Freedom.” The first speaker is State Representative Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), who sponsored the so-called “State Sovereignty Resolution” that was recently defeated in the Washington legislature. The bill reads in part, “the State of Washington hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” The bill also claims to “serve as a Notice and Demand to the federal government to maintain the balance of powers where the Constitution of the United States established it and to cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.” The language of Shea’s bill mirrors almost exactly language used by far-right militias of the 1990s who agitated for “state sovereignty,” according to Burghart. State Senator Val Stevens (R-Arlington) confirms the link by telling ralliers: “When I first introduced the 10th Amendment [legislation] back in 1997, it was met with ‘oh gee wiz, what is she doing now.’ It was a national movement at that time of a few of us who recognized that we were being stepped on by our federal government. That much of what took place here in the state of Washington was the result of what our federal government was passing on us. And we wanted to maintain that we are sovereign, and that we do have rights. And we wanted to re-establish that 10th Amendment.” Stevens has long boasted of her links to state and regional militias. One prominent participant is Darin Stevens, head of the Spokane 9/12 project (see March 13, 2009 and After). With a pistol strapped to his hip, he reads a portion of the Declaration of Independence, then introduces Martin “Red” Beckman, a well-known anti-Semite, anti-tax protester, and militia supporter. Stevens introduces Beckman with a boast that Beckman is a veteran militia defender. Robertson also endorses the positions of the Reverend John Weaver, a Christian Identity (see 1960s and After) supporter and ardent neo-Confederate. A number of area tea party activists address the crowd, including attorney Stephen Pidgeon, who uses his time to accuse President Obama of not being an American citizen. And tea party leader Doug Parris tells the crowd how tea parties can take over Washington’s Republican Party precinct by precinct, saying that such a takeover is necessary because of the Republicans’ “Star of David” strategy (apparently referring to the Republican Party’s support for Israel). [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 1/19/2010]
Charles Dyer after being detained by Oklahoma law enforcement authorities. [Source: Duncan Herald]Ex-Marine Charles Dyer is arrested on child rape and federal weapons charges. Dyer, a declared member of the “Oath Keepers” organization (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), is charged with raping a seven-year-old girl at his home in Marlow, Oklahoma. When Stephens County deputies search his home, they find a Colt M-203 grenade launcher they believe was stolen from a California military base in 2006. Dyer’s arrest causes a split among members of the far-right “Patriot” movement, with militia members rallying behind Dyer and organizations such as the Oath Keepers distancing themselves from supporting him. Dyer was charged with making disloyal statements when, as an active-duty Marine, he posted what Mother Jones calls “incendiary videos on YouTube” under the moniker “July4Patriot.” Wearing a skull mask that partially obscured his face, he called for armed, violent resistance against the US government, railed against the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990), and invited viewers to join him at his Oklahoma home for military training, at what he said the government “will call… a terrorist training camp.” Dyer was acquitted and continued making video protests and exhortations without the mask, becoming popular among fringe militia elements. In one video made after his discharge from service, he announced his intention of becoming a “domestic terrorist.” Dyer has been a visible and outspoken member of the Oath Keepers since the organization’s first rally, and for a time he was considered an Oath Keeper spokesman, and with Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes’s blessing represented the group at a July 4, 2010 tea party rally. He often featured Oath Keeper logos and materials on his YouTube videos, and wore an Oath Keeper sweatshirt on some of them. Following Dyer’s arrest, Rhodes removes Dyer’s postings and material from the Oath Keepers Web site, and denies Dyer had any official connection with the group. Rhodes insists that Dyer never paid his $30 dues to become a member, though the organization has always said it costs nothing to join, and says he asked Dyer to stop identifying himself as an Oath Keeper after he learned that Dyer was trying to recruit for an Oklahoma militia. A blogger for American Resistance Radio calls Rhodes “beyond cowardly” and labels Dyer the “1st POW of the 2nd American Revolution.” On the Oath Keepers site, a Marine from Arizona speculates that the charges against Dyer could be the start of a false campaign to arrest and detain American patriots. But if the allegations are true, he writes, “may he rot in hell.” [Duncan Banner, 1/16/2010; Mother Jones, 1/22/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 1/22/2010; TPMMuckraker, 1/22/2010; Mother Jones, 3/2010]
The Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller posts a scathing criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision (see January 21, 2010) on the Foundation’s blog. Miller writes that the implications of the decision “are breathtaking—opening the floodgates of political money such as we have never seen before. If you thought Congress was ‘for sale’ to the highest bidder, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of our campaign finance laws is demanded as a result of today’s decision.” Miller writes that transparency in donations and funding is not “a panacea for the horrific consequences of today’s decision, it is critically important as the shredded system is rebuilt. Today’s decision underscores the necessity of creating comprehensive real-time disclosure for all election spending—across the board—from when and how often candidates, individuals, and PACs report their contributions and expenditures to those involved in independent expenditures, issue ads, or direct election advocacy.” Miller focuses on the portion of the majority opinion that claimed Internet-based disclosure is sufficient to keep the public informed about campaign finance practices. The opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, held: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters. Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.… This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.… [M]odern technology makes disclosures rapid and informative.… A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today.” Miller agrees, but notes that “the disclosure system [Kennedy] describe[s] doesn’t yet exist. The current disclosure system is insufficiently ‘rapid and informative’ and does not make effective use of modern technology.” Miller predicts a “tidal wave of corporate campaign expenditures” that will not be exposed or held accountable by the current disclosure system. “The quarterly reporting system now in place is outdated and ineffective—ridiculous, in a word.” Miller concludes: “[T]his decision should trigger momentum toward ensuring that all election-related information is available online in real-time. Disclosure remains a crucial antiseptic to the corrupting influence of money in politics. We should ensure our system is as transparent as possible.” [Ellen Miller, 1/21/2010]
Ian Millhiser, a constitutional policy analyst and lawyer for the liberal Center for American Progress, writes of what he considers the disastrous effect that the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010) will have on American politics. Millhiser says the majority ruling in the Citizens United decision is plainly wrong, and that the case presented to the Court had nothing to do with the First Amendment right to free speech. “Prior to Citizens United, no law prohibited anyone from saying anything they wanted,” he writes. “Corporate CEOs and other wealthy individuals could spend their own massive salaries to run political ads on TV. People who are less rich than corporate CEOs could pool their money together via organizations. The only thing that wasn’t permitted before Citizens United is that the CEO of Bank of America could not tap into Bank of America’s massive, multi-billion dollar treasury to defeat” a candidate he or she does not support. The decision not only “provide[s] Fortune 500 companies with a massive megaphone to blast their political views to the masses,” but “it also empowers them to drown out any voices that disagree with them.” Millhiser notes that the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns spent a combined total of $1.1 billion in 2008, a record-breaking sum. However, he goes on to note that because of the Citizens United decision, corporate donors could easily spend 100 times that amount if they wanted. ”$1.1 billion is nothing, however, compared to the billions of dollars in tax subsidies given to the oil industry every year, or the $117 billion fee President Obama wants to impose on the Wall Street bankers who created the Great Recession. Indeed, with hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate profits at stake every time Congress begins a session, wealthy corporations would be foolish not to spend tens of billions of dollars every election cycle to make sure that their interests are protected. No one, including the candidates themselves, have the ability to compete with such giant expenditures.” Until Congress can rein in what Millhiser views as the excesses of the Citizens United decision, “many extremely well-moneyed corporations will still succeed in unleashing their treasuries on the electorate, and drowning out opposing voices.” [Think Progress, 1/21/2010]
Loyola Law School Professor Richard Hasen writes that the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010) is a “bad day for American democracy.” The Court as headed by Chief Justice John Roberts is a conservative activist court, Hasen writes, determined to recraft “constitutional law in its image.” The Citizens United ruling opens up the American political system “to a money free-for-all.” Hasen originally thought the Court would make a narrow ruling in the Citizens United case, perhaps finding that the campaign finance law often referred to as McCain-Feingold (see March 27, 2002) does not apply to video-on-demand broadcasts. “That would be in line with some of the past decisions of the Roberts Court, when it had preferred to chip away at existing precedent rather than dramatically move the law rightward.” But during questioning, it became clear that the conservatives on the Court were ready to dismantle McCain-Feingold as opposed to merely chipping away at it. The Court struck down limitations on corporate spending entirely (see March 27, 1990) and much of the legal limitations on so-called “soft money” campaign funding (see December 10, 2003). Hasen says that the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy equates funding limitations with censorship. Hasen writes: “There are many responses to Justice Kennedy’s reasoning. He wrongly assumes that corporations or unions can throw money at public officials without corrupting them. Could a candidate for judicial office, for example, be swayed to rule in favor of a contributor who donated $3 million to an independent campaign to get the candidate elected to the State Supreme Court? Justice Kennedy himself thought so in [a previous case]. And yet he runs away from that decision in today’s ruling. Justice Kennedy acknowledges that with the ‘soft money’ limits on political parties still in place, third-party groups (which tend to run more negative and irresponsible ads) will increase in strength relative to political parties. And that possibility raises the real chance Congress will repeal the ‘soft money’ limits, thereby increasing the risks of quid pro quo corruption.” Hasen believes that Kennedy is enshrining a fundamental principle of financial inequality—that wealthy individuals and corporations now have the legal right to unduly influence elections via their money. Money, Hasen writes, should not be equated with speech, as Kennedy has found. Instead of doing what the Court traditionally does, Hasen writes, and taking a narrow view of a constitutional issue as it has in a recent case (see June 22, 2009)—the time-honored principle of “constitutional avoidance”—this time the Court has gone to the extreme to transform the constitutional interpretation of electoral procedures. “[T]he Court went out of its way to overturn its own precedent, in violation of its usual rule of stare decisis, which calls for respecting past rulings for the good of reliable law-making. And it did so violating its usual rule, which it cited even yesterday, that it does not generally reach issues not raised in the initial petition to the Court. In short, the Court did not have to do what it did today.… This is a Court that has taken a giant leap toward deregulation of the electoral process.” [Slate, 1/21/2010]
OMB Watch, a nonprofit government accountability organization, issues a press release blasting the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. OMB Watch calls itself “disappointed” in the decision, and writes that it “fears [the decision] will lead to moneyed interests drowning out the voices of citizens and smaller advocacy organizations.” OMB Watch contends that the decision was wrong in stating that corporations and unions were denied access to campaigns and the election process—denied free-speech protections—by previous campaign finance law. “[P]rior to today’s decision, corporations were not stripped from political speech entirely during campaigns,” the organization says. “Rather, corporations and unions could pay for federal election spending through political action committees. The ruling will certainly alter corporate and union spending on future elections. This decision will have a profound impact on the 2010 midterm elections and 2012 presidential election.” The release quotes Lateefah Williams, a nonprofit speech rights policy analyst at OMB Watch who specializes in nonprofit voter engagement issues, as saying: “It will allow corporate interests to significantly impact those races by funneling massive amounts of money to support or oppose candidates.… Our fear is that the voices of large portions of our citizenry and the charities that advocate on their behalf will be drowned out in the process.” OMB Watch calls on Congress and the White House to pass legislation that would curtail the effect of the decision. [Brian Gumm, 1/21/2010]
President Obama sharply criticizes the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. Obama says: “With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.” [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
Many Republican lawmakers and their supporters celebrate the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. Most observers believe that Republicans will benefit from the ruling, as large corporations who can now spend large amounts on influencing elections tend to support more conservative candidates and causes (see January 21-22, 2010). Most Republicans who praise the decision do not mention the presumed financial advantage they may now enjoy, but instead focus on the issue as one of freedom of speech. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says of the decision: “It is about a nonprofit group’s ability to speak about the public issue. I can’t think of a more fundamental First Amendment issue. [The ruling could] open up resources that have not previously been available [for Republicans].” Representative Steve King (R-IA) says: “The Constitution protects the rights of citizens and employers to express their viewpoints on political issues. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms the Bill of Rights and is a victory for liberty and free speech.” Fellow Republican House member Mike Pence (R-IN) agrees: “If the freedom of speech means anything, it means protecting the right of private citizens to voice opposition or support for their elected representatives. The fact that the Court overturned a 20-year precedent speaks volumes about the importance of this issue.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says the ruling is a big step towards “restoring the First Amendment rights [of corporations and unions].… By previously denying this right, the government was picking winners and losers.” Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele says: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC serves as an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment. Free speech strengthens our democracy.” And US Senate candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) says, “Today’s SCOTUS decision on McCain-Feingold is a victory for free speech.” One of the few Republicans to speak against the decision is Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who calls it “regrettable” and “disappointing.” Snowe is joined in her criticism by fellow Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the co-author of the legislation partially overturned by the ruling (see March 27, 2002), who also says he is “disappointed” by the decision. [Associated Press, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
The New York Times calls today’s ruling in the Citizens United case (see January 21, 2010) “disastrous,” saying that “the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century.” The Court has used the excuse of the First Amendment (see January 21, 2010) to “pave… the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.” The Times recommends that Congress should “act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.” In essence, the Times writes, lobbyists for corporate, labor, and special interests now have the power to sway elections in the directions they prefer. And the ruling gives those same interests the power to intimidate and even coerce candidates. “If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest,” the Times writes, “its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.” The Times notes that since the inception of the nation, its founders have “warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections—the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.” Corporate money has been banned from elections since 1907 (see 1907), and that ban has been in place, in one form or another (see June 25, 1910, 1925, 1935, 1940, June 25, 1943, June 23, 1947, March 11, 1957, February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, January 30, 1976, January 8, 1980, March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003), until today. The Times accuses the Court of “overreach[ing],” using “a case involving a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign (see January 10-16, 2008). The Court elevated that case to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending and then rushed the process of hearing the case at breakneck speed. It gave lawyers a month to prepare briefs on an issue of enormous complexity (see June 29, 2009), and it scheduled arguments during its vacation” (see September 9, 2009). The Times says the ruling is “deeply wrong on the law,” particularly in declaring corporations as equivalent to people, with the same First Amendment rights. “It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.” And the Times derides the statement in the Court’s majority opinion that says independent corporate expenditures “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” citing Senator John McCain (R-AZ)‘s characterization of the Court’s reasoning as being plagued by “extreme naivete.” The Citizens United case is, the Times writes, “likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). With one 5-to-4 decision, the Court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.” The only two ways to rectify the situation, the Times concludes, are to overturn the ruling via Congressional legislation and have a future Court—with a different makeup—overturn the decision itself. [New York Times, 1/21/2010]
Three of the Supreme Court justices in the majority decision: Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Anthony Kennedy. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that corporate spending in political elections may not be banned by the federal government. The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205. The Court is divided among ideological lines, with the five conservatives voting against the four moderates and liberals on the bench. The decision overrules two precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, and rules that corporate financial support for a party or candidate qualifies as “freedom of speech” (see March 11, 1957, January 30, 1976, May 11, 1976, April 26, 1978, January 8, 1980, November 28, 1984, December 15, 1986, June 26, 1996, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). The majority rules that the government may not regulate “political speech,” while the dissenters hold that allowing corporate money to, in the New York Times’s words, “flood the political marketplace,” would corrupt the democratic process. The ramifications of the decision will be vast, say election specialists. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010] In essence, the ruling overturns much of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law (BCRA—see March 27, 2002). The ruling leaves the 1907 ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates and national party committees intact (see 1907). The ban on corporate and union donors coordinating their efforts directly with political parties or candidates’ campaigns remains in place; they must maintain “independence.” Any corporation spending more than $10,000 a year on electioneering efforts must publicly disclose the names of individual contributors. And the ruling retains some disclosure and disclaimer requirements, particularly for ads airing within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The Los Angeles Times writes: “The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year’s mid-term elections to Congress.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; OMB Watch, 1/27/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010; National Public Radio, 2012]
Unregulated Money Impacts Midterm Elections - The decision’s effects will be felt first on a national level in the 2010 midterm elections, when unregulated corporate spending will funnel millions of dollars from corporate donors into Congressional and other races. President Obama calls the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, says the Court “took what had been a revolving door and took the door away altogether. There was something there that slowed the money down. Now it’s gone.” [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010]
Broadening in Scope - According to reporter and author Jeffrey Toobin, CU lawyer Theodore Olson had originally wanted to present the case as narrowly as possible, to ensure a relatively painless victory that would not ask the Court to drastically revise campaign finance law. But according to Toobin, the conservative justices, and particularly Chief Justice Roberts, want to use the case as a means of overturning much if not all of McCain-Feingold (see May 14, 2012). In the original argument of the case in March 2009 (see March 15, 2009), Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart unwittingly changed the scope of the case in favor of a broader interpretation, and gave Roberts and the other conservative justices the opportunity they may have been seeking. [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Majority Opinion Grants Corporations Rights of Citizens - The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reads in part: “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.… The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.” In essence, Kennedy’s ruling finds, corporations are citizens. The ruling overturns two precedents: 1990’s Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates (see March 27, 1990) in its entirety, and large portions of 2003’s McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (see December 10, 2003), which upheld a portion of the BCRA that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions. Before today’s ruling, the BCRA banned the broadcast, cable, or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections. The law was restricted in 2007 by a Court decision to apply only to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate” (see June 25, 2007).
Encroachment on Protected Free Speech - Eight of the nine justices agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements; Justice Clarence Thomas is the only dissenter on this point. Kennedy writes, “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.” Kennedy’s opinion states that if the restrictions remain in place, Congress could construe them to suppress political speech in newspapers, on television news programs, in books, and on the Internet. Kennedy writes: “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Fiery Dissent - Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest member of the court, submits a fiery 90-page dissent that is joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. Kennedy is joined by Roberts and fellow Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Thomas, though Roberts and Alito submit a concurring opinion instead of signing on with Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas. “The difference between selling a vote and selling access is a matter of degree, not kind,” Stevens writes in his dissent. “And selling access is not qualitatively different from giving special preference to those who spent money on one’s behalf.” Stevens writes that the Court has long recognized the First Amendment rights of corporations, but the restrictions struck down by the decision are moderate and fair. “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Speaking from the bench, Stevens calls the ruling “a radical change in the law… that dramatically enhances the role of corporations and unions—and the narrow interests they represent—in determining who will hold public office.… Corporations are not human beings. They can’t vote and can’t run for office,” and should be restricted under election law. “Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
Case Originated with 2008 Political Documentary - The case originated in a 2008 documentary by the right-wing advocacy group Citizens United (CU), called Hillary: The Movie (see January 10-16, 2008). The film, a caustic attack on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Democrats in general, was released for public viewing during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. When the Federal Election Commission (FEC) won a lawsuit against CU, based on the FEC’s contention that broadcasting the film violated McCain-Feingold, the group abandoned plans to release the film on a cable video-on-demand service and to broadcast television advertisements for it. CU appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and most observers believed the Court would decide the case on narrow grounds, not use the case to rewrite election law and First Amendment coverage. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010; Associated Press, 1/21/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010]
Case Brought in Order to Attack Campaign Finance Law - Critics have said that CU created the movie in order for it to fall afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and give the conservatives on the Court the opportunity to reverse or narrow the law. Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, an opponent of the decision, says: “The movie was created with the idea of establishing a vehicle to chip away at the decision. It was part of a very clear strategy to undo McCain-Feingold.” CU head David Bossie confirms this contention, saying after the decision: “We have been trying to defend our First Amendment rights for many, many years. We brought the case hoping that this would happen… to defeat McCain-Feingold.” [Washington Post, 1/22/2010]
Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Citizens United, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Barack Obama, Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, New York Times, Nick Nyhart, Evan Tracey, David Bossie, Hillary Clinton, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, John Paul Stevens, Malcolm Stewart, John G. Roberts, Jr, Los Angeles Times
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Liberal MSNBC commentator and talk show host Keith Olbermann devotes one of his “special comments” to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited corporate donations in elections (see January 21, 2010). Olbermann starts by reminding his viewers of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott ruling by the Court that found no African-American could be considered a US citizen (see March 6, 1857). Olbermann compares Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the Citizens United decision, unfavorably to the much-maligned chief justice who wrote the Dred Scott ruling; Olbermann says that the Citizens United decision “might actually have more dire implications than” the 1857 finding. Olbermann says: “In short, the First Amendment—free speech for persons—which went into affect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections. None. They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want—sooner, rather than later—they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from president to head of the Visiting Nurse Service. And if senators and congressmen and governors and mayors and councilmen and everyone in between are entirely beholden to the corporations for election and re-election to office soon they will erase whatever checks there might still exist to just slow down the ability of corporations to decide the laws.” Corporations can, in essence, buy and sell politicians at will, Olbermann says, and those politicians can change laws as their corporate donors dictate. “[A]ny legal defense you can structure now, can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now. And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November, or two years from now, can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014, or 2016, or 2018.… Unless this mortal blow is somehow undone, within 10 years, every politician in this country will be a prostitute.” Labor unions, Olbermann says, will quickly be “strangled” by corporations “so they pose no further threat to the corporations’ total control of our political system.” Taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will be slashed, and social programs will be eliminated, “because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.” Wars that benefit the military-industrial complex will become the norm. Racial and religious profiling will become commonplace, because the corporations will want to shift blame from their own machinations onto someone else, and people of different religions or ethnicities are easy targets for such blame. The “poor dumb manipulated b_stards” of the “tea parties” will “have a glorious few years as the front men as the corporations that bankroll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system,” until they are “banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them the Judas Goats of American freedom.” The Obama administration’s bank reforms will be eliminated by “his successor purchased by the banks.” Corporations will buy and control government entities from federal agencies to town councils. Billionaires will “buy and install their own city governments.” The mainstream media as we know it will disappear, because the corporate-owned government will require media outlets to reassure the populace that “everything’s great” and no one is needed to speak out against the government. The Internet, currently a venue that allows the most disparate of opinions to be voiced and shared, will be corralled and brought to heel. Olbermann concludes by saying: “The right wing won’t even tell their constituents that they are being sold into bondage alongside the rest of us. And why should they? For them, the start of this will be wonderful.” [MSNBC, 1/21/2010]
Liberal MSNBC commentator and talk show host Keith Olbermann devotes one of his “special comments” to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited corporate donations in elections (see January 21, 2010). Olbermann starts by reminding his viewers of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott ruling by the Court that found no African-American could ever be considered a US citizen (see March 6, 1857). Olbermann compares Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the Citizens United decision, unfavorably to the much-maligned chief justice who wrote the Dred Scott ruling; Olbermann says that the Citizens United decision “might actually have more dire implications than” the 1857 finding. Olbermann says: “In short, the First Amendment—free speech for persons—which went into affect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections. None. They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want—sooner, rather than later—they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from president to head of the Visiting Nurse Service. And if senators and congressmen and governors and mayors and councilmen and everyone in between are entirely beholden to the corporations for election and re-election to office, soon they will erase whatever checks there might still exist to just slow down the ability of corporations to decide the laws.” Corporations can, in essence, buy and sell politicians at will, Olbermann says, and those politicians can change laws as their corporate donors dictate. “[A]ny legal defense you can structure now, can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now. And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November, or two years from now, can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014, or 2016, or 2018.… Unless this mortal blow is somehow undone, within 10 years every politician in this country will be a prostitute.” Labor unions, Olbermann says, will quickly be “strangled” by corporations “so they pose no further threat to the corporations’ total control of our political system.” Taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will be slashed, and social programs will be eliminated, “because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.” Wars that benefit the military-industrial complex will become the norm. Racial and religious profiling will become commonplace, because the corporations will want to shift blame from their own machinations onto someone else, and people of different religions or ethnicities are easy targets for such blame. The “poor dumb manipulated b_stards” of the “tea parties” will “have a glorious few years as the front men as the corporations that bankroll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system,” until they are “banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them the Judas Goats of American freedom.” The Obama administration’s bank reforms will be eliminated by “his successor purchased by the banks.” Corporations will buy and control government entities from federal agencies to town councils. Billionaires will “buy and install their own city governments.” The mainstream media as we know it will disappear, because the corporate-owned government will require media outlets to reassure the populace that “everything’s great” and no one is needed to speak out against the government. The Internet, currently a venue that allows the most disparate of opinions to be voiced and shared, will be corralled and brought to heel. Olbermann concludes by saying: “The right wing won’t even tell their constituents that they are being sold into bondage alongside the rest of us. And why should they? For them, the start of this will be wonderful.” [MSNBC, 1/21/2010]
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” overturning of corporate campaign finance restrictions (see January 21, 2010) a disaster. Schumer says, “With a stroke of a pen, the court decided to overrule the 100-year-old ban on corporate expenditures and override the will of millions of Americans who want their voices heard in our democracy.” Other Democrats agree. When questioned about Schumer’s comments by reporters from the Tampa Bay Times’s PolitiFact investigative arm, Schumer’s office says that the “100-year-old” reference refers to the 1907 Tillman Act (see 1907), and cites Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent, which stated: “The majority’s approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past. Congress has placed special limitations on campaign spending by corporations ever since the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907.” PolitiFact finds that Schumer’s characterization is “a stretch” because of the differences between independent expenditures and direct contributions. Independent expenditures are monies spent by corporations to support or oppose an issue or a candidate. Direct contributions are donations to a candidate’s campaign. Corporations may not make direct contributions to campaigns; they have to form political action committees (PACs) for that purpose. The Citizens United decision does not affect that portion of the law. According to PolitiFact, the Tillman Act applies more to independent expenditures than to direct contributions, as does the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act (see June 23, 1947). Schumer’s characterization, PolitiFact finds, is not entirely accurate. “[H]e ignores the fact that the ban on direct donations from corporations to campaigns still exists,” PolitiFact writes. “And the oldest law that specifically banned independent expenditures dated to 1947. You could also argue that we should be dating this from the 1970s campaign finance laws, or even the 1990 Austin case (see March 27, 1990). So he’s exaggerating the scope of the ruling and how long the laws have been on the books.” [Tampa Bay Times, 1/22/2010] Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) joins Schumer and other Democrats in criticizing the ruling, calling it the “worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case” (see March 6, 1857). [Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
The press reports that the US Chamber of Commerce and other lobbying organizations are the biggest winners in the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. The Chamber of Commerce spends more on promoting Republican and conservative candidates than almost any other organization outside of the Republican Party itself. Other trade organizations, which tend to support Republicans, will almost certainly up their spending on behalf of their candidates, or in opposition to Democrats, according to experts interviewed by reporters, as will most corporations.
Unrestrained Spending to Favor Republicans - Democratic lawyer Marc Elias says: “It is a sweeping decision. In one opinion, the Court struck down all bans on corporate independent spending.” GOP lawyer Robert Kelner says that the ruling “will reflect a huge sea-change in campaign finance law. The Court went all the way. It really relieves any restrictions on corporate spending on independent advertising.” Another GOP lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, says: “It’s going to be the Wild Wild West. If corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts… it means that the public debate is significantly changed with a lot more voices, and it means that the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions.” Former Federal Elections Commission member Brad Smith says, “This case will lead to more spending, I think, in political elections.” Lawrence M. Noble, the former general counsel for the FEC, says a lobbyist can tell a candidate, “We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you—whichever one you want.” Political science professor Robert Watson, who has consulted with Democratic campaigns, says: “It’s a game changer. And the last thing we need is for major corporations and nonprofits to have unlimited access to buy their members of Congress.” The New York Times writes: “It is expected to unleash a torrent of attack advertisements from outside groups aiming to sway voters, without any candidate having to take the criticism for dirty campaigning. The biggest beneficiaries might be well-placed incumbents whose favor companies and interests groups are eager to court. It could also have a big impact on state and local governments, where a few million dollars can have more influence on elections.” The National Journal states: “Over the long run, the ruling is likely to favor GOPers more than it does Dems. While it does apply to unions and corporations equally, Elias said the presumption is that corporations have more money to spend.” Major corporations will not openly run their own advertising, Kelner says, but they will funnel millions into trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce. “If people think that individual companies are going to go out and buy ads, there may be some of that, but for the most part companies are going to flow this money through trade groups and other outside groups,” Kelner says. “This will open the floodgates for money flowing through groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and other associations [that] spend money on political advertising.… There was always a cloud of doubt around outside groups and trade associations, and this lifts those clouds of doubt and leaves behind clear skies.” Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) general counsel Joe Sandler says the ruling may open the door for more attacks on incumbents by corporate and other entities eager to spend money to ease them out. “You will see more sharp-edged, candidate-specific ads on the air closer to the election,” Sandler says. “That could make it more difficult for incumbents to take tough votes in an election year.” [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010; New York Times, 1/21/2010] Think Progress, the liberal news Web site affiliated with the Center for American Progress, writes, “The ruling is a giant win for the US Chamber of Commerce and the big corporations, which tend to donate heavily to Republicans.” [Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
Citizens the Real Losers? - Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center calls the ruling a complete loss for citizens, saying: “[T]he Supreme Court majority declared that corporate speech trumps the rights of American voters to government free of corporate corruption. The Court has nominally upheld campaign finance disclosure requirements applicable to corporations, but I think time will prove that those disclosure requirements are largely ineffective when dealing with contributions.” Brad Ashwell of the Florida Public Interest Research Group calls the ruling a “shocking burst of judicial activism.” Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) calls the ruling “a terrible mistake,” and says the Court “chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.” Feingold and other Congressional Democrats want to pass legislation that would curb the decision as soon as feasible. [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010; New York Times, 1/21/2010]
Republicans Celebrate Victory for Free Speech, Say Decision Will 'Level Out' Spending - But Marco Rubio (R-FL), running for Florida’s open Senate seat, says, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who truly value the freedoms outlined in our First Amendment.” And Republican consultant Ed Brookover, who represents Republican House candidate Allen West (R-FL), says he believes spending from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org will equal spending by corporations, and “level out” spending for the two parties. [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010]
President Critical of Decision - President Obama speaks out against the decision (see January 21, 2010).
Entity Tags: Joseph Sandler, Bradley A. (“Brad”) Smith, US Supreme Court, Ed Brookover, Brad Ashwell, Ben Ginsberg, Barack Obama, Think Progress (.org), Russell D. Feingold, US Chamber of Commerce, Robert Kelner, Robert Watson, New York Times, Marc Elias, Lawrence M. Noble, Republican Party, Marco Rubio, National Journal, Paul S. Ryan
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The Wall Street Journal celebrates the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) as a victory for “free speech” (see January 21, 2010). In an unsigned editorial, the Journal celebrates the decision by stating that the Court used the Constitution to “rescue” the political system from “marauding government” elements, particularly a “reckless Congress.” The Journal claims that the Citizens United case rested on the Federal Election Commission (FEC)‘s refusal to allow the airing of a 90-minute political attack documentary on presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) because the film was “less than complimentary” of her. In reality, the FEC considered the film “electioneering” by the organization that released the film, Citizens United, and prohibited it from being shown on pay-per-view cable access (see January 10-16, 2008). The Court rejected campaign finance law’s limitation on corporate spending, prompting the Journal to state, “Corporations are entitled to the same right that individuals have to spend money on political speech for or against a candidate.” Any other state of affairs, the Journal writes, constitutes censorship. The Journal criticizes President Obama for speaking out against the decision (see January 21, 2010), saying that Obama put “on his new populist facade to call it ‘a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies,’ and other ‘special interests.’ Mr. Obama didn’t mention his union friends as one of those interests, but their political spending will also be protected by the logic of this ruling. The reality is that free speech is no one’s special interest.” The Journal dismisses promises by Congressional Democrats to pass legislation or even bring forth a constitutional amendment limiting corporate donations by stating, “Liberalism’s bullying tendencies are never more on display than when its denizens are at war with the speech rights of its opponents.” The Journal concludes by advocating that the Court overturn its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision (see January 30, 1976) that placed modest limits on corporate spending, in essence advocating the complete deregulation of campaign financing. “The Court did yesterday uphold disclosure rules, so a sensible step now would be for Congress to remove all campaign-finance limits subject only to immediate disclosure on the Internet,” the Journal states. “Citizens United is in any event a bracing declaration that Congress’s long and misbegotten campaign-finance crusade has reached a constitutional dead end.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/22/2010]
In his weekly radio and Internet address, President Obama denounces the recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations and labor unions spend unlimited amounts on political campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). “This ruling strikes at our democracy itself,” he says. “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.… This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way—or to punish those who don’t.… The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.” The decision, Obama says, will make it harder to enact financial reform, close tax loopholes, promote energy independence, and protect patients from health insurance abuses. “We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama says. “And we don’t intend to.” He says he is asking Congress to work with the White House to “fight for the American people” and develop a “forceful bipartisan response” to the decision. “It will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.” Norm Eisen, Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, has already met with Democratic Congressional leaders Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to begin talks on how Congress might respond. [New York Times, 1/24/2010; Associated Press, 1/25/2010]
James Bopp Jr. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]A former lawyer for Citizens United (CU), James Bopp Jr., confirms that the organization had a “10-year plan” that culminated in the recent Citizens United ruling that overturned most of US campaign finance law (see January 21, 2010). Bopp has been battling government restrictions on abortion (see November 1980 and After) and campaign finance (see Mid-2004 and After, January 10-16, 2008, and March 24, 2008) for much of his 35-year career. He calls his opponents, including President Obama, “socialists,” and justifies his views by citing the First Amendment. Bopp did not argue the case before the Supreme Court; Citizens United replaced him with what the New York Times calls “a less ideological and more experienced Washington lawyer” (see March 15, 2009). But Bopp is the lawyer who advised CU to use its documentary about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY—see January 10-16, 2008) as a test case to push the limits of corporate spending. He says his strategy continues, with the ultimate goal of deregulating campaign finance completely. “We had a 10-year plan to take all this down,” Bopp says. “And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.… We have been awfully successful, and we are not done yet.” Law professor and campaign finance law expert Richard Hasen says the CU case “was really Jim’s brainchild.” Hasen explains: “He has manufactured these cases to present certain questions to the Supreme Court in a certain order and achieve a certain result. He is a litigation machine.” Bopp has other cases on appeal with various courts, all designed to do what the Times says “chip away at some of the disclosure laws left intact by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case.” One of Bopp’s main goals is to end the ban on direct donations by corporations to candidates, a goal law professor Nathaniel Persily says is logical in light of Bopp’s earlier efforts: “If you cannot ban corporate spending on ads, how is it that you are allowed to ban corporate contributions to candidates? That is the next shoe to drop.” He also wants to end all disclosure requirements, explaining, “Groups have to be relieved of reporting their donors if lifting the prohibition on their political speech is going to have any meaning.” Forcing groups who buy political commercials to disclose their donors is nearly as punitive, he says, “as an outright criminal go-to-jail-time prohibition.” Bopp says he harbors no ill will towards CU from replacing him with another lawyer to argue the case before the Court. “I understand that law is art,” he says. “Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo—they are all very different, but all create masterpieces.” [New York Times, 1/25/2010]
Jan Witold Baran. [Source: Metropolitan Corporate Counsel]Author and law professor Jan Witold Baran cheers the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that allows virtually unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in political campaigns (see January 21, 2010). Baran, who alerts readers that he filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court in favor of plaintiff Citizens United, characterizes the ruling as allowing “corporations and unions [to] spend money on political advertising that urges the election or defeat of a candidate for public office.” He cites President Obama’s warning that the decision will unleash a “stampede of special-interest money in our politics” (see January 24, 2010), and derides that warning. He reminds readers that the decision retains the ban on direct contributions by corporations and unions, and that corporations and unions may not “spend money in cahoots with political parties,” but must remain “independent” and not coordinate with candidates or their campaigns. He also tells readers that the decision mandates disclosure, saying that the ruling “upheld the laws that require any corporate or union spender to file reports with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours of spending the first dime.” Because of these retentions, Baran writes, there will be no “stampede of special-interest money.” The ruling will put an end to so-called “issue ads,” Baran predicts (see March 27, 1990 and June 25, 2007), the ads that either support or attack an issue and then urge the viewer to contact their congressperson. Because of the new ruling, the ads can now exhort viewers to vote for one candidate or against another because of the issues. Baran goes on to write, “There is also no factual basis to predict that there will be a ‘stampede’ of additional spending.” Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia already have laws permitting some corporate and union spending, he says, and notes: “There have been no stampedes in those states’ elections. Having a constitutional right is not the same as requiring one to exercise it, and there are many reasons businesses and unions may not spend much more on politics than they already do. As such, the effect of Citizens United on the 2010 campaigns is debatable.” He says that the ruling is primarily a blowback against Congress’s meddlesome penchant to restrict “campaign speech.… Congress interpreted its power to regulate campaigns as a license to limit, restrict, burden, and confuse anyone who wished to engage in political campaigns.” Now, he says, the Court has reminded Congress that the First Amendment trumps its ability to regulate (see January 21, 2010 and January 22, 2010). The ruling is “a breath of fresh air” for everyone except Washington lawyers, Baran says, and concludes: “The history of campaign finance reform is the history of incumbent politicians seeking to muzzle speakers, any speakers, particularly those who might publicly criticize them and their legislation. It is a lot easier to legislate against unions, gun owners, ‘fat cat’ bankers, health insurance companies, and any other industry or ‘special interest’ group when they can’t talk back.” [New York Times, 1/25/2010; Wiley Rein LLP, 2012] Many observers besides Obama predict dire consequences as a result of the Court ruling (see January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21-22, 2010, January 21, 2010, and January 26, 2010). And unfortunately for Baran’s predictions, a March 2010 appeals court verdict (see March 26, 2010) will join with the Citizens United ruling, particularly a loophole in the ruling (see February 27, 2010), to unleash just the kind of corporate spending that Baran says would never happen.
US News and World Report reporter Paul Bedard notes that CNBC commentator Rick Santelli is being lauded as a “founding father” of the right-wing “tea party” movement. Santelli is cited in a number of sources, including the recently published A New American Tea Party by former Bush administration official John O’Hara, as having “kicked off” the tea party movement with his “impromptu” rant against the Obama administration’s economic policies on CNBC (see February 19, 2009 and February 27, 2009). Santelli has refused to become a tea party spokesman (see April 2, 2009), but he says, “I still think that all the dynamics that I felt as it was happening are still in place today.” Santelli adds that like many “tea partiers,” he opposes the Obama administration’s health care reform efforts. O’Hara has written, “Santelli was very important” to the tea party movement. Before Santelli’s on-air rant, most Americans had just accepted the Bush and Obama administration claims that they had to bail out Wall Street and Detroit to avert catastrophic failures. “Santelli said what a lot of people were thinking and afraid to say” when he told viewers that “government is promoting bad behavior.” Santelli says: “It’s very gratifying to me that four minutes out of my life made a difference.… It seems to me that any reason for people getting more active in running or taking part in politics and government I think is just terrific.” Santelli says he has repeatedly turned down offers to run for public office in his home state of Illinois. [US News and World Report, 1/25/2010] In an interview shortly after the US News and World Report article is published, Santelli says that he and the “tea parties” share many goals and beliefs. “I feel bad to a certain extent because, even though I may share many of the philosophies of the tea party and many believe I was instrumental in being a catalyst for its formation, I also think that considering what I do for a living—and I take it very seriously—I try to avoid political ties.” He then criticizes the mainstream media for not paying more attention to the tea parties and the economic issues that motivate them, saying: “Most of the mainstream coverage of most of the crisis—the economy, the road to get here, and the tea party—has been very much lacking. The fact that many traditional media avenues that have ignored or belittled the tea parties all of a sudden seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time trying to understand and explain them, I think that alone gives credibility to their girth.” [Daily Caller, 2/2/2010]
During a conference at Georgetown University Law Center, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is “obliquely” critical of the recent Citizens United decision allowing corporations and labor unions to fund political activities without spending limits (see January 21, 2010), in the words of New York Times reporter Adam Liptak. Liptak describes O’Connor as “not sound[ing] happy” about the decision, but notes that instead of giving a pointed critique of the ruling, she advises her audience to see the McConnell decision she co-wrote banning corporate spending in political campaigns (see December 10, 2003)). Of the current Court’s ruling, she says, “Gosh, I step away for a couple of years and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.” Since her retirement from the Court, she has become a vocal advocate for doing away with judicial elections in the states; she says that the Citizens United ruling will likely create “an increasing problem for maintaining an independent judiciary.… In invalidating some of the existing checks on campaign spending, the majority in Citizens United has signaled that the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon.” She says that with the combination of unlimited corporate and union spending, and the practice of electing state judges, “We can anticipate that labor unions and trial lawyers, for instance, might have the financial means to win one particular state judicial election. And maybe tobacco firms and energy companies have enough to win the next one. And if both sides unleash their campaign spending monies without restrictions, then I think mutually-assured destruction is the most likely outcome.” [New York Times, 1/26/2012] Days after the Times reports on O’Connor’s remarks, Times editorial writer Dorothy Samuels will agree, writing that “[t]he Citizens United ruling promises to make that problem worse, possibly much worse.” The title of her editorial is “Hanging a ‘For Sale’ Sign Over the Judiciary.” [New York Times, 1/29/2012]
A number of conservative media outlets accuse President Obama of engaging in “demagoguery” in his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru writes, “The most demagogic moment (so far!) came when the president claimed, falsely, that the Supreme Court had given a green light to foreign corporations to run political ads.” [National Review, 1/27/2010] Law professor and former Federal Elections Commission member Bradley A. Smith echoes Ponnuru’s accusation, writing that Obama “engaged in demagoguery of the worst kind.… The president’s statement is false.… This is either blithering ignorance of the law or demagoguery of the worst kind.” [National Review, 1/27/2010] Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the vice-presidential candidate on the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, says on Fox News that Obama’s criticism “may not be true,” and accuses Obama of “embarrassing our Supreme Court.” She says: “This is why people are disenchanted and are becoming more and more disengaged really from what their government is doing, because when we see an issue like this—words spoken that may not be true coming from our president and embarrassing our Supreme Court and not respecting the separation of powers—we have a problem. And that’s illustrated there by that justice mouthing those words, ‘not true.’ Now, one or the other is being disingenuous here—either our president in what he just claimed, or the Supreme Court justice.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough calls Obama’s warning “just not the truth,” saying that Obama’s statements were “not based in fact [or] the law.… So the president was not served well last night; he went out and said something that just wasn’t the truth. And I’m sure that that was very difficult for the Supreme Court to sit there and have the president tell America and the world these jokers on the front row just opened up American campaigns to foreign entities when that in fact is just not the truth.” [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners, “It’s clear the president didn’t know what he was talking about or he was just out-and-out lying because he knows he’s not going to be fact-checked on matters like that by most in the state-controlled media.” [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] Prominent conservative blogger “Allahpundit” accuses Obama of “demagoguing the First Amendment” [HotAir (.com), 1/27/2010] , an accusation echoed by conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, who responds to Allahpundit’s post by writing that Obama’s “demagoguery [will turn] into a negative for him.” [Glenn Reynolds, 1/27/2010] The next day, the Wall Street Journal will demand that Obama “get his facts straight” about the issue (see January 29, 2010). The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the Citizens United decision, as noted in the dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The majority decision, Stevens wrote, “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.” Cornell law professor Michael Dorf agreed with Stevens, telling a reporter that “[i]t is a plausible inference from the court’s opinion that [foreign] money can’t be restricted.” Dorf’s position is echoed by campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer and the leaders of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, Media Matters notes. [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] And the day after the decision was rendered, Smith, who accused Obama of either “blithering ignorance… or demagoguery,” told a reporter that though the law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing money to groups involved in election politics, “To the extent that there may be some foreign corporations that don’t fall under the category of foreign nationals [and could contribute to election organizations], that might be something Congress can deal with.” [Washington Independent, 1/22/2010]
Entity Tags: Fred Wertheimer, “Allahpundit”, John Paul Stevens, Barack Obama, Campaign Legal Center, Glenn Reynolds, Bradley A. (“Brad”) Smith, US Supreme Court, Wall Street Journal, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Media Matters, Joseph Scarborough, Ramesh Ponnuru, Michael Dorf, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A Wichita, Kansas, jury convicts Scott Roeder of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country to perform late-term abortions (see May 31, 2009 and May 31, 2009). The jury only deliberates for 37 minutes before handing down its verdict. Roeder admitted shooting Tiller during the trial, said he felt no remorse whatsoever for his actions, and instead justified them by saying he saw no other way to prevent abortions. Roeder will receive a sentence of life in prison; prosecutors say they hope to add restrictions to his sentence that will prevent him from coming up for parole for 50 years. Dr. Tiller’s widow, Jeanne Tiller, says in a statement, “At this time, we hope that George can be remembered for his legacy of service to women (see January 20, 2010), the help he provided for those who needed it, and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father, and grandfather.” [New York Times, 1/29/2010; AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Roeder Traced Belief to Conservative Televangelist - During the trial, Roeder said that he became a fervent Christian in 1992 after watching televangelist Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. He said he fell to his knees at the end of the show, during the customary appeal to viewers to “commit your life to Christ.” From then on, Roeder said, his Christian views went “hand in hand” with his opposition to abortion. Reporter Adele Stan writes, “The interesting thing in all this is not that Roeder converted to Christianity, but that he did so via a ministry whose definition of Christianity is the demonization of those who oppose the views of those who embrace one particular theological strain of Christianity.” [AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Abortion Rights Organizations Say Roeder's Conviction Sends Powerful Message to Perpetrators of Violence - Abortion-rights organizations applaud Roeder’s conviction, saying it sends a clear and powerful message to those who would commit violence against abortion providers, and add that it also points up the need for more intensive law enforcement and investigations into those conspiring to commit such violence (see May 31, 2009). “They need to take this investigation to the next stage,” says Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We don’t have rigorous enough enforcement.”
Anti-Abortion Organizations Split on Verdict - Some anti-abortion organizations call the trial unfair, and say that the guilty verdict will breed more violence. Troy Newman, president of the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986), denounces Roeder as a “cold, calculated, and despicable” killer, and says Roeder does not represent the anti-abortion movement. However, Randall Terry, the former head of OR, calls the trial a “scam” and contends that Roeder had never been allowed to “really tell his side of the story.” Terry, who now leads a far-right anti-abortion organization called Insurrecta Nex, says Roeder should have been allowed to use descriptions and images of aborted fetuses to help jurors understand why he felt compelled to kill Tiller. Others take Terry’s position even further. “People had said if he were acquitted it would be open season on doctors,” says convicted clinic bomber Michael Bray (see September 1994). “But if you want to see what’s going to stimulate people to do something, you’re inviting more of the same by not giving him a fair trial.” Bray and other abortion opponents say Judge Warren Wilbert erred in not allowing the jury to consider a charge of voluntary manslaughter if it decided that, under Kansas law, “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” The judge refused to allow that charge to be considered. [New York Times, 1/29/2010; AlterNet, 1/29/2010]
Entity Tags: Adele M. Stan, George Tiller, Michael Bray, Pat Robertson, Katherine Spillar, Warren Wilbert, Randall Terry, Scott Roeder, Troy Newman, Jeanne Tiller
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism
In an unsigned editorial, the Wall Street Journal lambasts President Obama for his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). “[C]ould a graduate of Harvard Law School at least get his facts right?” the editorial asks. The Journal accuses Obama of reciting a number of falsehoods in his comments on the decision, and accuses him of using the term “foreign” in “a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a president who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as [to] foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?” [Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2010] The day before the editorial, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters noted that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the decision, as well as by a number of legal experts (see January 27-28, 2010).
In a highly unusual action for a sitting Supreme Court Justice, Justice Clarence Thomas strongly defends the Court’s recent Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited corporate and union funding of campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). He makes his remarks at the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida. Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority that ruled on the case. He also says that he refused to attend the recent State of the Union address by President Obama, where fellow Justice Samuel Alito apparently contradicted Obama’s critical characterization of the ruling (see January 27-29, 2010), because under Obama, these addresses have become “partisan,” stating: “I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there… there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV—the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments (see September 9, 2009). One of the consequences is now the Court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.” Thomas mocks media criticisms of the ruling, saying: “I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company. These are corporations.” It is a mistake, Thomas says, to consider regulation of corporations’ campaign activities as “some sort of beatific action,” and he cites the 1907 Tillman Act, the first federal legislation banning corporate contributions to federal candidates (see 1907), as being sparked by racism, saying: “Go back and read why [Senator Benjamin] Tillman introduced that legislation. Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.” Thomas says the underpinning of the decision was the First Amendment’s protection of speech regardless of how people choose to assemble to participate in the political process. “If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he says. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association. But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” The answer would be the same, Thomas says. [New York Times, 2/3/2010]
The retired director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser, writes a detailed editorial in support of the recent Citizens United ruling that opened the way for corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited money in campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). The ACLU supported the case throughout its progression (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, June 29, 2009, and September 9, 2009), and filed briefs in support of the plaintiff, the conservative advocacy group Citizens United. Glasser says that the “screaming dismay” that “most liberals” evinced on hearing of the decision was unwarranted. Corporations are still banned from directly contributing to political campaigns, and President Obama’s assertion that the decision “reversed a century of law” is incorrect; the 1907 Tillman Act that banned corporations from contributing to campaigns or candidates is still in effect (see 1907). Instead, Glasser writes, the decision is “a huge victory… for freedom of speech and against government censorship” (see January 21, 2010, January 22, 2010, and February 2, 2010). Corporations, he writes, have the same right to speech as individuals, and they exercise that speech by spending money promoting issues and candidates, or criticizing those issues and candidates. He cites two instances in which the ACLU was stopped by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from engaging in “political free speech,” one in 1972 when the FEC stopped the ACLU from taking out an ad in the New York Times criticizing President Nixon’s opposition to school busing to implement integration, and in 1984, when the FEC barred the ACLU from making public statements critical of President Reagan. Both instances took place inside the “window” of time before an election (30 days before a primary, 60 days before a general election) in which such utterances were considered supporting a candidate. Nonprofit groups such as Citizens United have been victimized for decades by campaign finance restrictions, Glasser writes. Later in the article, he derides the idea that restricting or controlling speech creates equality between rich and poor in elections, curbing the propensity for the rich to wield more influence and be heard more broadly than less wealthy citizens or organizations. “Money isn’t speech, but how much money one has always determines how much speech one has,” Glasser writes. “Most if not all of you reading this have never had as much speech as, say, the New York Times or George Soros or Nelson Rockefeller or George Bush or, as we recently discovered in my city, Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg. The inequities of speech that flow from the inequities of wealth are certainly a big and distorting problem for a democracy, and have always been so, and not just during elections. No one knows how to remedy that, short of fundamental re-distributions of wealth. But I’ll tell you what isn’t a remedy: granting the government the power to decide who should speak, and how much speech is enough. Nothing but disaster flows from that approach, and that was what was at stake in this case.” He concludes by advocating public financing of elections entirely, writing: “Liberals and Democrats have been the chief offenders… favoring equity in the abstract but never seeing how the particular reforms they advocated made the problems they wished to remedy worse, and never seeing that giving the government the authority to regulate speech was not a good thing. Maybe now this result, which has steamed up liberals and Democrats, may at last shift their attention to the kind of public financing that equitably provides money for more speech instead of pretending to create equity by granting the government the authority to restrict speech. We shall see.” [Huffington Post, 2/3/2010]
Some “tea party” leaders express their dislike of the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections (see January 21, 2010), a position that puts them at odds with the Republican Party and mainstream US conservatism. Hours after the decision was handed down, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele hailed it as “an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights” of corporations (see January 21, 2010, January 22, 2010, and February 2, 2010), but some tea partiers see the decision much differently. Texas tea party activist Shane Brooks says in an email to Talking Points Memo reporter Zachary Roth: “This decision basically gives the multinational corporations owned by foreign entities [the right] to pour unlimited funds into the pockets of corrupt corporate backed politicians to attack everything this country stands for. We might as well be able to vote for Disney or the SEIU as president of the United States of America.” Nashville Tea Party official Kevin Smith recently wrote that the ruling “puts corporations in a position to crowd out smaller competition and buy politicians from the local sheriff to the president himself.” Dale Robertson, the leader of TeaParty.org, said after the decision: “It just allows them to feed the machine. Corporations are not like people. Corporations exist forever, people don’t. Our founding fathers never wanted them; these behemoth organizations that never die, so they can collect an insurmountable amount of profit. It puts the people at a tremendous disadvantage.” Sacramento tea party activist Jim Knapp tells Roth: “Most of the anger by tea party supporters is directed at the effects of special interest money.… I believe that campaign finance reform is the most important political issue facing America. I would even go so far as to say that this issue is even more important that our current financial crisis and jobs. Everything in American politics is affected by special interest money. From who controls our monetary policies in treasury and the Fed to regulation of Wall Street. I would also venture to say that it was special interest money which precipitated the current economic crisis.” Everett Wilkinson, the leader of a Florida tea party group, tells Roth that his group has “mixed feelings” about the ruling. On the one hand, he says, “getting corporations more involved with politics could be a detrimental thing.” The ruling also upholds free speech, he counters. FreedomWorks, the lobbying organization that helped found the tea party movement, and officials of the Tea Party Patriots refuse to speak to the issue with Roth. The reporter writes: “[T]heir opposition to the Court’s ruling on behalf of corporations hints at an ideological split between the movement and the GOP that has long existed under the surface. Tea Partiers—especially the rank-and-file activists, as opposed to the movement leaders—often embrace a more populist, anti-corporate position than does the Republican Party, or the conservative movement that under-girds it. This difference underlies much of the tension we’re increasingly seeing between Tea Partiers and the GOP.” [TPM Muckraker, 2/3/2010]
Conservative author Jonathan Kay covers the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee (see February 4-6, 2010), and publishes a column that states: “[I]t has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It’s more John Birch than John Adams.” Kay, who is writing a book on alternative theories about the 9/11 attacks, is astonished at the breadth and depth of the conspiracy theories that many tea parties, and tea party organizations, seem to embrace. The “villain list,” as Kay calls it, includes banks; bailed-out corporations; Republican Party leaders such as RNC chairman Michael Steele, whom they feel ignore the tea parties; colleges and universities; CNN’s Anderson Cooper; Fox News pundits like Bill O’Reilly who scorn them; “big media” outlets such as the Washington Post; and even moviemakers like James Cameron, who make movies that they feel contain “hidden messages” to fool Americans into supporting gay rights, cuts in military spending, and the like. The central figure in their net of conspiracy theories, Kay writes, is Barack Obama (see May 7, 2010). The convention is opened by anti-environmentalist Steve Malloy, who accuses Obama and his administration of working to control every aspect of Americans’ lives, from the colors of their cars to the temperatures to which they set their home heating units, all to comply with what Malloy says is the United Nations’s greenhouse gas-reduction program. According to Malloy: “Obama isn’t a US socialist. He’s an international socialist. He envisions a one-world government.” Kay is particularly concerned that, based on what he hears at the convention, the tea parties are affiliating themselves with far-right, white supremacist ideology such as that espoused by the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011). They seem particularly enamored of the “New World Order” conspiracy (see September 11, 1990, November 5, 2008, March 17, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, and April 6, 2009). A convention speaker, former judge Roy Moore, tells his listeners that Obama intends to station “a UN guard in every house[hold].” Radio host Alex Jones is a favorite among tea partiers, Kay writes; Jones claims that Obama’s presidency is a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to “con the Amercican people into accepting global slavery.” One conventioneer tells Kay that Washington liberals “engineered the financial crash so they could destroy the value of the US dollar, pay off America’s debts with worthless paper, and then create a new currency called the Amero that would be used in a newly created ‘North American Currency Union’ with Canada and Mexico.” Shortly thereafter, the convention shows a “documentary” entitled Generation Zero that makes similar claims. The claims that Obama is a Kenyan who is ineligible to be president is a favorite theory, Kay writes; WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah (see August 1, 2008 and After, December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, July 21, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009) tells the crowd that the circumstances of Obama’s birth are more mysterious than the birth of Jesus Christ, and says, “My dream is that if Barack Obama seeks reelection in 2012 that he won’t be able to go to any city, any city, any town in America without seeing signs that ask, ‘Where’s the birth certificate?’” (see May 18, 2009). Kay concludes: “Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that few media observers bothered to catalog these bizarre, conspiracist outbursts, and instead fixated on Sarah Palin’s Saturday night keynote address. It is as if, in the current overheated political atmosphere, we all simply have come to expect that radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when they collect in the same room. That doesn’t say much for the state of the right in America. The tea partiers’ tricornered hat is supposed to be a symbol of patriotism and constitutional first principles. But when you take a closer look, all you find is a helmet made of tin foil.” [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; Newsweek, 2/8/2010]
Entity Tags: Steve Malloy, Sarah Palin, Washington Post, United Nations, Roy Stewart Moore, Joseph Farah, Alex Jones, Michael Steele, Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, John Birch Society, Jonathan Kay, James Cameron
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former Governor Sarah Palin speaks at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Tea Party Nation (TPN), one of the national “umbrella” organizations that coordinate and promote local tea party events and groups (see August 24, 2010), holds a two-day Tea Party Convention in Nashvillle, Tennessee. Around 600 people attend, with another 500 or so attending only the speech given by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who ran for vice president in 2008. “America is ready for another revolution,” she tells the crowd. In a statement addressed at President Obama, she says the tea party movement is “about the people, and it’s bigger than any one king or queen of a tea party, and it’s a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.” A Harvard Crimson report describes TPN as an “eclectic mix of Ron Paul libertarians” and “George W. Bush social conservatives” who are “predominantly white and above age 50” and have a common “dislike of President Obama, the debt, future tax increases, and the bank bailout.” Some critics accuse TPN of profiteering from the convention; tickets cost $549 ($349 to just hear Palin’s speech), and Palin receives a $100,000 speaker’s fee, which she claims “will go right back to the cause.” Some prominent lawmakers, including Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), canceled their planned appearances at the event, saying that their appearance at such an event would conflict with House rules. [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; The Week, 2/4/2010; Beth Rowen, 2/9/2010]
Incendiary Rhetoric Opens Event - Speakers include Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan, WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah, and Rick Scarborough, an author who writes of the impending tyranny of “activist” judges. Some of the topics discussed during the convention include: “Correlations between the current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America”; “5 Easy Fixes to the High Cost of Mass Immigration”; “Defeating Liberalism via the Primary Process”; and “Why Christians Must Engage.” The first speaker is former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who insults minority citizens and rails against the Obama administration. Tancredo says “illiterate” minority voters are responsible for putting Obama, “a committed socialist,” into office, and he goes on to say that perhaps literacy tests (see 1896 and June 8, 1959) and poll taxes (see February 4, 1964) should be reintroduced to ensure that candidates such as Obama never be elected again (see August 6, 1965). Tancredo says that the voters who put Obama into the White House “could not even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English.” Tancredo goes on to say: “The president and his left-wing allies in Congress are going to look at every opportunity to destroy the Constitution before we have a chance to save it. So put your running shoes on. Because I’ll tell you, I’ve heard we need a revolution. My friends, we already had it. We lost. I mean, what happened to us in that last election was a revolution.… This is our country. Let’s take it back.” Hilary Shelton of the NAACP later calls Tancredo’s remarks “the politics of denigration.” [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; The Week, 2/4/2010; Chattahbox, 2/5/2010]
Rival Tea Parties Boycott Event - A number of rival tea party organizations and leaders asked tea party members to boycott the convention. One of those, organizer Shane Brooks, recently left TPN after deciding that the organization was too cozy with the national Republican Party. In a YouTube video, Brooks asked tea partiers to “boycott the National Tea Party Convention” and said: “[W]e will not allow Tea Party Nation or any group to achieve national leadership of this historic grassroots revolution by the people!… We must not allow the tea parties and other patriotic grassroots movement to be hijacked by the GOP.” Prominent Seattle tea party leader Keli Carender (see February 16-17, 2009) also decided not to attend after being listed as a convention speaker, telling an NPR reporter that she did not want the tea party movement to become too centralized. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots said that the $549 convention attendance fee was far too high: “Most people in our movement can’t afford anything like that. So it’s really not aimed at the average grassroots person.” TPN founder Judson Phillips told a reporter that the high fees would allow TPN to make a profit and “funnel money back into conservative causes” through a 527 group it plans to set up. TPN leaders refused to discuss Palin’s speaking fee. A local tea party member said skeptically, “The tea party movement is a grass-roots movement; it’s not a business.” Another accused Phillips of being “someone who is trying to make a grab.” Others echo Brooks’s concerns that Phillips and TPN are attempting to “co-opt” the movement and become power brokers within the GOP. The Tea Party Express, an organization run by a small group of well-financed Republican consultants, is part of the convention, dismaying some more independent tea party leaders. One activist wrote in an online comment: “The tea party movement is about to be hijacked. TeaPartyNation.com organizers are hard lined GOP who use the proverbial veil of ‘conservatism’ to attract supporters.” RedState blogger Erick Erickson called the convention “scammy.” [TPM Muckraker, 1/11/2010; TPM Muckraker, 1/18/2010; Publicola, 2/3/2010]
Entity Tags: Rick Scarborough, Michele Bachmann, Shane Brooks, Sarah Palin, Marsha Blackburn, Tea Party Express, Tom Tancredo, Tea Party Nation, Mark Meckler, Republican Party, Judson Phillips, Angela McGlowan, Barack Obama, Keli Carender, Joseph Farah, Hilary Shelton, Erick Erickson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Richard Mack speaks to a tea party rally in Post Falls, Idaho, in November 2009. [Source: Rajah Bose / New York Times]The New York Times publishes a large front-page story on America’s “tea party” movement. The report is written by staff reporter David Barstow, who researched the story for five months, first joining a bus tour by the Tea Party Express (see August 28, 2009) and then staying for the month of October in and around Spokane, Washington, to interview tea party members and others, such as white supremacist militia members, who have some affiliation with tea party organizations. The first person he mentions is a retiree named Pam Stout, who once worked for federal housing programs and is now aghast at the government’s handling of the economic crisis. She told Barstow that one day “she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated—even manufactured—by both parties to grab power.” She went to a tea party rally, then a meeting of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots, where she surprised herself by nominating herself for president. Under her leadership, the Sandpoint group joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project (see March 13, 2009 and After), the extremist, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), and the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), a far-right militia organization. Stout told Barstow that her family worries that she has become enmeshed in a group of conspiracy theorists and ad hoc revolutionaries, but she said she has never felt more engaged. [New York Times, 2/15/2010; Columbia Journalism Review, 2/18/2010]
Increasing Tilt towards Anti-Government Militia Ideology - Barstow writes that many tea party members are like Stout, with an inclination to conservative anti-government politics, but also with a fear of eventual government tyranny that has driven them to join the movement. “These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the tea party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement,” he writes, “a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates, and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve. Urged on by conservative commentators, waves of newly minted activists are turning to once-obscure books and Web sites and discovering a set of ideas long dismissed as the preserve of conspiracy theorists, interviews conducted across the country over several months show.” Many tea partiers hold former President Bush and President Obama in equal contempt, holding them jointly responsible for deliberately undermining the Constitution and the free market system “for the benefit of a shadowy international network of wealthy elites” (see February 4-8, 2010). Coalition groups like Friends of Liberty are “forming hybrid entities of tea parties and groups rooted in the Patriot ethos. A fear of government tyranny is one of the most common ideological threads running through virtually all tea party organizations.”
Targeting Republicans as Well as Democrats - Barstow continues: “These coalitions are not content with simply making the Republican Party more conservative. They have a larger goal—a political reordering that would drastically shrink the federal government and sweep away not just Mr. Obama, but much of the Republican establishment, starting with Senator John McCain” and other Republicans whom they consider part of the “government conspiracy” to destroy democracy. While tea parties routinely target Democrats in elections, they are also targeting more moderate Republicans, especially those who support ideas or legislation that they feel is part of the “conspiracy.” Republicans who supported the government bailouts of large corporations are being targeted, as are those who support global warming legislation or who have shown any impetus to work with the White House or with Congressional Democrats (see January 29, 2010). Barstow notes that the tea party movement is anything but homogenous and rigidly organized: “It is an amorphous, factionalized uprising with no clear leadership and no centralized structure.” Some groups are “essentially appendages of the local Republican Party,” but many are not. However, many of the beliefs espoused by individual tea partiers tend to be reflected in most groups. Not all believe that Obama wants to impose a dictatorship, with or without McCain’s help, but many do. The frustration expressed by Stout in the economy and the government’s response to it is echoed throughout tea party groups in every state.
Turning to Radical Ideologies and Conspiracy Theorists - One of the tea partiers’ favorite thinkers is Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 29, 2009). Beck’s often-revisionist, often-inaccurate opinions led many tea partiers to read the Federalist Papers (or, more often, right-wing blogs about the Federalist Papers), conspiracist “exposes” of the Federal Reserve, and the novels of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Online resources tailored for tea party organizations provide a wealth of what Barstow calls “radical critiques of Washington.” Two of the primary sites are ResistNet.com and InfoWars, both of which combine far-right ideology with a plethora of conspiracy theories covering everything from 9/11 and the Federal Reserve to the New World Order (see September 11, 1990). Some tea partiers are joining with militia groups, or forming their own, and making stockpiles of food, gold, and weaponry to prepare for the end of civilization. Many tea party leaders say they believe that a return to a strict adherence to constitutional law would solve most of the nation’s problems, but many of them espouse a radical view of the Constitution, such as that delineated by radical Constitutional revisionist W. Cleon Skousen (first popularized among the tea party community by Beck—see 1963). Many want to completely do away with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the federal income tax, and most government agencies, all of which they say violate the Constitution. Some go even farther, advocating secession, states “nullfying” federal laws, and the formation of citizen militias. The tea parties in the Pacific Northwest, Barstow writes, have been shaped by influences such as libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and by the sometimes-violent anti-government activism of northern Idaho (see Early 1970s, 1980-1982, 1983-1995, and February 15, 1995). The 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), which occurred in nearby Idaho, is a touchstone for many tea partiers, just as it was for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see August 21-31, 1992). Many, but not all, tea party members and groups embrace the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama is not a natural American citizen. A favorite news blog, WorldNetDaily, routinely electrifies the movement by warning of new White House plans to build massive internment camps and stuff them with tea party members, or of plans to send waves of United Nations troops throughout the nation to confiscate Americans’ guns. ResistNet regularly warns that Obama is trying to convert Interpol, the international police organization, into his own personal police force, and advises tea partiers to “grab their guns.” Tea partiers like Mary Johnson of New Mexico points to the Bush-era wiretapping scandal as proof that the government can, and is, preparing to bring democracy to an end. As the groups’ fear and contempt for the federal government grows, Barstow writes, they turn more frequently to “fringe” groups such as white supremacist, anti-government militias. In Indiana, a militia coalition called Defenders of Liberty is networking with tea party groups and other “Patriot” organizations throughout the state. Darin Stevens, the leader of the Spokane 9/12 project, told Barstow that before tuning in to Beck’s show, he had paid almost no attention to politics. After the recession hit and his personal financial structure started to collapse, he began watching Beck. “I had no clue that my country was being taken from me,” he explains. He began the Spokane chapter of Beck’s 9/12 project, and was astounded that 110 people attended the first meeting. Stevens now belongs to the Oath Keepers as well as the 9/12 Project. Spokane tea partier Leah Southwell became a convert after stumbling on Paul’s speeches on YouTube. Southwell turned from being a successful Mary Kay makeup sales representative to being a self-described member of “the uprising.” Southwell, through Paul, is now fully supportive of the Patriot ideology, and holds as evident truth a number of conspiracy theories involving the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. “The more you know, the madder you are,” she told Barstow. “I mean when you finally learn what the Federal Reserve is!” Southwell is now a local official with the John Birch Society. She says that the affiliation between organizations like the JBS and the tea parties will continue to grow: “Most of these people [tea partiers] are just waking up.” Former car salesman Richard Mack, a longtime militia supporter who co-wrote Ruby Ridge survivor Randy Weaver’s memoirs, is a favorite speaker at tea party events. “People just do not trust any of this,” Mack told Barstow. “It’s not just the fringe people anymore. These are just ordinary people—teachers, bankers, housewives.”
Amorphous Structure - Local tea party groups often join, in one degree or another, one of several competing national tea party organizations such as ResistNet or the Tea Party Express, most of which are organized, staffed, and funded by conservative lobbying groups such as FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009) or Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, and April 2009 and After). Some tea party groups have been joined by, or in some cases overrun by, other groups, from “birthers” to militias, supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, pro-gun groups, and the sovereign states movement. Many coalitions such as Friends of Liberty were formed in opposition to what leaders called the endless “hijack attempts” by state and county Republican Parties. Dann Selle of the Official Tea Party of Spokane told Barstow, “We had to stand our ground, I’ll be blunt.”
Support from Elected Politicians - Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a possible 2012 Republican candidate for president, has joined with Texas tea parties in supporting the state’s secession from the United States. Nevada Republican Joe Heck, who ran for Congress in 2008, attacked both parties for moving the nation towards “socialist tyranny” and solicited tea party support at a rally in Las Vegas. Indiana Republican Richard Behney, running for the US Senate, told tea party supporters that if the 2010 elections did not turn out to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.” [New York Times, 2/15/2010]
Entity Tags: ResistNet, Richard Behney, Richard Mack, Republican Party, Ron Paul, US Federal Reserve, Tea Party Express, WorldNetDaily, Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots, W. Cleon Skousen, Timothy James McVeigh, Pam Stout, Oath Keepers, New York Times, Mary Johnson, Defenders of Liberty, 9/12 Project, Americans for Prosperity, Barack Obama, Dann Selle, Fox News, FreedomWorks, Friends for Liberty, Glenn Beck, Leah Southwell, John McCain, Darin Stevens, John Birch Society, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, InfoWars, Joe Heck, David Barstow
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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.” [CBS News, 2/17/2010; The Week, 2/18/2010]
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck lambasts so-called “birthers,” who argue that President Obama is not a citizen (see see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, and August 1-4, 2009), calling them “idiot[s]” and members of “the fringe elements.” Beck says “birthers” are on “the fringe” along with “9/11 truthers” and “progressives.” He calls all of them “the crazy people that don’t really like America.” He includes Philip Berg and Alan Keyes, who brought lawsuits claiming Obama was not a citizen (see August 21-24, 2008 and November 12, 2008 and After), as “birthers.” [Media Matters, 3/24/2011]
The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) interviews David Barstow, the New York Times reporter who just published a front-page research article about the “tea party” movement (see February 15, 2010). Barstow says the article was sparked by the raucous, sometimes-violent events of the “town halls” of the summer of 2009 (see July 23, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009).
Joined Tea Party Express Bus Tour, Stayed in Spokane Afterwards - He joined the Tea Party Express bus tour (see August 28, 2009), and covered over 30 tea party rallies in a little over two weeks. Barstow realized, he says, that the Tea Party Express (TPE) was but one of many distinctive tea party organizations. TPE’s goal is to gain seats for Republicans in Congress, and the tour organizers “were not really representative of the tea party movement as a whole, which was very much a grassroots creation that was drawing in lots of newcomers who were extremely concerned about preserving their independence and not being co-opted.” Some tea party organizers agonized over whether to host the TPE tour in their towns. But, Barstow goes on to say, the bus tour itself was incidental to the final story. He was far more interested in the stories of ordinary Americans like Pam Stout, an interview subject who went from being completely uninvolved in politics to becoming president of her local tea party chapter. So many Americans’ lives have been impacted by the recession, Barstow says, and many of those people have turned to their local tea parties to try to get involved in a movement to express their frustrations and perhaps do something about the government that they blame for allowing the economy to fail. The other driving force behind the tea parties, he says, is the members’ overwhelming fear of “impending tyranny.” Most tea partiers fear that American democracy will disappear, perhaps during their own lifetimes, to be replaced by some form of dictatorship or “one-world government” (see February 4-8, 2010). After the TPE bus tour concluded, Barstow stayed in Spokane, Washington, for the month of October 2009, interviewing many tea partiers and affiliated people. He chose the area because of its history of anti-government activism. He says he wanted to cover not just formal tea party organizations, but other groups with connections to the tea parties, including the 9/12 movement (see March 13, 2009 and After), the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), the Campaign for Liberty, and groups with strong ties to white supremacist militia organizations. From time spent in and around Spokane, he learned that the area’s tea parties are quite disparate and factionalized, though “you can make too much of that. If you spend enough time talking to people in the movement, eventually you hear enough of the same kinds of ideas, the same kinds of concerns, and you begin to recognize what the ideology is, what the paradigm is that they’re operating in.… There’s a fear that both parties have been complicit in this giant charade that has done enormous damage to ordinary Americans. It’s very complex, and yet at the same time there is something coherent about it.”
Increasing Militia Influence - Barstow says the influence of far-right, white supremacist militia groups on the tea party organizations in the Northwest and other areas is increasing. Even tea partiers who do not belong to or support militias often accept the idea of militias and civilian paramilitary training (see April 8, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, January 14, 2010, February 2010, July 23, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 24, 2010, and May 5, 2011).
Understanding the Tea Parties - To understand the tea parties, Barstow says, one must read the literature that informs the movement. He recommends reading books such as W. Cleon Skousen’s The 5000-Year Leap, a radical reinterpretation of the US Constitution; Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island, a book purporting to prove the Federal Reserve is a fraudulent institution; and Atlas Shrugged, the novel by Ayn Rand that explicates her “objectivist” social philosophy. Barstow says the tea party movement is informed by “a robust intellectual subculture” that helps shape members’ world views. According to Barstow, the tea parties are not, as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has maintained, becoming the activist conservative wing of the Republican Party (see April 21, 2010), but something more. “They are seeking a bigger transformation than just nudging the Republican Party a little bit to the right,” Barstow says. “A lot of the coverage is about how these people want smaller government and less taxation. That’s true, and yet it doesn’t completely get what’s going on.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 2/18/2010]
Entity Tags: Tea Party Express, Republican Party, W. Cleon Skousen, Newt Gingrich, Campaign for Liberty, Ayn Rand, 9/12 Project, Columbia Journalism Review, David Barstow, Pam Stout, John Birch Society, Edward Griffin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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