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The presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich (R-GA) expresses its anger at media coverage of its candidate’s recent remarks alleging that African-Americans rely more on food stamps than other ethnic groups, and seemingly prefer that reliance to actual work (see January 5, 2012). Campaign spokespersons tell reporters that Gingrich’s words were misquoted and taken out of context. Gingrich himself, asked about the remarks, says: “I know that the left has a passion for defending its right to be the only moral arbiter in America. Therefore… if you in fact talk openly and honestly about the failure of liberal institutions and the way they hurt the poor, there becomes a sudden frenzy of a herd of people running screaming, ‘racism, racism.’ It is a fact that liberal institutions in inner cities have failed the poor. It’s a fact that bad schools trap poor children. It’s a fact that bad public safety policies lead to the collapse of cities like Detroit. It is a fact that high taxation drives jobs out. It’s a fact that the approach that favors unemployment compensation and food stamps over work and pay checks has failed. I’m happy to have that debate. I believe all Americans of every ethnic background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. I’m prepared to discuss that even if it makes liberals uncomfortable. For the life of me I cannot understand why having a conservative Republican who cares about young people having jobs should be seen as such a terrible idea. Or should be seen as somehow a racist characterization. I think all young people of all backgrounds should have jobs.” MSNBC’s Ed Schultz calls Gingrich’s comments “racially insensitive” and “simply not true.” He then shows the statistics of Americans given benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Around 40 million Americans receive SNAP benefits: 59 percent of those are white and 28 percent are black. Thirty percent of SNAP recipients have jobs and depend on SNAP to supplement their income. Forty-seven percent of SNAP recipients are children. Seventy-six percent of SNAP households contain a child, an elderly person, and/or a disabled person. Schultz says Gingrich’s comments were reported accurately, regardless of Gingrich’s protestations that the media “distorted” his comments and crafted “an attack” with the misreported words. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous calls Gingrich’s remarks “extremely frustrating” to hear, and says Gingrich is trying to “divide” the country along racial lines for his electoral gain. Gingrich uses “stereotypes… not rooted in fact” on which to base his arguments, Jealous says, and adds, “His facts are wrong, the implications are wrong, and the effect is wrong.” [MSNBC, 1/5/2012; Politico, 1/6/2012]
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA), continuing his rhetorical attacks on President Obama, singles out African-Americans as largely dependent on “food stamps.” Appearing at campaign rallies in New Hampshire, Gingrich repeatedly calls Obama “the best food stamp president in history,” says he would be “the best paycheck president in American history,” and says of African-Americans that he wants to tell them why they should “not be satisfied with food stamps.” Gingrich says he would be willing to discuss the topic at the next NAACP convention. Gingrich says: “More people are on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history. I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history. Now, there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went around and asked people, ‘Would you rather your children had food stamps or paychecks?’ you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather have a paycheck. And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. And I’ll go to them and explain a brand new Social Security opportunity for young people, which should be particularly good for African-American males—because they’re the group that gets the smallest return on Social Security because they have the shortest life span.” Think Progress reporter Tanya Somanader calls Gingrich’s take on food stamp recipients both “prejudicial” and “false.” The food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has white Americans as the majority of its recipients. Most Americans receiving food stamps are either children or elderly retirees. Working-age women of all races represent only 28 percent of SNAP beneficiaries, and working-age men represent only 17 percent. Many SNAP beneficiaries actually have jobs and bring home paychecks that are their primary source of income; 85 percent of those recipients live below the poverty line. Somanader writes, “Thus, SNAP benefits provide a necessary safety net to families trying to stay afloat in a sluggish economy.” [ABC News, 1/2/2012; Think Progress, 1/5/2012] NAACP president Benjamin Jealous will note that Gingrich rejected multiple invitations to speak at the NAACP convention in past years. [MSNBC, 1/5/2012] Gingrich’s fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) recently said that he wanted to end the cycle of blacks “taking someone else’s money” via SNAP and other federal safety-net programs (see January 1-3, 2012). Gingrich recently advocated firing most school custodial and maintenance workers and forcing poor children (presumably federal aid recipients) to fill the positions instead (see November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011). Previously, Gingrich has accused food stamp recipients of being millionaires and using the money to “go to Hawaii” (coincidentally Obama’s home state). Government and independent experts say that the surge in federal aid recipients—higher now than in any time in US history—is because of policies instituted under George W. Bush and, in some cases, continued by Obama. The stories Gingrich tells of millionaire food stamp recipients vacationing in Hawaii have been shown to be false (see November 30 - December 2, 2011), though under a now-obsolete form of food stamp distribution, some recipients were able to use the proceeds to buy beer or trade them for small amounts of cash. [ABC News, 1/2/2012]
Sheldon Adelson at a celebration of the opening of his Sands Cotai Central casino in Macau, April 2012. [Source: Aaron Tam / AFP / Getty Images / ProPublica]Casino owner Sheldon Adelson, one of America’s wealthiest individuals, gives $5 million to a super PAC acting on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Adelson’s fortune comes from casinos he owns in Las Vegas and Asia. Adelson has let it be known that he intends to donate much more during the campaign season, both in the primaries and in the general election, when a Republican will challenge President Obama for the presidency. The Washington Post calls Adelson’s donation “the latest in an avalanche of campaign cash flooding the presidential season to independent groups known as super PACs.” Adelson donates the money to Winning Our Future, a super PAC whose predecessor, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF), is plagued with allegations of misconduct and illicit involvement by Gingrich (see December 19, 2011). ASWF was also a benefactor of Adelson’s donations, both monetary and in Adelson’s permission for Gingrich to use his personal aircraft. According to a person close to Adelson, the billionaire is willing to spend at least $5 million more, either on Gingrich or the Republican nominee for president. The source adds that Adelson wants to keep Gingrich competitive in the primary race at least through the January 21 South Carolina primary. If Gingrich does well in South Carolina, as he is predicted to, the source says Gingrich’s super PAC may well receive another hefty donation. In December 2011, Adelson denied saying he planned on donating $20 million to the organization. Adelson and his wife Miriam have known Gingrich since the mid-1990s, when Adelson was locked in disputes with labor unions and government regulators over his construction of the massive Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Like Gingrich, Adelson is extremely conservative on the subject of Israel. Gingrich, buoyed with super PAC donations in recent weeks, did well in the Iowa caucuses (see January 3, 2012) against frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose own super PAC, Restore Our Future, has a stable of wealthy donors keeping pro-Romney and anti-Gingrich ads on the airwaves (see June 23, 2011 and January 3, 2012). Reportedly, Romney’s supporters begged Adelson not to make his contribution to Gingrich, and instead to let Gingrich’s campaign wither without Adelson’s support. Gingrich’s campaign intends to use much of the donation for airtime in South Carolina, and to air portions of a film documenting Romney’s time as CEO of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that oversaw the bankruptcy and dissolution of numerous small businesses and corporations. Gingrich claims Adelson is acting entirely on his own, saying, “If he wants to counterbalance Romney’s millionaires, I have no objection to him counterbalancing Romney’s millionaires.” [Washington Post, 1/7/2012; New York Times, 1/9/2012] Slate columnist Will Oremus observes: “There’s no question that Gingrich has been paid for by Sheldon Adelson. It’s up to voters to decide whether he’s been bought.” [Slate, 1/27/2012]
Entity Tags: Newt Gingrich, Bain Capital, American Solutions for Winning the Future, Miriam Adelson, Winning Our Future, Will Oremus, Restore Our Future, Willard Mitt Romney, Washington Post, Sheldon Adelson, Barack Obama
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
MSNBC suspends conservative author and commentator Pat Buchanan for racist material in his most recent book, Suicide of a Superpower (see October 18, 2011 and After). The suspension is indefinite. Buchanan has faced heavy criticism from many civil rights organizations and activists after his book was released; it contains such chapter titles as “The End of White America” and “The Death of Christian America.” The activist group Color of Change has mounted a campaign to have Buchanan suspended from the airwaves. MSNBC president Phil Griffin says that the suspension is indefinite, and will not speculate on when or if Buchanan will return to the network. Griffin says of the suspension, “When Pat was on his book tour, because of the content of the book, I didn’t think it should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.” [Raw Story, 1/7/2012; Associated Press, 1/7/2012; Mediaite, 1/7/2012] Griffin adds: “Since then [the book tour] the issue has become the nature of some of the statements in the book.… Pat and I are going to meet soon and discuss it… a decision will be made.” He calls Buchanan “a good guy,” but says “[s]ome of his ideas are alarming.” [New York Times, 1/7/2012] Buchanan has engaged in a number of racially inflammatory comments and actions in the past. In 2009, he launched a number of racially couched attacks on Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor before she was confirmed for the high court (see May 28, 2009, May 31, 2009, and June 12, 2009); in one attack on Sotomayor, he asserted that America was “a country built basically by white people” (see July 16, 2009). That same year, he took part in a political event along with a number of white supremacist figures (see June 20, 2009). Buchanan has repeatedly argued that President Obama is an “affirmative action” president, whose every success can be traced to that program in some form (see October 13, 2009). Buchanan has spoken at events sponsored by the openly white supremacist political party American Third Position (see October 15, 2009 and After). Recently Buchanan apologized for calling Obama “your boy” on an MSNBC talk show hosted by Joe Scarborough. Buchanan first gained public notice with the racially fueled remarks and programs he began as a young communications aide in the Nixon administration (see April 1969). [Raw Story, 1/7/2012; Associated Press, 1/7/2012; Mediaite, 1/7/2012] Color of Change issues the following statement: “ColorOfChange.org welcomes MSNBC’s decision to indefinitely suspend Pat Buchanan. However, it’s time for MSNBC to permanently end their relationship with Pat Buchanan and the hateful, outdated ideas he represents. We appreciate this first step and urge MSNBC to take the important final step to ensure that their brand is no longer associated with Buchanan’s history of passing off white supremacy ideology as mainstream political commentary.” [Raw Story, 1/7/2012]
The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the “food stamp” program, is playing a critical role in keeping American citizens from starving during the economic recession. The program has long been reviled by Republicans and conservatives, and recently Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich (R-GA) smeared President Obama as “the food stamp president” (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012), and falsely claimed that Obama has presided over the largest increase of Americans receiving SNAP assistance in US history (see January 17, 2012). The program benefits a disproportionately large number of children and disabled and elderly people, according to the CBPP. Since the recession began in late 2007, the CBPP says, “SNAP has responded effectively to the recession” in providing much-needed assistance to Americans, particularly since the recession has driven many families into “low-income” status. “According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, SNAP kept more than 5 million people out of poverty in 2010 and lessened the severity of poverty for millions of others.” As the economy recovers and legislative provisions expire, SNAP spending will decrease, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predictions. “By 2022 SNAP is expected to return nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of GDP. Over the long term, SNAP is not growing faster than the overall economy and thus is not contributing to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.” The payment accuracy of SNAP is extraordinarily high, the CBPP claims, refuting the claims of massive fraud made by Gingrich and other opponents of the program. And, according to the CBPP, economists say that the program is “one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus,” helping grow the economy as it protects poverty-stricken families. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/9/2012]
Uranium mine near the rim of the Grand Canyon. [Source: Intercontinental Cry (.com)]The Obama administration bans hard-rock mining on more than a million acres in and around the Grand Canyon, an area rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves. The ban is for 20 years. Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers have worked for years to limit mining near the Grand Canyon National Park. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, says, “When families travel to see the Grand Canyon, they have a right to expect that the only glow they will see will come from the sun setting over the rim of this natural wonder, and not from the radioactive contamination that comes from uranium mining.” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has twice imposed temporary bans on mining claims, says: “A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape. People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place, and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water [and] irrigation.” The basin is already considered one of the nation’s most endangered waterways, and mining operations could use vast amounts of the area’s water and taint much more. The ban reverses a Bush administration decision to open the area to new mining claims; environmentalists have long pointed to the damage wrought to the area by uranium, oil, and gas mining under the Bush administration’s policies.
Mining Poses High Risks to Environment, Tourism - One in 12 Americans gets some or all of their water from the Colorado River Basin, including the residents of Phoenix and Los Angeles, and the area generates about $3.5 billion in annual income, largely from tourism. In contrast, the mining ban will mean that 465 prospective jobs will not materialize, and the area will lose some $16.6 million in annual tax revenue from mining. Supporters of the ban say that the jobs that would come from mining in the area would not be worth the risk to the river basin and the canyon, and a mining mishap would be potentially devastating for tourism. Many of the area’s lands are considered sacred by Native American tribes, and the lands support a vast number of wildlife habitats. Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity says that uranium mining in the area would critically despoil the area, ruin millions of Americans’ access to fresh water, and cut, not increase, job revenues. McKinnon says: “The real economic engine in northern Arizona is not uranium mining. It’s tourism. To jeopardize our economic engine with more toxic uranium mining is unacceptable.” In 2008, former Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Baca said flatly: “Without [the Colorado], there is no Western United States. If it becomes unusable, you move the entire Western United States out of any sort of economic position for growth.” [ProPublica, 12/21/2008; Associated Press, 1/9/2012]
Republicans Criticize Ban - Some Congressional Republicans and mining industry groups call the decision indefensible, saying it will cost hundreds of jobs and deprive the nation of a much-needed energy resource. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) calls the ban a “devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona,” and says the ban was “fueled by an emotional public relations campaign pitting the public’s love for the Grand Canyon against a modern form of low-impact mining that occurs many miles from the canyon walls.” He says that modern mining techniques will not add toxins to water drawn from the river basin. Other Republicans cite a mining industry study that claims even a severe mining accident would increase uranium levels in the Colorado River by an undetectable amount. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) says: “It is unconscionable that the administration has yet again caved to political pressure from radical special interest groups rather than standing up for the American people. Banning access to the most uranium-rich land in the United States will be overwhelmingly detrimental to both jobs in Utah and Arizona and our nation’s domestic energy security.” Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) calls the ban part of the Obama administration’s “war on western jobs.” Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a tea party supporter, says: “This administration has proven incapable of using even the slightest bit of common sense when it comes to lands policy. The American people are desperate for jobs, and our domestic energy industry provides some of the best paying jobs in the western states. However, the president and Interior Secretary Salazar are intent on appeasing their friends in the extreme left wing of the environmentalist movement during an election year by locking up as much land as possible, regardless of the negative effects on our economy. For energy production that has long been safe and responsible, the announcement represents a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem.” [Senator John McCain, 1/9/2012; Senator John McCain, 1/9/2012] In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency noted that mining had contaminated 40 percent of the streams and rivers in the western United States, and mining was considered the single most polluting industry in the nation. [ProPublica, 12/21/2008] Many of the claims now blocked from development belong to foreign interests, including Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, and South Korea’s state-owned utility. [PR Newswire, 6/7/2011]
Entity Tags: Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, Jim Baca, Environmental Protection Agency, Edward Markey, John Barrasso, Ken Salazar, Rosatom, Rob Bishop, Obama administration, Taylor McKinnon, John McCain
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record
The US Supreme Court unanimously upholds a lower court decision in Bluman v. Federal Election Commission to ban foreign citizens from using their money to try to influence US elections (see August 8, 2011). The decision is issued in a brief, single-sentence order. In the days before, legal analyst Ian Millhiser had written a plea for the decision to be upheld, asserting that if the Court were to reject the lower-court decision, it would “tear down one of the few remaining barriers preventing wealthy individuals and corporations from dominating American democracy. Worse, if the court invents a new constitutional right permitting foreigners to contribute to American candidates, it will license foreign corporations to buy our elections.… Bluman asks the justices to punch a giant hole in [the legal] distinction between citizens and foreigners.… It’s difficult to imagine a greater threat to American democracy—or to our national security—than a decision enabling foreign corporations to influence our elections. If the plaintiffs win in Bluman, it opens the door to foreign companies—potentially even companies owned and operated by foreign governments—spending billions to change the makeup of Congress or to elect a president favorable to their interests.” [New York Times, 1/5/2012; Think Progress, 1/9/2012]
The Republican National Committee (RNC) files a court brief calling the federal ban on direct corporate donations to candidates unconstitutional, and demanding it be overturned. Such direct donations are one of the few restrictions remaining on wealthy candidates wishing to influence elections after the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). The brief is in essence an appeal of a 2011 decision refusing to allow such direct donations (see May 26, 2011 and After). The RNC case echoes a request from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that he be allowed to form and direct his own super PAC (see November 23, 2011), and recent remarks by Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA) calling for donors to be allowed to contribute unlimited amounts to candidates (see December 21, 2011). The RNC brief claims: “Most corporations are not large entities waiting to flood the political system with contributions to curry influence. Most corporations are small businesses. As the Court noted in Citizens United, ‘more than 75 percent of corporations whose income is taxed under federal law have less than $1 million in receipts per year,’ while ‘96 percent of the 3 million businesses that belong to the US Chamber of Commerce have fewer than 100 employees.’ While the concept of corporate contributions evokes images of organizations like Exxon or Halliburton, with large numbers of shareholders and large corporate treasuries, the reality is that most corporations in the United States are small businesses more akin to a neighborhood store. Yet § 441b does not distinguish between these different types of entities; under § 441b, a corporation is a corporation. As such, it is over-inclusive.” Think Progress legal analyst Ian Millhiser says the RNC is attempting to refocus the discussion about corporate contributions onto “mom and pop stores” and away from large, wealthy corporations willing to donate millions to candidates’ campaigns. If the court finds in favor of the RNC, Millhiser writes: “it will effectively destroy any limits on the amount of money wealthy individuals or corporation[s] can give to candidates. In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office. Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation. For this reason, a Wall Street tycoon who wanted to give as much as a billion dollars to fund a campaign could do so simply by creating a series of shell corporations that exist for the sole purpose of evading the ban on massive dollar donations to candidates” (see October 30, 2011). [United States of America v. Danielcytk and Biagi, 1/10/2012 ; Think Progress, 1/11/2012] The RNC made a similar attempt in 2010, in the aftermath of Citizens United; the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of its rejection. [New York Times, 5/3/2010; Tom Goldstein, 5/14/2012] Over 100 years of US jurisprudence and legislation has consistently barred corporations from making such unlimited donations (see 1883, 1896, December 5, 1905, 1907, June 25, 1910, 1925, 1935, 1940, March 11, 1957, February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, January 30, 1976, January 8, 1980, March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003). Shortly after the Citizens United ruling, RNC lawyer James Bopp Jr. confirmed that this case, like the Citizens United case and others (see Mid-2004 and After), was part of a long-term strategy to completely dismantle campaign finance law (see January 25, 2010).
Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, Halliburton, Inc., ExxonMobil, Ian Millhiser, Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, Willard Mitt Romney, US Supreme Court, US Chamber of Commerce, James Bopp, Jr
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
MSNBC commentator and contributor Pat Buchanan, recently given an indefinite suspension from the network because of racially inflammatory content in his most recent book (see January 7, 2012), blames “militant gay[s],” “people of color,” and “the hard left” for his suspension. Appearing on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show, Buchanan says: “Look, for a long period of time the hard left, militant gay rights groups, militant—they call themselves civil rights groups, but I’m not sure they’re concerned about civil rights—people of color, Van Jones, these folks and others have been out to get Pat Buchanan off TV, deny him speeches, get his column canceled. This has been done for years and years and years and it’s the usual suspects doing the same thing again. But my view is, you write what you believe to be the truth.” Buchanan is referring to Van Jones, an African-American who was an Obama administration advisor on “green jobs” before being attacked for his political beliefs by Buchanan and other conservatives, and subsequently being asked to leave the administration (see September 6, 2009). [Think Progress, 1/11/2012] Interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt, Buchanan claims that he was never suspended, and that he took a leave of absence for medical reasons, saying: “Well, you know I’ve had some medical issues at the end of the year which were pretty problematic, and so I’ve sort of been out of speaking and things like that.… On Drudge Report, somebody said I’ve been suspended. I don’t know anything about that. I hope to get back full up here in January, but I’ve been out for a couple of months.” Statements made by MSNBC president Phil Griffin confirm that Buchanan was indeed suspended from the network. Some blogs are reporting that MSNBC has already replaced Buchanan with Robert Traynham, a black conservative who once worked for former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). Traynham was publicly “outed” as gay while he worked for Santorum, who is strongly opposed to gay rights. [David Badash, 1/9/2012; Mediaite, 1/10/2012]
Members of Tennessee tea party organizations present Tennessee state legislators with a list of action demands, including rejecting the federal health reform process and, in their words, “educating students the truth about America.” According to the tea partiers’ demands: “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.” The “truth,” they say, includes teaching that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy,” and the removal of any mentions of slavery from history textbooks that might reflect poorly on the nation’s founders. Their demands read, “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” According to group spokesman Hal Rounds, a Fayette County attorney, the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another. The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody—not all equally instantly—and it was their progress that we need to look at.” [Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 1/13/2012] Columnist Stephen D. Foster will write in response: “The tea party wants to whitewash American history as if the Founding Fathers were perfect in everything they ever did, which simply isn’t true. The Founding Fathers were great men but they had flaws. They owned slaves, they allowed slavery to be legal, and yes, they did that despite hypocritically writing that all men are created equal. They also took part in the removal of Native Americans from their homelands, an action that resulted in the deaths of thousands. This information is well documented and acknowledged by professional historians and should not be censored. Students have the right to learn the entire truth about our history and not just the parts that conservatives want them to learn. Hiding knowledge is tantamount to lying and that’s what the tea party wants our teachers to do.” Foster will note that similar changes have already been made for textbooks serving Texas students. [Stephen D. Foster, 1/22/2012]
Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) and a former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) during the second Bush administration, writes that the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) and the subsequent flood of corporate money into the political campaign continuum (see January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21-22, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, March 26, 2010, April 5, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, October 2010, Mid-October 2010, October 18, 2010, Around October 27, 2010, June 23, 2011, July 12, 2011, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, November 23, 2011, December 1, 2011, January 3, 2012, January 6, 2012, and January 10, 2012) are good for American politics. [US News and World Report, 1/13/2012] According to a 2008 press report, Smith co-founded the CCP in 2006 in order to roll back campaign finance regulations, claiming that virtually any regulation is bad for politics. Smith has refused to reveal the financial sponsors that gave him the “seed money” to start the organization. Smith helped win the landmark SpeechNow case (see March 26, 2010) that allowed for the creation of “super PACs,” the organizations that are primarily responsible for flooding the campaign with corporate money. According to law professor Richard Hasen, Smith and the CCP have worked diligently to bring cases like the SpeechNow case to the Supreme Court so that the conservative-dominated Court can “knock them out of the park.” [Politico, 8/12/2008] Smith now writes: “Super PACs are not an evil tolerated under the First Amendment—they are what the First Amendment is all about. A super PAC, after all, is simply a group of citizens pooling resources to speak out about politics.” He claims that super PACs merely “leveled the playing field” after Democrats and Democratic-supporting organizations consistently outfunded Republican campaigns during elections. Super PACs have kept the presidential campaigns of candidates such as Rick Santorum (R-GA—see February 16-17, 2012) and Newt Gingrich (see December 19, 2011 and January 6, 2012) alive. Smith predicts that Democrats will easily outspend Republicans again once the presidential primary campaign concludes (see Around October 27, 2010), November 1, 2010 and May 5, 2011), but says, “Super PACs, however, will help level the field.” Smith claims that super PACs “disclose all of their expenditures and all of their donors,” and claims that any information to the contrary is wrong, as it is “confusing super PACs with traditional nonprofits such as the NAACP or the Sierra Club.” He concludes: “Super PACs are helping to shatter the old, established order, create more competition, and break the hold of special interests lobbyists—big business actually joined the ‘reform’ community in opposing super PACs in court. Are super PACs harming politics? Of course not. How odd that anyone would think that more political speech was bad for democracy.” [US News and World Report, 1/13/2012] The Citizens United decision specifically allows for donors to super PACs to remain anonymous, despite Smith’s claims to the contrary (see January 27-29, 2010, July 26, 2010, July 26-27, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, Mid-October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, April 20, 2011, April 21, 2011 and After, July 12, 2011, and November 18, 2011). Republicans have fought to preserve that anonymity (see July 26-27, 2010, May 26, 2011, July 15, 2011, and July 20, 2011). Smith is correct in saying that traditional nonprofit groups must disclose their donors, though many are apparently failing to do so (see October 12, 2010).
Andrew Adler. [Source: AIB TV (.com)]Andrew Adler, the owner/publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times (AJT), advises readers that one option for Israel to consider in handling the threat posed by Iran is to order the assassination of President Obama. The Atlanta Jewish Times is a community newspaper that has been in existence since 1925. Adler bought it in 2009. Currently, the AJT claims some 3,500 readers. According to Adler, Israel has three options in considering how to handle the threat posted by Iran: attack Hezbollah and Hamas, attack Iran, or order the assassination of Obama. Adler considers Obama an “enemy” of Israel, and believes Obama has moved the US away from supporting Israel to supporting the Palestinians and an array of Islamist terrorists, pursuing what Adler calls an “Alice in Wonderland” belief that diplomacy with Iran will prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. He calls his three options a series of “Kobayashi Maru” scenarios, a term used in Star Trek to characterize a seeming “no-win” situation that, if addressed with an unsuspected approach to “solve” the problem, could “redefine” the situation. Adler writes of his third option that Israel could “give the go-ahead for US-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies. Yes, you read ‘three’ correctly. Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don’t you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel’s most inner circles? Another way of putting ‘three’ in perspective goes something like this: How far would you go to save a nation comprised of seven million lives… Jews, Christians, and Arabs alike? You have got to believe, like I do, that all options are on the table.” In a subsequent interview by journalist John Cook, Adler backtracks from his original assertions, and denies advocating Obama’s assassination. Contrary to what he wrote, Adler tells Cook that Israel should not consider an Obama assassination as a viable option. When asked if he believes Israel is indeed considering such an option, he responds: “No. Actually, no. I was hoping to make clear that it’s unspeakable—god forbid this would ever happen.” He then asks Cook, “I take it you’re quoting me?” When Cook responds in the affirmative, Adler says, “Oh, boy.” Cook asks Adler why, if he does not advocate assassination and does not believe Israel is considering such an option, would he write such a column saying that the option is “on the table.” Adler asks to call Cook back with a measured response. His answer, several moments later, is, “I wrote it to see what kind of reaction I was going to get from readers.” He has indeed received a reaction: “We’ve gotten a lot of calls and emails,” he tells Cook. [Atlanta Jewish Times, 1/13/2012; Gawker, 1/20/2012; Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1/20/2012] After Cook’s publication, the online news site Gawker publishes a story about Adler’s column. Adler then informs the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that he intends to publish an apology. “I very much regret it, I wish I hadn’t made reference to it at all,” he says. He also admits that the response he has received has been, in JTA’s words, “overwhelmingly negative.” [Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 1/20/2012] Adler tells Atlanta columnist Thomas Wheatley: “I don’t advocate anything. I don’t preach anything. Wasn’t calling for action, anything like that.… Do I regret writing it and how I did it? Very much so and I apologize to anyone who took it differently. But in no way shape or form do I support the overthrowing [of the country] in order for Israel to do its thing.” He says he has not been contacted by law enforcement officials or the Secret Service about his column. [Creative Loafing Atlanta, 1/20/2012] Conservative columnist and blogger Jonah Goldberg writes of Adler’s column: “This is outrageous, offensive, borderline seditious, bad for Israel, bad for Jews, and wildly, incomprehensibly stupid. It sounds like the author/publisher realizes it. But too late to save him from a world of grief.” [National Review, 1/20/2012]
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich says that the federal government should fire employees who hold liberal views, a suggestion that directly contravenes federal law. Gingrich makes his suggestion during a Fox News forum hosted by Fox talk show host Mike Huckabee, a 2008 presidential candidate. “I think an intelligent conservative wants the right federal employees delivering the right services in a highly efficient way and then wants to get rid of those folks who are in fact wasteful, or those folks who are ideologically so far to the left, or those people who want to frankly dictate to the rest of us,” he says. TPM Muckraker reporter Ryan J. Reilly writes that such an idea comes “uncomfortably close to being in conflict with a federal law making it illegal to take any personnel action against an employee ‘based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status, or political affiliation.’ Accusations that political affiliation was taken into account would [usually] be investigated by the Office of Special Counsel.” Reilly goes on to note that similarly ideological-based discriminatory hiring practices were followed by the Bush administration. [TPM Muckraker, 1/14/2012]
Juan Williams (left) and Newt Gingrich during the Republican presidential debate. [Source: Texas GOP Vote]Fox News commentator Juan Williams, an African-American, takes umbrage with recent comments by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) that he says had unacceptably racial overtones. Williams, moderating a Republican presidential debate in South Carolina with Gingrich and other candidates for Fox News, asks: “Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012). You also said poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools (see November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011). Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?” Gingrich responds, “No, I don’t see that.” Gingrich reiterates his call for poor students to earn money by doing janitorial work around their schools, saying that they would earn money, “which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.” Williams presses Gingrich, asking him if his comments, including his reference to Obama as a “food stamp president,” don’t belittle the poor and racial minorities: “My Twitter has been inundated with people of all races asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor,” he says. Gingrich retorts: “The fact is more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.… I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.” The debate audience, described by Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser as “largely white [and] Republican,” cheers Gingrich’s remarks and boos Williams. [Fox News, 1/16/2012; Mediaite, 1/16/2012; Think Progress, 1/17/2012] Williams later says that he believes Gingrich is “pandering” to conservative and presumably racist voters in the audience (see January 18, 2012). Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh will accuse Williams, not Gingrich, of appealing to racism in his question. “[T]his line of questioning was all racially tinted from Juan Williams,” Limbaugh will say. “Newt Gingrich did not take the bait and answer in a racial context. He answered within the context that we’re all people and that we, as conservatives, want the best for everybody.… [W]e are for everybody doing well, that we conservatives do not see black and white, male, female, gay, straight when we look at people down the line. We see potential. We want the best for everybody. We know what’s holding ‘em back, and that’s government, government central planners, people like Barack Obama, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, who look at people and see them with contempt and condescension, see them being incapable, and they treat them that way and they devise systems to deal with them that way, and they keep them forever dependent, which destroys their humanity, which makes us sick. It breaks our hearts.” [Rush Limbaugh, 1/17/2012] Limbaugh later claims that Williams would not have a job if not for “the white guy, conservative who runs Fox News.” [Media Matters, 1/31/2012] Millhiser reiterates the facts that “[t]he overwhelming majority of African-Americans are not on food stamps” and “the majority of [Americans] who receive food stamps are white.” He writes: “It’s deeply disturbing that a man who claims he should be president of the United States cannot understand why his remarks are offensive.… Gingrich’s suggestion that food stamps are somehow a preeminent black issue flies in the face of reality. Worse, it lumps all African-Americans together as federal aid recipients when the overwhelming majority of working-age black men and women are self-supporting taxpayers. Thousands of them are professionals such as doctors or lawyers. One of them is the president of the United States.” [Think Progress, 1/17/2012] Gingrich has a history of making racially questionable remarks and characterizations (see May 27, 2009, June 7, 2009, August 16, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After and December 13, 2011). His claim that Obama has presided over more Americans receiving food stamps than ever before is wrong (see January 17, 2012). And a recent study by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found SNAP to be an extraordinarily effective program in helping Americans survive the effects of the recession (see January 9, 2012).
The nonpartisan FactCheck.org finds that recent claims by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history” are wrong. In fact, far more Americans were added to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rolls under President George W. Bush than under Obama. Gingrich has made the claim in a number of political speeches (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012), but his reiteration of the claim during a recent Republican debate in South Carolina has drawn a great deal of media attention (see January 16, 2012). FactCheck finds: “Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it’s also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office. But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents.” Information from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)‘s Food and Nutrition Service going back to January 2001 “show[s] that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.” Moreover, “the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.” The trend in recent months has been for the number of food-stamp recipients to decline, another fact Gingrich fails to note. FactCheck finds that the rise in the number of Americans on food stamps—currently one out of seven—began during the second term of the Bush presidency. “In the 12 months before Obama was sworn in, 4.4 million were added to the rolls, triple the 1.4 million added in 2007,” the organization writes. “To be sure, Obama is responsible for some portion of the increase since then. The stimulus bill he signed in 2009 increased benefit levels, making the program more attractive. A family of four saw an increase of $80 per month, for example.… The stimulus also made more people eligible. Able-bodied jobless adults without dependents could get benefits for longer than three months.” Part of the reason for the higher number of recipients under Obama is the new outreach to eligible citizens by state governments, according to the USDA; many state governments have worked harder to inform eligible citizens of their right to apply for government assistance, and have reduced the amount of information that claimants must provide to receive assistance. FactCheck concludes: “We don’t argue that the program is either too large (as Gingrich does) or too small. It has certainly reached a historically high level, and may or may not grow even larger in the months to come. But the plain fact is that the growth started long before Obama took office, and participation grew more under Bush.” And it quotes the USDA’s Kevin Concannon, who recently told a Wall Street Journal reporter, “I realize Mr. Gingrich is a historian, but I’m not sure he’d get very high marks on that paper.” [USA Today, 1/17/2012] CBS News notes that the White House has called Gingrich’s claims “crazy,” and finds: “While the number of people on food stamps is indeed at a record level, that’s in part because of eligibility rules being relaxed under the administration of George W. Bush. It’s also due in part to the economic downturn that began under Mr. Bush.… [T]hat percentage increase hardly makes Obama the ‘best food stamp president in American history,’ at least when you look at the question proportionally. The percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. Bush’s presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama: The number of beneficiaries went from 17.3 million in 2001 to 28.2 million in 2008—an increase of 63 percent in years that are mostly considered non-recessionary.” [CBS News, 1/17/2012] US News and World Report agrees with FactCheck, finding that “SNAP participation has been on the rise since well before President Obama took office. Nearly 17.2 million people in FY 2000 participated in the program, a figure that increased by nearly 64 percent by 2008.” [US News and World Report, 1/17/2012] The Associated Press accuses Gingrich of distorting the facts and notes: “It’s gotten easier to qualify for food stamps in the past decade but that is because of measures taken before Obama became president. It’s true that the number of people on food stamps is now at a record level. That’s due mainly to the ailing economy, which Republicans blame on Obama, as well as rising food costs. The worst downturn since the Great Depression wiped out 8.7 million jobs, pushed the unemployment rate to a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, and increased poverty.” [Associated Press, 1/17/2012] The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that SNAP is a critical element in keeping poverty-stricken Americans, particularly children and the elderly, from starving during the economic recession (see January 9, 2012).
Entity Tags: Kevin Concannon, CBS News, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, George W. Bush, US News and World Report, Obama administration, FactCheck (.org), US Department of Agriculture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Newt Gingrich
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises, Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
New York Times political columnist Charles Blow attacks presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) for “belittling” both African Americans and African-American debate moderator Juan Williams in a recent Republican presidential debate (see January 16, 2012). Blow accuses Gingrich of “sneer[ing]” at Williams “for having the temerity to ask him if his condescending remarks about the work ethic of poor black people are indeed condescending.” He also points out the underlying messages in Gingrich’s statements: When Gingrich says that “only the elites despise earning money,” Blow writes that his implication is “that elites are liberals, not men like Gingrich—whose net worth the Los Angeles Times has estimated to be $6.7 million, who was a history professor, who was paid $1.6 million dollars by Freddie Mac for ‘advice,’ and who had a half million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s. If Gingrich isn’t among America’s elite, the word no longer has meaning.” Instead, Blow writes, Gingrich is targeting President Obama as an “elitist liberal.” Blow quotes Gingrich earlier in the debate saying: “It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the [other four Republican candidates in the debate]: that we actually think work is good. We actually think saying to somebody, ‘I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself’ is good. And we think unconditionally efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country.” Gingrich has repeatedly labeled Obama as “the food stamp president” (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012). Blow writes: “The phrase ‘maximize dependency’ is a particularly interesting one because it suggests a systematic, orchestrated campaign by the president and liberals in general to keep blacks poor and dependent on ‘big government’ as a way of insuring their continued political support. This is a classic, right-wing, race-based argument in a new suit.” Williams asked again if Gingrich could not see that he was deriding African-Americans by his remarks, and Gingrich reiterated his positions and again insulted poor people’s work ethic. Blow observes: “These exchanges, and the audience’s response to them, underscore how Republicans’ gut reactions and their official rhetoric diverge, particularly in the [S]outh. [Gingrich] understands this cleavage and knows how to exploit it in subtle and sophisticated ways.… Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican Party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will.” [New York Times, 1/17/2012]
Fox News begins adopting the characterization of President Obama as “the food stamp president” currently being used by Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich (see November 30 - December 2, 2011, January 5, 2012, and January 16, 2012). On January 17, Fox host Eric Bolling says of Obama: “But he is the food stamp president. There[.] I have no problem with this.… Obama has presided—presided over the biggest expansion in food stamp usage, in numbers: in pure dollar amount, it went from $60 billion to an $83 billion program—the fourth-largest entitlement program in America. Under Obama, it’s exploded. Why can’t he be—and by the way, food stamps, there are more white people on food stamps than black people. So it’s not a racial issue.” [Media Matters, 1/17/2012; Media Matters, 1/31/2012] The same day, Fox pundit Tucker Carlson says on Sean Hannity’s show that Gingrich is doing a “great job” explaining why Obama is “the food stamp president,” adding, “And more people have joined the food stamp program under Obama than any other president.” The day after, Fox pundit Dick Morris says on Hannity’s show: “Newt is totally right. When Obama took office, there were 32 million people on food stamps. Now, there are 46 million. What Obama has done is, under [former President] Clinton, he cut the welfare rolls in half, and now Obama has basically put everybody in the country on welfare.” Another of Hannity’s guests, former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), criticizes the White House for challenging Gingrich’s characterizations, saying “they protest too much because the facts are what they are—and that’s hundreds of thousands of more Americans are now on food stamps than before Barack Obama took over.” Hannity agrees, saying: “He is the food stamp president. Look at the numbers, they speak for themselves—32 million to 46 million, 12 million increase. Obama’s policies have resulted in a lot more people being on food stamps. What’s the problem?” Fox’s “straight news” anchor Monica Crowley reiterates the characterization on Fox News’s America Live, telling viewers: “At this point, what Newt is saying is that this administration took a bad economy and made it so much worse, with polices that have really oppressed job creation, suppressed economic growth, to the point where people cannot find jobs. And also, you know, one thing he didn’t say, which is the extension of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks and so on. You know how the situation in America… where you have record numbers of people not just on food stamps, 46 million, but record numbers of people on at least one or more social welfare programs, and that’s a direct result of the Obama administration’s policies.” [Media Matters, 1/19/2012; Media Matters, 1/31/2012] The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that according to the statistics, the number of food stamp recipients went up far more under President George W. Bush than under Obama, rendering the claims of Gingrich and the Fox News commentators inaccurate (see January 17, 2012). [Media Matters, 1/31/2012]
Entity Tags: Newt Gingrich, Eric Bolling, Dick Morris, Barack Obama, Fox News, Media Matters, Tucker Carlson, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
Fox News commentator Juan Williams discusses the recent exchange between himself and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich over what Williams characterizes as racially motivated comments from Gingrich. Hosting a debate between Republican presidential contenders, Williams, an African-American, asked Gingrich whether he understood that his recent comments belittling blacks as food stamp recipients who were unused to working (see November 30 - December 2, 2011, January 5, 2012, November 18, 2011 and After and December 1-2, 2011) were being received negatively by African-Americans, and Gingrich responded by repeating the claims, to the loud approval of the debate audience (see January 16, 2012). Williams tells Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Gingrich intended to “play racial politics” in responding to Williams. Williams also attacks Gingrich’s premise that the young and poor in America have little interest in landing jobs, telling O’Reilly, “When you see that jobs are offered to young people in this country, you have lines around the block… he was suggesting that somehow these kids don’t want to work.” O’Reilly interprets Gingrich’s remarks as saying that Gingrich wanted the government to fund school jobs to help children learn a work ethic, but Williams says O’Reilly’s interpretation is not what Gingrich meant. O’Reilly asks if Williams believes Gingrich “was pandering to a certain voter in South Carolina,” alluding to conservative and presumably racist white voters, and Williams agrees. [Mediaite, 1/18/2012]
The Portland, Maine City Council votes 5-2 to instruct Maine’s Congressional delegation to support an amendment to the US Constitution ending “corporate personhood” (see November 23, 2010, November 1, 2011, November 18, 2011, and December 20, 2011). The resolution sponsors say that the resolution was brought in part to protest against the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). In four hours of debate, no one speaks in favor of the Citizens United decision. One speaker, Portland resident Herb Adams, says: “Corporate personhood comes from the court, not the cradle or an act of Congress. The only thing separating a corporation from being human now is their ability to cast a vote.” Councilor Cheryl Leeman, one of the two council members to vote against the resolution, says the council chamber is not the appropriate venue for such a discussion, saying before the vote: “I see where there’s absolutely no direct impact on city services or the residents of Portland. It is a political issue and there is an appropriate forum to have those discussions but not on a city council agenda.” However, she reassures supporters, saying, “Your opinions have not fallen on deaf ears.” But many residents say the council hearing is the perfect place to start a debate. Delia Gorham tells the council: “We just want you to know that the rest of Maine is watching what you do here tonight. Your vote does matter.” Small business owner Eric Johnson says: “I can’t think of a more important thing to talk about than democracy. It is being threatened. You need to help us be heard. There is no more important issue.” And Anna Trevorrow tells the council: “It is absolutely the business of the City Council. The community has come together and asked you to make a statement.” The resolution reads in part: “[C]orporations are entirely human-made legal entities created by the express permission of We the People and our government. The great wealth of corporations allows them to wield coercive force of law to overpower the votes of human beings and communities, denying the people’s exercise of our constitutional rights.” Councilor David Marshall, who wrote the resolution, says he was inspired in part by the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoot, Occupy Maine. [Maine Public Broadcasting Network, 1/18/2012; Portland Press-Herald, 1/19/2012; Think Progress, 1/19/2012] New York City (see January 4, 2012) and Los Angeles (see December 6, 2011) have adopted similar resolutions.
The news Web site Politico reports that many Democrats are worried that the “flat-out” opposition of President Obama to super PACs, including the one supporting his re-election, will cripple the Obama campaign’s re-election campaign for 2012, especially in the face of enormous corporate donations for Republican-supporting super PACs. The super PAC that supports Obama, Priorities USA Action, has been in operation since 2011, but has so far raised relatively little—around $5 million—in comparison to Republican super PACs and other such organizations. The super PAC supporting Republican contender Mitt Romney (R-MA), Restore Our Future (ROF—see June 23, 2011 and July 12, 2011), has raised $12 million so far, and other groups such as American Crossroads and its “nonprofit” affiliate, Crossroads GPS, have raised far more. Former South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, a member of the Obama campaign’s national finance committee, says: “I don’t think the president is just ambivalent about his super PAC. He’s flat-out opposed to it.… I was at the national finance committee in Chicago, and these are the people with these connections, and nobody was talking, even behind the scenes, about writing checks to the super PAC. That’s a problem. We didn’t make the rules. The president has called out the Supreme Court on Citizens United to their faces (see January 21, 2010, January 24, 2010, and January 27-29, 2010).… But it’s the state of play now, and we have to look at what Romney’s PAC did to [Republican primary challenger Newt Gingrich] in Iowa (see January 3, 2012). It’s dangerous. We can’t unilaterally disarm.” So far, Obama’s campaign has pledged that neither Obama nor his top aides will raise money for super PACs, but the campaign says it realizes the magnitude of the threat posed by the wide-open fundraising from the GOP. In a concession, Obama’s senior campaign staff will allow their top bundlers to ask wealthy contributors for donations to Priorities USA Action. Vice President Joseph Biden has already spoken before a meeting of major donors in November 2011, hours after those donors heard fundraising pitches from Priorities USA Action and other Democratic groups. Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who is helping the Obama campaign reach out to donors, says: “Super PACs are like guns. In the right hands, a gun is useful, essential for defending your country and perfectly acceptable. In the wrong hands, they kill people.… My goal is to make sure the president doesn’t get outgunned.” Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod says of the organizations lining up behind Romney: “They’re talking upwards of half a billion dollars in negative ads aimed at the president from interest groups who don’t disclose and who can raise unlimited amounts of money. That is a very, very concerning thing to me.” [Politico, 1/18/2012]
Entity Tags: David Axelrod, American Crossroads, 2012 Obama presidential election campaign, Willard Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Restore Our Future, Politico, Dick Harpootlian, Joseph Biden, Priorities USA Action, Newt Gingrich, American Crossroads GPS, Paul Begala
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) issue a joint statement on the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010), condemning it. The ruling effectively gutted their signature campaign finance law (see March 27, 2002). The statement, issued through Feingold’s group Progressives United, reads: “Two years ago, the Supreme Court handed down one of the worst, and most radically activist decisions in the Court’s history, Citizens United. Overturning more than a century of settled law, and with an unprecedented naiveté of the political process, the Court charted a course for legalized bribery. Sadly, both Democrats and Republicans are now following the dangerous road of unlimited money in politics. There is no question whether scandal will arise from this decision; the only question is when (see October 30, 2011 and December 19, 2011). On this anniversary, we call on both parties to work together to remedy the obvious damage to our political system caused by the Citizens United decision.” [TPM LiveWire, 1/20/2012]
US Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer appear during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar, and take questions about the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). Scalia was in the majority of that 5-4 decision, and Breyer was in the minority. Scalia refuses to take responsibility for the transformation of the US political system after the decision (see January 21-22, 2010, August 2, 2010, September 20, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, May 5, 2011, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, December 6, 2011, December 19, 2011, and January 6, 2012), saying that the Court merely decides whether laws and policies are legal under the Constitution. Elected lawmakers are the ones who must change things, he says, and the voters who often reward the candidates who spend the most money. “If the system seems crazy to you, don’t blame it on the Court,” Scalia says. Besides, Scalia says, voters are free to turn off the television or the radio if they do not like the barrage of political advertisements being presented by the array of “independent” super PACs that have grown up in the wake of the decision (see March 26, 2010, June 23, 2011, November 23, 2011, January 4, 2012, and January 4, 2012). “I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” he says. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.” For his part, Breyer does not directly criticize the decision, but notes that America must respect the decisions handed down by the judiciary, and briefly summarizes both sides of the argument. “There are real problems when people want to spend lots of money on a candidate… they’ll drown out the people who don’t have a lot of money,” he says. [Associated Press, 1/21/2012] Ian Millhiser, a constitutional law expert writing for the liberal news Web site Think Progress, writes that “Scalia’s attempt to shift blame is, frankly, ridiculous.” The US campaign finance system was anything but perfect before Citizens United, he writes, but Congress banned corporate money in politics 65 years ago (see June 23, 1947). That ban was in place until the Court overturned it in its decision. And in the wake of the Citizens United decision, a lower court declared that “independent expenditures” could be made on an essentially unlimited basis (see March 26, 2010). Millhiser shows that of the top 20 spenders in the 2012 election, 17 are conservatives and Republicans, and thusly, the Republicans who control the US House and wield outsized influence in the Senate will not move to repair a system that patently favors their party: “Republican lawmakers are more than smart enough to figure this out, and that gives them all the incentive they need to block any attempt to fix the mess Citizens United created.” [Think Progress, 1/23/2012]
Former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), now a supporter of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA), tells a reporter from the liberal news Web site Think Progress that the 2010 Citizens United decision allowing donors to contribute unlimited amounts of money to independent groups supporting individual candidates (see January 21, 2010) is “leveling the playing field” in politics. Reporters Scott Keyes and Travis Waldron call Pawlenty’s comment “a turn of phrase that would give George Orwell satisfaction.” Since the decision, a relatively small number of wealthy corporations and individuals have transformed US politics with their multi-million dollar donations (see January 21-22, 2010, March 26, 2010, August 2, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, September 28, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, November 1, 2010, (May 4, 2011), May 5, 2011, July 12, 2011, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, October 30, 2011, December 1, 2011, December 19, 2011, January 3, 2012, and January 6, 2012). But Pawlenty seemingly believes that campaign finance laws are still too restrictive, and says he believes that donors should be able to make unlimited donations directly to candidates (see December 21, 2011 and January 10, 2012) instead of making those donations to third-party groups. Pawlenty refuses to say the Citizens United decision will help Romney defeat President Obama in the November general election, and instead says that the decision helps “free speech” (see January 21, 2010 and January 22, 2010). Pawlenty continues: “Every time they try to contain speech, it pops up somewhere else. This is just me talking personally, I’m not speaking for Mitt’s position on this. The better position is to allow full and free speech in whatever form, but have instant disclosure.” Keyes asks, “You’re talking completely unlimited donations?” and Pawlenty responds: “We have that now, it’s just a question of where the money gets pushed to the third party groups. This leveling the playing field to some extent because in the past, unions in particular (see June 25, 1943 and June 23, 1947) and other interest groups had an advantage in the old system. Now the playing field’s being leveled a little bit.” He clarifies: “Right now, with super PACs and third party groups, there’s essentially unlimited giving to various aligned super PACs and groups. The point is, the United States Supreme Court has spoken. They have said we’re going to have free speech as it relates to political contributions. The First Amendment should be respected and protected, but I think we should also have full disclosure.” Keyes and Waldron write that billionaire corporate owners such as the Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1997, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, November 2009, December 6, 2009, April 2010 and After, July 3-4, 2010, June 26-28, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011) have pledged staggering amounts of money to defeat Obama in the November elections, and conclude, “This massive influx of unregulated campaign spending will almost certainly be the new normal as wealthy individuals and corporations find new ways to influence elections, helped in large part by the now-two year old Citizens United decision.” [Think Progress, 1/21/2012]
A poll conducted by the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization, shows that Americans strongly reject the idea that corporations should have the same constitutional rights as people, a position made famous by presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA—see August 11, 2011). The poll also shows that in the aftermath of the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), Americans are very concerned about corporate favoritism affecting the electoral process and the judicial system. The poll is just now released, but contains data compiled by public opinion research during 2010 and 2011. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed disagree that “corporations are people,” opposed to 25 percent who agree. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed say that corporations should not be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns, whereas 17 percent of those surveyed feel that corporations should be able to spend at will. [Center for American Progress, 1/23/2012]
Nevada casino owner and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has already given an unprecedented $5 million to a super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA—see January 6, 2012), has his wife Miriam donate another $5 million to Gingrich’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. That organization spent over $6 million on “independent expenditures” in the recent South Carolina primary, mostly on attack ads against primary opponent Mitt Romney (R-MA). Winning Our Future outspent all other Republican super PACs involved in that primary, whose expenditures totaled some $5.3 million. The new $5 million contribution will likely go to Gingrich’s campaign efforts in Florida, which is seen as a “must-win” state for Gingrich. Other groups have already spent some $6.4 million in Florida. Think Progress reporter Josh Israel writes: “[T]his contribution will allow the pro-Gingrich super PAC to instantly achieve almost immediate parity.… At this pace, the Adelson family could outspend Gingrich’s competition by themselves.” The Adelson funds come from a joint account; Sheldon Adelson signed the first check and Miriam Adelson signs the second. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2012; Think Progress, 1/23/2012]
Grover Norquist, a highly influential conservative lobbyist and activist, says that if President Obama wins re-election in 2012, Congressional Republicans will impeach him to regain control of the nation’s governance. Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a hardline opponent of government taxation, tells the National Journal that he expects Obama to raise taxes on the wealthy in 2013. He is best known for his anti-tax pledge, which almost all Congressional Republicans and a few Democrats have signed, and which states their absolute opposition to any tax hikes of any kind. The online news site National Confidential says that signers who break that pledge will likely “face a primary opponent funded by Norquist and his shadowy multi-millionaire donors.” Norquist says of Obama’s record of cutting taxes on middle- and lower-class taxpayers: “He came up with this idea for the one-year tax holiday so he could claim that he’s for a tax cut. Mind you, it’s a temporary tax cut, but he does not want to run as a tax increaser. I think [Republicans are] in reasonably good shape. Between now and November, I believe we will see a one-year extension of the FICA tax [cut]. I believe we will see the extension of [the break on] depreciation spending. And then the third one that you could have is repatriation. If I was Obama’s political consultant, I’d have put repatriation on the table when he extended the Bush-era tax cuts by two years [in 2010]. The estimates are that it would bring $6 [billion] to $800 billion back. If I were president, I would love to have that money flow back into the real economy, not the Solyndra economy, the year before I’m running for office.” [National Journal, 1/28/2012; National Confidential, 1/28/2012] “Repatriation” is the idea that American corporations can receive one-time tax breaks by putting their foreign earnings into the American economy. Norquist’s reference to “the Solyndra economy” refers to the controversy surrounding the recently bankrupted Solyndra Corporation, which received $528 million in federal loan guarantees and which some conservatives, including Norquist, have attempted to tie to the Obama administration. [Investopedia, 2012; New York Times, 2012] Norquist predicts that if re-elected, Obama will allow a number of tax cuts on large corporations and the wealthy to expire at the end of 2012, and this, he says, will allow Congressional Republicans to begin impeachment proceedings. “We’re focused on the fact that there is this Damocles sword hanging over people’s head,” he says. “What you don’t know is who will be in charge when all of this will happen. I think when we get through this election cycle, we’ll have a Republican majority, [though] not necessarily a strong majority in the Senate, and a majority in the House. The majority in the House will continue to be a Reagan majority, a conservative majority. [House Speaker John] Boehner never has to talk his delegation going further to the right. If the Republicans have the House, Senate, and the presidency, I’m told that they could do an early budget vote—a reconciliation vote where you extend the Bush tax cuts out for a decade or five years. You take all of those issues off the table and then say, ‘What do you want to do for tax reform?’ Then, the question is, ‘OK, what do we do about repatriation and all of the interesting stuff?’ And, if you have a Republican president to go with a Republican House and Senate, then they pass the [Paul] Ryan plan [on Medicare],” referring to House Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to virtually end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher system. If the Democrats retain control of Congress and the White House, Norquist says: “Obama can sit there and let all the tax [cuts] lapse, and then the Republicans will have enough votes in the Senate in 2014 to impeach. The last year, he’s gone into this huddle where he does everything by executive order. He’s made no effort to work with Congress.” [National Journal, 1/28/2012] According to the US Constitution, “The President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” [Constitution of the United States, 6/21/1788] It is unclear how Norquist frames his prediction of Obama’s allowing tax cut legislation to lapse as constituting “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes [or] Misdemeanors.”
Shadrack McGill. [Source: Huntsville Times]State Senator Shadrack McGill (R-AL) tells listeners at a prayer breakfast in Fort Payne, Alabama, that state legislators such as himself deserve pay raises, but raising schoolteachers’ pay would lead to less-qualified teachers in the classrooms and violate a “Biblical principle.” Alabama legislators were given a 62 percent raise in 2007, and McGill says the raise discourages corruption among lawmakers. The previous low salaries “played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he says. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting.” By paying lawmakers more up front, he says, they are less susceptible to taking bribes: “He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation.” However, if teachers were given pay raises, then people who are not “called” to teach would begin joining the profession, he says. “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys. It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity. If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.” In 2010, McGill introduced a bill in the Alabama Senate that would tie legislators’ pay to teachers’ pay, requiring the state to give raises to legislators if it gave teachers raises. He claimed, falsely, that Alabama teachers’ salaries were the fourth highest in the nation. Some Alabama Republicans are backing a bill that would give a 2.5 percent raise to teachers with less than nine years’ experience. Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) says the small raise unfairly excludes veteran teachers, and the entire controversy surrounding teachers’ and legislators’ raises is “one of the most absurd things… the Republican supermajority ha[s] ever tried to pull.” [DeKalb County Times-Journal, 1/31/2012; Huffington Post, 2/1/2012] Currently, part-time legislators in Alabama such as McGill make more than full-time teachers with master’s degrees and 15 years of experience. [Think Progress, 2/1/2012] After the national media picks up on McGill’s comments, WAAY-TV airs an interview with McGill taped earlier in the week where he told a reporter he did not believe in the separation of church and state (see 1782-1786). According to a WAAY report, both the television station’s commentators and editorial writers and commentators around the nation “raked [McGill] over the coals” for his comments. McGill tells a WAAY reporter: “Some things got taken out of context. I’m not hearing any negative feedback out of those who were there.” The audience at the prayer breakfast was very supportive of his stance, he says. “The point that I was trying to make in the speech is simply that.… Things ought to be in balance. I believe God made everything to be in balance. He weighed the Earth and the valley and the mountains and the hills on a scale to keep them in balance because he knew he was going to be spinning it real fast, so that’s the [g]ist of it.… Legislators pay ought to be in balance. They don’t need to make too much, they don’t need to make too little, both lead to corruption. Likewise, I think with teachers salaries, things need to be balanced on their education, based on the performance, class size, etc. Work load.… But by no means was I insinuating that a teacher should make less.” McGill says he hopes that after the economy turns around, Alabama teachers can get raises. McGill says he is learning that legislators such as himself are constantly being pursued by those who want to “turn” an innocent statement “into a dagger and stab you with it.” He says that he cannot understand how those who gave him “negative feedback” on his comments can call themselves Christians. [WAAY-TV, 2/2/2012]
Fox News commentator and analyst Juan Williams, in a column for the Washington, DC, political publication The Hill, writes of his dismay at what he believes is the racially charged rhetoric that is dominating the Republican presidential primary. Williams got into a heated exchange with Republican candidate Newt Gingrich during a recent debate in South Carolina (see January 16, 2012). But Williams is displeased with the responses of all of the candidates at the debate. “With [ethnic] solidly in the Democratic camp and behind the first black president,” Williams writes, “the scene is set for a bonanza of racial politics. The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message. The code words in this game are ‘entitlement society’—as used by Mitt Romney—and ‘poor work ethic’ and ‘food stamp president’—as used by Newt Gingrich. References to a lack of respect for the ‘Founding Fathers’ and the ‘Constitution’ also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core ‘old-fashioned American values.’ The code also extends to attacks on legal immigrants, always carefully lumped in with illegal immigrants, as people seeking ‘amnesty’ and taking jobs from Americans. But the code sometimes breaks down.” Williams, an African-American, asked each candidate at the debate about some aspect of racially driven politics, from voter identification laws that would keep African-Americans from voting to racial discrimination in drug enforcement policies. Gingrich, he writes, was the most flagrant in appealing to racist whites with his practiced, sophisticated use of “coded appeals”—“dog whistling,” Williams says it is often called—to racist stereotypes against blacks and Hispanics. Gingrich’s rhetoric, he writes, appeals to “certain white audiences by intimating that black people are lazy, happy to live off the government, and lacking any intellect.” Instead of answering Williams’s question (referring to Gingrich’s characterization of food stamp recipients as largely African-American and too lazy to seek gainful employment), Gingrich “threw red meat to Republicans in South Carolina, a state with a long history of racial politics. He used the same rhetorical technique of the segregationist politicians of the past: rejecting the premise of the question, attacking the media, and playing to the American people’s resentment of liberal elites, minorities, and poor people.” Williams says he does not regret asking Gingrich about his characterization of welfare recipients, and writes: “I do not know anyone on food stamps who would prefer them to gainful employment.… The problem is not a lack of work ethic on the part of the poor, who are disproportionately minorities. The problem is there are few good jobs for blue-collar people with the best work ethic. Let’s have an honest debate about why this is the case and what we can do to fix it. But I regret that our political discourse has become so fragmented and combative that the point I was trying to make was obscured by pro-wrestling theatrics and post-debate spin. Poverty, unemployment, and the hopelessness that pervade minority communities are real issues that the GOP nominee, and President Obama for that matter, should address in this campaign.” [The Hill, 1/30/2012] A blogger for the liberal Daily Kos writes of Williams’s column, “You have to wonder how long Juan Williams will last at Fox News” after writing the column. [Daily Kos, 1/30/2012]
The conservative news outlet Sunshine State News notes that the conservative lobbying organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, January 2009 and After, February 16, 2009, February 16-17, 2009, February 17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 8, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, October 2, 2009, November 2009, February 15, 2010, April 15, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 20, 2010 and August 17, 2011) is paying tea party leaders to serve as “field coordinators” in Florida in preparation for the upcoming Republican presidential primary. Reportedly, AFP is paying the tea party leaders $30,000 each to help increase AFP’s membership, and $2 for every new AFP member the tea party volunteers sign up at Florida polling stations on Election Day. According to an email from the West Orlando Tea Party organizers: “Americans for Prosperity has offered many local tea party groups an opportunity to collect a few dollar$ for our cause and it revolves around the January 31st primary. Anyone who volunteers from our group will net our WOTP group $2 for every person they ‘sign up’ for AFP which involves getting the name, address, and email of local voters at local polling stations that day. They will provide us with T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other handouts to recruit like-minded conservatives.” AFP’s Florida director Slade O’Brien says, “It’s an opportunity for tea parties to raise dollars for their organizations by helping AFP with an awareness and membership drive on Tuesday.” But critics say AFP is using the same tactics conservatives have accused the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) of using—“buying foot soldiers for election work.” Former AFP state director Apryl Marie Fogel says: “It’s reprehensible. Slade is doing things we would never have considered doing.… Incentivizing people with money is no different than what ACORN or other groups are doing.… This is the opposite of what AFP stands for.” AFP has already hired 10 coordinators, with plans to hire 10 more in the coming days. One coordinator in the Tampa area, Karen Jaroch, is a founding member of the Tampa 9/12 Project chapter (see March 13, 2009 and After), and she says that AFP’s involvement “might open some doors” to building a stronger movement. O’Brien denies that AFP is working on behalf of any particular Republican candidate, and both O’Brien and Jaroch deny that AFP is working on behalf of the Newt Gingrich (R-GA) campaign. “I don’t know any field coordinators for Newt,” Jaroch says. “One favors Mitt Romney and one supports Rick Santorum. I’m undecided.” The liberal news outlet Mother Jones notes that O’Brien is a veteran political consultant whose former firm, Florida Strategies Group, “specialized in Astroturf campaigns and ‘grass-tops lobbying.’” O’Brien worked for AFP’s predecessor, Citizens for a Sound Economy, in the 1990s. Mother Jones also speculates that the AFP drive is part of a Koch Brothers effort to construct a huge, nationwide database of conservative voters called “Themis” (see April 2010 and After). [Sunshine State News, 1/30/2012; Mother Jones, 1/30/2012]
Entity Tags: Mother Jones, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Apryl Marie Fogel, Americans for Prosperity, Karen Jaroch, Willard Mitt Romney, Sunshine State News, Themis, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, West Orlando Tea Party, Slade O’Brien, Citizens for a Sound Economy
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
The “independent” super PAC supporting the campaign of presidential aspirant Mitt Romney (R-MA), Restore Our Future (ROF—see June 23, 2011), releases its year-end campaign finance disclosure forms. Eighty-five percent of the 147 individual donors to ROF have also contributed the legal maximum to Romney’s official campaign committee. A large number of those donors are private equity managers, as Romney once was, or other wealthy members of the financial sector. Hedge fund investors Julian Robertson and Paul Singer contributed the maximum $2,500 to the Romney campaign, and $1 million apiece to ROF. Home builder Bob Perry and venture capitalist Steven Webster contributed the maximum $2,500 to the Romney campaign, and $50,000 apiece to ROF. Another five contributed the maximum $2,500 to the Romney campaign and $25,000 apiece to ROF. About $9 million of ROF contributions came from donors who had contributed the maximum amount to the Romney campaign. About $6 million came from venture capitalists, real estate developers, bankers, and investors. ROF has already spent some $17 million attacking Romney’s Republican primary opponents and another $800,000 on activities to support the Romney campaign, making it the most active super PAC to date. All of these contributions are legal under the Citizens United (see January 21, 2010) and SpeechNow (see March 26, 2010) court decisions. [Federal Election Commission, 1/31/2012; Think Progress, 2/1/2012]
Republican candidates and campaign financiers are beginning to advocate for unlimited donations by wealthy contributors directly to presidential campaigns, using language that is remarkably similar to one another, says Think Progress reporter Scott Keyes. While most Americans disagree with letting so much unregulated and unaccountable money into politics (see January 23, 2012), advocates of direct donations apparently believe that current campaign finance laws, even after the Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010), are still too restrictive. Keyes writes, “The language used by different high-ranking Republicans is so similar that it suggests a certain level of message-coordination on the subject.” He notes a recent statement by Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA—see December 21, 2011), a similar statement by former Republican presidential candidate and current Romney supporter Tim Pawlenty (R-MN—see January 21, 2012), and a January 27 statement by Republican financier Fred Malek (see Mid-October 2010), who told him, “I would favor unlimited contributions to candidates with full disclosure.” Keyes writes that although Romney, Pawlenty, and Malek couple their calls for direct donations with calls for disclosure and transparency, Republicans have consistently voted against measures that would actually bring transparency to campaign finance (see July 26-27, 2010). [Think Progress, 1/31/2012] The Republican National Committee (RNC) has a lawsuit pending that would legalize unlimited donations directly to candidates (see January 10, 2012).
Republican presidential contender Ron Paul (R-TX) tells CNN talk show host Piers Morgan about his position on rape. If the woman in question is reporting what Paul calls “an honest rape,” he says that she “should go immediately to the emergency room,” where he would recommend they receive “a shot of estrogen.” Paul is a retired OB/GYN. Paul, a libertarian who opposes abortion, says that while the government should ban most abortions, he is less sure about the situation facing a woman who has been impregnated due to a rape. “A person immediately after rape?” he says to a question on the subject. “Yes, it’s a tough one. And I won’t satisfy everybody there.” He refuses to clarify what he considers to be “an honest rape,” or in exactly what situation a raped woman should be allowed to have an abortion, though he does say that “an hour after intercourse, or a day afterwards, there is no legal or medical, uh, problem.” He describes his position on the question as “in limbo.” In a column on Paul’s interview, Jessica Pieklo of the activist organization Care2 asks what Paul would consider to be “an honest rape.” “What kind of evidence would we need to show a lack of consent?” she asks. “Does a woman need to have signs she resisted? How much resistance counts before a rape goes from being ‘fraudulent’ to being ‘honest’? Can spousal rape ever be ‘honest’? What about other forms of familial rape? What exactly is the bright line here?” She also asks if Paul believes his recommended “shot of estrogen” would actually do anything at all for the rape victim: “About that shot of estrogen. What exactly is this shot of estrogen supposed to do? Paul is purportedly an ob/gyn, so he must know a shot of estrogen won’t do a thing to prevent fertilization and implantation. So what’s that shot for?” Pieklo concludes, “I’m not sure what is the most dangerous aspect to come from Paul’s statements here: that his platform is built on a criminal disdain of women or as a doctor he doesn’t know his ear from his elbow.” [CNN, 2/3/2012; Raw Story, 2/4/2012; Care2, 2/4/2012] AlterNet’s Lauren Kelley notes that Paul attempts to paint the situation as highly unlikely, and focuses his comments on late-term abortions, such as a woman who decides “one minute before” she gives birth to terminate her pregnancy. Kelley notes: “Women do get raped by their husbands and partners. That’s not some out-there hypothetical. Intimate partner rape is a major problem—and yes, it happens to well-to-do women like Ron Paul’s daughters too.” Secondly: “Although Paul keeps going back to women seeking abortions late in their pregnancies, the reality is that 90 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester. So his focus on late-term abortions is disproportionate to the number of women actually seeking late-term abortions.” [AlterNet (.org), 2/4/2012]
The Obama campaign reverses its previous policy and begins asking major contributors to donate to a super PAC, Priorities USA, that supports President Obama’s re-election. Previously, the Obama campaign, and Obama himself, had been reluctant to ask for donations for the PAC. Since 2010, Democrats have been worried about the effect of the Republican super PACs on the presidential campaign as well as Congressional and even state and local races, but have been divided on how to respond to the flood of money in support of their Republican opponents (see August 2, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 24, 2010, October 18, 2010, Around October 27, 2010, Mid-November 2010, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, December 1, 2011, January 3, 2012, and January 6, 2012). Obama campaign spokesman Jim Messina says that Republican-supporting super PACs are collectively expected to spend “half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the president. With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.… We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back.” Messina also says that Obama is strongly against such campaign finance practices, and supports strong action “by constitutional amendment, if necessary” to once again restrict campaign donations from the wealthy. (In January 2012, Politico reported that Obama was completely opposed to the idea of super PACs, including his own—see January 18, 2012.) Joe Pounder of the Republican National Committee issues a statement harshly critical of the decision, which reads in part, “Yet again, Barack Obama has proven he will literally do anything to win an election, including changing positions on the type of campaign spending he called nothing short of ‘a threat to our democracy.’” So far, super PACs supporting Republican candidates have raised over $50 million, putting the Obama campaign at a distinct disadvantage. New York Democratic fundraiser Robert Zimmerman observes: “It’s hard to pass the plate for super PAC money while Democratic leaders have been preaching about the sins of it. But the reality is, it is essential in 2012.” Campaign and White House officials will appear at fundraisers for Priorities USA, though neither the president nor the first lady will make such appearances. Super PACs, created by the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) and a lower court decision in the wake of that ruling (see March 26, 2010), have come to dominate US election activities, particularly in the area of television, radio, and print advertising. Shortly after the Citizens United decision, Obama criticized it during his State of the Union address, saying: “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’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems” (see January 27-29, 2010). However, Congress has been unable to rein in the super PACs, with the most visible effort, Congressional Democrats’ DISCLOSE Act, being successfully filibustered by Senate Republicans (see July 26-27, 2010). CBS News political expert John Dickerson says the Obama campaign has no choice but to emulate the Republicans: “What the Obama camp saw is these fundraising numbers from last year. The Republicans were able to raise so much money. They also saw what Romney was able to do to Newt Gingrich in Florida, just absolutely bury him under ads, and they started to worry about what this was going to mean for the president in the general election.” Dickerson says that with the public perception of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA) being so negative, the ads in support of Romney will undoubtedly be quite negative against Obama. Dickerson expects the Obama campaign to retaliate in kind, saying: “Some of the things that Romney had to do to combat those [primary] attacks, he had to get a little bit more negative, seem a little bit more unpleasant as a candidate.… That’s another reason why [Obama] had to make this decision on super PACs: that this is going to be ugly, it’s going to be on the airwaves, and they need to be able to compete.” [New York Times, 2/6/2012; CBS News, 2/7/2012] The Obama campaign’s announcement comes on the same day as news that the Romney campaign has benefited from $1.22 million in funding from oil, gas, and coal corporations (see February 6, 2012).
Oxbow Carbon logo. [Source: Mississippi Valley Transit and Transport]The presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (R-MA) has benefited from at least $1.22 million in donations from coal, oil, and gas corporations, which have given their donations to Romney’s “independent” super PAC, Restore Our Future (ROF—see June 23, 2011). ROF has already raised $30 million for Romney’s presidential campaign. It has spent $800,000 on pro-Romney ads and $17 million in ads attacking Romney’s Republican primary challengers. The entirety of ROF’s funds comes from fewer than 800 donors, and 85 percent of those donors have already given the maximum allowed under law—$2,500—to Romney’s campaign itself. Romney’s campaign has raised $500,000 from legitimate, aboveboard donations from oil and gas companies. Those same corporations have given far more to ROF, and are poised to give more. Some of the ROF energy industry donors are:
Coal mining corporations: Oxbow Carbon at $750,000, Oxbow president William Koch at $250,000, and Consol Energy at $150,000.
Oil and gas corporations: Ballard Exploration at $25,000, Bassoe Offshore president Jonathan Fairbanks at $25,000, Murphy Wade of Murphy Oil Corporation at $15,000, and Joseph Grigg of American Energy Operations at $5,000.
Oxbow Carbon’s Bill Koch contributed $250,000 to the Romney campaign; he is the brother of oil billionaires Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1997, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, November 2009, December 6, 2009, April 2010 and After, July 3-4, 2010, June 26-28, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011). Romney has benefited from the departure of primary challenger Rick Perry (R-TX); with Perry out of the race, Romney has received more money from mining and oil than any other presidential candidate. Think Progress’s Rebecca Leber says that with Romney’s increase in energy industry donations, his positions on energy issues have moved closer to the positions of his corporate supporters. Romney once supported regulations on coal pollution, but now questions whether carbon emissions are even dangerous. He has abandoned his belief in man-made climate change, and has criticized government regulations designed to force industries to produce cleaner energy. [Think Progress, 2/6/2012; Forbes, 9/2012]
Entity Tags: Joseph Grigg, Consol Energy, Ballard Exploration, Jonathan Fairbanks, William I. (“Bill”) Koch, Restore Our Future, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, Murphy Wade, Rebecca Leber, Mitt Romney presidential campaign (2012), Oxbow Carbon, Willard Mitt Romney
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
According to data reported by the Sunlight Foundation, Crossroads GPS, the organization raising and spending money on behalf of Republican candidates in the presidential election, reported spending $500,000 on ads attacking President Obama in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri. Those ads are somewhat countered by $36,000 of ads aired by Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Florida and Michigan. Under campaign finance law, groups such as these are not required to reveal their donors, though they are required to periodically reveal to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that the ads have been bought, and how much was spent on them. One of Crossroads GPS’s ads accuses Obama of funneling government money to failed projects such as solar panel maker Solyndra, and ignoring those laid off by these companies. The Planned Parenthood ad lauds Obama for protecting access to affordable birth control. Crossroads GPS is a veteran in the post-Citizens United campaign finance world, having spent some $16 million in the 2010 elections, while the Planned Parenthood group is a relatively new player in the field, making its first expenditures on behalf of House candidate Kathy Hochul in 2011. [Sunlight Foundation, 2/7/2012]
Saul Anuzis, the chair of Michigan’s Republican Party between 2005 and 2009, and a prime contender to chair the Republican National Committee in 2010 (see November 12, 2010), tells a reporter that he is confident the rise of super PACs and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) will help the Republicans defeat President Obama in November. “Absolutely, there’s no doubt about it,” he says. “Without those financial resources to compete against an incumbent president who has all the resources to raise money, you could never win.” Data shows that Republican super PAC spending has topped Democratic super PAC spending by a ratio of 7.5 to 1. Many of those Republican super PACs are bankrolled by a very small number of billionaires, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (see December 1, 2011, December 19, 2011, January 3, 2012, January 6, 2012, and January 23, 2012), who contributed $11 million in January 2012 to the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA). A relatively small number of wealthy energy interests have also contributed heavily to Republican candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA—see February 6, 2012). [Think Progress, 2/10/2012]
The CPAC 2012 logo. The small print at the bottom reads, ‘A project of the American Conservative Union.’ [Source: CPAC (.org)]The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event, featuring Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney (R-MA), Newt Gingrich (R-GA), and Rick Santorum (R-PA), also features two noted white supremacists, Peter Brimelow and Robert Vandervoort, as headlined participants. Brimelow, the owner of the anti-immigration, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist Web site VDare.com (see November 26, 2004 and May 2008), is part of a panel discussion titled “The Failure of Multiculturalism: How the Pursuit of Diversity is Weakening the American Identity.” Vandervoort, who writes for the anti-immigrant, white supremacist Web site ProEnglish.com and has ties with the supremacist groups American Renaissance (see July 15, 2002 and September 1995) and the Council of Conservative Citizens (see January 23, 2005, June 2, 2009, and April 16, 2011), speaks on a panel discussion about “High Fences, Wide Gates: States vs. the Feds, the Rule of Law, and American Identity.” Vandervoort also takes part in the “multiculturalism” panel discussion with Brimelow. [Little Green Footballs, 2/8/2012; Newsone, 2/9/2012; Conservative Political Action Conference, 2/9/2012 ] Other Republicans speaking at the conference include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). CPAC also hosts groups such as the anti-gay Family Research Council and the segregationist Youth for Western Civilization. CPAC denied permission for the gay conservative group GOProud to participate in the event, citing the group’s “behavior and attitude” as its reason for denying access. Michael Keegan, the president of the liberal organization People for the American Way (PFAW), issued a statement calling on Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich to “speak out” against Brimelow and Vandevoort’s participation, and adding, “It’s shocking that the CPAC would provide a platform for someone like Brimelow.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/8/2012] CPAC’s main organizer, the American Conservative Union (ACU), refused to heed calls by Keegan and others to repudiate Brimelow and Vandervoort, instead issuing the following oblique statement through spokeswoman Kristy Campbell: “CPAC is proud to have more than 150 sponsors and exhibitors this year. This panel was not organized by the ACU, and specific questions on the event, content, or speakers should be directed to the sponsoring organization. Cosponsors and affiliated events do not necessarily represent the opinions of the American Conservative Union.” [Buzzfeed, 2/8/2012] Conservative blogger Charles Johnson, who in recent years has regularly protested against what he perceives as the increasing prominence of racism on the American political right, writes: “I admit, this one kind of shocks me, and it’s not easy to do that any more. I knew the right wing had gone bug-eyed loony, but this is way beyond the usual xenophobia and paranoid bigotry; this is open white nationalism at the Republican right’s premier high-profile conference, in an election year. Stunning. Masks are dropping all over Wingnutland.” [Little Green Footballs, 2/8/2012] During the panel on multiculturalism, Brimelow and Vandervoort are joined by Representative Steve King (R-IA) in claiming that America’s “identity” is being “weakened” by its acceptance of minority citizens and their cultural influence. Vandervoort claims that “leftist thugs” have attempted to prevent him from taking part in the event as part of their larger attempt to “shut down freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” Brimelow calls multiculturalism and bilingualism “diseases” that are infecting American society as they work to empower minorities and “suppress traditional” (i.e. white) citizens. Multiculturalism and bilingualism are, he says, a “ferocious attack on the working class.” King discusses his bill that would make English the official language of the United States. King praises Brimelow, telling him that he has “read your books” and says to the gathered onlookers that Brimelow “eloquently wrote about the balkanization of America.” [Right Wing Watch, 2/9/2012] The 2011 CPAC event welcomed the far-right, implicitly racist John Birch Society as one of its sponsors (see April 19, 2010 and December 2011). That year, some conference participants stated their opposition to having white supremacists taking part in the event, opposition that apparently was not raised this year. And in 2011, Joseph Farah, the publisher of WorldNetDaily, was not part of CPAC because organizers did not want him discussing his questions about President Obama’s citizenship (see May 18, 2009 and March 24, 2011). This year, Farah is allowed to return.” [MaddowBlog, 2/9/2012]
Entity Tags: Rick Santorum, Robert Vandervoort, ProEnglish (.com), VDare (.com ), Willard Mitt Romney, Steve King, Newt Gingrich, Youth for Western Civilization, Mitch McConnell, Peter Brimelow, Michael Keegan, Charles Johnson, American Conservative Union, American Renaissance, Council of Conservative Citizens, Family Research Council, Conservative Political Action Conference, John Birch Society, Kristy Campbell, GOProud, Michele Bachmann, Joseph Farah
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
During a state Democratic Party convention in San Diego, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls Republican legislators “demons.” In response, Fox News talk show host Eric Bolling advises Waters to “step away from the crack pipe,” earning Bolling accusations of employing racist rhetoric against Waters. Waters, an African-American, speaks in support of Democrats retaking the US House of Representatives in November 2012, and says of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): “I saw pictures of Boehner and Cantor on our screens [at the convention]. Don’t ever let me see again, in life, those Republicans in our hall, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons. They are bringing down this country, destroying this country, because they’d rather do whatever they can do destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.” After news of Waters’s remarks becomes publicly known on February 15, Brad Dayspring, a spokesperson for Cantor, calls Waters’s rhetoric “sad and unfortunate.” [Fox News, 2/15/2012] On February 16, Bolling, the host of Fox News’s The Five, appearing as a guest host on Fox News’s morning show Fox and Friends, responds to Waters’s rhetoric: “What is going on in California? How’s this? Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston (see February 12-13, 2012). Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax. Step away from the Lorazepam. Because it’s going to get you in trouble. How else do you explain those kinds of comments?” Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Juliet Huddy laugh uncomfortably at Bolling’s comments; after a commercial break, Bolling modifies his comments by saying he was “kidding about the crack pipe, but obviously the rhetoric, you know.” Doocy immediately responds: “Of course. We knew that.” Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says Bolling’s rhetoric is “racially charged,” particularly with his reference to Waters smoking crack, a drug stereotypically associated with African-American gangsters and street criminals. Politico notes that there is no evidence crack or any other illegal drug was involved in Houston’s recent death. [Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Media Matters, 2/16/2012; Politico, 2/16/2012] On Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show later in the day, guest host Andrea Tantaros, a Fox News commentator, defends Bolling’s racially inflammatory rhetoric. “How is that a racist remark?” Tantaros asks a caller. She goes on to say that Bolling was just joking, and says that “when you inject race into everything, you legitimize when people are actually really genuinely making racist remarks, which Eric Bolling was absolutely not doing.” [Media Matters, 2/16/2012] Liberal news blog The Grio calls Waters’s rhetoric “incendiary” and Bolling’s comments “racially provocative and insensitive.” [The Grio, 2/16/2012]
Entity Tags: John Boehner, Eric Bolling, Brad Dayspring, Andrea Tantaros, Fox News, Whitney Houston, The Grio, Maxine Waters, Steve Doocy, Juliet Huddy, Eric Cantor, Politico, Media Matters
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Whitney Houston. [Source: Sandra Rose (.com)]Fox News posts a story about the sudden and as-yet-unexplained death of African-American singer Whitney Houston. Within minutes, the story receives numerous comments featuring a variety of racial slurs against Houston and African-Americans in general. Conservative blogger Charles Johnson lambasts the commenters and Fox News for the posts. Johnson writes: “I don’t even know what to say about this any more. There’s a real sickness running rampant in the right wing; the Fox News comment thread on Whitney Houston’s death is yet another disgusting deluge of outright racism.… There are almost 5,000 comments posted in the thread.” He quotes a number of the comments posted on the first few pages, noting that “the racist b_stards deliberately misspell their slurs or insert random spaces, so they aren’t caught by word filters. And many of the worst comments have numerous ‘likes’ from other commenters.” Calling Houston a “n_gger” is the most common slur used, with the first comment Johnson quotes calling her “just an inferior lo w life ni gg er that needed to go,no tragedy,no loss.” Many inaccurately call Houston a “thug” from the “ghetto” and speculate that she died from a drug overdose, with some labeling her a “crack ho.” Others insult African-Americans’ intelligence, physical type, and work ethic. Some call her a “monkey,” and many reference her “jungle” origins. Many insult her as a woman and make crude sexual references to her. Many celebrate her death as another African-American “off the public social rolls,” while others cheer the loss of another “Obama voter.” One poster writes, “To bad it wasnt the monkey in the White House.” Another poster writes: “I am now patiently waiting for the grand messiah Obama to have a blk fundraiser in honor of Whitley with Kevin Costner as guest of honor with all the Hollywood elites invited along with Alan Colmes, Al Sharpton, Jeremia Wright, Charles Rangel, etc. with a menu featuring blk eyed peas, grits, Imported Kobe steak, Dom Perignon, sweet potato pie and a mus lll im scarf as a momento of this great occasion. Of course the door prize will be an all expense paid trip to Kenya to visit the Obama tribe and birthplace of his ancestors while the American people still look for this imposter’s birth certificate in Hawaii !!!” The commenter deliberately misspells “Muslim,” presumably to avoid having his or her comment filtered. Another poster blames “the black gene pool” for being genetically inferior and thereby unable to “handle fame and fortune whether it’s derived from music, acting, sports or just plain entertainment.” Another poster says African-Americans are not “included in the human race.” Another accuses Houston of smoking crack with President Obama, and of having sexual relations with him, accusations echoed by subsequent posters. One asks why “Afro-Americans” are allowed to “use English names” when they should be named “Kunta Kinti or Moguba Magaba.” After quoting several pages of comments, Johnson writes: “There’s more. A lot more. But I have to stop now because it’s making me physically ill.” [Fox News, 2/12/2012; Charles Johnson, 2/12/2012] The day after, Fox News deletes the entire comments thread and purges all of the comments from public view. Johnson writes: “It was probably easier to just trash the whole thing than try to moderate 5,000 comments full of racial slurs. I’ll bet somebody at Fox News is pretty pissed off at me today.” [Charles Johnson, 2/13/2012] At the far-right blog Free Republic, a poster blames “liberals” for posting the comments as part of what he calls a “COINTELPRO” (or counterintelligence program) operation, and implies Johnson is behind the “scheme.” The Free Republic post features its own racist comments about Houston, with one commenter calling her a “schvatza,” a Yiddish racial slur. [Free Republic (.com), 2/13/2012]
Speaking at an Idaho campaign rally, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) implies he is opposed to government-funded public schools. “We didn’t have government-run schools for a long time in this country, for the majority of the time in this country,” he tells his listeners. “We had private education. We had local education. Parents actually controlled the education of their children. What a great idea that is.” He refuses to answer questions as to whether he wants to end public funding for public schools, but as CBS News reports, his antagonism for public schools is clear in his remarks. In March, he told an audience: “Just call them what they are. Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools.” Santorum home-schools his seven children; however, between 2001 and 2004, he enrolled them in Pennsylvania’s Cyber Charter School, a publicly-funded school, while he and his family lived in Virginia, and failed to pay over $100,000 in tuition fees and charges that the state and the local district were forced to absorb. [Mother Jones, 1/4/2012; CBS News, 2/15/2012] In 2011, Santorum said that public schools were a means that Democrats used to “socialize” children away from their parents and towards their way of thinking (see January 7, 2011).
Foster Friess. [Source: New York Magazine]Foster Friess, a multi-millionaire who is the chief supporter of a “super PAC” supporting the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum (R-PA), weighs in on the controversy surrounding new federal mandates for providing birth control in employers’ health care coverage. Friess dismisses the controversy by suggesting that if women just kept their legs closed, they would not need contraception. In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Friess is asked if Santorum’s rigid views on sex and social issues (see April 7, 2003, April 23, 2003 and After, January 2011, January 7, 2011,
October 18, 2011 and After, June 2011, September 22, 2011, January 1-3, 2012,
January 2, 2012 and January 4, 2012) would hurt his chances in the general election. Friess responds by saying: “I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed; we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about; and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s [so] inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Mitchell says, “Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.” Think Progress’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Given that [a]spirin is not a contraceptive, Friess seems to be suggesting that women keep the pill between their knees in order to ensure the[ir] legs stay closed to prevent having sex. Conspicuously, Friess doesn’t put the same burden on men.” [Think Progress, 2/16/2012; National Public Radio, 2/16/2012] Friess’s comment draws quick reaction from a number of sources, with many women’s groups expressing their outrage. Santorum quickly distances himself from the comment, calling it a “bad joke” and implying that the media is trying to smear him with it: “When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad off-color joke and somehow I am responsible for that, that is ‘gotcha,’” he tells a CBS News reporter. [Washington Post, 2/17/2012] Fox News’s late-night political humor show, Red Eye, features guest host Andy Levy sarcastically speculating that Friess’s joke is part of a “guerrilla marketing” scheme by the Bayer Corporation, which manufactures Bayer aspirin. Guest Anthony Cumia dismisses Friess’s comment by saying that Friess is “an old guy, he’s got old jokes.” [Mediaite, 2/17/2012] The next day, Friess issues an apology on his blog that reads: “To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness. My wife constantly tells me I need new material—she understood the joke but didn’t like it anyway—so I will keep that old one in the past where it belongs.” New York Magazine’s Dan Amira writes, perhaps sarcastically, that he does not understand why either Santorum or Friess apologized, as he believes Friess stated Santorum’s position on sex and birth control rather clearly. “‘Hold an aspirin between your knees’ is just a more colorful way of saying, ‘just keep your legs closed,’ which is tantamount to ‘just don’t have sex,’” Amira writes. “It’s abstinence, pure and simple. Which is exactly what Santorum advocates. He’s said that unless you’re trying to procreate, you shouldn’t be having sex, and therefore, contraception is ‘not okay.’ He has promised to make this argument to the American people as president. As far we can tell, the only difference between Friess’s bad contraception joke and Santorum’s actual contraception beliefs is an aspirin.” [New York Magazine, 2/17/2012; Foster Friess, 2/17/2012] Friess is often described in the press as a “billionaire,” but both Friess and Forbes magazine say that appellation is inaccurate. [Forbes, 2/8/2012]
Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) attempts to clarify his stance on contraception, after recent media reports of an October 2011 interview he gave focus on his personal opposition to contraception and his stated belief that he would take action against its use if elected president (see October 18, 2011 and After). Santorum now says that while he personally opposes contraception, he thinks it should be available. In a Columbus, Ohio, campaign event, he says: “Birth control can and should be available if people want to use it. They have a right to use it.… I believe the better alternative is abstinence education.… My personal position is well known.… I do my best to be a faithful Catholic. My wife and I don’t practice birth control as an article of faith in our church.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2012] Santorum has repeatedly stated that he believes state governments should be free to outlaw the availability and use of birth control if they so choose (see January 2, 2012).
Bradley A. Smith, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) and a former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) during the George W. Bush administration, writes a second editorial for US News and World Report defending “super PACs,” the “independent” political entities responsible for infusing millions of dollars into the political campaign system. Smith wrote an editorial in January 2012 defending super PACs, claiming they are the direct outgrowth of First Amendment free-speech rights and are actually good for the campaign system (see January 13, 2012). However, as in his first editorial, Smith makes a number of false claims to bolster his arguments. Such organizations were created in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) and the following SpeechNow.org decision (see March 26, 2010). He notes, correctly, that until 1974 there were no federal restrictions on super PACs, apparently referring to that year’s amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (see 1974), though he fails to note that such organizations did not exist until after the SpeechNow decision. He claims that “[t]here is no evidence that super PACs have led to a greater percentage of negative ads” than in earlier presidential campaigns, though he cites no evidence to that effect. He also claims, as he did in the first editorial, that it is false to claim super PACs “spend ‘secret’ money. This is just not true. By law, super PACs are required to disclose their donors. There are groups that have never had to disclose their donors, non-profits such as the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, and the NRA. If you want more disclosure, super PACs are a step forward.” Unfortunately, the Citizens United decision specifically allows donors to super PACs to remain anonymous, despite Smith’s claims to the contrary (see January 27-29, 2010, July 26, 2010, July 26-27, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, Mid-October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, April 20, 2011, April 21, 2011 and After, July 12, 2011, and November 18, 2011). Republicans have fought to preserve that anonymity (see July 26-27, 2010, May 26, 2011, July 15, 2011, and July 20, 2011). As in the first editorial, Smith is correct in saying that traditional nonprofit groups must disclose their donors, though many are apparently failing to do so (see October 12, 2010). He also claims that super PACs increase competition—“level the playing field,” as he wrote in the first editorial—by allowing Republican candidates to equal the spending of their Democratic opponents. In reality, Republicans have outstripped Democrats in outside, super PAC spending since the Citizens United decision (see Around October 27, 2010, November 1, 2010, and May 5, 2011). Smith bolsters his claim by citing direct campaign spending as offsetting “independent” super PAC spending, such as in the 2010 US House race involving incumbent Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who won re-election even after a $500,000 super PAC-driven effort on behalf of his challenger. DeFazio, Smith claims, “outspent his opponent by a sizable margin and won. Still, for the first time in years he had to campaign hard for his constituents’ support. That’s a good thing.” He cites the presidential campaigns of Republican contenders Newt Gingrich (R-GA—see December 19, 2011 and January 6, 2012) and Rick Santorum (R-PA—see February 16-17, 2012), which have relied on the contributions of a very few extraordinarily wealthy contributors to keep their candidacies alive against the frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA), whose own super PAC funding is extraordinary (see June 23, 2011). And, he writes, super PAC spending “improves voter knowledge of candidates and issues. Indeed, political ads are frequently a better source of information for voters than news coverage.” The most important benefit of the two Court decisions and the subsequent influx of corporate money into the US election continuum (see January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21-22, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, March 26, 2010, April 5, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, October 2010, Mid-October 2010, October 18, 2010, Around October 27, 2010, June 23, 2011, July 12, 2011, August 4, 2011, October 27, 2011, November 23, 2011, December 1, 2011, January 3, 2012, January 6, 2012, January 10, 2012, and January 23, 2012), he writes, “is that they get government out of the business of regulating political speech. Who would say that you can’t spend your own time and money to state your own political beliefs? Vindicating that fundamental First Amendment right is good for democracy.” [US News and World Report, 2/17/2012]
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the co-author of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law (see March 27, 2002) that was dramatically curtailed by the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), criticizes the decision on the Sunday morning talk show This Week. Asked by ABC reporter Jake Tapper about the state of the presidential campaign, McCain lambasts the Supreme Court for handing down the decision, saying: “I’ve been in very tough campaigns. I don’t think I’ve seen one that was as personal and as characterized by so many attacks as these are. And, quite frankly, one of the reasons is the super PACs. And why do we have the super PACs? Because of the ignorance and naivete of the United States Supreme Court in the Citizens United campaign.” [Mediaite, 2/19/2012] McCain, along with former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), issued a formal statement on the two-year anniversary of the decision that was highly critical of it (see January 20, 2012).
Thomas Tolbert and Buddy. [Source: Andelino (.com)]The husband of a staff member working for Senate candidate Heather Wilson (R-NM) is responsible for a voter registration stunt involving the illegal registration of a dog. On February 20, Thomas Tolbert approaches a voter registrar at the University of New Mexico and asks to register to vote. According to a later interview Tolbert gives to KOB-TV reporter Danielle Todesco, he gives a false Social Security number and date of birth, and uses his dog’s name “Buddy” to complete the registration form. (He fills out the form as “Buddy Tolbert.”) He then signs the form, which reads, “I swear or affirm… that all information I have provided is correct.” An investigation shows that Tolbert is married to Heather Wade, a senior staff member for Wilson’s campaign for reelection. Tolbert and Wade share the Albuquerque home whose address is on the registration card, which Tolbert mails in to secure the registration. Tolbert (whose identity is concealed by Todesco for broadcast; Tolbert soon identifies himself to the press) tells Todesco that he has received the registration card. Falsifying a voter registration form, as Tolbert admittedly does, is a felony in New Mexico. The organization ProgressNow New Mexico asks for a police investigation into the apparent voter registration fraud. Group spokesperson Pat Davis says: “This new information raises the stakes significantly. Heather Wilson’s team is undermining the integrity of our voting system from their kitchen tables. And they are using her payroll to do it.” Wilson’s campaign manager Bryce Dustman attempts to distance the campaign from the stunt, saying: “This was very poor judgement by a family member of an employee. He has apologized and this matter is between him and the county clerk.” Tolbert himself issues a statement saying that neither his wife nor Wilson were aware of his actions. “I made a mistake and I want to apologize to Bernalillo County Clerk, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, my wife, who was not aware of my actions, and the public,” he states. “I will take full responsibility for my actions.” Todesco says she has not been contacted by the police, and says Tolbert did not inform her that his wife worked for Wilson. “I do however find it odd that his wife would allow him to do a news story while being employed by a such a high-profile person,” she says. “But that’s just my opinion. It’s completely up to them how they handle that.” Wilson won national attention in 2006 by pushing for the firing of then-US Attorney David Iglesias for Iglesias’s alleged lack of enthusiasm in pursuing alleged cases of voter fraud. Tolbert later denies ever asking Todesco for anonymity, in conflict with Todesco’s own statements, and says he carried out the stunt to show how simple it is to commit voter fraud. He denies his action had anything to do with the Wilson campaign. He says he had “suspicions about the consequences, but never truly researched them” before registering his dog to vote. “I thought the county would be more concerned about fixing the problem rather than trying to prosecute me,” he adds. “Once again no voter fraud actions were taken. I outed myself to show the problem.” [TPM Muckraker, 3/1/2012; ProgressNow New Mexico, 3/1/2012] In the interview with Todesco, he says: “They should verify. Somebody should have verified this information and somebody should have come out and took a look at exactly who it was. But I made up a birth date, and I made up a social security number and I had a voter registration card in my hand for Buddy two weeks later.” Tolbert registers his dog as a Democrat. [TPM Muckraker, 3/1/2012]
In response to a lengthy interview of oil billionaire David Koch conducted by the Palm Beach Post, John Nichols of the liberal magazine The Nation writes that Koch’s “bragging” about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker could well be considered inappropriate and perhaps illegal coordination with a political candidate (see February 11-20, 2012). Nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 organizations such as Americans for Prosperity (AFP) are not allowed to coordinate their activities with candidates or campaigns, but are required by law to operate independently (see March 26, 2010). Nichols writes of AFP’s “Stand with Walker” campaign: “These ads are supposedly independent expenditures by a not-for-profit organization that operates under tax rules established to benefit the work of ‘Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations.’” The law is quite clear. Nichols quotes IRS tax law, which states: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.” AFP’s ads seem to violate these rules, Nichols writes. “So, while David Koch’s stated enthusiasm for Scott Walker was not surprising, his explanation of how that enthusiasm is being expressed politically was.” [Nation, 2/20/2012]
The Republican presidential primaries are being largely controlled, at least from a financial standpoint, by a very few extraordinarily wealthy individuals, according to research provided by former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich and the news organization ProPublica. In January 2012, the campaign of frontrunner Rick Santorum (R-PA) was almost entirely funded by billionaires William Dore and multi-millionaire Foster Friess (see February 16-17, 2012), who between them supplied over three-quarters of the $2.1 million donated to Santorum’s “super PAC” “Red White and Blue Fund.” Dore is the president of a Louisiana energy corporation and Friess is a fund manager in Wyoming. Of the $11 million raised by the super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich (R-GA), $10 million came from Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. Adelson runs a casino ownership group in Las Vegas. Most of the rest of Gingrich’s funding came from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel provided $1.7 million of the $2.4 million raised in January by the super PAC for Ron Paul (R-TX). As for Mitt Romney (R-MA), himself a multi-millionaire, his super PAC “Restore Our Future” raised $6.6 million in January. Almost all of it came from 40 donors, including hedge fund billionaires Bruce Kovner, Julian Robertson (the largest donor at $1.25 million), and David Tepper, hotel owners J.W. Marriott and Richard Marriott, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. The lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see 1984 and After, May 16, 2008, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, June 26, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 19, 2009, August 24, 2010, September 2010, September 12, 2010 and August 17, 2011) has contributed over $1.4 million to various Republican candidates. Reich writes, “Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.” Reich goes on to cite American Crossroads’s “super PAC” Crossroads GPS, founded by Republican political consultant Karl Rove, and its lineup of corporate moguls contributing hundreds of millions of dollars. The lineup of Crossroads supporters includes Charles and David Koch (see 1940 and After, 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, 1997, Late 2004, Late 2004, October 2008, August 5, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 2010, August 17, 2011, April 2010 and After and October 4, 2011), and Harold Simmons, owner of Contran Corporation, who has contributed $10 million to the organization. Reich says there is no legal way to know exactly how much the Kochs and their fellows have contributed: “The public will never know who or what corporation gave what because, under IRS regulations, such nonprofit ‘social welfare organizations’ aren’t required to disclose the names of those who contributed to them.” The previous limit of $5,000 per year per individual was erased by the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, a decision Reich calls “grotesque.” Reich writes: “In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.… Now, the limits are gone. And this comes precisely at a time when an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s income and wealth is accumulating at the top. Never before in the history of our Republic have so few spent so much to influence the votes of so many.” [The Atlantic, 2/2/2012; Salon, 2/21/2012; ProPublica, 2/21/2012] President Obama’s super PAC, “Priorities USA Action,” has received $2 million from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and another $1 million from the Service Employees International Union’s Committee on Political Education (SEIU COPE). However, Priorities USA has raised relatively paltry sums in comparison to the monies raised by the Republican super PACs, according to a Reuters report. Obama and his re-election campaign had originally distanced themselves from the super PAC operating in their name, in part because they disapprove of the Citizens United decision and the influence of super PACs in electoral politics. Since the Obama campaign officially endorsed the organization, donations have risen. Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod says that Obama “believes that this is an unhealthy development in our political process, but it is a reality of the rules as they stand. This was not a quick decision, but he also feels a responsibility to win this election. There’s a lot hanging on this beyond him.” By the end of January, Priorities USA had raised $4.2 million. In contrast, Romney’s “Restore Our Future” had raised $36.8 million by the end of last month. [Reuters, 2/2012; ProPublica, 2/21/2012] Partly in response to reports of billionaires’ influence on the 2012 elections, comedian Bill Maher will announce his donation of $1 million to the Obama super PAC. Maher will tell an audience that an Obama victory over any of the Republican contenders is “worth a million dollars” and will describe the donation as “the wisest investment I think I could make.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/24/2012] Friess is often described in the press as a “billionaire,” but both Friess and Forbes magazine say that appellation is inaccurate. [Forbes, 2/8/2012]
Entity Tags: Republican Party, Richard Marriott, Rick Santorum, Peter Thiel, Robert Reich, William Dore, Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education, Newt Gingrich, Willard Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson, Ron Paul, Miriam Adelson, ProPublica (.org), Karl C. Rove, Charles Koch, American Crossroads, David Axelrod, American Crossroads GPS, Meg Whitman, Bill Maher, Barack Obama, David Koch, David Tepper, Foster Friess, Julian Robertson, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bruce Kovner, J. W. (“Bill”) Marriott, FreedomWorks, Harold Simmons
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Sheldon Adelson, the owner of casinos in Nevada and Southeast Asia, says he may contribute up to $100 million to the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Adelson has already given some $11 million to Gingrich’s campaign, bolstering Gingrich’s otherwise-floundering efforts to become the Republican presidential nominee (see December 19, 2011, January 6, 2012, and January 23, 2012). He mocks the idea that he is trying to personally buy the presidential election for Gingrich, saying of his detractors: “Those people are either jealous or professional critics.… They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair—but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.” Adelson, one of the world’s richest people, is well able to afford the largesse: according to Forbes magazine, Adelson’s $11 million gift to Gingrich only amounts to 0.044 percent of his fortune. But Adelson says he does not believe in the wealthy trying to influence US politics. “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he says. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like [George] Soros (see January - November 2004) have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through 10 different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.” Adelson, whose net worth has increased more than any other American’s during the Obama administration, says he wants to see President Obama removed from office for economic reasons. “What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years,” he says. “That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives. What scares me is the lack of accountability that people would prefer to experience, just let the government take care of everything and I’ll go fish or I won’t work, etc.… US domestic politics is very important to me because I see that the things that made this country great are now being relegated into duplicating that which is making other countries less great.… I’m afraid of the trend where more and more people have the tendency to want to be given instead of wanting to give. People are less willing to share. There are fewer philanthropists being grown and there are greater expectations of the government. I believe that people will come to their senses and not extend the current administration’s quest to socialize this country. It won’t be a socialist democracy because it won’t be a democracy.” He refuses to say whether he would support another Republican candidate if Gingrich fails to secure the nomination, though he admits: “The likelihood is that I’m going to be supportive of whoever the candidate is. I just haven’t decided that yet and will wait to see what happens.” Adelson, whose Gingrich donations went mostly for negative ad campaigns against fellow Republican Mitt Romney (see December 19, 2011), adds: “I don’t believe in negative campaigning. I believe in saying that my opponents are very good people and I’m confident a lot of them would do a good job, but I would do a better job, and here’s why. Money is fungible, but you can’t take my money out of the total money you have and use it for negative campaigning.” Adelson denies that his money went towards the negative campaign ads that helped Gingrich win over Romney in South Carolina, saying: “That’s what everybody says, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Most of what’s been written about me in this is untrue.” [Forbes, 2/21/2012]
Almost a quarter of the millions donated to super PACs so far during the campaign season comes from just five donors, a USA Today analysis shows. Super PACs are political organizations that exist to influence elections, which take unlimited amounts of outside money from donors, including individuals, unions, and corporations, and pool that money to advocate for or against a candidate (see March 26, 2010). By law, super PACs are supposed to operate independently of a candidate’s official campaign organization. In August 2011, a USA Today analysis showed that a dozen wealthy individuals and corporations contributed over half of the money given to super PACs (see August 4, 2011). Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus has called the influence of the supposedly independent organizations corrosively corrupting and extraordinarily dangerous, and correctly predicted that their influence would increase as the campaign season wears on (see January 3, 2012). Four of those donors are:
Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons, who financed the 2004 “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign that vilified presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA), has given $12 million to the Republican super PAC “American Crossroads” and $2.2 million to super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates;
Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who with his wife Miriam has given $10 million to “Winning the Future,” the super PAC supporting Republican candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA—see December 19, 2011 and January 6, 2012), and who says he is willing to donate up to $100 million more to keep Gingrich in the race (see February 21, 2012);
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who has given $2.6 million to “Endorse Liberty,” a super PAC backing Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and his presidential campaign;
Houston real estate developer Bob Perry, who has given $3.6 million to super PACs, including $2.5 million to American Crossroads. Perry formerly backed Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) and former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) in the presidential primaries, but has now shifted his allegiance to frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA).
Republican organizations have vastly outraised their Democratic counterparts, though so far much of the money spent by Republican organizations has been to attack Republican presidential candidates during the primary campaigns. Indeed, some political observers say that Romney would have secured the nomination long ago if not for the billionaires supporting other Republican candidates. “Without the flow of super PAC money, the Republican race would be over,” says campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado. “Super PACs have become a vehicle for a very small number of millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend large sums in pursuit of their political agenda.” Political scientist Cal Jillson says of the billionaires contributing these huge sums: “They are extremely wealthy people who put their resources behind their vision of the appropriate relationship between the government and the private sector. That vision is low taxes, small government, and personal responsibility.” The super PAC working on behalf of President Obama, “Priorities USA,” collected $2 million in late 2011 from Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, but since then has raised relatively paltry amounts in comparison to its Republican counterparts. It raised a mere $59,000 in January 2012, most of that made up of a $50,000 contribution from John Rogers, CEO of Arial Investments and a close friend of Obama. [USA Today, 2/21/2012] The USA Today analysis is congruent with a recent analysis by Robert Reich, the former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton (see February 21, 2012).
Entity Tags: Cal Jillson, Sheldon Adelson, Bobby Jack Perry, USA Today, Willard Mitt Romney, Anthony J. Corrado Jr., American Crossroads, Ruth Marcus, Barack Obama, Tim Pawlenty, Peter Thiel, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, Harold Simmons, Endorse Liberty, Priorities USA Action, Ron Paul, John Kerry, John Rogers, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Newt Gingrich, Miriam Adelson
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Sandra Fluke. [Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images / New York Times]Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh insults Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who testified in favor of federal law mandating that health care providers pay for contraception (see March 1, 2012), as a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants the government to pay her for having sex. On his radio show, Limbaugh, who wrongly identifies her as “Susan” Fluke, says: “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. The johns, that’s right. We would be the johns—no! We’re not the johns. Well—yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so, she’s not a slut. She’s round-heeled. I take it back.” Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald comments on Limbaugh’s characterization, “While it’s probably not even worth engaging with Limbaugh on the facts, Fluke’s testimony was about a friend who is a lesbian and needed birth control for non-sexual medical reasons, so he’s only wrong about three times over, and offensive many more times over than that.” Seitz-Wald notes that Fluke never discussed her own use, or non-use, of contraception, nor did she allude to her sexual activities at all. [Media Matters, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 3/1/2012]
Misrepresentation - Seitz-Wald will note that Limbaugh is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position and the position of Congressional Democrats. “Fluke’s testimony, and the entire contraception debate, is about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the… way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Fluke’s testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who need contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students. This conservative narrative, which is pure fantasy, seems to be based on a single bogus article from Cybercast News Service (CNS), which Limbaugh repeatedly cites, with the ludicrous headline, ‘Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate.’” [CNS News, 2/29/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Other News Outlets Join Limbaugh - Other conservative news outlets join Limbaugh in attacking Fluke and other women who use contraception. In the article cited by Limbaugh, CNS’s Craig Bannister says that “sex-crazed co-eds” like Fluke should cut back on the amount of sex they’re having to pay for other needs such as books and food. Fox News’s Trace Gallagher mocks Fluke, saying: “And see, I was gonna go to law school, but I thought all you did was study in law school, right? So, I guess I was wrong on that.” Fox News correspondent Monica Crowley says the government should not pay Fluke and others to have “recreational sex.” CNN commentator Dana Loesch calls Fluke and other women “nymphos” for wanting access to contraceptives, and says Fluke and feminists “support… female genocide.” [Media Matters, 2/29/2012; CNS News, 2/29/2012]
Fox Business Commentator: Fluke's Testimony Part of a Pro-Abortion Scheme by House Minority Leader - On Fox Business Channel’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, regular guest Bill Donohue calls Fluke a “little brat.” Dobbs asks Donohue to comment on what he calls Fluke’s demand that she be given free contraception, a mischaracterization of Fluke’s testimony (and one contradicted by the clip of her testimony Dobbs plays before Donohue’s comments). Donohue begins by lambasting Georgetown for having a group called “Hoyas for Choice,” which he calls “Hoyas for Abortion,” but not groups like “Hoyas for Racism” or “Hoyas for Anti-Semitism.” Donohue suggests that the university and Hoyas for Choice raise “the nine dollars a month” Fluke needs for her personal contraception needs, and Dobbs notes that Georgetown is “one of the most expensive universities in the country.” Donohue attacks Fluke for “obviously dressing well” but then asking taxpayers to pay for her contraception and, without basis in fact, for her university education to boot. Why aren’t taxpayers funding his anti-gout medication? he asks. “This is what we’ve come down to in this country,” he concludes. “You have these little brats who come on TV and they testify and they say, ‘I want, I want, I want,’ and somehow I have a moral responsibility? They have a lien on me to pay this? It’s all about getting the Catholic Church, obviously, to pay for their abortion-inducing drugs, which is why we’re having this debate.” Donohue says that Fluke’s testimony is part of a scheme by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), “who actually brought her on there to speak,” to force the Catholic Church to amend its position on abortion. [Media Matters, 2/29/2012]
'Shockingly Ugly Hatred' - Conservative blogger Charles Johnson, who in recent years has become highly critical of the race- and gender-based rhetoric from the right, writes that the right’s reaction to Fluke constitutes “shockingly ugly hatred,” and says Limbaugh’s attack is “another step into the gutter.” [Charles Johnson, 2/29/2012] Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates agrees with Johnson, noting that Limbaugh is not just an “entertainer,” but a powerful opinion leader of the Republican Party, and says that Limbaugh’s comments are part of what Coates calls “the normalization of cruelty” and “evidence of the lowest aspects of humanity.” [Atlantic, 3/1/2012] Eric Boehlert, a senior writer at the liberal media watchdog Web site Media Matters, calls Limbaugh’s “radio outburst” an example of his “rancid misogyny,” and writes: “[I]t was perhaps the talk show host’s incessant need to bully powerless people from the safety of his studio that was so striking. That, and the glee Limbaugh seemed to take in not only maligning the young woman, but her parents as well. It’s jaw-dropping.” Boehlert goes on to remind readers that Limbaugh is not just a voice on the radio or an entertainer, but “the voice of America’s conservative movement, as well as the Republican Party.” [Media Matters, 3/1/2012]
House Democrats Call for Condemnation - House Democrats, including Pelosi, call for Republican Congressional leaders to condemn Limbaugh’s remarks (see February 29, 2012).
Statement from Law Student - Fluke will issue a statement repudiating Limbaugh’s rhetoric (see March 1, 2012).
Continued Attacks - Limbaugh will continue his attacks on Fluke the next day (see March 1, 2012).
Entity Tags: Eric Boehlert, Alex Seitz-Wald, Trace Gallagher, Bill Donohue, Dana Loesch, Craig Bannister, Charles Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cybercast News Service, Rush Limbaugh, Georgetown University, Sandra Fluke, Fox Business Channel, Lou Dobbs, Fox News, Nancy Pelosi, Monica Crowley, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) call upon the Republican House leadership to condemn radio host Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who after testifying against a Republican-driven anti-contraception bill (see March 1, 2012), was vilified by Limbaugh as a “slut” and a “prostitute” (see February 29, 2012). In a press release, the Democrats say: “When Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee after Republicans attempted to silence her, she courageously spoke truth to power. As a result, today, she has been subject to attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country. We call upon the Republican leaders in the House to condemn these vicious attacks on Ms. Fluke, which are in response to her testimony to the Congress. Democrats will always stand up for women’s health and women’s voices.” [Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, 2/29/2012] Maloney tells a reporter, “I am just aghast” at Limbaugh’s attacks on Fluke. “If the far right can attack people like Sandra Fluke, women are going to be afraid to speak because they’re going to be called terrible words. It’s an attempt to silence people that are speaking out for women.” Maloney says that the Republicans’ attacks on contraception access should serve as a “wake-up call” to the women’s rights movement. “I believe these efforts are sinking in. Women have to stand up and say stop. We have to get out and get out strong to let women know around the country that they can speak out against this abuse. The right to space and time our children for our own health and the ability to manage our lives—this is a basic right, and they’re going after it.” [Huffington Post, 3/1/2012] In a press release, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) writes: “How dare Rush Limbaugh target Ms. Fluke with his hateful rhetoric? Her actions demonstrate a true profile in courage. His are the acts of an ignorant, hateful man who preys on misinformation and cruelty. As is always the case with Rush Limbaugh, facts are his first casualty. Ms. Fluke’s comments had nothing to do with her personal experiences or circumstances. She addressed Congress on behalf of a friend using birth control for non-sexual medical reasons. It had nothing to do with sex. It had nothing to do with Ms. Fluke. Yet Limbaugh delighted in calling her rude and inappropriate names. What’s truly sad is the fact that this man thrives on this kind of filth—it’s how he makes his living. While most Americans work hard and want only to have equal access to health insurance as part of their compensation, and while Ms. Fluke wanted only to stand up for those hardworking Americans’ right to equal access to health insurance, Limbaugh wants only to distort the truth for his ditto head audience. Where is the outrage from Congressional Republicans? Whether they like it or not, Limbaugh speaks for their party and reflects on their judgment. How can the majority party of this legislative body expect qualified witnesses to testify if such personal attacks are allowed to pass? I urge my colleagues from the other side of the aisle to stand up for what is right, and shoot down this thinly-veiled attempt at character assassination.” [Asian American Action Fund, 3/1/2012]
The billionaire oil magnates and conservative political financiers Charles and David Koch (see 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011) launch a court battle to take control of the libertarian Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank. The Cato Institute began in 1974 as the Charles Koch foundation and changed its name to the Cato Institute in 1976, with the support and funding of the Koch brothers (see 1977-Present). Until last year, the institute had four primary shareholders with a controlling interest: the Koch brothers, Cato president Edward H. Crane III, and William A. Niskanen, a former Reagan administration economic advisor who died in 2011. The Kochs believe that there should be only three shareholders now, which would give them complete control of the organization, but Crane says Niskanen’s 25 percent share should go to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn. Koch lawyer Wes Edward says the dispute is about nothing but shareholder rights. Cato has 120 full-time staffers and around 100 visiting or adjunct scholars. Its annual operating budget is $23 million. [Politico, 3/1/2012]
Patricia Heaton, in an October 2011 interview on ABC. [Source: Ray Tamarra / Getty Images / Daily Beast]Television actress Patricia Heaton, an outspoken conservative, posts a number of vitriolic Twitter posts targeting Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was vilified by Rush Limbaugh today for her stance on insurer-paid contraception (see February 29, 2012). Her posts to Fluke echo Limbaugh’s groundless characterization of Fluke as a “sex-crazed coed” who wants the government to pay for her birth control (see March 1, 2012). Heaton labels Fluke “G-Town Gal” in her posts, and says, among other things: “Hey G-Town Gal! How about having sex only on Wednesdays? (Hump Day!)” “Hey G-Town, stop buying toothpaste, soap and shampoo! You’ll save money, and no one will want to sleep with you!” “Hey G-Town Gal: turn your underwear inside out! Then u only have to do laundry every 2 weeks - saves on detergent & trips to laundromat!” and “Hey G-Town Gal! If your parents have to pay for your birth control, maybe they should get a say in who u sleep with! Instant birth control!” After a barrage of negative responses, Heaton temporarily deletes her Twitter account, and then posts the following in attempts to apologize: “Tweatons: Finally heard all the commentary. I crossed the line w/@SandraFluke. Don’t agree w/her views, but I was not showing Christ’s love.” “I apologized to Ms Fluke last week. I may not agree with her views but I didn’t treat her with respect and I’m sorry. I was wrong. Mea Culpa,” and finally, “No, I still disagree w/ her views but I didn’t treat her w/ respect which was wrong.” [Angry Black Lady, 2/29/2012; USA Today, 3/5/2012; KSN (.com), 3/5/2012] A contributor to Yahoo! News writes of Heaton’s Twitter posts: “Heaton is a 54-year-old woman who pretty much lowered herself to the same level as a mean high school girl bullying the nice girl through social media.… Verbal bullying involves teases and insults and what Heaton said most falls into that category.” [Yahoo! News, 3/6/2012] The online news source Daily Beast notes that Heaton has a history of making inflammatory and abusive “tweets” and other postings, often in support of Limbaugh. [Daily Beast, 3/7/2012]
Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke issues a statement in defense of herself after being vilified by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012). After a bill attempting to give health care providers and insurers the right to deny coverage for contraception and other services based on religious or moral objections was defeated in the Senate (see February 29, 2012), Limbaugh targeted Fluke, who testified against the bill, on his radio show, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants the government to pay for her alleged promiscuity. Fluke’s statement says in part: “I thank the thousands of women and men, including members of Congress, Georgetown University students and faculty, and total strangers of all political stripes across the country who have offered kind words and support following recent egregious personal attacks. We are fortunate to live in a democracy where everyone is entitled to their own opinions regarding legitimate policy differences. Unfortunately, numerous commentators have gone far beyond the acceptable bounds of civil discourse. No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women and has been used throughout history to silence our voices. The millions of American women who have and will continue to speak out in support of women’s health care and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced.” [Media Matters, 3/1/2012]
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh spends much of his three-hour show lambasting Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). The day before, Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012). Limbaugh begins by saying that Fluke and others who criticized his comments (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012) were having “a conniption fit” that he finds “hilarious.” He offers a compromise, offering to buy “all the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as possible” (see February 16-17, 2012), and says he believes he is being “quite compassionate.” Limbaugh later returns to the topic, saying that having the government pay for contraception is “flat-out thievery” that would force taxpayers to pay to “satisfy the sexual habits of female law students at Georgetown.” He characterizes Fluke’s objections to the House amendment as her saying: “I’m going broke having sex. I need government to provide me condoms and contraception. It’s not fair.… Ms. Fluke, have you ever heard of not having sex? Have you ever heard of not having sex so often?… Who bought your condoms in junior high? Who bought your condoms in the sixth grade? Or your contraception. Who bought your contraceptive pills in high school?” He says Fluke is apparently “having so much sex, it’s amazing she can still walk.… She and her co-ed classmates are having sex nearly three times a day for three years straight, apparently these deadbeat boyfriends or random hookups that these babes are encountering here, having sex with nearly three times a day.” He advises Fluke that she can get “free condoms and lube” from the Washington, DC, Department of Health. He then says: “So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis (see May 21, 2007 and July 2008), here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” He finishes his tirade by accusing Fluke of being “a plant… an anti-Catholic plant from the get-go” who is working behind the scenes as part of a “Democratic plot” to “create a new welfare program and, at the same time, try to cast Republicans in an election year as anti-female.” Fluke, he says, is “a woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her life woman. She wants all the sex in the world whenever she wants it, all the time, no consequences. No responsibility for her behavior.” He concludes that he, not Fluke, is the victim, and says he is being persecuted by those who wish to see him removed from the airwaves. [Think Progress, 3/1/2012; Media Matters, 3/1/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012]
Five men, including several conservative religious leaders, testified before a House committee on female contraception issues. No women were allowed to testify. The Senate later blocks a bill restricting contraception from passing. [Source: Twitter / London Daily Mail]The Senate votes down the controversial “Blunt amendment” 51-48, on a nearly party-line vote. The amendment, offered by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) as a rider to a routine highway bill and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 22 other senators, would have allowed health care providers to refuse to pay for contraception and other health care procedures on religious or moral grounds. If the amendment had passed, health insurance plans and employers could refuse to provide or pay for coverage of “specific items or services” if the coverage would be “contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan.” Blunt and the bill’s supporters characterize the legislation as an attempt to restore religious freedoms taken away by the Obama administration’s “government health care takeover,” in Blunt’s words; opponents say the bill is an attack on women’s rights and an effort to ban contraception. Blunt said during the debate of the bill: “This amendment does not mention any procedure of any kind. The word ‘contraception’ is not in there because it’s not about a specific procedure. It’s about a faith principle that the First Amendment guarantees.” McConnell says the bill is an attempt to fight for “religious liberty,” which he and others say is under attack by the White House and Congressional Democrats. The Obama administration’s health care policy requires organizations to cover the cost of contraception, but does not require religious establishments to cover the cost. Employees of religious establishments can still obtain contraception from the health care insurance company. Mitt Romney (R-MA), a Republican presidential candidate, first stated his opposition to the bill, then quickly reversed course and said he was for it. The only Senate Republican to vote against the bill is Olympia Snowe (R-ME), widely considered a moderate Republican; three conservative Democrats vote for the bill. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), considered a strong candidate to run as the Republican vice-presidential nominee in the 2012 elections, says the Senate’s refusal to pass the bill is “a setback for religious freedoms in America.” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls the bill a straightforward effort to ban contraception. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in a recent op-ed, “Instead of coming together to fix our economy and strengthen the middle class, the Senate is considering a measure so extreme that it would allow any employer—religious or secular—to deny their employees coverage of any preventive service, including contraception, mammograms—anything the employer deems unfit to be covered.” Senator Patty Murray (D-MA) says, “The Senate will not allow women’s health care choices to be taken away from them.” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) says Republicans are attacking women’s health care as part of “a systematic war against women.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had asked the Senate to reject the proposal, saying, “The Obama administration believes that decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.” Dr. Hal C. Lawrence of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out against the amendment, saying contraception “improves and saves babies’ lives, improves maternal health, and can be life-saving for women with serious medical problems.” The American Cancer Society released a statement opposing the amendment, saying it would allow employers to deny coverage of life-saving preventive services like mammograms and smoking cessation programs based on “undefined religious beliefs or moral convictions.” [New York Times, 3/1/2012; The State, 3/1/2012; The Week, 3/2/2012] After the bill is voted down, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh vilifies Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was not allowed to testify before a House committee meeting debating the bill [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] , calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating the free availability of contraception (see February 29, 2012). Fluke gave her testimony before a panel of House Democrats and posted it on YouTube, where she discussed the needs of young women who use birth control and other contraceptives for medical needs such as cancer prevention. Specifically, she cites the example of a friend who needed, and was unable to obtain, birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] Democrats and others criticized committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for only allowing men to testify before the House Oversight Committee on the topic of female contraception. It was Issa’s decision to bar Fluke from testifying before the committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at the time: “The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it’s appropriate to have a hearing on women’s health and purposely exclude women from the panel. I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.” Issa only allowed committee Democrats to name one witness; they named Fluke, whom Issa barred from testifying as she was “unqualified” to speak. [Daily Mail, 2/17/2012]
Entity Tags: Kirsten Gillibrand, Kathleen Sebelius, Darrell E. Issa, Charles Schumer, Barbara Mikulski, American Cancer Society, Willard Mitt Romney, US Senate, Rush Limbaugh, Hal C. Lawrence, Olympia Snowe, Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, Sandra Fluke
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
Over 75 Congressional Democrats issue a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to condemn radio host Rush Limbaugh for his vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). For two days, Limbaugh has blasted Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012). In the letter, written by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democrats call Limbaugh’s language “sexually charged, patently offensive, and obscene,” and continue: “Mr. Limbaugh is as free as any American to speak his mind about the political and social issues of our time. But using his radio show as a means for blatantly insulting a hard-working American with obscene and indecent language because he disagrees with her personal choices is an abuse of the public airwaves.” [Politico, 3/1/2012]
Republican political strategist Trey Hardin says that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh should “absolotely” apologize for his recent vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). “Frankly it is borderline slander but we have come to expect nothing less from Mr. Limbaugh,” Hardin says. Moreover, Hardin observes that Limbaugh is hurting Republican chances in the November elections, saying: “Even Limbaugh must know that women are now the most influential voting bloc in the electoral process and many of them are undecided in this year’s general election. His word choice does not help, and in fact hurts, the GOP’s efforts to reach those voters. I recognize he has an audience to cater to and he is trying to make money but will someone close to him please tell him to shut up! He is not helping.” [Politico, 3/2/2012]
Conservative political columnist Kathleen Parker condemns the recent attacks by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). Parker’s column appears next to a Washington Post editorial similarly condemning Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012). Parker writes that it is ironic that Limbaugh, with his history of divisive rhetoric, has apparently united almost everyone in the country, albeit against him and in support of Fluke. The idea that contraception is controversial is tiresome, Parker writes: “Having access to contraception hasn’t been controversial except in the Catholic Church for some time and wouldn’t be now if not for the new mandate that nearly every employer offer insurance to pay for it. The only question—ever—has been whether the federal government can force religious organizations to pay for something that violates their freedom of conscience.” The Obama administration has sidestepped the issue by allowing religious institutions such as the Catholic Church to deny paying for contraception in their health care coverage, but mandated that insurance companies do so. This is an issue worth debating, Parker notes. However, Limbaugh chose not to debate the issue, but instead to “attack… Fluke in the vilest terms. Moreover, by addressing her argument that college women need contraception and should be able to get it for free, he essentially lent credence to the opposition narrative that this is all about birth control. Inadvertently, Limbaugh also helped advance the argument from the left that Republicans are waging a war against women.” Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “degrading” not only to women, but to Limbaugh, with its obvious implication that he watches pornography online. “Limbaugh has so offended with his remarks that he has further muddled the issues,” Parker concludes. “His remarks have marginalized legitimate arguments and provided a trove of ammunition to those seeking to demonize Republicans who, along with at least some of their Democratic colleagues, are legitimately concerned with religious liberty. As a bonus, he has given his ‘feminazis’ justification for their claims that conservatives hate women. Limbaugh owes Ms. Fluke an apology—an event doubtless many would love to watch.” [Washington Post, 3/2/2012] In a follow-up email interview, Parker says: “Rush Limbaugh’s vile remarks about Sandra Fluke were repugnant on their face. But there’s another dimension to his behavior that deserves our contempt. He has a huge platform to express his views and decades of experience, yet he attacked a young woman half his age in the most revolting terms, sexualizing his criticisms of her. It is simply appalling that he would use his enormous power and status to demean a relatively defenseless young woman who was merely voicing her opinion as he does every day. I can’t imagine what kind of people found his comments entertaining, but I hope they are few.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Conservative blogger “Ace of Spades” posts on Twitter about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). He writes: “Please don’t call Sandra Fluke a slut. Respect her for what she is, a shiftless rent-a-cooch from East Whoreville.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] “AoS,” as he is known, won the 2008 “Blogger of the Year” award from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). [Right Wing News, 2/8/2008]
National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chair Carly Fiorina chastizes talk show Rush Limbaugh for his vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Fiorina says that Limbaugh’s characterization of Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” is “insulting… incendiary, and most of all, it’s a distraction… from what are very real and important issues.” Fiorina is a supporter of the Blunt amendment, which Fluke testified against, and which would have allowed health care providers to deny coverage of procedures or prescriptions based on religious or moral objections. “The Senate had an important vote yesterday,” she says. “This is a vote about protecting the conscience clause, which used to have broad bipartisan support. That’s a hugely important issue in this country.” [Politico, 3/2/2012] Conservative blogger and CNN commentator Erick Erickson responds by criticizing Fiorina, who says she should join Limbaugh in attacking Fluke and, by proxy, the Democrats who fought to defeat the Blunt amendment. He agrees that Limbaugh’s language in regards to Fluke is “insulting” and “distracting… but he was using insult and sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of Sandra Fluke and the left’s position, which in a nut shell is they think you, me, and every other American should pay for them to have sex. And while I understand people being offended, I am offended by many of these same people thinking I should be subsidizing what has, for years, been considered a consensual act. They call it ‘women’s health,’ but the language associated with it involves pregnancy and sex. They have, in other words, turned ‘women’s health’ into a euphemism for having sex.… So of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. He was using it as a tool to highlight just how absurd the Democrats’ position is on this. It’s what he does and does quite well.” [Erick Erickson, 3/2/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald says that Erickson, like Limbaugh, is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position and the position of Congressional Democrats. “Limbaugh and other conservatives like bloggers Erick Erickson and Michelle Malkin (see March 2, 2012) are fabricating the claim that Fluke wants taxpayers to pay for contraception,” Seitz-Wald writes. “That is blatantly f[al]se. Fluke’s testimony, and the entire contraception debate, is about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the… way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Fluke’s testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who need[s] contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students.… Meanwhile, Limbaugh apparently doesn’t understand how birth control works. His entire stance is premised on the notion that women need more birth control the more sex they have. Of course, as anyone who has taken an 8th grade sex ed class could inform him, that’s not how it works.” [Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Jacob Sullum. [Source: Garden State Journal]David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and conservative-libertarian Jacob Sullum, the editor of Reason magazine, condemn recent comments by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for her position on contraception (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Both speak in interviews with the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters. Asked if Limbaugh’s comments were “wrong,” Frum responds by email: “Well obviously it was wrong! Appalling! I feel sorry for the young woman, the first time you encounter this kind of large-scale personal attack, of course it hurts. And it’s destructive too, because on the merits—should religious institutions be allowed to follow their consciences in providing health services—Georgetown U is in the right.” Frum is referring to Georgetown’s resistance to pay for contraceptives as part of the university’s health care coverage for students. Sullum, in a telephone interview, says of Limbaugh: “I don’t really listen to his show much. He is deliberately inflammatory, it was stupid and sexist, obviously, all he knows about her is that apparently she has sex.” Limbaugh “wouldn’t say that about a man who had sex, it is gratuitously sexist.” Sullum calls the comments “outrageous, deliberately outrageous” and “needlessly inflammatory.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly weighs in on the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). O’Reilly joins Limbaugh in insulting and mocking Fluke, whom O’Reilly accuses of insisting that the government pay for her “social life.” He also compares the Obama administration’s support for health care insurers paying for contraception to Denmark’s decision to distribute heroin to addicts to help keep the crime rate down. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; Crooks and Liars, 3/2/2012; Media Matters, 3/2/2012] Janine Turner, a former actress and current radio host who is one of O’Reilly’s guests, says “liberals are like kidnappers,” in “hijacking” the issue of contraception to use to violate some citizens’ religious freedoms. Liberals are like pedophiles seducing children with offers of candy, Turner says, in offering “entitlements” such as government-provided health care. [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] This same day, Eric Bolling of Fox News’s The Five says that Fluke “seems like a plant to me,” apparently alleging that Fluke is some sort of “plant,” or false witness, perhaps for the Democratic Party or for abortion and contraceptive supporters. Bolling, ignoring the fact that Fluke testified entirely on behalf of insurer provisions for birth control pills for medical reasons, says Fluke should have no trouble buying low-cost contraception for her sexual activities. Bolling also falsely alleges that Fluke attended Georgetown University to “expose” the university’s decision not to pay for contraception as part of its students’ health coverage. Another male guest says that if Fluke has contraception covered by her insurance, he should be able to charge his insurance for the dinner, flowers, and other accoutrements of a romantic evening designed to end in sex. [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Jennifer Granholm, a host on the liberal cable/satellite Current TV who was formerly the governor of Michigan, delivers an excoriating video op-ed about talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s repeated verbal attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). After calling Limbaugh “a repulsive misogynistic blowhard,” Granholm turns her attention to the owners of Limbaugh’s show, syndicator Premiere Radio Networks and its owner, Clear Channel Entertainment, along with Limbaugh’s sponsors and the Congressional Republicans who have long backed Limbaugh. “Should we not expect more of these companies?” she asks of Premiere and Clear Channel. To the sponsors, she asks, “Do you really want to be associated with this horrible man” (see March 2, 2012 and After)? To the Congressional Republicans, she asks: “[W]ill you not speak up? What if this was your daughter?” She asks if the Republicans running for president “have [the] backbone to stand up” to Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012), and asks Republicans in general if they want Limbaugh to represent their conservative ideology to the nation. [Current TV, 3/2/2012]
After the third day of being vilified on the national airwaves by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke says she is considering filing a defamation lawsuit against him (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Fluke tells a reporter, “I’ve certainly been told I might have a case, but it’s not something I’ve made any decisions about at this point.” One person supportive of such a lawsuit is US Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who indicates she will either join Fluke in a lawsuit or file on her behalf. Maloney says: “[W]e will be filing a slander suit against Rush Limbaugh. What he’s really trying to do is silence a young woman. It’s unfair, it’s un-American.” Maloney says she considers women’s rights attorney Sybil Shainwald an excellent counsel for such a lawsuit. [Daily Beast, 3/2/2012]
Democratic strategist and MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball. [Source: Television Internet (.com) / LA Late]MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz discusses the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Schultz says that Limbaugh’s “shameful… vile, and despicable” attacks and the “firestorm” of criticism in response (see March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 2, 2012 and After) may be “the beginning of the end” of Limbaugh’s 20-year domination of the airwaves. Schultz notes that Limbaugh is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position on contraception as a call for the government to pay her for having responsibility-free sex. In reality, Schultz says, Fluke’s testimony focused not on her personally, but on the needs of female students to have contraception for serious and sometimes life-threatening medical reasons. Schultz notes the relative quiet from Republicans on the controversy, including the failure of Republican presidential candidates to repudiate Limbaugh’s remarks (see March 2, 2012) and the tepid criticisms from some Republican lawmakers (see March 2, 2012). Schultz celebrates the advertisers who are removing their ads from Limbaugh’s show (see March 2, 2012 and After). However, Schultz notes that Limbaugh remains entirely unapologetic, and says that Limbaugh’s attacks and his refusal to apologize “underscores this is just who he is.” For Limbaugh to attack a private citizen, a college student, with personal attacks such as “slut” and “prostitute” for “speaking her mind to Congress” is unacceptable, he says. Limbaugh has “no character,” Schultz says, and is incapable of admitting error. Schultz’s guest Reverend Al Sharpton, a fellow MSNBC host, says Limbaugh is engaging in what he calls a verbal “direct sexual assault” on Fluke: “This is not an implication using sexual terms for something political. He is downright denigrating her and making direct references like she has some sexual habits that is causing her position, which is not only untrue, it is absolutely intolerable.” The advertisers will continue to pull their ads, Sharpton predicts, civil rights and women’s rights organizations will intensify their criticisms, and Limbaugh’s employer, Clear Channel, will eventually have to take action. “[T]his might be Rush’s undoing by Rush,” Sharpton concludes. Democratic strategist Krystal Ball tells Schultz that she is launching a “Boycott Rush” Web site. She recalls being attacked by Limbaugh during the 2010 elections, when she mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Congress and was targeted by Limbaugh and other conservative commentators over private party photos of her that were released online; she sympathizes with what Fluke is experiencing now. [MSNBC, 3/2/2012; LeftAction, 3/2/2012]
Georgetown University officials come to the defense of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). John DeGioia, president of Georgetown, sends a letter to faculty and students praising Fluke’s testimony. “She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction,” he writes. “She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people.” As for Limbaugh’s comments, they, DeGioia writes, “can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.” One hundred and thirty-seven professors and staff members have signed a letter of support for Fluke, which reads in part, “As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them.” [Huffington Post, 3/2/2012]
President Obama calls Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law school student who has been subjected to vociferous attacks and personal smears by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and others (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012) after publicly opposing a Republican-backed amendment that would have allowed health care providers and insurers to deny coverage of contraception and other provisions on moral or religious grounds (see March 1, 2012). Obama asks Fluke if she is “okay” after the attacks, thanks her for speaking out on the issue, and tells her that her parents should be proud of her. Fluke takes the call at the MSNBC building in New York, while waiting to be interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Of the call, she tells Mitchell: “He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women. What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much.… He did express his concern for me and wanted to make sure that I was okay, which I am. I’m okay.” She tells Mitchell that the vilification from Limbaugh has been “surreal.” After the call, White House press secretary Jay Carney says Obama made the telephone call because he feels that “the kinds of personal attacks that have been directed her way have been inappropriate. The fact that our political discourse has been debased in many ways is bad enough.” He adds: “It’s even worse when it is directed at a private citizen who is simply expressing her views about public policy.… The president expressed to Sandra Fluke that he was disappointed that she was the subject of these crude—of these personal attacks. I think that it’s fair to say that—reprehensible was my word, but look, these were unfortunate attacks that were leveled against her and the president feels that way.… They were, inappropriate and reprehensible. But the point is the president called her to thank her for speaking out on a matter and doing so with great poise on a matter—on a public policy matter and to express his disappointment that she had been subjected to these kinds of attacks.” [MSNBC, 3/1/2012; Huffington Post, 3/2/2012; CBS News, 3/2/2012] Days later, Obama will tell a Washington Post reporter that he called Fluke in part because he was thinking of his daughters Malia and Sasha. “I don’t know what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart, so I’m not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology” (see March 3, 2012 and March 5, 2012), Obama will say. “What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.” He says he called “because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about; even ones I may not agree with them on.… And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.” [Washington Post, 3/6/2012] Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) says Obama acted “opportunistically” in making the phone call, stating, “I think the president will opportunistically do anything he can.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2012] Limbaugh continues his attacks on Fluke in the hours after Obama’s telephone call (see March 2, 2012).
Liberal blogger Greg Dworkin, writing for the online news provider Politico, says that the Republican Party will continue to ignore conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). While Limbaugh certainly owes Fluke an apology, Dworkin writes, “the calls for an apology should be led by Republicans. The fact that they would give him a pass (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012) and that Limbaugh feels no need for an apology tells you everything you need to know about the modern Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. The word ‘cowardly’ comes to mind.” Republicans will continue to duck any criticism of Limbaugh “and the other core Republican crazies in their own party,” Dworkin predicts. “In the meantime, expect both women and men to reject Limbaugh’s line of discussion and withhold their vote for Republicans in the fall.” [Politico, 3/2/2012]
Some Republican lawmakers begin issuing carefully worded criticisms of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in the wake of Limbaugh’s crude personal attacks on law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012). Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), fighting for re-election in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts, issues the strongest criticism of Limbaugh, saying on Twitter: “Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize.” A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) tells CNN, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who refused to allow Fluke to testify before his panel concerning government coverage of contraception (see March 1, 2012), calls Limbaugh’s comments a “distraction,” but uses the controversy to attack Democrats for “using” it for political gain, and claims his office’s female staffers have been exposed to insulting language from callers opposed to Republicans’ attempts to deny health care coverage on religious or moral grounds. He writes that he does not agree “with many comments that have been made during the effort to examine the constitutionality of Obamacare’s mandates on individual freedom, including the ones by Mr. Limbaugh, I find your narrow focus on this particular comment to be self-serving and dismissive of other inappropriate comments and attacks on Americans of faith.” [Talking Points Memo, 3/2/2012] Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum issue mild criticisms of Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012), and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Carly Fiorina calls Limbaugh’s comments “insulting” and “a distraction from what are very real and important issues” (see March 2, 2012).
In an editorial by its editorial board, the Washington Post unequivocally condemns the recent attacks by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). The Post calls Limbaugh’s “rants” against Fluke “vile,” and says that Limbaugh has “crossed… the line” that differentiates between “standards of civil discourse” and hate speech. The Post continues: “Like other ‘shock jocks,’ Mr. Limbaugh has committed verbal excesses in the past. But in its wanton vulgarity and cruelty, this episode stands out.… We are not calling for censorship. Nor are we suggesting that the ostensible policy issue here—mandatory provision of contraception under health insurance paid for by religious-based institutions such as Georgetown—is a simple one. Those who questioned President Obama’s initial decisions in this area—we among them—were not waging a ‘war on women,’ as Democrats have alleged in strident fundraising appeals. What we are saying is that Mr. Limbaugh has abused his unique position within the conservative media to smear and vilify a citizen engaged in the exercise of her First Amendment rights, and in the process he debased a national political discourse that needs no further debasing. This is not the way a decent citizen behaves, much less a citizen who wields significant de facto power in a major political party. While Republican leaders owe no apology for Mr. Limbaugh’s comments, they do have a responsibility to repudiate them—and him.” [Washington Post, 3/2/2012] Shortly after the editorial is published, Post editorial writer Charles Lane says in a Fox News interview that he cannot “remember a more hateful outburst from a public figure” than Limbaugh’s. He tells Fox News anchor Bret Baier: “I think we should not talk so much about the politics of this and just talk about it on a human level. I have been covering politics and stuff in Washington for 30 years and I can’t remember a more hateful outburst from a public figure that was less possible to justify by any political disagreement. What Rush Limbaugh said was really unworthy of decent political discourse.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] The Post editorial is published several hours before Limbaugh’s daily broadcast; the talk show host continues to vilify Fluke in today’s show (see March 2, 2012).
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) refuse to condemn conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his vociferous attacks on the character and motivations of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). Romney tells a reporter: “It’s not the language I would have used. I’m focusing on the issues that I think are significant in the country today, and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs in Ohio.” Santorum calls Limbaugh’s comments “absurd,” but says that Limbaugh, as a mere entertainer (see December 17, 2004), “can be absurd.” Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) does not comment directly on either Limbaugh or Fluke, but condemns President Obama’s telephone call of support to Fluke (see March 2, 2012) as “opportunistic.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012] Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod posts the following on Twitter: “Rush’s vile, appalling assault on Sandra Fluke deserves universal condemnation. How can folks who call themselves leaders walk away?” MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney says of Romney’s comment: “What a coward!… We are witnessing the absolute final straw in the takeover of the Republican Party by the right wing.… These guys are, you know, cowering in the corner, so afraid to say to [Limbaugh], ‘You can’t talk about our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our grandchildren this way,’ that that kind of language isn’t acceptable. That sends a very clear message.” Women are going to stand up to the Republicans’ increasing attacks on their fundamental rights, Finney says. [MSNBC, 3/2/2012]
For the third straight day, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh spends the majority of his show attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012). On Wednesday, February 29, Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012); on Thursday, Limbaugh continued to smear Fluke’s character and demanded that if she wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). Today, Limbaugh defends his earlier comments, saying: “This woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she’s having so much sex, and her buddies with her, that she can’t afford it. And not one person says, ‘Did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?’” He goes on to say that asking health insurers to cover contraception is “no different than if somebody knocked on my door that I don’t know and said: ‘You know what? I’m out of money. I can’t afford birth-control pills, and I’m supposed to have sex with three guys tonight.’” Limbaugh calls criticism of his call for Fluke to post sex videos online “absurd,” saying his critics should “realize that we’re illustrating absurdity here by being absurd” and that people should “lighten up.” Limbaugh initially refuses to comment on Fluke receiving a telephone call of support from President Obama (see March 2, 2012), saying, “I’m gonna button my lip on that one.” However, in response to Obama’s remark that Fluke’s parents should be proud of her, Limbaugh says that if his daughter had testified that “she’s having so much sex she can’t pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it,” he’d be “embarrassed” and “disconnect the phone,” “go into hiding,” and “hope the media didn’t find me.” He also says, apparently sarcastically: “Oh that’s touching, Obama just called Sandra Fluke to make sure she’s all right. That is so compassionate, what a great guy.” Limbaugh denies he hates women, and defines “misogynist” as “a man who hates women almost as much as women hate women.” He observes that Fluke is having so much sex that her boyfriends are “lined up around the block. They would have been in my day.… [Fluke’s] sex life is active. She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs. That’s what she’s saying.” As with his remarks yesterday, he concludes that he, not Fluke, is the victim in this controversy, saying: “And amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement to be created, that all of a sudden, we hate women, we want them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, all of these other things. And so, that’s where we are. And so, at the end of this week, I am this person that the women of America are to fear the most.” [Media Matters, 3/1/2012; CBS News, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012] Liberal blogger David Atkins writes after Limbaugh’s broadcast that judging from his remarks, Limbaugh thinks female birth control pills work like Viagra—the more sex one wishes to have, the more pills one must take. “Anyone remotely familiar with oral contraceptives knows that to work properly, women have to take one pill a day over the course of their monthly cycle. It doesn’t matter if you have unprotected sex once a month or 300 times a month. It’s still the same number of pills, and therefore the same cost. How much sex someone has is utterly irrelevant to the cost of contraception unless they choose to abstain for the entire month.” Atkins writes that Limbaugh is combining ignorance and misogyny in his attacks on Fluke. If indeed Limbaugh does think that female birth control works like Viagra, Atkins writes, “Rush assumes that since it costs him money every time he has sex, it must cost a female college student money, too.” [David Atkins, 3/2/2012]
Far-right blogger Michelle Malkin weighs in on the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Malkin says Fluke is not a “slut,” as Limbaugh has said, but “a moocher and a tool of the nanny state. She’s a poster girl for the rabid Planned Parenthood lobby and its eugenics-inspired foremothers.” Malkin cites as proof of her assertion the fact that Democratic political organizations are using Limbaugh’s attacks on Fluke as grist for their fundraising efforts. [Michelle Malkin, 3/2/2012] The liberal blog Crooks and Liars noted that within minutes of Limbaugh’s first broadside against Fluke, presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s “independent” superPAC sent out mailers quoting Limbaugh as part of its own fundraising efforts. [Crooks and Liars, 2/29/2012] And the National Republican Congressional Committee has launched its own campaign based on the controversy, railing against what it calls “the Obama administration’s decision to trample on the religious liberty of Christian charities—forcing them to provide free birth control.” [New York Times, 3/2/2012]
Lt. Jessica Scott. [Source: e-reads (.com)]Lieutenant Jessica Scott, an Army career soldier, company commander, and novelist in Fort Hood, Texas, begins making Twitter posts in response to talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Scott is angry that Limbaugh would tell the world that because Fluke, and women in general, use contraception, that defines them as, in his words, “sluts.” Scott says in an email exchange with Buzzfeed reporter Rosie Gray: “The entire thing is absolutely appalling because her testimony wasn’t even about sex. It was about a woman who’d lost an ovary because her insurance would not cover birth control pills she needed to control the ovarian cysts” (see March 1, 2012). Scott posts that she “used birth control while deployed with my husband [in Iraq] so I *wouldn’t* get pregnant & sent home.” Scott uses a “hashtag,” an identifying phrase common to Twitter, of #iamnotaslut that starts a barrage of supportive and sympathetic Twitter posts from others who share her outrage. “Who knew it was going to go viral, huh?” she says. Scott says of contraception: “Birth control is a means to an end for me. I can control when/if I have children and therefore I get the chance to be a soldier, a writer, a teacher. I get to be any of the things I’m capable of being because I have control over when/if I have children.” On her Web site, Scott posts the following directly to Limbaugh: “The rhetoric has gotten out of control. The extreme rhetoric that says a woman should just put an aspirin between her knees to keep from getting pregnant (see February 16-17, 2012), or that proposes a bill in the Senate allowing employers to decide not to cover medical issues they deem immoral, or the fact that a group of middle-aged men have returned to an era where they get to tell me what to do with my body: I’m a little pissed. I am a 35-year-old married mother of two, an Army officer who has deployed, and I use birth control to be a good soldier and a responsible parent. I use birth control to stop having my period so that I can go to the field and not worry about it. I use birth control while deployed with my husband to keep from getting pregnant and getting sent home and letting down all the men AND women on my team. I use birth control to keep from having more children than we can afford. I use birth control to enable me to be a good soldier and balance my career and my family. I use birth control to control the relentless cramps I had as teenager that had me in so much pain I could not walk. I use birth control to control when I have children so that I can be more than the sum of my uterus. I use birth control provided by the government to allow me to be a good soldier and a responsible parent and a responsible citizen. I use government-provided birth control while deployed to Iraq because it was my turn to go. Call me a slut because I was fortunate enough to be deployed with my husband and I spent the entire deployment terrified I would get pregnant and sent home. By all means, call me a slut. Call me a whore who expects the government to pay for my birth control so that I can abdicate my responsibilities as a parent. Call me a feminazi for forsaking my duties as a mother and using birth control so that I did not get pregnant again and miss the deployment. Call me a slut for wanting something more for myself and my daughters than to be someone’s breeder. By all means, call me a whore for wanting my daughters to be able to fulfill their potential by being able to decide when they want to start a family. Calling me and every woman who chooses when to have children a slut will not change the fact that we are responsible citizens who opt to plan their families, who opt to take responsibility for their lives as women and members of our society. And yes, call me a whore because I still expect Tricare to cover my birth control and my pap smear and my government-mandated annual STD exam. There are other things I would prefer to be called. You may call me many things but that does not negate the things I call myself. You could call me a Mom, because I have two beautiful daughters who I want to grow up knowing their full potential is between their ears, not their legs. You could call me Soldier, because I love wearing my nation’s uniform and it is an honor to serve. You could call me Author, because I managed to write a book that people read. You could call me a Wife, because I’ve been with the same man for 15 years. You could call me a Friend because I’m there, for laughs or for tears. Any of those things define me so much better than the singular hatred of calling me a slut because I use birth control. But go ahead. Call me a slut. It doesn’t make me one.” Scott tells Gray, “It’s incredibly frustrating to know that in 2012, we are still fighting over the basic right of women to be full members of society and not be valued solely for the fruit of their womb.” [Jessica Scott, 3/2/2012; Buzzfeed, 3/4/2012; Daily Mail, 3/5/2012]
The corporate logo of Sleep Train, the first business to remove its advertising from Rush Limbaugh’s show. [Source: Argyle News]Advertisers begin pulling their advertisements from the radio show hosted by Rush Limbaugh in response to Limbaugh’s repeated verbal attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). The day before, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) made the following statement: “So I say to the women in this country, do something about this. I say to the women of this country, ask Century 21, Quicken Loans, LegalZoom, and Sleep Number to stop supporting the hate-mongering of Rush Limbaugh and if they do not do that, then I ask them to boycott those companies.” The first to withdraw its ads is mattress retailer Sleep Train, which says a barrage of angry complaints by its customers via Twitter led to its decision. Another bed manufacturer, Select Comfort/Sleep Number, follows suit within hours, posting on its own Twitter account: “Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program.” A steadily increasing number of companies and organizations begin either canceling or suspending their ads, some on a national basis (i.e. via Limbaugh’s employer, Premiere Radio Networks, and that firm’s owner, Clear Channel) and some with local radio stations or regional radio networks. Some of the companies pulling their ads include Quicken Loans (which blames Limbaugh’s “continued inflammatory comments” for its decision), JCPenney, Capital One, AOL (formerly America Online), Citrix, LegalZoom, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, Stamps.com, Polycom Federal, Vitacost, Sensa, and a number of local businesses. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; New York Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; Joan McCarter, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/6/2012; Think Progress, 3/6/2012] The online data security firm Carbonite pulls its advertising from Limbaugh’s show, with CEO David Friend writing on Carbonite’s Facebook page and later on its blog: “No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology (see March 3, 2012), we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.” [Carbonite, 3/2/2012] On March 5, the national retailer Sears and men’s outfitter Bonobos also drop their advertising. Sears, which also owns Kmart, posts the following on Twitter: “Sears and Kmart did not intentionally advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show. Sears Holdings has taken actions to ensure our ads do not run on this show. We appreciate our customers, fans, and followers and thank you for your business.” [Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Denying Advertising Connections - Capital One, Domino’s Pizza, eHarmony, AutoZone, LifeQuotes, Oreck, and a number of other firms deny having bought ad time on Limbaugh’s show, with some noting that due to the nature of the type of advertising they have bought, their ads could have been aired during Limbaugh’s show without their knowledge. Many of these firms promise to take action to ensure that their ads do not air during Limbaugh’s show in the future. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; New York Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; Joan McCarter, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Errors, Lack of Control over Advertising - The non-profit organization Goodwill explains that ads for its organization that ran on a Washington, DC-area Limbaugh broadcast were aired in error, stating: “The Goodwill public service announcement… aired without Goodwill’s knowledge or consent. No further Goodwill public service announcements will be aired without our permission.… The PSA [public service announcement] that aired was intended for a DC-area music station but a sister station that airs Rush Limbaugh ran the PSA without our knowledge or consent.” Amberen, a small company that produces a fat-reduction supplement, explains that it cannot pull its advertising from Limbaugh’s broadcasts on local radio stations, saying: “We understand that some of our customers are concerned that Amberen ads are still airing on the Rush Limbaugh show. Lunada Biomedical assures you that we take these concerns to heart! Most of our employees, including the CEO, are female. And like millions of other Americans we were outraged by Rush Limbaugh’s incendiary and offensive comments. However, we are a small company that buys remnant (leftover) media time and, as such, we cannot, by definition, be considered the ‘sponsors’ of Mr. Limbaugh’s show or, for that matter, any other show. Because we purchase this leftover airtime in bulk, we have no control over when and where our ads are going to be aired. Nor do we have the ability to ‘pull’ ads from any specific show. The only way for us to do that would be to put our entire advertising campaign on hold. Again, because we are a ‘remnant’ and not a ‘premium’ advertiser, this action will exert no influence on Mr. Limbaugh’s show.” Several companies, such as insurance giants Allstate and Geico, home remodeling service provider ServiceMagic.com, weight loss seller RightSize, and online film and DVD rental outlet Netflix, say they do not advertise on Limbaugh’s broadcasts, and any ads airing during his show were placed in error by local radio stations. [Atlantic Wire, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Mark Frauenfelder, 3/6/2012]
Entity Tags: Capital One, AutoZone, Sensa, Sears, Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh, Sleep Number, Sleep Train, Stamps.com, Tax Resolution Services, AOL, Allstate, Amberen, Bonobos, Vitacost, RightSize, Quicken Loans, eHarmony, Premiere Radio Networks, David Friend, ProFlowers, Domino’s, Clear Channel, Century 21, Carbonite, Citrix, Geico, ServiceMagic.com, JCPenney, Goodwill, Lunada Biomedical, Oreck, Netflix, LifeQuotes, LegalZoom, Jackie Speier, Polycom Federal
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
John McQuaid, a senior columnists for Forbes magazine, calls talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent apology to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see March 3, 2012) an insincere “non-apology.” Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and was vilified for three days by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). McQuaid says the usual “non-apology” from Limbaugh and others is a crude affair, condescending in tone and piling new insults atop the old. However, Limbaugh’s recent “non-apology” is a bit more sophisticated, he writes, “[b]ut no less insulting to the poor woman he spent several days attacking and defaming, and to the intelligence of anyone who paid attention.” According to McQuaid, Limbaugh is trying to placate his advertisers, who are leaving his show in increasing numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After). Instead of saying that he is sorry if anyone was offended—the usual form a “non-apology” will take—Limbaugh tried to pretend the entire affair “was all just a big joke that no one should have taken seriously.” Limbaugh then defended his own position on contraception, the issue that he disagrees with Fluke on and the spur for him labeling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and finally said words to the effect that had he made better word choices, there would be no need for apologies. McQuaid writes: “Conservative radio hosts pride themselves on their plainspoken directness. The idea of Rush Limbaugh attempting to retcon weasely nuance into his own past statements to obscure his excesses: now that’s absurd.” [Forbes, 3/3/2012] Days later, Forbes contributor Dave Serchuk will call Limbaugh’s apology a “quarter-loaf mea culpa” that proves Limbaugh is becoming increasingly irrelevant in modern political society. “Limbaugh doesn’t seem to grasp that you can’t call a woman the vilest things imaginable and expect all people, not just women, to not be offended. He then didn’t get that his usual doubling down on a bad bet and bluster would not get him out of it. Then he didn’t get that when he apologized he actually had to mean it. It’s also like he didn’t get that women are an extremely powerful and massive part of American life, growing more powerful every day. And they don’t like their desire for safe, affordable reproductive control to get them labeled as town whores, like we were all back in a Bible Belt high school in the 1970s. That’s considered offensive. This should be obvious. But he’s happy to write off more than half the American population.” After the 2012 election, Serchuk predicts, Limbaugh’s influence will steadily fade: “He won’t go away over night. But over time he will fade in power and influence, inexorably, his name leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths. He will end as he began, a lonely man in a radio booth, shouting at the air.” [Forbes, 3/7/2012]
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd takes aim at conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and his three-day diatribe against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Dowd begins: “As a woman who has been viciously slashed by Rush Limbaugh, I can tell you, it’s no fun. At first you think, if he objects to the substance of what you’re saying, why can’t he just object to the substance of what you’re saying? Why go after you in the most personal and humiliating way? Then, once you accept the fact that he has become the puppet master of the Republican Party by stirring bloodlust… you still cringe at the thought that your mom might hear the ugly things he said. Now he’s brutalizing a poised, wholesome-looking 30-year-old Georgetown law student as a ‘slut,’ ‘a prostitute,’ and ‘round-heeled’ simply for testifying to lawmakers about wanting the school to amend its health insurance to cover contraception.” She points out that Limbaugh is wrong about contraception becoming yet another “welfare entitlement,” as tax dollars will not pay for contraception—employers and insurance companies will. Women are not being paid to “have sex,” as Limbaugh has said: “They’d be getting insurance coverage toward the roughly $1,000 annual expense of trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and to control other health conditions. This is something men and conservatives should want too, and not just because those outcomes actually do cost taxpayers money.” Dowd is clearly angry over Limbaugh’s crude personal response to what Georgetown University president John DeGioia called Fluke’s “model of civil discourse” (see March 2, 2012), particularly his “leering” suggestion that Fluke “pay back” taxpayers by posting sex videos online. She writes: “Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts.” She is dismissive of the “tepid” response from Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Dowd’s column is later updated with a note that Limbaugh has issued a statement, meaning his apology (see March 3, 2012). [New York Times, 3/3/2012]
Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh issues an apology for his three-day verbal assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and was vilified by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh, echoing claims from his anti-Fluke broadcasts, claims he was merely joking in calling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” alleging that she wanted the government to pay for her having promiscuous sex, and demanding that she post online videos of the sex he claimed he would be paying for. On his blog, Limbaugh writes: “For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke. I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a presidential level (see March 2, 2012). My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.” [Rush Limbaugh, 3/3/2012] Premiere Radio Networks, the subsidiary of Clear Channel Entertainment that distributes Limbaugh’s show, quickly emails the apology to reporters, but initially declines to comment. Limbaugh’s chief of staff Kit Carson refuses to comment as well. On March 4, the network will email a statement by a spokesperson that reads: “The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue. We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.” The company refuses to divulge the names of the largest advertisers on Limbaugh’s show, nor how much revenue Premiere is losing by the advertiser defections. A Twitter account called “Stop Rush” posts: “I think this attempt at damage control labeled as an apology actually makes things worse. You know what Rush’s so-called apology means? Your efforts at delivering real accountability are working!” MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell posts on Twitter, “Lawyers wrote that apology.” [New York Times, 3/3/2012; Associated Press, 3/4/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald notes that Limbaugh conflates contraception with governmental purchases of sneakers, and continues to imply that Fluke and other women advocate for contraception coverage solely for their own personal sexual activities. Seitz-Wald recalls that Fluke testified to Congress on behalf of a friend who needed birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 3/3/2012] Liberal blogger Kaili Jo Gray writes in response: “Shorter Rush: ‘I’m sorry if any sluts were offended by being called sluts, but if they’d stop being sluts, I wouldn’t have to call them sluts.’ Obviously, the campaign to demand that Rush’s sponsors pull their advertising from his show is working” (see March 2, 2012 and After). [Kaili Jo Gray, 3/3/2012] Others agree. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the Democratic National Committee chair, says, “I know he apologized, but forgive me, I doubt his sincerity, given that he lost at least six advertisers.” And Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says he doubts the apology will “stop the pressure that’s being applied to his advertisers.” In an email, Boehlert says, “His comments were so egregious, naturally advertisers will have doubts about being associated with Limbaugh’s brand of hate.” [New York Times, 3/5/2012] It is possible that Limbaugh issues the apology in hopes of fending off a lawsuit by Fluke (see March 2, 2012) and/or to stop advertisers from removing themselves as sponsors of his show. Regardless, the exodus will intensify, and will spread to advertisers asking that their ads be removed from Limbaugh’s political talk-show colleagues as well as from his own show (see March 9, 2012).
A woman on the liberal blog Daily Kos who identifies herself as “beantown mom” writes of the personal damage incurred by her daughter as a result of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day verbal assault against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Her daughter, who is 16, is on birth control pills due to menorrhagia and secondary dysmenorrhea. Apparently students at the school learned of her use of birth control pills after she was given them during a five-day field trip last week. Her mother found her at school the afternoon of March 2, crying and shaking. She told her mother that some of her classmates were now calling her “a slut, a whore, a b_tch who is screwing every guy in school,” and handed her mother a piece of paper. The paper read: “Little miss innocent, huh? Whatever slut—you take birth control pills so you can f* every guy in school! What a joke—u are nothin but a whore! Pretty bad when some guy on the radio who isn’t afraid to tell the truth has to break it down for everybody—if u on the Pill u are nothing but a skank _ss ho! My mom said girls on the pill are tramps who just wanna get laid and don’t care about nothin—is that how u are?” According to the mother, her daughter found the note in her locker before classes began that morning, and the apparent authors of the note—a group of girls she does not know well—began verbally abusing her in the cafeteria, calling her “birth control whore” and other labels. One reportedly said: “I told my mom you were on the pill and she said you were nothing but a little tramp. My mom said some guy she listens to on the radio was just talking about girls like you—he even said you were a slut!” The mother writes that her daughter asked her: “Am I a slut because I take a prescription birth control pill? I don’t take it because I am having sex, I take it to help my periods—am I a bad person, Mom?” The mother writes: “‘Am I a bad person?’ My 16-year-old daughter asked me if she was a bad person because she is on the pill! Who are we? What century do we live in? Who in the hell has the right to say these things? Who does Rush Limbaugh think he is? Why is he allowed to say these things and hurt people? Why have I spent the last two days trying to convince my 16-year-old that she is not a slut?” The mother writes that her daughter is an example of the effect Limbaugh’s words have on ordinary people. [Daily Kos, 3/4/2012]
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) addresses a recent apology by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who spent three days calling a female law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her position on insurer-provided birth control (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Paul says Limbaugh’s apology (see March 3, 2012) was not sincere, but instead was merely self-serving. Apologizing, Paul tells a CBS host, “was in his best interest.… He’s doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off of his program. It was his bottom line he was concerned about.” Paul is referring to the increasing number of companies that are removing their advertisements from Limbaugh’s radio show in response to his attacks on Sandra Fluke (see March 2, 2012 and After). “I don’t think he’s very apologetic,” Paul says. However, Paul agrees with Limbaugh that the government should not mandate that insurance companies provide contraception coverage. Paul says: “This is philosophically and politically important because, does the government have a mandate to tell insurance [companies] what to give? So they’re saying that the insurance companies should give everybody free birth control pill, that strikes me as rather odd.” [CBS News, 3/4/2012; Raw Story, 3/4/2012]
Peggy Noonan, a conservative commentator and former advisor in the first Bush administration, denounces talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). On ABC’s Sunday morning talk show This Week, Noonan says: “What Rush Limbaugh said was crude, rude, even piggish, it was just unacceptable, he ought to be called on it. I’m glad he has apologized (see March 3, 2012). I guess there will be a debate now about the nature of the apology. But what he said was also destructive.” Noonan says Limbaugh’s statements “confused the issue. It played into this trope that the Republicans have a war on women. No, they don’t, but he made it look they that way. It confused the larger issue which is the real issue, which is ‘Obamacare,’ and its incursions against religious freedoms, which is a serious issue. It was not about this young lady at Georgetown.” [Media Matters, 3/4/2012; TPM LiveWire, 3/4/2012]
Michelle Bernard, the former head of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, explains why few Republicans have criticized talk show host Rush Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 4, 2012) for defaming a female law student during his broadcast (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh, whom Bernard praises during an MSNBC appearance, is something of an ideological “enforcer” who pressures Republicans and conservatives to “toe the line,” she says. Bernard says that some conservatives such as herself have chosen not to adhere to Limbaugh’s ideological hard line. [Media Matters, 3/4/2012]
On ABC’s This Week morning talk show, an array of political commentators from around the political spectrum unite in condemning radio host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day tirade against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke over her stance on contraception coverage (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Perhaps the most surprising statements come from conservative columnist George Will, who not only slams Limbaugh’s comments, but criticizes Republicans for not coming out more strongly against Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 2, 2012). “Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh,” Will says. “[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff. And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.” Will says that it is the duty of Republican leaders to keep Limbaugh in line: “It is the responsibility of conservatives to police the right and its excesses, just as the liberals unfailingly fail to police the excesses on their own side.” ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd agrees, saying that Republican leaders fear criticizing Limbaugh because they believe what Dowd calls the “myth” of Limbaugh’s powerful influence among Republican voters (see January 1993, October 16, 2001, December 17, 2004, July 2008, and January 28-29, 2009). “I think the problem is the Republican leaders, Mitt Romney and the other candidates, don’t have the courage to say what they say in quiet, which, they think Rush Limbaugh is a buffoon,” Dowd says. “They think he is like a clown coming out of a small car at a circus. It’s great he is entertaining and all that. But nobody takes him seriously.” Peggy Noonan, an advisor to former President George H. W. Bush, calls Limbaugh “crude, rude, [and] piggish” on the same broadcast (see March 4, 2012). [ABC News, 3/4/2012; Think Progress, 3/4/2012; Los Angeles Times, 3/5/2012]
Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was given an apology by talk show host Rush Limbaugh (see March 3, 2012) after he vilified her for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), says Limbaugh’s apology is far too little. Appearing on ABC’s morning talk show The View, Fluke says the apology does not “change anything.” For Limbaugh to say that his “choice of words was not the best” is hardly an apology at all, she says. She also notes that he is “under significant pressure” from advertisers who are beginning to withdraw their advertisements from his show (see March 2, 2012 and After). She also says she does not want an apologetic phone call from him, were he to offer one. “I think the statements that he made on the air about me have been personal enough, so I’d rather not have a personal phone call from him,” she says. She refuses to call for an advertiser boycott of Limbaugh’s show, merely saying that Americans support companies that share their values, and she trusts that state of events will continue. Fluke adds: “I want to correct the misperception, which Mr. Limbaugh and a lot of other commentators have been putting out there to confuse the public, the idea that this is about taxpayers or the government paying for contraception. It is absolutely not. This regulation covers private insurance and it wants to have this type of medical drug treated in a way that’s similar to how other medical drugs are treated. And it is health care.” [ABC News, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh attempts to explain his three-day tirade against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012) and expand on his apology for his comments (see March 3, 2012). In the process, he insults “liberals” and continues his attack on Fluke, though he now reframes his attacks on Fluke in political terms and avoids the personal defamation in which he had previously engaged. “I want to explain why I apologized to Sandra Fluke in the statement that was released on Saturday,” he says. “I’ve read all the theories from all sides and, frankly, they are all wrong. I don’t expect—and I know you don’t, either—morality or intellectual honesty from the left. They’ve demonstrated over and over a willingness to say or do anything to advance their agenda. It’s what they do. It’s what we fight against here every day. But this is the mistake I made. In fighting them on this issue last week, I became like them. Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong I descended to their level when I used those two words [‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’] to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error. I became like them, and I feel very badly about that. I’ve always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence on this program. Nevertheless, those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for. They distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make, and I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. I do not think she is either of those two words. I did not think last week that she is either of those two words. The apology to her over the weekend was sincere. It was simply for using inappropriate words in a way I never do, and in so doing, I became like the people we oppose. I ended up descending to their level. It’s important not to be like them, ever, particularly in fighting them. The old saw, you never descend to the level of your opponent or they win. That was my error last week. But the apology was heartfelt. The apology was sincere. And, as you will hear as I go on here, it was not about anything else. No ulterior motive. No speaking in code. No double entendre or intention. Pure, simple, heartfelt. That’s why I apologized to Sandra Fluke on Saturday, ‘cause all the theories, all the experts are wrong.… Now, all of this is what I should have told you last week, ‘cause this is what happened. I use satire. I use absurdity to illustrate the absurd. The story at the Cybercast News Service characterized a portion of her testimony as sounding like (based on her own financial figures) she was engaging in sexual activity so often she couldn’t afford it. I focused on that because it was simple trying to persuade people, change people’s minds.” He continues attacking Fluke for her attempts to persuade Georgetown University to include contraception in its student health insurance coverage. He calls her a “longtime birth control activist” who went back to law school in order to engage in demagoguery at Georgetown over the contraception issue, and questions the testimony she was prepared to offer before a House committee in support of insurer-paid contraception coverage (see March 1, 2012). “In fact, she told stories less about birth control as a social tool (which was, of course, the left’s true agenda) and more about birth control as a medication for treating other conditions, such as pregnancy,” Limbaugh says. “To the left, pregnancy is a disease. If you’re listening to me for the first time, you may say, ‘Well, that’s crazy.’ It’s not. They treat pregnancy as a disease for political purposes. All of this, folks, is political. Sandra Fluke gave vague examples based on unnamed friends who she says couldn’t afford birth control to treat medical conditions they had, since Georgetown University wouldn’t pay for them. Georgetown paid for all of their other medical treatment, but it wouldn’t pay for the birth control pills that these doctors prescribed should they be necessary—or so she says. We still don’t know who any of these friends of hers are, these other women, and we don’t know what happened to them. Her testimony was hearsay, and it was unprovable.” He says to Fluke, “If birth control insurance is important to you as an enrolling student, and you find out that Georgetown doesn’t offer it, you might want to attend (or work at) a school that isn’t run by Catholics.” Fluke and others “intentionally target schools like Georgetown to advance an agenda of ultimately forcing them to abandon their religious beliefs,” Limbaugh says. “All of this is to serve Obama’s agenda (see March 2, 2012). The agenda he worked all summer on. He abandoned it only when America stood up, united, and this said they would not tolerate tearing down religion to increase government’s control over our lives.… They [Democrats] use Sandra Fluke to create a controversy. Sandra Fluke used them to advance her agenda, which is to force a religious institution to abandon their principles in order to meet hers.” [Reuters, 3/5/2012; Rush Limbaugh, 3/5/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald observes, “While this is perhaps some progress from Limbaugh’s overtly sexist slurs of last week, it’s hardly the words of a man genuinely sorry for his ad hominem attacks on a women’s health advocate.” [Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
In two separate interviews on CNN and CBS, respectively, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blasts talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his three-day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). He tells a CNN host: “His remarks are totally unacceptable. Totally and completely unacceptable. And there’s no place for it.” On CBS, he says, “Those statements were unacceptable in every way and should be condemned by everyone, no matter what their political leanings are.” So far, McCain is almost the only Republican lawmaker aside from Ron Paul (R-TX) to publicly criticize Limbaugh for his attacks on Fluke (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 4, 2012, and March 4, 2012). [CNN, 3/5/2012; CBS News, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Radio host Don Imus condemns fellow host Rush Limbaugh for what Imus calls his “insincere” apology to Sandra Fluke, the law student he vilified for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Imus joins Fluke and others in not viewing Limbaugh’s apology (see March 3, 2012) as sincere (see March 5, 2012). Imus was suspended from the air in 2009 over his characterization of a female, primarily African-American basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s” and fired from CBS News (see April 13, 2007). Imus accuses Limbaugh of engaging in a “vile personal attack” against Fluke, and notes that it was “sustained” over three days. Imus calls Limbaugh’s apology “lame,” and says that Limbaugh’s statement that he had no intention of personally attacking Fluke is ridiculous, considering he did little else but attack her over a three-day period. Imus says if he employed Limbaugh, he would force him to apologize in person to Fluke. But Limbaugh is “an insincere pig” and a “pinhead,” Imus says, and will not apologize because he lacks the courage and the integrity to do so. “He has no guts,” Imus says, and should be fired. [Media Matters, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
KPUA-AM logo. [Source: TuneIn (.com)]KPUA-AM Radio in Hilo, Hawaii, cancels its broadcast of Rush Limbaugh’s talk show in the wake of Limbaugh’s controversial vilification of a female law student (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). According to general manager Chris Leonard: “We are strong believers in the first amendment and have recognized Mr. Limbaugh’s right to express opinions that often times differ from our own, but it has never been our goal to allow our station to be used for personal attacks and intolerance. The most recent incident has crossed a line of decency and a standard that we expect of programming on KPUA whether it is locally produced or a syndicated program like the Rush Limbaugh show. While much of the national debate regarding this issue is now being framed in political terms, the decision for us is one of decency and responsibility. Regardless of one’s political views on the issue being discussed, we feel the delivery was degrading and the continued comments over several days to be egregious. As a result, we are discontinuing the Rush Limbaugh program on KPUA effective immediately.” [KPUA-AM, 3/5/2012; Hawaii 24/7, 3/5/2012; Big Island Video News, 3/6/2012] WBEC-AM, a commercial radio station in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, also drops Limbaugh’s show, even though it has lost no advertisers and has only received a few complaints. General manager Peter Barry says: “The nature of Rush’s programming has always presented challenges for us and he’s always pushed the envelope. But this time he’s taken it too far.” [New England Public Radio, 3/5/2012]
Columnist and author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says that conservatives’ complaints that talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not being treated fairly over the Sandra Fluke controversy (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 5, 2012, and March 3, 2012) are specious. Frum says that conservatives note that while Limbaugh may have said some unacceptable things about Fluke, liberals and Democrats have also said unacceptable things. Frum says that the conflation is irrelevant. He writes: “Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad ‘word choice.’ It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.” Frum notes that several media figures putatively on the left, including late-night hosts David Letterman and Bill Maher, and liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, have said unacceptable things themselves, with conservatives complaining that they faced no consequences. Frum notes that such complaints are not true. Schultz called a female talk show host a “slut” and not only apologized, but was suspended from MSNBC (see May 24-25, 2011). Letterman, after insulting former Govenor Sarah Palin’s daughter, “delivered an abject seven-minute apology” on the air. (Frum notes that Palin refused to accept the apology and insinuated that Letterman was a pedophile.) Maher used a crude sexual epithet against Palin, and to date has refused to apologize for it (see March 27-28, 2011). However, Frum notes, neither Letterman, Schultz, nor Maher has anywhere near the political influence that Limbaugh has. “Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party.… A word of criticism from Limbaugh… will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling.… I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh” (see January 28-29, 2009). Frum asks why conservatives are responding to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by finding old instances of liberal misconduct and throwing them into the discussion. “[W]hy the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then—if there’s another indecency later—react to that too, and on its own terms? Instead, public life is reduced to a revenge drama. Each offense is condoned by reference to some previous offense by some undefined ‘them’ who supposedly once did something even worse, or anyway nearly as bad, at some point in the past.” However, he concludes, Limbaugh’s latest transgression “is so ‘piggish,’ to borrow a word from Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), as to overwhelm the revenge drama.… It is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.” [CNN, 3/5/2012]
American Forces Network logo. The organization is also known as Armed Forces Network. [Source: Public domain]Nearly 9,000 people sign an online petition in a single day calling on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to remove radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio, which serves US troops overseas. Limbaugh has earned the ire of many after vilifying a female law student for three days on his radio show over her advocacy of insurer-paid contraceptive coverage (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh has apologized for his tirade (see March 3, 2012), but advertisers are leaving his broadcast over the controversy (see March 2, 2012 and After). For now, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, the military will continue to air Limbaugh on its radio broadcast. The petition, started by private citizens but hosted on the White House’s Web site, objects to taxpayer money being spent on a show hosted by someone whose “remarks this week were well beyond the pale of what should be broadcast to our military and their families, supported with our tax dollars,” it states. “There is no excuse for the US government, in any capacity, giving this man an audience.” The same day the petition is posted online, VoteVets, an organization of veterans opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, releases a letter from four female veterans calling on the Defense Department to drop Limbaugh from AFN’s programming. “Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform,” the letter reads. “Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other—women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes’ is beyond the pale. It isn’t just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it’s language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone—even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn’t.” [Air Force Times, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Peter Gabriel. [Source: XPosure / London Daily Mail]Musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Kim Wilson, and the rock bands Rush and Rage Against the Machine, ask that their music no longer be used as part of Rush Limbaugh’s broadcast. Limbaugh, a conservative talk show host, set off a firestorm of controversy when he spent three days vilifying a female law student over her position on insurer-provided contraception (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Gabriel, the former singer for the rock band Genesis, is reportedly appalled to learn that his solo single “Sledgehammer” was playing underneath a portion of one of Limbaugh’s tirades against law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh repeatedly called Fluke a “slut” while the song was playing. According to a Gabriel representative: “Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh’s extraordinary attack on Sandra Flute [sic]. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter’s work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments.” Gabriel himself later writes: “I am a real believer in the freedom of speech and would defend Rush Limbaugh’s right to mouth off about almost anything. I just don’t like my work being used as the bed track for prejudice or hatred.” [NBC Chicago, 3/8/2012; London Daily Mail, 3/8/2012] Anthem Entertainment, the firm that represents the rock band Rush, also demands that Limbaugh stop using Rush’s music on his show. Limbaugh played Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio” under his talk when he asked Fluke to provide sex tapes of herself in return for insurer-provided contraception. Anthem writes: “According to media reports, Rush Limbaugh, Premiere Radio Networks, and the Rush Limbaugh Show have been using Rush’s recorded music as part of what is essentially a political broadcast. The use of Rush’s music in this way is an infringement of Rush’s copyrights and trademarks. The public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes and any such use is in breach of public performance licenses and constitutes copyright infringement. There are civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement, including statutory damages and fines.… Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of Rush’s music and confirm that you will do so.” [Bob Cesca, 3/6/2012] Rock/rap band Rage Against the Machine and blues musician Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds also demand that Limbaugh stop using their music on his show. Rage Against the Machine leader Tom Morello, after learning that Limbaugh used the band’s song “Sleep Now in the Fire” during his tirade against Fluke, posts on Twitter: “To Rush Limbaugh: Hey Jack_ss, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show. Sincerely, Rage Against The Machine.” Wilson, complaining about Limbaugh’s use of the Thunderbirds’ song “Tuff Enough,” tells an interviewer: “I don’t want people to think I’m affiliated in any way, shape or form with him. The message he promotes is something I’m totally against.” [Craig Marshall, 3/10/2012]
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) condemns talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his “incendiary comments” about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Murkowski says she was “stunned” by his statements, and says that Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.” Moreover, she says, “I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Does that expectation include Republicans? she is asked, and she responds: “Everybody. What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.” Murkowski also says she “regret[s]” her vote in favor of a Senate amendment that would have terminated mandated insurer coverage for contraception (see March 1, 2012), the basis of Limbaugh’s attacks against Fluke. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she says, explaining that she intended to cast a vote in favor of religious freedom and not against women’s rights. Of Limbaugh, she says: “I think women when they hear… mouthpieces like that say things like that they get concerned and they look to policymakers. That’s where I feel like I have let these women down is that I have not helped to give these women the assurance they need that their health care rights are protected.” [TPM LiveWire, 3/6/2012; Anchorage Daily News, 3/6/2012]
HBO talk show host Bill Maher, a libertarian-liberal, posts a “tweet” on Twitter defending conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for his tirade against female law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012). Maher writes: “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized (see March 3, 2012 and March 5, 2012), liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout” (see March 2, 2012 and After). Think Progress reporter Judd Legum notes that Maher has his own history of demeaning women, including using a crude sexual epithet to describe former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and calling Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) “bimbos” (see March 27-28, 2011). Maher has refused to apologize for his own rhetoric, saying, “I don’t have sponsors, I’m on HBO.” [Think Progress, 3/7/2012]
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA), considered the leader in the primary race for the Republican presidential nomination, again refuses to comment on the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Romney, like many Republicans, has refused to publicly criticize Limbaugh over his actions (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Asked during a campaign stop about his position on Limbaugh, he says, “My campaign is about jobs and the economy and scaling back the size of government and I’m not going to weigh in on that particular controversy.” [Boston Globe, 3/6/2012] Some prominent Republicans, such as Romney’s fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-TX—see March 4, 2012), former Bush White House advisor Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), Senators John McCain (R-AZ—see March 5, 2012) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ—see March 6, 2012), and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 5, 2012), have condemned Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Two days ago, the former head of a conservative women’s organization predicted that few Republicans would step up to publicly criticize Limbaugh (see March 4, 2012).
Tracie McMillan. [Source: BeFoodSmart (.com)]Talk show host Rush Limbaugh, having spent four days vilifying and deriding female law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012), turns his attention to another woman, author and investigative journalist Tracie McMillan. She recently wrote a book entitled The American Way of Eating. Limbaugh calls McMillan a “babe,” an “authorette,” and “one of those single white women,” and tells his listeners: “What is it with all of these young single white women, overeducated—doesn’t mean intelligent. For example, Tracie McMillan, the author of this book, seems to be just out of college and already she has been showered with awards, including the 2006 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.… Her degree is not in food or nutrition. She has a B.A. from New York University in political science.” Some, including McMillan, believe that the “young single white women, overeducated—doesn’t mean intelligent” comment is a veiled reference to Fluke. In an interview with the Atlantic Wire, McMillan says she believes Limbaugh is attacking her based on her gender. “It’s been really interesting to have somebody be that openly dismissive of my work strictly based on the fact that I’m female,” she says. “There’s no other way to think about it except that Rush Limbaugh just doesn’t think women count.” Her book is about issues facing the way Americans eat and the conditions food workers toil in, and she says having a conversation about those issues would be very acceptable. However, she says, Limbaugh wants to attack her for being female. Atlantic Wire reporter Adam Clark Estes writes: “It’s hard to comprehend exactly what Limbaugh is try[ing] to say. He suggests that McMillan is overeducated but not intelligent, naive, and out of her league.” [Think Progress, 3/7/2012; Atlantic Wire, 3/7/2012]
A 2012 Vermont town meeting comes to order. [Source: Vermont Public Radio]Fifty-three Vermont towns and communities pass resolutions today urging Congress to amend the US Constitution to keep wealthy special interests from having an undue influence in politics. Today is Town Meeting Day across Vermont. Supporters want an amendment to invalidate the 2010 Citizens United decision that allows corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns (see January 21, 2010). State Senator Virginia Lyons says while the process of amending the Constitution “is a long one… if we don’t do this we stand to lose a great deal more.” New York City (see January 4, 2012), Los Angeles (see December 6, 2011), Portland, Maine (see January 18, 2012), Boulder, Colorado, Madison, Wisconsin, Corvallis, Oregon, and other towns and cities have adopted similar resolutions. [NECN News, 3/7/2012; Think Progress, 3/7/2012] Several efforts have been made to introduce such an amendment (see September 20, 2011, November 23, 2010, November 1, 2011, November 18, 2011, and December 20, 2011).
Author and investigative reporter Cara Hoffman writes an op-ed for the liberal news and opinion Web site TruthOut and her blog concerning the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent invective-laden tirades against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012). Fluke drew Limbaugh’s ire by advocating for insurer-paid contraception as part of broader health care coverage (see March 1, 2012). Hoffman writes that Limbaugh is correct in stating that “single, educated women” like Fluke and author Tracie McMillan, whom he excoriated after his attacks on Fluke (see March 6-7, 2012), “are trying to take away his freedom.… Limbaugh’s freedom has gone unchecked for a long time; his freedom to deliver a constant stream of invective and hate speech, the foundation of which is misogyny. So his anxiety is well justified. People once had the freedom to lynch, terrorize, and sexually assault African Americans until that freedom was taken away. They had the freedom to deny them an education, a vote, the right to marry whom they chose, until that freedom was taken away. They had the freedom to mock and use racial epithets and hate speech in all forms of media until that freedom was taken away.” Hoffman writes that Limbaugh’s listeners are in a similar predicament, facing the loss of their “freedom” to exercise what she calls their hatred for women: “[f]reedoms they had before women were allowed to go to school, or to vote, before rape shield laws existed, before domestic violence laws changed. They know as long as there is no level playing field, as long as women are kept second class citizens, the freedom to discriminate, exploit, intimidate, and reap the benefits of the economic and social freedoms that come from creating an underclass remain.” Hoffman concludes: “Young single educated women and men, working class women and men, married women and men are at the forefront of dismantling your freedoms, Mr. Limbaugh. Rest assured we will be taking them. You won’t have to wait much longer.” [TruthOut (.org), 3/8/2012]
Premiere Radio Networks logo. [Source: Premiere Radio Networks]Premiere Radio Networks, the company that distributes radio shows by an array of right-wing hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, announces that 98 out of 350 advertisers, including a number of major corporations, have requested that their ads only appear on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).” The Premiere email says, “Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.” Limbaugh vilified law student Sandra Fluke for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), and though he issued an apology on his Web site (see March 3, 2012), advertisers have dropped their sponsorship of his show in increasingly large numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After) following a widespread outcry of anger against Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Now, large advertisers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Subway Restaurants have asked that their advertising be removed from Premiere’s right-wing talk shows. Industry insider Valerie Geller tells a reporter: “I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited.’ While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.” For nearly two decades, Limbaugh has been at the forefront of the movement that insisted conservative talk shows on radio and television must counterbalance what he and others have termed the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media (see Summer 1970, October 7, 1996, October 9, 2002, October 8, 2003, December 2004, December 14, 2005, December 19-20, 2005, December 21, 2005, May 2008, October 23-24, 2008, February 24, 2009, and August 11, 2009). After cable television and Internet access fragmented the market, “niche” audiences such as Limbaugh’s have provided the most reliable listenership and viewers, and the highest comparative ratings. However, the demographics are changing for right-wing talk. Limbaugh, Levin, Savage, Hannity, and others generally rate best among aging white males, a demographic that is less profitable than it used to be. Now, the prize advertising demographic is women aged 24 to 55, a demographic that has been leaving the right-wing talkers in steadily increasing numbers, and now makes up the forefront of the angry pushback against Limbaugh over his public savaging of a young female law student over a political disagreement. Some, including Limbaugh’s brother, right-wing talk show host David Limbaugh, have complained of a “left-wing jihad” against conservative radio hosts. However, as reporter John Avlon writes: “[T]he irony is that the same market forces that right-wing talk-radio hosts champion are helping to seal their fate. Advertisers are abandoning the shows because they no longer want to be associated with the hyperpartisan—and occasionally hateful—rhetoric. They are finally drawing a line because consumers are starting to take a stand.” Moreover, the advent of social media has made the response time for protesters and angry consumers almost immediate. Geller says: “In the past, a letter, petition, or phone campaign took a few days to put together and longer to execute. But now customers [listeners] can instantly rally using Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging to make their displeasure with a client, product, or service known immediately. These movements can happen fast.” Avlon concludes: “When big money starts shifting, it is a sign of a deeper tide that is difficult to undo, even if you are an industry icon like Rush Limbaugh. It is a sign that the times are changing. Let’s hope that what emerges is an evolution of the industry, away from stupid, predictable, and sometimes hateful hyperpartisanship and toward something a little smarter and more civil.” [Radio-Info.com, 3/9/2012; Daily Beast, 3/10/2012]
Entity Tags: Mark Levin, Valerie Geller, General Motors, Geico, Ford Motor Company, Allstate, John Avlon, Tom Leykis, Toyota Motor Corporation, State Farm, Premiere Radio Networks, Michael Savage, McDonald’s, Prudential, Subway Restaurants, Glenn Beck, Sandra Fluke, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Author and political science professor Richard Hasen provides data showing that the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) is directly responsible for a huge rise in corporate “outside” spending on behalf of political campaigns. Recent arguments in defense of the decision have said that “super PACs,” the “independent” political entities that take corporate, labor union, and individual donations for the purpose of making television ads in support of, or opposition to, a particular candidate or party (see March 26, 2010, June 23, 2011, November 23, 2011, January 4, 2012, January 4, 2012, and February 20, 2012) were not created by the Court’s decision, and therefore Citizens United cannot be held responsible for the enormous surge in spending since the decision was rendered. The arguments equate older “527” organizations (see 2000 - 2005, March 2000 and After, and June 30, 2000) and the enormous donations made on their behalf (see January - November 2004) with the activities of super PACs after the Citizens United decision. “The purpose of the drumbeat appears to be to insulate the Supreme Court from further criticism of the Frankenstein’s monster they’ve created,” Hasen writes. He shows that the two types of organizations—527s and super PACs—are quite different. “It is true that before Citizens United people could spend unlimited sums on independent advertising directly supporting or opposing candidates,” Hasen explains. “But that money had to be spent by the individual directly. It could not be given to a political action committee, which had an individual contribution cap of $5,000 and could not take corporate or union funding. In many cases, wealthy individuals did not want to spend their own money on advertising, which would say, ‘Paid for by Sheldon Adelson’ or ‘Paid for by George Soros,’ so fewer of these ads were made. The only way to avoid having your name plastered across every ad was to give to the 527s, which claimed they could take unlimited money from individuals (including, sometimes, corporate and labor union money) on grounds that they were not PACs under the FEC’s definition of PACs. These organizations were somewhat successful, but a legal cloud always hung over them.” After Citizens United, courts and the Federal Election Commission ruled that super PACs could collect unlimited sums from corporations, unions, and individuals for unlimited independent spending. Hasen writes: “The theory was that, per Citizens United, if independent spending cannot corrupt, then contributions to fund independent spending cannot corrupt either. (I am quite critical of this theory about corruption, but that’s besides the point here.) So what was once of questionable legality before the court’s decision was fully blessed after Citizens United.” Using data from the Center for Responsive Politics and its OpenSecrets (.org) Web site, Hasen compares spending during presidential election years.
1992: Wealthy individuals, organizations, and corporations are allowed to spend unlimited sums (see January 30, 1976). Outside spending in that campaign, up through early March 1992, was about $1.5 million.
2000: The law remains essentially unchanged. By March 2000, outside spending was around $2.6 million.
2004: With the advent of “527” groups, by March 2004, outside spending rose to $14 million.
2008: Under similar conditions as 2004, by March 2008, outside spending rose to $37.5 million.
2012: In the first presidential campaign year after the Citizens United decision, spending as of early March 2012 is over $88 million.
2012 outside spending is at 234 percent of 2008 spending, and 628 percent of 2004 outside spending. Hasen writes, “If this was not caused by Citizens United, we have a mighty big coincidence on our hands.” Hasen expects outside spending to rise dramatically once the Republican primary is concluded and the presumptive Republican nominee begins campaigning against President Obama. “Wait until the super PACs and other organizations start raising their unlimited sums for the general election,” Hasen warns. “Further, lots of groups are now using 501(c) organizations rather than super PACs for their campaign spending, in an effort to hide their donors.” Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that during the 2010 midterm elections, spending from groups that used the law to hide their donors rose from 1 percent in 2006 to 47 percent. Moreover, “501(c) non-profit spending increased from 0 percent of total spending by outside groups in 2006 to 42 percent in 2010.” And 72 percent “of political advertising spending by outside groups in 2010 came from sources that were prohibited from spending money in 2006.” The record-breaking spending in the 2008 presidential election—$301 million—was eclipsed in the first post-Citizens United election, the 2010 midterms, when corporate and other outside spending topped out at $304.6 million. Hasen writes: “It was an incredible number for a midterm election season. Why did that happen? Citizens United was decided early in 2010.” [Slate, 3/9/2012]
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