"Scrubbed" Benghazi Docs "Bombshell" Is Based On Evidence-Free Report By Discredited Benghazi Hoax Architect
A new report from discredited investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson baselessly suggested State Department staff removed damaging documents on Benghazi instead of turning them over to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for investigation. But Attkisson’s claims have been denied by the State Department and are based solely on speculations from a disgruntled employee after he was disciplined for his “lack of leadership” and engagement by the ARB.
In a September 15 report for The Daily Signal, a publication of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Attkisson reported that a former State Department diplomat alleges that “Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to ’separate’ damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.” The Daily Signal described this as a “Benghazi Bombshell.”
Attkisson reported that the diplomat, Raymond Maxwell, a former deputy assistant secretary responsible for North Africa, says that in late 2012 he observed an “after-hours session” at which a State Department office director “close to Clinton’s top advisers” directed staff to separate out Benghazi documents “that might put anybody in the Near Eastern Affairs front office or the seventh floor in a bad light” from “boxes and stacks of documents.” Attkisson notes that “‘seventh floor’ was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.” Maxwell told Attkisson that while he was present, Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan “appeared to check in on the operation and soon left.”
Speculating that potentially missing, possibly damaging documents made it impossible for the ARB’s investigation to be thorough, Attkisson reported that Maxwell said ”he couldn’t help but wonder if the ARB—perhaps unknowingly—had received from his bureau a scrubbed set of documents with the most damaging material missing.”
Fox News’ America’s Newsroom quickly reported Attkisson’s claims, calling them a “bombshell development” and a “smoking gun of a potential cover-up”:
Fox subsequently reported that the interview indicated that Maxwell “claims Clinton allies scrubbed Benghazi documents.”
But Attkisson’s report has several flaws. It is based solely on conjecture from Maxwell, who does not claim and cannot prove that any documents were withheld from the ARB in its investigation, but rather only speculates about the fate of the documents that were reviewed.
The State Department has already denied Maxwell’s speculation in a statement to Attkisson — State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach called “the implication that documents were withheld ‘totally without merit,’” emphasizing that the “range of sources that the ARB’s investigation drew on would have made it impossible for anyone outside of the ARB to control its access to information.” Other allegations that the ARB investigation was biased have been repeatedly disproven.
Maxwell himself is a dubious source. He was placed on administrative leave after the Accountability Review Board’s investigation found a “lack of proactive leadership” and pointed specifically to Maxwell’s department, saying some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.” A House Oversight Committee report released findings from the classified version of the ARB report, which revealed that the ARB’s board members “were troubled by the NEA DAS for Maghreb Affairs’ lack of leadership and engagement on staffing and security issues in Benghazi.”
Disgruntled over being “the only official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which had responsibility for Libya, to lose his job,” Maxwell spoke to The Daily Beast in May 2013 in an attempt to “restore” his “honor.” Maxwell, who had filed official grievances regarding his treatment, expressed anger that Mills — the same staff member Maxwell speculated was involved in hiding potentially damaging documents — “reneged” on a deal to eventually bring Maxwell back to the NEA after his leave.
While Maxwell has previously been interviewed by the ARB, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Daily Beast, and Examiner.com, this is curiously the first time this allegation has been made public. FoxNews.com reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) had confirmed “that Maxwell told him and other lawmakers the same story when they privately interviewed him last year.” The claim is absent from the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Report on the Accountability Review Board, which was based in part on Maxwell’s 2013 testimony.
Attkisson, too, has been roundly discredited and is well known for her shoddy reporting, both during her time at CBS News and after leaving the network. Attkisson supported CBS’ disastrous Benghazi reporting, for which the network ultimately had to apologize and retract. And CBS executives reportedly saw her as “wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue.”
Fox’s adoption of this story as a major new development is not surprising given the network’s history of relying on discredited Benghazi hoaxsters and using “bombshell" to describe everything but new developments in the story.
"How can you be so poor and have all this stuff?" -Bill O’Reilly
Each of these screenshots is from a different Fox show attacking poor Americans for having amenities, trying to make the point (pretty much) that “when I was a kid, poor people had a lot less than this.”
Of course, this is all based on one thoroughly-debunked Heritage Foundation report that conservative media have been parroting for years.
Breaking news for Fox: We’re not in the 1950’s anymore. As technology advances, each year older technology gets less and less expensive, and therefore more working class Americans are able to access it.
Matt Yglesias elaborates:
A serious person would follow this up with a discussion of relative prices. Over the past 50 years, televisions have gotten a lot cheaper and college has gotten a lot more expensive. Consequently, even a low income person can reliably obtain a level of television-based entertainment that would blow the mind of a millionaire from 1961. At the same time, if you’re looking to live in a safe neighborhood with good public schools in a metropolitan area with decent job opportunities you’re going to find that this is quite expensive. Health care has become incredibly expensive. The federal poverty line for a family of three is $18,530 a year. I wonder how many Heritage Foundation policy analysts are deciding they want to cut back and work part time because it’d be super easy to raise two kids in DC on less than $20k in salary? Perhaps just an outfit full of workaholics.
While Fox is so busy pointing out how many people have access to microwaves and refrigerators, they conveniently forget to mention how many people have poor access to quality education, health care, and affordable housing. Because really, what good is an A/C if you can’t even afford to keep living in your house?
What a fucking asshat!
Two current Religious Right fixations — the “persecution” of American Christians and the need for conservatives to do more to influence the pop culture — have come together in movies like “Persecuted” and “We the People—Under Attack.” The latest entry, “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty,” was screened by Rick Santorum at the Heritage Foundation on Monday night.
Santorum said the movie will be released in September. His EchoLight Cinemas is trying to create an alternative to Hollywood distribution channels by building a network of thousands of tech-equipped churches who will sell tickets for “One Generation Away” and other movies. He says the long-term strategy is to bring more people into churches and put the church back at the center of the culture.
"One Generation Away" is described as a documentary, but it’s really a preaching-to-the-choir call to arms for conservative Christians and pastors to get more involved in culture war battles while they still have the freedom to do so. Among the film’s producers are Donald and Tim Wildmon from the American Family Association, which Santorum said is packaging a shorter version of the movie into more of an activist tool.
The title comes from Ronald Reagan – specifically from a speech to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce in 1961, a time in which Reagan was working with conservatives to rally opposition to Medicare – “socialized medicine”:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
The thrust of “One Generation Away” is that religious freedom in the United States is disappearing fast, and if the church doesn’t fight for it now, it will soon be gone forever. Before running the film on Monday, Santorum quoted Cardinal Francis George, who said during the debate about insurance coverage of contraception, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in prison. I expect his successor to be a martyr.” That’s just the kind of hyperbolic “religious persecution” rhetoric we have come to expect from Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the movie, it seems as if the filmmakers might be striking a more reasonable tone, with a couple of speakers saying that Christians should stand up for the rights of people of different faiths — even though the AFA’s chief spokesman opposes First Amendment protections for non-Christians— and others actually acknowledging that it is problematic for American Christians to be complaining of “religious persecution” over policy disputes when Christians and others are facing horrific, deadly persecution in many other parts of the world.
But that caution is quickly abandoned as the movie makes a direct comparison of the status of the Christian church in America with the church in Germany as the Nazis came to power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who tried to mobilize German Christians to resist Nazi tyranny and was executed by the regime, is held up as the model that American Christians need to be willing to follow.
Eric Metaxas, a Bonhoeffer biographer who became a Religious Right folk hero when he questioned President Obama’s faith at a National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, warned that if the church doesn’t link arms to fight, all will be lost. “The good news,” he said, “is that the American church is slightly more attuned to the rumbling heard in the distance than the German church was in the 30s. The bad news is, only slightly, right?”
The movie cuts to Mike Huckabee saying that Bonhoeffer could have saved his life if he had been willing to soften his faith, but that instead he resisted and rebuked the Nazi regime. And then we’re back to Metaxas to complete the Nazi analogy:
“The parallel today is simply that. You have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and more and more powerful, and is beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany. And that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people that’s incendiary, or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry, I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”
Filmmakers said at the screening that they had conducted 75 interviews for the movie, and it sure feels like it. It includes names that will be well-known to RWW readers, like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Tim Wildmon, Alveda King, Robert George, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration, and Ryan Anderson and Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation.
Also appearing are Rep. Doug Collins; Rick Perry backer Robert Jeffress; Matthew Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, which sponsored the infamous and discredited Regnerus “family structures” study; Stephen McDowell of the dominionist Providence Foundation; Gregory Thornbury of Kings College; lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund, the Beckett Fund, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund; and a number of pastors.
The film also includes interviews with some opponents of the Religious Right, including Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Princeton’s Peter Singer, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Santorum told the audience at Heritage that he wishes he had even more of his opponents included in the film because “they scare the hell out of me” and would help motivate the right-wing base.
In order to keep the movie from being one brutally long succession of talking heads, the filmmakers resort to a tactic of constantly shifting scenes, a couple of seconds at a time, in a way that feels like they got a volume discount on stock images of Americana: boats on the water, kids playing softball, families walking together. There are also odd random fillers, like close-ups of the pattern on a couch in the room in which a speaker is sitting. The endless, repetitive succession of images actually makes the film feel even longer than it actually is. (Zack Ford at ThinkProgress had a similar reaction to this technique.)
The meat of the film, or the “red meat,” mixes the personal stories of people being victimized by intolerant secularists and/or gay activists with miniature David Bartonesque lectures on the Christian roots of America’s founding; the fact that the phrase “separation of church and state” never appears in the U.S. Constitution; the notion that the American government is trying to replace “freedom of religion” with “freedom of worship” and require any expression of faith to take place behind church walls; and the disgracefulness of making any analogies between the civil rights movement and the LGBT equality movement. The 1947 Supreme Court decision in which Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” phrase was invoked by the Court and “changed everything” is portrayed as nothing more than a reflection of Justice Hugo Black’s hatred of Catholics.
Featured “persecution” stories include:
- a long advertisement for Hobby Lobby and its owners, the Green family, which recently won its legal battle against the contraception mandate;
- a baker and florist who ran afoul of their state’s anti-discrimination laws when they refused to provide services for a same-sex couple getting married;
- cheerleaders at a public high school in Texas who were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for creating football game banners featuring Christian scriptural quotes;
- Catholic Charities being “forced” to give up adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples;
- an ACLU challenge to a large cross at the Mt. Soledad war memorial; and
- the supposed frontal attack on the religious freedom of military chaplains as a result of allowing LGBT members of the armed forces to serve openly. On this issue, Tony Perkins declares, “The military is being used as a vanguard of radical social policy. And in order for that policy to permeate and to take root, you’ve got to take out the religious opposition.”
In spite of the parade of horrors, the movie tries to end on an upbeat note, saying that the early Christian church expanded while it was being suppressed, and that it will only take “one spark of revival” to change the nation. A familiar theme at Religious Right conferences is that blame for America’s decline rests with churches that don’t speak up and pastors who don’t preach or lead aggressively enough. One Generation Away ends on this point, telling Christian pastors it is their responsibility to wake up and challenge their congregants to live their faith “uncompromisingly.”
During the Q&A after the screening, Santorum said the fact that Hobby Lobby was a 5-4 decision demonstrated the importance of the 2016 election. “Part of me almost wishes we’d lost,” says Santorum, because that would have made the threat clearer to conservative activists. “We are one judge away,” he said, adding that “if we get a Democratic president, our five, or four-and-a-half, justices are not going to hold out forever.”
“I just worry,” he said to the young people in the audience, “that the longer we delay, and America sleeps, and your generation is indoctrinated the way it is, the harder it will be to come back.”
The Export-Import Bank is facing the most serious threat to its existence in 80 years. What’s going on?
Congress is at the precipice of another ‘cliff’: The Export-Import Bank of the United States must be reauthorized by September, or it will have to close for the first time since it was created in 1934.
The fight over the bank is an esoteric one with confusing and shifting battle lines. While the Tea Party is currently pushing not to reauthorize the bank, a variety of ideological positions are coming into conflict. Now, after 80 years of largely uneventful reauthorization votes, there is a very real chance that the bank’s authority won’t be renewed.
This conflict might not seem relevant to the average person. But the fights over the Export-Import Bank have important implications about how trade policy should work in the 21st century. Here’s what you need to know to understand Congress’s latest battle:
What is the Export-Import Bank?
The ‘Ex-Im Bank,’ as it’s known, is a corporation owned entirely by the federal government. Technically located within the Executive Branch, but independently housed and operated by finance professionals, the bank’s mission is to boost American exports. To do that, it supplies various types of credit to U.S. businesses that need them to operate. Generally, the Ex-Im Bank supports transactions that private banks won’t finance, and that are guaranteed to support or create American jobs. The most common type of credit the bank supplies is loan guarantees (rather than outright cash lending) to foreign companies that buy things from U.S. businesses. By providing loan guarantees and other forms of indirect financing, the bank ensures that American exporters have customers who can pay to buy their goods.
The vast majority of the credit transactions the bank authorized in 2013 —89 percent — were in support of U.S. small businesses. But the vast majority of the dollar amount of credit authorized went to support much larger companies like Boeing, whose customers would otherwise not have bought so many of its planes. Still, small businesses who rely upon the bank for export insurance that private markets won’t provide say they would be left to shoulder the risk of losses should clients fail to pay.
The Ex-Im Bank costs taxpayers nothing, and actually returns revenue to the Treasury. The government turned a $1.057 billion profit on Ex-Im Bank activity last fiscal year. (Depending on which sort of accounting rules you go by, the bank will either make taxpayers $14 billion over the coming decade, cost them $2 billion, or perform somewhere in between.) The bank had a default rate below 0.25 percent last year on the various types of business credit it offers. Since it was created in the 1930s, it has an overall default rate below 2 percent.
Who wants to kill it?
The current push to block the bank’s reauthorization is coming fromhardline conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation. Both groups have pledged to use Ex-Im Bank reauthorization as a “key vote” in scoring the legislative records of lawmakers ahead of the midterm elections, and Americans for Prosperity has made similar threats. That pressure to oppose the bank from outside Congress is combining with the increasing ideological purity of the Republican Party within Congress to create a great deal of momentum against reauthorization.
When former Majority Leader and longtime supporter of Ex-Im reauthorization Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary election, for example, and handed his seat to an unheralded Ayn Rand devotee and hardline supply-side ideologue who almost surely opposes the bank, the New York Times ran a front-page story on what Cantor’s loss meant for the bank and for American exports. “Eliminating the bank has become a conservative cause on par with repealing the Affordable Care Act,” the Times wrote. Cantor’s successor in the Majority Leader position, Kevin McCarthy, has announced that he opposes reauthorization of the bank.
What would happen if the Ex-Im Bank disappeared?
It’s tough to give a simple answer to that question, since the bank’s authorization has never been in serious jeopardy until now. But some numbers on the bank’s performance are instructive: Since the bank began calculating its impact on American jobs in 2010, it estimates that it has supported 1.2 million jobs in the country. The bank authorized a total of $27.3 billion in credit last year across more than 3,800 separate transactions, supporting a total of $37.4 billion worth of export sales by U.S. companies.
The evaporation of the support Ex-Im provides wouldn’t guarantee that all those jobs and all those business deals disappeared. But they would all be vulnerable. Since every other developed country in the world maintains some equivalent to the Ex-Im Bank to protect their own exporters, and voracious exporters like China are even more cutthroat than the Ex-Im Bank is allowed to be, it would become substantially more difficult for American companies to compete in the global marketplace.
The list of groups and individuals who have warned of economic consequences if the bank disappears includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the White House, andTexas Gov. Rick Perry (R). Even Delta Airlines, which has long criticized the bank for putting domestic airlines at a disadvantage by helping foreign airlines to buy Boeing planes, has come around and indicated support for reauthorizing the bank.
How did the bank become political football?
Many different kinds of thinkers and analysts have wanted to end the Ex-Im Bank at one point or another in its nearly nine-decade history. Nobel Prize-winning economist and frequent progressive hero Paul Krugman opposes the bank in theory, but doesn’t want the bank wound down until the economy gets stronger. Fellow economist and liberal Dean Baker agrees that Ex-Im is primarily a protectionist entity that should not exist in a modern economic system. On the right, libertarian economists and free-market purists have long opposed the bank’s interference in the marketplace.
Some political institutions have been consistent in their ideological perspective on the bank, whether critical or supportive. But many of the individual politicians who determine the bank’s fate, on all sides of the political spectrum, have shifted according to the prevailing winds. Democrats in Congress and in the press, for example, derided the bank for decades for its role in propping up a variety of transactions that offended their values, including infrastructure deals that helped dictators to fossil fuel contracts. Meanwhile, since the vast majority of the monetary value of the bank’s work goes to giant corporations, politicians have repeatedly attacked Ex-Im as a fountain of corporate welfare. (Bank officials are quick to point out that the vast majority of the businesses for whom it secures credit are small companies.) The broad, though changing, opposition to the bank provides one of the clearest indicators of the bank’s precarious position today.
What are the chances the Ex-Im Bank really doesn’t get reauthorized?
Potentially imposing grievous harm both to a signature American manufacturer like Boeing and to an institution that has supported hundreds of thousands of jobs each year at businesses large and small alike without costing taxpayers anything may seem like enough to keep the Ex-Im Bank safe. After all, the bank’s value for protecting American business interests has always been enough in the past, and supporters today rightly note that other countries that maintain similar institutions to support their own industrial base are not going to lay down their economic arms if Ex-Im evaporates.
But it’s hard to see where the reauthorization votes will come from. Nearly 100 House Republicans voted “no” when the bank was up for reauthorization two years ago, and the pressure on their colleagues to join the opposition is much stronger now that prominent conservative organizations have promised to use the issue as a primary determinant of which candidates get their support during this November’s election. With 41 of his members backing the bank publicly, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could certainly still get a reauthorization bill passed if he were willing to rely on Democrats’ votes to pass something that the grassroots of his party increasingly detests. Business lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce and other powerful groups will exert influence over the vote as well, and Boehner might ultimately get a large enough number of Republicans on board to be politically palatable.
With economists on the left opposing the Ex-Im Bank on principle, powerful electoral influencers on the right prepared to punish GOP dissenters, and sexy headlines about corruption and scandals at the bank threatening to drown out its public relations push, it is difficult to chart a path to reauthorization.
Source: Alan Pyke for ThinkProgress
Richard Mellon Scaife was the “epitome of a libertarian,” or at least, that’s how he was described in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review following his death on July 4. “Libertarian Scaife” is apparently how he wished to be remembered in the city where many of the landmarks bear his famous family’s name. But Scaife’s redefinition as a libertarian is belied by his decades of funding, including as funder of the architect of the religious and political right alliance and religio-political think tanks.
The libertarian portrayal of Scaife in the newspaper that he owned, including quotes from his long-time lawyer describing him as the defender of “free speech, freedom of the press, the separation of church and state, a woman’s right to choose, and other individual liberties,” is in contrast with “Citizen Scaife,” the title of the Columbia Journalism Review’s multi-part 1981 profile. The series portrayed Scaife as a “funding father” of the emerging New Right.
At that time, the foundations Scaife controlled were the leading source of seed money for two dozen New Right organizations, and funding for neoconservative military and intelligence think tanks.
And there is another not-so-libertarian legacy of Scaife’s funding that was not mentioned in most of his obituaries.
“LIBERTARIAN SCAIFE” EMPOWERED THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
He did not do it alone, nor was he the first plutocrat to fund the enlistment of amenable religious leaders as partners to roll back the New Deal, or to make use of John Birch Society-style Christian Nationalism to attack unions and the regulatory system.
Today’s constitutional conservatism is a curious marriage of Ayn Rand-style economics to social conservatism, or even a biblical worldview in which American law is to align with biblical law. The plus for plutocratic funders is that this biblical worldview also portrays the Bible as aligned with free market fundamentalism.
That list covers more than a half century and has included Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew, textile magnate Roger Milliken, and Fred Koch. But few have been better at the behind-the-scenes funding of this partnership than Scaife. The outcome of his actions? An empowered Religious Right, who today prefer the term “constitutional conservative” to describe their wing of the GOP.
The Scaife-controlled foundations—the Sarah Scaife, Allegheny, and Carthage Foundations, run from the 39th floor of the Oxford Centre in Pittsburgh—are at least partially responsible for the consummation of this plutocratic/theocratic partnership. The enigmatic Scaife’s personal activism sometimes conflicted with the unruly offspring of his foundation’s largesse.
Evidence includes a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal in 2011, with a letter by Scaife calling for conservatives to oppose efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. His passing is an opportunity to ask why Scaife and other billionaires have helped to empower, whether intentionally or not, this theocratic-minded offspring that will long outlive them.
Richard Viguerie, leading patriarch of the Religious Right,told a Heritage Foundation audience in April that he was more optimistic than ever that “constitutional conservatives” could take over the Republican Party by 2017. Viguerie insisted that their agenda must go beyond rolling back the New Deal and return to a pre-Teddy Roosevelt era, and that the enemy was establishment Republicans like Rep. Eric Cantor. Viguerie suggested that Sen. Rand Paul (R) be given the vice presidential slot on the 2016 ticket in order to bring libertarians on board—not really much of a concession since Paul has himself rejected the libertarian label in the past for that of “constitutional conservative” (and is described as the standard bearer of that movement by his former aid and ghost writer Jack Hunter, a.k.a. the “Southern Avenger”).
Scaife was not a direct funder of Religious Right institutions that are household names (that was left to families like Prince/DeVos and Coors), but he was a major funder of the late Paul Weyrich, shepherd of the Religious Right into GOP politics, and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the Council for National Policy. Described as the “Robespierre of the Right,” for his purges of the insufficiently conservative, Weyrich left the Heritage Foundation and started what would become the Free Congress Foundation (FCF). Scaife, who had supplied the bulk of the seed money for Heritage and served as vice president of the board until his death, also funded Weyrich’s FCF—sometimes to the tune of over a million dollars a year.
This included in 2001, when the FCF published the manifesto “Integration of Theory and Practice,” calling for a new traditionalist movement of conservatives and right-leaning libertarians, and the following.
“Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.”
In a 2005 CSPAN interview about his career, Weyrich said that he could not have done what he did without the help of Dick Scaife.
Before Scaife paved the way with millions of dollars for conservative infrastructure, the St. Louis Post Dispatch noted, “there was a world where extremist ideas weren’t repackaged as mainstream by outfits like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, Judicial Watch, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Cato Institute or the Federalist Society.”
And Scaife did not stop there. He funded the building of new institutions, but also the destroying of old ones. He extended his impact on American religion by funding entities that undermined denominations and marginalized religious leaders not so amenable to rightwing politics.
CHURCH & SCAIFE
The Scaife foundations funded the institute that published the First Things magazine of leading neoconservative Father Richard John Neuhaus, and the closely allied Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)—jokingly referred to during the Reagan administration as “the official seminary of the White House.”
A 2004 exposé by the late Methodist pastor Andrew Weaver was titled “Church & Scaife: Secular Conservative Philanthropies Waging Unethical Campaign to Take Over United Methodist Church.” Weaver described IRD as a pseudo-religious, neo-conservative organization with a goal of undermining the liberal, social and economic justice mission of mainline Protestant denominations. Christian Century exposed the fact that 89 percent of IRD’s early funding came from three foundations, and the largest block from the Scaife foundations. Infiltration of the Mainline Protestant denominations came in the guise of renewal groups, as described by PRA fellow Frederick Clarkson, also featured in the documentary “Renewal or Ruin.”
The largest single block of funding for think tanks promoting climate change denial has come from Donors Trust, according to a 2013 study by Drexel University, but a close second is the Scaife foundations at over $39 million dollars (well ahead of the funding from the Koch Brothers’ foundations).
Merging plutocratic interests with religion has been key to promoting climate change denial, including in the 2010 DVD series “Resisting the Green Dragon,” a product of the Cornwall Alliance. The 12-part teaching series, used in churches nationwide and featuring major Religious Right leaders, claims that environmentalism is a religion in opposition to Christianity. Funding is hidden behind Donors Trust, but the Cornwall Alliance is a project of the James Partnership, founded by E. Calvin Beisner, a fellow with several Scaife-funded entities, including the Atlas Economic Research Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and IRD.
The irreligious Scaife’s molding of religion into the image of right-wing politics was not limited to Christianity. As reported by the Washington Post, Scaife provided the seed money for former Reagan State Department official Elliot Abrams’ 1997 book “Faith or Fear.” Sponsorship of the book was suggested by the president of the Hudson Institute and reportedly prompted by Scaife’s concern that most American Jews remain politically liberal.
Islam and immigrants provided a different type of target. The Scaife foundations are major funders of anti-immigrant organizations, but are outspent by Colcom, the leading funder of anti-immigrant causes in the U.S. and founded by Scaife’s sister.
Institutionalized Islamophobia was exposed in PRA’s research report Manufacturing the Muslim Menace, and in Fear, Inc. by the Center for American Progress, with the latter citing the Scaife foundations as the largest single source.
THE PENNSYLVANIA PLAN
Partnership between free market fundamentalism and religion was extended to the state level through a network of Heritage Foundation-style think tanks in all 50 states. These are linked through the State Policy Network and ALEC, but also work at the state level with a network of about three dozen state Family Policy Councils, loosely affiliated with the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. This infrastructure is described in The Public Eye articles from 1999 and 2013, including coverage of the “Pennsylvania Plan” model of Don Eberly. Eberly was founder of both the Commonwealth Foundation and the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which work on shared agendas like school privatization.
In a 1989 speech to the Heritage Foundation, Eberly described the need for initiating both free market and religious tanks at the state and local levels. The Scaife foundations provide funding for both the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a similar think tank for the Pittsburgh area.
Scaife’s legacy in Pennsylvania includes an aggressive assault on labor unions. A PRA report titled “The Well-Funded Anti-Labor Arsenal” tracked $170 million dollars to major anti-union think tanks across the nation over 20 years, where the Scaife foundations provided the largest single block of funding. In 2013, the Commonwealth Foundation launched “Project Goliath,” a plan described with biblical terminology to follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin and Michigan to destroy Pennsylvania’s labor unions.
THE ENIGMATIC SCAIFE
The libertarian Scaife has been portrayed in obituaries as less zealous in his later years, but the Scaife foundations’ reports show no backing away from right-wing causes, and the efforts to redefine him in his obituaries fail to negate his role as the “funding father” of modern conservatism. Quoting a column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
“Without those early Scaife-paid efforts, there might have been no Fox News, no tea party, no Sarah Palin or Ted Cruz. …Without the Federalist Society, whose members include four justices of the Supreme Court, there would be no corporate personhood decisions like Citizens United and Hobby Lobby.”
I would add that without Scaife’s funding, we might not now live in a nation where the interests of a few plutocratic billionaires successfully masquerade as religion.
Earlier this week, a media firestorm erupted around a Heritage Foundation panel about the 2012 Benghazi attack, which featured a number of anti-Muslim activists including ACT! for America’s Brigitte Gabriel and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank attended the event, and wrote about an ugly exchange in which a Muslim woman in the audience asked a question about Muslim representation at the event, and was met with a tirade from Gabriel, who told her that the “peaceful majority” of Muslims was “irrelevant,” made a comparison to Nazi Germany, and demanded to know if the woman was an American.
Milbank’s column, in turn, caused outrage from the conservative media and from Politico, who claimed that he misrepresented the event, although, as Milbank later pointed out, his critics were not actually there to see Gabriel’s diatribe and the enthusiastic response of the Heritage crowd.
Now, Gabriel is responding to criticism of her remarks in trademark fashion, by attempting to smear the woman who asked her the question.
In a fundraising email yesterday, Gabriel claimed that she had found “additional information” about the woman that “begins to bring into more focus the possible real reason for her ‘question’ at Monday’s event.” Gabriel breathlessly reports that the woman, Saba Ahmed, has been active in politics before (not a huge surprise for someone attending a panel event in Washington). She then tries to link Ahmed to an attempted terror plot in Portland (Ahmed was a family friend of the suspect, and has not in any way been implicated in it). And to top it all off, Gabriel reports that Ahmed was once arrested for something completely unrelated.
This line of attack should not come as a huge surprise from someone who has used similarly tenuous connections to claim that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood agent, an accusation that Gaffney repeated at the panel.
Gabriel concludes her email by repeating her remark from the panel that “it is time we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage” and asking for money from her supporters.
Although the only focus of Monday’s Heritage event was getting to the bottom of the Benghazi attack and holding those responsible accountable for their actions (or lack of action), my panel was asked a rather unusual question by a woman in the audience, Saba ‘Queen’ Ahmed – a woman portraying herself as a young Muslim student concerned about the discrimination of Muslims.
Ms. Ahmed has been described by many in the media as a “young Muslim law student.” However as is so often the case, there is just a little more to the story.
The additional information we found about Ms. Ahmed begins to bring into more focus the possible real reason for her “question” at Monday’s event – and a possible explanation about why she attended the discussion and left immediately after her question and our exchange:
- She is CEO/President of Saba Ahmed, LLC a Washington, DC, lobbying firm.
- She is the friend of the family of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the Somali-American accused of attempting to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 2010. (In fact, here is a photo of her leaving his court proceedings!)
- She is a former candidate for U.S. Congress. (Right: Image from her campaign website)
- She has been active in Democratic politics as well as with the radical “Occupy” movement.
- She was an assistant of former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and also for U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
- She was arrested for a “stalking incident” in Florida.
I am glad that I had the opportunity to address Ms. Ahmed’s comments directly and respectfully – even though they had nothing to do with the issue of the event. It was an important educational moment.
I stand by how I closed my remarks on Monday:
It is time we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage where it belongs, and start calling a spade a spade.
I have received letters and e-mails from all over the country in support of my response to Ms. Ahmed. I am humbled by, and appreciative of, this support and encouragement. And I want you to know that I intend to continue standing up to individuals like this who seek only to misrepresent the truth and who use the liberal media to spread falsehoods about the Islamist threat that surrounds us.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Host Sean Hannity recreated a bank-and-forth that took place at the Benghazi Accountability Coalition panel at the Heritage Foundation between the student, Saba Ahmed, and panelist Brigitte Gabriel, president of ACT! for America. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank had described Gabriel and her fellow panelists’ reaction to Ahmed as ”ugly taunting,” a characterization that some disputed based on a video clip from the event.
Hannity kicked off the discussion by asking Ahmed why she chose to focus her question on the treatment of Muslims in America.
"The forum was talking about Islamic jihadists. So I asked a question about Islam," Ahmed said. "So I didn’t see how that was irrelevant. It was directly related to what the panel was about."
Gabriel then accused Ahmed of derailing the direction of the Benghazi panel discussion.
"The whole symposium was about Benghazi," Gabriel said. "And she took the limelight instead of standing up as an American, caring about how four Americans are dead, asking something about what we can do to hold our government accountable."
"The whole panel was about accountability," she added. "Yet she took the limelight asking a question that was completely not discussed, out of the blue. She might as well be asking, ‘why are we wearing green today?’"
Hannity continued to press Ahmed on Sharia law, urging her to say that it was wrong to force women to wear head scarves, to require four male eyewitnesses to prove rape and to allow stoning of women and homosexuals.
"This is happening in the name of your religion, this is my point," Hannity said. "I have every belief that you’re probably very moderate in your own personal views, but this is happening in the name of your religion. If it were Catholic and it was happening in the name of my religion, like the sex scandal, I spoke out. I said it was intolerable. Will you speak out?"
"Well, I am speaking out. I’m against some of the barbaric practices around the world. I think Islam has been misused by a lot people —" Ahmed said before Hannity cut her off.
The Benghazi Accountability Coalition is nothing more than repackaged far-right mental cases who hate anyone and everyone who doesn’t think like them. But instead of plotting their 30-front war in email and relying on ‘messaging’, they’re going all out to ramp up the hate and fear, led by Frank Gaffney and his sidekick Brigitte Gabriel.
Yes, the Heritage Benghazi Coalition encounter was just as bad as Dana Milbank said it was. All of the apologists out trying to rehabilitate this hateful event while the Erick Ericksons of the world do a dance around whether they were actually affiliated or just provided space are ridiculous. Of course it was hateful, and of course Heritage Foundation was far more than simply a “host.”
So who is this Benghazi Accountability Coalition, anyway?
The Benghazi Accountability Coalition is a recycled version of the Groundswell “messagers,” except this time it appears they have some funding or other support lacking the first time around.
On their website, they list the following people as “leaders.” Those in bold were among those who were plotting a year ago to make Benghazi an impeachable event.
Speakers at a Heritage Foundation panel mocked a Muslim student who pointed out that Muslim Americans were not represented at the forum and stated that conservative rhetoric on Islam is often starkly negative.
On June 17, Heritage held an event to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The event was led by Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor who recently released a book claiming that President Obama’s response to the Benghazi attacks constitutes an impeachable offense. Several panelists at the forum have long records of inflammatory rhetoric about Islam.
Dana Milbank detailed the event in his June 16 Washington Post column:
The session, as usual, quickly moved beyond the specifics of the assaults that left four Americans dead to accusations about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the Obama administration, President Obama funding jihadists in their quest to destroy the United States, Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton attempting to impose Sharia blasphemy laws on Americans and Al Jazeera America being an organ of “enemy propaganda.”
Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she told them. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”
Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said “180 million to 300 million” Muslims are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” She told Ahmed that the “peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.”
"Are you an American?" Gabriel demanded of Ahmed, after accusing her of taking "the limelight" and before informing her that her "political correctness" belongs "in the garbage."
"Where are the others speaking out?" Ahmed was asked. This drew an extended standing ovation from the nearly 150 people in the room, complete with cheers.
The panel’s moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” he demanded of Ahmed.
"Yeah," audience members taunted, "yeah."
Ahmed answered quietly, as before. “I guess it’s me right now,” she said.
Below is video of the exchange recorded from Heritage’s livestream of the event. Gabriel’s comments begin at 4:15.
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
A coalition of Islamophobes, birthers, and conspiracy theorists led by a prominent supporter of impeaching President Obama will assemble at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
The event, titled “Benghazi: The Difference It Makes Is Accountability!” will be co-hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition. In a post at National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor, identifies himself as the chairman of that new “volunteer organization.”
McCarthy is the author of a new book that seeks to build ”the political case” for President Obama’s impeachment. The book includes a draft Articles of Impeachment detailing “The Benghazi Fraud.” According to McCarthy, the talking points used by former Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to discuss the terrorist attacks on Sunday morning political talk shows constituted a deliberate effort “to defraud the American people in connection with matters of great public importance, in violation of [President Obama’s] duty to execute the laws faithfully and his fiduciary duty to be truthful in his statements to the American people.”
At National Review Online, McCarthy promises that today’s forum will “feature some speakers with tremendous insights into the relevant issues about the Benghazi Massacre.” James Jay Carafano, Heritage’s vice present of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, will participate, lending the organization’s imprimatur to the proceedings. Here are some of those notables who will appear alongside him:
- Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most paranoid propagandist.” Gaffney was banned from participating at the Conservative Political Action Conference after accusing prominent conservative activist Grover Norquist and former Bush aide Suhail Khan of being Muslim Brotherhood operatives. In October 2008 he claimed that Obama’s eligibility to be president was “unresolved,” citing “evidence Mr. Obama was born in Kenya rather than, as he claims, Hawaii.”
- Lt. General Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.), a Fox News military analyst who submitted court documents challenging Obama’s eligibility to be president based on the conspiracy theory that he was not born in the United States.
- Lt. General W.G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.), who was criticized by President Bush and the Defense Department for portraying the fight against Islamic extremists as a religious war between a “Christian nation” and the “idol” of Islam. He has also termed Islam “evil” and a “totalitarian way of life.”
- Clare Lopez, who is a prominent member of Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the similarly anti-Muslim Clarion Project. Lopez has claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated and suborned the U.S. government to actively assist… the mission of its grand jihad.” Earlier this month, Fox News contributor Allen West reported that Lopez had emailed him a “very poignant analysis” of Bob Bergdahl’s use of Arabic during a White House event with President Obama to announce the return of his son, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl: according to Lopez, “by uttering these words on the grounds of the WH, Bergdahl (the father) sanctified the WH and claimed it for Islam.”
- Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and CEO of the anti-Islam group ACT! for America, was described by The New York Times as “one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders” who “presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion.”
- Chris Plante, who is a right-wing talk radio host on Washington, DC’s WMAL. Last year he generated the false accusation that President Obama omitted the words “under God” from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address and suggested that the president would not have cut the words “under Allah” if they had appeared in the speech.
- Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, married Republican activist law partners who have spent decades pushing smears of Democrats in the press. They played a key role in pushing debunked claims that the Obama administration was threatening Benghazi “whistleblowers.”
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
While good-government groups have been calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s dismantling of campaign finance laws since the day the Court handed down Citizens United in 2010, the issue has been largely off the radar of conservative activists – and has actually enjoyed broad bipartisan support in an array of polls and in state and municipal ballot measures.
It was largely off their radar, that is, until this week. This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposal by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to send a constitutional amendment to the states restoring to Congress and state governments the ability to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections. In response, Republican politicians and conservative activists have kicked into gear and are starting to try out new talking points to get their movement to oppose efforts to lessen the influence of big money in politics.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched the misleading campaign two weeks ago when he warned a group of pastors that the Udall proposal would “repeal the First Amendment” and allow Congress to “muzzle” the free speech of clergy. In advance of the hearing today, conservative groups including the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots and the Home School Legal Defense Association started to mobilize against the amendment. Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation held a panel discussion to test out arguments against the amendment, featuring Bobby Burchfield, the attorney who argued the McCutcheon case before the Supreme Court, controversial former FEC chairman Don McGahn, and infamous voter-fraud conspiracy theorist Hans van Spakovsky .
Here, we’ve collected some of the most deceptive arguments that have been launched so far against the Udall amendment.
1. Democrats want to repeal the First Amendment!
When we first heard Ted Cruz tell a stunned group of pastors that Democrats in the Senate were planning to “repeal the First Amendment,” we knew that we would be hearing that line again and again.
And we were right. Tea Party Patriots adopted the line in mobilizing its activists, as did the Eagle Forum. The Family Research Council claimed the Udall amendment would “strip political speech out of the First Amendment,” and von Spakovsky told the Heritage panel that the amendment would “roll back” the Bill of Rights.
Burchfield and McGahn both argued that the introduction of the constitutional amendment means, in the words of McGahn, that campaign finance law advocates are “admitting” that campaign finance regulations are “unconstitutional.”
On the surface, this is the opposition’s strongest argument, because it sounds so scary. But it’s just not true. Whether you support the Udall amendment or not, it’s dishonest to suggest that it would amount to a “repeal of the First Amendment.” Instead, proponents argue that it strengthens the First Amendment by undoing the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence declaring that spending on elections, including from corporate treasuries, cannot be limited. Proponents of the Udall amendment hold that this jurisprudence, including recent decisions in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, represented a radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment; undoing them would simply re-establish the ability of Congress and the states to set reasonable regulations on the raising and spending of money to influence elections.
2. Amendment supporters want to ‘silence critics’ and ‘cling to power’!
The Heritage panelists repeatedly claimed that the Udall amendment is an attempt to protect incumbency by preventing challengers from raising enough money to win elections. McGahn insisted that it was an effort by Democratic incumbents “desperately clinging to power.”
“They want to change the rules of the game and prevent people from criticizing them, not unlike England did before our revolution, and which led to our revolution,” he added.
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios also invoked the American Revolution in an interview with von Spakovsky yesterday, saying, “The First Amendment, the rights to free speech – particularly the right to political speech – were the right to criticize the king, criticize the authorities over you.”
In a later interview with Rios, Tea Party Patriots spokesman Scott Hogenson even managed to connect the Udall amendment with immigration reform, claiming that both are part of a “larger, concerted effort to maintain the Democratic Party’s control of American politics and eventually move to one-party rule.”
In reality, it’s unlimited campaign spending that tends to be a boon for incumbents, who on average are able to raise far more than challengers. For instance, in Texas, a state with few campaign finance limits, incumbents who win on average raise more than twelve times the average amount raised by challengers. By contrast, in Colorado, which has relatively low individual contribution limits, incumbents on average raise less than three times what challengers are able to raise [pdf].
3. Liberals just want to protect the lame-stream media!
In his speech to the pastors’ group, Ted Cruz seized on the Udall proposal’s stipulation that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press” to claim that the amendment carved out an exemption to protect the New York Times.
Von Spakovsky also played up conservative conspiracy theories about the “liberal media,” telling Rios, “No surprise, there’s a glaring exception in this proposed amendment for the press. And that means that MSNBC or the New York Times Company, which are big corporations, they could spend as much newsprint or airtime as they wanted going after and criticizing candidates or talking about political issues.”
These arguments fail to recognize one key distinction, which is that there is a difference between the New York Times publishing an editorial (which would be protected under the proposed amendment, as it is now) and the corporate managers of the New York Times taking $50 million out of their corporate treasury to buy ads to influence an election (which would not be protected).
4. They’ll go after pastors!
Opponents of the constitutional amendment have also been trying to tie the proposal to the right-wing paranoia about the impending persecution of America’s Christian majority .
It’s no coincidence that Cruz rolled out his criticism of the Udall proposal at a pastors’ event organized by the Family Research Council, a main theme of which was the supposed assault on the religious liberty of Christians in America. Cruz told the pastors that the Udall measure would “muzzle” clergy and was being proposed because “they don’t like it when pastors in their community stand up and speak the truth.”
Likewise, McGahn said at the Heritage event that the amendment would endanger the religious liberty of clergy: “What about pastors and churches? This is an issue that comes up once in a while. Can the government get in there and tell a priest he can’t talk to his congregation because it may somehow have something to do with politics?”
This might be true if the proposal would, in fact, “repeal the First Amendment.” In fact, the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty would remain in place.
Of course, that didn’t stop the FRC’s Tony Perkins from somehow linking the Udall amendment to the imprisonment of a Christian woman in Sudan:
5. It’s like the Alien & Sedition Acts!
Along with comparisons to British control before the American Revolution, amendment opponents are trying to link the Udall proposal to the 18th century Alien & Sedition Acts.
In his interview with Rios yesterday, van Spakovsky claimed that “the last time Congress tried to do something like this was when they passed the Alien & Sedition Act in 1798 that criminalized criticism of the government.” Multiple GOP senators at today’s hearing, including Judiciary Committeee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, repeated the talking point.
Of course, the amendment does nothing to reduce the right of individuals to criticize the government or politicians.
6. The polls are skewed!
When an audience member at yesterday’s Heritage Foundation panel asked about polls showing overwhelming opposition to the Citizens United decision, McGahn replied that the questions in the polls were “skewed.”
You can judge for yourself whether this question from a recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll – which found 80 percent opposition to the Citizens United decision – is “skewed” on behalf of campaign finance law proponents:
7. What about disclosure?
In one of the least self-aware moments we’ve witnessed in the last few days, McGahn told the Heritage audience that campaign finance reform proponents could have just worked for tougher disclosure requirements, which the Supreme Court’s majority has consistently endorsed as a way to prevent corruption:
What’s interesting is the courts have upheld some disclosure of independent speech, which six months ago was supposed to be the answer, a year ago was supposed to be the answer – remember the DISCLOSE Act, Part 1 and Part 2? Well, that was supposed to cure all the ills in our democracy, but unfortunately I guess they’ve given up on that and they’ve moved to the more radical change, which is the constitutional amendment.
Of course, the DISCLOSE Act – which would have exposed the source of some of the “dark money” behind large campaign expenditures – was blocked by Senate Republicans. And McGahn, when he was at the FEC, fought hard against disclosure requirements proposed in the wake of the Citizens United decision, even though the decision explicitly sanctioned such requirements.
8. The poor don’t participate anyway!
Speaking to the Heritage audience, Burchfield presented the curious argument that the Udall amendment would demand to “equalize debate among the haves and have-nots,” and since “the portion is small” of “those with limited means” who participate in electoral debates, this would require “severe restrictions.”
The rich do not advocate a single viewpoint. Think of Sheldon Adelson and George Soros, they don’t agree on anything. There are strong voices on the left and on the right, not just in privately funded campaign advertisements, but also in the broadcast and print media. Only a small portion of those with significant resources even bother to participate in the debate. And among those with limited means, the portion is small indeed. In order to equalize debate among the haves and the have-nots, severe restrictions would be necessary. The quantity and quality of discourse would certainly suffer.
The amendment under consideration doesn’t require that everybody be heard an equal amount; instead, it gives Congress and the states the ability to create a more even platform for those who wish to be heard, regardless of their financial means.
Burchfield’s reasoning echoes the arguments of voter-suppression proponents who claim that their laws only inconvenience people who don’t really care about voting anyway.
9. It’s voter suppression!
Although many of the advocates of unlimited, undisclosed money in politics are the same people pushing harmful voter suppression laws, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas yesterday insisted that it’s actually amendment proponents who are advocating “voter suppression” and want to “silence” critics.
10. Blame Saul Alinsky!
Inevitably, anti-amendment activists have begun invoking the right-wing bogey-man Saul Alinsky.
Hogenson told Rios that the Udall amendment is “just taken right out of Saul Alinksy’s book, ‘Rules for Radicals,’ it just makes up a gigantic lie and perpetuates it, that somehow democracy needs to be restored.”
Von Spakovsky also invoked Alinsky in his interview with Rios, claiming that criticism of the enormous political spending of the Koch brothers is an Alinskyite plot: “What’s really going on here is, look, if you look at Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals,’ one of the rules that he sets out is you pick a villain and you basically blame those villains for all of the problems. It’s a way of distracting the public, it’s a way of diverting attention, and that’s exactly what Harry Reid and the Democrats are doing here.”
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
After reportedly leaving CBS News because of the network’s supposed political bias, Sharyl Attkisson is now working for the conservative Heritage Foundation as a “senior independent contributor” to their online news outlet The Daily Signal.
Politico's Dylan Byers reported in March that sources said Attkisson left CBS because she “had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias,” while some staffers characterized her work as “agenda-driven,” leading “network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting.” Attkisson had supported CBS’ disastrous Benghazi reporting, which the network ultimately had to apologize for and retract, and CBS executives reportedly saw her as “wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue.” She also released an error-ridden report on clean energy, and relied on partial information from House Republicans in a botched story on the Affordable Care Act.
Following her departure from the network, Attkisson attempted to paint herself has a victim of media bias, floating baseless conspiracy theories suggesting Media Matters had been paid to attack her work. She was unwilling to provide specifics, but claimed there was a “political aspect” to her troubles at CBS and that her supervisors gave in to “well organized” outside campaigns that complained about coverage. Conservative media outlets, particularly Fox News, rallied to Attkisson’s defense, with personalities showering praise on her shoddy work and indicating they wanted her to join the conservative network.
The Daily Signal debuted June 3 with a report from Attkisson and the first of three planned interviews with her, in which she said she hoped she could “bring under-served stories to a broad audience through an editorial process that doesn’t censor, that doesn’t try to direct a story to go in a certain unnatural direction.”
The conservative outlet has said it plans to do “true, straight-down-the-middle journalism,” while simultaneously attracting a younger audience that “will find themselves persuaded by the conservative commentary and analysis that will draw on the think tank’s scholars and researchers.” The Heritage Foundation, which the New York Times described as providing “the blueprint for the Republican Party’s ideas in Washington,” recently lost some if its “most prominent scholars.” The Times added, ”research that seemed to undermine Heritage’s political goals has been squelched.” The think tank also started the political group Heritage Action, which has proven to lean so far to the right that some congressional Republicans have reportedly distanced themselves from the group.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported that The Daily Signal will use Heritage’s blog The Foundry as inspiration, which has in the past attempted to inject “its worldview into the mainstream press.”
Right-wing media have been rushing to distance themselves from the Nevada rancher they’ve spent weeks championing after Cliven Bundy revealed his racist worldview, but two of Bundy’s biggest cheerleaders — Sean Hannity and Fox News — have vested corporate, financial, and political interests in the promotion of Cliven Bundy’s anti-government land ownership agenda.
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy became Fox News’ favorite folk hero after he refused to comply with court orders directing him to remove his trespassing cattle from public land. Hannity and many other right-wing media rallied around Bundy and his armed supporters as they threatened violence against federal law enforcement officials attempting to impound Bundy’s cattle and collect the $1 million he owes in fines and fees after decades of noncompliance with the law.
Hannity has promoted Bundy’s anti-government rhetoric, arguing that the federal government owns far too much land and pushing Bundy’s claim that not only does the federal government not have land-ownership authority but that they don’t need or use the land they claim to own. On the April 23 edition of his show, Hannity attacked the government for owning too much land, agreeing with Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano that they do not have the constitutional authority to own any of the land. Throughout the land battle, Hannity continuously argued that the government is irresponsibly fighting for land they have no intended use for — such as building hospitals, schools, or roads — and should focus their efforts elsewhere to rapists, murderers, criminals, and pedophiles.
Bundy and Hannity’s promotion of state ownership of federal lands gives airtime to an issue that conservatives have long been campaigning for but have had difficulty getting voters excited about — an issue in line with the land interests of the Koch brothers. Slate reported on April 23 that the Fox News corporate, financial, and political interests being served by Hannity’s promotion of Bundy lie in the network’s connection to the Koch brothers:
Bundy’s anti-federal agenda is closely aligned with that of Charles and David Koch, major Republican donors who have been pushing for states to gain control over federal lands - so they can be sold or leased to people like the Koch brothers in deals.
Fox News Network and Sean Hannity have a particular interest in the promotion and realization of such Koch interests because their funding depends on it — Hannity receives major funding and large ad buys from Koch-affiliated Heritage and Tea Party Patriots.
Hannity’s Koch-affiliated funders have a long history of promoting the privatization of public lands and condemning the federal ownership of land. Tea Party groups have supported local efforts to transfer federal lands. Heritage has advocated shrinking the U.S. government’s control by selling its physical assets such as “huge swaths of land (especially out west).” Heritage was also a loyal promoter of the Federal Land Freedom Act of 2013, advocating for the transfer of federal land management to state regulators for energy resource development.
Giving airtime to an issue that is obscure but significant to his conservative funders makes perfect sense for Hannity. Politico reported that Heritage began sponsoring Hannity in 2008 and in 2013 Hannity began advertising for the Tea Party Patriots, “lending his name to fundraising drives, hosting its leaders on his radio and Fox News shows, and even using the Fox airwaves to promote the Tea Party Patriots website.”
The Koch brothers have been covertly funding right-wing organizations such as Heritage Action and the Tea Party Patriots through the non-profit business league Freedom Partners whose tax code status as a trade association allows the organization to conceal its donors. Freedom Partners is one of the largest donors of conservative groups and its board has deep ties to the Koch brothers with many of its members being longtime employees of Koch Industries and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
The Koch-funded Freedom Partners made grants of $236 million in 2011; among many conservative groups its recipients include Heritage as well as the Tea Party Patriots. Heritage Action received $500,000 in 2011 from the Koch brothers through Freedom Partners and additional funds from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. In 2012, the Tea Party Patriots received $200,000 from Freedom Partners.
The legislative efforts of such groups to transfer control of federal lands to states are ”nothing more than corporate-backed messaging tools” initiated by conservative groups like the Koch-affiliates. Such efforts are rooted in the interests of the Kochs and other conservative groups to use the land in whichever way is most profitable to them such as mining, drilling, and other resource extraction.
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.
Holland Cooke: (via Daily Kos)
"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: