After 20 years of perky hosts and ping pong balls, the future of live Illinois Lottery drawings on WGN-Ch.9 is up in the air.
Lottery officials said Tuesday they are considering parting ways with WGN-TV, home to daily drawings since 1994, when the current one-year contract expires in June. Advances in lottery technology, an influx of new games and the move by Tribune Co. to pull the evening drawings off of national cable channel WGN America in February are playing into the decision.
"We’re in a period right now of just evaluating all these things," said Michael Jones, Illinois Lottery Superintendent. "The world has changed from 30 years ago and there are lots of ways now of doing drawings."
The Lottery pays WGN $1.2 million annually to air two live broadcasts each day — during the noon and 9 p.m. newscasts. The format has been the same for decades, with glamorous hosts drawing numbered ping pong balls out of glass machines for a variety of lottery games.
A hot commodity that sparked competitions between local TV stations for the exclusive broadcast rights in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the live drawings have perhaps lost some of their luster in the digital age. A number of games, such as “Hit or Miss,” exist entirely in cyberspace, with a random number generator housed in the Lottery’s Springfield office conducting four virtual drawings each day.
Lottery officials have been weighing whether the virtual technology might be just as effective for the big jackpot Lotto drawings. The decision by WGN America to replace the “News at Nine” with national programming and cut off the drawings to downstate viewers accelerated the process to consider alternatives, according to Jones.
WGN America is in the process of reinventing itself as a national cable channel, with heavily-promoted “Salem” debuting on Sunday, the first of several original scripted dramas rolling out this year.
The fees that WGN receives cover production costs, including the hosts, who are employed by WGN. The Lottery received a 40 percent reduction in fees for the last five months of the contract, corresponding with the loss of the downstate audience, according to officials.
The Lottery may look for steeper discounts going forward, or may just look in a different direction entirely, Jones said. Negotiations are ongoing; WGN officials said they are hoping to renew the longstanding agreement to air the lottery drawings.
“WGN-TV has been a proud partner with the Illinois Lottery for many years,” said a WGN spokeswoman. “We look forward to a continued partnership.”
This is not the first time Jones has contemplated pulling the drawings from WGN-TV. As Lottery Director from 1981 to 1985, he moved the games to WFLD-Ch.32 for a better deal.
The drawings bounced to WBBM-Ch.2 in 1992, and back to WGN on Jan. 1, 1994.
Jones was brought back as superintendent in 2011 after Northstar became the nation’s first private manager of a state lottery. Revenues are growing — they hit $2.84 billion last year with net proceeds of $794 million – but Northstar has failed meet its annual targets so far.
The Lottery spent $46 million on advertising in 2013, and Jones is hoping to lure more players – especially younger ones – to play the games.
Generating the winning lottery numbers through a computer and disseminating them online may be no less appealing, and substantially more cost-effective, in reaching the new target audience.
Still, longtime players may miss the ping pong balls, and particularly, Linda Kollmeyer, the sunshiny “Lottery Lady” who has hosted the drawings over two decades. Decked out in finery, punctuating the drawings with random, upbeat pearls of wisdom, she has developed a cult following.
Jones said that one of the virtual solutions he is contemplating would keep Kollmeyer in the game, even if the ping pong balls eventually disappear.
"In discussions with WGN, they’ve come up with some very imaginative things, including potentially having an avatar of Linda Kollmeyer, so that she lives forever," he said.
Oklahoma’s minimum wage ban came straight out of ALEC’s brain trust.
On Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that prohibits local governments from boosting their minimum wages or enacting laws mandating benefits like paid vacation or sick leave for working people.
Shadee Ashtari reports for The Huffington Post that “opponents of the measure view the move by Oklahoma Republicans as retaliation against an initiative underway in Oklahoma City, where organizers have been gathering signatures to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.” That may well be a factor, but the legislation has the fingerprints of the National Restaurant Association — “the other NRA” — and the American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC) all over it.
And yet, for some reason, Bundy’s outrageous theft of services from the taxpayers is not being taken seriously by the right-wing press. As Roy Edroso of Village Voice and Eric Boehlert of Media Matters have chronicled, the conservative response to the whole incident has ranged from minimizing the seriousness of the crime to outright cheering Bundy on in his efforts to use the threat of violence to continue stealing from the taxpayers.
It’s tempting to write this reaction off as a matter of idiocy married to identity politics. Bundy is a white guy in a cowboy hat wielding guns, which reads as “one of us” to many on the right, so they refuse to accept that he’s a bad guy no matter how much he threatens violence against federal officers simply for enforcing a law that applies to everyone. And no doubt that is part of what’s going on here. But really, what’s going on runs deeper than a knee-jerk desire on the part of the right to believe every white guy in a cowboy hat is a good guy. This is the logical extension of a push that’s grown in recent years from conservatives to argue that they, and only they, have special rights to simply disregard any law they don’t want to follow. And unfortunately that’s an argument that may be making headway this year in the Supreme Court.
The past couple of years have seen a surge in conservatives demanding special rights to disobey universally applicable federal laws on the grounds that they don’t believe in them. This argument has largely been treated favorably by right-wing media that would definitely not extend that courtesy to anyone else. The Hobby Lobby case is simply the most prominent. To recap, Hobby Lobby is arguing before the Supreme Court that because they don’t believe certain forms of contraception are allowed by their god, they shouldn’t be required to meet federal minimum standards requiring that contraception for healthcare plans offered to employees as part of their compensation package, even if the employees don’t believe in a birth control-hating god.
It’s alarming to think that Hobby Lobby is arguing that anyone should be able to ignore any law they want just by stating they don’t “believe” in it, but reading between the lines of their lawyer Paul Clemente’s arguments before the Supreme Court, it’s clear they think this right to exempt yourself from federal regulations should be exclusive to Christian conservatives.
When Justices Kagan and Sotomayor pressed Clemente to explain how being able to opt out of the contraception mandate wouldn’t lead to being able to opt out of offering insurance that covers vaccines or blood transfusions, Clemente waved their concerns off, saying that contraception was “so religiously sensitive, so fraught with religious controversy” in a way those other things aren’t. But, of course, there are religious groups that do think vaccines or blood transfusions are just as “fraught” as contraception, if not more so. The only difference is those groups don’t have the backing of the Christian right. Even without stating so explicitly, therefore, Clemente’s arguments rested on the assumption that the opt-out opportunities he’s pushing for would be for Christian conservatives and only them. The rest of you can go hang.
Similar logic was in play with the push in various states to pass laws giving rights to businesses to discriminate against customers or employees on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, as long as they ascribed their desire to do so on the grounds of “sincere religious belief.” Being allowed a special exemption to universally applicable laws doesn’t get any more blatant than that. There wasn’t even an attempt at propping up the illusion of fairness by, say, allowing gay or female business owners to discriminate against religious bigots. Being a religious conservative was the only way to be eligible for this special privilege of treating customers and employees like dirt if you want to.
While that spate of bills was defeated after public outcry, the narrative that conservatives have a special right — privilege, really — that no one else should have to defy any laws they happen not to like had rooted itself into right-wing media, which enthusiastically championed the idea that conservatives should be able to opt out of all sorts of laws as long as they wielded “religious belief” as an excuse.
Cliven Bundy doesn’t use religion as his excuse, but he still insists that since he doesn’t believe in the “United States government as even existing,” then he shouldn’t have to follow its laws. It’s a logical extension of the anti-gay and anti-contraception “opt out” arguments, rooted as it is in a belief that conservatives have a unique claim to simply reject any laws they don’t want to follow, even as they, like Bundy, take advantage of the amenities of citizenship.
No wonder conservative media is so warm to the guy. To be clear, none of these actions should be confused with civil disobedience, though some have tried. Civil disobedience is about changing unjust laws, not trying to get a special exception from the law for you and people like you. The only reason right-wing media is giving sympathetic coverage to Bundy is that he’s identifiable as a conservative and therefore his desire to make money off the backs of taxpayers without paying his fair share gets sympathetic treatment. But if he was black or female and got away with even a dollar more food stamps than he was owed, he would be treated like public enemy No. 1 by Fox News. Being able to shrug off laws you don’t like is a privilege reserved for the few in the world of conservative media.
It’s been a very bad week for talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, and a very rewarding week for the millions of Americans who have protested his extreme hate speech for decades. Two years ago, newer …
It’s been a very bad week for talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, and a very rewarding week for the millions of Americans who have protested his extreme hate speech for decades. Two years ago, newer groups like BoycottRush/FlushRush/StopRush began a massive national boycott movement that is exposing Limbaugh and crushing his career. Here are four new recent developments:
1. Politico published an article revealing that Tea Party organizations (some created by the Koch brothers) have contributed millions to Rush Limbaugh. What does this mean? For Rush it means they helped sustain him while thousands of sponsors pulled their ads. It means this may lead to an investigation to see if the funding was done legally. According to the FCC, if you receive money from an organization that pays you to promote their propaganda, without telling your audience, it may be considered ‘payola’ - and it may be illegal.
"The Heritage Foundation at the end of January ended its five-year sponsorship of El Rushbo’s show, for which it had paid more than $2 million in some years and more than $9.5 million overall. In 2012, FreedomWorks paid at least $1.4 million to make him an endorser, though it’s not clear that the sponsorship is ongoing."
2. Forbes Senior Political Contributor and regular on Forbes On Fox, Rick Ungar, believes Rush Limbaugh has become a joke. He also shows, via FrontPageMag.com data, that Limbaugh has outlived his audience. Ungar, also known as Forbes ‘token lefty’ implies Rush is now in the, toss out the old - bring in the new, demographic category. The median age of his dwindling audience (as well as the aforementioned sponsor boycott) no longer appeal to advertisers.
"At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam. I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return."
"Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand. The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted."
3. Speaking of advertisers, Rush Limbaugh can’t seem to hold on to them, without doling out heavy discounts and/or free ad space. After his notorious on-air verbal attack of then unknown, Sandra Fluke, the national protests was set into motion. Hardworking FlushRush volunteers now monitor The Rush Limbaugh Show nationwide. They document the sponsor ads they hear on his show, into the StopRush Database, along with contact and ad details. The sponsor data is then posted back into the FlushRush private Facebook group, and onto the BoycottRush Facebook page for public use. There have been hundreds of articles written about Rush Limbaugh and the boycotts against him, that have appeared in at least a dozen political online news groups, including Liberals Unite and Daily Kos, and have been viewed by millions. The result? Limbaugh and the radio stations that carry him have lost millions in ad revenue. Very few took the Limbaugh boycott seriously two years ago. It reminds me of the Gandhi quote:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
4. And lastly; Ed Schultz interviewed Holland Cook this week. Cook believes Limbaugh’s business is over, for good, due to the various organized boycotts mentioned above. Each does their own part. The protests have been supported by many big and small Liberal organizations, websites, Facebook pages/groups, and Twitter.
"Hundreds of blue-chip national advertisers basically have not only wandered away from Rush Limbaugh and some of the other righties, they’ve abandoned the format entirely. They are afraid to be heard on a news talk station because this man’s use of his free speech triggered the opposing viewpoint exercising THEIR right to free speech. The boycotters are speaking and using the marketplace to say, ‘ENOUGH!’"
Here is an audio clip of the Ed Schultz/Holland Cook interview: youtube
So now, we’re not only hearing from consumers, we are hearing from industry experts on the left and right, many of whom know the business better than anyone and would not risk their reputations on merely gossip. Yes, yes, the public has had enough. Limbaugh’s self-proclaimed ‘Dittoheads’/fans demanded that Limbaugh’s right to free speech also gives him the right to spew misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, and racism on public radio. He’s been getting away with it for over 25 years. After the Sandra Fluke attack, the general public soon realized that neither his radio affiliates, nor the FCC, planned to do anything about his hate speech, so American consumers decided to use their own version of free speech via petitions, boycotts, and their consumer dollars, to bring Limbaugh down by way of his sponsors. It’s reported 3,100 companies have pulled their ads from Limbaugh, and the protestors and boycotters have never been closer to pulling Limbaugh off the air. When he has moved on, this country will be all the better, and the public will prove once again, it can be done. We can eliminate hate speech from the media, if takes one host at a time.
You see, you can toss Americans some Limbaugh, Fox News, Bush/Cheney, Koch brothers, even some Supreme Court corruption, but when push comes to shove, Americans will stand up, show up, take charge, and demand a return to democracy and common decency. Salute to all the many boycotters and volunteers.
To learn more about the Rush Limbaugh boycott/protests, visit:
On August 19, 2009, Jo Becker of the Times wrote a front-page profile of Ted Olson, the most well-known and highly regarded conservative lawyer in the country, who had filed a federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage. Olson said that he hoped to take the argument to the Supreme Court, to seek a ruling that the Constitution guaranteed every gay and lesbian the right to marry. What’s more, Olson was joined in the lawsuit by one of the most prominent left-leaning attorneys in the country, David Boies, who had been Olson’s opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore. Boies, like Olson, is straight. Becker quoted Paul Katami, one of the gay plaintiffs in the California case, describing how Olson “put his arm around me and said, ‘We’re going to plan your wedding in a couple of years—this is going to happen.’ ”
I remember reading the story at the time and thinking, “This is clever.” A lot of people who were not in favor of same-sex marriage—or who weren’t even thinking about it, as it was only allowed in five states—might now seriously consider the issue. If two of the best lawyers in America, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, joined forces, and had resources comparable to those that they enjoyed when battling on behalf of corporate clients, it seemed like they had a real chance of convincing the Supreme Court that the Constitution did guarantee a right to marry.
The story was so intriguing to Becker that she covered it, full time, for almost five years, arranging with the plaintiffs and their lawyers to obtain unrestricted access to them during the case, on the condition that she not publish the complete story until after it was over. Her book, “Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality,” will be released on Tuesday. (I was interviewed for the book.)
The book focuses on Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles political consultant, Hollywood fund-raiser, and former staffer in the Clinton White House (where he and I briefly worked together). Soon after the passage of Proposition 8, in November, 2008, the idea of hiring Olson was serendipitously suggested to Griffin by an acquaintance of one of his clients, who happened to drop in on their lunch one day at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Griffin was pained by the success of the anti-gay initiative and, like a good public-relations man, he knew better than to pass up a headline-grabbing idea. Olson, much to Griffin’s surprise, was more than eager to take up a challenge to what he regarded as the violation of a constitutionally guaranteed right to marry. Olson and Griffin decided to enlist a liberal co-counsel, to help convince gay-rights groups that their plan was not a sinister anti-gay scheme. After their first two choices declined, Boies agreed to sign on—Becker suggests that Boies liked the case from the start, in part because “its history-making potential and odd-couple story line was sure to garner huge amounts of press interest.” (The lawyers and their backers were so sure of this that they not only arranged for Becker to have behind-the-scenes access, they also had a documentary film crew and an award-winning photographer chronicle the story.)
Their strategy was simple: draw attention to the issue by featuring these new and unlikely advocates; wrap the cause in the American flag; embrace support from those who had come late to the fight; and orchestrate the whole thing like a political campaign. As we now know, this was, in many ways, a brilliant stroke, politically if not legally. The Proposition 8 lawsuit did not succeed in obtaining the broad Supreme Court ruling that Olson and Griffin had hoped for; the justices decided that their opponents didn’t have standing, and left in place a lower-court ruling overturning California’s ban. That did restore marriage rights to couples in that state; still, if that was all that the court had ruled that summer, it might have been viewed as a disappointment. But it was decided the same day as the Supreme Court’s historic decision in the case brought by Edie Windsor and her lawyer Roberta Kaplan to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Becker reports that Olson and Griffin originally considered fashioning their case as a challenge to DOMA, but did not want to pit themselves against President Obama, whose Department of Justice would have had to defend the law. Still, there is no question that the Proposition 8 case was a major factor in the shift in public opinion that laid the political groundwork for Windsor.
It was the Court’s ruling in Windsor, not the Proposition 8 case, that has become the legal basis for a number of other cases seeking full federal recognition of same-sex marriage rights, which are now working their way through the appeals courts. One or more of these cases—possibly including a new one brought by Olson and Boies—will reach the Supreme Court in a year or two. As Becker describes in considerable detail, the California case and the strategy behind it worried and angered the established gay-rights legal community, which believed that the suit was too aggressive, might precipitate a Supreme Court ruling that could set back the cause, and was liable to upset the long-gestating, incremental legal strategy already under way—not to mention that two straight corporate lawyers, Boies and Olson, would get the credit if it succeeded. Becker reports that Paul Smith, the openly gay lawyer who argued Lawrence v. Texas before the Supreme Court, turned down a request to join the case from Olson and Griffin, because he believed that their approach was too risky. There was more to that than Becker perhaps acknowledges. But the Proposition 8 argument turned out to be insightful: it anticipated a developing shift in American public opinion on this issue, while at the same time helping to accelerate it. And whatever the internal battles, other gay civil-rights groups were at least publicly supportive of it. They helped to lay that groundwork, too.
Becker’s account of the hearings, and her analysis of the complicated legal theories involved in the long appeals process, are excellent. Her writing about the four plaintiffs in the case—the true emotional heroes of this book—is particularly affecting. The book is not, however, a neutral account of what happened: it is an account as seen largely through the eyes of Griffin and Olson. It could be argued that Becker is not sufficiently careful in drawing attention to this distinction, but I think any knowledgeable reader will understand that this is the case. The book is a rather adoring narrative profile of these two men and what they went through in an effort to change history, and perhaps to make their own personal marks on it. Here are a recently “out” and fairly conservative young gay Democrat from Arkansas and a very prominent Republican attorney who symbolized the triumphant conservatism of the Bush years, joining forces to fight for gay equality.
Even before its release, the book has attracted considerable attention: an excerpt appeared in the Times Magazine, detailing Obama’s own struggle to “evolve” on the issue, which I wrote about here. Late in the book, Charles Cooper, the lawyer who argued against Olson and Boies, reveals to Becker that his daughter is a lesbian—and this tidbit was leaked to the press last week to help create more pre-publication buzz. The portrait of Cooper, whom Becker interviewed at length after the case ended, is beautifully nuanced. “My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago,” Cooper told her. That kind of admission would seem to be the whole point.
For the most part, Becker does not write about participants in the campaign for marriage equality who were not directly involved in bringing the Proposition 8 case, except to highlight their skepticism about what she clearly believes was an excellent legal strategy. Indeed, a reader coming to the story only through this book would miss something important about the roles of Evan Wolfson, whose Harvard Law School thesis formed the basis for the marriage-equality movement and who has continued to be a legal and political leader on the topic; Andrew Sullivan, who gave the movement intellectual heft with his writings on gay marriage in the nineties; and Mary Bonauto, the adored lawyer for the movement who brought the first successful marriage case in Massachusetts, among many others.
Anyone who wants a complete history and overview of the gay-rights movement can read Linda Hirshman’s excellent and comprehensive “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution,” published in 2012, or, even before that, Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney’s “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America,” published in 2001, which is still a treasure. But if you are interested in the story of how a Hollywood political consultant and a conservative lawyer joined forces in 2009, in the belief that they could really make a difference, and, no doubt, gain some notoriety for themselves and their cause, helping to dramatically change the way Americans thought of gay people and the way gay people thought of themselves—this book is for you. The real story it tells is how seemingly small moments, occurring by happenstance, when combined with boldness and imagination, can help to change the course of history. There is a moment toward the end of the book when Olson expresses some self-doubt, as he prepares to argue the case before the Supreme Court, but one of his longtime conservative friends tells him, “You’ve already won.”
Richard Socarides is an attorney and longtime gay-rights advocate. He served in the White House during the Clinton Administration and has also been a political strategist. He now oversees public affairs at GLG. Opinions expressed here are only his own. Follow him on Twitter @Socarides.
The Bundy Ranch Standoff Was Only the Beginning for America’s Right-Wing Militias
For two decades the US government has tried to get Cliven Bundy to remove his cows from federal land, and for two decades the Nevada rancher has steadfastly refused, defying court orders and attempts to negotiate a settlement for the $1.1 million he owes in federal grazing fees. Finally, last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took matters into its own hands and started seizing cattle that had been illegally grazing on government property. Things went downhill from there.
For right-wing militias and paramilitary groups founded around a collective paranoid belief that the federal government is just looking for an excuse to impose martial law, images of armed federal agents forcibly seizing cows basically means it’s DEFCON 1. By Saturday, as many as 1,000 anti-BLM protestors from as far away as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia had set up camp in Bunkerville, an arid patch of land where the BLM was rounding up the Bundy cattle. Packing handguns and assault rifles, the protesters carried signs featuring slogans like “Tyranny Is Alive,” “Where’s the Justice?” and “Militia Sighn In [sic],” and many said they were prepared for a shoot-out with the federal government. The mood was such that even Glenn Beck was wary of the crowd, announcing on his show that “there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening.”
The Republican National Committee sent a message to President Barack Obama Friday: the GOP is not moving on from Obamacare.
The Republicans’ message came in the form of a web video, posted one day after the president announced 8 million people had signed up for private health insurance using the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. During the announcement, Obama said it was time for Republicans “to move on to something else,” and chastised states that chose not to expand Medicaid “for no other reason than political spite” against him.
"You have 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states, zero cost to these states, other than ideological reasons, they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens," Obama said during a press conference Thursday. "That’s wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else."
Republicans argued that “Americans don’t think it’s time to move on” in the video. Some prominent Republicans personally promised to keep up the fight against Obamacare, with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying “Republicans cannot and will not accept this law.” The office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also released a statement, according to NBC:
If the president is so confident in his numbers, there is no reason not to release transparent and complete enrollment data, and answer the questions, how many enrollees were previously uninsured and how many people had lost their previous plans due to Obamacare.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — who led the charge in 2013 to tie funding for Obamacare to a continuing resolution to the fund the government, a strategy that ultimately shut down the government for 16 days, cost $2 billion in lost productivity and made no changes to the health care law — tweeted the following after Obama’s remarks Thursday:
A Nevada Republican legislator complained about MSNBC host Chris Hayes’ remarks regarding rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle, yet repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as “terrorists” during a combative interview Friday night. “I’m not…
The State Department will “extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, likely postponing a final decision on the controversial project until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections,” Reuters reported on Friday afternoon. The organization credited the information to a 1:30 call with Congressional staff.
The decision of whether or not to approve the northern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline, connecting the tar sands of Alberta to oil refineries and export facilities in Texas, will enter its sixth year in September.
State made the decision to give more time for 8 federal agencies to weigh in on the project. This would move the end of the review process, originally scheduled to end in May, to a date “likely” after the 2014 midterm elections, according to the Wall Street Journal. State Department officials cited a February district court decision that struck down a Nebraska law that aimed to put decisionmaking power over the pipeline in the hands of the governor.
Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled that the law, which allowed pipeline companies to choose to submit their plans to either the governor’s Department of Environmental Quality or the more rigorous Public Service Commission, was unconstitutional.
Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb told ClimateProgress that the Nebraska Supreme Court will likely not issue a decision on the case until about January 2015. She also noted that South Dakota’s permit granted for the pipeline would expire on June 20, 2014 — meaning that TransCanada would have to reapply for a state permit after that date.
“The State Department is following Pres. Obama’s lead who has said all along he wants to follow the process,” Kleeb said in a statement. “The basic fact that Nebraska has no legal route is reason to delay any decision until our state can analyze a route using process that follows our state constitution.”
“Nebraska landowners will not give up their property rights with bad contract terms and unknown chemicals risking our water. This delay is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest.”
Fox figures praised armed supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy as good, patriotic, hard-working Americans, ignoring their threats of violence against Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents and indications that they were willing to put women in children in the line of fire.
Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy Refuses To Pay Grazing Fees, Resulting In Standoff With BLM
Los Angeles Times: Bundy Refused To Pay Grazing Fees For Use Of Federal Land. As the Los Angeles Times reported on April 7:
Bundy is battling with federal officials over his cattle’s grazing on 150 square miles of scrub desert overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. He has refused to pay BLM grazing fees since 1993, arguing in court filings that his Mormon ancestors worked the land long before the BLM was formed, giving him rights that predate federal involvement. His back fees exceed $300,000, he says. [Los Angeles Times, 4/7/14]
AP: Court Ordered Bundy To Pay Fees Or His Cattle Would Be Confiscated. Bundy refused to pay the fees he owed, and so the BLM attempted to carry out court orders to confiscate his cattle to settle the debt:
A federal judge in Las Vegas first ordered Bundy to remove his trespassing cattle in 1998. The bureau was implementing two federal court orders last year to remove Bundy’s cattle after making repeated efforts to resolve the matter outside court, Kornze said, adding the rancher has not paid grazing fees in 20 years. [Associated Press, 4/13/14]
AP: BLM Halted Cattle Confiscation After Armed Militias Showed Up To Protest. As the Associated Pressreported, after the Bureau of Land Management began confiscating Bundy’s cattle, armed ”states’ rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals’ return to rancher Cliven Bundy,” leading to the BLM’s decision to halt the confiscation:
Federal land managers say “escalating tensions” led them to release all 400 or so head of cattle rounded up on public land in southern Nevada from a rancher who has refused to recognize their authority.
Bureau of Land Management Chief Neil Kornze announced an abrupt halt to the weeklong roundup just hours before the release.
"Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public," Kornze said in a statement. [Associated Press, 4/13/14]
Sen. Harry Reid Calls Armed Protestors “Domestic Terrorists”
Las Vegas Review-Journal:Sen. Reid Called Bundy's Armed Supporters “Domestic Terrorists.” At an event hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) called armed protesters supporting Bundy ”domestic terrorists,” saying, “Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots, are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/17/14]
Bundy Repeatedly Threatens Violence Against BLM Agents
Las Vegas Sun: Bundy Said He Would “Do Whatever It Takes” To Protect His Cattle. In 2013, Bundy told the Las Vegas Sun he would “do whatever it takes” to prevent the government from seizing his cattle:
[T]he rancher insists his cattle aren’t going anywhere. He acknowledges that he keeps firearms at his ranch and has vowed to “do whatever it takes” to defend his animals from seizure.
"I’ve got to protect my property," Bundy said as Arden steered several cattle inside an elongated pen. "If people come to monkey with what’s mine, I’ll call the county sheriff. If that don’t work, I’ll gather my friends and kids and we’ll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws."Bundy’s wife Carol told the Sun that she owns a shotgun and is prepared to use it:
Carol Bundy said her husband is not a violent man, just a person who will protect what he owns. For that matter, so is she.
"I’ve got a shotgun," she said. "It’s loaded and I know how to use it. We’re ready to do what we have to do, but we’d rather win this in the court of public opinion." [Las Vegas Sun, 9/23/13]
Bundy's Response To Question About Resorting To Violence: ”I Didn’t Say I Wouldn’t Carry A Gun.” On the April 10 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham asked Bundy whether he would resort to violence to settle the dispute:
INGRAHAM: When you said you would do quote “whatever it takes,” to stop the government from impounding your cattle, what did you mean by that? Did you mean you would resort to violence?
BUNDY: What I said was — I didn’t say I wouldn’t carry a gun. [The Laura Ingraham Show, 4/10/14, via Media Matters]
Fox Figures Praise “Patriotic” Bundy Supporters
Fox’s Earhardt: Bundy Supporters Are “Good, Hardworking Americans.” On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt expressed outrage at Sen. Harry Reid’s comments that Bundy’s supporters are “domestic terrorists,” saying:
EARHARDT: And then the question this morning, the government’s reaction to all of this. They’re pulling guns on these individuals, on Harry Reid’s community. These are folks that live in Nevada, these are good, hardworking Americans. So they disagree and the government goes out there and pulls guns and now Harry Reid’s calling them terrorists? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/14]
Fox's Morris: Supporters Were “Protesting Peacefully.” In a later segment during the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Clayton Morris claimed that, “Suddenly people are there protesting peacefully, arguing against government intervention here … and all of these police and folks roll in with guns and sniper rifles pointing at them.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/18/14]
Fox’s Napolitano: Ranch Protesters ”Shows You The Resistance Of Patriotic Americans.” Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano and Bill O’Reilly discussed the Nevada standoff on the April 17 edition of The O’Reilly Factor. Both conceded that Bundy’s actions were illegal, yet Napolitano called his supporters “patriotic” and downplayed their threats of violence:
O’REILLY: But here’s the fact. The federal government sent more force in to handle Cliven Bundy’s cows than they did to Ukraine. Right, I mean we can’t even get binoculars over there for those people but we have all of this.
NAPOLITANO: It shows you the attitude of the federal government today, and it shows you the resistance of patriotic Americans — Americans whose voices were silenced at the scene by being moved three miles away. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/17/14]
Fox’s Starnes: Bundy Supporters Are “Law-Abiding” Patriots. On the April 17 edition of Hannity, Fox contributor Todd Starnes told guest-host Eric Bolling, “The idea that you’ve got the Senate Majority Leader going out there and calling law-abiding American citizens — patriots — domestic terrorists for protesting against their government is beyond the pale.” [Fox News, Hannity, 4/17/14]
Fox Guest: Why Were Guns Pointed At “Hardworking Ranchers”? During the April 17 edition of Fox News’s The Kelly File, frequent Fox guest and conservative filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch demanded an explanation from Sen. Harry Reid as to why guns were pointed at “hardworking ranchers”:
LYNCH: That man [Sen. Reid], I want an explanation from him. I want to know why it is that I had M-16s pointed at my face. Why those M-16s were pointed at women and children and hardworking ranchers. I want an explanation. Because the more I keep on looking at my footage — that looked like Afghanistan. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 4/17/14]
Bundy Supporters Who Fox Praised Were Armed, Threatened Violence
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Armed Militia Members Mobilized For ”Armed Confrontation.”The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on April 9 that armed militia members were joining Bundy in his standoff with the BLM:
From near and wide, armed men are trickling toward Cliven Bundy’s ranch, where the rancher’s fight with the federal government has become a rallying cry for militia groups across the United States.
They say they are prepared for armed confrontation, but they insist they will not be the instigators if bloodshed happens. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/9/14]
Reuters: Many Supporters “Wore Military Fatigues And Carried Rifles And Pistols.” Reuters reported on April 17 that many of Bundy’s supporters carried rifles and pistols:
A number of Bundy supporters wore military fatigues and carried rifles and pistols and had traveled from California, Idaho, Arizona, Montana and beyond. Most kept their handguns holstered.
[Former Arizona sheriff Richard] Mack, who wore his gun on his hip, and other Bundy supporters interviewed by Reuters said they would not shoot first but would retaliate if fired upon. [Reuters, 4/17/14]
Review-Journal: "Serious Bloodshed Was Narrowly Avoided" At The Protest. The Las Vegas Review-Journal also reported that:
On Wednesday, that dispute teetered at the edge of deadly conflict, when Cliven Bundy’s family members and supporters scuffled with rangers from the Bureau of Land Management sent to protect the federal roundup of Bundy’s cattle on public land. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/9/14]
Huffington Post: Former Sheriff Wanted To Put “Women Up At The Front” If A Shootout Occurred. According to the Huffington Post, former Arizona sheriff and Bundy supporter Richard Mack proposed putting women on the front lines if a shootout with the BLM occurred and claimed he “would have put my own wife or daughters there”:
"We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front," he said on Fox News, according to TheBlaze.com. "If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers."
"If they’re going to start killing people, I’m sorry, but to show the world how ruthless these people are, women needed to be the first ones shot. I’m sorry, that sounds horrible. I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die. [Huffington Post, 4/15/14]
Reuters: Bundy Supporter “Aimed His Semi-Automatic Rifle” At Federal Agents. On April 17, Reuters reported on the aftermath of the Bundy ranch protest, writing that during that during the standoff an armed protester aimed his gun at federal agents:
Flat on his belly in a sniper position, wearing a baseball cap and a flak jacket, a protester aimed his semi-automatic rifle from the edge of an overpass and waited as a crowd below stood its ground against U.S. federal agents in the Nevada desert. [Reuters, 4/17/14]
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart
KLAS-TV Las Vegas: Militia Man Joining Bundy Protest Said “We Provide Armed Response.” On April 10, a local Las Vegas news station KLAS-TV reported that one militia man coming to support Bundy said, “That is what we do. We provide armed response … We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.” [KLAS-TV Las Vegas, 4/10/14]
Led by Sean Hannity, Fox News has devoted 4 hours and 40 minutes of its prime-time programming to cheerleading for a Nevada range war.
Media Matters examined Fox News’ weekday programming from 4 p.m. through 11 p.m. ET since it first started covering the story.
Fox News began agitating for a range war on April 9, sympathetically portraying Cliven Bundy as a folk hero based on the Nevada rancher’s refusal for two decades to pay the required fees for grazing his cattle on public land. While Nevada reporters have made clear that Bundy is “clearly wrong” and “breaking the law,” Fox has waged a PR campaign romanticizing Bundy and the armed militia groups that fled to his ranch and forced a standoff with federal agents who were executing a court order that allowed them to impound his cattle.
Fox Radio host Todd Starnes fanned the flames by implying that federal agents could be “strung up” for confiscating Bundy’s cattle, regardless of a court order. Even after the Bureau of Land Management announced that it would return the cattle to Bundy, Hannity asked Bundy whether he was worried that government agents might kill him.
Hannity has effectively turned his Fox News show into a public-relations firm for Bundy and the militias backing him, dedicating more than 1 1/2 hours of coverage since April 9 to effectively agitating for armed conflict with the federal government.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of Fox News programs from April 5th to April 17th. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Bundy, Nevada, ranch!, cattle, Bureau of Land Management. The search included the Fox programs The Five, Special Report, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, and Hannity.
TPN head Judson Phillips emailed members a column — “Declaring War on Americans” — by Alan Caruba, in which he applauds the militias defending the Cliven Bundy ranch and plugs Operation American Spring, while hinting that the demonstration may provoke a violent response from the government.
I love the notion that Cliven Bundy lives in Bunkerville. It reminded me of Bunker Hill and you know how badly that eventually turned out for the British in 1775. What ensued was a guerrilla war led by George Washington that defeated the most powerful nation of its time. There is no way a militia with small arms can defeat the kind of arms the U.S. government can bring to bear on such a battle, but one has to admire the courage of those people who showed up to confront them. That’s quintessentially American!
I don’t think the BLM response to Bundy was exclusive to the agency. That decision needed to be sent up the line as far as the White House. Indeed, it was likely initiated by the White House.
All tyrannies over-reach at some point and we are seeing that occur in the White House. The nation is fortunate to have the House controlled by Republicans and now needs a Senate as well in order to dispense some much needed justice on behalf of Americans.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the White House responds to the May 16th “Operation American Spring” being organized to bring a million or more to Washington, D.C. to participate in an event that will demonstrate the breadth of the unhappiness that has spread since Obama’s first election and is gaining momentum since his second.
This isn’t the first time the Tea Party group has promoted Operation American Spring.
Back in January, the group emailed members an invitation to participate in the May 16 event, saying that non-peaceful means are on the table in their anti-Obama campaign.
Gen. Paul Vallely of Stand Up America US, who is also helping to spearhead “Operation American Spring” beginning May 16th in DC, has suggested that to counter Obama’s imperious overreaching that Congress should tender a vote of “no-confidence” against him.
Going forward, the most compelling remedial grassroots action we should all get solidly behind is, of course, “Operation American Spring” which will be launched in earnest on May 16th. I urge readers to check it out on the Patriots for America site. You have the option of participating in the protracted occupation or volunteering your services and talents in support of the operation.
Finally and very importantly, if all of these peaceful remedies fail to achieve our constitutional goals, then ALL other remedies sanctioned by our Founders and “natural law” must necessarily be relied upon by the American people. Let the Founders ALWAYS be our guide.
Facing his toughest reelection battle in years against a well-known and well-financed female opponent, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently boasted that he led the Senate in ousting a GOP colleague accused of sexual harassment in 1995. But news reports from that time show that late in the investigation, McConnell tried to stall the probe against his fellow Republican, Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) He derided efforts by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to hold public hearings on Packwood as “frolic and detour”—after the Senate ethics committee had substantiated nearly two-dozen claims of sexual harassment leveled against Packwood by female lobbyists and former staffers.
Talking about the Packwood scandal this past week, McConnell noted that he was chair of the Senate ethics committee when Packwood resigned. In a Tuesday interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, McConnell said he had taken “the toughest possible position.” The newspaper reported that McConnell had “offered himself as an example of how elected officials should handle situations when a member of their own party is accused of sexual harassment.”
But the bulk of the ethics probe against Packwood took place when the committee was chaired by a Democrat. When Republicans regained a majority in the Senate after the 1994 elections and McConnell became chair of the committee, he transformed the Packwood investigation into a partisan mess.
Here’s the backstory: In late November, 1992, the Washington Postreported that at least ten lobbyists and former Packwood staffers said they had been sexually harassed by Packwood. Several of the women claimed that Packwood had grabbed them or forcibly kissed them until they protested or pushed him away.
The story detonated a Washington scandal. Within a week, Packwood acknowledged the accusations, claiming his conduct was the result of a substance abuse problem. He called for a Senate ethics committee investigation of his own behavior. Bob Dole, then the Republican Senate minority leader, echoed Packwood’s call for an investigation. “The quicker the better,” he said. In subsequent weeks, several more women came forward. A former Packwood campaign volunteer told the Associated Press that Packwood had tasked her with gathering dirt on his accusers, and an official ethics inquiry was under way.
In the next year, Senate ethics committee staff interviewed 150 people across the country. This yielded 4,000 pages of sworn testimony and 1,000 pages of supporting documents. The investigators also collected new accusations from several women who had not spoken to the press.
Throughout this phase of the investigation, McConnell, the senior Republican on the committee, won praise from Democrats who had previously regarded him as the GOP’s junkyard dog. McConnell joined Democrats on the ethics committee in turning down a deal with Packwood to weaken the investigation, and he encouraged dozens of Republicans to vote on the Senate floor to subpoena Packwood’s diaries—audio tapes in which Packwood described his sexual misconduct in lewd detail.
Despite that Senate vote, Packwood held up the probe for about a year by challenging the subpoena for his diaries in federal court. As a result, it took the Senate ethics committee until December 1994 to wrap up its review of Packwood’s diaries. (The committee, by that time, was also investigating whether Packwood had altered the diaries and whether Packwood had instructed lobbyists to offer his ex-wife a job in order to lower his alimony payments.) The panel was on track to decide, in early 1995, whether Packwood had broken any laws or ethics rules. By tradition, if the committee decided Packwood had broken any laws, public hearings and testimony would take place on the Senate floor before the committee decided what consequences Packwood would face.
That’s when McConnell engaged in partisan obstructionism.
With Republicans now in the majority, McConnell, as chair of the Senate ethics committee, took control of the Packwood inquiry. And the investigation suddenly slowed down. As the committee missed its projected deadline for voting on public hearings by several months, McConnell dodged questions about where the investigation stood.
In mid-May, the committee announced it had acquired sufficient evidence to hold public hearings on the allegations. Its investigation had substantiated “18 instances of kissing, grabbing, groping or propositioning women,” often by force, the New York Times reported.
It was unprecedented for such serious ethics charges not to result in public hearings. But McConnell battled to keep the ensuing proceedings against Packwood closed. With Democrats demanding public hearings, McConnell canceled an ethics committee vote on hodling such hearings without explanation. In the following weeks, he allowed committee debates over whether to hold public proceedings to drag onwithout a vote.
In July, fed-up Senate Democrats pushed for a vote before the full Senate on holding hearings. McConnell responded with a threat, according to the Washington Post:
Senate sources said McConnell told [Sen. Barbara] Boxer on Tuesday that he would hold [ethics] hearings on two prominent Democrats if Boxer persisted in plans to force the issue of public hearings on Packwood.
According to the sources, McConnell approached committee member Barbarba Mikulski, D-Md., and told her, “You go find Barbara Boxer and tell her if she brings this amendment to the Senate floor, I’ll be having hearings on Daschle and Chappaquiddick.”
This was a reference to the 1969 incident involving the drowning of a woman companion of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and to allegations earlier this year that Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., may have intervened improperly on behalf of South Dakota air charter company.
The sources said Boxer confronted McConnell later and asked him if he was threatening her.
He responded, “I’m not threatening you; I’m promising you,” a source said.
The Associated Press recounted it this way:
"I want you to tell her (Boxer) if she does that, we will offer amendments for hearings on Daschle and Chappaquidick. It will work both ways," McConnell reportedly said. "I want you to tell her that right away."
At the time, political observers speculated that McConnell was trying to save Republicans from embarrassment. His refusal to hold public hearings generated huge controversy, with editorial pages in Kentucky and beyond calling for McConnell to reverse course. The Kentucky House and Senate both passed resolutions urging McConnell to allow public hearings, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), the ranking Democrat on the ethics committee, publicly criticized McConnell. “There is simply no reason for the committee to delay further,” he told reporters. “I know of no reason the ethics committee has not met, nor any reason why the committee has not voted on holding public hearings.” McConnell promptlycanceled another meeting of the ethics committee. He said he would not call a new one until Democrats quit demanding public hearings.
The next day, July 21, McConnell hinted on the Senate floor that he would kick off retaliatory investigations. “If Senator Boxer takes us on another such frolic and detour, it will only further distract us and prevent us from concluding this important case,” he said. “So if we find ourselves on the floor in the coming days debating legislation regarding hearings in the Packwood case or any other subject related to ethics committee procedures, I will be prepared, and I am sure others will be prepared, to discuss and debate congressional action on misconduct cases in the past and other relevant issues.”
But early the following month, Boxer forced a Senate vote on her proposal to hold public hearings on Packwood. Republicans, at McConnell’s urging, filibustered, and a vote to break the filibuster failed.
The Senate ethics committee finally concluded the Packwood case the next month, on September 6, when senators returned from their summer recess. In a unanimous vote, the six members of the ethics committee, including McConnell, recommended that the Senate expel Packwood. By then, two more women had approached the committee claiming Packwood had harassed them. One of them said this had occurred when she was 17 years old. Packwood resigned a day after the committee vote. The full investigation had taken nearly three years. No public hearings were ever held.
"I am more than happy to stake my reputation on the way I handle a case," McConnell said in the aftermath. And now, he’s using the episode to appeal to women voters: A 2013 "Women for Team Mitch" rally featured a female Kentucky lawyer who told the rallygoers, “The way Sen. McConnell responded to that situation was perfect.” With a sexual-harassment scandal now dogging a state Democratic lawmaker in Kentucky, McConnell has been pointing to his actions in the Packwood scandal as exemplary.
In response, the campaign for McConnell’s Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, circulated a New York Times editorial from 1995 that decried McConnell’s “bullying tactics” during the Packwood scandal. “It is improper for Mr. McConnell to hold the Packwood matter hostage to unrelated issues,” the editorial said, referencing McConnell’s Chappaquiddick threats. “That is an abuse of his power as chairman.”
"McConnell now must resort to rewriting history to save the only job he cares about: his own," a Grimes spokeswoman wrote in an email.
"One fundamental problem Alison Lundergan Grimes has with reality here in Kentucky is that she actually believes the New York Times editorial page is the arbiter of truth and fact,” Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the McConnell campaign, wrote in an email. “The internet would be a good resource for her to find out how Senator McConnell led the fight to expose and expel a senior member of his own party for egregious sexual harassment of women in the Senate.” Moore added that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised McConnell’s actions shortly after Packwood resigned.
This is not the first time McConnell has highlighted the Packwood scandal during a campaign. In his 1996 reelection effort, he ran an ad during the summer Olympics boasting that he “took the lead” in ousting Packwood. McConnell, the ad said, had displayed “courage and independence—rare qualities in Washington these days.”