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A lawyer acting for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, one of a five high-profile defendants to be tried in New York for 9/11, says that his client and the others intend to plead not guilty. The lawyer, Scott Fenstermaker, says they will do so not in the hope of an acquittal, but to air their criticism of US foreign policy. While incarcerated at Guantanamo, the five had intended to plead guilty before a military commission (see December 8, 2008). According to Fenstermaker, the men will admit carrying out 9/11, but intend to formally plead not guilty so they can “explain what happened and why they did it.” They will give “their assessment of American foreign policy,” which is “negative.” Fenstermaker recently met with his client, but has not met with the other four defendants, although he says the five have discussed the issue among themselves. In response, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd says that while the men may attempt to use the trial to express their views, “we have full confidence in the ability of the courts and in particular the federal judge who may preside over the trial to ensure that the proceeding is conducted appropriately and with minimal disruption, as federal courts have done in the past.” [Associated Press, 11/22/2009]
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.
From left to right: Matthew Nestor, William Moyer, and Jason Hayes. [Source: Pottsville Republican-Herald]Five people, including three police officers, face federal charges in the murder of illegal immigrant Luis Ramirez (see July 12, 2008 and After). The four teenagers who beat Ramirez to death were acquitted of all but minor charges by an all-white jury (see May 2, 2009 and After). Two indictments charge the five with federal hate crimes, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack. The indictments are against two of the defendants in the murder trial, Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, and three police officers: Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lieutenant William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes. Donchak and Piekarsky face a maximum penalty of life in prison plus additional time. Donchak is accused of conspiring with Nestor, Moyer, and Hayes to orchestrate a cover-up of the crime. The three officers face obstruction of justice charges, and Moyer faces charges of witness and evidence tampering, and of lying to the FBI. According to the indictments, Nestor, Moyer, and Hayes intentionally failed to “memorialize or record” statements made by Piekarsky about the incident, and “wrote false and misleading official reports” that “intentionally omitted information about the true nature of the assault and the investigation.” The officers face up to 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction counts. Moyer faces additional jail time if convicted of lying to the FBI. At the time of the murder, Hayes was dating Piekarsky’s mother, and Moyer’s son was a high school student who played football with the defendants. One of the charges involves false reports that an eyewitness, Arielle Garcia, reported that it was Brian Scully (see May 18, 2009), and not Piekarsky, who delivered the fatal kick to Ramirez’s head. Subsequent investigation determined that Piekarsky delivered the killing blow. [CNN, 12/15/2009; Philadelphia Weekly, 12/15/2009; Hazleton Standard Speaker, 1/28/2011] Piekarsky and Donchak will be convicted of violating Ramirez’s civil rights. Nestor and Moyer will be convicted of lesser charges, and Hayes will be acquitted entirely (see January 27, 2011).
The American Civil Liberties Union reports that recent changes to Congressional funding of military services now denies abortions to servicewomen in any instance except in the case of a threat to the mother’s life. The newly enacted ban denies funds for abortions to any woman on active or reserve duty. It also bans abortions from being performed in military treatment facilities, even if the woman is willing to pay for the procedure herself, except in the case of rape or incest. [American Civil Liberties Union, 12/16/2009]
ANSWP leader Bill White giving a Nazi salute. [Source: SPLC / Roanoke Times]Bill White, the leader of the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP), is convicted in Roanoke, Virginia, of issuing death threats to several people, including Citibank employee Jennifer Petsche, a university administrator, and a human rights lawyer, and of intimidating tenants in Virginia Beach who had filed a lawsuit against their landlord. A judge will dismiss the charge of threatening the lawyer, but will uphold the other convictions. On March 22, 2007, White left a voicemail message for Petsche on her home phone informing her of his identity and saying that he had sent her an email concerning a credit card dispute he was having with Citibank. The email contained her current and former address, including the location of her parents’ home, and compared her to Chicago judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, whose husband and mother were murdered (see February 28, 2005) after a neo-Nazi had posted Lefkow’s home address on a Web site. “I must admit I have run out of patience with you and your smug attitude,” White wrote. “I hope the fact that I’ve obviously paid someone to find you conveys the seriousness with which I take your current attitude.” Petsche informed authorities and White was placed under surveillance. White was arrested in October 2008; his arrest forced the shutdown of the ANSWP blog and led to the collapse of the entire organization, which in 2008 had 35 chapters in 28 states. Before his trial, White complained that “the federal government has launched a massive effort to ‘decapitate’ white organizations.” During his trial, White was found to have posted personal information on a large number of persons on the ANSWP Web site, in many cases calling for his followers to track them down and attack them. Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says: “We live in a world where rhetoric is increasingly tilting toward violence, where extremists are becoming adept at going up to the line but not crossing it. The law is struggling to untangle protected hate speech from unprotected violence and threats, which often come in the same package. These trials put hate-mongers on notice: If they target their venom too narrowly, too violently, and too explicitly, they run the risk of crossing from political discourse to prison.” White has used the Internet to harass and threaten people since 1996, when he posted the name and phone number of a woman whom he believed was abusing her teenage daughter. “You should be able to write what you want on the Internet, whether it’s true or not,” he told a reporter at the time. For years, White ran Overthrow.com, a popular neo-Nazi Web site. In September 2007, after six black teenagers beat a white teenager in Jena, Louisiana, he posted five of their addresses and phone numbers under a banner that proclaimed, “Lynch the Jena 6!” He advised his readers to “get in touch and let them know justice is coming.” Local police provided the teens’ families with protection. White has long posted virulently racist material on his Web site, frequently using racial slurs and calling African-Americans “nig-rats” and “vermin.” White did not restrict his rhetoric to blacks; in 2007, he advocated the assassination of George W. Bush, writing that “a well-placed bullet can solve a lot of problems,” and has advised that “we need to start SHOOTING AND KILLING Mexicans as they cross the border.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010]
Christine Taylor, an expectant mother in Iowa, has a distressing phone conversation with her husband, becomes light-headed, and falls down a flight of stairs. Paramedics respond quickly and determine that Taylor is relatively unhurt. However, since she is pregnant with her third child, Taylor decides to go to the hospital to make sure her unborn baby is not harmed. While in the emergency room, Taylor tells a nurse that she had not always been sure that she wanted to keep the baby, that she had considered adoption and abortion before deciding to keep the child. The nurse summons a doctor, who questions her further about her thoughts on ending the pregnancy. Minutes later, police arrest Taylor for attempted feticide, which is defined in Iowa as an attempt “to intentionally terminate a human pregnancy, with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person, after the end of the second trimester of the pregnancy.” The doctor and nurse apparently conclude that Taylor had thrown herself down the stairs in an attempt to abort her pregnancy. Initial police reports say that “Taylor told police she intentionally fell down stairs at her home because she wanted to end the pregnancy.” Taylor later denies ever telling anyone that she did not want her baby. She spends two days in jail before being released; three weeks later, the district attorney decides not to prosecute, because the hospital staff erred in judging the length of her pregnancy—Taylor was in her second trimester, not her third, as the doctor initially believed; feticide can only be applied to pregnancies terminated during the third trimester. Robert Rigg of Drake University Law School wonders about the apparent violation of Taylor’s privacy, asking, “How in the heck did the police get a statement made by a patient to a medical person during the course of treatment?” [Roxann MtJoy, 2/12/2010; CBS News, 3/2/2010] Local health providers will soon band together to help Taylor, whose apartment is burgled while she is in jail and her tax return money stolen. Monica Brasile, one of the leaders of the “Help Christine Taylor” group and Web site, tells a reporter: “I was moved to set up this donation site for Christine after I’d spent time talking with her and became aware of just how little support she has in the aftermath of this recent injustice. She was robbed shortly after her release from jail and she is really struggling as a single parent. I want to do what I can to help her move forward with her life, and with the birth of her third child, in dignity.” [Arnie Newman, 2/25/2010]
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
Frances Kissling. [Source: University of Pennsylvania]Frances Kissling, the former head of pro-choice organization Catholics for a Free Choice, writes that the pro-choice movement made a grievous mistake in not successfully opposing the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which since 1976 has denied federal funding for abortions in most instances (see September 30, 1976). Kissling is spurred to write in part by President Obama’s recent characterization of the Hyde Amendment as an “American tradition.” She writes: “It seems that pro-choice legislators, following the president’s lead, now explicitly consider that throwing women who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions under the bus is a reasonable compromise between those who favor and those who oppose legal abortion and a sensible concession to those who think abortion is immoral. The compromise is the logical outcome of one of Roe’s essential weaknesses: the fact that the constitutional right to abortion was based on the principle of privacy rather than non-discrimination. A private right, even a fundamental one, did not, according to the Supreme Court, require the state to pay for its implementation.” Kissling notes that in the years when Hyde was under consideration, the nascent pro-choice movement, in a decision “[b]ased substantially on the advice of direct-mail and political consultants,” decided to let Hyde go through without serious opposition, and focused instead on the “less real” threat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Kissling writes: “The advice was clear and classist. It accepted the racism that lay buried in middle class hostility to poor women, ‘welfare queens,’ and the ‘sexually promiscuous’—all those who might be expected to look to Medicaid to pay for abortions—whom the rest of us should not support.” In hindsight, Kissling writes: “[n]ot concentrating on overturning Hyde was arguably the worst decision the mainstream choice movement made.… [T]he largely unchallenged Hyde Amendment emboldened anti-abortion groups to pick off powerless constituencies one at a time.” Instead of working to restore federal funding for abortions for women unable to pay for their own procedures, the pro-choice movement has, Kissling writes, taken on far more unpopular issues such as so-called “partial-birth” abortions (see April 1996 and November 5, 2003), but has never mounted a clear and unified challenge to Hyde. Kissling calls on the pro-choice movement to mount just such a challenge, and to continue to do so until Hyde is overturned. [Women's Media Center, 1/3/2010]
Nevada District Court Judge James Russell throws out a proposed “personhood” state ballot measure that attempted to extend constitutional rights of citizenship—“personhood”—to fertilized eggs. The measure would effectively ban all abortions in Nevada. Russell rules that the language of the proposed statute is “too general in nature,” and is far too sweeping in its implications for reproductive health care and rights. The proposal reads in full, “In the great state of Nevada, the term ‘person’ applies to every human being.” Critics have charged that the proposal’s broad language is intended to ban abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. Michael Brooks, an attorney for Personhood Nevada, counters that the language and intent is perfectly clear, and says: “This is far beyond the isolated issue of abortion. Just because it’s broad doesn’t mean it’s vague. We’re not trying to hide the ball.” The intent, Brooks says, is to protect the “dignity” of human life from techniques such as those practiced on concentration camp prisoners by the Nazis, and that any rulings as to how the amendment effected other areas of law would be up to future courts to decide. The proposal was challenged by the Nevada branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Advocates of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. Similar proposals have been thwarted in Montana and Colorado. [RH Reality Check, 1/11/2010]
The pro-choice organization Physicians for Reproductive Choice releases two video clips featuring Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider murdered by an anti-abortion activist (see May 31, 2009). The clips show Tiller explaining why he chose to provide abortions as part of his work. In the clips, Tiller, who called himself a “woman-educated physician,” harked back to his father, a doctor who during his practice offered then-illegal abortions. Tiller said: “The women in my father’s practice for whom he did abortions educated me and taught me that abortion is not about babies, it’s not about families. Abortion is about women’s hopes, dreams, potential, the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.” By looking through his father’s medical records, Tiller learned that his father denied an abortion to one patient in the 1940s; the woman, a mother of two, told his father, “I can’t take it, can you help me?” Tiller’s father refused. The woman then sought out an unsafe “back-alley” abortion and died in the process. “There are all sorts of dangers [for] postal workers, firemen, police officers,” Tiller said; “everything has a risk to it. I would prefer, personally, to have a challenging, stimulating, and emotionally and spiritually rewarding career that is short, rather than having a long one that is filled with ho-hum, mundane mediocrity—feeling as if you don’t make any difference to people.” [Salon, 1/20/2010; Alex DiBranco, 1/21/2010]
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]
Federal judge Vaughn Walker dismisses Jewel v. NSA, a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the National Security Agency and senior Bush administration officials over the administration’s warrantless surveillance program (see September 18, 2008). Walker rules that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a “particularized injury” but instead a “generalized grievance” because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service. EFF legal director Cindy Cohn says: “We’re deeply disappointed in the judge’s ruling. This ruling robs innocent telecom customers of their privacy rights without due process of law. Setting limits on executive power is one of the most important elements of America’s system of government, and judicial oversight is a critical part of that.” EFF attorney Kevin Bankston says: “The alarming upshot of the court’s decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional. With new revelations of illegal spying being reported practically every other week… the need for judicial oversight when it comes to government surveillance has never been clearer.” The EFF indicates it will appeal Walker’s decision. [Electronic Frontier Foundation, 1/21/2010] The Obama administration echoed claims made in previous lawsuits by the Bush administration, invoking the “state secrets” privilege (see Late May, 2006) and supporting previous arguments by the Bush-era Justice Department. The administration even went a step further than its predecessor in arguing that under the Patriot Act, the government can never be sued for illegal wiretapping unless there is “willful disclosure” of the communications. [Klein, 2009, pp. 116-117]
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]
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
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.
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]
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito listens to President Obama’s State of the Union address. [Source: Renovo Media]President Obama sharply criticizes the recent Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, giving corporations and unions the right to give unlimited and anonymous donations to organizations supporting or opposing political candidates (see January 21, 2010), during the annual State of the Union address. Obama gives the address to a joint session of Congress, with three Supreme Court members in attendance. “With all due deference to the separation of powers,” Obama says, “last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.” Democrats in the chamber applaud Obama’s remarks, while Republicans do not. In his response, Justice Samuel Alito, one of the five conservatives on the Court who joined in the majority decision, shakes his head and mouths, “Not true, not true” (some lip readers will later claim that Alito says, “That’s not true”). It is highly unusual for a president to so directly criticize a Supreme Court ruling, especially in a State of the Union address. The next day, Vice President Joe Biden defends Obama’s remarks in an appearance on Good Morning America. Biden says: “The president didn’t question the integrity of the court. He questioned the judgment of it. I think [the ruling] was dead wrong and we have to correct it.” Supreme Court expert Lucas A. Powe says, “I can’t ever recall a president taking a swipe at the Supreme Court like that.” Experts say that the closest precedent they can find is President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 criticism of the Court in his address to Congress. Yale law professor Jack Balkin says, “The important thing to me is that the president thinks the Citizens United decision is important enough that he would include it.” Reactions are split along ideological lines. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) calls Obama “rude” to criticize the Court’s verdict. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) calls Alito’s reaction “inappropriate.” Legal expert Barbara A. Perry of Sweet Briar College says both Obama and Alito were in the wrong, calling the interaction “an unfortunate display for both branches.” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton says: “One of the great things about our democracy is that powerful members of the government at high levels can disagree in public and in private. This is one of those cases.” Alito refuses to comment. Alito and Obama have a contentious history. As a senator, Obama was one of the most outspoken voices against Alito’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006), saying then of Alito, “[W]hen you look at his record—when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American’s individual rights.” For his part, Alito snubbed the formal visit paid by Obama and Biden to the Court. [New York Daily News, 1/28/2010; Washington Post, 1/28/2010] Months later, Obama’s warning will be proven to be correct, as a media investigation will show the US Chamber of Commerce using foreign monies to fund attack ads and other political activities under the cloak of the Citizens United decision (see October 2010).
Entity Tags: Jack Balkin, Barbara A. Perry, Barack Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US Congress, US Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, Orrin Hatch, Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Joseph Biden, US Chamber of Commerce, Russell D. Feingold, Bill Burton
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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
Lloyd Woodson. [Source: Associated Press]Lloyd Woodson, a New Jersey resident, remains in custody after being charged with possession of weapons in a suspected plan to attack a nearby Army base. Woodson was found with a cache of weapons, including guns and a grenade launcher, and a map of New York’s Fort Drum in a New Jersey motel room. Police were tipped off by a convenience store clerk in Branchburg, who called officers around 4 a.m. to report that Woodson was behaving “strangely” in his store. When police arrived, Woodson fled, and officers tackled him in a nearby parking lot. Woodson was wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying an assault rifle. Prosecutors refuse to publicly speculate on what kind of threat they believe Woodson posed. Assistant US Attorney Andrew Kogan tells a state judge why Woodson was arrested and why he should remain in custody: he was carrying weapons and had more in his motel room; he once deserted the military; he has minimal connections to New Jersey, making him more likely to flee; his history with weapons made him a threat; and he said in an interview that he intended to use weapons in furtherance of a crime. The US Attorney’s office refuses to elaborate on Kagan’s court statement. The FBI says Woodson has no known terrorist connections. Woodson enlisted in the Navy in 1988, deserted in 1989, and spent eight years as a fugitive before returning briefly to Navy custody in 1997. [Associated Press, 1/29/2010]
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).
The US Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility refuses to refer two former Bush administration officials to authorities for criminal or civil charges regarding their authorizations of the torture of suspected terrorists (see Before April 22, 2009). John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, two senior officials in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, provided the legal groundwork that allowed American interrogators to use sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and other torture methods against terror suspects (see Late September 2001, January 9, 2002, and August 1, 2002). The report finds that Yoo and Bybee, along with former OLC head Steven Bradbury, exhibited “poor judgment” in their actions. The OPR refuses to make the report’s conclusions public. It is known that senior Justice Department official David Margolis made the decision not to refer Yoo and Bybee for legal sanctions. [Office of Professional Responsibility, US Department of Justice, 7/29/2009 ; Washington Post, 1/31/2010]
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]
Legatus logo. [Source: ProLife Dallas (.org)]Former President George W. Bush is honored by Legatus, a Florida-based Catholic group for business and civic leaders, for his opposition to reproductive rights during his presidency. Bush receives the “Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award,” named for the famously anti-abortion Catholic leader. The organization notes Bush’s opposition to stem-cell research, his executive order banning the use of federal funds for abortions (see November 5, 2003), his appointment of anti-abortion advocates to the Supreme Court (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006 and September 29, 2005), and his designation of January 18, 2009 as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.” The award is given at a private meeting in Dana Point, California. The event is only open to members of Legatus and their guests, and the registration fee is $1,475 per person. A Legatus official tells a reporter: “His appearance is going to be a private appearance on behalf of our organization. He will be delivering remarks for us and all of that will be a private presentation.” Event chairperson Kathleen Eaton says: “I’ve been speaking to a number of Legatus chapters about the summit, and people are really excited. It’s been a rough year on a number of fronts and they really need this shot in the arm. They want to come together to pray and learn more about what the church is saying on different issues.” Local pro-choice and peace groups mount a protest; one organizer, Sharon Tipton, tells a reporter: “Over one million Iraqi people have been killed, mostly women and children. Bush is responsible for over 5 million new orphans, and we just found out that Bush is receiving a pro-life award? This is outrageous!” [Catholic News Agency, 1/8/2010; Orange County Weekly, 2/3/2010]
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are introducing legislation that would undo the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts on political advertising (see January 21, 2010). The proposed legislation is a “patchwork,” in the New York Times’s phrasing, “of spending restrictions and disclosure requirements—many based in current laws. The measure would greatly expand the scope of an existing ban on political commercials paid for by foreign corporations, ban political commercials paid for by government contractors or recipients of bailout money, and force corporations and unions to make public details of what they spend directly or through advocacy groups.” Schumer and Van Hollen say they want the legislation enacted in time for it to constrain spending in the November 2010 midterm elections. “Otherwise the court will have predetermined the winner of the midterm elections,” Schumer says. “It won’t be the Republicans or the Democrats. It will be corporate America.” At least one Republican senator would have to vote to allow the bill to come up for a vote, and as of yet, it is unclear than any Republican senator will do so. Schumer and Van Hollen say they crafted the legislation to remain in line with Citizens United, providing firmer constitutional ground for the spending restrictions and disclosure requirements in the bills. The Times explains, “The Court has frowned on speech restrictions aimed at specific speakers and leaned toward disclosure as a constitutionally permissible response to fears of corruption or undo influence.” The proposed legislation would not ban corporate or labor union spending outright, but would ban spending by any domestic domestic corporation with at least 20 percent foreign ownership, any corporation whose board included a majority of foreigners, or any corporation where executive control belonged to a foreign company or government. The disclosure requirements are broader—if a corporation paid for a political ad, the legislation would require that corporation’s CEO to appear at the end of the ad to take responsibility for the message. For advocacy group ads, the biggest donor would be required to appear, and the five biggest corporate contributors would be named in the ad. The legislation would also force corporations and interest groups to set up political spending accounts and file reports of their activities. [New York Times, 2/11/2010] A Times editorial appearing six days after the initial press reports lauds the legislation as “a sensible” if “partial” response to the Citizens United decision. The Times will state: “The Schumer-Van Hollen bill is expected to be introduced later this month. Congressional leaders should put it on a fast track so it can be in place in time for this year’s midterm elections. It could help keep special interest money in check until the real solution comes: a Supreme Court ruling reversing the deeply antidemocratic Citizens United decision.” [New York Times, 2/17/2010]
Florida State Representative Charles Van Sant (R-FL) submits what he calls the “Florida for Life Act,” which will make all abortions illegal in Florida. The law directly challenges the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that abortions are legal in the US (see January 22, 1973), and makes no exceptions for incest or rape (abortions would be legal only if the life of the mother were at risk). If passed, the act would punish abortion providers, not the expectant mothers, with a first-degree felony and a penalty of up to life in prison. [House of Representatives, 2/17/2010; Women's Choice, 2/23/2010] The bill states that “The Legislature of the people of the State of Florida finds that all life comes from the Creator and begins at conception.” According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the bill “openly challenges the legitimacy of the US Supreme Court” by saying: “The Legislature finds that the justices of the United States Supreme Court are not qualified to determine, establish, or define the moral values of the people of the United States and specifically for the people of Florida. The Supreme Court’s removal of moral and political questions from the political power of the people to determine, under color of constitutional adjudication, is a violation of the peoples’ right to self-government guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 10/15/2010; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/7/2011] In February 2011, a Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial will call the bill “extreme to the extreme” and not “worth the time lawmakers may waste on it,” claiming that if passed, the law “would flout US law and thwart the state constitution’s privacy clause.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2/7/2011] Some Florida Republicans will refuse to publicly endorse the bill, saying it goes too far. As of March 2011, the bill is not predicted to gain passage. [Florida Independent, 12/2/2010; St. Petersburg Times, 3/22/2011]
The Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, in the aftermath of Andrew Joseph Stack’s suicide crash. [Source: Jack Plunkett / Associated Press]Andrew Joseph Stack, a software engineer and pilot in Austin, Texas, burns his house down, then takes to the air in his Piper Dakota plane and crashes it into an Austin office building in an apparent attempt to destroy the large IRS office inside. Stack dies in the crash, as does IRS manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others are wounded, two critically. IRS revenue officer Peggy Walker, who is sitting at her desk when Stack’s plane crashes into the building, will later tell a reporter: “It felt like a bomb blew off. The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.” IRS agent William Winnie says he was on the third floor of the building when he saw a light-colored, single engine plane coming toward the building. “It looked like it was coming right in my window,” Winne tells reporters. He says the plane veered down and smashed into the lower floors. “I didn’t lose my footing, but it was enough to knock people who were sitting to the floor,” he recalls. Two days before his flight, Stack, a software engineer, posted an angry rant on his personal Web site. “Nothing changes unless there is a body count,” he said, and went on to blast corporations, the Catholic Church, and bailouts for Wall Street. Stack wrote about the “storm raging in my head” and railed against taxation without representation. “Anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot,’ traitor, and worse,” he wrote. He expressed his anger at the “handful of thugs and plunderers [that] can commit unthinkable atrocities,” including bailed-out General Motors executives and the drug and insurance companies who “are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple.” He hopes that “the American zombies wake up and revolt.” He concluded: “Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.… I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well. The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” The note was signed, “Joe Stack (1956-2010).” Before the attack is determined not to be foreign terrorism, at least two Texas Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets are scrambled in Houston, and President Obama is briefed. [New York Daily News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010; Your News Now, 2/25/2010] The press soon reprints the entire posting, which the Associated Press calls “a rambling anti-government manifesto.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] Federal authorities find a note in Stack’s car, parked at the Georgetown Airport where he took off; the note says there is a bomb in the airport. The FBI investigates and finds no bomb. [CBS News, 2/18/2010] Stack used to play in a rock band; Pam Parker, whose husband leads the band, says Stack is usually “easy-going,” and though he “talked politics like everyone[, he] didn’t show any obsession.” The Web posting “sounded like his voice, but it was nothing I ever heard him say. Clearly there was crazy in him but it must have been way in the back of his head, it wasn’t who Joe was.” Patrick Beach, who also played in the band with Stack, tells a reporter, “I talked to a lot of people who knew him better than I did, and no one saw anything like this coming.” Beach says it is hard to comprehend how Stack, whom Beach says loved his wife and stepdaughter, could be the same person who wanted to “commit mass murder.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] According to Stack’s father-in-law Jack Cook, Stack has a “hang-up” about the IRS, and his marriage to his wife Sheryl is strained; Cook says the night before Stack’s attack on the IRS building, his wife had taken her daughter to a hotel to get away from Stack. [Associated Press, 2/19/2010] The press later learns that Stack is in the middle of an audit for failing to report income, in a case centered around his “Universal Life Church,” a “home church” founded by Stack and his wife. Stack had declared the church a tax shelter in violation of federal law, and had been ordered by the court to pay over $14,000 in back taxes along with an undisclosed amount in penalties, fines, and interest. [Your News Now, 2/25/2010]
Entity Tags: Andrew Joseph Stack, Pam Parker, Internal Revenue Service, Jack Cook, Barack Obama, William Winnie, Associated Press, Universal Life Church, Peggy Walker, Vernon Hunter, Sheryl Stack, Texas Air National Guard, Patrick Beach
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Representative Steve King. [Source: The Iowa Republican (.com)]Some on the political right label Andrew Joseph Stack, who killed himself and an IRS manager by crashing his private plane into an Austin, Texas, office building (see February 18, 2010), a hero. The labeling begins when Stack’s adult daughter, Samantha Bells, calls him a hero because of his antigovernment views on an ABC morning talk show. While his suicide attack was “inappropriate,” she says, “[m]aybe now people will listen.” White supremacist Web sites and forums fill up with expressions of approval and support, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). One poster on the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront calls Stack “a true HERO!!!” While Stack had no apparent connections to white supremacist or other hate groups, the SPLC’s Mark Potok says, many of those groups’ members have become excited by Stack’s action. “A few other white supremacists suggested that lionizing Stack could be a bad thing for the radical right, but they appeared to be in a minority,” Potok observes. Ken Hunter, who lost his father Vernon Hunter in the crash, says he is alarmed by the fact that some people are portraying Stack as noble and courageous. “How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, he gets into his plane… and flies it into a building to kill people?” he asks on the same ABC broadcast. “My dad, Vernon, did tours of duty in Vietnam. My dad’s a hero.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/22/2010] The controversy intensifies when Representative Steve King (R-IA) blames the IRS for Stack’s actions. He refuses to condemn the attack, or Hunter’s murder, saying instead: “I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for 30 years and I’m for a national sales tax.… It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.” Asked if Stack’s grievances against the IRS were legitimate, King responds: “I don’t know if his grievances were legitimate, I’ve read part of the material. I can tell you I’ve been audited by the IRS and I’ve had the sense of ‘Why is the IRS in my kitchen? Why do they have their thumb in the middle of my back?‘… It is intrusive and we can do a better job without them entirely.” [Think Progress, 2/22/2010]
Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) tells citizen reporter Mike Stark that “half of all black children are aborted. Far more black children, far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.” Stark writes that though he believes Franks has no intention of insulting blacks, and likely does not “see the racism (or paternalism) in what he’s saying… [i]t sounds an awful lot to me like the congressman is suggesting that blacks were better off as slaves.” Women’s Rights blogger Alex DiBranco notes that “black women do have a higher rate of abortion—and a higher rate of unintended pregnancy. Factors that contribute to this include a lack of access to health services, education, and opportunity. If Republicans were really so concerned about the African-American community, which disproportionately suffers from poverty, passing health reform would be a good start.… The concept that a woman’s ability to make choices about her own body is more devastating than slavery is deeply offensive.” [Mike Stark, 2/26/2010; Women's Rights, 2/26/2010]
Campaign finance lawyers tell the New York Times that a loophole in the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision, a decision that allows corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts on political advertising (see January 21, 2010), could allow corporations and unions to make their donations anonymously and avoid the disclosure requirements that the Citizens United ruling left in place. Two earlier Court decisions, the 1986 Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (see December 15, 1986) and the 2007 Wisconsin Right to Life rulings (see June 25, 2007), could be used in tandem with the Citizens United decision to make it possible for corporations and unions to donate anonymously to trade organizations and other nonprofit entities. Those entities could then use the money to finance political advertisements. Those nonprofit groups, usually called 501(c) groups after the applicable portion of the IRS tax code, had been allowed to finance so-called “electioneering communications” long before the Citizens United decision, but until now, corporations have not been allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for a candidate’s election or defeat. Nor could they donate money to nonprofit groups that engage in “electioneering communications.” The 1986 decision gave some nonprofit organizations the right to advertise for or against political candidates, but banned corporations and unions from giving money to those groups. The Citizens United decision overturned that ban. And the 2006 ruling allowed corporations to spend money on “electioneering communications.” Now, experts like corporate lawyer Kenneth A. Gross, a former associate general counsel for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), believe that corporations will donate heavily and anonymously to those “third party” groups to buy political advertising. “Clearly, that’s where the action’s going to be,” Gross says. Corporations that spend money directly on political advertising still have to identify themselves in the ads, Gross says, and report their donors. Many corporations do not want to identify themselves in such advertisements. The nonprofit groups are an attractive alternative to public disclosure, Gross says. Congressional Democrats call the loophole dangerous, and have proposed legislation that would require nonprofit groups to disclose their donors for political advertising (see February 11, 2010). The Times states, “It is impossible to know whether corporations or unions are taking advantage of the new freedom to funnel pro- or anti-candidate money through nonprofit organizations.” [New York Times, 2/27/2010]
Private Lee Pray, a member of the Oath Keepers. His finger tattoo spells out ‘THOR.’ [Source: Mother Jones]The progressive news magazine Mother Jones publishes a detailed examination of the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009), one of the fastest-growing “patriot” groups on the far right. The group was founded in April 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a lawyer who once served as an aide to libertarian US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). According to author Justine Sharrock, it has become “a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers.” (Sharrock is referring to the burgeoning “tea party” movement, the people who believe President Obama is not an American citizen (see August 1, 2008 and After and October 8-10, 2008), and the “9/12” organization formed by lobbying organization FreedomWorks and Fox News host Glenn Beck—see March 13, 2009 and After.) Beck, MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan (see May 28, 2009, June 20, 2009, and July 16, 2009), and CNN host Lou Dobbs have publicly praised the organization. In December 2009, a grassroots summit organized by the Oath Keepers drew lawmakers such as US Representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Paul Broun (R-GA). Sharrock’s profile is based on research and interviews with Rhodes, other Oath Keeper leaders, and ordinary members such as Private Lee Pray, who is stationed at Fort Drum, New York.
Group Made Up of Uniformed Citizens - What sets the group apart from others on the far-right fringe is that its membership is restricted to US citizens in uniform—soldiers, police officers, and veterans. At its ceremonies, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution, but then go a step further, vowing to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government. Pray says he knows of five fellow Oath Keepers at Fort Drum.
Preparing for Tyranny, Martial Law - He and other members are actively recruiting, arguing that under Obama, the US government is turning increasingly tyrannical and must be opposed, violently if need be. Pray says that many Oath Keepers had problems with some government policies under President Bush, but those reservations have grown with Obama’s ascension to power. Rhodes tells Sharrock: “Too many conservatives relied on Bush’s character and didn’t pay attention. Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. Maybe you said, ‘I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists.’ But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, ‘I think you are a threat to the nation?’” Pray, like many members, believes it will be a year at most before Obama declares martial law, perhaps under the pretext of a natural disaster or another 9/11-level terror attack, and begin detaining citizens en masse and banning interstate travel. Another Oath Keeper advises Sharrock to prepare a “bug out” bag with 39 items including gas masks, ammunition, and water purification tablets, so that she will be prepared “when the sh_t hits the fan.” Pray and his friends have a “fortified bunker” at one of their member’s parents’ home in rural Idaho, where they have stashed survival gear, generators, food, and plenty of weapons. If need be, they say, they will attack their fellow soldiers. Pray describes himself as both a “birther” and a “truther,” believing that Obama is an illegitimate president installed by a government that launched the 9/11 attacks on its own soil to drive the country further down the road towards tyranny. Pray has suffered demotion for a drinking problem, and was denied deployment to Iraq when he injured his knees in a fall. Right now his job involves operating and maintaining heavy equipment on base, and he is listed currently as “undeployable.” He and his fellow Oath Keepers on base spend their free time researching what they call the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and conspiracies about detention camps. Pray is one of the few active-duty members who will agree to have his name made public; Rhodes encourages active-duty soldiers and police officers to hide their membership in the group, saying a group with large numbers of anonymous members can instill in its adversaries the fear of the unknown—a “great force multiplier,” he calls it. Pray worries that the CIA is monitoring his phone calls and insists that unmarked black cars follow him when he drives. A fellow Fort Drum Oath Keeper who only allows his first name of Brandon to be used, and who is also “undeployable” due to his own injuries, says that the off-limits areas of Fort Drum contain concentration camps. Sharrock notes that the soldiers’ behavior might be considered “paranoid,” but writes, “Then again, when you’re an active-duty soldier contemplating treason, some level of paranoia is probably sensible.”
Stewart Rhodes - Rhodes, a Yale graduate and constitutional lawyer, is working on a book currently titled We the Enemy: How Applying the Laws of War to the American People in the War on Terror Threatens to Destroy Our Constitutional Republic. He is an Army veteran who was honorably discharged after injuring his spine in a parachute jump, and worked for a time supervising interns in Ron Paul’s Congressional office. He briefly practiced law in Montana, has worked as a sculptor and a firearms instructor, and writes a gun-rights column for SWAT magazine. He describes himself as a libertarian, a staunch constitutionalist, and a devout Christian. He decided to abandon electoral politics in 2008 after Paul’s presidential bid failed, and turned instead to grassroots organizing. In college, he became fascinated with the idea that had German soldiers and police refused to follow orders in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler could have been stopped. In early 2008, he read a letter in SWAT magazine declaring that “the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered” and that service members, veterans, and police “is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!” Rhodes responded with a column predicting a future President Hillary (“Hitlery”) Clinton turning the US into a despotism while dressed in her “Chairman Mao signature pantsuit.” He asked readers if they intended to follow this “dominatrix-in-chief,” hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters. If “a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands,” he wrote. You had better “resolve to not let it happen on your watch.” Shortly thereafter, he set up a blog he called “Oath Keepers,” asking for testimonials from soldiers and veterans, and began gaining popularity. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local tea party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. In March 2009, Rhodes attended a rally staged by a pro-militia group, and in front of the crowd of some 400 participants, officially launched the Oath Keepers movement (see March 9, 2009). Buchanan and Beck have praised Rhodes, with Buchanan predicting that he “is headed for cable stardom.” Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars.com has repeatedly featured Rhodes and the Oath Keepers on his radio talk show.
Attracts Attention of Anti-Hate Organizations - The Oath Keepers has come to the attention of anti-hate organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which have cited the group in their reports on rising anti-government extremism. Rhodes has accused the SPLC of trying “to lump us in with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and of course make the insinuation that we’re the next McVeigh,” referring to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Author David Neiwert, an expert on right-wing groups, tells Sharrock that it would be a mistake to term them another amalgamation of “right-wing crackpots” or “extremist nimrods,” as other press outlets have done. “[T]he reality is a lot of them are fairly intelligent, well-educated people who have complex worldviews that are thoroughly thought out,” Neiwert says. Neiwert and Sharrock tie Rhodes’s message to the much earlier views expressed by members of the now-defunct Posse Comitatus (see 1969), and note that the last reemergence of this brand of rhetoric took place during the last time a Democrat, Bill Clinton, was in the White House. Today, groups like the Oath Keepers use the Internet, particularly Facebook and YouTube, and cable news networks, to connect with like-minded citizens around the world. “The underlying sentiment is an attack on government dating back to the New Deal and before,” Neiwert says. “Ron Paul has been a significant conduit in recent years, but nothing like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann [R-MN] and Sarah Palin (see October 10, 2008)—all of whom share that innate animus.” While Rhodes and most Oath Keepers say they will only begin active disobedience under the delineated circumstances laid out by the group, some members have gone down their own paths of violence. Oath Keeper Daniel Knight Hayden set off a controversy last April 15 with a barrage of messages on Twitter stating his intention to “START THE KILLING NOW!” by engaging in a gun battle at the Oklahoma State Capitol and urging other Oath Keepers to join him (see April 14-15, 2009). Rhodes denounced Hayden, but Neiwert notes that Rhodes’s inflammatory and inciteful rhetoric can have what he calls “an unhinging effect” on people inclined toward violent action. “It puts them in a state of mind of fearfulness and paranoia, creating so much anger and hatred that eventually that stuff boils over.” In January, ex-Marine and Oath Keeper spokesman Charles Dyer, who beat a treason charge for advocating armed resistance to the government, was arrested on charges of raping a 7-year-old girl, and authorities found stolen military weaponry at his home; some militia groups have hailed Dyer as “the first POW of the second American Revolution,” but Rhodes removed information about him from the organization’s Web sites and now denies he was ever a member (see January 21, 2010). Rhodes says he and his Web staff are “overwhelmed” with the need to delete messages encouraging racism and violence from their blog, and recently he shut down one Internet forum because of members’ attempts to use it to recruit for militia organizations. Chip Berlet of the watchdog group Political Research Associates and an expert on far-right movements equates Rhodes’s rhetoric to yelling fire in a crowded theater. “Promoting these conspiracy theories is very dangerous right now because there are people who will assume that a hero will stop at nothing.” What will happen, he adds, “is not just disobeying orders but harming and killing.” Rhodes acknowledges that to follow through on his rhetoric could be risky, and reminds Sharrock that freedom “is not neat or tidy, it’s messy.”
Gold Standards, Muslim Rights, and Treasonous Federal Institutions - During a recent meeting at a North Las Vegas casino, Sharrock took part in discussions of whether Muslim citizens had rights under the Constitution, why the Federal Reserve was a treasonous institution, why the government should be run under Biblical law and a gold standard, and how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics plan targeting Christians. The group takes no official stance on the US’s war on terror or its foreign engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a recent Oath Keeper member who promoted his dual membership in the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) on the Oath Keepers blog had his post removed by Rhodes, who called the IVAW a “totalitarian” and “communist” organization.
Expanding Membership - Rhodes says the group has at least one chapter in each of the 50 states, and claims the group has some 29,000 members, not counting the ones who keep their membership off the computer lists. Volunteers are preparing a large “outreach” to soldiers serving overseas. The organization has worked hard to become a staple of tea party events, and tells tea partiers that bringing guns to those events reminds participants of their constitutional rights. The organization has made strong connections with groups such as the Constitution Party and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and national figures such as Ralph Reed, the former director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. Elected officials such as Broun, Gingrey, Bachmann, and Steve King (R-IA) have expressed their interest in sponsoring legislation crafted by Oath Keeper leaders. [Mother Jones, 3/2010]
Entity Tags: David Neiwert, Daniel Knight Hayden, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Steve King, Stewart Rhodes, Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Alex Jones, Ralph Reed, Anti-Defamation League, Charles Alan Dyer, Barack Obama, Posse Comitatus, Southern Poverty Law Center, Paul Broun, Justine Sharrock, Glenn Beck, George W. Bush, FreedomWorks, Eagle Forum, Larry Pratt, Phil Gingrey, Patrick Buchanan, Lee Pray, Mother Jones, Oath Keepers, Constitution Party, Michele Bachmann, Lou Dobbs
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of so-called ‘hate groups’ around the US. [Source: GuideStar]The number of extremist militia and “patriot” groups has expanded dramatically since the election of President Obama, according to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization that tracks “hate groups” and other, similar organizations. The number has expanded from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009—a 244 percent increase. “That is a lot of change in a short period of time,” says SPLC research director Heidi Beirich. The SPLC report says the number has “exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.” While many of these groups do not espouse violence and are not considered a direct threat to government officials, government property, or citizens, some of them do advocate violent strikes against government organizations and/or “liberal” groups or individuals. The number dwindled during the eight years of the Bush presidency, the SPLC reports, but since the election of a black, Democratic president, along with a poorly performing economy and a female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as catalyzing factors, the number has increased, and continues to grow. “The country is becoming more diverse,” Beirich says. “Some people find it hard to handle.… These are extreme stressors for people.” Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, writes: “We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.” The SPLC tracked 42 armed and potentially violent militias in 2008; that number has grown by over 300 percent, to 127, since then. The SPLC writes: “Patriot groups have been fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy, and an array of initiatives by President Obama and the Democrats that have been branded ‘socialist’ or even ‘fascist’ by his political opponents (see August 1, 2008 and After, October 10, 2008, October 27, 2008, January 2009, March 4-6, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 25, 2009, March 29, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 9-22, 2009, May 13, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 24, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 18, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 17, 2009, November 5, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 7, 2010, May 19, 2010, May 25, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, September 13, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 14, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 16, 2010, and April 27, 2011). Report editor Mark Potok says: “This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern. The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moreover, the report finds, the “patriot” movement has made common cause with the “tea party” political movement, and the two are becoming more and more entwined. The report finds, “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism.” The “patriot” movement’s central ideas are being promoted by national figures, such as Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and lawmakers such as House member Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The number of identified “racist hate groups” has not increased significantly from 2008 from 2009, the report finds, growing from 926 to 932. However, the growth rate would have been far higher if it were not for the collapse of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008 (see December 18, 2009). So-called “nativist extremist” groups, vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants, have also grown in number, from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent. The SPLC reports: “These three strands of the radical right—the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations—are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.” The report warns that the number and intensity of violence from these groups, and from “lone wolf” extremists perhaps triggered by these groups’ rhetoric and actions, is increasing. Since Obama took office in January 2009, six law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists. There are large and increasing numbers of arrests of racist “skinheads” for plotting to assassinate Obama, and an increasing number of anti-government extremists have been arrested for fomenting bomb plots. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2/2010; Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010] A Detroit Free Press report will directly tie the Michigan Hutaree, a radical Christian group arrested for planning the murder of local police officers (see March 27-30, 2010), to the growing trend of militant activity documented in the SPLC report. Political science professor Michael Barkun, an expert on extremist religious groups, says of the Hutaree arrests: “I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of these groups. The number of such groups has increased fairly dramatically in the last couple of years.” Beirich will note that the Hutaree were not isolated from other militias: “They were part of the broader militia movement,” she says. However, her conclusion is disputed by Michigan militia member Michael Lackomar. “They more closely fit the definition of a cult,” Lackomar will say. “They believe the world is about to end according to how it was written in the Bible, and their job is to stand up and clear the way for Jesus and fight alongside him against the forces of darkness.” While “[a] lot of people are upset at an ever-growing government that is overreaching,” Lackomar will say, most militias do not go to the Hutaree’s extremes. He will call the Hutaree’s plans to attack police officers “despicable.” [Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Michael Barkun, Glenn Beck, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, American National Socialist Workers Party, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Mark Potok, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Southern Poverty Law Center, Michael Lackomar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Chief Justice John Roberts tells a group of law students that President Obama and Congressional Democrats turned the recent State of the Union address into a “pep rally” targeting Court justices, and questions the need for justices to attend the event. During the speech, Obama criticized the Citizens United decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising (see January 21, 2010), and Justice Samuel Alito drew media attention by mouthing the words “Not true” in response to Obama’s remarks (see January 27-29, 2010). Roberts is referring to the fact that many Congressional Democrats cheered the president’s remarks. He calls the event “very troubling,” and says, “To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we are there.” Six of the Court’s nine justices, including Alito and Roberts, were in attendance. Roberts says he is less concerned about the criticism of the Court than the expectation that the justices must sit silently: “Anybody can criticize the Supreme Court.… I have no problem with that. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the Court—according to the requirements of protocol—has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling. It does cause me to think… why are we there?” Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas did not attend, complaining that the address would be a “partisan” event (see February 2, 2010), and Justice John Paul Stevens, who strongly dissented from the Citizens United decision, did not attend due to age and health issues. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responds strongly to Roberts’s remarks, saying, “What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2010] Three weeks after Roberts makes his observations, conservative talk show host David Limbaugh will call Obama’s criticisms a “public assault” on the justices. [David Limbaugh, 4/5/2012]
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismisses an appeal from ‘birther’ lawyer Orly Taitz of a $20,000 judgment levied against her by a Georgia judge (see October 13-16, 2009). The court finds that Taitz’s arguments are “unpersuasive and therefore affirm[s] the district court’s sanctions judgment.” Taitz says she has no intention of paying the fine and will appeal it to the US Supreme Court (see July 7 - August 16, 2010). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 3/15/2010] Taitz’s appeal contains the following: “[A]llowing sanctions by judge [sic] Land to stand, will signify beginning of tyranny in the United States of America and end to the Constitutional Republic which is the foundation of this nation. The question is as follows: ‘If the judiciary can sanction an attorney for bringing an action to uphold a Constitutional right, what is next? Will FEMA camps be turned intothe next GULAG? Will we see a wave of political assassinations of dissidents, as were seen in numerous totalitarian regimes around the World, such as regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or regime of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Iran?’ This is the most dangerous road a judiciary can take. When judiciary is pandering to an illegitimate dictator, who sits in the White House, using a Social Security number of another individual and not having a valid long form birth certificate, the country descends into tyranny.” [Washington Examiner, 7/7/2010]
John Boehner. [Source: Slate]House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) makes what some believe to be an implicit threat towards Representative Steve Driehaus (D-OH). Boehner, discussing Driehaus’s vote for the health care reform package, says Driehaus will pay a heavy price for his vote. “Take Steve Driehaus, for example,” Boehner says. “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati. The Catholics will run him out of town.” After Boehner’s statement is publicized in the national media, Driehaus begins receiving death threats, and a right-wing Web site, The Whistleblower, publishes directions to his house urging readers to “protest” at his home. The headline of the article: “Tea Party Vows Revenge.” Driehaus’s press secretary Tim Mulvey releases a statement that reads in part, “This comes during the same one-week period that a right-wing special interest group published a photo of Rep. Driehaus and his children, the local Democratic Party headquarters in Cincinnati had a brick thrown through its front window, and Rep. Driehaus’s office received death threats.” Driehaus tells a reporter: “I’m very protective of my family, like most of us. There is no reason for my wife and kids to be brought into any of this. If people want to talk to me, if people want to approach me about an issue, I’m more than happy to talk about the issue, regardless of what side they’re on. But I do believe when you bring in a member’s family, that you’ve gone way too far.… Mr. Boehner made comments about me and my predicament when I go home which I felt were wildly out of bounds for his position and very irresponsible, quite frankly. He’s from next door [Boehner’s district adjoins Driehaus’s]. That’s not helpful. That’s irresponsible.” Shortly thereafter, Driehaus confronts Boehner on the floor of the House. “I didn’t think it was funny at all,” Driehaus will later recall. “I’ve got three little kids and a wife. I said to him: ‘John, this is bullsh_t, and way out of bounds. For you to say something like that is wildly irresponsible.’” According to Driehaus, Boehner did not intend to urge anyone to commit violence against him or his family: “But it’s not about what he intended—it’s about how the least rational person in my district takes it. We run into some crazy people in this line of work.” Driehaus will recall that Boehner is “taken aback” when confronted on the floor, but never actually says he is sorry: “He said something along the lines of, ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’ But he didn’t apologize.” [National Review, 3/18/2010; Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/24/2010; Politico, 3/24/2010; Rolling Stone, 1/5/2011] Republican Party chairman Michael Steele says of Boehner’s comments: “The leader does not condone violence, and his remark was obviously not meant to be taken literally. He is urging Americans to take the anger they’re feeling and focus it on building a new majority that will listen to the people.” [Politico, 3/24/2010] Boehner says that when he called Driehaus a “dead man,” he was referring to Driehaus’s political career. [Talk Radio News Service, 3/25/2010]
Photo of a rock included on his blog post by Mike Vanderboegh. The meaning of the Roman numeral III is unclear. [Source: Mike Vanderboegh]Mike Vanderboegh, the former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, writes a blog post urging his readers to show their displeasure over the Democrats’ health care reform bill by breaking the windows of Democratic legislative offices. “To all modern Sons of Liberty,” he writes on his blog, “Sipsey Street Irregulars,” “THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.” Vanderboegh, who lives on government disability payments, writes of what he calls “Nancy Pelosi’s Intolerable Act”: “So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.” [Mike Vanderboegh, 3/19/2010; Kansas City Star, 3/22/2010; Think Progress, 3/23/2010; Daily Beast, 3/24/2010; Washington Post, 3/25/2010; Salon, 3/26/2010]
Vandalism, Death Threats against Lawmakers and Children in Three States - In the days that follow, windows and glass door panels are shattered in Democratic Party offices and Democrats’ district legislative offices in Arizona, Kansas, and New York. At least 10 Democratic legislators report receiving death threats, harassment, and vandalism at their offices. In the Niagara Falls, New York, office of Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a voice mail message is left threatening to send snipers to “assassinate… the children of lawmakers who voted yes” on health care reform. [Kansas City Star, 3/22/2010; Think Progress, 3/23/2010; Politico, 3/24/2010; Washington Post, 3/25/2010] Mike Troxel, an organizer for the Lynchburg, Virginia, Tea Party, publishes what he believes to be the home address of Representative Thomas Perriello (D-VA), and urges angry voters to “drop by” for a “good face-to-face chat.” (The address is that of Bo Perriello, the brother of Thomas. Troxel refuses to take it down from his blog, but says he would be happy to amend his post with Perriello’s own address. Within days of Troxel’s post, someone cuts Bo Perriello’s propane gas line, an act that could lead to a fire.) Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI), whose last-minute compromise on abortion (see March 24, 2010) guaranteed passage of the health care bill, reports receiving multiple death threats on his home and office answering machines, including one that said, “You’re dead; we know where you live; we’ll get you.” Stupak tells a reporter, “My wife still can’t answer the phone.” The messages are “full of obscenities if she leaves it plugged in. In my office, we can’t get a phone out. It’s just bombarded.” [Politico, 3/24/2010; Right Wing Watch, 3/24/2010]
Prediction of 'Civil War' over Health Care, Taxation - Though Democratic Party officials in New York call for Vanderboegh’s arrest, believing he is behind an incident of vandalism in Rochester, he has not as yet been interviewed by law enforcement authorities. Vanderboegh tells Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker that he has no regrets over his call for vandalism and violence, and says that throwing bricks through windows sends a clear message to Democrats that “the health care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.” Vanderboegh, Rucker writes, has “a complicated theory that IRS agents will go after people who refuse to buy insurance or pay the fines,” and the result of that action will be “civil war.” Vanderboegh says: “The central fact of the health care bill is this, and we find it tyrannical and unconstitutional on its face. The federal government now demands all Americans to pay and play in this system, and if we refuse, we will be fined, and if we refuse to pay the fine, they will come to arrest us, and if we resist arrest… then we will be killed. The bill certainly doesn’t say that, but that’s exactly and precisely what is behind every bill like this.” Throwing bricks through windows, he says, is “both good manners and it’s also a moral duty to try to warn people.” Vanderboegh describes himself as a “Christian libertarian” and a gun rights advocate who once belonged to two Alabama militia organizations. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that tracks extremist and hate groups, says the SPLC has been aware of Vanderboegh “forever,” and says: “He hasn’t been involved in any kind of violence that we know of ourselves, but these causes that he’s involved in led to a lot of violence. The ideas that Vanderboegh’s militia groups were pushing were the same extreme anti-government ideas that inspired [Timothy] McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 3/25/2010; Salon, 3/26/2010] One of Vanderboegh’s blog commentators asks, “Is this our Fort Sumter?” referring to the opening battle of the Civil War. [Mike Vanderboegh, 3/19/2010] Reporter John Avlon writes that the comparison to 1938’s “Kristallnacht,” the Nazis’ “Night of Broken Glass,” are “inevitable.” He notes that Vanderboegh’s home page warns, “All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.” [Daily Beast, 3/24/2010]
Prediction of 'Race War' - Vanderboegh tells Avnel that he believes President Obama’s election will spark a “race war,” saying: “Now we have a gangster culture in the middle of the cities. We’ve imported into this country over the last 20 years a significant subculture that comes from south of the border [presumably Mexico] that also has not bought in and identified with the larger culture. Our fear is that any breakdown in this country of law and order will turn into a three-sided race war, and I can’t think of anything that’s more calculated to bring long-term tyranny and chaos than something like that.” [Daily Beast, 3/24/2010]
Republican Leadership Should 'Stop' Incendiary Rhetoric - Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) says: “The real problem is the people who are calling and talking about a revolution and overthrowing government. They can be angry. We’re all for that. But when they talk about taking over the government, the leadership has to do its part to stop that.” [Politico, 3/24/2010]
Problem for 'Tea Parties'? - Progressive columnist David Weigel predicts that Vanderboegh’s “off the rails” post “will end up making a lot of trouble for Tea Parties… calling, many times over, for violence against members of Congress. Vanderboegh basically courts controversy—his blog profile tells readers how to send him anthrax and death threats—but as Democrats make hay from attacks on Congressional offices, this blog post might become a sort of Rosetta Stone of wingnuttery.” [Washington Independent, 3/25/2010]
Entity Tags: Louise Slaughter, Mike Vanderboegh, Philip Rucker, John Avlon, Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich, Bart Stupak, C.A. Ruppersberger, Alabama Constitutional Militia, David Weigel, Barack Obama, Thomas Perriello, Mike Troxel, Bo Perriello
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Democratic lawmaker Emanuel Cleaver, walking through the crowd of tea party protesters around the same time he is spat upon. [Source: EurWeb (.com)]Tea party and other anti-health care protesters in Washington denigrate African-American lawmakers with racial slurs, one African-American congressman is spat upon, and a gay congressman is called an anti-gay slur by another protester.
'Kill the Bill, N_gger!' - John Lewis (D-GA) and Andre Carson (D-IN), both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, after leaving a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, encounter a large and angry crowd of tea party and other protesters. According to Carson and a number of staffers accompanying the lawmakers, protesters first scream and chant, “Kill the bill!” referring to the pending health care legislation, then alter the chant to say, “Kill the bill, n_gger!” When Lewis confirms that he supports the bill, protesters shout, “Baby killer!” Police quickly escort Lewis, Carson, and their staffers into the Capitol building. Carson later tells a reporter that he heard the first slur from a single individual: “You see one or two tea party people kind of look at him, and then you hear it again as we’re walking. Then we walk across [Independence Avenue], and that’s when it starts getting deeper.… You heard it in spurts, in the midst of ‘Kill the bill. Kill the bill.’ One guy, I remember he just rattled it off several times. Then John looks at me and says, ‘You know, this reminds me of a different time.’” Lewis confirms Carson’s account of the racial slurs, and adds, “People have been just downright mean.” Heath Shuler (D-NC), a white congressman, also confirms that he heard the racial slurs.
Lawmaker Spat Upon - Another African-American congressman, Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), is spat upon by an unidentified protester; police arrest the man, but Cleaver declines to press charges and the man is later released.
Lawmaker Called 'F_ggot' - Protesters in the same rally accost Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, inside the Longworth House office building; one, an elderly white man, shouts, “Barney, you f_ggot!” causing many in the group to laugh and a woman to shout, “We don’t need that.” CNN reporter Dana Bash later says that her producer personally witnessed the homophobic slur towards Frank. When Capitol police threaten to expel the protesters from the Longworth building, according to one reporter, the police are “outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed.” After tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras arrive to film the encounter, the police relent and allow them to continue protesting inside the building.
Rhetoric Similar to '60s Civil Rights Protests - Frank later says of the protesters: “I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil. [T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.… Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole—many of them were hateful and abusive.” Frank puts some of the blame for the incident on tea party organization leaders and Republicans who align themselves with the organizations, and notes that today’s incidents are not the first of their kind (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 11, 2009). “I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor,” he says. “I mean there are a couple who—you know, Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric is inflamatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it.… If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it. I think they do more harm than good.” Frank tells another reporter: “The Republican leadership is making a mistake not doing more to disassociate from this.… It’s a mob mentality that doesn’t work politically.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), an African-American, says: “It was absolutely shocking to me, last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus Pomford University where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins… quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven’t heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.” [TPM Muckraker, 3/20/2010; MSNBC, 3/20/2010; Mediaite, 3/20/2010; ABC News, 4/13/2010] Anne Caprara, the chief of staff for Betsy Markey (D-CO), says of the protesters: “I’ve been in politics for 10 years and it was like nothing I’d ever seen. To be amongst that crowd outside and to see some of the people who walked into our office, these people were very unhinged.” [KDVR-TV, 3/25/2010] The New York Times later publishes a correction to a follow-up article that notes it is impossible to prove that actual tea party members were the ones hurling the racial and homophobic epithets, nor is it clear that it was a tea party member who spat upon Cleaver. [New York Times, 7/17/2010]
Tea Party Supporters Claim False Accusations - Conservative bloggers quickly accuse Lewis, Carson, Cleaver, and the “liberal media” of lying about the incidents [Media Research Center, 3/20/2010; John Hinderaker, 7/25/2010] , and are joined by Bachmann (R-MN), who will falsely inform an audience, “No witness saw it, it’s not on camera, it’s not on audio.” [ABC News, 4/13/2010]
Videos Surface - A blogger at the liberal Daily Kos posts a video of the protests. [Daily Kos, 3/20/2010] Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart later posts a video claiming that it proves no such incidents took place; further examination proves that the video was shot over an hour past the time of the incidents. Breitbart will offer a $100,000 contribution to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can prove to his satisfaction that the incidents occurred. After stating flatly that his video proves the incidents “didn’t happen,” Breitbart later partially retracts his denial, saying, “I’m not saying the video was conclusive proof.” Other conservatives will accuse Lewis, Carson, and Cleaver of deliberately walking through the crowd of protesters in order to provoke a reaction. [ABC News, 4/13/2010] Days later, another video surfaces, showing Cleaver walking through a crowd of angry, shouting protesters, then suddenly jerking his head back and wiping his face. [EurWeb, 3/29/2010]
Entity Tags: James Clyburn, Betsy Markey, Congressional Black Caucus, Dana Bash, Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Andrew Breitbart, Anne Caprara, Michele Bachmann, John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver, Andre Carson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama signs an executive order affirming the “Hyde Amendment,” which bars federal funding for most abortions (see September 30, 1976). The White House does not hold a press conference to highlight the signing of the order, and administration officials have acknowledged that Obama agreed to sign it to keep the support of conservative Democrats in Congress for the health care reform package. William Galston of the Brookings Institution says of the order: “The executive order found a sweet spot, which I’m surprised existed. Something that didn’t send the base of the party into a tizzy but seems to have satisfied a very important minority within the party. It was the model of win-win pragmatism.” Pro-choice activists condemn the decision to sign the order, and anti-abortion organizations insist the order does little to advance the cause of making access to abortions all but impossible. The National Organization for Women (NOW) says that Obama’s commitment to abortion rights is “shaky at best,” and adds that his willingness to sign the order demonstrates that “it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women.” NOW president Terry O’Neill says: “What we need to hear our leaders say is that the Hyde Amendment is bad law. It needs to ultimately be repealed. It hurts women.” Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the order does not go far enough: “We do not understand how an executive order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.” Bart Stupak (D-MI) says that the order “protects the sanctity of life.” [Washington Post, 3/24/2010; US Catholic, 3/25/2010; Los Angeles Times, 3/25/2010]
Congressional Democrats are calling on Republicans and tea party leaders to curb the harassment and death threats being directed at Democratic lawmakers and their families. The harassment and threats stem largely from tea party members and others who are virulently opposed to the health care reform proposed by Democrats and the Obama administration. As lawmakers head home for spring recess, the FBI, the Capitol Police, and the House sergeant-at-arms meet with the Democratic Caucus to hear lawmakers express their worry for the safety of themselves and their families. Phil Hare (D-IL) says he knows Democrats who have told their families to leave their home districts while the lawmakers are in Washington. “If this doesn’t get under control in short time, heaven forbid, someone will get hurt,” Hare says. Hare is holding eight town hall meetings in his district over the recess, and has requested that the Capitol Police coordinate with local law enforcement authorities to provide security. Hare’s wife has asked him to cancel the events, but Hare intends to go forward. “My wife is home alone, and I’m worried for her,” Hare says. “I am about to have my first grandchild. I don’t want to have to be worried.” In recent weeks, an unknown perpetrator cut the gas lines at the home of Thomas Perriello (D-VA)‘s brother, prompting an FBI investigation; the gas lines were cut after a tea party activist posted the brother’s address online, believing it to be Perriello’s (see March 19, 2010 and After). Steve Driehaus (D-OH) has had his address posted on tea party Web sites with exhortations for protesters to visit him at his home to protest his support for health care reform; a photo of Driehaus’s family was printed in a recent newspaper ad attacking Driehaus’s support for health care reform. A brick was recently thrown through the window of the Democratic Party’s office in Cincinnati (see March 19, 2010 and After). Bart Stupak (D-MI) says he has received numerous death threats (see March 19, 2010 and After). Hank Johnson (D-GA) says Democrats need to coordinate an internal security plan. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) says he fears that violence may erupt in the districts. Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) has condemned the threats, but Driehaus has complained that Boehner has implied his own threat towards himself and his family, calling Driehaus a “dead man” for voting for the health care legislation (see March 18, 2010 and After). Boehner blames Democrats for causing the violence: “I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening,” he says in a statement. “But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard—but let’s do it the right way.” Hare says Boehner needs to apologize for his own words and restrain fellow House Republicans, whom Hare says often “rile up” protesters from the Capitol balcony. “If he can’t control his members, they have to find someone who can,” Hare says. At least one Democrat has stood up to the threats; when tea party activists paid a visit to the office of Jim Moran (D-VA) earlier this week, aides got between the protesters and the clearly angry Moran. When the activists asked the aides if Moran needed “bodyguards” to protect him, one aide responded: “We’re not protecting him from you. We’re protecting you from him.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says he believes that Democrats and their families are in real danger from protesters. [Politico, 3/25/2010] House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) denounces “this crazy stuff the Republicans are doing here,” and says Boehner and other GOP leaders “ought to be ashamed of themselves for bringing these people here to Washington, DC, and they’re acting like this.” Tim Ryan (D-OH), on the House floor, criticizes “these tea bagger protesters who have been out today” and “call[s] on the Republicans to say shame on the tea party for that type of behavior.” Many Republicans and tea party officials claim that the incidents are fabrications, and have called on Democrats to apologize for making false accusations. Some say the racial epithets and death threats come from Democratic supporters who want to cast a poor light on the tea parties. Memphis tea party organizer Mark Skoda says there is an orchestrated attempt among Democrats and liberals to falsely paint the tea parties as racist. [Politico, 3/22/2010]
Entity Tags: John Boehner, Hank Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Democratic Party, Bart Stupak, James Moran, US Capitol Police, Patrick Murphy, Thomas Perriello, James Clyburn, Obama administration, Mark Skoda, Phil Hare, Steny Hoyer, Steve Driehaus, Tim Ryan
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A portion of the Northern Colorado Tea Party logo. [Source: Northern Colorado Tea Party]In the wake of tea party anti-health care reform protests that resulted in protesters verbally abusing a disabled man (see March 16, 2010), hurling racial and homophobic slurs at lawmakers, spitting on a lawmaker (see March 20, 2010), and threatening Democrats with violence (see March 24-25, 2010), the leaders of some tea party organizations condemn the harassment and threats of violence their members are producing. At the same time, these leaders say that their members are responsible for the incidents they condemn. Politico reports, “There hasn’t been any hard evidence that the reported harassment is linked to the tea party movement, but Democrats have tried to draw the link between the harassment and the sometimes-inflammatory rhetoric that tea partiers and Republicans deployed in opposing the health care overhaul.” A group of Florida tea party organizers releases a letter to Congress and President Obama saying they “stand in stark opposition to any person using derogatory characterizations, threats of violence, or disparaging terms toward members of Congress or the president.” The letter calls the tea parties “a peaceful movement,” and says its leaders denounce “all forms of violence” and “support all efforts to bring [any perpetrators] to justice and have encouraged full cooperation within our movement and have asked for the same from the members of Congress who have laid such claims.” The letter is also signed by the Florida chapter of FreedomWorks, the Washington-based lobbying group that sponsors and coordinates many tea party organizations (see April 14, 2009). FreedomWorks spokesman Brendan Steinhauser, who helps organize local tea parties around the country for FreedomWorks, issues a statement saying, “Political violence is both immoral and ineffective, and will only set the movement back.” He says he is “reminding all grassroots leaders that it’s important to focus our efforts on peaceful, political efforts like protests, office visits, letters, petitions, and of course, voting.” However, Steinhauser says, there is no evidence that tea party members have engaged in any such actions: “We must remember that the folks committing these acts are small in number, extreme in their methods, and not yet proven to be members of our movement. But we must be diligent in denouncing all acts of political violence and racism, when they occur.” A Colorado tea party coalition issues a similar statement, which reads in part, “Tea party and similar groups across Colorado are saddened tonight to hear of threats made upon Democratic lawmakers in response to the passing their recent health insurance reform legislation, specifically… Rep. Betsy Markey.” Office staffers for Markey (D-CO) have reported at least one death threat from an unidentified caller. The Colorado release states, “[I]t does not appear that these threats stemmed from those within Colorado’s tea party movement.” However: “organizers and members alike are firmly denouncing any acts of intimidation or threat. Statewide, tea party leadership has encouraged disappointed members to get involved in the political process rather than dwell on the passage of the health care bill.” Lesley Hollywood, the director of the Northern Colorado Tea Party, promises: “I can assure you that myself and my colleagues will take immediate action if any of these allegations are discovered to be connected to our organizations. At this time, our internal investigations have not revealed any correlation between the threats and the Tea Party.” [Politico, 3/25/2010; Fox News, 3/26/2010] Of the threats directed towards Markey, Hollywood says: “Tea Party and similar groups across Colorado are saddened tonight to hear of threats made upon [Markey]. Although it does not appear that these threats stemmed from those within Colorado’s tea party movement, organizers and members alike are firmly denouncing any acts of intimidation or threat.… These threats are likely coming from rogue, outside sources.” [KDVR-TV, 3/25/2010] Days before, FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon said: “If the movement gets tattooed as at all sympathetic to those [racist and homophobic] views, I won’t want to be involved in it anymore. It’s very distracting not only to our side but also to the debate and the country.” [Politico, 3/22/2010] Atlanta Tea Party co-founder Debbie Dooley, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, says: “We support peaceful means.… There are so many tea party groups that are out there.… It’s like herding cats. It’s impossible.” James Clyburn (D-SC), a Democratic House member, accuses House Republicans of egging on abusive behavior from the tea partiers. “If we participate in it, either from the balcony or on the floor of the House, you are aiding and abetting this kind of terrorism, really,” he says. Steinhauser alleges that similar threats and rhetoric have come from liberal activists, and accuses the media of ignoring those actions. [Fox News, 3/26/2010]
Entity Tags: FreedomWorks, Barack Obama, Atlanta Tea Party, Adam Brandon, Betsy Markey, Debbie Dooley, Politico, US Congress, Northern Colorado Tea Party, Brendan Steinhauser, Tea Party Patriots, James Clyburn, Lesley Hollywood
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The Washington, DC, Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously holds that provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976) violate the First Amendment in the case of a nonprofit, unincorporated organization called SpeechNow.org. SpeechNow collects contributions from individuals, but not corporations, and attempted to collect contributions in excess of what FECA allows. In late 2007, SpeechNow asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) if its fundraising plans would require it to register as a political committee, and the FEC responded that the law would require such registration, thus placing SpeechNow under federal guidelines for operation and fundraising. In February 2008, SpeechNow challenged that ruling in court, claiming that the restrictions under FECA were unconstitutional. FECA should not restrict the amount of money individuals can donate to the organization, it argued, and thusly should not face spending requirements. It also argued that the reporting limits under FECA are unduly burdensome. The district court ruled against SpeechNow, using two Supreme Court decisions as its precedents (see January 30, 1976 and December 10, 2003), and ruled that “nominally independent” organizations such as SpeechNow are “uniquely positioned to serve as conduits for corruption both in terms of the sale of access and the circumvention of the soft money ban.” SpeechNow appealed that decision. The appeals court reverses the decision, stating that the contribution limits under FECA are unconstitutional as applied to individuals. The reporting and organizational requirements under FECA are constitutionally valid, the court rules. The appeals court uses the recent Citizens United ruling as justification for its findings on contribution limits (see January 21, 2010). [New York Times, 3/28/2010; Federal Elections Commission, 2012; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] The FEC argued that large contributions to groups that made independent expenditures could “lead to preferential access for donors and undue influence over officeholders,” but Chief Judge David Sentelle, writing for the court, retorts that such arguments “plainly have no merit after Citizens United.” Stephen M. Hoersting, who represents SpeechNow, says the ruling is a logical and welcome extension of the Citizens United ruling, stating, “The court affirmed that groups of passionate individuals, like billionaires—and corporations and unions after Citizens United—have the right to spend without limit to independently advocate for or against federal candidates.” [New York Times, 3/28/2010] Taken along with another court ruling, the SpeechNow case opens the way for the formation of so-called “super PACs,” “independent expenditure” entities that can be run by corporations or labor unions with monies directly from their treasuries, actions that have been banned for over 60 years (see 1925 and June 25, 1943). The New York Times will later define a super PAC as “a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections, and which can take unlimited amounts of money, outside of federal contribution limits, from rich people, unions, and corporations, pool it all together, and spend it to advocate for a candidate—as long as they are independent and not coordinated with the candidate.” Super PACs are not required by law to disclose who their donors are, how much money they have raised, and how much they spend. CNN will later write, “The high court’s decision allowed super PACs to raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.” OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan organization that monitors campaign finance practices, later writes that the laws underwriting Super PACs “prevent… voters from understanding who is truly behind many political messages.” [New York Times, 3/28/2010; Federal Elections Commission, 2012; OpenSecrets (.org), 2012; CNN, 3/26/2012; New York Times, 5/22/2012]
Some of the armed militia members gathering in support of Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul. The two depicted are wearing pro-Paul stickers. [Source: Think Progress (.org)]US Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) is a featured speaker at an “open carry” rally held in Frankfort. “Open carry” advocates claim the right to openly carry firearms in public places. The rally includes groups like the Ohio Valley Freedom Fighters, an organization that has openly worked with and defended the Michigan-based Hutaree militia (see March 27-30, 2010). During his address to the rally, Paul calls the armed attendees, many of whom are wearing “I’m A Rand Fan” stickers, his “private security detail.” [Joe Sonka, 3/29/2010; Think Progress, 5/17/2010] (Note: progressive news Web site Think Progress misidentifies the militia organization at the Paul rally as the “Ohio Valley Freedom Fights.”) [Think Progress, 5/17/2010]
A Hutaree logo depicted on a shoulder patch. The initials CCR stand for ‘Colonial Christian Republic.’ [Source: BBC]Nine members of the “Hutaree,” a radical-right Christian militia organization, are charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war against the US. The FBI has arrested the nine members—eight men and one women—from locations throughout the Midwest, and are still searching for a tenth member, and charge them with “seditious conspiracy” and other crimes. The FBI alleges that the Hutaree members planned to kill a police officer in Michigan and then stage a second attack on the funeral, using landmines and roadside bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The arrests come after an 18-month investigation and a series of FBI raids on properties in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, after concluding that the group was planning a reconnaissance exercise. Attorney General Eric Holder says: “The indictment… outlines an insidious plan by anti-government extremists to murder a law enforcement officer in order to lure police from across the nation to the funeral where they would be attacked with explosive devices. Thankfully, this alleged plot has been thwarted and a severe blow has been dealt to a dangerous organisation that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States.” [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010; Newsweek, 4/12/2010] The nine arrested are David Brian Stone of Clayton, Michigan, the leader of the group; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Michigan; Joshua Matthew Stone of Clayton; Tina Mae Stone of Clayton; Joshua John Clough of Blissfield, Michigan; Michael David Meeks of Manchester, Michigan; Kristopher T. Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio; Jacob J. Ward of Huron, Ohio; and Thomas W. Piatek of Hammond, Indiana. The FBI recovers 46 guns, two .50-caliber rifles, and 13,000 rounds of ammunition from Piatek’s home. All are denied bail in federal court. [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010]
FBI Alerted of 'Trouble' in 2009 - The indictment cites “a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent”; the Detroit News reports that one of the nine defendants, through her lawyer, says she believes a member of another militia group reported the Hutaree’s plans to the FBI. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010] It will later emerge that in 2009, residents of Adrian, Michigan, contacted the FBI over their concerns that Stone was planning something violent. Even local militia members were worried, and one militia member decided to infiltrate the group on behalf of the FBI. In the fall of 2009, the FBI learned that the Hutarees were building bombs, and the bureau sent its own undercover agent inside the group. The undercover agent actually offered to make the bombs; senior FBI agent Andrew Arena says that the benefit of that offer was in placing the FBI in charge of the explosives. “We were very fortunate to be able to insert an individual who was able to kind of take that role,” Arena says. “It certainly let me sleep a little better at night.” The agent went to meetings with surveillance devices to make audio recordings of the proceedings, and taped a February 2010 conversation in which Stone declared that he was sure local police “would fight right alongside some Chinese trooper. Heck, yeah. It’s all about power. It’s about the authority. They see us as the little people.” Stone and the other members of his group believe that the US government is planning on using foreign troops to impose martial law and tyranny on American citizens. During the same conversation, in which Stone read a speech he planned to give at an upcoming militia gathering in Kentucky, Stone said: “Now, we need to quit playing this game with these elitist terrorists and actually get serious, because this war will come whether we are ready or not. A war of this magnitude will not be easy. But like the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag, we have rattled and warned the new world order (see September 11, 1990). Now it’s time to strike and take our nation back.” Arena says that while Stone has the constitutional right to say such things, “when you start taking action towards that government,” a citizen crosses the line into conspiracy to commit a crime. “In this case, we’re defining it as they started to plan how they were going to ignite the war.” When another Hutaree member asked for the help of a local militia headed by David Servino in building bombs and planning attacks, Servino says, “[w]e talked about it, and we decided as a group to go to the State Police Department—this local here—and talk to them, tell them what little information we had.” A day after Servino’s group informed the state police, the FBI began making its arrests. [National Public Radio, 4/12/2010]
Extremist, Violent Ideology - A Hutaree Web site shows video footage of military-style training exercises and describes the members as “Christian warriors.” The site tells visitors that the Hutaree are preparing to defend themselves upon the arrival of the Antichrist, “for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.… The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it.” The FBI describes the Hutaree as an “anti-government extremist organization” advocating violence against the police in its indictment of the members; the group perceives the police as an arm of the US government [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010] , which it calls ZOG—the “Zionist Occupied Government.” There is some dispute in the media as to the origin of the name “Hutaree.” One source believes it may originate from the word “Hutriel,” which translates to “rod of God.” Hutriel is one of the seven angels of punishment and helps in the “punishment of the 10 nations,” according to tradition. [Basil and Spice (.com), 4/6/2010] They label the police “the Brotherhood.” According to the Michigan Hutaree theology, which they call “the doctrine of the Hutaree,” former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is the Antichrist. The Hutaree’s exalted commander is called a “radok”; deputies and lieutenants are known as “boromanders” and “zulifs.” [Newsweek, 4/12/2010] Stone’s ex-fiancee, Andrea March, recalls Stone as a “Ron Paul fanatic,” referring to Ron Paul (R-TX) the libertarian House member whom many see as an ideological “father” of many “tea party” organizations. Appearing on Fox News, March tells an interviewer that Stone is a fanatical Paul supporter who feared that President Obama intended to take away his guns. “When Obama took the presidency is when he lost it because he was a Ron Paul fanatic,” she says. Asked what Paul has to do with Stone’s thinking and actions, she replies: “To tell you the truth I don’t know. I never really understood why Ron Paul was so much different, but [Stone] thought he could get away with anything and he wanted more freedoms than what he had and he was trying to do it through the violence.… [H]e clearly believed in guns and having them and he didn’t think. He didn’t want to have a driver’s license, he didn’t want to fill out any census papers. He wanted to own guns unregistered.” [Crooks and Liars, 3/30/2010]
Leader, Group Well Known for Violent Expressions - The group leader, Stone, is called “Captain Hutaree” by his colleagues, or, cryptically, “RD.” The indictment names Stone as the “principal leader” of the organization. According to media reports, Stone has a strong affinity for the most violent of the far-right fringes of the American militia movement. His first wife, Donna Stone, tells reporters she left him because he “got carried away.” Federal authorities say that he researched how to build IEDs and roadside bombs on the Internet, and emailed diagrams of the devices to someone he believed could actually build such devices. And one neighbor, Phyllis Bruger, says she and others learned not to “mess with” Stone and his group. They liked to conduct “military exercises” and shoot guns, usually wearing camouflage outfits. “Everybody knew they were militia,” she says. Donna Stone tells reporters: “It started out as a Christian thing. You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far. He dragged a lot of people with him. When he got carried away, when he went from handguns to big guns, I was done.” Her son, Joshua Stone, who was adopted by David Stone, was arrested with David Stone after helping him gather materials necessary for making the bombs. Donna Stone adds: “He dragged a lot of innocent people down with him. It started to get worse when they were talking about the world’s gonna end in the Bible.” The indictment says, “Stone taught other Hutaree members how to make and use explosive devices intending or knowing that the information would be used to further a crime of violence.”
Too Far for Other Militia Groups - Other militia organizations in Michigan kept their distance from the local Hutaree, says Jim Gulliksen of the Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia (the same group that Servino founded and that informed police of the Hutaree plot). “I’ve met him,” Gulliksen says. “He’s an opinionated man who likes to share those opinions. The Hutaree is a nationwide group, but I have met a couple of the members here, and I can say they all belong to one specific church. Our concern is the protection of our nation. Religion appears to be a big part of what they are doing.” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the SPLC is aware of two Hutaree chapters, one in Utah and Stone’s chapter in Michigan. She notes Hutaree has more than 350 friends on its MySpace page, dozens of whom are members of other militias, and says that Stone was planning to attend a summit in Kentucky with other militias next month. “Hutaree is not an isolated crew,” she notes. Beinrich says that Stone and his colleagues see “the end of times” occurring today: “They have extreme antigovernment beliefs. They have rage and hatred for the federal government. They fear being put in FEMA concentration camps. They’re really paramilitary organizations.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010] William Flatt, a founder of the Indiana Militia, is also aware of Stone and the Hutaree. He is not surprised at the arrests. “We had a strong suspicion that groups like this would be getting some rather substantial bad press fairly quickly,” Flatt tells a reporter. Flatt says that unlike the Hutaree, his and most militia groups support and defend the US Constitution. “The whole militia movement is supposed to be a goal-line defense against tyranny,” Flatt says. “If all else fails, the people still have the means to shoehorn [the government] back into the constitutional mold.” The Michigan Hutaree’s plans to kill police officers, Flatt says, is abhorrent to his group, and he warns that it is a mistake to lump all American militias in with extremist, violent groups such as Stone’s. Flatt disliked Stone’s views, which he says focus on his interpretation of Christianity and also express bigotry against others. However, he is skeptical of the charges against some of Stone’s followers. “The charges they’re putting out there, it only ends one way,” he says. “You might as well put yourself in the Alamo; nobody wants to do that.” [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010] Arena says that while Stone’s group might have considered itself a part of a larger, sympathetic coterie of like-minded organizations, it was mistaken. “These guys may have felt in their mind that they were a part of this brotherhood,” he says. “The reality is I don’t think they’ve got a whole lot of support.” [Associated Press, 4/2/2010]
Lawyer Insists No Crime Committed - Stone’s lawyer, William Swor, says there is no evidence the group ever took steps to implement any of the alleged plots. Instead, he says, the group is being persecuted over the exercise of constitutionally protected speech. “This is still America and people can say whatever they want,” he says. [Newsweek, 4/12/2010]
Entity Tags: Tina Mae Stone, Thomas W. Piatek, Southern Poverty Law Center, William Flatt, William Swor, Detroit News, Andrea March, David Brian Stone, Ron Paul, David Servino, Andrew Arena, Barack Obama, Phyllis Bruger, David Brian Stone, Jr, Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Donna Stone, Michael David Meeks, Indiana Militia, Eric Holder, Jacob J. Ward, Joshua John Clough, Kristopher T. Sickles, Joshua Matthew Stone, Javier Solana, Jim Gulliksen
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Christian Science Monitor reporter Mark Guarino delves into some of the reasons why Michigan has such a high concentration of militia, anti-government, and other extremist groups within its borders. The analysis comes in the aftermath of the arrest of nine members of the Hutaree, a violent Christian group whom the FBI says were planning on murdering one or more police officers (see March 27-30, 2010). Michigan has 47 known militia or “patriot” groups, second in the nation behind Texas (which contains 57 such groups). These numbers come from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks hate group activity. The SPLC says dozens of new militia and “patriot” groups have begun since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president; between 2008 and 2009, the SPLC says, the number of groups throughout the country has grown from 149 to 512 (see March 2, 2010). The Michigan branch of the Hutaree is one of the most violent and far-right of these groups, the SPLC says, but Michigan and the entire Upper Midwest has become a hotbed of “patriot” activity. Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, says: “There are a number of regional factors that, over time and at various moments, helped the militia movement take hold in different parts of the country. It certainly has emerged strongly in the upper Midwest.” Indiana has 21 such groups, Wisconsin and Ohio 13 each, and Illnois 10, according to SPLC figures. Michigan has a long history of such activity, according to SPLC official Heidi Beirich. Many of Michigan’s most prominent militia groups, including the Michigan Militia, came into being during the term in office of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. The Michigan Militia gained notoriety when the media found ties between it and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, January 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and April 21, 1995). Militia activity in Michigan dwindled during the Bush presidency, but with Obama as president, has risen sharply. The Hutaree members were able to attract some members of less openly violent groups such as the Michigan Militia, though spokesmen for that group say that their organization rejects the Christian survivalist doctrine of the Hutaree. Beirich says, “The roots of militia activity are there [in Michigan], so if you want to organize something you know who to call.” Experts say a combination of factors contribute to the rise in militias: a troubled economy, changing roles within the traditional family structure, and shifts in the racial makeup of the country’s population. Berlet notes that shared anxiety among lower-to-middle-class people is often a catalyst for generating conspiracy theories, which have the potency to provoke people to take up arms and commit violence. “The candidacy of Obama—when it looked to become serious—prompted a lot of anxiety, and the anxiety continued to rise up to the inauguration,” says Berlet. “This is really getting out of hand,” Berlet says. “It’s a serious problem when people decide the solution to political problems lies in arming themselves and going underground.” He concludes: “While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘You let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either. They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/30/2010] Former federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman, who helped convict McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, suggests that the true danger of groups like the Hutaree and other militias is not from the groups themselves, but from the risk of these groups’ inflammatory declarations and actions sparking violence from so-called “lone wolves,” who like McVeigh are not necessarily active members of any such groups, but whose actions go farther than most groups ever intend. Goelman notes that in 1995, a Democrat was president, just as today; Clinton pushed through a controversial federal assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) and Obama has successfully implemented an equally controversial health care reform package; and, both then and now, extremists on the right are warning of an impending government takeover. “On the edges” of political discourse today, Goelman says, “you have rhetoric that carries over to extreme factions.” He continues, “Anytime you have group-think and this churning of ridiculous ideas back and forth, eventually you’ll get someone like McVeigh who’s going to say, ‘I’m going to take the mantle of leadership and fire the shot heard around the world and start the second American revolution.’” McVeigh considered the Michigan Militia “too moderate” and himself as a “man of action” who wanted to go farther than these groups. “I think [his associations with militias] put a battery in the pack,” Goelman says. “Some of this is fantasy. I think the idea that it is kind of fun to talk about a UN tank on your front lawn and the New World Order (see September 11, 1990)… but when someone blows up a building and kills 19 kids in a day-care center, it’s not so glamorous anymore,” he says, referring to the Oklahoma City incident. “The reality of murdering innocent people ends up far less glorious than striking the blow.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, Aitan Goelman, Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Militia, Clinton administration, Hutaree, Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Guarino
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
A US District Court judge awards damages in a lawsuit, finding the NSA illegally monitored the calls of the plaintiffs. The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation and two of its lawyers, Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, sued the US government in 2006 based on evidence that their calls had been monitored; the US Treasury Department inadvertently provided them with an NSA log in August 2004 showing their calls had been monitored in May of that year (see February 28, 2006). In defending against the suit, the Justice Department argued, first under President Bush and then under President Obama, that the case should be dismissed based on the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege (see March 9, 1953) concerning the NSA log, and that the plaintiffs could not otherwise demonstrate that surveillance had occurred, meaning the plaintiffs had no standing to bring suit. Judge Vaughn Walker rejected these arguments, noting that the plaintiffs had introduced into evidence a speech posted on FBI’s Web site by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to the American Bankers Association (ABA), in which he said that surveillance had been used to develop a case by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) against Al-Haramain, and Congressional testimony by Bush administration officials that disclosed the manner in which electronic surveillance was conducted. In the summary of his decision, Vaughn wrote, “[The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA takes precedence over the state secrets privilege in this case,” and “defendants have failed to meet their burden to [provide] evidence that a FISA warrant was obtained, that plaintiffs were not surveilled or that the surveillance was otherwise lawful.” [Al-Haramain v. Obama, 3/31/2010; Washington Post, 4/1/2010, pp. A04]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Asim Ghafoor, Anthony J. Coppolino, Alberto R. Gonzales, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (Oregon branch), “Justice Department”, Barack Obama, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, Suliman al-Buthe, Keith Alexander, Eric Holder, US Department of the Treasury, Wendell Belew, Vaughn Walker, National Security Agency
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A defaced photograph of Chris Armstrong, posted on an Internet blog by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell. [Source: Think Progress]Andrew Shirvell, the assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan, wages an Internet campaign against a gay college student. In April, Shirvell, identifying himself as “Concerned Michigan Alumnus,” begins posting a series of attacks on his blog against Chris Armstrong, an openly gay student at the University of Michigan, after Armstrong is elected student assembly president. Shirvell’s opening post reads in part: “Welcome to ‘Chris Armstrong Watch.‘… This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students, and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong—a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR—as the new head of student government.” (Capitals in the original.) [CNN, 9/30/2010] (The blog is later restricted to invited members only.) [Andrew Shirvell, 9/2010] In subsequent posts, Shirvell attacks Armstrong for allegedly engaging in “flagrant sexual promiscuity” with another male member of student government; going back on campaign promises; sexually seducing and influencing “a previously conservative [male] student” so much so that the student “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda”; hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first year students “to join the homosexual ‘lifestyle.’” Shirvell posts a picture of Armstrong with the word “Resign” scrawled over his face, and another with “Racist Elitist Liar” over his face; the picture includes a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed over it and an arrow pointing to Armstrong, a clear indication that Shirvell associates Armstrong with Nazism. Shirvell also acknowledges protesting outside of Armstrong’s house and calling him “Satan’s representative on the student assembly.” Shirvell makes a number of calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while Armstrong works there as an intern, in what an investigation finds is “an attempt to slander Armstrong—and ultimately attempting to cause Pelosi to fire Armstrong,” according to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox. Cox goes on to note that Shirvell has attempted to “out” Armstrong’s friends as being homosexual, even though several aren’t gay. In late September, asked about Shirvell’s six-month Internet attack against a college student, Cox says in a statement: “Mr. Shirvell’s personal opinions are his and his alone and do not reflect the views of the Michigan Department of Attorney General. But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear.” Shirvell says his blog posts are personal and have nothing to do with his job. “I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights,” he tells CNN. “I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he’s advancing a radical homosexual agenda.” Asked directly if he is a bigot, Shirvell responds: “The real bigot here is Chris Armstrong. I don’t have any hate in my body at all.” Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) says she would fire Shirvell if she were attorney general. Armstrong seeks a restraining order against Shirvell, who has been banned from entering the Michigan college campus, asking that Shirvell be kept from harassing him at home or other places he frequents. Campus police are investigating Shirvell for harassment and stalking. On October 1, Shirvell takes a voluntary leave of absence after the national media begins reporting his harassment of Armstrong. [Think Progress, 9/29/2010; CNN, 9/30/2010; AnnArbor.com, 10/1/2010] On his blog “Pharyngula,” biology professor P. Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota writes: “The scary part is that Armstrong is just the student body president… a position with almost no power. Shirvell is an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan. Let’s just hope that that is the peak of his political career.” [P.Z. Myers, 9/29/2010] Shirvell will be fired in November (see November 8, 2010).
American Grand Jury logo. [Source: Post & Email (.com)]Walter Fitzpatrick, a Tennessee resident and leading member of a right-wing group called “American Grand Jury” (AGJ), walks into a county courthouse in Madisonville, Tennessee, and informs the foreman of a grand jury, Gary Pettway, that he is under “citizen’s arrest.” Fitzpatrick tells Pettway: “I’m charging you with official misconduct. I’m placing you under arrest. You must now come with me.” AGJ has attempted and failed to convene a grand jury to investigate President Obama for voter fraud, a charge stemming from AGJ’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born US citizen (see October 8-10, 2008). Fitzpatrick says that Pettway has violated state laws governing the length of time a grand jury foreman can serve, and this precipitated his efforts to “arrest” him. The foreman refuses to accompany Fitzpatrick; instead, local law enforcement officials arrest Fitzpatrick for disorderly conduct, inciting to riot, disrupting a meeting, and resisting arrest. Fitzpatrick is jailed for several days. Fellow AGJ member Carl Swensson posts about Fitzpatrick’s incarceration on his Web site, telling site visitors that Fitzpatrick has “put his life on the line for us in very much the same fashion that our founding fathers did.” Swensson then asks: “What do you intend to do for him, and for this country? If we don’t come to his assistance, if we don’t get to the courthouse, if we don’t call him, if we don’t walk and march on that courthouse and that sheriff’s department, we don’t deserve the freedoms we have.… Get down there, get him out of jail, and make sure that justice is served.” [Carl Swensson, 4/5/2010; TPM Muckraker, 5/6/2010; Crooks and Liars, 5/6/2010] A militia member will later be arrested as part of an abortive attempt to “take over” the Madisonville courthouse and free Fitzpatrick (see April 20, 2010 and After).
Erlyndon Lo, as shown on a Dallas TV news broadcast. [Source: Above the Law (.com)]Erlyndon Joseph Lo, a law school graduate living in Plano, Texas, is arrested and charged with threatening to use deadly force against a Dallas women’s clinic. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted. The day before, Lo went to the Plano federal courthouse and filed a document affirming that at noon that day he planned to go to the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas and “use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being.” His filing reads in part (all emphases in the original): “My life is at stake. I could be MURDERED AND KILLED as early as Friday, April 2, 2010 at 12:00 p.m. NOON in Dallas, Texas (‘TX’) if you do not IMMEDIATELY GRANT MY REQUEST for in the very least a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER!!! I plan on saving at least one human life in Dallas, Texas at 12:00 p.m. at the Southwestern late-term abortion facility, 8616 Greenville Ave. at Royal Ln. (NE corner), Dallas 75243. My religious beliefs include the beliefs that an individual is alive at the moment of conception, abortion is murder and is the worst murder of all murders possible because these babies are completely defenseless, and I am entitled under my religious beliefs to use deadly force if necessary to save the innocent life of another.… I will try to stop an abortion using oral words, and if words are not enough. I will use physical force if necessary, and if anyone tries to physically stop me, I will overcome that force, and if I must use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being, I will.” In essence, Lo attempted to secure a restraining order to prevent law enforcement officers from interfering with his use of violence against clinic workers. Instead of issuing the order, court officials informed the FBI and Lo is quickly arrested. Dallas FBI spokesman Mark White says: “We won’t tolerate threats to clinics. We acted swiftly to ensure that no one was injured and that no act of violence actually did take place.” FBI agents say that, sometime in mid-March, a man matching Lo’s description went to the same clinic demanding to know if his wife had had an abortion there; clinic officials refused to divulge any such information. On March 18, Lo sued Chief Justice John Roberts, in a filing written in his own handwriting and naming himself as his own lawyer, demanding that Roberts order the Supreme Court to immediately stop all abortions throughout the nation. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] (Lo also asks for ”$999 trillion in damages” and $1,000 an hour for his attorney’s fees.) [Kashmir Hill, 4/6/2010] The FBI notes that during his visits to the clerk of court’s office, “Lo exhibited erratic behavior, including raising his voice at members of the clerk’s office, obsessively washing his hands in the public restroom, and sitting in a court witness room in the dark without authorization to enter the room.” On his Web site, Lo is harshly critical of abortion, predicting he will win his lawsuit against the Supreme Court, and notes that he “challenged President Barack Obama to a public debate on abortion, which he lost by not responding.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] Author and filmmaker Roxann MtJoy, writing for the progressive Women’s Rights blog, observes: “Anti-choicers, in general, do not scare me. While I may passionately disagree with their ideology and often their tactics, they are more irritating than anything else. Lo, however, scares me. He scares me because he believes, much like Scott Roeder (see May 31, 2009), that his opinion justifies violence. He believes he has the moral authority to kill those who stand in opposition to him.” [Women's Rights, 4/13/2010]
Adam Skaggs, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice, writes that the controversial Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010) is going to have a huge impact on judicial elections in 2010 and beyond. The record for the costliest judicial race in US history was set in a 2004 Illinois contest between Lloyd Karmeier and Gordon Maag, competing for the bench in the state’s 5th Judicial District. Between them, they raised and spent almost $9.4 million, more than double the previous national record, and an amount Karmeier later called “obscene.” Special interests on both sides of the election became heavily involved, with Karmeier’s corporate donations from such organizations as the US Chamber of Commerce and State Farm Insurance winning out over Maag’s donations from trial lawyers. After the election, Karmeier cast the deciding vote in a case that saved State Farm $500 million. An Ohio labor official said in commenting on the often-heavy spending on judicial races, “We figured out a long time ago that it’s easier to elect seven judges than to elect one hundred and 32 legislators.” The Citizens United case, Skaggs writes, will undoubtedly lead to corporate spending in judicial races like never before. That spending, he writes, “threatens to further erode the judiciary’s independence.” Even former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has said that “Citizens United has signaled that the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon.” Skaggs cites a number of races that will likely be targets for big corporate donors:
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas R. Fitzgerald is a probable target after striking down a 2005 law that placed caps on medical malpractice claims; Skaggs predicts the same corporate interests that helped Karmeier win a judicial seat will attempt to defeat Fitzgerald.
In Alabama, three seats currently held by Republicans are contested. One of these, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, is the likely recipient of heavy corporate funding, because, as Skaggs writes, groups like the Business Council of Alabama want Parker on the bench to protect conservative interests on economic issues. That corporate spending will likely outstrip spending on Democratic candidates, which will come primarily from liberal judicial groups and the state’s Democratic Party.
A 2006 study by the New York Times showed that judges routinely decide cases involving campaign donors, and in 70 percent of those cases, find in favor of those donors. One judge in the study voted on behalf of his donors 91 percent of the time. In Nevada, judges routinely accept huge donations even when running unopposed, often from donors who have cases pending before those judges. Nevada voters will decide in the November elections whether to scrap the system of an elected judiciary and move to an appointment system. Skaggs recommends that states should adopt public financing systems for judicial elections (four states—New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin already do so) and eliminate entirely the concept of outside interests donating to judicial campaigns. He recommends stricter disclosure rules, so that the public knows who is contributing how much to judicial candidates. And, he writes, “states should institute new disqualification regulations to ensure that, if a judge is assigned to hear the case of a major campaign supporter, he or she must step aside and let a wholly impartial judge preside.” Otherwise, he writes: “The very legitimacy of the courts depends on the public believing that judges will treat every party without bias or favor. If, in the Citizens United era, states don’t adopt public financing and strong disclosure and disqualification rules, the judiciary’s credibility will dissolve—and quickly.” [New Republic, 4/5/2010]
The non-partisan FactCheck.org, an organization sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, examines a claim being promulgated in a recent series of chain emails. The emails claim that President Obama has the ability, under the newly passed health care reform legislation, to create his own “private army” of 6,000 soldiers. The email states in part: “Obama Just Got His Private Army. Were you aware of the fact that the health care bill created a civilian army? A Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency. All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws (which means they will not be sworn to uphold the Constitution) and compensated without regard to the Classification Act 2 of 1923, as amended. Remember when Obama said he wanted a ‘national security force’? Not the national guard, but a civilian one that has not sworn to uphold the Constitution?” The email references then-presidential candidate Obama’s July 2008 speech, where he advocated the creation of “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the US military. Obama was talking about strengthening organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, the USA Freedom Corps, and the State Department’s foreign service arm. (Republican lawmakers such as Michele Bachmann have accused Obama of wanting to turn Americorps into “re-education camps” designed to brainwash American children—see March 31, 2009). Since then, some have insisted that Obama wants to create a privately operated “national security force” answerable only to himself. They believe that Section 5210 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul recently signed into law, gives Obama just such power. The US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps now has the power to create and eventually deploy a “Ready Reserve Corps,” under the control of the surgeon general and designed specifically to help the Public Health Service (PHS) respond quickly and effectively to emergencies such as natural disasters. The Commissioned Corps has integrated the former, quite small reserve corps into itself, expanding its numbers to some 6,600 personnel—mostly doctors, nurses, scientists, and medical professionals. The new Ready Reserve is intended to augment the Commissioned Corp when the government sends response teams to offer assistance in areas that are stricken by natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes, or in the case of sudden pandemic outbreaks of dangerous diseases such as H1N1. The Reserve Corps is still being formulated, but PHS officials anticipate the number of Reserve Corps members as being in the neighborhood of several thousand. Most will be public health professionals. Jerry Farrell, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association, says that the Ready Reserve can help the PHS avoid situations such as what happened after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, when so many members of the regular and reserve corps were dispatched to New Orleans and other areas hit by the hurricane that “the corps discovered, for instance, that they had deployed a whole surgical clinic of the Indian Health Service.” FactCheck concludes “there is absolutely no support for this chain email’s speculation that uniformed members of the Public Health Service would be ordered to give ‘lethal injections’ (a.k.a. vaccinations) to ‘unworthy people.’” [FactCheck (.org), 4/7/2010]
Montana Freemen leader Daniel Petersen (see 1983-1995), convicted of multiple counts of bank fraud involving false liens and bogus checks (see March 16, 1999), is sentenced to over seven additional years in prison for filing false liens from his Minnesota jail cell. Petersen is sentenced under a 2008 law making it a felony to retaliate against any government officer by filing false liens; his is the first time the law has actually been used. Minnesota US Attorney B. Todd Jones says in a statement: “Over the years, Petersen and his accomplices have repeatedly broken the law in an effort to enrich themselves. Those who have tried to stop them, including members of law enforcement and the judiciary, have been singled out for retaliation.… This prosecution, hopefully, will impress on Petersen and others that, regardless of their beliefs, they will be prosecuted if they break the law, and their attempts at retaliation or intimidation will not succeed.” Petersen filed false liens against three judges, including District Judge John C. Coughenour, who presided over his trial, and two Texas federal judges. He invented a company he claimed held assets, including a $100 trillion default judgment against the United States, and sold “shares” in the company to fellow inmates and others. The shares were supposedly backed by “redemption certificates” Petersen said could be redeemed as soon as he collected on the judgment he said was owed to him by the government. Peterson concocted the scheme after former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declined to respond to his demand for $100 trillion, plus $1 billion per day in interest, for unlawfully confining him. Peterson also filed liens against real property owned by the three judges, offered bounties for the arrest of the judges, and offered rewards to anyone who brought the three to Minnesota to answer his liens. Prosecutors said Petersen ignored repeated warnings while in custody that his actions were unlawful. [Billings Gazette, 4/8/2010]
Former federal judge Andrew P. Napolitano, a Fox News legal analyst since 1998, says in an interview with the right-libertarian magazine Reason that the 17th Amendment must be repealed. “Can an amendment to the Constitution itself be unconstitutional?” he asks the interviewer, and answers himself: “Yes, that one. If you read [Foundng Father James] Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention, they spent more time arguing over the make-up of the federal government and they came up with the federal table. There would be three entities at the federal table. There would be the nation as a nation, there would be the people, and there would be the states. The nation as a nation is the president, the people is the House of Representatives, and the states is the Senate, because states sent senators. Not the people in the states, but the state government. When the progressives, in the Theodore Roosevelt/Woodrow Wilson era, abolished this it abolished bicameralism, the notion of two houses. It effectively just gave us another house like the House of Representatives where they didn’t have to run as frequently, and the states lost their place at the federal table. That was an assault, an invasion on the infrastructure of constitutional government. Even kings in Europe had to satisfy the princes and barons around them. And that’s how they lost their power, or that’s how their power was tempered. Congress believes it doesn’t have to satisfy anybody. Its only recognized restraint is whatever it can get away with.” Napolitano also promotes the idea of nullification to expand states’ rights at the expense of the federal government (see October 14, 2010 and March 23, 2011). [Reason, 4/8/2010] The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of US senators, rather than their selection by state legislators, in part to eliminate cronyism and corruption in their ascension to the US Capitol. It was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Recently, far-right Republicans and tea party activists have begun calling for its repeal, joined by some members of Congress. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; Legal Information Institute, 2011] Napolitano has previously advocated repealing the 16th Amendment (see April 28, 2009). In 2009, former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee called the 17th Amendment “one of the dumbest things we ever did in this country” (see October 16, 2009).
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, in a screenshot taken from his March 30 statement as recorded on YouTube. [Source: credit YouTube / CBS News]Army doctor Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lee “Terry” Lakin is ordered to face a court-martial for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Lakin claims that because President Obama is not a US citizen, he does not recognize Obama’s authority to give orders as commander in chief. Lakin, ordered this week to report to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, refused to go to the Kentucky Army base, and instead went to the Pentagon, where he was confronted by his brigade commander, Colonel Gordon Roberts, a Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient. Roberts read Lakin his Miranda rights and told him he faces a court-martial; Lakin’s Pentagon building pass and government laptop computer were seized. Lakin faces a dishonorable discharge if convicted. On a March 30 video statement posted on YouTube, Lakin said: “I believe all servicemen and women, and the American people, deserve the truth about President Obama’s constitutional eligibility to the office of the presidency and the commander in chief.… Seeking out public office, especially the highest in our land, means you must uphold the Constitution, Mr. President, and confirm your eligibility.… The minimal invasion to any politician’s privacy from having to show an original, signed birth certificate is far less than the harms to our country by someone not qualified whose election would thus subvert the law and the truth.” In the video, he promised to “disobey” orders to deploy, and acknowledged he was “inviting” a court-martial. Lakin won a Bronze Star for meritorious service during a previous tour in Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 4/13/2010; New York Daily News, 4/14/2010; Politico, 4/14/2010; CBS News, 4/15/2010] Lakin’s legal defense fund is being coordinated by a “birther” group called the American Patriot Foundation. According to Army spokesman George Wright, Lakin will be reassigned to duty at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington pending an investigation into whether he violated two provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: missing the movement of a unit and violating an order. [Politico, 4/14/2010]
The documentary uses an actor and computer effects to simulate McVeigh’s actions during the interviews, which were recorded on audio tape, and of his carrying out the bombing. [Source: MSNBC]MSNBC airs a documentary about convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), who before his execution (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) confessed to bombing the Murrah Federal Building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to Buffalo News reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck. Michel and Herbeck went on to write a 2001 biography of McVeigh, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, based on their interviews with McVeigh. The MSNBC documentary, The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist, features excerpts drawn from the 45 hours of audio recordings made by Michel. The documentary will be broadcast on April 19, the 15th anniversary of the bombing, and features film of the bombing and its aftermath; computer-generated recreations to augment the actual audio recordings (with an actor playing McVeigh); and interviews with survivors of the bombing and family members of the slain. McVeigh told of his childhood in upstate New York (see 1987-1988), his experiences in the 1991 Gulf War (see January - March 1991 and After), his relationship with convicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 23, 1997, and June 4, 1998), and of the meticulous planning and execution of the bombing. [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] One of the few moments when McVeigh’s voice became animated was when he described the moments before the bomb went off, saying, “I lit the two-minute fuse at the stoplight, and I swear to God that was the longest stoplight I’ve ever sat at in my life.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is narrated by MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow. Herbeck says he understands that the documentary will evoke strong feelings. “Some people will say they don’t want to hear anything about Timothy McVeigh and we respect their feelings on that,” he says. “But others are interested in hearing what made a terrorist tick.” Michel says, “[It’s an] oral blueprint of what turned one young man into one of the worst mass-murderers and terrorists in American history.” Herbeck says their book drew similar mixed reactions: “A few of the victims were outraged by our book, and they went public with their feelings. They felt it was wrong to tell the story of a terrorist.” Maddow says she is not worried that the documentary will somehow glamorize McVeigh or make him into a martyr figure: “McVeigh is profoundly unsympathetic—even repugnant—on his own terms, you don’t need to work to make him seem that way. There’s a huge distance between the hero he is in his own mind, and how basely unheroic he seems to anyone hearing the tapes now. I personally am not a supporter of the death penalty… but hearing him talk, it’s hard not to wish him gone.” In the documentary, Jannie Coverdale, who lost her two young grandchildren in the blast, says: “I was glad when he died. I will never forgive Timothy McVeigh.” Oklahoma City Police Department official Jennifer Rodgers, one of the first responders to the bombing (see 9:02 a.m. - 10:35 a.m. April 19, 1995), says her feelings are “still raw.… It just doesn’t seem like it was really that long ago.” Maddow says the story is important even 15 years later: “The Murrah Building bombing is the worst incident of domestic terrorism we’ve ever experienced as a nation. We owe pure remembrance of the date, and commemoration of the lives lost and changed. I think it’s also an appropriate occasion to talk about the threat of domestic terrorism. How strong is the threat now, 15 years after McVeigh? Are we heeding warning signs that may be out there now?” Former President Clinton, who oversaw the federal efforts to respond to the bombing, has recently warned that ugly and frightening parallels exist between the current political tensions and the anti-government rage that preceded McVeigh’s attack, saying: “We can disagree with them [elected officials], we can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, we increase the number of threats.” Michel says: “There’s no question that the militia movement is on the rise again. Some of the same factors that caused McVeigh to believe he had become disenfranchised from mainstream society are again in the mix: growing government regulations, lack of employment. Those are things McVeigh would cite if he were alive.” [MSNBC, 4/15/1995; MSNBC, 4/15/1995] In the documentary, Maddow says of the date of the airing: “On this date, which holds great meaning for the anti-government movement, the McVeigh tapes are a can’t-turn-away, riveting reminder.” Washington Post reviewer Hank Steuver calls the documentary “chilling” and McVeigh’s demeanor “arrogan[t]” and unrepentant. “Maddow and company wisely decline to draw too straight a line from 1995 to 2010, but, as she indicates, it might be helpful in crazy times to study this sort of crazy head-on,” he writes. “Watching this, it’s easy to feel like that fuse is still lit.” [Washington Post, 4/18/2010] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley says the use of an actor and computer effects “blunts its impact by relying on stagy computer graphics.… Scenes of this domestic terrorist in shackles during a prison interview or lighting a fuse inside a rented Ryder truck look neither real nor completely fake, but certainly cheesy: a violent video game with McVeigh as a methodical, murderous avatar.” [New York Times, 4/18/1995] The documentary is later made available on YouTube. [911Blogger (.com), 4/20/2010]
California “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz, mounting a longshot candidacy for California secretary of state, has another lawsuit, Taitz v. Obama, thrown out of court. The lawsuit is another in a series of legal attempts by Taitz to challenge President Obama’s citizenship and have a court remove him from the presidency (see March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, October 29, 2009, and October 13-16, 2009). Judge Royce C. Lamberth, in his ruling, writes, “The Court is not willing to go tilting at windmills with her.” Lamberth refuses to allow Taitz to refile a lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship in a Washington, DC, federal court. Lawyers for Obama had asked that the case be dismissed because, among other things, Taitz does not have standing to bring it because she has not been harmed and the courts have no authority to remove a sitting president. [Orange County Register, 4/16/2010]
Pastor Stan Craig. [Source: Choice Hills Baptist Church]A “tea party” rally in Greenville, South Carolina, features a great deal of rhetorical violence, with one speaker telling the crowd he is ready to launch an armed assault on Washington, DC. The event is hosted by the Upcountry Conservative Coalition. The keynote speaker is former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO—see September 9, 2006), who tells the assemblage that Americans are “going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country.” Of President Obama, he says, “If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don’t we just send him back?” Tancredo is referring to widespread beliefs among the right that Obama is of Kenyan birth. It is unclear what Tancredo is referring to regarding Obama’s wife. Pastor Stan Craig of the Choice Hills Baptist Church, a Vietnam veteran, tells the crowd that he “was trained to defend the liberties of this nation,” and, apparently referring to his choice to participate in an armed insurrection, says he is ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” Dan Gonzales of Florida’s Constitution Party seems to agree with Craig, saying “this is the end of America right here,” and if the tea partiers “don’t get to work we’re going to be fighting in the streets.” Gonzales seems to have little love for the Republican Party either, claiming it is owned by the Rockefeller family. Speaker William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) continues his assertions that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is being blackmailed by the Obama administration because he is gay (see April 20, 2010), saying: “I’m a tolerant person. I don’t care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our US senator I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it.” Gheen later releases a statement reading: “US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington, DC, know that, the general public and Graham’s constituents do not. I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret.” [The State, 4/18/2010; TPM LiveWire, 4/19/2010] Other speakers at the event include longshot Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson (R-NM) and “birther” author Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, and September 21, 2010). [The Conservatist, 4/12/2010]
Depiction of an Oath Keeper shoulder patch. [Source: Oath Keepers]Darren Huff, a former US Navy officer from Georgia who belongs to a far-right militia group called the “Oath Keepers” (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), drives to Madisonville, Tennessee, as part of a group of militia members with the intention of “tak[ing] over” the Madisonville courthouse and freeing Walter Fitzpatrick, who was jailed when he tried to enforce a “citizen’s arrest” on a judicial official for failing to convene an investigation into President Obama’s citizenship (see April 1-5, 2010). The Oath Keepers are a group of former military and law enforcement officials who often advise current military and law enforcement personnel not to obey orders from higher authorities on the grounds that those orders do not satisfy constitutional mandates. Huff drives to Tennessee with a Colt .45 and an AK-47, but is intercepted by state troopers acting on an alert from the FBI. The troopers tell reporters that Huff acknowledges being armed, and states his intention to go to the Madisonville courthouse, take over the facility, and arrest county officials, whom he calls “domestic enemies of the United States engaged in treason,” and turn them over to the state police. According to a witness interviewed by the FBI, Huff is only one member of “eight or nine militia groups” whose intent is to go to Madisonville to “take over the city.” The witness, a bank manager, says Huff told him he’d see Huff’s actions on the news. Madisonville law enforcement officials report witnessing numerous individuals carrying both openly displayed and concealed firearms in the area around the courthouse. The troopers permit Huff to proceed to the courthouse, though Huff attempts no arrests and no violence ensues. The next day, Huff tells a radio audience that his encounter with the troopers was “not entirely confrontational.… We were kind of a little bit more on a friendly level, even some Christian conversation came in, which I was glad for.” He tells his listeners that he showed great restraint by not performing a citizen’s arrest on the troopers, and adds that because the first attempt to free Fitzpatrick was unsuccessful, he and other militia members intend to mount a second “rescue effort” within one to two weeks. Instead, Huff is arrested by the FBI, who listened to the broadcast and determined that he has the means and the intent to cause violence. Carl Swensson, who like Fitzpatrick is a member of the right-wing, anti-government group “American Grand Jury” (AGJ), recounts the entire series of incidents on his Web site, and demands others get involved “to help the citizen’s [sic] of the United States regain our Constitutional Republic by peaceful means.” [WBIR-TV, 5/4/2010; TPM Muckraker, 5/6/2010; Crooks and Liars, 5/6/2010]
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin is formally court-martialed for refusing to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military (see Before April 13, 2010). In response, Lakin issues a statement through the American Patriot Foundation, the “birther” organization raising money for his defense. Reporter Justin Elliott writes that in the statement, Lakin “waxe[s] heroic,” saying: “I invited my court martial, and today I stand ready to answer these charges. I was prepared to deploy if only the president would authorize the release of the proof of his eligibility. He refused, and now the court will determine the issue, and my fate. The Constitution matters. The truth matters.” Lakin has been interviewed by a number of right-wing radio hosts, and recently told host G. Gordon Liddy that his lawyers may try to compel Obama to produce a birth certificate. [Army, 4/22/2010; TPM Muckraker, 4/23/2010] The effort to compel “discovery” from Obama will fail (see August 2, 2010). Lakin is receiving financial and legal assistance from the American Patriot Foundation (APF), an organization headed by former Congressional staffer and Bush administration veteran Margaret Hemenway, who has previously caused a stir by publicly protesting her daughter being taught by a lesbian teacher and publicly declaring her disbelief in global warming. The APF has created a Web site called “Safeguard Our Constitution” to promote Lakin’s cause. Hemenway has worked in the offices of Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), and as a policy analyst for the House Republican Study Committee, according to her bios at various conservative publications. She also spent five years at the Defense Department and NASA “as a White House appointee” during the Bush administration. Her father-in-law, attorney and World War II vet John Hemenway, was involved in a “birther” lawsuit brought by Philadelphia activist Philip Berg (see March 5, 2009). Smith, Hemenway’s former boss, founded the group in 2003 after losing the Republican primary to John Sununu (R-NH) in 2002. At the time, the group was supposedly created to support “the families of soldiers lost in war.” The group has apparently been dormant until now. Hemenway explains that Smith “was gracious enough to turn it over to be put to a good public purpose—the immediate purpose is helping a brave officer who has not been able to get anyone in officialdom to answer his question about the president’s compliance with Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution—whether Obama is ‘natural born.’” [TPM Muckraker, 4/14/2010] Lakin’s civilian lawyer, Paul Rolf Jensen, is a well-known conservative activist who also worked for two senators, including Smith, and is a former Bush administration staffer. He is often involved in anti-gay legal cases, and filed “25 charges of heresy” against a number of Presbyterians around the country in 2004. The complaints included cases in which pastors officiated over same-sex unions, ordained gay elders, or were themselves gay. “I am called to action within the Presbyterian church to fight back against those who have made war and would destroy our church,” he told CNN at the time. [TPM Muckraker, 4/26/2010]
Entity Tags: Paul Rolf Jensen, Philip J. Berg, Justin Elliott, John D. Hemenway, G. Gordon Liddy, American Patriot Foundation, Barack Obama, Robert C. (“Bob”) Smith, Margaret Hemenway, Terrence Lee (“Terry”) Lakin
Timeline Tags: US Military, Domestic Propaganda
Infowars (.com) logo. [Source: The Jeenyus Corner (.com]Kurt Nimmo, writing for the right-wing conspiracy Web site Infowars (.com), calls the recent MSNBC documentary featuring the confession of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see April 15-18, 2010) a “fairy tale.” Nimmo writes: “On the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, MSNBC ran a documentary supposedly detailing Timothy McVeigh’s death row ‘confession.’ The documentary—actually a fairy tale of easily debunked government propaganda hosted by the ‘progressive’ Rachel Maddow—employs alleged tape recordings of McVeigh coupled with cheesy computer simulations intended to dredge up the government version of events and thus rekindle hysteria manufactured in the 1990s concerning the threat posed by militias and patriot groups.” Nimmo says the documentary “omits a large amount of evidence that seriously undermines the government version repeated and amplified by the corporate media (see (see 1983, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, August 1994 - March 1995, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, September 13, 1994 and After, November 1994, December 1994, February 1995, March 1995, (April 1) - April 18, 1995, April 5, 1995, April 8, 1995, and Before 9:00 A.M. April 19, 1995), and recounts a number of oddities surrounding the bombing that have not yet been explained, such as the “inexplicable” absence of FBI and BATF agents in the Murrah Building the day of the bombing (eight federal agents were killed in the blast—see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), allegations that judicial and FBI officials were warned about the bombing ahead of time, and a raft of unexplained information about other possible conspirators (see April 15, 1995, 9:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, 3:00 p.m. April 17, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Nimmo calls the documentary “crude propaganda” designed to conceal what he calls the likelihood that the bombing was a government operation designed to demonize militia and anti-government organizations. He says the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an anti-hate organization that tracks violent anti-government organizations, is one of the organizations behind the documentary, and calls the SPLC’s Mark Potok, who appears in the documentary, the organization’s “propaganda minister.” He concludes: “The OK City bombing was a false flag attack perpetuated by the government ‘to gain a political end’ and that end was to demonize political opposition. It is an effort that continues today and will expand as the political opposition gains popular support.” [Kurt Nimmo, 4/25/2010]
Laura Bush, during her interview with Larry King. [Source: CNN / Mediaite]Former First Lady Laura Bush tells CNN talk show host Larry King that she supports the right of women to choose abortions. She also supports the principle of gay marriage. Bush is on King’s show to discuss her new biography, Spoken from the Heart, in which she recalls asking her husband, then-President Bush, not to make gay marriage a “hot button” issue in the 2004 election. Asked by King if she supports gay marriage, Bush tells him: “Well, I think that we ought to definitely look at it and debate it. I think there are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that because they see marriage as traditionally being between a man and a woman. But I also know that when couples are committed to each other and love each other, that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.” Of abortion, Bush says, “I think it’s important that it remain legal, because I think it’s important for people for medical reasons and other reasons.” Her husband does not agree with her, she says: “I understand totally what George thinks and what other people think about marriage being between a man and a woman. I guess that would be an area that we disagree” on. “I understand his viewpoint and he understands mine.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2010; Mediaite, 5/12/2010; CBS News, 5/13/2010]
Sharron Angle. [Source: Politico]Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) tells conservative talk show host Bill Manders that she does not support a woman’s right to abortions even in the case of rape or incest, because “God has a plan” for that woman and her child. Manders asks, “Is there any reason at all for an abortion?” to which Angle replies, “Not in my book.” Manders asks, “So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?” and Angle replies, “You know, I’m a Christian and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives, and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations, and we need to have a little faith in many things.” [Nevada State Democratic Party, 5/2010] In a subsequent interview, Angle will advise women who become pregnant due to being raped by a family member to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade.” [Huffington Post, 7/8/2010]
US Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY), a favorite of the tea party movement, speaks out against the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA—see July 26, 1990) during an interview. [Think Progress, 5/17/2010] The ADA was sponsored by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by then-President George H. W. Bush. The ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.” Recently, it has been attacked by conservative pundits and candidates, largely because businesses have to spend money to comply with its mandates. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; US Department of Labor, 2011] Paul says that he favors local governments being able to decide whether disabled people have the rights under the legislation; requiring businesses to provide access to disabled people, Paul argues, isn’t “fair to the business owner.” Paul says: “You know a lot of things on employment ought to be done locally. You know, people finding out right or wrong locally. You know, some of the things, for example we can come up with common sense solutions—like for example if you have a three-story building and you have someone apply for a job, you get them a job on the first floor if they’re in a wheelchair as supposed to making the person who owns the business put an elevator in, you know what I mean? So things like that aren’t fair to the business owner.” [Think Progress, 5/17/2010]
Fox Business Channel host and commentator John Stossel says a key portion of the Civil Rights Act should be eliminated, because, he says, “[p]rivate businesses ought to get to discriminate.” [Media Matters, 5/20/2010; Media Matters, 9/7/2010] The 1964 Civil Rights Act (see July 2, 1964), signed into law by then-President Lyndon Johnson, prohibits discrimination in public places, provides for the integration of public schools and other public facilities, and makes employment discrimination illegal. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; National Archives, 2011] Stossel, a guest on Fox News’s America Live, tells host Megyn Kelly that he agrees with libertarian Rand Paul, a Republican candidate for the US Senate, in recommending that the portion of the Civil Rights Act mandating no discrimination in public places should be repealed. (Both Paul and Stossel argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act should also be repealed—see May 17, 2010 and September 1, 2010). Paul has said: “[Y]ou should let businesses decide for themselves whether they are going to be racist or not racist. Because once the government gets involved, it’s a slippery slope.” When Kelly quotes this comment from Paul, Stossel says he is “in total agreement” with Paul, stating: “[I]f a private business wants to say, ‘We don’t want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys,’ it ought to be their right. Are we going to say to the black students’ association they have to take white people, or the gay softball association they have to take straight people? We should have freedom of association in America.” (Kelly is a blond anchorwoman, and Stossel wears a mustache.) Kelly says: “When you put it like that it sounds fine, right? So who cares if a blond anchorwoman and mustached anchorman can’t go into the lunchroom. But as you know, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came around because it was needed. Blacks weren’t allowed to sit at the lunch counter with whites. They couldn’t, as they traveled from state to state in this country, they couldn’t go in and use a restroom. They couldn’t get severed meals and so on, and therefore, unfortunately in this country a law was necessary to get them equal rights.” Stossel notes that those “Jim Crow” doctrines “were government rules. Government was saying we have white and black drinking fountains. That’s very different from saying private people can’t discriminate.” Stossel says that business owners should be free to discriminate, and if the “free market” punishes them by costing them customers, then that is a fair way to handle it. Kelly says the time of the Civil Rights Act “was a different time. Racism and discrimination was rampant. I’m not saying it’s been eliminated. But it was rampant. It was before my time, before I was born, but obviously I’ve read history, and I know that there is something wrong when a person of color can’t get from state to state without stopping at a public restroom or a public lunchroom to have a sandwich.” Stossel says: “But the public restroom was run by the government, and maybe at the time that was necessary.… And I would go further than he was willing to go, as he just issued the statement, and say it’s time now to repeal that part of the law.… Because private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won’t won’t ever go to a place that’s racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I’ll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist.” [Media Matters, 5/20/2010; Media Matters, 9/7/2010] Stossel’s position provokes considerable criticism, and the civil rights organization Color of Change calls for a boycott of Fox Business until it fires Stossel. The organization writes: “Stossel’s position is an affront to black America and everyone in this country who believes in racial progress. It’s one thing to be a candidate with backwards views [referring to Paul]. It’s another to be employed by a supposed news network and to use that platform to push hateful ideas that our nation repudiated decades ago. It’s time that Fox drop Stossel.” [Salem News, 5/22/2010] US Representative Bob Filner (D-CA), a veteran of civil rights protests, responds: “A ‘private’ business generally operates on a public thoroughfare, is protected by public police and fire departments, is served by public transportation, is staffed by people educated in public schools, is protected against fraud by the public justice system, may serve food or sell products protected by public inspection agencies, etc., etc., etc. Surely the public has a right to insist on non-racist policies! As a Freedom Rider in 1961, I rode on an interstate, publicly franchised Greyhound bus, and, as a member of an integrated group, was denied access to restrooms, lunch counters, and waiting rooms. The Supreme Court rightly ruled this was unconstitutional. Do Rand Paul and John Stossel want to take us back to a racist past from which so many people gave their lives to liberate us?” [Media Matters, 5/21/2010] Andrew Grant-Thomas, deputy director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, says that Stossel has fundamentally misrepresented history, stating, “Market forces hadn’t exactly made anti-black discrimination disappear during the several centuries before the Civil Rights Act.” Even with the progress made since the legislation took effect, Grant-Thomas says, racial discrimination is still a major problem. “If you look at any market for which we’ve done extensive studies, significant discrimination remains,” he says. “It’s clearly better than it was. But there’s still discrimination.” There is a strong market for businesses that “currently, and legally, discriminate on the basis of race, or other grounds, in their membership. That hasn’t caused them to go under. Indeed… in some key arenas, like housing and schools, some people pay more for segregated settings.” He concludes: “The Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed on economic grounds, but on moral and ethical grounds. Suggesting that market logic would have sufficed to weed out discriminators is pretty much besides the point in that respect.” [Media Matters, 5/20/2010] A clearly aggrieved Stossel will respond to the criticism (see July 2, 2010).
Fox Business Channel host and commentator John Stossel goes on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor to defend his recent call to repeal a key element of the Civil Rights Act (see May 20-22, 2010). [Media Matters, 5/25/2010] The 1964 Civil Rights Act, signed into law by then-President Lyndon Johnson, prohibits discrimination in public places, provides for the integration of public schools and other public facilities, and makes employment discrimination illegal (see July 2, 1964). [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; National Archives, 2011] Host Bill O’Reilly is less than sympathetic to Stossel’s call for repeal, noting that one function of government is to protect its citizens, and this includes protecting them from discrimination, even at the hands of private businesses, which Stossel says should not be covered under the law. It is up to the government, O’Reilly says, to ensure every citizen’s “quality of life.” Stossel says he is a libertarian, and like most libertarians, he wants government to protect him from those who would physically hurt him, steal from him, and so forth. “But we want government out of our private lives,” he says, and to expect government to step in to “make life fair” is “an awful idea.” O’Reilly counters that the Declaration of Independence guarantees “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and discrimination denies targeted minorities that “pursuit of happiness.” Stossel, as he did earlier, insists that private businesses rarely if ever practice discrimination in this day and age, and those that do are quickly punished by “market forces”—customers refusing to patronize those businesses, for example. O’Reilly is adamant, saying, “I feel very strongly, if it’s open to the public, then the public has to be” allowed access. [Media Matters, 5/25/2010]
Agents from the FBI’s Oakland Field Office tell Adrian Lamo, a source working for the FBI, that Wilileaks leaker Bradley Manning was arrested yesterday in Iraq (see May 26, 2010). Manning and Lamo seem to have some sort of relationship and, after becoming aware of Manning’s leaks, Lamo had reported this to the FBI, which meets him for a second time on this day to discuss Manning. [Wired News, 6/6/2010]
Former US Attorney Steven Biskupic is cleared of any wrongdoing in his failed prosecution of Wisconsin government official Georgia Thompson. Since Thompson’s conviction was overturned in 2007 (see April 5, 2007), her prosecution has been widely criticized as giving the appearance of being politically motivated (see April 7-10, 2007, April 16, 2007, and April 24, 2007). Biskupic left his position in 2008 and is now in private practice at a Milwaukee law firm. In 2008, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was investigating Biskupic and his prosecution of Thompson (see May 5, 2008). OPR reports that it “found no evidence that Mr. Biskupic was ever told his job was in jeopardy and no evidence that department personnel involved in the decision to remove certain United States Attorneys knew anything about the Thompson investigation.” The information is given to the House Judiciary Committee by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch. The committee had requested the investigation into Biskupic. “OPR also found that Mr. Biskupic took special measures to ensure that politics did not play a role in the case by enlisting the support and assistance of state officials who were Democrats, including using state investigative resources,” Welch adds. “Accordingly, OPR concluded that Mr. Biskupic did not breach any professional obligation in this matter, but rather, acted appropriately under the circumstances.” Biskupic says: “I’ll let the letter speak for itself.… I spent almost 20 years in the department. I remain proud of the work I did under multiple administrations.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/28/2010; Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 5/28/2010] After the OPR releases its findings, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel publishes an editorial praising the findings and saying that Biskupic’s integrity “should [never] have been in doubt.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 6/1/2010]
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck tells his viewers that in order to stop Democratic leaders from imposing a communist regime on America, they are going to have to “shoot them in the head.” He specifically cites Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as one of those leaders. He says that while Democratic leaders such as Pelosi and President Obama are not themselves communists, they use “avowed communists” such as former union leader Andy Stern to force America towards a communist system. “These people are politicians and they knew—they’re progressive politicians,” Beck says. “They’re not—they’re not total government. They’re not communists. They do not want to be communists. They don’t. But they would like it here. And they would like all the control they have, so dollars—so money could go into their—money could go in their pockets. That’s right.… So, this is what you have to understand. These people saw these people as fuel. If we can just unite, then it becomes a united front. This is your strong arm. This will do all the bad things for you. Okay?” He says that the Democratic Party is infested with “communist revolutionaries” who are driving the party, and thereby the nation, towards a Stalinist state. “The radicals have infected the party. They have been brought in by politicians who don’t really care about anything. They just want to win. They’ve been tolerating the revolutionaries—the Democrats have.” Beck says that “tea partiers” and other right-wing elements must oppose the “radicals” in the Democratic Party at all costs. He says: “Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing—change the pose. You will get the ends. You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you. They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them—they’re revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about.… They want to overthrow our entire system of government, and their words say it. Why won’t you believe it?… The revolution of 1776 was a picnic compared to what the revolutionaries of today would like to do. It’s not a lot of fun. Usually, millions of people die.” [Fox News, 6/10/2010; Raw Story, 1/20/2011] Months later, Beck will claim that he was actually warning Democratic leaders about the prospects of being shot by “radical leftists” (see January 21, 2011).
Fox News host Glenn Beck attacks the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution. The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of US senators, rather than their selection by state legislators, in part to eliminate cronyism and corruption in their ascension to the US Capitol. It was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Recently, far-right Republicans and tea party activists have begun calling for its repeal, joined by some members of Congress. [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; Legal Information Institute, 2011] On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck derides the 17th Amendment, saying: “Like all bad things it started in 1913, Woodrow Wilson yet again. He supported this. Immediately now, when I see Woodrow Wilson, I immediately know—bad thing! You can be quite certain that something is not going to have a good outcome if Woodrow Wilson was involved.” Beck says that “Thomas Jefferson warned about” direct representation, and adds that without the 17th Amendment, “[President] Obama’s health care bill would have never seen the light of day. A lot of things that they do in Washington would never have seen the light of day. Why? Because it wouldn’t in the interest of your state.… [I]t’s taken them over 200 years to remove all those roadblocks, but they’re almost done. Maybe it’s time to put a few of them back.” [Media Matters, 9/7/2010] In 2009, former Republican Governor Mike Huckabee called the 17th Amendment “one of the dumbest things we ever did in this country” (see October 16, 2009). And in April, Beck’s Fox News colleague Andrew Napolitano called for the amendment’s repeal (see April 8, 2010).
One of many images produced to protest Target’s perceived anti-gay donations. [Source: Village Voice]The Target Corporation, owner of Target department stores, donates $150,000 to a fund with close ties to the campaign of Tom Emmer (R-MN), the GOP’s presumptive nominee for Minnesota’s governor, through its federal PAC TargetCitizens. The donation is $100,000 in cash and $50,000 in “brand consulting.” Another Minnesota-based retail chain, Best Buy Co., gives $100,000 to the group MN Forward, which describes itself as “nonpartisan” but only donates money to Emmer. The money is to be used primarily for ads supporting Emmer, a state legislator. The donations are allowable under the controversial Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to give unrestricted amounts to political organizations (see January 21, 2010). Emmer is a controversial candidate with a record of fiery opposition to gay rights and other stances not popular with moderate and liberal voters, and some are talking about organizing a boycott of Target and Best Buy. Target is the primary focus of the criticism, in part because it has promoted itself as a progressive alternative to corporate retailers such as Wal-Mart, according to an official with progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org. A Target spokesperson, Lena Michaud, says the company supports causes and candidates “based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business objectives.” TargetCitizens, according to Michaud, donates money to both Democratic and Republican candidates. Though Michaud says Target spreads its donations equally between candidates of the two parties, the $150,000 donation exceeds the amount TargetCitizens has donated in all other federal campaigns this year; Target executives have donated primarily to Republicans as well. Emmer, aside from his opposition to gay rights, favors a strict stance on immigration and has advocated slashing the wages of food service workers, whom he claims often make six-figure incomes when their tips are counted. He also advocates the nullification of some portions of the US Constitution, and wants to nullify the recent health care reform legislative package. In contrast, Target has cultivated a moderate image in Minnesota, making public donations to schools, food shelves, and the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, a heavy Republican donor, says his company’s commitment to gay rights is “unwavering.” MN Forward director Brian McClung, who formerly served as spokesman for retiring Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), says: “We believe that everybody has the right to express their opinions and we’re going to run a fair and factual campaign. Our first ad is a positive ad talking about a candidate’s vision for creating jobs.” [Associated Press, 7/27/2010; Think Progress, 7/27/2010; Washington Post, 8/19/2010] Paul Finkelstein, CEO of Regis Corporation, which has also donated to MN Forward, explains that his company, like Target and Best Buy, donates based on economic concerns. “From a social perspective, I don’t agree with many of his platforms,” Finkelstein says. “My concern, frankly, is jobs. We have to have a tax policy that enables us to be able to create jobs.” Emmer wants to institute massive tax cuts, particularly for business owners and the wealthy, if he is elected as governor. Best Buy spokeswoman Susan Busch Nehring says of the controversy, “We’ve learned from this, and we will thoughtfully review the process we use to make political contributions, to avoid any future confusion.” [TPMDC, 7/30/2010; Washington Post, 8/19/2010]
Backlash - Local gay-rights organization Twin Cities Pride says it is “reviewing its partnership with Target” in light of the Emmer donations, while another gay-rights organization, OutFront Minnesota, says in a statement: “Emmer stands alone among candidates for governor in opposing equality for GLBT Minnesotans. Target should not stand with him.” OutFront Minnesota director Monica Meyer says, “This is inconsistent with their values to support the only candidate for governor who stands up for discrimination and divisiveness in Minnesota.” Former Democratic campaign worker Laura Hedlund pickets outside a Minnesota Target store, and tells a reporter, “I think Target is making a huge mistake” in donating money to support Emmer. A YouTube video posted by Minnesota citizen and former Target consumer Randi Reitan goes “viral”; in the video, Reitan returns $226 worth of items to a Target store and cuts up her Target credit card, explaining that she wants equality for her gay son, which Emmer, and by extension Target, does not support. Political science professor David Schultz says he is surprised Target would make such a controversial announcement of support: “I thought they would have sat this one out because they are so smart in terms of marketing. Target has had the warm fuzzies with progressives for years.… Now they risk alienating half the state’s population.” Emmer himself complains that his right to freedom of speech is being challenged by the protests against Target, and accuses protesters of demonstrating against him for personal reasons, saying: “The sad part to me is, I thought we were supposed to be able to exercise our rights of free speech. We’re supposed to celebrate the fact that we have different perspectives. And it doesn’t seem like that’s what this is about. This seems to be more personal and we’ve got to get over that.” [Associated Press, 7/27/2010; TPMDC, 7/30/2010] MN Forward continues to garner significant corporate donations even after the Target backlash. [Minnesota Public Radio, 8/5/2010; Minnesota Independent, 8/6/2010]
Apology - Days later, Steinhafel issues a public apology for the donation, in an apparent effort to ward off planned boycotts by gay-rights and Democratic groups. Steinhafel writes a letter to Target employees that is made public, claiming that the donation was merely to support economic growth and job creation. He acknowledges that the contribution affected many employees in ways he did not anticipate and says: “[F]or that I am deeply sorry.… The diversity of our team is an important aspect of our culture and our success, and we did not mean to disappoint you, our team or our valued guests.” Michaud says the company will do what she calls a strategic review of political donations, and plans to lead a discussion on improving gay rights in the workplace. “Our commitment right now is in letting people know that we’ve heard their feedback and we’re really sorry that we’ve let them down,” Michaud says. “We want to continue doing the many things that Target has done as a company to foster our inclusive corporate culture and then look at ways of doing things better in the future.” Meyer says she is glad to hear Steinhafel’s apology, but her group intends to wait and see if Target fulfills its promise to be supportive of gay rights: “People are really appreciating them reiterating that kind of support but they want to make sure that their consumer dollars aren’t going to fund candidates who do the exact opposite of what Target says it wants to promote in society.” Soon after Steinhafel’s apology, Human Rights Campaign, a human rights organization that supports gay rights, says it spoke with Target about contributing $150,000 to a candidate who does support gay rights, but, the organization says, those talks have broken down. Allison Hayward of the Center for Competitive Politics says corporations should view the Target controversy as a cautionary tale. “This is sort of an object lesson for the next time a Sears or a Wal-Mart thinks about getting involved in some political expenditures,” she says. “Large corporations are not generally interested in alienating customers.” [Minnesota Public Radio, 8/5/2010; Washington Post, 8/19/2010]
Donations to Anti-Gay Candidates Continue - Federal Election Commission (FEC) records released in December 2010 will show that Target continues to donate to anti-gay candidates. [Think Progress, 12/24/2010]
Policy Change - In February 2011, Target Corporation issues a new policy to tighten oversight and restrict how the firm’s funds are used for political purposes. Tim Smith of Walden Asset Management, one of the companies that filed a shareholder resolution criticizing the donation, says: “This is definitely a trend. More and more companies are stepping up and being transparent about their political spending.” Target still refuses to disclose how much money it donates to trade associations, which are often some of the largest political campaign donors. Target now has a committee tasked with guiding “the decision-making process regarding financial support of political activities,” according to a policy document. [Los Angeles Times, 2/19/2011]
Entity Tags: Allison R. Hayward, Laura Hedlund, Gregg Steinhafel, Twin Cities Pride, Best Buy Co., David Schultz, Brian McClung, Federal Election Commission, Human Rights Campaign, Tim Smith, Tom Emmer, TargetCitizens, Monica Meyer, MN Forward, Lena Michaud, Tim Pawlenty, OutFront Minnesota, MoveOn (.org), Randi Reitan, Paul Finkelstein, Target Corporation, Susan Busch Nehring
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Since winning the Nevada Republican nomination for Senate against incumbent Harry Reid (D-NV), far-right conservative candidate Sharron Angle has refused to comment on recent reports that she said she hoped someone would “take him out” (meaning Reid), and advocated launching an armed insurrection to overthrow Congress using “Second Amendment remedies” (see January 2010). Today, Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein posts an audio clip of an interview Angle gave radio host Bill Manders during the primary campaign which reiterated her recomendation of “Second Amendment remedies” to be used not only against Congress, but against Reid in particular. The undated audio clip has Angle saying: “I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical.… Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.” Angle also hinted that she may be carrying a concealed weapon—a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29—during the interview. Manders said, “Whoa, you’re not carrying that today, are you, in here?” Angle replied: “Well, you know, as part of your test, they always say, ‘Don’t ever tell anybody if you’re carrying because the bad guys don’t need to know if you’re carrying.’ That’s what makes that [sic] concealed carries effective.” [Huffington Post, 6/16/2010]
David White, who chairs the Energy Practice Group at Oregon’s Tonkon Corporation, writes in the Portland, Oregon, Daily Journal of Commerce about a pilot program going into effect that affects Oregon solar energy users. The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) is starting a program that White says “offers a promising alternative to more traditional financing of solar projects.” Traditionally, solar projects in Oregon have been financed with a combination of state business energy tax credits (BETCs), incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO), federal tax credits, and credits from the utility based on the energy produced by the solar facility but not used by the customer. The BETCs are set to expire in 2012, thusly the new program offers new incentives for solar energy producers. White writes: “Under the pilot program, solar owners will be able to sell the energy they produce back to the utility at rates more than five times retail electricity rates. They also will be eligible for federal tax credits, but not BETCs or ETO incentives. The program is geared primarily to small (less than 10 kilowatt) and medium-sized (10 kilowatt to 100 kilowatt) solar producers, but systems of up to 500 kilowatts will qualify. That’s pretty big when you think of two acres covered with solar panels.” Net metering will be an option for systems generating 100 kilowatts or less, essentially allowing those producers to receive monthly credits equal to the electricity they generate. Solar producers can even sell excess energy to the utility at market rates. White acknowledges that the reception to the program has been mixed. Supporters say similar programs in Germany made that country the world’s largest solar energy producer; critics say the program has limited capacity and relies on an uncertain bidding process. White says the program “provides financial incentive options for solar owners in the short-term and for Oregon’s solar industry in the long-term.… The pilot program reflects a new public policy perspective. Rather than having solar development hinge on the inherently unstable BETC approach, which is funded by the general public, this pilot program is paid for by utility customers through higher retail rates. Businesses and homeowners should sharpen their pencils and compare the options based on their individual needs.” [Portland Daily Journal of Commerce, 6/16/2010]
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, responds to a recent claim that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has approved a case challenging President Obama’s US citizenship (see October 31, 2008 and After). The claim comes from a chain email circulating around the Internet that purports to feature an Associated Press (AP) article titled, “Very Quietly Obama’s Citizenship Case Reaches the Supreme Court.” The article is not a legitimate AP creation, according to AP spokesperson Jack Stokes, and in fact is an April Fool’s Day joke. The email quotes the article as saying, “Under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as president in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey.” Donofrio has indeed sued New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Wells in an attempt to block New Jersey’s certification of Obama’s presidential victory there in November 2008; Donofrio claimed that Obama has dual US-British citizenship and therefore is ineligible to be president. The case was turned down by the Supreme Court. PolitiFact notes that it takes four Justices, not one, to have the Court hear a case. In such an instance, the Court issues a “writ of certiorari,” sometimes referred to as “cert.” No individual justice ever makes such an announcement. Donofrio’s case first went to Justice David Souter, who denied the request. It then went to Justice Clarence Thomas, who submitted it to committee. The Court denied “cert” for the case. PolitiFact calls the claim “ridiculous and misleading.” [St. Petersburg Times, 6/28/2010]
The Web site of conservative pundit and activist Andrew Breitbart misquotes Solicitor General Elena Kagan to give the appearance that she condones book banning. The story comes from a video produced by Naked Emperor News and promoted by Breitbart TV, featuring edited audio recordings of Kagan’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision (see September 9, 2009 and January 21, 2010). [Media Matters, 6/29/2010] Breitbart TV headlines its story: “Kagan’s own words: It’s fine if the law bans books because government won’t really enforce it.” [Breitbart TV, 6/28/2010] The story is immediately picked up by the conservative Drudge Report, which uses a nearly identical headline and links to the Breitbart site. [Media Matters, 6/29/2010] The influential conservative blog Gateway Pundit posts the story, again with an almost-identical headline, and includes the comment, “Spoken like a true leftist radical…” [Jim Hoft, 6/28/2010] (Both Breitbart TV and Gateway Pundit will later delete their posts.) Fox Nation, the blog for Fox News, also posts the story with the headline: “Kagan: It’s Fine If the Law Bans Books.” [Fox Nation, 6/29/2010] However, the video and audio have been edited to have Kagan claiming something she never said. During her argument before the Court, she actually argued that federal law had never banned books and probably could not do so. She never uttered the words, “It’s fine if the law bans books.” She said that if the government did try to ban books under campaign finance laws, “there would be quite good as-applied challenge” to the law, meaning that if a corporation did publish a book that advocated for or against a candidate during an election season, it would have a strong case against any potential banning by the government. Kagan later said: “[W]hat we’re saying is that there has never been an enforcement action for books. Nobody has ever suggested—nobody in Congress, nobody in the administrative apparatus has ever suggested that books pose any kind of corruption problem, so I think that there would be a good as-applied challenge with respect to that.” [Media Matters, 6/29/2010] Naked Emperor News, which produced the video, is a small organization run by conservative activist Pam Key and promoted by the Breitbart Web network. [Media Matters, 9/2/2010]
Richard Poplawski, the white supremacist who killed three police officers in a 2009 shooting spree (see April 4, 2009), has his trial date extended for the last time. His trial is now set for April 2011. “There will be no further continuances of this matter for any reason,” says Judge Jeffrey A. Manning. Poplawski’s lawyer, Lisa Middleman, says she needs further time to prepare her case because her client faces the death penalty, and a specialist is preparing Poplawski’s defense. Poplawski has asked Manning to remove another court-appointed attorney, Richard Narvin, from his defense team, saying “things have broken down” between Narvin and himself. Though Manning has refused the request, Narvin has also asked to withdraw. Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli says Narvin’s request may lead to more delays. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/29/2010] Manning had scheduled the trial for October 12, 2010, over objections from Middleman, who said in April 2010 that six months was not enough time to prepare her client’s defense. “Anybody who can’t prepare this case in six months shouldn’t have a law degree,” Manning retorted. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4/7/2010; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/29/2010]
Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle, running as a Republican against Democrat Harry Reid, retracts her statement that Reid should be “take[n] out” by “Second Amendment remedies”—i.e. through the use of firearms. Angle made the statement in January as part of a larger statement in favor of conservatives mounting an armed insurrection against Congress (see January 2010). After Angle won the June 8 primary, reporters began writing about her earlier statements. She now says her words about “tak[ing] out” Reid were “a little strong,” and says she no longer uses that phrase (see June 16, 2010). However, she refuses to apologize for her words. “I meant take him out of office, and taking him out of office is a little different,” Angle says. “I changed my rhetoric.” Angle routinely speaks with conservative radio hosts, but almost never with actual members of the press. In withdrawing her January statement, she gives a rare interview to Nevada’s KVBC. In the interview, she declares her intention as a senator to dismantle Social Security, repeal abortion in nearly all instances (including rape and incest), and claims that the Constitution has no provision for the separation of church and state (see September 17, 2010). Reid’s campaign has stated that Angle believes such church-state separation is unconstitutional, leading Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy to accuse Reid of finding “ways to twist a larger historical statement Angle was making about the origins of separation of church and state.” Stacy explains that Reid is “terrified of having a real discussion about jobs and the economy.” Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers says Reid stands by his campaign’s position, and adds that he believes Angle meant exactly what she said when she recommended that Reid be “take[n] out” by force. “It wasn’t a gaffe, it is a philosophy,” he says. “She has repeated that language many times.” [Las Vegas Sun, 6/8/2010; Associated Press, 6/30/2010]
Fox Business Channel host and commentator John Stossel complains that his recent advocacy for the repeal of a key element of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (see May 20-22, 2010) is not racist or “hateful,” as at least one organization, Color of Change, has said. Stossel proclaims his incredulity at the reaction, and says that he actually condemns racism, not supports it. However, he says, he sees no need for government to prohibit racism—that the free market, left to its own devices, will weed out racist businesses and business owners because people will not patronize them. “Racial discrimination is bad. But we have ways besides government to end it. The free market often punishes racists. Today, a business that doesn’t hire blacks loses customers and good employees. It will atrophy, while its more inclusive competitors thrive.” He calls the organizations and individuals who criticized his call “the chattering class,” and asks if his freedom of speech is being threatened. America has changed since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Stossel says, and the need for government to prohibit discrimination on the part of private businesses has evaporated. Indeed, he says, government perpetuated racism, and private businesses and individuals ended it. He concludes: “Government is a blunt instrument of violence that one day might do something you like but the next day will do something you abhor. Better to leave things to us—people—acting together privately.” [WorldNetDaily, 6/2/2010]
Charges are filed against Bradley Manning, a US soldier formerly based in Iraq accused of leaking much material to WikiLeaks. The charges cover the leaking of a video of a 2007 US attack in Iraq that killed innocent people as well as 150,000 diplomatic cables. Manning is officially charged with four counts of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for disobeying an order or regulation, and eight counts of violating Article 134, a general charge for misconduct, which in this case involves breaking federal laws against disclosing classified information. Manning now faces an Article 32 investigation, the military’s equivalent of a civilian grand jury, into charges that he mishandled classified information “with reason to believe the information could cause injury to the United States.” That investigation could lead to administrative punishments or more likely, given the gravity of the charges, a court-martial. [New York Times, 7/6/2010]
Orly Taitz. [Source: The Smoking Gun]California “birther” attorney Orly Taitz, attempting to avoid paying a $20,000 fine levied against her by a Georgia district court judge (see October 13-16, 2009), says after losing an appeal (see March 15, 2010) that she intends to appeal the fine to the Supreme Court. She files an application for stay of the fine to Justice Clarence Thomas, who denies it; she then refiles the application with Justice Samuel Alito, meanwhile demanding proof that Thomas actually denied the application [Washington Examiner, 7/7/2010; Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 8/4/2010] and asking Chief Justice John Roberts to verify Thomas’s dismissal. In her filing with Roberts, Taitz says she found the notice of dismissal on the Supreme Court’s Web site on a Saturday, just hours after “some Obama supporters” posted comments on her Web site “gloating about the fact that Justice Thomas dismissed her application.” She says that according to her examination, the Supreme Court docket has been altered and tampered with. She says that a previous appeal she had filed with the Court had also been deleted without explanation, and writes: “Currently, there is a clear pattern of entries being made on the docket of the Supreme Court, or entries or even cases deleted, when the court is closed and the justices and the clerks are not there.… Supreme Court is not a city bus, when one can go in and out any time he feels like.” Taitz demands to be allowed to visit the Supreme Court with a “forensic document expert” who can verify the validity of “the orders pertaining to her cases and verify and clarify, that there is a valid signature of Justice Thomas and his clerk on the denial of application 10A56, entered on the docket on Saturday 17, 2010” and of other cases she has filed, and demands that she and a “computer security expert” be allowed to examine the electronic docket of the cases pertaining to her and her clients to ascertain if they have been altered. [Orly Taitz, 7/20/2010; Orange County Register, 7/22/2010] Alito refers the application to the full Court, which dismisses the application without comment. [United Press International, 8/16/2010] It is unclear what, if any, response Roberts gives to Taitz. After the Court rejects her appeal, the government will place a lien on her property (see August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011).
The Minnesota Majority Legal Defense Fund logo. It is not known if the misspelling of “defend” is deliberate. [Source: Minnesota Majority / WePay (.com)]The conservative activist group Minnesota Majority issues a report claiming that Senator Al Franken (D-MN) won the hotly contested recount for the Minnesota seat (see June 30, 2009) because of votes cast by felons voting illegally in Minneapolis-St. Paul. According to the report, at least 341 convicted felons who had lost the right to vote cast their votes for Franken in the 2008 race (see November 4-5, 2008). Franken was found to have won the race by 312 votes. If the votes allegedly cast illegally were deducted from the final vote tally, Franken’s opponent Norm Coleman (R-MN) would be the winner, the report says. Minnesota Majority makes its claim after studying publicly available conviction lists and voting records. The group claims that attempts to secure an investigation by state and federal authorities have been “stonewalled.” Minnesota Majority executive director Dan McGrath says: “We aren’t trying to change the result of the last election. That legally can’t be done. We are just trying to make sure the integrity of the next election isn’t compromised.” McGrath complains that prosecutors in Ramsey and Hennepin Counties have ignored their findings, including a list of hundreds of allegedly illegal voters from those counties. A spokesman for the county attorney’s offices says the group’s information is “just plain wrong” and full of errors. McGrath says the group went back and double-checked its records after being told that its findings were wrong. He says: “What we did this time is irrefutable. We took the voting lists and matched them with conviction lists and then went back to the records and found the roster lists, where voters sign in before walking to the voting booth, and matched them by hand. The only way we can be wrong is if someone with the same first, middle, and last names, same year of birth as the felon, and living in the same community, has voted. And that isn’t very likely.”
County Prosecutors: Group's Claims Largely Erroneous - Phil Carruthers, Ramsey County’s lead prosecutor, says his office is taking the allegations seriously and praises the group for doing “a good job in [its] review.” But, Carruthers notes, the group lacks access to nonpublic information, and that information shows that almost all of the names on the list are of eligible voters. For example, Carruthers says, “public records might show a felon was given 10 years probation, but internal records the county attorney has might show that the probation period was cut to five and the felon was eligible to vote.” Carruthers says Ramsey County is filing charges against 28 people for illegally voting, with more charges possible. McGrath says: “Prosecutors have to act more swiftly in prosecuting cases from the 2008 election to deter fraud in the future, and the state has to make sure that existing system, that flags convicted felons so voting officials can challenge them at the ballot, is effective. In 90 percent of the cases we looked at, the felons weren’t flagged. If the state had done that, things might be very different today.” [Fox News, 7/12/2010]
Governor Weighs In, Implying Franken Won Illegally - Two days after the allegations surface in the press, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) says the organization may have found “credible evidence” of voter fraud. On Fox News, Pawlenty says of the allegedly illegal votes: “I suspect they favored Al Franken. I don’t know that. But if that turned out to be true they may have flipped that election in a very close election.” Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund has stated flatly on Fox that “hundreds of felons” gave Franken the victory. But Carruthers tells a reporter, “Overwhelmingly, their statistics were not accurate.” Deputy Hennepin County Attorney Pat Diamond adds: “It’s produced a lot of smoke. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s going to produce a lot of fire.” Carruthers says that the list of 480 suspected felons was obviously wrong from the outset, and 270 were removed upon a cursory review. Many other cases were examples of mistaken identity, or the list not taking into account felons who had their right to vote restored. The 28 cases flagged by Carruthers for potential prosecution had already been identified before he received Minnesota Majority’s list, he says. Diamond says much the same of the list of alleged illegal voters in Hennepin County.
Allegations Being Made for Political Purposes? - Local reporter John Croman notes that the allegations are being used by conservatives to push for restrictive voter ID laws. He writes: “Valid ID is needed to register, but not to vote. And yet both of the prosecutors [Carruthers and Diamond] pointed out there’s nothing to keep a felon from using legal ID to vote illegally.” While Minnesota Majority is blaming Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D-MN) for the alleged felon voting, Diamond says Ritchie has worked diligently to make the state’s voting rolls more accurate and current. “He’s gotten the system into this century, so it’s actually much easier to prevent felons from voting now,” Diamond says. “I’m going to trial in August with two cases of felons who voted, that were flagged by election workers.” Law professor David Schultz says Pawlenty’s response is surprising: “One, it makes an assumption that it’s been proven that these felons have voted illegally, which isn’t the case. And, two, it makes the assumption that these felons voted overwhelmingly in favor of Franken.” Schultz says he believes Pawlenty is posturing for his upcoming presidential bid: “There’s a certain segment of the population, people who believe Democrats can’t win unless felons and immigrants vote illegally. He’s trying to appeal to that group to further his presidential campaign.” But if that is the case, Schultz says, Pawlenty is casting aspersions on the integrity of Minnesota’s election system for political gain. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 7/14/2010; KARE-11, 7/15/2010]
Months Later, Six Charges Filed - In October 2010, six felons in Hennepin County will be charged with voting illegally (see October 21, 2010).
Entity Tags: Mark Ritchie, Dan McGrath, County of Ramsey (Minnesota), County of Hennepin (Minnesota), Al Franken, David Schultz, John Fund, Tim Pawlenty, John Croman, Pat Diamond, Norm Coleman, Minnesota Majority, Phil Carruthers
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, who has refused to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military (see Before April 13, 2010 and April 22-23, 2010), releases a video on WorldNetDaily accusing the Army of convicting him “without a trial” over his refusal to obey orders from his superior officers. Lakin is facing a court-martial. He cites a “rewritten” Officer Evaluation Report on him that, he says, was revised to include “derogatory remarks” from the charges, though he has not been “arraigned or found guilty.” The latest officer evaluation says Lakin lacks “the sound judgment required of a senior officer.” Earlier evaluations were more favorable. Lakin says that since the Army refuses to allow him to question Obama’s citizenship or present “evidence” of Obama’s lack of citizenship during his trial, he has no real defense. He intends to renew his request to bring in such evidence (see September 2, 2010). In the video, Lakin accuses the Obama administration of orchestrating a “coverup” of Obama’s “real” birth status. Lakin had sought the documentation on Obama’s birth as well as the testimony of Dr. Chiyome Fukino of the Hawaii Department of Health and that agency’s records on Obama (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). Lakin also wanted the records and testimony from custodians of records of Obama’s college financial aid and attendance at Punahou High School, Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. [WorldNetDaily, 7/17/2010]
Byron Williams, in a photo taken shortly after his arrest. [Source: CBS News]California resident Byron Williams opens fire on Highway Patrol officers after being stopped on an Oakland freeway. Williams is wearing body armor and carrying multiple firearms, including a .308-caliber rifle using armor-piercing rounds. The officers stopped Williams after observing him speeding and weaving through traffic, and Williams opens fire on the officers. Ten Highway Patrol officers ultimately converge on the scene. Williams survives the 12-minute shootout, but is struck several times by police bullets; he inflicts minor injuries on two officers. Williams is a convicted felon who was released from jail two years ago after serving a sentence for bank robbery. His mother, Janice Williams, says he has had a difficult time getting his life together after being released from prison. Mrs. Williams also says her son is extremely angry with the US government. She says: “He’s been upset with the direction the country is going. He feels the people of this country are being raped by our government and politicians.” Williams blames “liberals” in government for making it difficult for him to find a job. Evidence taken from Williams’s truck, and a subsequent interview with Williams, show that he intended to “start a revolution” by killing liberal activists in San Francisco. Williams admits to planning on murdering people at the San Francisco offices of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Tides Foundation, an organization that promotes progressive social causes. Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason says Williams targeted the two nonprofit organizations because of their political ideologies. “Retribution was called for with Tides or anyone working for George Soros [a billionaire known for funding progressive causes] (see August 8, 2006 and February 2007) by taking out 11 people,” Williams says, and adds that he chose to murder 11 people in retribution for the 11 workers killed in the April 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Williams says of his intentions to murder: “I regret it only because of the conditions I’m in and the pain that I’ve put on my mother. But I am 100 percent convinced that we cannot beat the system of corruption.” The Tides Foundation says in a statement, “This is a reminder of the intolerant climate that has been created by the demagogues and fear-mongering pundits of the right wing.” [KXTV, 7/18/2010; Associated Press, 7/21/2010; KGO-TV, 9/15/2010; Media Matters, 10/11/2010] In a jailhouse interview, Williams will say that much of his political thinking was sparked by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck (see October 11, 2010).
Supporters of Joe Miller march while carrying assault weapons. [Source: Bob Moore / TPMDC]Supporters of Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK), who has the support of former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and the Tea Party Express against Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), march in the streets of Anchorage brandishing assault weapons. Miller later explains the event on ABC News: “You know, guns are a pretty big thing up here in Alaska. In fact, per capita, we probably have the highest rate of gun ownership in the nation. The Second Amendment’s very important to people up here in Alaska. So you know, it’s not unusual to walk into a Wal-Mart, or to walk into a gas station, and see people carrying guns. Frankly, I wasn’t in that Hummer [the large SUV accompanying the marchers]. I was out there walking, shaking hands. But you know, it’s not unusual in political rallies, it’s not unusual in parades, to see that type of thing. Probably though, in the lower 48, it does raise some eyebrows.” [TPMDC, 7/19/2010; ABC News, 7/19/2010] The supporters shown in a video of the march are later identified as members of the Anchorage Second Amendment Task Force, a gun rights group. The organization endorsed Miller after he showed up at a forum over the summer that Murkowski declined to attend. Task Force leader Chuck Green later tells a reporter that his members “like[d] Miller’s straight forward answers to questions.… [S]ome of the guys in the forum decided to attend the parade supporting Miller. It’s… as simple as that.” [Salon, 7/23/2010] Miller says that he welcomes the support of the Tea Party Express even after its spokesman, Mark Williams, was ejected from the National Tea Party Federation for making explicitly racist comments (see July 17-18, 2010 and July 19-23, 2010). Miller says his campaign does not endorse such views: “I think it’s appropriate for us to make an unequivocal statement that this campaign is not, in any way, racist,” he says. “In fact, we judge people by their character, rather than the color of their skin. We have a number of minorities that are assisting us in this campaign. My perspective of it is that we will embrace, though, the help that’s brought to this campaign by those that are really supportive of constitutional limited government. And I think that’s the direction this country’s gotta go to rescue it from the financial insolvency that it’s in right now.” [ABC News, 7/19/2010] Miller will later be shown to have extensive ties to Alaska’s right-wing militia movement (see July 23, 2010 and October 18, 2010). Many of those militia organizations espouse racist beliefs.
Minnesota political and sports columnist Jay Weiner writes of his irritation at the recent claims that Senator Al Franken (D-MN) won the 2008 Senate election because felons voted illegally (see July 12-14, 2010). Weiner became a political reporter during the recount between Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman (R-MN—see June 30, 2009), and has written a book on the subject, This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount. Weiner notes that the claims by the conservative organization Minnesota Majority are disputed by a number of judges and even, grudgingly, the Coleman campaign’s lawyers. Coleman is now calling Franken the “accidental senator,” Weiner writes, and Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) is casting doubt on Franken’s legitimacy as senator. The story is being pushed by Fox News and by conservative talk show hosts. Weiner notes that research into Minnesota Majority’s claims has proven the claims to be groundless and the organization’s “proof” inaccurate. Weiner says he is angered by the implication that if voter ID laws were in place, those alleged felon votes would not have been cast and Coleman would have won. “This is a long-standing Republican issue to limit voting among the disenfranchised,” Weiner writes. “Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer has used this controversy to call for picture IDs for voters. But guess what? Convicted felons have driver’s licenses. They have photo IDs. Voter photo IDs wouldn’t halt felons from voting. This Minnesota Majority report is being used for other political reasons.” He accuses Pawlenty of being “fast and loose” with the facts in his eagerness to smear Franken, and cites Pawlenty’s appearance on Fox to falsely accuse a Minneapolis election official of possible fraud (see November 12, 2008), and his erroneous claim that Franken won the election through the auspices of improperly counted absentee ballots. But regardless of what else happens, Weiner concludes, the issue will resurface in 2014, when Franken’s Republican challenger will resurrect the charges to attack Franken’s legitimacy as a sitting senator. [Salon, 7/19/2010]
Tim Ravndal, the head of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, makes comments on his Facebook page that many interpret as condoning the murder of homosexuals. Ravndal will apologize for the comments (see September 4-7, 2010), which he makes in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of same-sex couples by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He will also remove the comments, but they will be preserved in a screenshot and documented by the Great Falls Tribune. Ravndal is described by the Tribune as “a prominent figure in [Montana]‘s tea party movement since its early days.” In an exchange with two others, Ravndal says the following:
Ravndal: “Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my own rights.”
Keith Baker: “How dare you exercise your First Amendment rights?”
Dennis Scranton: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Ravndal: ”@Kieth, OOPS I forgot this aint (sic) America no more! @ Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
Dennis Scranton: “Should be able to get info Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration. Go back a bit over 10 years.”
According to the Tribune, Ravndal and Scranton are apparently referring to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten, tied to a fencepost, and left to die (see October 9, 1998 and After). During the trial of Shepard’s murderers, testimony proved that Shepard was killed because he was gay. [Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010]
Joe Miller. [Source: Mad As Hell And ... (.com)]Salon reporter and columnist Justin Elliot warns that if Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK) is elected, the militia movement in that state will have a staunch supporter in the US Senate. Elliot writes his column shortly after a controversial video of a recent Miller rally makes national news, showing Miller supporters openly brandishing assault rifles during a march (see July 19, 2010). Norm Olson of the Alaska Citizens Militia (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997) tells Elliot: “It’s safe to say that Joe Miller is a friend of patriots. His beliefs and platform favor Second Amendment rights as well as the power of nullification when the federal government intrudes into the private lives of Alaskans.” Olson claims his Alaska Militia has several hundred members and supporters; the organization accuses the federal government of committing 17 “acts of war” against the US population, including “firearms restrictions or other disarmament,” “mandatory medical anything,” “federal patrols,” “taking control of children under duress or threat,” “federalization of law enforcement,” and “surrender powers to a corporation or foreign government.” Miller advocates interpreting the Tenth Amendment to “get the government out of our lives,” an interpretation classed by critics as “tentherism,” which many on the right, including militia organizations, say should be used to force the federal government to cede vast powers to the states and even local authorities. The “tenthers” often focus on dissolving Social Security and other federal “safety net” programs, and ending all controls on gun ownership. Elliot writes: “This is the centerpiece of Miller’s political identity. He asserts that there is no constitutional authority for the health care reform law or proposed cap and trade legislation. He advocates a state takeover of federally controlled land in Alaska such as Denali National Park. These are the kinds of positions that are creating buzz in the militia world.” Olson’s colleague, Ray Southwell, who accompanied Olson to Alaska after both were ejected from the Michigan Militia for their extremist views (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), has written emails and Web posts in support of Miller in recent weeks. One email reads in part, “We need leaders here to stand against the feds.” Another militia member wrote: “Joe Miller is an strong Constitution following patriot, he does not play games.… If we want to make sure Joe Miller keeps on the straight and narrow, WE, ALL OF US, have to make damn sure he and his entire family are safe and sound, because that is a common way to get at a man go for the soft spot family [sic].” Elliot notes that the Alaska militias are not unified in support of Miller, and some, like Schaeffer Cox of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, say, “He’s going to try to run things in a more conservative way, but he’s still trying to run things—so he has the same fundamental problem of all the other politicians.” [Salon, 7/23/2010] The online news site Alaska Dispatch will note that Cox also founded and leads the Second Amendment Task Force, the group that turned out to display its assault weapons during the recent Miller rally. It also will note that Olson recently attempted to run for lieutenant governor on the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) ticket (see September 6-7, 2008). The AIP is one of the largest and most well-known secessionist organizations in Alaska, and once listed Todd Palin, the husband of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), as a member. [KTUU-TV, 9/6/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 9/23/2010] Miller claims to know nothing of AIP’s agenda or views, but according to the Alaska Dispatch and the liberal blog Progressive Nation, AIP’s statements of beliefs are virtually identical to those espoused by AIP. It’s unlikely Miller is unaware of AIP, the blog claims, and asks, “If you like the Tea Party, you gotta love the Alaskan Independence Party, so why has it been shunned even by Alaska politicians?” It goes on to note that when Palin ran for vice president in 2008, the McCain-Palin campaign called attempts to call attention to her family’s ties to AIP a “smear.” AIP itself has written on its Web site, “No longer a fringe party, the AIP is a viable third party with a serious mission and qualified candidates for elected offices,” and boasts the inclusion of former Governor Wally Hickel (AIP-AK) as a member. The blog notes that former AIP member Todd Palin is involved in Miller’s campaign. [Progressive Nation, 7/11/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 9/8/2010] Miller will later be shown to employ security guards with militia ties (see October 17, 2010).
Entity Tags: Ray Southwell, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Alaska Dispatch, Alaska Citizens Militia, Justin Elliot, Progressive Nation, Todd Palin, Second Amendment Task Force, Sarah Palin, Schaeffer Cox, Wally Hickel, Norman (“Norm”) Olson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donahue blasts Senate Democrats for attempting to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which, if approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, would force the disclosure of the identities of corporate political donors. The DISCLOSE Act was proposed by Congressional Democrats in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision that allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities (see January 21, 2010). The USCOC, a trade organization that spends heavily on Republican causes, is one of the “independent” organizations that would be most affected by the DISCLOSE Act (see January 21-22, 2010). Donahue, whose organization is lobbying members of Congress against the bill, says that the bill would infringe upon constitutional guarantees of free speech (see January 21, 2010) because it requires donors to state publicly their political positions, which not every organization or individual wishes to do. “The fact that this assault to the First Amendment is being considered as millions are desperately looking for work is a complete outrage,” Donahue says in a statement. “Despite their best efforts, there is no back room dark enough, no partisan motive strong enough, and no cynicism profound enough to barter away Americans’ freedom of speech.” [The Hill, 7/26/2010] Senate Republicans will successfully block the bill from coming to a vote (see July 26-27, 2010).
Senate Democrats are unable to break a filibuster by Senate Republicans that is blocking passage of the DISCLOSE Act.
Act Would Mandate Disclosure of Donors - The DISCLOSE Act—formally the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act—would overturn many elements of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision that allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities (see January 21, 2010). If passed, it would have created new campaign finance disclosure requirements and made public the names of “super PAC” contributors (see March 26, 2010). Individuals, corporations, labor unions, and tax-exempt charitable organizations would, under the act, report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) each time they spend $10,000 or more on campaign-related expenditures. Additionally, all outside groups, including “super PACs,” would have to report the names of donors. Moreover, the legislation would provide for so-called “Stand By Your Ad” requirements mandating that super PACs and other outside campaign groups producing political advertisements disclose the top funders in the ad. The CEO or highest-ranking official of an organization would, under the act, have to appear in the ad and officially “approve” the message. [Open Congress, 6/29/2010; OMB Watch, 7/24/2012]
Unbreakable Filibuster - Even public support from President Obama fails to sway enough Republican senators to vote against the filibuster, as did changes made to the bill by sponsor Charles Schumer (D-NY) designed to assuage some of Republicans’ concerns about the bill. The bill has already passed the House, shepherded through under Democratic leadership against Republican opposition. Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate also, but Senate rules allow the minority to mount filibusters that require 60 votes to overcome, and a number of Republicans would need to break from the Republican pack to vote down the filibuster. Additionally, some conservative senators such as Ben Nelson (D-NE) have not publicly stated their support for the bill. One Republican who had previously indicated she might vote for cloture (against the filibuster), Susan Collins (R-ME), dashed Democrats’ final hopes by saying she would not vote for cloture after all. “The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions,” says Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley. “Senator Collins believes that it is ironic that a bill aimed at curtailing special interests in the election process provides so many carve-outs and exemptions that favor some grass-roots organizations over others. This, too, is simply unfair.” Other so-called Republican moderates such as Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have previously indicated they would not vote for cloture. Ironically, one of the “carve-outs” in the bill Schumer added was on behalf of the far-right National Rifle Association (NRA), an addition that Schumer says was made to placate Republicans. Schumer says that even if the bill does not pass now, attempts to reintroduce it will be made. The DISCLOSE Act “is one of the most important for the future of our democracy, not just for the next six months but for the next six decades,” he says. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “I don’t know what the final vote will be tomorrow, but I know that you—if you had a sliver of Republicans that thought special-interest giving and corporate influence in elections was… part of the problem, then this bill would pass. Now we get to see who in the Senate thinks there’s too much corporate influence and too much special-interest money that dominate our elections and who doesn’t. I don’t know how it could be any clearer than that.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) retorts: “The DISCLOSE Act seeks to protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all-out attack on the First Amendment (see January 21, 2010). In the process, the authors of the bill have decided to trade our constitutional rights away in a backroom deal that makes the Cornhusker Kickback look like a model of legislative transparency.” [Politico, 7/26/2010] The “Cornhusker Kickback” McConnell is referencing is a deal struck in late 2009 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to win Nelson’s support for the Democrats’ health care reform package, in which Nebraska, Nelson’s state, would receive 100 percent government financing for an expansion of Medicare. [Las Vegas Sun, 12/20/2009]
Entity Tags: Harry Reid, Federal Election Commission, Charles Schumer, Ben Nelson, Barack Obama, US Supreme Court, US Senate, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, DISCLOSE Act of 2010, Olympia Snowe, Mitch McConnell, National Rifle Association, Robert Gibbs, Kevin Kelley
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
US Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) falsely claims that the Democratically backed DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would have imposed some disclosure regulations on corporate and union campaign financiers (see July 26-27, 2010), was passed into law. Angle is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The previous day, Angle posted on Twitter that the DISCLOSE Act’s defeat was “a great victory for the first amendment.” But today, Angle joins conservative talk radio host Heidi Harris to claim that the act is actually in effect and she opposes it. Asked about her position on campaign finance, Angle says: “Well I think that the Supreme Court has really made their decision on this, they found that we have a First Amendment right across the board that was violated by the McCain-Feingold act (see March 27, 2002 and January 21, 2010). And that’s what they threw out, was those violations. The McCain-Feingold Act is still in place. The DISCLOSE Act is still in place. It’s just that certain provisions within that they found to be definitely violating the First Amendment. If we didn’t have the DISCLOSE Act there would be a lot of different things that people wouldn’t be able to find out. And certainly you can go to FEC.gov and see where Harry Reid is getting most of his money from special interests.” [Las Vegas Sun, 7/28/2010; TPMDC, 7/28/2010]
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