Monthly Archives: December 2012

Maureen Otis: A Mystery Inside A Mystery

While reporters have given their utmost attention to anecdotal points and gaffes of political candidates, Maureen Otis has passed invisibly among great events, given no notice, a figure of almost no possible consequence; she is something like an attractive woman whose face blends into the crowd, of small notice in a photo taken on the cusp of some national tragedy, except: she slowly develops an eerie presence as you flick through other pictures of historical significance, and there she is, always off to the side, in every one of them.

I enjoy looking out for interesting people on the fringes, yet it was only after I read the excellent “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Marc Ames that I came across her name. Ames isn’t dazzled by this idiosyncratic candidate as others have been, but disgusted instead at what he sees as a very dirty, nasty trick played by a few powerful men. He notices something that the roving herd which must invest every Mitt Romney “golly” with existential significance doesn’t have time for: the filing papers for this clean hands third party candidate’s PAC, “Our America Initiative”, are signed by two long time conservative operators, James Lacy and the near invisible woman, Maureen Otis.

The Our America Initiative registration documents can be found here.

Before we move over entirely to Otis, a short note on Lacy will indicate why Ames was so disturbed at seeing his name on the filing document, as well as hinting at Otis’s own skills. Lacy specializes in direct mail, often employing mailers that are deceptive, cajoling seniors that some unrelated new proposition will cause medicare cuts, or say, convincing liberals to vote against a minimum wage law by sending out a flier that has a panel of prominent democrats with the directive to vote against the new law1. The politicians whose likenesses are used, are all in support of the law, and have no knowledge of the fliers.

Otis shares some of the skill set of Lacy, but where Lacy is a contained virus, Otis is closer to a wide-ranging avian flu. She runs a firm in Stafford, Texas, called American Caging and the name may or may not have a malign connotation. Caging, in this possible sense, came to broader attention when Monica Goodling, former justice department counsel, testified that the deputy attorney general had not been fully honest about his knowledge of an appointee’s involvement with “vote caging” in the 2004 election. “What the heck is vote caging, and why does nobody care?”, asked Dalia Lithwick in Slate. She then gave a succinct, solid answer:

Vote caging is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren’t living at (because they are, say, at college or at war).

The appointee, Tim Griffin, would pointedly disagree, in a short piece by Jane Mayer, “Bullets”:

“Caging is not a derogatory term,” he [Tim Griffin, the appointee in question] said, as soon as he got on the phone.”It’s a direct-mail term. It derives from caging categories of mail in steel shelves and files.” He said that the implication that he had run an operation to suppress African-American voters, which could be a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was “false and close to libelous.”

By contrast, the description that American Caging gives of its activities on its website ( link) leaves one puzzled. They appear to be involved in noble, charitable work for the betterment of those in urgent need, in ways that have nothing to do with direct mail, with or without voter suppression, or even elections at all:

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, American Caging is one of the leading providers of lockbox and data management services, founded in 1990. Since the company’s foundation, it has maintained its core focus for accurate, trustworthy and affordable lock box services.

Our first clients hired us, not because we were located in Washington, D.C. or because we had expensive processing equipment. They came to us because of the high level of customer service, our affordable pricing and because they trusted us to accurately process their contributions.

Over the years our company grew and expanded primarily because of referrals from existing clients who were part of the ACI family. In early 2001, the national headquarters of the American Red Cross joined ACI’s family. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, ACI processed hundreds of thousands of contributions from around the world to the American Red Cross. In 11 years, we went from a very small operation with a handful of clients, to the caging company primarily responsible for handling contributions during one of our worst national tragedies. We are proud and honored to be a part of the effort to heal the nation.

(Because occasionally these things disappear on the internet, I’ve put up a screenshot of this web page.)

american caging overview

This description is a mild evasion of what American Caging has done for a decade and a half, and for what it is well known for. It handles fundraising and related direct mail projects for two types of non-profits, standard benevolent entities as well as hard-line religious and conservative organizations. There is a tricky game being played here – many of these entities appear to be lobbying groups set up for the interests of a particular group, when in fact they’ve been designed for issue advocacy. Of the many possible examples of this, the most prominent is the “60 Plus Association”, whose name implies an advocacy group founded by seniors for the interests of seniors. They are nothing of the kind – they receive a large chunk of their money from pharmaceutical companies, as well as the Center to Protect Patients Rights, an anti-Obamacare non-profit run by Sean Noble, an associate of the Koch brothers2. Other donors include the American Petroleum Institute and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS3. This group, whose name suggests it lobbies for the interests of seniors, has fought against Obamacare, fought against the regulation of greenhouse gases, fought to have Yucca mountain used as a storage site for nuclear waste, and demanded, in the wake of the Katrina disaster, not to sacrifice lower taxes in favor of disaster relief, but rather, to rely on market solutions to help Katrina victims4. Most strikingly, ersatz seniors advocacy groups such as these, fought against legislation to reduce drug prices5. Beyond the gains of misleading voters of their true intents, another advantage to a non-profit lobbying for political causes that is not, explicitly, a political advocacy group, is that it does not have to disclose its donors – these are 501(c)(4) entities, the dark money that’s shaped recent elections: “How Nonprofits Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare”.

The “60 Plus Association” lists Maureen E. (the E is for Elizabeth6) Otis as a legal contact, but it is one of only many that do so. To give an idea of her prolific skills, I list all the non-profits, which can be divided between benevolent organizations (the most prestigious of which is easily the Mayo Clinic) and political advocacy groups, that have her as a legal contact from a 2006 charity list from the secretary of state’s office of Tennessee. Another list of non-profits which heavily features Otis as legal contact is at the State of New Hampshire’s Justice Department – there is heavy overlap between the two lists, though some groups are on one and not the other; the list below should not be considered exhaustive of all groups with an Otis association, but it serves the purpose of showing how wide-ranging her reach is.

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We may find her as the legal contact for cancer charity Cancer Schmancer (affiliated with Fran Drescher)7, Dress For Success (affiliated with make-up artist Bobbi Brown)8, the troubled project of the National Women’s History Museum9, a PAC supporting Texas republican Louis Gohmert10, as well as conservative powerhouses The Club for Growth11, and The Richard Norman Company12. She is the legal contact for Jewish Voice Ministries International, whose stated purpose is “bringing the Gospel to the Jew first”13, the Corrie Ten Boom Fellowship, a christian zionist organization whose purpose is to share god’s love with the jewish people14, and Policy Issues Institute, also known as Impeach Obama Campaign, which also lists James Lacy’s law office as its address15. Otis is the legal contact for the Christian Research Institute, a religious advocacy group that views the church of latter-day saints and the jehovah’s witnesses as non-christian cults16. Otis’s name is there as contact for the National Vaccine Center, a controversial group that fights against early childhood vaccinations17. She’s also there for Californians for Population Stabilization, a group opposed to legal immigrants18. She isn’t listed as the legal contact for The Society For Truth and Justice Inc. – there the contact is infamous pro-lifer Randall Terry – but the mailing address is once again, “4850 Wright Road, Ste 168 Stafford, TX 77477”, the address of American Caging and the one she often uses when she’s the legal contact; the very same place that shows up as the address listing for the pro-republican Patriot PAC19. She is the legal contact for the Declaration Alliance (also known as Secure Borders), a part of whose website manifesto I quote here:

Whereas the United States of America is under relentless attack by foreign invaders who neither obey our laws nor honor our institutions; and

Whereas this foreign force now numbers up to 20 to 30 million people within the geographic boundaries of the United States; and

Whereas these invaders are bankrupting the United States by overwhelming our medical, educational, and judicial systems; and

Whereas the foreigners sneaking into the United States have no plans to assimilate and become Americans, but instead desire to see the southwestern states transformed into Spanish-speaking provinces of Mexico; and

Whereas members of radical Islamic terror groups (classified by US Border Patrol as “OTMs or Other Than Mexicans”) continue to execute a plan of infiltration of the United States mainland through incursions along the border with Mexico, for the purpose of establishing terror cells and training operations within our homeland;

Therefore, let it be resolved that we, the people of the United States, citizens by birth or naturalization, do hereby DEMAND that the Congress of the United States immediately secure our border with Mexico, enforce current laws by arresting and deporting all criminal illegal aliens, and block all attempts to pass any type of amnesty legislation.

(Because occasionally these things disappear on the internet, I’ve put up screenshots of this web page.)

(a copy of this manifesto can still be found on-line at the blog, On the Arizona Border, their entry for March 2013, “Manifesto of American Sovereignty”)

Of more relevant note for this post, as well as for the recent election, is that she is the legal contact for True The Vote20, an anti-fraud vote group with Tea Party links, which was accused of harassment during the presidential election, and whose members were rejected as poll watchers in Ohio because names had been falsified on forms requesting observer status21. Those who attended a True the Vote training session spoke of being told to use cameras to intimidate voters and to do what was possible to prevent “questionable” voters from getting access to voting machines22. This may not fit the strict definition of “caging”, voter suppression through mail, but I think it unquestionably can be called voter suppression.

The place where Otis first achieves a mainstream prominence is not through her association with organizations clashing with those on the left, but those fighting amongst themselves on the right. In 2005, an anti-immigrant organization, the Minuteman Project, suffered a violent rupture when its two founders, Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist, fell into dispute with each other, with Gilchrist, along with many of his followers, leaving the group23. A major point of contention was what had happened to money raised by its members for construction of a private border fence that was intended to replicate that used by Israel against Gaza, with a six foot trench and bullet-proof cameras, but ended up being just a barbed-wire cattle fence, fencing that costs a hundredth of the projected high-tech barrier24. Gilchrist and others demanded to know what had happened to the donated funds, with Simcox refusing to give answers, dismissing those who continued to question him, and assuring critics that the funds were safely being taken care of by a reputable company, a reputable company called American Caging25.

Otis released a statement, making clear that “since the day MCDC [Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the new name for the Minuteman Project after Gilchrist left] was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.”26 When the arch-conservative Washington Times did a story on the brouhaha, Otis could not divulge any figures to the paper, as she had not been given permission to do so by Simcox or members of the board27. That she handled donations for the group only hinted at the various ways she was interconnected with the story. She was the MCDC’s board secretary28; she was the legal contact for the aforementioned Declaration Alliance, which sometimes appears to be an arm of the former presidential campaign of Alan Keyes, and not only did the Declaration Alliance give substantial funding to the MCDC, but the MCDC’s website claimed that it was a project of the Declaration Alliance29; following Gilchrist’s departure, the MCDC contracted with Diener Consulting for public relations work – Diener Consulting was an American Caging client, run by Philip Sheldon, son of Louis Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition (listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group), for whom Otis was listed as legal contact30; Philip Sheldon was previously known for obtaining the names of donors to Terry Schiavo’s legal fund for the use of Response Unlimited, which provides mailing lists to conservative organizations. He now helped this same Response Unlimited obtain access to MCDC’s donor rolls for its own mailing list purposes31; Response Unlimited was, of course, an American Caging client32. This company, American Caging, was involved in all this at the same time the Texas state comptroller had listed them as “not in good standing” because of their non-compliance with state tax requirements33.

This tumult in 2006 is where Otis achieves her greatest personal prominence34, but she had already shown up, in a very brief cameo, at a much more important debate. The year before, when the Bush administration was attempting to push forward a program of social security privatization, private retirement accounts as a replacement for traditional social security. Given that a major opponent of the privatization move was the AARP, a lobby composed of seniors acting in the interests of seniors, a useful opponent to the AARP might be a lobby ostensibly designed to serve the interests of seniors, when in fact it was actually funded by interests attempting to craft their own legislation, in prescription drug laws and pension reform. We might imagine this entity to be something like the United Seniors Association, also known as USA Next, also known as Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care (ALARM), USA, chaired by Charles Jarvis, a former aide to Iowa Republican Charles “Assume Deer Dead” Grassley and a former employee of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family35. Though incorporated in 1991 by Richard Viguerie, a conservative with a genius for direct mail, it was in that last decade of the twentieth century something ike a creature that barely moved above the ocean’s surface36. One of the few times that I’ve been able to come across its presence then was when Pete Stark, California congressman, submitted mail from the group to the federal postal inspector, arguing that the non-profit was committing mail fraud:

I wish to report a postal fraud by United Seniors Association, 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450, Fairfax, VA 22030 and urge your immediate action to impose appropriate penalties.

Enclosed are two mailings from the United Seniors Association (USA) urgently asking for money on the basis of false pretenses and representations. The USA letter contains innumerable inaccuracies and errors of fact. It is so blatantly wrong that it cannot be a simple act of stupidity, but is a calculated scheme to frighten Medicare beneficiaries out of money. In particular, in the letter of September 22, 1997, the paragraph on the first page which reads `Here’s what this appalling new law does: if you are a Medicare patient and you want to personally pay for a treatment which Medicare does not want to cover–it will be nearly impossible to do so. . ..’

This statement, repeated in numerous ways throughout the mailings, is false.

Medicare beneficiaries have always been able to contract privately with doctors for services which Medicare does not cover. Nothing in any law has changed that right. Under certain conditions, the new law actually extends that `right’ to services which Medicare does cover–a new right to be billed more than the Medicare payment rate by physicians, which did not exist before. See enclosed memoranda.

I also urge you to investigate for fraud the enclosed recent Seniors Coalition [yes, indeedy: Otis is listed as legal contact for this group] mailing (11166 Main Street, Suite 302, Fairfax, VA 22030). This mailing calls for `an emergency contribution’ to help fund a lawsuit on the private contracting issue. The cover letter is rather extraordinary in that it asks people to send money to help fight something for which the writer has `no time to explain.’ The statements in the letter over Mary Martin’s signature is false: `your health care will be rationed in a Clinton HMO.’ The enclosed news articles contain numerous errors and misrepresentations. I believe that this mailing may also be a mail fraud because it uses false statements in the cover letter and inaccurate or incomplete statements in the news articles to scare people into sending money to support plans for a lawsuit. I know of no such lawsuit or any grounds for it, and I ask your investigators to determine whether there is in fact such a planned use of the money bilked from the public.

It was in 2001 as prescription drug legislation was being crafted, that this organization achieved a higher profile. It received $1.5 million in donations that year from PhRMA, a trade association for U.S. drug companies, then received close to $25 million over the next two years from a group that can only be guessed at – because USA Next is a non-profit, ostensibly non-partisan organization, it does not have to disclose its donors, and it must be gleaned from what’s there in the IRS filings. The donor does begin with the letter “P”; its spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that the donor was PhRMA37. A 2004 article noted that though USA Next claimed a million members, its most recent tax return claimed zero income from individual member donations38.

In 2002, this organization spent over $14 million in ads defending republicans on how they voted on a prescription drug bill39. In 2005, they picked a fight with the AARP, which was opposed to the privatization of social security. “I’m trying to kill, destroy the bad public policy of AARP,” said Jarvis at the time40. It was this fight that gave the group greater prominence, causing Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, to note that United Seniors Association was “affiliates” with O’Neill Marketing Company. It must be a very tight affiliation, Marshall noted, since USA Next listed as its address 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450, while O’Neill listed its address as 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450A41. Marshall then gave this succinct observation:

Despite my now living in New York I sometimes still feel the need to translate from Beltwayese into standard English. So in this case, in DC-speak we would say that United Seniors Association is ‘colocated’ with O’Neill Marketing Company whereas in standard English we would say that United Seniors Association ‘is’ O’Neill Marketing Company.

Other O’Neill clients were: Empower America/Citizens for Sound Economy, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and the Republican National Committee.

Jarvis, again at the time: “I’m very aggressively pro-free-market solutions.” He would continue: “I am very aggressively finding people who agreed with our rock `n’ roll free-market approach.”42 Part of Jarvis’s rock’n’roll approach was to try and use the cultural wars agains the AARP – they, USA Next, were for mainstream values. The AARP was not. This was the controversial ad they put out to make the difference clear, exposing the real agenda of the long-time seniors association. It caused an immediate and hostile backlash, not towards the AARP, but the craven opportunists who had created it:

Maureen Otis - Mystery

USA Next was sued by the couple featured in the photo43. Jarvis, his rock’n’roll lifestyle undeterred, had no regrets about using the photo except for not obtaining permission first44. It was the Scaramouche Blog entry, “Agenda Makers & The Real Agenda” which noticed another important detail. I apologize for the melodramatic bold, but I think this warrants it:

The other day this ad was running on the conservative site The American Spectator. It clicked through to USA which is running Swift Boat Vet’s type campaign against the AARP which opposes Bush’s destruction of Social Security.

So who is behind USA Next? According to a Whois search the site is registered to

William Brindley
3900 Jermantown Road, suite 450
Fairfax, VA 22030
tel. (703)359-6500

So who else shares that address with them? There is United Seniors Association, Inc. or USA, Inc, which morphed into USA Next. I ran another search on the phone number. Again, there is United Seniors Association, Inc. (USA, Inc.), also known, as ALARM -Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care, USA (notice the lovely choice of acronyms) and I saw there is also Maureen E. Otis sharing the same address.

Now if you had had thriving business in registering fundraising groups in, lets say, the State of Washington you would most likely have a mention of that on your website. I can only speculate on why one would play that down unless various connections weren’t meant to be known. Otis is tied to The Richard Norman Company also which has carried on some fundraising activities for USA/USA Next Inc. and funneled quite sum of money [sic] to the Swifties.

The links, in this ever-changing web, no longer point to the same thing – Jarvis is now contact person for USA Next. Otis now always uses the Stafford, Texas address, not one in Virginia. What her previous ties to the Richard Norman Company were, I’m not sure. However, she is still named as the legal contact for this entity, which is listed as a commercial fundraiser. What charities have used the services of this fundraiser? The Alliance for Marriage, the Alliance for Marriage Foundation, Californians for Population Stabilization, the Club For Growth, the Declaration Alliance, the Montpelier Foundation, and True the Vote – all organizations with, of course, I-think-you-can-guess as their legal contact.

There are no doubt many other points in recent history when Otis shows up – but I move forward to her next interesting moment that I came across in my brief investigation. In 2011, the National Organization of Women found itself envelopped in civil strife, with the traditionally liberal group taken over by a conservative national leadership, its state chapters in open revolt.

Angie King, the San Luis Obispo chapter co-ordinator for NOW, sent out an open letter on this last year. I quote the opening paragraphs, which give succinct summary of what was taking place45:

Since 2008, when the current national board of directors for the National Organization of Women was elected by only 8 votes, following a scorched earth campaign by the current officers, troubling news keeps leaking out of Washington, D.C., where national NOW has its headquarter offices. At first, the problem was that there was no news. The transparency of former administrations in keeping the grassroots membership informed of executive decisions ceased. Access to the board meetings was restricted. Dues rebates, the heart blood of the local chapters’ ability to maintain a presence, were cut off. Rumors circulated about illegal (or at least bylaw violative) financial accounting instituted by this national board.

Remember when Shelly Mandell introduced Sarah Palin in Los Angeles, calling herself “president of LA NOW” even though she had been forcibly dismissed some years earlier? Remember the Harpers (October 2010) article by Susan Faludi about the improper financial shenanigans at the national NOW level? Well, this is worse.

CA NOW has held numerous discussions among its members how to respond to the issues raised. In the beginning, we felt it better to continue the positive messages and actions we are known for, without airing our “dirty linen,” so to speak. With each revelation, however, came the realization that we can’t continue to maintain that silence when it comes to the underlying reason we belong to NOW.

The perception by state level organizations of NOW and many chapters (including our own) was that the national NOW had been subverted by a dedicated tight-knit group of anti-woman, probably anti-feminist, women committed to the goal of ruining the integrity of NOW in the public’s eye and thus, neutralizing all the years of advocacy on behalf of women and girls.

I now move to the letter where a certain figure shows up, again. I bold her appearance.

In June this year, CA NOW became the latest target for the cabal. There are many reasons why CA NOW has been targeted. We forced national NOW to acknowledge that Mandell was not president of LA NOW and to hold an election; we complained about the lack of dues rebates in a specially called meeting, which has caused the national organization to resume sending checks. Perhaps our defense of NOW alarmed the increasingly conservative national board, who sought to replace the long-standing infrastructure of CA NOW with a known right-wing anti-woman lobbyist, as the “official” contact in the state for NOW Foundation Inc.

First, CA NOW received a request from the executive vice president of National NOW in June requesting it agree to Maureen Otis as our state contact. National NOW had been unable to register in California due to a name conflict with CA NOW. Attached to the request was the letter from the Secretary of State rejecting the registration, addressed to the Law Office of Maureen E. Otis in Texas. We were confused because NOW has been registered in California for many years so this appeared to be a new registration, which didn’t make sense.

Obviously, CA NOW never gave permission to file for this new registration to do business in California because National NOW and the Foundation are already registered in the state. Despite already being registered, the California Secretary of State accepted the new filing with Maureen E. Otis’ name, contact information in Texas, and Melvin D. Green as the agent for process, with an address listed as 5466 Santa Monica Blvd. #106, Los Angeles, CA 90029. This National Organization for Women’s agent for service of process is a Dollar Discount Store. A people search fails to connect Melvin D. Green to the address above, and the only Melvin D. Green found in the Los Angeles area is deceased. A California Secretary of State website search shows Melvin D. Green’s name on a suspended corporation C0850195 filed and suspended in 1977 named NOW Incorporated with the same address sans the suite number. This search may explain where the name came from, but not why service for process for the National Organization for Women Foundation would be a Dollar Discount Store.

Since the letter from the Secretary of State to Maureen E. Otis in Texas was troubling to us, we began our research on Maureen E. Otis. What we discovered from a simple Google search on Maureen E. Otis is disturbing. We discovered that she is the acting secretary of Freedom Watch, a Minuteman group out of Texas as well as being legal counsel for the Franklin Center, both of which have ties to the Koch brothers. Maureen E. Otis operates her law office out of an organization she leads called “American Caging” where she has established charities for the Impeach Obama Foundation, Club for Growth, Alliance for Marriage Foundation, Border Fence Project, American Conservative Union Foundation, American Patriots for Conservative Action, Committee for Justice, Common Good, Leadership Institute, OUR America Initiative, the Minutemen Project and countless more right-wing organizations. Her own website (American Caging) lists such clients as the Declaration Alliance, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and the Traditional Values Coalition. The Declaration Alliance runs a petition on their website to disbar and impeach Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we were left speechless to discover that Maureen E. Otis also works for the Terry Family Trust whose purpose to is help Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, to recover from legal victories won by NOW and others.

I give a further lengthy quote from this letter as to what Ms. King thinks the motive behind the takeover strategy might be, and bold the most pertinent part:

As a side note, but related, a search on the Secretary of State’s website using NOW and National Organization for Women revealed that the conservative San Rafael law firm Nielsen Merksamer filed incorporation papers on June 20, 2011 for a “new” California NOW non-profit, with the purpose “to promote healthy public debate over the critical issues facing California, advance meaningful reform and hold public officials accountable.” Merksamer represents the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of primarily conservative members of state legislatures, and the Free Enterprise Coalition, a conservative organization. We take note of this new non-profit corporation using our brand because this occurred at or near the time that Otis was hired. Whether these are independent acts to corrupt the NOW brand or acts in concert is of no matter. The issue remains – the corruption of the NOW brand with right wing associations.

California NOW members, through California NOW, have no control over the National Organization or Women (NOW), the use of its trademark or the National Organization for Women Foundation and its trademark. That responsibility primarily resides with the National Organization or Women Board of Directors. It isn’t hard to see the advantage to the right wing if they can control the NOW logo. Our logo has become a trusted symbol of initiatives and candidates who support women. We must act decisively in order for that symbol to retain its meaning.

I digress briefly to an episode that does not involve Otis directly – a brief mention of a near successful attempt to do what was done with NOW, a takeover of a liberal organization in order to use its brand to advance a reactionary agenda. This would be the 2004 attempt to put into place an anti-immigrant leadership of the environmental group the Sierra Club. It is described in these interview excerpts with J. Robert Cox, former Sierra Club president with the invaluable Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, “Former Sierra Club Director Discusses Hostile Takeover Attempt by Anti-Immigrant Activists “. I bold significant parts46:

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: What was your first personal contact with anti-immigration activists interested in the Sierra Club?

ROBBIE COX: When I was president of the Club for the first time. In 1996, volunteer leaders in the Club’s population program approached the board of directors to alert us that new members were coming into the Sierra Club wanting to push immigration as an issue. These leaders thought this was simply inappropriate for the Club, because we had no evidence that U.S. immigration was detrimental to the environment.

So we agreed that year to refine the existing policy by adopting a statement of neutrality on U.S. immigration.

COX: Once the board adopted the neutrality policy, it apparently motivated what we thought was simply a small group of Sierra Club members who began to object. The board held steadfast – we simply did not see the evidence. This group then initiated the ballot proposition process.

The Sierra Club is very open and democratic in its governing structure. It not only allows all its members, over 700,000 people, to elect its board of directors. It also allows members to put forward a ballot proposition, if they gather enough signatures, that can alter the Club’s existing policies.

So this group organized itself as SUSPS, or Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, and began a petition drive to get their proposition on the ballot. This happened in 1997, and the election occurred in the spring of 1998.

IR: Do you know who the principals of SUSPS were then?

COX: One principal actor was Ben Zuckerman. Zuckerman had formerly been a director of an anti-immigration group called Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America, which is a group whose name does not suggest its goal of restricting immigration into the U.S. Zuckerman was also an officer on the board of another group called Californians for Population Stabilization, or CAPS.

We frankly didn’t know some of the people working with him at the time. I think we underestimated how serious this was in 1998.

IR: In the next few years, anti-immigration candidates Ben Zuckerman and Paul Watson ran for the board – both of them unsuccessfully at first, but winning in the end. Did you realize then that the anti-immigration effort had not yet concluded?

COX: We weren’t aware at the time of an organized effort, either within the Sierra Club or stretching beyond it with some of the outside allies that we now know they have. But this began to change in the last two years.

In 2002, Zuckerman ran a second time and was elected. This time, he dramatically altered his ballot statement and began to speak of his concerns about the Club being more visible on college campuses and about funding for our conservation program.

He did mention population, too, but he never talked about immigration, as he had in his first campaign. He was elected that year.

IR: Since winning, has Zuckerman discussed immigration with the board?

COX: He has asked for time in many board sessions to make speeches to us about the importance of immigration, often citing non-environmental reasons to reverse our neutrality policy, most recently having to do with post-9/11 security concerns. He has also cited concerns about U.S. workers being displaced by immigrants.

At one point, we asked about the link between the environment and a story that he sent us about illegal crossings on the southern border. As far as I could see, the only documented environmental impact was that they were littering the desert with water bottles and trash – there was a photo of discarded bottles at a campsite.

Most recently, he sent to several of us on the board an article from that claimed that Hispanics were spreading disease and crime in the U.S., and that “Hispandering politicians” were allowing this to happen. I was quite upset by that.

IR: What happened after Zuckerman’s election in 2002?

COX: I think SUSPS realized they had a winning strategy.

The following year, 2003, they ran three more candidates, including Doug LaFollette, the Wisconsin secretary of state, and, once again, Paul Watson. They referred to many conservation issues and to population in general, but never mentioned immigration.

Two of them, LaFollette and Watson, were elected.

So by May of last year, we had begun to realize that we had an organized effort to put in place enough directors to take control of the board.

If Watson is to be believed, the intent is not only to seize control of the board, but also of the Club’s assets and credibility – the reputation of the Club itself.

IR: What ultimately is at stake here?

COX: I think the very identity and character of the Sierra Club is at stake if these outside forces succeed in taking it over. We will lose the historical values that have made the Club what it is – a grassroots-driven organization whose members care deeply about the protection of the wild places of the Earth, human health and the quality of the environment overall.

This takeover attempt would ultimately fail, with Sierra Club members alerted to what was going on, and the anti-immigrant candidates receiving only a fraction of the votes in the next election. The connection to Otis is indirect, but it is there: Ben Zuckerman, one of the principal actors in the takeover was an officer in the anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization, a group funded by anti-immigrant activist John Tanton, who also founded Federation for American Immigration Reform and U.S. English (FAIR), as well as being involved with the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF) and California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR)47. FAIR, AICF, and CCIR have all been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Foundation. Californians for Population Stabilization, in which Zuckerman was an officer, has as its legal contact on its registration papers a Maureen E. Otis.

We now have the tactic of what was already done with non-profits, the 60 Plus Association or USA Next, these organizations outwardly appearing to be lobby groups for constituents, when they are in actual fact lobby groups for industry, taken to its next, logical step: grabbing an existing progressive brand, and transforming its function to one’s own ends. The brand persists, but its objectives are now those of whatever group conquers it.

This, I emphasize, is the next logical step – but not the final one. This piece ends where it begins, with my reading “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Marc Ames: that article gives succinct, acerbic summary of the past works of Gary Johnson, Jim Lacy, and Maureen Otis – though because their focus is broader than mine, they do not quite give Otis the scope her story is due. One more character of crucial importance in “Swindle” I have made no mention of yet is Roger Stone, a former Nixon dirty trickster; I quote from a Matt Labash profile, “Roger Stone, Political Animal”, cited in “Swindle” of a trick he pulled during the 1980 presidential election to split the vote of New York state, delivering its electoral votes to Reagan:

Around the time [Stone] became northeast chairman of Reagan’s 1980 campaign, he had another awakening when he started working with the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, former McCarthy henchman and also a Reagan supporter. “I’m still kind of a neophyte,” Stone admits, “still kind of thinking everything’s on the level. ‘Cause the truth is, nothing’s on the level.” At a 1979 meeting at Cohn’s Manhattan townhouse, he was introduced to major mobster and Cohn client Fat Tony Salerno. “Roy says to Tony, ‘You know, Tony, everything’s fixed. Everything can be handled.’ Tony says, ‘Roy, the Supreme Court’ Roy says, ‘Cost a few more dollars.'” Stone loved Cohn: “He didn’t give a s– what people thought, as long as he was able to wield power. He worked the gossip columnists in this city like an organ.”

Stone, who going back to his class elections in high school has been a proponent of recruiting patsy candidates to split the other guy’s support, remembers suggesting to Cohn that if they could figure out a way to make John Anderson the Liberal party nominee in New York, with Jimmy Carter picking up the Democratic nod, Reagan might win the state in a three-way race. “Roy says, ‘Let me look into it.'” Cohn then told him, “‘You need to go visit this lawyer’–a lawyer who shall remain nameless–‘and see what his number is.’ I said, ‘Roy, I don’t understand.’ Roy says, ‘How much cash he wants, dumbf–.'” Stone balked when he found out the guy wanted $125,000 in cash to grease the skids, and Cohn wanted to know what the problem was. Stone told him he didn’t have $125,000, and Cohn said, “That’s not the problem. How does he want it?”

Cohn sent Stone on an errand a few days later. “There’s a suitcase,” Stone says. “I don’t look in the suitcase . . . I don’t even know what was in the suitcase . . . I take the suitcase to the law office. I drop it off. Two days later, they have a convention. Liberals decide they’re endorsing John Anderson for president. It’s a three-way race now in New York State. Reagan wins with 46 percent of the vote. I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don’t know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle.”

I ask him how he feels about this in retrospect. He seems to feel pretty good–now that certain statutes of limitations are up. He cites one of Stone’s Rules, by way of Malcolm X, his “brother under the skin”: “By any means necessary.”

The details on Lacy, Otis, and Stone in “Swindle”, damning to the Johnson campaign in and of themselves, are there to put forward a thesis: that the Johnson campaign was intended to split votes just as the Anderson candidacy did, between a democrat and a libertarian, anti-security state, anti-drug war candidate, thus delivering the election to Mitt Romney. Though “Swindle” does not mention it, Stone was also involved in two earlier efforts to shape the vote through outsider candidates. In 2000, he worked to have Pat Buchannan made the head of the reform party, then made threats of revealing information on a possible out-of-wedlock child of Buchanan; whether as a result of this or something else, Buchanan led a vapor campaign in the general election, leaving Bush without a third-party challenger on the right, while Gore had to give up some of his vote to Nader. In 2007, Stone would brag in an interview of helping to destroy the reform party, because, in his view, it had cost the republicans the white house in 1992 and 199648. In 2004, Stone backed Al Sharpton in the democratic primaries, with Sharpton pushing the message that the democratic party was unresponsive to the demands of black voters. The intent appears to have been to either dissuade black voters from voting that year, or maybe even move them over to vote for George W. Bush – both stories come from the diligent work of the Village Voice‘s Wayne Barrett, whose work on Sharpton and, especially, Stone, is invaluable, a reporter who exercises an aggressive insight this world can never have too much of49.

In an interview with Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie and in a classroom discussion moderated by Gillespie, political operative Roger Stone states openly and explicitly that he destroyed the third party Reform Party in 1992 and 1992 because it split the conservative vote, and caused the Republicans to lose. Taken from the interviews, “Roger Stone at Reason November 28, 2007” and “Roger Stone on New Media and Old Campaign Tricks”.

I include the relevant sections of “The libertarian/marijuana conspiracy to swing the election” by Dave Sirota, another article employed by Ames to further his hypothesis:

Here in the center of the Intermountain West, we have polls showing a nail-bitingly close race between the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. We have a chief election official, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has tried both to engage in mass voter purges and to block the mailing of ballots to eligible voters, all while openly saying a “good election” is one in which “Republicans win.” On the ballot, we also have a headline-grabbing ballot initiative about marijuana legalization and a popular former two-term governor of a neighboring state, Gary Johnson, running a Libertarian Party presidential candidacy.

The armchair pundits in Washington and New York typically write off these latter two factors as forces destined to aid the president’s reelection campaign. The conventional wisdom is rooted in oversimplified cartoons and caricatures of voter preferences. Essentially, the idea is that the marijuana measure will bring out liberal, Obama-loving hippies, yuppies and crunchies from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, while the libertarian candidate’s campaign will siphon conservative votes that would otherwise go to Mitt Romney, thus making Johnson the Republican “version of Ralph Nader,” as the New York Times predictably projects. But that kind of hackneyed red-versus-blue story line – so prevalent in the national media echo chamber – ignores how these forces are playing out on the ground.

This is particularly true considering the intersection of the pot initiative and the Johnson campaign. Despite the punditocracy’s narratives to the contrary, the former New Mexico governor has already been taking as much – or more – support away from Obama in Colorado as he has been from Romney, according to polls. And Johnson’s anti-Obama effect could become much more pronounced in the next few weeks, thanks to how his supporters are deftly leveraging all hoopla around the marijuana initiative to sharpen their candidate’s appeal and message to disaffected Democrats.

This message is not just word-of-mouth anymore; it has been elevated to the big leagues by a new voter outreach campaign. Indeed, a new automated telephone call focused on the pot measure and playing to liberal disappointment is right now hitting Democratic households in Colorado. Here’s what the message says (you can listen to the full audio below):

Hello fellow Democrat. Like you I was thrilled to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use the Justice Department to prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal. But the real Obama did just that, more than doubling prosecutions, putting people in prisons and shutting down medical marijuana facilities in Colorado. That’s not the change you wanted on health freedom. But you can still be a force for hope and change by voting for Gary Johnson.

Officially funded by the Libertas Institute50, the message is accurate in its factual broad strokes. Candidate Obama did explicitly promise to restrain the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana offenses in medical marijuana states, and President Obama has nonetheless overseen an intense Justice Department crackdown on medical marijuana in those states, directly contradicting his pledge.

Sirota, however, is skeptical of any larger plan:

Is this a brilliant GOP conspiracy theory? In other words, is the libertarian candidate deliberately trying to help Romney, as Obama partisans will no doubt grouse? Almost certainly not, as Johnson is no fan of Romney, to say the least. He has run a consistently honest and principled campaign that has been equal – and equally harsh – in its criticism of both parties.

When I first read Ames’ piece I thought the most important revelation was the simple collection of very unsavoury characters that this supposedly clean hands candidate had gathered round him. That there was some larger goal involved in the candidacy, I waved away. I am now, however, of a different mind.

I should preface the following by saying that I am not a conspiracy theorist: I believe that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the thesis that Oswald killed Kennedy. Shakespeare is not Marlowe or anyone else, but Shakespeare. The harmful propaganda surrounding the illuminati are insightfully discussed and utterly destroyed in Umberto Eco’s Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Arthur Goldwag’s The New Hate, and Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch. I do not, however, think the third party thesis requires a terribly complex or all-encompassing conspiracy.

To address Sirota’s point, I don’t think that it necessary to dispute Johnson being at the same skeptical nexus as Nader, a man critical of both parties. I slightly dispute this idea – I do not remember Nader being as Janus-like as Johnson, who is both critical of america’s war machine and at the same argues for strike teams to Uganda, commits himself to something like continued drone warfare, and promises that if Iran were to test a nuclear warhead it would be wiped from the face of the earth51 – but I can concede this point without issue. I do not think that Mr. Sirota would contest the point that despite Nader’s bipartisan criticism, he ultimately had a far greater impact on votes cast to Gore than to Bush, that this asymmetry exists, despite Nader’s equal animus of both parties.

So, I think it can be agreed that in a tight election like 2012, a candidate equivalent to Nader would be very useful to someone who wanted Romney to win. The only issue then is whether the candidate must necessarily be a knowing participant, and I do not see why this is necessary at all. All that is required is that he take certain positions which will cause some to vote for him, rather than Obama, and we have a Romney victory. There is also, when invoking the word “conspiracy” the suggestion of a large group of people being involved, and I think this is equally unnecessary. All this tactic requires is the money needed to run a campaign, which is an extraordinarily small amount given what some billionaires were spending on anti-Obama ads, and a few people who might conceive a campaign and lightly design it52.

Who might implement such a campaign? A man who managed to get minimum wage legislation voted down because democrats could be made to misperceive that prominent democratic politicians were against it. A man who once placed a third party candidate on the ballot to win a liberal state for a republican president. A woman who has been involved in the creation of a seniors lobby which in actual fact lobbied for the interests of prescription medicine, receiving no donations from seniors. A woman who was involved in trying to take over California NOW, so that a progressive logo might be used to deceptively endorse anti-progressive, anti-liberal causes and candidates. Someone who is expert in achieving a political end by causing the voter to think that a group is for their interests, when this group is being manipulated so that this voter’s very interests are defeated. People speak of conspiracy, but why would a false front presidential candidate be any different from a false front lobby like the 60 Plus Association or USA Next? All it would require is a slightly vain candidate (and what presidential candidate is not slightly vain?) lacking the necessary funds for a run for office, which it would then receive from certain large donors – donors who might well appear to be supporting a libertarian candidate, but whose purpose was instead to elect Romney. This does not require the involvement of anyone else, the RNC, the supreme court, anybody – just a few political consultants and a chunk of money. What is so complicated about that? How is that any more difficult than the creation of USA Next or the takeover of a long-time feminist organization?

Two notable details might be mentioned in the final chapter of this story. The first are possible financial irregularities on the part of the Johnson campaign. The Johnson PAC, Our America Initiative, the one whose registration carries the names of Otis and Lacy, was suspended after it failed to file quarterly reports with the FEC listing its donors: “Johnson’s PAC suspended for financial reporting violation” by Peter St. Cyr. Given that it doesn’t show up on any FEC filings, or such sunlight sites as Open Secrets, this violation may have kept them from ever continuing in the general election. There is also the question raised in “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman, for which I was unable to find any answer: who paid off Johnson’s primary debts, making it easier to run in the general election? However, the main focus of this piece is an FEC complaint filed by Addison Smith, arguing that Johnson’s monthly expenditure listings, which did not distinguish between expenditures for media, political advisers, and travel, violated FEC regulations53. A trouble-making email sent out that month raised a similar question, which tried to make the case that money was not being spent on media, but on advisers – that the campaign was a scheme to simply move money from donors to the consultants.

The major article that deals with this email, “Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray, makes clear that media buys were being made – though it also stresses that the campaign money seems to be going entirely to companies associated with campaign advisers. The article cites an expense for media which is the same mix of media buys, campaign travel, and, presumably, adviser pay, mentioned in the FEC complaint – all three mixed in a sum going to an entity labeled “Political Advisors”54. The Johnson post-election filing had $140K going for media, “FEC Disbursements by Purpose”, and almost twice as much, $277K, going to political advisers, “FEC Disbursements by Payee”. Both charges, the FEC complaint and the email, were dismissed by the campaign as political attacks – Addison Smith, who filed the FEC complaint, is a long-time republican, though without visible associations to the Romney campaign55. Roger Stone emphasized that he was working for the campaign on a volunteer, pro bono basis56. This may well be true; however, it should be stressed that Stone worked pro bono on Carl Paladino’s 2010 campaign for governor, a campaign whose expenses were ably dissected in “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link], by Wayne Barrett, where he discovered huge sums being paid out to Stone associates Dianne Thorne and Michael Caputo, as well as payments associated with Stone from a previous lobbying effort57. He further cites the accounts given by Larry Klayman, the anti-gay hardline evangelical who ran for the Florida Senate with Stone as a consultant; Klayman says that Stone barely did any work and bled his campaign dry58. Caputo was not with the 2012 Johnson presidential campaign, but Thorne was59. We may see here the possible mix of venality and practical purpose exploiting donors who think they are giving to the libertarian cause, when they are contributing to something entirely different, the salaries of sundry advisers, and not for the end purpose of furthering libertarian ideas, but to split the vote to obtain a republican victory. This might be seen as part of a larger tradition, brilliantly described by Rick Perlstein in “The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism”, with enthusiastic conservative donors gouged again and again, with only a fraction of the money sent to a conservative cause going to the cause itself, the healthy majority ending up in the grabby hands of consultants far richer than the donors will ever be. We might see this as well in the possible exploitation of the minutemen group, the money of the anti-immigrant faithful not going to any border fence, but to a clump of groups which all have one woman as their contact, the addresses of these generous zealots soon taken into their maw as well, for even more donations.

This, of course, returns us to our main character, and the other strange detail of this final part of the story. It comes from the twitter profile of Otis. She lists herself as owner of two businesses, one of which is American Caging. She lists, however, something else:

Maureen Otis - Mystery

The blacked out portions, by the way, are family details only of relevance to Otis herself. If Ms. Otis ever reads this, and wonders why I took that step, it’s because of a concept unfamiliar to her, of having a conscience.

Back to the chase: in her profile, she says she’s the treasurer for Restore America’s Voice PAC. This is a PAC that worked exclusively against Obama. Why is someone who sponsors a third-party candidate, also treasurer of a PAC that works against only one of his opponents? This is leaving aside that many of the non-profit advocacy groups for which Otis is legal contact are entirely counter to libertarian ideas on immigration, whether it’s Californians for Population Stabilization, or the MCDC, for which she is not only legal contact, but on whose board she served. I ask these questions, wondering who is this mystery woman, and what is the mystery which surrounds her: was there an actual attempt this year to employ a third party stooge in order to elect a republican president? Here is a more mundane, rhetorical one: would anyone consider such behavior more outrageous than the voter intimidation of True the Vote, or the deceptions of USA Next?

I move towards a conclusion, with a piece on the “North Decoder” website from a year ago, “The Koch Brothers’ Slow Poisoning of America” by Chet (just like Nico, you get a pseudonymous four letters, and that’s it). The author of this piece writes passionately, despairingly, of the way press coverage of North Dakota is slowly being taken over by outside, well-funded conservative interests:

A story in the Grand Forks Herald originated with a Plains Daily blog post about the University of North Dakota using a UND Foundation aircraft to ferry people to and from Bismarck to (among other things) testify on issues relevant to the University. Plains Daily’s capitol beat “reporter” — the author of the UND plane story — is Kate Bommarito. Before becoming a fake “journalist,” Kate worked on Kevin Cramer’s 2010 Republican Party campaign for the U.S. House. She has been active in North Dakota Republican Party politics for quite a while. Her husband, I’m told, is Mike Bommarito, a former ND GOP executive director. When Kevin Cramer’s campaign for Congress was caught buying support of delegates to the GOP convention by paying convention fees a couple years ago, the Bommarito family name came up as the conduit for some of those payments.

He traces the source of the funds to an entity located in a small-town mini-mall:

One of the shops in the mini-mall is the Rushmore Mountain Taffy and Gift Shop. Like virtually every other retail store in town, the taffy shop closes when the Musical shuts down for the “Winter” right around Labor Day and will open back up again some time just before Memorial Day.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the taffy shop from the outside — or inside, for that matter — but for several years now, it has been the legal home to “The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity,” a multi-million dollar right-wing non-profit set up for the sole purpose of facilitating indoctrination of Americans through the creative use of old-fashioned, right-wing misinformation and fake, slanted “news.”

The Franklin Center (FC) is a non-profit organization that uses a “post office box” in the United Parcel Service Store in Bismarck. The UPS Store provides a mail forwarding service to the folks at the Franklin Center. But the taffy shop, until very recently, was FC’s “official” mailing address. North Dakota law requires nonprofits to have a “physical address,” too, so citizens have a place to go if they want to ask for a copy of records nonprofits have to make available for public inspection, or to serve court papers on the organization.

Yes, dear reader, you know what comes next.

The Franklin Center was officially incorporated in North Dakota in January of 2009. The Secretary of State (SOS) 2009 filings list a Texas attorney’s address — actually a “caging” operation — as the organization’s mailing address and the local UPS Store mail-forwarding service PO Box as it’s physical address

The Texas lawyer/caging operation, coincidentally, also does legal work for “Club for Growth,” Alan Keyes’ “Declaration Foundation,” the CPAC sponsoring “Young Americas Foundation,” the “Minuteman” militia people, the “Traditional Values Coalition,” and a whole host of mostly far right-wing fringe organizations. It appears the lawyer — Maureen E. Otis — operates her law office out of an organization she leads called “American Caging.

The Franklin Center raised about $3 million in its first year of operation, 2009.

You read that right.

For you headline-writing copy editors out there, here’s your headline:

“THREE MILLION DOLLARS raised by a little North Dakota non-profit based in a taffy shop in tiny town of Medora”

I conclude in this fashion, excerpts from a well-written piece by a pseudonymous writer ending in a picturesque taffy shop, to make clear a line of demarcation. It demonstrates that to control the news, all that is necessary is for the structures of journalism to decay and finally die, just as institutions that help the elderly, the vulnerable, and the worst off have been allowed to die. There have been two major profiles of Gary Johnson that I know of, which appeared in a prestige publication: “Pipe Dreamer” by Molly Ball and “The Zen of Gary Johnson”. Both are entirely light-weight, touching on none of the less sanguine details of Johnson’s political life or his campaign. To read about the seamy underbelly of political life, you would have to go to the fringes of the internet, the NSFW Corporation, the North Decoder website, or, I humbly submit, a post from an obscure blog that is something like this. I do not consider this media indifference some part of any larger conspiracy – it is simply a condition of mainstream journalism now that the most pressing questions are not asked. They leave it to others to shine a lantern on a nest of rats. And they consign themselves to irrelevance.

(Since publication, some edits have been made for aesthetic purposes; the section, with accompanying footnote, on Roger Stone’s involvement with the 2004 Al Sharpton campaign was added after initial posting; so was the footnote featuring a brief interview excerpt with Jim Gilchrist. The section on the takeover of the Sierra Club was added on January 3rd, 2013. On January 5th, the material on the strange financial details of Roger Stone’s past campaigns was added. The detail that Stone publicly admitted to destroying the reform party, and the video clip where he made the admission, were added on January 14th. On April 10, 2015, this post underwent a session of copy editing. Originally, this post listed “Tim Phillips” as a nominee to be an Attorney for the Justice Department; on April 18, 2015, this was corrected to “Tim Griffin”.)


1 From “Slate Nailer: Conservative James Lacy plays turncoat to sway elections” by Nick Schou:

Just before Election Day, [James] Lacy unleashed a series of slate mailings urging Santa Monica residents to vote for prominent Democrats who support liberal causes such as abortion rights and education. The same mailers also directed them to vote “NO on JJ,” a vote to kill the city’s living-wage ordinance.

Designed to lift minimum-wage workers out of poverty and reduce the burden on city social-welfare funds, JJ would have required downtown and coastal Santa Monica employers earning more than $5 million per year to pay employees $12.50 per hour, or $10.50 per hour plus health-care benefits. Although it led in polls up to Election Day, JJ lost by a tiny margin on Nov. 5.

The fact that registered Democrats in Santa Monica were flooded with thousands of misleading mailers in the last days of the race seems to be the best explanation for why that happened. One questionable mailer endorsed two prominent Democrats, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Woodland Hills). In massive bold type at the bottom of the page, the mailer states, “NO on JJ.”

While an asterisk next to those words informed voters that the mailer was paid for by an organization called Democratic Voters Ballot Guide, neither Waxman, Pavley nor the Democratic Party-all of whom publicly supported JJ-had anything to do with the mailer or the Democratic Voters Ballot Guide, which didn’t exist until a few weeks before the election. In fact, hotel owners paid for the mailer, and the so-called Democratic Voters Ballot Guide was just a front group consisting of a pair of career right-wing political consultants, including Lacy.

Lacy was also behind two other anti-Measure JJ mailers. One said, “Attention Pro-Choice Voters” and announced that “Santa Monica’s pro-choice leaders agree: no on Measure JJ.” A third bore the caption “Important Santa Monica Issues for Women, Our Young & Our Poor” and urged recipients to vote no on Measure JJ.

2 From the site Open Secrets, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012.

From the site Talking Points Memo, “Arizona Dark Money Group Gave Lavishly To Other Groups”, by Eric Lach:

The Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), the secretive Arizona dark money group tied to the movement of millions of dollars between political nonprofits, gave almost $15 million in 2011 to a number of groups that spent heavily on political ads in 2012, according to IRS documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The CPPR, run by former congressional aide Sean Noble, spent $23.2 million in 2011, with $14.8 million given in grants to 19 other nonprofits. Bloomberg has previously reported that the CPPR contributed $55.4 million to other nonprofit political groups in 2009 and 2010.

From “Kochs brothers’ plan for 2012: raise $88 million” by Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Smith in Politico:

Sean Noble, another top Koch operative, has been hired by Americans for Limited Government, another group that sources say received donations from Koch conference attendees for its efforts to attack Democrats during the 2010 midterm campaign.

3 Open Secrets, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012.

4 From “‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Monday, August 10, 2009”:

60 Plus is well-known in Republican and conservative circles. And like other corporate-funded P.R. operations, it often takes on causes that you wouldn’t logically connect to their stated purpose. The 60 Plus Association, which again, bills itself as a seniors advocacy group, they took on a subject they want us to believe is near and dear to the hearts of seniors.

Back in 2003, it was the issue of nuclear waste, urging Congress to, quote, “move forward and approve the safe storage of nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.” Because seniors love nuclear waste being stored in Nevada. Old people love that.

5 From “High drug prices return as issue that stirs voters” by Thomas Edsall, originally published in the Washington Post:

In addition to lobbying, the drug industry spent more than $100 million in 1999 and 2000 to create a supposed grass-roots group called Citizens for Better Medicare. Led by PhRMA’s former marketing director, Tim Ryan, CBM flooded the airwaves with commercials accusing congressional Democrats of “playing politics” by backing legislation to reduce drug prices.

Also, the industry awarded unrestricted “educational grants” — declining to disclose the exact amounts — to two supportive groups, United Seniors and 60-Plus. In this election cycle, United Seniors has bought $12 million worth of ads, according to consultants working for the Democratic Party, while 60-Plus has spent $595,000 on radio ads in seven battleground congressional districts.

6 Family Tree Maker Site for Maurine Elizabeth Otis

7 Cancer Schmancer Foundation Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis PC
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
589 8th Ave, 6th Floor

The Cancer Schmancer website, prominently featuring Drescher is here.

8 Dress For Success Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
32 East 31st Street
7th Floor
New York NY 10016

Purpose Description

The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

The filing for Dress for Success Worldwide in Texas, again by Otis, has Bobbi Brown as CEO and founder: Business Dress For Success Worldwide

9 “National Women’s History Museum Makes Little Progress After 16 Years” by Andrea Stone and Christina Wilkie gives an excellent account of the museum’s troubles.

10 Ultimate Memorial, part of the Houston Chronicle:

Goh Conservative PAC – Louiepac, Inc., 4850 Wright Road Suite 168

11 Club for Growth Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
2001 L Street NW
Suite 600

12 Richard Norman Company Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
c/o Maureen Otis
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
Two Riverbend
44084 Riverside Parkway, Ste 350

13 Jewish Voice Ministries International Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, PC
4850 Wright Rd, Suite 168

Street Address:
10850 N 24th Ave

Purpose Description

Jewish Voice Ministries International is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile throughout the world. The Good News is proclaimed through television, radio and large scale Messianic Outreach Festivals. This is followed up by planting new and strengthening existing congregations to nurture and disciple new believers. We also partner with other ministries to establish and operate Messianic Bible Schools to train leadership for Jewish Ministries.

14 Corrie Ten Boom Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Other Names Used

Christian Women of the Year
Jerusalem Prayer Team
Save Jerusalem

Mailing Address:
C/O Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
1527 W. State Hwy 114,
Suite 500

The founder of the Jerusalem Prayer team, Michael Evans, is a prominent christian zionist known for taking a hardline stance on middle east issues. From “How Israeli PM wooed, and lost, Christian dollars”, by Adam Entous and Ari Rabinovitch, in Reuters:

[Ehud] Olmert [former prime minister of Israel] was long a familiar speaker on the U.S. fundraising lunch and dinner circuit. Public records show that, for example, he attended a series of three meetings in churches organised by a group known as the Jerusalem Prayer Team, whose founder Mike Evans’s stated mission is “to protect the Jewish people … until Israel is secure and the redeemer comes to Zion”.

From 2002 to 2004, church fundraisers organised by the Jerusalem Prayer Team, including the one in Dallas, raised $239,300 for the New Jerusalem Foundation. NJF records say it spent its money on parks, charity meals and other programmes.

In January, Evans made clear his view of Annapolis [the Annapolis peace talks between Olmert and the palestinian leadership]: “I was completely outraged when I heard that Ehud Olmert, whom I have known for 26 years, stood next to President Bush and declared that he would work to fulfill the final status solution.

“This means the division of Jerusalem,” he wrote on his Web site. “I will do everything in my power to resist that.”

15 Policy Issues Institute Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Other Names Used

Impeach Obama Campaign
United States Investigative Unit
US Health Congress
White House Watch, The

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, PC
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
30011 Ivy Glenn Dr
Ste 223

This is the office address of James Lacy.

16 Christian Research Institute, Inc. Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/O Maureen E.Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
6295 Blakeney Park Drive
CHARLOTTE NC 28277-7007

A description of the Christian Research Institute can be found at wikipedia:

The establishment of CRI in 1960 is closely linked to Walter Martin. It represents one of the pioneering organizations in what is called the Christian countercult movement, but also relates to the wider history of Evangelical Christian apologetics in the mid-Twentieth century.

The christian countercult movement is described in this wikipedia entry:

The Christian countercult movement is a social movement of Christian ministries and individual Christian countercult activists who oppose religious sects thought to either partially abide or do not at all abide by the teachings that are written within the Bible. These religious sects are also known among Christians as cults. They are also known as discernment ministries.

17 From National Vaccine Information Center Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report:

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
407 Church Street
Suite H

The National Vaccination Information Center is described in “The ad that could help fuel a health crisis”, from Salon, by Rahul Parikh:

Among other things, the founders of NVIC seem to suggest vaccines are toxic, full of ingredients that will harm your child, none of which has ever proved to do so. Founded in the 1980s, NVIC is the granddaddy of anti-vaccine groups (though they go to great lengths to claim they are not). In the words of Michael Specter, journalist and author of “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens our Lives,” NVIC is “the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.” Taking what NVIC says about vaccines at face value is akin to believing Joe Camel when he tells you that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer. The ad was created in conjunction with, the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, another anti-vaccinationist who espouses other out-of-step ideas. For more details see his blog on – where else – the Huffington Post.

The NVIC is also mentioned in “Swine Flu Revives Debate About Vaccines” by Jennifer Steinhauer.

18 A good introduction to this group might be “What the heck was that population stabilization ad in last night’s debate all about?” at Talking Points Memo.

19 Bizapedia entry for The Society for Truth and Justice; Find the Data entry for Patriot PAC and information on Patriot PAC.

20 A good introduction to True the Vote can be found in “Who Created the Voter Fraud Myth?” by Jane Mayer.

21 A report on True the Vote activities can be found at ABC News, with their report, “Is True the Vote Intimidating Minority Voters From Going to the Polls?”; the rejection of True the Vote as poll-watchers in Franklin County, Ohio can be found in “Tea party-linked poll watchers rejected in Ohio county”:

“The Franklin County Board of Elections did not allow Election Day polling location observer appointments filed by the True the Vote group,” said board spokesman Ben Pisctelli in a statement. “The appointments were not properly filed and our voting location managers were instructed not to honor any appointment on behalf of the True the Vote group.”

There were charges yesterday that the candidates’ names had either been falsified or merely copied on forms requesting observer status for the True the Vote at several Franklin County polling places. Many are in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

Elections Director William A. Anthony Jr. said the group may be investigated for possibly falsifying documents after today’s election. The forms themselves warn that elections falsification is a fifth-degree felony.

22 From “True the Vote observers barred from Franklin County polling places”:

One person told the elections board that she attended True the Vote training sessions and the observers were instructed to use cameras to intimidate voters when they enter the polling place, record their names on tablet computers and send them to a central location, and attempt to stop questionably qualified voters before they could get to a voting machine.

23 From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Ruckus on the Right”:

[Jim] Gilchrist and [Chris] Simcox publicly battled for control and camera time during the original Minuteman Project, when Simcox’s high-handed leadership style earned him the sarcastic sobriquet, “The Little Prince.” But following the conclusion of the month-long “citizens border patrol” operation in Arizona last April, the co-founders appeared to arrange an amicable parting and division of the public relations spoils. Gilchrist kept the Minuteman Project name and announced he was handing over “border watch” operations to Simcox, who would manage them as president of a new group, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

24 From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Ruckus on the Right”:

The pivot point on which [Chris] Simcox’s own kind turned against him is his refusal to account for the $1.6 to $1.8 million in private donations he estimates MCDC raised, including $600,000 for the “Minuteman Border Fence,” — a slick fundraising campaign with a stated goal of $55 million. Simcox pledged the money raised by the campaign would go to build a high-tech security barrier along 70 miles of private ranchland on the Arizona border. Mass-mailed MCDC solicitations and full-page color advertisements in The Washington Times since mid-April promoted the Minuteman Border Fence as an “Israeli-style” barrier “based on the fences used in Gaza and the West Bank.” Fundraising illustrations depict a 6-foot trench and coils of concertina wire backed by a 15-foot steel-mesh fence crowned with bulletproof security cameras. Estimated cost: $150 per foot.

Construction began Memorial Day weekend with much fanfare. Since then, MCDC volunteers erected just over two miles of five-strand barbed wire attached to short metal posts. What they built is a standard cattle fence, costing about $1.50 per foot, or about one one-hundredth the cost of the advertised “Israeli-style” barrier.

So far, in other words, the Minuteman Border Fence hasn’t come to much. “It wouldn’t stop a tricycle,” American Border Patrol’s Glenn Spencer posted in a recent online tirade

25 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

At press time, the MCDC had yet to begin constructing the “Israeli-style” fence. Also, [Chris] Simcox has denied all requests by current and former MCDC members and donors as well as journalists to release any MCDC financial records. He will not say where the money is, how much has been spent, or for what, and he lashes out at anyone inside or outside his organization who dares question his honesty or authority. Gary Cole, the MCDC’s former national director of operations, said he was fired last summer for “asking too many questions about the money.”

26 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

In his late July statement, released the same week as The Washington Times story, Simcox claimed “all donations which have been received have been recorded, processed, and banked by a highly reputable and responsible caging company which specializes in nonprofit accountability. Funds are safely and appropriately held in a secured bank account, overseen by a certified public accountant and a lawyer, disbursed by an authorized escrow agent only against approved, invoiced expenses.”

The “highly reputable and responsible” accounting company hired by MCDC to oversee donations is Houston-based American Caging, Inc. Maureen Otis, president of American Caging, released a statement confirming “since the day MCDC was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.”

27 From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

A Texas firm that manages hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps says it has not been authorized to divulge a detailed accounting of the funds, despite assurances by the MCDC’s top official that it would do so.

Maureen E. Otis — president of American Caging Inc. in Stafford, Texas, an agency hired to collect, deposit and disburse donations to the civilian border-patrol group — told The Washington Times that neither MCDC President Chris Simcox nor the group’s board of directors had given her permission to “disclose any numbers.”

28 Alan Keyes and the Minutemen Morass from the Non-Profit Quarterly:

MCDC, for example, lists one Maureen Otis as its board secretary. Otis is president of a firm called American Caging, sharing MCDC’s address (from its 990), and MCDC paid American Caging $15,202 for “caging fees.”

29 Alan Keyes and the Minutemen Morass from the Non-Profit Quarterly:

Apparently, the Declaration Alliance has been a funnel for resources going to MCDC. The most recent 990 of the Alliance, for example, reports $739,353 in “program services expenditures” in support of MCDC, plus a direct contribution to MCDC of another $112,500. The Web site of MCDC claims that it is a project of the Declaration Alliance, and the first and last MCDC 990 reports $418,493 in revenue (almost $1.2 million less than Simcox’s public estimate of the public support his organization had received), including the Declaration Alliance’s $112,500, but the 990 made no reference to the Declaration Alliance’s other programmatic involvement or its expenditures on behalf of the Minuteman project.

While the Declaration Alliance is a “civic public policy and issues advocacy organization that aggressively defends the Founding principles of the American Republic,” its Web site appears to be more like an Alan Keyes presidential campaign arm. The heading at the top of the page is a link to “Alan Keyes on the 2008 Election,” which redirects to the site of a group called Renew America, another tax-exempt entity founded by Keyes. The Renew America Web site leads with a link to a group called “We Need Alan Keyes for President,” which calls itself a PAC. The Declaration Alliance Web site also devotes a page to Keyes’s share of the vote in the 2000 Republican primaries.

30 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

This omission of design specifics may have been the product of advice [Chris] Simcox received from Diener Consultants, one of the country’s largest right-wing political consulting and fundraising machines. At around the same time Simcox broke off from Gilchrist to form MCDC, he contracted with Diener, which is based in Chicago and led by Phillip Sheldon, son of Traditional Values Coalition founder and vitriolic gay-basher Rev. Louis Sheldon.

From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

American Caging also handles other clients aligned with MCDC, Mr. Keyes and the Alliance organizations, including Diener Consulting Inc., which serves as the Minuteman group’s public-relations arm, as it did in Mr. Keyes’ unsuccessful presidential and senatorial campaigns; and Renew America, a fundraising organization founded by Mr. Keyes that provides a link for donations to MCDC through Declaration Alliance.

31 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

The younger Sheldon is known for brokering the ghoulish deal in which Response Unlimited, a direct-mail marketing firm, obtained a list of donors to Terry Schiavo’s legal fund from the brain-dead woman’s parents several days before her death in March 2005. Earlier this year, Response Unlimited — “the nation’s best and most comprehensive source of mailing lists for conservative and Christian mailers and telemarketers” — began offering for sale a list of 61,000 Minuteman Civil Defense Corps donors at a price of $120 per thousand names.

32 From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

Other American Caging clients include Response Unlimited, which makes mailing lists — including the MCDC membership — available to conservative mailers and telemarketers and has an “exclusive contract” with Declaration Foundation; and, which raised $500,000 for Mr. [Alan] Keyes’ 2004 senatorial campaign and helps raise Minuteman donations through a link on its Web page to Declaration Alliance.

33 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

The “highly reputable and responsible” accounting company hired by MCDC to oversee donations is Houston-based American Caging, Inc. Maureen Otis, president of American Caging, released a statement confirming “since the day MCDC was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.” But that may do little to alleviate the concerns of MCDC donors, since American Caging apparently has some trouble keeping its own books in order. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office lists the status of American Caging Inc. as “not in good standing” because it “has not satisfied all state tax requirements.”

34 The details involving this split, including the presence of Otis, have almost entirely disappeared from national consciousness six years later. An interview with Gilchrist by Conor Friedersdorf does not bring up Simcox or Otis, and Gilchrist does not bring it up either, at least not explicitly, though he may making implicit reference in his last answer in the published interview. From “Friday Interview: What the Minuteman Project Taught Its Founder”:


What if someone came to you and said, Mr. Gilchrist, I’m starting a grassroots effort on behalf of a cause that’s dear to me. Do you have any advice?


Be extremely careful of volunteers who say they want to help you because they’re passionate about your cause. Especially if there is fundraising involved. What I have found is that the same persons will attempt to steal your organization to get access to your money. I’m told that’s commonplace in a lot of activist groups. And be wary of some extremists trying to infiltrate the organization to exploit it for their own philosophical advantage, and ultimately destroying it.

Another group… had a rebellion in its ranks due to the fact that the fundraising company it was using was keeping all the money and not using it to bring people to the border. I think they made about $10 million over three or four years. Apparently not a penny of it got to people on the border. There are various reasons for people to get involved in activism. This is not just the immigration issue. It could be the abortion issue, the religious issue, whatever. Number one, the fundraisers want to make money off it, it’s not about the issue to them. It’s really about making money.

Gilchrist would be fired by his own Minuteman project in 2007, with the issue again missing funds; this episode in described in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Jim Gilchrist Fired By Minuteman Project” by David Holt:

The Minuteman Project, one of the country’s largest, richest and most influential nativist extremist groups, is in a state of crisis.

Its founder, Jim Gilchrist, was fired in February by members of the group’s board of directors amidst swirling allegations of embezzlement, gross mismanagement and fraud.

35 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington”:

[Charles] Jarvis took USA Next to a different level when he assumed control in 2001. The board was stocked with influential Republican lobbyists and consultants with strong ties to the GOP congressional leadership and the White House.

A former aide to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) who also served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, Jarvis was well-positioned for his organization to benefit from Republican control in Washington.

From Talking Points Memo:

You can pick up the story on the United Seniors money mill from this July 2003 consumer bulletin from, of all places, the dreaded AARP.

One thing we learn from the AARP bulletin is that they apparently picked up USANext chief Charlie Jarvis from that notorious Spongebob-basher radical cleric James Dobson. Before he got the USANext gig, Jarvis was an executive vice president of Dobson’s group Focus on the Family.

36 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

United Seniors, the name by which USA Next is formally incorporated in Virginia, was started in 1991 by Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative and direct-mail specialist.

In its first 10 years, United Seniors was a modest force at most, taking in $8 million to $11 million and spending nearly 50 percent of contributions on fundraising. It relied heavily on direct-mail solicitation of members and whatever larger donations it could attract, and it operated for most of its existence at a deficit.

37 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

In fiscal year 2001, records show, PhRMA gave United Seniors $1.5 million, 100 times the amount it had given the previous year. Pfizer gave $25,000 in each of those two years. PhRMA does not dispute the accuracy of the records.

In the next two years, just as Congress and the White House worked out details for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare, United Seniors received $24.8 million from a single source, records show. A redacted copy of the tax filing obscures the name of the donor, other than the first letter, “P,” in 2003. A $20.1 million donation was reported in 2002 from a single source, but that donor’s name is completely blacked out.

Asked whether PhRMA was the donor, Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the trade group, said, “I’m not confirming it or denying it.”

38 From “Bush’s Secret Stash” by Nicholas Confessore, in the Washington Monthly:

Then there’s the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return.

39 From “Bush’s Secret Stash” by Nicholas Confessore, in the Washington Monthly:

During the 2002 elections, with an “unrestricted educational grant” from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group [United Seniors Association, or USA Next] spent roughly $14 million–the lion’s share of its budget–on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.

40 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

Now the group [United Seniors Association, or USA Next] has clawed its way into the Social Security debate with AARP as the primary adversary. To make its case, [Charles] Jarvis has adopted the scorching tactics of negative campaign advertising and employed some of the best practitioners of political dark arts to do it.

His group has benefited from donations and consultant work from operatives and donors associated with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

“I’m trying to kill, destroy the bad public policy of AARP,” Jarvis said.

41 From Talking Points Memo (though some of the links for this seven year old post are broken, I have included them anyway):

Hmmm … So is USANext, aka United Seniors Association, aka Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care, USA, really just a Republican party front operation operating at the behest of Karl Rove?

Well, let’s see.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a rating and reporting bureau for public charities and nonprofits, notes that one of United Seniors Association’s (USA) “affiliates” is O’Neill Marketing Company (OMC).

Apparently, it’s a very tight affiliation since both are located at 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450. (USA lists Suite 450; OMC lists 450A).

42 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

For [Charles] Jarvis, it is a convenient convergence. “I’m very aggressively pro-free-market solutions,” he said in an interview at the group’s office just off Capitol Hill. “I am very aggressively finding people who agreed with our rock `n’ roll free-market approach.”

43 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

United Seniors has shown lethal capacity. But its most notorious effort–an ad that showed two photos, one of two men kissing and the other of a soldier, with the not-so-subtle message that AARP supported the gay couple and not the soldier–may also be one that costs it dearly.

The couple in the photo recently sued USA Next and a subcontractor for $25 million, alleging defamation.

44 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

The couple in the photo recently sued USA Next and a subcontractor for $25 million, alleging defamation. Jarvis said his only regret is that his subcontractor didn’t get a proper commercial release of the couple’s photo.

45 The Susan Faludi piece, “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide” can be found in pdf format on the author’s site; it provides an in-depth examination of the struggle between an older leadership and younger feminists, providing the fascinating context of a century old tension between women of different ages, going back to the division between suffragettes and flappers, the struggle always having the persistent undertone of a fight between mothers and daughters; a short piece on Shelly Mandell introducing Sarah Palin in 2008 can be found at Jezebel: “NOW L.A. President Shelly Mandell Endorses McCain/Palin”.

46 Doug LaFollette, of course, ran unsuccessfully for governor against Scott Walker in the 2012 recall election; that he would be helpful to anti-immigrant forces in a takeover does not imply that he was a knowing participant – it might have been expected, for instance, that he would vote favourably for proposals that ostensibly dealt with the issues of finite resources and an ever expanding population, but were in fact anti-immigrant. This ruckus was brought up when LaFollette ran again in 2006 for secretary of state: “Sierra Club dust-up draws fresh flak” by Bill Lueders. A good overview of the other candidates can be found at “Hostile Takeover: Race, Immigration and the Sierra Club” by the Center for New Community. An article written at the time on the possible takeover of the Sierra Club is “Immigration dispute spawns factions, anger in Sierra Club” in The Seattle Times by Florangela Davila.

47 “John Tanton’s Private Papers Expose More Than 20 Years of Hate” goes into the depth of Tanton’s racist ideas, and “John Tanton’s Network” lists the groups associated with Tanton; both are at Southern Poverty Law Center. The Sierra Club’s election results from 1998 to 2012, showing the gains of the anti-immigrant faction and their eventual defeat can be found in pdf form at their site.

48 From a Reason magazine interview with Roger Stone:


Should the libertarian party continue to exist?


Well, as one who, I think, either helped kill, or killed the Reform party, because I believe they cost us the White House in 1992 and 1996…their lack of any ideology at all…it was a hodgepodge of vegetarians, goldbugs, and a few libertarians, and gun people, and gun control people, there was no consistency there other than people who couldn’t make it in any other party.

49 “The Sex Scandal That Put Bush in the White House” by Wayne Barrett explores the strange and labyrinthine sex scandal involving Pat Buchanan and the reform party. Barrett’s “Sleeping with the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton’s Campaign” is the definitive piece on the strange alliance of Sharpton and Stone. I also heartily recommend Barrett’s other excellent work on Roger Stone, “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] and “The (Roger) Stone Around Carl Paladino’s Neck” [archive link].

The opening sentence of “Sleeping with the GOP”:

Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Reverend Al Sharpton.

On Sharpton’s attacks on the front-runner, designed by Stone himself:

While Bush forces like the Club for Growth were buying ads in Iowa assailing then front-runner Howard Dean, Sharpton took center stage at a debate confronting Dean about the absence of blacks in his Vermont cabinet. Stone told the Times that he “helped set the tone and direction” of the Dean attacks, while Charles Halloran, the Sharpton campaign manager installed by Stone, supplied the research. While other Democratic opponents were also attacking Dean, none did it on the advice of a consultant who’s worked in every GOP presidential campaign since his involvement in the Watergate scandals of 1972, including all of the Bush family campaigns.

Halloran works for free on the Sharpton campaign, just as Stone did for Johnson:

Halloran is a capable operative who claims he did advance work in the first Clinton campaign, and that he worked as a consultant in a statewide Democratic race in Georgia and as a volunteer for Al Gore during the recount battle. He has become so close to Stone over the last two years, however, that he stays at Stone’s 40 Central Park South apartment when he’s in New York working for Sharpton. Halloran and his wife celebrated Stone’s 50th birthday with him and his wife last year, and the two operatives talk virtually every day. By his own account, Halloran made so much money in the Golisano and Bermuda campaigns, he has so far worked for Sharpton since September 4 without receiving a single cent in pay.

The Golisano and Bermuda campaigns Halloran was involved in are described briefly:

Halloran was busy anyway with another Stone- arranged assignment-running the parliamentary campaign for the United Bermuda Party, ironically the white-led party seeking to unseat the island’s first black government. Halloran had also managed a Stone-run campaign in New York in 2002, spending nearly $65 million of billionaire Tom Golisano’s money and getting the Independence Party candidate a mere 14 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race. Stone, whose firm represented the prior Bermuda government, did initial work in the 2003 race there and left, recommending Halloran.

On a possible future attempt to use Sharpton not simply to depress turn-out, but to split the vote:

Stone, whose Miami mob even jostled a visiting Sharpton during the recount, said recently in The American Spectator that if Sharpton were to run “as an independent” in the 2006 Hillary Clinton race, she would be “sunk,” implicitly suggesting that this operation may be a precursor to another Stone-Sharpton mission.

On the Sharpton campaign as part of a larger Bush strategy:

The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush campaign was planning a special advertising campaign targeting black voters, seeking as much as a quarter of the vote, and any Sharpton-connected outrage against the party could either lower black turnout in several key close states, or move votes to Bush. Both were widely reported as the consequences of Sharpton’s anti-Green rhetoric in 2001, [Mark Green, democratic candidate for New York City mayor, beat Fernando Ferrer, the Sharpton backed candidate in a bitter primary race]a result Sharpton celebrated both in his book and at a Bronx victory party on election night.

The attempt by the Sharpton campaign to qualify for matching funds by getting donations from at least twenty states, is notable for the presence of one figure. I bold the significant name:

In fact, the treasurer of the Klayman campaign, Paul Jensen, a top Bush administration transportation official, joined his wife, Pamela, in making $250 donations on December 30 to Sharpton, helping get him over the threshold in a third state. Jensen contributed to Sharpton, who favors a federal law certifying civil unions for homosexuals, even though the lawyer has filed suits in 16 states seeking to defrock Presbyterian ministers who’ve “violated their vows” by ordaining gays.

Jensen shows up again this year as Johnson’s attorney, sueing the FEC for not granting sufficient matching funds. From “Gary Johnson sues FEC for $750k” by Marc Caputo:

Johnson claims that, as a minor-party candidate, he’s entitled to a set amount of funds that are supposed to be distributed by the commission. The amount is set forth in a complicated federal formula that awards public funds to parties based on their candidates’ prior performances in other elections.

The federal law suggests in one place that a candidate such as Johnson “is eligible to receive pre-election payments” only if his party “received at least 5% but less than 25% of the total popular vote” in the prior election. But Johnson’s attorney, Paul Rolf Jensen said that 5 percent threshold doesn’t apply.

Total owed: $747,115.34, Johnson’s suit says.

A brief profile of Jensen, when he was in the news for defending a soldier who refused to follow orders because he did not believe the president was born in the United States, is “Attorney For Birther Army Doc Is Former GOP Staffer And Anti-Gay Crusader” by Justin Elliott.

Another piece, citing Barrett’s excellent work, which re-inforces the idea of Sharpton as a chess piece of a larger game is Joe Conason’s “A GOP trickster rents Al Sharpton “:

To anyone familiar with the buccaneering careers of Al Sharpton and Roger Stone, their convergence in the 2004 presidential campaign is not quite as “unlikely” as the New York Times suggested in a headline last week. Indeed, the alliance between the conservative consultant and the pompadoured preacher makes perfect sense.

Whatever excuse each man offers to justify their embarrassing embrace, Stone certainly serves the Republican party by sustaining and promoting Sharpton. Ever since the reverend announced his candidacy, right-leaning commentators have gleefully predicted that he will pose “a major threat” to the Democrats in 2004.

50 The Libertas Institute web site.

51 The examples of the strangely non-libertarian foreign policy of Gary Johnson are brought up in this blog’s “Conor Friedersdorf: An Almost Irrelevant Man”.

52 One might see evidence of this design in the answers Stone gave in a far too deferential sketch by Mark Warren, “Roger Stone to GOP: Payback’s a Bitch”; my bolds:

[Roger Stone:] “Johnson is polling at 9 percent in Arizona [according to PPP], and it’s all gonna come out of Romney’s hide, and he’s at 6 percent in Wisconsin (according to the Reason poll), which is all out of Obama’s hide. I am helping Gary figure out where to put his emphasis.

We may also see this as the motivation behind Stone’s criticism that Obama did not go far enough in his statements on gay marriage, quoted in a piece by Michael Musto, “Obama Actually Betrayed The Gay Marriage Cause”

That’s what one writer says.

Before you start screaming “foul” en route to resuming your gay-victory celebration, kindly check out the article by Roger Stone.

It makes some points.

“Once Gay Americans are through celebrating President Barack Obama’s ‘personal’ support of Gay marriage equality, they will learn that Obama’s ‘evolution’ changes nothing. Obama’s new position is a bullshit cop-out.

“This comes on the heels of a cynical Obama campaign pirouette where Team Obama trotted out first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then Vice President ‘Crazy’ Joe Biden to say they support gay marriage and imply that the President would too–after the election.

“Now, incredibly, Obama says Gay marriage is a state issue. That’s what they used to say about abortion and before that, slavery. Now the President says he believes that gay couples should be able to marry but he doesn’t believe they have a right to do so. Obama would leave the question to the states–in other words–the status quo. This is like saying that public schools ought to be integrated but if the people of Mississippi disagree, well it’s up to them.

“If Obama believes that marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed civil right, as former Governor Gary Johnson does, than it can’t be abridged by the states. Forty-four states currently ban gay marriage. Under Obama millions of Americans in most states will continue be denied the right to marry the person of their choice.”

“Barack Obama is playing a cruel and cynical game with peoples lives and happiness. He did nothing to establish that gay marriage is a right yesterday.”

Given how starry eyed Musto has gotten over this pronouncement, it might behoove readers to look at the other side of the balance: that Stone worked as a consultant for the anti-gay fanatic Larry Klayman in his Senate campaign, and that Stone’s close associate is Paul Jensen, who filed suit to defrock presbyterian ministers who’ve been so audacious as to ordain gays, mentioned by Musto’s Village colleague, and definitive Roger Stone chronicler, Wayne Barrett, in “Sleeping with the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton’s Campaign”. If that is not a cruel and cynical game to play with people’s lives and happiness, as well as a rankly hypocritical one, what isn’t?

53 In “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman, the retiring of primary debt is dealt with in one sentence, “Others have raised issues about exactly how Johnson has paid off debt from when he ran for president as a Republican in the primary.”

On the FEC complaint, again from Haberman’s “Complaint”:

A Washington man who’s worked in Republican politics has filed a notarized complaint with the FEC about Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson’s campaign and the way his consultants have reported expenditures, raising questions about how huge chunks of the campaign’s coffers went to a single entity.

The complaint, viewable here, was filed by Addison Smith, a Republican who was part of the George W. Bush reelection effort in 2004, according to his bio, and is currently a VP at Sphere Consulting.

In addition to the fact that the expenditures aren’t labeled as primary or general election, there are major sums – in some cases as much as 120 percent, when debt is factored in – going to a single entity called Political Advisors, based in Utah. It’s listed in the filings as for a wide variety of things like media buys.

But it’s not clear from the filings exactly what the money was used for, as the FEC demands. For instance, things like campaign travel are lumped in as the same activities as media buys.

Asked to comment on the subtance of the FEC complaint, Johnson campaign counsel Alicia Dearn responded in an email suggesting a political conspiracy.

Dearn did not respond to the questions in the complaint about why the payments were conducted that way – including why debt was suddenly reported in the latest filing.

54 “Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray:

With just a few weeks before election day and his campaign making no significant progress, an email has begun circulating in libertarian circles accusing campaign manager Ronald Nielson of syphoning nearly 90% of the campaign’s $2 million to his consulting firm and charges Johnson has not paid for any radio or TV ads, direct mail or paid staff.

But the email’s claims are dubious: according to the campaign Johnson has several paid staffers and the campaign has distributed 60,000 yard signs, 165,000 bumper stickers, 670,000 brochures and flyers, and has aired almost 1,000 radio spots. The campaign has also been regularly sending out direct mail to voters and routinely organizes campaign events.

The email, which is signed by an apparently fictional person named Eric Stevens of Twinsburg, Ohio, also implicates Roger Stone, the longtime operative who became an advisor for Johnson earlier this year.

Still, the email does generally point to the fact that much of Johnson’s expenditures are in fact going to firms that appear to be connected to his aides.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, a large portion of the campaign’s disbursements went to “Political Advisors” or “Politcal [sic] Advisors,” with the address of 781 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City.

No businesses are listed at 781 – but 731 East South Temple Street is the address of the Johnson campaign, according to its website, and also the address of Nielson’s communications firm. A call to the number listed for the building led to a voicemail for Natalie Dicou, a Johnson and Libertarian Party spokeswoman.

The September monthly report, for example, lists “Politcal [sic] Advisors” as receiving $229,563.42, by far the biggest expense that month. In the reports, the Political Advisors expenses are for “Media Buys. Candidate Travel and Advisory Services.” The report doesn’t itemize specific vendors for these services.

55 From “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman:

The complaint, viewable here, was filed by Addison Smith, a Republican who was part of the George W. Bush reelection effort in 2004, according to his bio, and is currently a VP at Sphere Consulting.

Smith declined to comment on why he did the filing when I reached him by phone. A source familiar with the effort said it arose from an exercise with intern training, and Johnson’s filings were used as an example – and they were surprised by what they saw.

Smith doesn’t work for a political campaign and is non-active this cycle, a source close to him said. His firm is represented by Patton Boggs, which employs Mitt Romney’s veteran campaign counsel, Ben Ginsberg, who is an alum of many national efforts, including both the Bush election in 2000 and the reelect. Romney aides said the complaint has nothing to do with them.

56 From “Spoiler Alert! G.O.P. Fighting Libertarian’s Spot on the Ballot” by Jim Rutenberg:

Mr. Stone says he has become so frustrated with the party’s attempts to shut down Mr. Johnson, whom he says he is advising at no charge, that he vowed in an e-mail last month, “Republican blood will run in the streets b4 I am done.”

“Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray:

Stone, a lifelong Republican, changed his affiliation to Libertarian in February 2012. He became involved with the Johnson campaign in March to help Johnson get federal matching funds, telling BuzzFeed at the time that he was a volunteer.

57 From “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] by Wayne Barrett:

*Two companies controlled by Stone’s secretary Dianne Thorne, and registered out of her Miami apartment, have received a total of $84,320 so far from the campaign. The payments started in March, shortly after the campaign also made the first of $17,000 in payments to Thorne’s stepson, Andrew Miller, who listed a St. Peters, Missouri address. Miller was confounded when the Times told him he’d actually appeared on the payroll for four months longer than he was aware. Thorne, down on the beach, was described as Paladino’s “scheduler.” She actually once had a company registered out of the same address called Hype LLC.

*Caputo himself was paid $407,190 in the first six months of the campaign, a remarkable sum for a hired mouth, suggesting that he gets expletive bonuses. Since Stone recommended his former driver Caputo to Paladino, and Caputo and Stone have worked together on and off since the mid-90s (when Caputo handled the press response to Roger’s group-sex scandal), this largesse may not belong exclusively to the lien-laden Caputo. In any event, it was paid to Caputo Public Relations at an East Aurora address, a village near Buffalo. No such company is incorporated in the state, according to the secretary of state’s office. Caputo’s firm does have a website, listed at the address of Caputo’s father’s insurance company, as well as a Florida location. But Florida officials tell the Voice that the state dissolved the company on September 25, 2009 for failing to meet registration requirements. Even junkyards incorporate a petty legal requirement with large tax implications.

*These are hardly the only avenues available to Stone if he was seeking to supplement his charitable good works on Paladino’s behalf. The campaign has adopted the extraordinary new tactic of making major payments to a Paladino family real estate company, which, in turn, pays the wages of unnamed campaign workers. So far, it has hidden $62,278 in payments to this invisible staff, an apparent violation of state laws requiring the actual identities of people paid to work in campaigns. Paladino has also formed his own advertising firm for this campaign, Ellicott Advertising, which was paid $1.8 million by the campaign to do TV and radio ads. These insider deals make it all the easier to conceal Roger rewards.

*Stone simply moved his traveling troupe of “misfits,” as Caputo himself characterized the Paladino crew in an Observer piece, from a 2009 losing effort last November in Ohio. Stone was in Ohio as the “strategic consultant” to an anti-casino campaign, trying to defeat a referendum legalizing casinos in four cities. Having made a fortune in the Indian gaming business, Stone also opposes casinos when a casino interest pays him to, and that’s precisely what he was doing in Ohio. Stone, his onetime top client Donald Trump, and a third party were hit with a record $250,000 fine by the New York lobbying commission in 2000 over their similar effort to kill New York casinos that might compete with Trump’s Atlantic City empire.

58 From “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] by Wayne Barrett:

[Larry] Klayman soon discovered that Stone was barely tending to business. He found him “sitting in an outdoor café salivating at the cavalcade of bodies, both male and female, marching up and down Lincoln Road” or in New York, “allegedly attending to his sick father.” By the time Stone and Klayman parted company that fall, “I had a campaign debt of several hundred thousand dollars, much of it on my own lines of credit.”

59 She is listed as media contact on a lot of Gary Johnson materials, such as this announcement, “Libertarian Vp Candidate Judge Jim Gray Calls Vp Debate “Animated Agreement”:

Judge Gray is available for interviews. To schedule, please contact Dianne Thorne, [etc.]

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Rolling Stones – “Salt of the Earth”

I can’t think of any holiday music that I want to listen to, except this.

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Conor Friedersdorf: An Almost Irrelevant Man

(I offer this introductory note on December 1st, 2013: I wrote this in a rush of great anger, and have avoided revisiting it because I have no desire to re-experience that anger. I apologize for any issues of spelling or grammar that are extant due to lack of revision. I offer that apology, and no other.)

(Almost all supporting text and links, are done through footnotes, so a reader might quickly see the title of the article, as well as immediate supporting information, without having to hover or click on a link.)

A post prompted for a simple practical reason: over the next few months there will be a number of significant fights, the most important over gun regulation, and it will be valuable to perhaps give context to some intellectual partisans. I settle on Conor Friedersdorf first, because he is often perceived as someone outside of the traditional partisanship of left and right, a man devoted entirely to reason and honest discourse, and his opinions are often presented and re-circulated in this context, perhaps the most notable, “Why I Refuse To Vote For Barack Obama”, where his argument that his objection to the president’s abuse of executive power prevented him from further supporting the president, and why he was voting for Gary Johnson. He was perhaps the most high profile dissenter, that I know of, of voting for either major party this past election. No doubt, if he makes any pronouncements on any legislation on guns, or actions taken against the NRA, he’ll have equally lofty pronouncements, and they may well carry equivalent weight. For this post, I did my best to read everything written by him in The Atlantic from the past year and a half, with the purpose to both honestly inform, to provide a solid background of his work, as well as bluntly tactical: I do think providing such past context will demonstrate that Mr. Friedersdorf is clearly an ideological writer, cleaving first and foremost to libertarian priorities then the facts of any problem, and this will destroy some of the moral weight of his pronouncements. Further: I think the prominence of Friedersdorf as perhaps the only ideological radical in any centrist, mainstream publication, by which I mean a man who looks at every problem almost solely through the perspective of ideology, demonstrates something of the larger media context now, of what views are allowed to be radical, and what radical views a magazine might point to as a demonstration that it has a diversity of views.

I hesitated with writing this piece, as I am too often consumed with animus, and I do not think the world needs any more of it. The position of reader and a professional writer such as Mr. Friedersdorf, at this present time is one almost designed to generate this mutual feeling. The writer must produce endless content to satisfy the demand of perpetual, unending appetites. He is assailed in comments for reasons of ideology and technical flaws, which further distances the writer from the reader – rather than being able to imagine an ideal reader, they very clearly meet the unideal reader. The best, most convenient format for mass content is the authoritative think piece, an analysis or opinion on some current subject, and the attitude of such pieces, as opposed to journalism or fiction, ends up being a variation of “I will tell you what is the proper attitude according to my expert analysis”, and this itself creates an alienation between reader and writer, a teacher lecturing pupils. The reader expresses anger at the writer in the comments, and this further distances writer from reader, intensifies the feeling of isolation between the two, and reinforces the lecture posture, a well-behaved instructor telling the huddled masses what’s what. That one is lectured to on political issues only intensifies one sense of powerlessness – political institutions will not respond, and now you will be told how you are to blame, how your dissent is wrong, how you should all do with less by a writer who has a great deal more. I have been guilty of this as much as many, never issuing violent threats, but often replying angrily to the writer, out of the indignity of being lectured to, of being treated as a moral inferior, a less knowing creature – all these things. My most recent angry replies were to Mr. Friedersdorf’s blog post where he eulogized Ron Paul’s departure from Congress, and to one of his posts on the Newtown massacre. If I had greater strength of character, I would make some attempt at apology, but I lack it. I am to some degree a broken man: were I a landscape, I would be a frozen lake on which a broken rainbow casts its light, this prismatic line almost entirely an intense, bloody red, the other colors almost entirely greyed out. I wish simply to win certain fights, most notably on gun control – not for the purpose of humiliating anyone on the other side, including Mr. Friedersdorf, but for the material and social benefits of such fights. My post title is partly malign and partly not: I believe Mr. Friedersdorf to have relevance, but on a much more restricted, more partisan spectrum than assumed.

I will be very critical of Mr. Friedersdorf, so I will first praise him: as a journalist, he often conveys the attitude of a respectful and diligent listener. He did not observe #OWS from afar and cast judgement, but actively engaged with them1. When the legislative council handed down its points, he quoted them in full, gave each individual dissent, and did not just summarize them dismissively2. He spoke with equal respect to RNC delegates, treating them not as primal creatures who might be the source for quick caricatures, but simple folk, and by simple, I do not mean uncomplicated, but not as political ideas clothed in human skin3. He gave a thorough, diligent description of police brutality incidents that took place at #OWS, possibly the only thing of its kind in a centrist publication4. He gave equal attention to such incidents that took place at UC Davis5. His description of torture practices during the Bush administration and the effects of drone warfare are uncompromising and consistent, again one of the more radical, on-going critiques to appear in such a publication6 – Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, of course, writes on this subject as well, but less frequently, and more focused on journalism centered on specific instances, with Friedersdorf’s only equivalent in this regard Glenn Greenwald, formerly of Salon, now of The Guardian.

He describes as a libertarian, with his writing not devoted to any specific ideology7, but his concerns almost entirely map onto libertarian ones with regard to the coercive power and size of the state: an end to the drug war, gay marriage, the intrusive power of the NSA, the war on whistleblowers, the president not consulting congress for the libyan war, an end to federal subsidies for agriculture, greater sovereignty for individual states, the unconstitutionality of health care reform, entitlement reform and the debt burdens of greedy public sector unions.

At no point is an issue brought up that might not involve the libertarian concern for a smaller, less intrusive state. For instance, I would argue the most pressing issue of the last four years has been the level of unemployment and the amount of people who have dropped out of the workforce out of despair, and the poverty accompanying this lack of work. I think it is possible to write about this, raising the issues of why there is work lacking in that area, easily, in a manner that the impetus for writing on the problem is not a state or free market solution, but the urgency of the problem itself. One focuses on the issue not because there is a solution that your partisans could provide, there may be neither, but because the problem demands to be looked at. What is striking in Mr. Friedersdorf’s work, is that despite this long-term crisis, there is barely any mention of such poverty or unemployment, unless as it relates to size of the state issues. There are two pieces on how mandatory licensing keeps the unemployed from selling goods and services8, there is a post on how the drug war most directly affects the poor9, and a post on the possibility of financial compensation for organ donors10. There’s also a piece calling for an austerity budget, despite Paul Krugman calling such a move a disaster, and despite the horrific effects it would have on unemployment and the poor, for the simple reason that such budget cutting should not be put off11.

Were you to ask me in this past year the most pressing issues an american family would encounter over the next fifty years that overlap with state involvement (though this does not preclude private market involvement), I would put down energy projects and carbon taxes to deal with global warming; gun control; campaign finance regulation and reform; banking regulation and reform; runaway state legislatures passing xenophobic bills on self-deportation, gays, and muslims; runaway state legislatures passing bills restricting abortion and contraception; infrastructure repair and high speed rail; increased or more effectively targeted federal education subsidies; student debt relief; a rise in my state’s pollution and cutback in its services because of industry deregulation, a refusal to raise income taxes, along with low taxes and giveaways for any company that moved to the state. When Mr. Friederdorf gives an imaginary anecdotal list, they include your father being killed by a drone strike, getting beaten down by a cop, being deported after the NSA listens in on a phonecall, poor language skills due to low quality public sector teachers, and OSHA over-regulation of halal meat12.

There is, in fact, a hostile attitude towards relief of any kind in these difficult times, other than calling for an end to the war on drugs. Mr. Friedersdorf, a man who describes growing up in an upper-middle class Orange County neighbourhood, travelling to Europe and around the world, attending undergrad and grad school, does not quite speak from having known a life of need. He appears to mistake his life and those close to him for everyone else’s, writing of the possibility in “large parts of america” of being able, on a pure whim, to quit one’s job, borrow $100,000, and spend a year studying journalism13. His description of a typical grad student is someone who supports themselves at the Kennedy school of government by being a summertime yoga instructor14. The possibility of student debt relief is dismissed in his only post on the subject, “Pandering to a Privileged Class”: with the example of the Obamas cited as the only example. Here were two people at the top of their class, from excellent schools, who ended up at choice law firms. Yes, they had some difficulty paying their student bills starting out, but why should such people in such choice circumstances get relief? Aren’t most students with outstanding student loans like them? Money available for possible student relief should instead be spent on full scholarships15. To hand out money for student debt relief, according to Mr. Friedersdorf, in “a country with impoverished immigrants and struggling high school dropouts and hard-pressed single mothers” is perverse. This group, those in such need, are never addressed again by Mr. Friedersdorf. One can only assume they will be helped by the end of the drug war and being able to sell food on the streets.

The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is brought up, and Mr. Friedersdorf explains why it’s reasonable for some to view it as unconstitutional16. He never otherwise brings up the issue of medical bills or what should be done about health costs. He states why he thinks women’s contraception should not be covered under the government plan: doing so would be unfair to those who don’t use such contraception, such as lesbians, or those who don’t use it as much as the sluttier sluts (yes, dear reader, those are my words, not his)17. He gives no mention of why women should be singled out for this exceptional treatment, nor of any of the wide variety of people who, through various lifestyle choices, may incur higher health care costs than others18. He is deeply critical of catholic institutions being coerced to purchase contraception against their values – though he writes of an obvious distinction between a catholic affiliated institution and others, he gives no basis for why such an institution should have a right not to distribute such contraception (even though its employees may want it), while a business run by a fervent catholic does not have such a right (“Federal Court Rules That Hobby Lobby Is Not Exempt From Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate”, by Amanda Peterson Beadle), or whether catholic hospitals with or without government funding, should be able to refuse to provide contraception to rape victims, as Linda McMahon advocated in her 2012 governor’s bid (“Linda McMahon: Catholic Hospitals Should Be Allowed To Deny Emergency Contraception To Rape Victims” by Aviva Shen)19. These points, that lesbians should have to pay for contraception, and that catholic institutions should have to buy it, are cited as examples of liberal intolerance for values different from their own, comparable to those who refuse to let gay couples get married20. That these might be examples of something else, an intolerance of women exerting certain rights is not considered. There was no war on women, he re-assures us. There are simply some politicians who are pro-life, and some who had sound economic reasons for not subsidizing women’s contraception, and the democratic party exploited women’s fears over this21.

The growing income gap, the other major story of the past two years, gets only incidental mention. That there are different classes is conceded, but it is not, despite what Charles Murray says, defined by the beer they drink – “sometimes [it’s] Charles Murrayesque elites who ought to step outside their self-imposed confines, other times it is the white working class that ought to do so”22. We are lectured on the folly that successful commerce builds on, or can be said to be dependent in any way with public projects, that, yes, an entrepreneur can claim to build something entirely apart from society, as the same public resources are available to everyone, the successful entrepreneur and everyone else23. When Mitt Romney says that he doesn’t care about poor people, Friedersdorf assures us that very rarely do politicians care about poor people. This is bad, and it would be good if it were different, but meanwhile, we should give Romney credit for speaking so honestly – “shouldn’t we prefer a political discourse where forthrightness of that kind isn’t treated as a fault?”24 The irrationality of the statements of the “47% tape” are addressed, but never how such callousness might influence Romney’s policies towards the poor and dependent25. We are also assured, without evidence, that Obama says equally contemptible things about his supporters behind closed doors – in a rather sloppy and dishonest misreading, this tape is described as equal to Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” speech26. This rather astonishing moment when the class divide waas laid bare, does not bring about any discussion of the divide or any remedies. In his piece, “Why I Refuse To Vote For Mitt Romney, his lack of fiscal conservatism is brought up, but the man’s policies towards the middle class and the less well off go entirely unmentioned27.

The only mention those in the working class and the service industry get is through pieces lamenting the expense and power of unions28. They are blamed entirely for the bankruptcy of California – that effects of Proposition 13 are never brought up, nor the loss of tax revenue through the loss of federal defense work29. I do not suggest that Proposition 13 would necessarily be the sole culprit, only that it is given no mention whatsoever. The difficulties of the middle class are never made the specific focus of a post either, though attempts to claw back revnues from the very wealthy, such as Eduardo Saverin, who give up their american citizenship to avoid paying taxes, are given two posts30. A related middle class issue, such as debt collection practices against those who got credit cards and now make onerous payments at post-teaser rates, is never given notice.

I make this lengthy overview to make clear that Mr. Friedersdorf’s perspective is not entirely our own. He is like a man who sees certain spectra of light very well, and is entirely blind to others. He notes immediately, and is outraged, by drone killings and illegal wiretapping; the hunger, the poverty, the desperation in his own country do not appear to exist. That his reader might have had a very different life, with student debt, hospital bills, great difficulty finding work, seems to go unnoticed as well – the assumption is that you are of the same social class as he. Discussing one of Charle Murray’s ideas, he says “the conceit is that America’s ruling class, including journalists like me and cosmopolitan readers like you, exist in a cultural bubble.” As if having a curiousity to read, for ideas, for argument, that would cause you to read The Atlantic could necessarily be linked to one social and economic class.

This affects his approach to his work on drone warfare and executive overreach, which is good, though also limited, I think, by viewing it in the context only in ideological terms. It is extraordinarily repetitive, and I think unnecessarily so. The key points – that the libyan war was unauthourized by congress, the secret kill list, the war on whistleblowers, wiretapping – are reiterated over and over again, an example of the hubris of Obama in his seizure of such great executive power31. Despite his stating that he is a jaded man, Mr. Friedersdorf presents this as a manichean issue. Obama was good when he ran for president, then he acted badly when he took over the executive, the implication that executive power itself corrupts. Mr. Friedersdorf never gives us any hint or insight as to what may have happened – executive powers simply corrupt32. That Obama may have attempted the surge in Afghanistan because of the possibility of providing some secure protection for Afghans from the taliban after american forces leave is never brought up. That Obama may have wanted to stay in Iraq longer so that there would be time for certain native institutions to develop allowing for the Sunni and Kurd minorities to have some possibility of safety is never said. I am not saying those reasons are necessarily valid, or that they couldn’t be countered – I am saying that they go entirely unmentioned. Mr. Friedersdorf says that he is against absolutist thinking, but his thinking here is absolutist – Obama said he would begin the pull-out from Afghanistan at a certain date and he didn’t – this is a broken promise. He makes this same approach in another area which I find troublesome – he condemns Obama for not closing Guantanamo, though it is well-known that the president did make such an effort, and that the congress, especially the republicans, immediately reacted to this, often in the most reactionary and hysteric terms. There is nothing wrong with Mr. Friedersdorf arguing for closure despite this factor, but, as far as I can tell, he does not ever mention congress’s part in this, ever33.

It is when Mr. Friedersdorf argues in favor of two political candidates, first Ron Paul, then Gary Johnson, in reaction to these policies that my ire rises. He considers Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the entire republican primary field except for Jon Huntsman and Johnson to be unacceptable, for reasons of fiscal policy and the war state. He considers the policies of Barack Obama utterly amoral, quite likely illegal, and questions the moral calibre of any person who accepts Obama given his policies in this area34. Leaving aside the racism of Ron Paul for the moment, an obvious, major obstacle that would keep many from supporting Ron Paul would be his utter destruction of the social safety net35. Mr. Friedersdorf never brings up issues of unemployment relief or medical bills in any part of his blog, and he doesn’t bring them up here – they simply do not exist. Where for many of his readers this would be a difficult balance – however much they want the drone program to end, can they afford to have the floor for their wages threatened? what if things suddenly go very wrong for their chronicly ill sister? would there be any medical relief whatsoever under a Paul administration? – these are of no concern to Mr. Friedersdorf, and he does not appear to expect such issues to be raised. After all, we are all cosmopolitans, members of America’s ruling class. Those anxious voters have nothing to fear, argues Mr. Friedersdorf – Paul will successfully end the drug war and overseas commitments, while his more extreme ideas related to gold and the fed will be stopped by congress36. Those who have seen how easily republicans eviscerate the social safety net, while affirming a strong defense and family values at home, may well believe that Mr. Friedersdorf has things very much the wrong way around. This one of the only times he touches on the extraordinary negative economic impact a Paul presidency might bring about – he usually prefers to repeat over and over the morality of Paul’s small state vision and the amorality of Obama’s security state. He has better things to think about than the evisceration of the safety net, and he does not expect his readers to think about it either.

A brief aside: this utter indifference to the social welfare of the most vulnerable of society is not exclusive to his enthusiasm for Ron Paul, but continues with his son, Rand Paul, as well. Rand is often celebrated in Mr. Friederdorf’s posts for his brave stands against the TSA, the surveillance state, and the war state37. Though Friederdorf extols “reason” and “civilized discourse”, he does not seem to make mention of when Rand compared the U.S. government to Nazi germany, when he compared the upholding of Obamacare to Dred Scot, or when he repeated claims about the National Weather Bureau stockpiling ammunition38. When Rand talks about how the Kentucky mining industry should be able to regulate itself, after he receives contributions from coal companies such as Murray Energy, which coerces its workers into donating to the company’s chosen candidates, and those same mines collapse and kill miners after numerous safety violations, don’t expect it to be mentioned39. When Rand blocks disaster relief, blocks relief for disabled and elderly refugees, or, most egregiously, Rand stops passage of a jobs for veterans bill because he didn’t get something he wanted, it will not be noted by Mr. Friederdorf40. A photo of a maimed veteran is useful as a show of anti-war piety, but when it comes to getting work for them, that has nothing to do with libertarianism, or the smaller state: they’re not cosmopolitans, they’re not part of america’s ruling class, and they can go fuck themselves.

We can now transition to the period where Paul’s racist newsletters were re-discovered, the public made well aware of their contents. Even if Paul was in some way responsible for the vile content of these newsletters, Mr. Friedersdorf argued, his desire to end the war on drugs, drone warfare, and other executive excesses made him the morally superior choice to Barack Obama. There was a small intellectual game being played here – any person who took over the executive while the drug war was on-going, while the war in Afghanistan was going, etc. became less moral than any man outside who sought the presidency and claimed they wished to end those policies, as the executive’s hands immediately became stained with the blood of the dead41. This rather cheap intellectual game might be played by anyone – a member of the KKK, a rapist, a pedophile, Charles Manson – might all claim moral superiority to the president, according to this calculus, because they had not killed as many people with their bare hands as had died from drones or the Afghan war. It is a cheap game, and a simple-minded one. That such newsletters might indicate the pathology of a disturbed man, and such a figure should not be anywhere near the power of the presidency went unmentined – the machinery of government itself, its ability to inflict war and coerce, was seen as an unconscionable evil separate from those who might take charge. As before, the effect of Ron Paul’s policies on the safety net was never brought into the calculus.

After this debacle, Mr. Friedersdorf’s attention now shifted to the libertarian candidate in the general election, Gary Johnson. Again, the music was the same as before: those who supported Barack Obama were morally compromised because of his war state policies, as opposed to those who voted for Johnson, who, as Mr. Friedersdorf reiterated again and again, would end drone warfare, would close Guantanamo Bay, would finally stop the process of endless wars.

This is where we might look more in-depth at Gary Johnson, who is far less known to the general public than Ron Paul. Mr. Friedersdorf wrote an early profile of the man, “The Zen of Gary Johnson”, and I excerpt its essence here:

Gary Johnson, 58, served as governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, ousting an incumbent by a 10 point margin, and handily winning reelection four years later. In his first months in office, he vetoed outright almost half of all bills brought to his desk in order to cut spending. He announced his support for legalizing marijuana in his second term, becoming the highest ranking politician in the US government to take that controversial position.

We’ve got differences, but he’s a successful two-term governor, a fiscal hawk, and almost alone in advocating an end to America’s unaffordable wars (drugs, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya). He seemed like a younger Ron Paul with executive experience and without the gold obsession or racist newsletter baggage.

“You’ll never go wrong by telling the truth. Never. I told my cabinet, it’s going to be the truth. If any of you get yourselves in a situation, that we’ve made a mistake or whatever, I don’t want us to ever make the statement that we can’t comment because of legal restraint. We all need to comment. We all need to tell the truth all the time. And we’ll let the lawyers catch up with the truth.”

“Letting the lawyers catch up with the truth” may be the most radical anti-establishment position in contemporary American politics. Would a president who actually always told the truth be a fantastic success? A dangerous failure? Personally, it’s a gamble I’d like to take.

I don’t think this deviates from the overall tone of the full piece. No further details of his governorship of New Mexico are given. I should note here that several times Mr. Friedersdorf chastises others for the sycophantic or sentimental attitudes towards the current president42.

This, however, is not the only profile of Johnson that was written. A far fuller, more complex, more disturbing, and far, far better one was put together just before election day by Marc Ames, for the Not Safe For Work Corporation: “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics”. Mr. Ames, along with his erstwhile associate Matt Taibbi, and the bete noir of The Atlantic, Moe Tkacik43, are to my mind, far truer radicals than Mr. Friedersdorf, critical of the president’s security state policies, as well as the disgusting abandonment of the worst off in society. They are of a very different sensibility than my own, but I greatly appreciate them for the same reason Lincoln praised Grant: they fight.

“Swindle” gives Johnson’s background fuller detail*: he cut taxes, cut social program spending, took a very hardline attitude towards crime, including drug related crimes, and promised to veto any bills that involved new spending for drug treatment centers. The major achievements cited by Johnson during his presidential run (none of the following are mentioned in the Friedersdorf profile) include cutting welfare spending by 30%, privatizing half the state prisons, and allowing non-union labor to be used in public construction. A notable public project was the widening of a New Mexico highway which ended up costing the state over $350 million dollars, requiring the governor to borrow the money through a federal bond. This project, again, goes entirely unmentioned in both “The Zen of Gary Johnson” or any subsequent writing by Mr. Friedersdorf on the man. The only specific legislative point mentioned is that, yes, in his second term, Johnson decided to legalize marijuana, though, again, unmentioned in Mr. Friedersdorf’s profile – he refused to give blanket pardons to anyone serving drug convictions in New Mexico jails.

More interesting than Johnson himself are the campaign associates this profile brings up. They include Maureen Otis, the woman heading “Our American Initiative”, the nonprofit backing Johnson, a figure with close ties to the hard-right anti-immigrant Minutemen movement, and who ran a company, “American Caging”, involved in minority vote suppression. Another associate, Jim Lacy, was involved in dirty tricks in California elections, sending mailers featuring pictures of liberal icons such as Robert Kennedy mixed in with conservative names so as to confuse democrats into voting republican. Lacy also backed minutemen groups, produced birther propaganda, and was involved in lawsuits to get Obama to release his birth certificate. There’s also Joe Hunter, a spokesman for anti-immigrant group “Utahns For Official English”, which managed to make english the only official language of the state. Rouding out the group behind Johnson was Roger Stone, a dirty trickster who started out with Nixon, and has helped various republican presidential candidates in the murkier, dirtier parts of a campaign. One achievement was his organization in 2000, of the Brooks brother riot, which disrupted the presidential vote count in Miami44.

More significantly, in 1980, he was involved in getting Roger Anderson, that year’s third party candidate on the ballot in New York, thereby splitting the democrat vote between Anderson and Carter, handing the state’s electoral votes to Carter. A similar strategy may have been planned in 2012 as well, with the democratic vote split between Obama and the pot-friendly Johnson, handing vital state votes to Romney. Though this story is well-sourced, none of this is mentioned, even simply to refute it, in Mr. Friedersdorf’s writing on Johnson.

This leads to other relevant details that I found through this excellent piece by Mr. Ames, none of which get mention by Mr. Friedersdorf in his writing on Johnson. Remember: he stresses again and again that the reason he can vote for a clean conscience for the libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is for his record on drones, closing Guantanamo, and an end to belligerence overseas. He cites the use of drones in Pakistan as his top dealbreaker in “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama”.

I quote his endorsement of Johnson from that piece:

There is a candidate on the ballot in at least 47 states, and probably in all 50, who regularly speaks out against that post-9/11 trend, and all the individual policies that compose it. His name is Gary Johnson, and he won’t win. [the link goes to a short profile of Johnson by The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball – it also contains none of the details of the Ames piece] I am supporting him because he ought to. Liberals and progressives care so little about having critiques of the aforementioned policies aired that vanishingly few will even urge that he be included in the upcoming presidential debates.

The following clips that I use here were all available, on the web, easily available for everyone to examine and make mention of.

Here is Johnson in an interview on Fox News with Andrew Napolitano. It deals with Guantanamo Bay.

NAPOLITANO: Governor, should we close Guantanamo Bay? Should they be either tried in federal district courts, or returned to their countries, or should we keep it open, and leave them uncharged for the rest of their lives?

JOHNSON: Well, when president Obama didn’t close Guantanamo Bay, and that was one of his promises, I really looked into the issue, and I had a lot of prominent libertarians tell me, if it weren’t for Guantanamo that we would have to create that situation somewhere else. So, I’ve kinda been sold on the notion that this is something we have to have whether it’s…if it’s not Guantanamo, it’s going to be somewhere else…that these are enemy combatants, and not U.S. citizens, I’ve been wooed over to the side that there’s a reason for keeping it open.

Now, Johnson in an interview with Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller,“Gary Johnson’s strange foreign policy”, on Afghanistan policy, drone strikes, and some very confused thinking on Iran:

Libertarian Party presidential contender Gary Johnson has been portrayed as an anti-war candidate, but that isn’t quite so clear.

Johnson sat down with reporters and editors from The Daily Caller last week, generously providing his time to answer any and all questions, no matter how difficult or ludicrous.

But when pressed on foreign policy topics throughout the interview, Johnson gave answers that didn’t always seem to add up and were often, at best, unorthodox positions for a man who has been painted as a non-interventionist.

Johnson said that while he wants to end the war in Afghanistan, that doesn’t mean he would necessarily stop drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan or Yemen, even though he believes they create more enemies than they kill.

“I would want leave all options on the table,” Johnson said.

But if Johnson plans on leaving Afghanistan, how does he plan to leave the option of a drone campaign against al-Qaida elements in Pakistan on the table?

“So now you have the U.S. bases that exist in those areas, do we shut down those military bases? Perhaps not,” he suggested, taking an odd position for a supposed anti-war candidate.

“I would completely withdraw our military presence,” he further expounded. “Does withdrawing our military presence from Afghanistan mean that we would still have a base open in Afghanistan if they allowed us to keep a base open? Perhaps.”

On Iran, Johnson said that if “Iran launches a nuclear warhead they can be assured that they will no longer exist.”

“None of their country will be left to stand and that will be from Israel,” he said, confident that the threat of nuclear retaliation would prevent the Islamic Republic from using any nuclear weapon it obtained.

Johnson went on to say that he doesn’t think Iran has seriously been engaged diplomatically. So what would Johnson say that hasn’t been said to get Iran to reconsider developing a nuclear weapon?

“Look, ‘Don’t develop a nuclear weapon,’” he proffered.

You don’t think that’s been said, TheDC asked?

“’So if we open up trade with you all, we’d like to be a trading partner,’” he added.

Seriously, you don’t think that has been put on the table in negotiations, TheDC asked?

Johnson then pivoted and suggested that there wasn’t any evidence that Iran was developing, or ever wanted, a nuclear weapon.

“Am I not correct in saying that Iran has never voiced that they are developing a nuclear weapon, nor do they have any intention of using a nuclear weapon against the United States?” he asked.

“That’s never actually been voiced. I don’t know where that has come from, but it hasn’t been from Iran.”

So if he doesn’t believe Iran is developing a nuclear weapon or has any intention of developing a nuclear weapon, why is he even suggesting negotiations? Shouldn’t we just open up trade with Iran without asking for anything in return in that case?

“I would be in that camp,” he conceded.

Finally, with regard to ending wars overseas, here is Johnson on a Fox News panel shows, outflanking Obama on the right, arguing for a strike team to go into Uganda to kill Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. He argues this is different from Libya, because Kony is committing genocide. Like Charles Krauthammer, a guest on the panel, I am unable to understand the distinction between the Libyan rebels being wiped out and what’s taking place in Uganda. I should emphasize that these are simple interviews, and that Mr. Friedersdorf felt that Paul Ryan made clear that he was not qualified to be president based on his performance at a VP debate: “The VP Debate Cinches It: Paul Ryan Is Unqualified to Step In as POTUS”. Ask yourself while reading this, in terms of coherence and focus, how different this is from anything Herman Cain has ever said:

FOX NEWS GAL: So the president’s said that he’s sending a hundred troops to Central Africa, to combat the LRA, Joseph Kony. Would you support this if you were president? Is this something you would do?

JOHNSON: You know, in thinking about this, he signed legislation…Congress authorized that this is what needed to take place…he signed that legislation as president. If I were president, and I signed that legislation, I would have had an action plan ready to go immediately. From all appearances, this really does seem to be genocide. I mean, this really seems to be…these are really bad actors, a finite number of fighters…whatever that number is, I don’t know if I’d be sending advisers there, as immediately as after signing the legislation, sent a strike force to wipe them out.

KRAUTHAMMER: That’s very non-libertarian of you.

JOHNSON: Well, I’ve always said that genocide is something that none of us want to stand by and watch happen. From everything I can ascertain from this situaiton, this does qualify for genocide.

KRAUTHAMMER: What about the Qaddafi threat, when he was winning the war against the rebels at the beginning…to wipe out the people, his opponents in Benghazi. Would you have sent the army to go and prevent that?

JOHNSON: No, I would not have. I did not see a military threat from Libya. That’s another issue here with the Lord’s Resistance Army, is that this is their nation. We’re talking about a foreign dictator here. I don’t think there’s anything in the constitution that says because we don’t like a foreign leader we should go in and topple that foreign leader.

KRAUTHAMMER: But I’m not sure if I understand. Clearly the Liberation Army in Uganda is not a threat, to the United States. Yet you would say you would send a strike force. You can argue equally, whether Qaddafi is the leader of a country or not, he was a threat to the people of Benghazi, and you would not. I’m not sure I understand the logic.

JOHNSON: Well, uh, these are the questions that I…another thing I would do as president of the United States, I would be really transparent. Look, I’m signing this legislation authourizing wiping out the Lord’s Resistance Army, authourizing that legislation, on the other hand, going into Libya, I heard the transparency…I just didn’t see the military threat. And I did not see a military threat from the Lord’s Resistance Army. I do not see that as a threat to national security at all.

FOX NEWS GUY: There’s a lot of nuance.

JOHNSON: There’s a lot of nuance as president of the United States.

So, whereas those of us who vote for Obama vote for a man who was unable to close Guantanamo, engages in drone warfare, and has waged war overseas, Mr. Friedersdorf has cleaner hands, because he votes for Gary Johnson, the candidate who wants to keep Guantanamo open, has no problem with drone warfare, has no problem with Iran being wiped off the map if they develop a nuclear weapon, though he’s uncertain if they’ve even started working on one (hint: yes), and is willing to commit a Tom Clancy type strike team to Africa, where they’ll destroy an army of children, in a conflict that does not threaten in any way the United States. There are times when I would read Mr. Friedersdorf’s work and I would ask myself the question, and I ask it openly now: is there a hidden genius to this, is this writer plain ignorant, or is he a hypocritical opportunist? Here is a man has been steadily arguing that people should not vote for Obama because of his amoral, criminal policies, and who encourages them to instead vote for a candidate backed by noxious racists and con-men, whose policies violate the same principles which Mr. Friedersdorf ostentatiously waves like a proud flag.

I mentioned before that Mr. Friedersdorf’s perspective on politics is very manichean, with a bad Bush, a bad Obama, a good Johnson. His perspective on the country’s recent history is prelapsarian. He makes no criticism of any foreign policy after the Viet Nam war other than drug policy, after which the government was plunged into darkness by the two wars, indefinite detention, and the unwarranted surveillance of the Bush years, with the worst of such executive privileges continuing on under Obama.

He makes no criticsm of Reagan, who he cites as one of the only moments, other than Goldwater, that a movement conservative achieved success45. Reagan, of course, worked as an undercover agent while in Hollywood, reporting on communist activity to the FBI; then while president, placed troops in harm’s way in the Lebanese civil war; fought a war in Grenada; ran bombing raids without congressional authorization over Libya, killing one of Qadaffi’s infant children; mined the harbors of Nicaragua without congressional authorization or even notification; trained militias in Honduras and backed a government in El Salvador which certainly committed war crimes as well as mass murder46; and traded arms for hostages with Iran, violating congressional statutes, and which could well have led to his impeachment were it not for the grievous hurt such an action would inflict on the country fifteen years after Nixon’s dismissal. His successor, George H.W. Bush, who won via one of the most disgusting race-baiting ads in the age of TV election advertising, who Friedersdorf would have voted for if this man from 1988 had run in 201247, knew of the arms for hostages deal, and launched a war without congressional authorization in Panama.

So, let’s again re-iterate this case: Mr. Friedersdorf finds it unconscionable to vote for a man who wages drone warface and failed to close Guantanamo, instead voting for a candidate who has no problem with drone warfare, keeping Guantanamo open, and waging war in whatever random part of the earth he feels evil is done; furthermore, though he has deep, moral issues with Obama waging war without congressional authorization, he has no problem with Reagan engaging in several such wars without authorization, backing militias that engaged in war crimes, or selling weapons to enemies of the United States without congressional approval, nor does he have an issue with George H.W. Bush participating in such actions, or waging war without authorization himself – he, in fact, really really wishes such a man was running this year so he could vote for him. Again: genius, ignoramus, or opportunist?

As I’ve said before, I think Mr. Friedersdorf is of small relevance, rather than of no relevance, to a small spectrum of ideology. He has no appeal to republians right now, as they are entirely animated by tribal feeling, with a strong military remaining a sacred relic, a mark of america’s greatness. He has no appeal to the left, for they can find more in-depth investigations into the war state’s excesses in Jane Mayer, Seymour Hersh, countless marquee and fringe writers. His moral calls are utterly empty of appeal to any liberal who sees that his candidates are either a callous white supremacist or some right-wing loon who has no idea if Iran is building a bomb and wants to continue, or go further on many of the same policies that he calls “dealbreakers” – no progressive of some knowledge will concede to this pathetic bullying. There is only one group that might find some appeal in Friederdorf’s writing, and in this, he is the ideal radical of our time. In an era of a massive growing income gap, where the bonds of society are disappearing, Mr. Friedersdorf’s writing serves as useful affirmation to those libertarians at the top that not only is their credo more intellectual than those animals on the right, but they are more moral than those on the left, because they are for candidates who are against the surveillance and war state. That the candidates which Mr. Friedersdorf supports, Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, are men who would do such damage to the safety net that only the wealthy could safely vote for such men with impunity, is not a liability but a virtue; Mr. Friedersdorf makes those in the top tier the most moral of men and women: because they are rich they can vote for those who tear apart the system for everyone but the rich, but because they are against the security state, they are the only moral ones who opt for the most virtuous choice. In this, Mr. Friedersdorf is the perfect radical of our dystopian culture, now, and his writing a helpful compass for an anthropologist of the future.

I near the end of this piece in the place where, a few days ago, something Mr. Friedersdorf wrote incited my anger. When he writes of the dead killed by a drone strike, they are an issue of moral outrage. When they are the dead of a mass shooting, and we are outraged, we are lectured that those angry over this constitute an elite, disconnected from the ordinary unrepresented gun owner (though I’ve heard of a gun lobby that does have some media connections), and those who are upset are the persecutors48:

There isn’t anything wrong with gun-control advocates lamenting what, by their lights, is a public that’s reaching wrongheaded conclusions on the subject and is trending in the wrong direction.

But too many pieces I’ve read make a mockery of robust debate in a pluralistic society by ignoring the fact that current policy is largely (though not entirely) a reflection of the U.S. public disagreeing with gun reformers. The average American is far more likely than the average journalist or academic to identify with gun culture, to insist that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms, to exercise that right, and to support various state concealed-carry laws. Perhaps persuasion can move the citizenry to favor a different status quo. That’s always a hurdle to clear in a democracy. Yet the ability to engage and persuade fellow citizens is undermined when public discourse obscures rather than confronts the relevant disagreements.

Opponents of gun control have been widely vilified in the past week. Very few attempts have been made to understand what motivates them — and given that they’re a subset of Americans with little representation in the national media, attempts at understanding would likely do a lot to inform the rest of the American public. For the most part, these people aren’t in fact motivated by selfishness, as so many critics have stated or implied in the last few days, and almost without exception, gun-control opponents are as horrified by the events in Newtown as anyone calling for a new assault-weapons ban or better background checks or a ban on ammunition.

The point isn’t whether they’re being treated fairly or not. It’s that a gun debate can only be productive in a country as pro-gun as this one when the folks on either side at least understand the deeply held disagreements at issue. So far, too many newly vocal reformers are operating under the conceit that if only America “finally” had a conversation about gun violence, everyone would immediately see the wisdom of the position reformers have advocated all along. One need only to reflect on the state of public opinion after decades of debating the issue to conclude that the conversational outcome many reformers presume isn’t at all certain.

If death and suffering is caused through state actions, it is an issue of public urgency. If it is the result of state neglect, there is sudden caution that we not do anything too drastic. A veteran in miserable condition is noteworthy as a reminder of the war state, and his condition should be given loud voice. That same veteran in utter misery because Rand Paul killed a veterans jobs bill is an inconvenience. We must be very careful, said Mr. Friedersdorf, that we do not infringe on the rights of gun-owners. Yes, just as the freedom of lesbians is curbed when heterosexual women are able to get contraception as part of their health plan, the freedom of people shooting an AK-47 everywhere they want is curbed when public space is set aside in which children shouldn’t be killed. I do not doubt that gun-owners have some rights to some weapons and their use; I do note that this is one of the only times that those affected by a political policy are brought up, whereas the needs of the poor, vulnerable, and elderly are never mentioned when discussing austerity or a candidate junking the social safety net.

Though Mr. Friedersdorf never brings up the context of a terrorist threat when discussing drone strikes, he brings up a bogeyman when there is a massacre: yes, there may well be the possibility that some legislation should pass, but he’s not sure he can trust gun legislation in the hands of Obama, a man who had such a penchant for uncontrolled executive power49:

Interpreted narrowly, I have no problem with Obama marshaling his power “to engage” his fellow citizens. I’d only add that this is a president whose general notion of presidential power extends beyond engagement to indefinite detention and secretly assassinating American citizens without due process. So if Obama ever tweaks his formulation slightly and promises to use “whatever power” his office has “to stop gun violence,” you’ll understand why I’ll shudder. I’ve seen what it means for American presidents to do “everything” in their power to stop U.S. children from dying in terrorist attacks: It has meant torture, dead innocents abroad, and attacks on due process. I’ve also seen presidents do “everything” in their power to keep drugs away from our children. What I wouldn’t give for a politician who promised to do “only the prudent things, and no more.”

Yes, it’s too bad Gary Johnson, a man who has no problem with drone strikes and who gets his foreign policy from a rejected Expendables screenplay isn’t in charge. So there is the inconvenience that these deaths were caused by state neglect, rather than state weapons, and there was an inconvenience that several members of the dreaded public services union had died valiantly trying to save children. This last also made me think of a post by an Atlantic colleague of Mr. Friedersdorf, Jordan Weismann, a man of our time as much as Mr. Friedersdorf, who wrote a recent post about “A Very Mean (but Maybe Brilliant) Way to Pay Teachers: A Freakonomics author and a ‘Genius Grant’ winner suggest that giving teachers bonuses, then threatening to yank them away, might be the key to classroom success.” Mr. Weissman, I can only those teachers of last Friday performed up to your standards. It’s too damn bad you weren’t able to make them do any better with any dirty tricks to play on them.

This piece ends here: a while back, Mr. Friedersdorf shifted his focus to the gunwalking scandal of “Fast and Furious”. He pointed to this issue as evidence of another of Obama’s duplicities, another example of his managerial incompetence50. He egged on the committee headed by Darryl Issa that was to go after Eric Holder, despite the partisan opportunism is always there, shrugged Mr. Friedersdorf51. Of course, Fortune magazine pointed out that there was no gunwalking scandal, that it had all been set off by some disgruntled employees52. Mr. Friedersdorf later compared the attention focused on the “Furious” scandal to the casualties of the mexican drug war, bemoaning the lack of leadership that would end this folly, and put an end to the violence53. In the Fortune piece, it is made clear the incredible ease with which you could buy a gun, and that drug gangs were buying them in Arizona, then transporting them easily over to Mexico, with the death rate in Mexico fueled just as much by the easy access to guns north of the border as it is by the demand for drugs54. It seems rather simple that all Mr. Friedersdorf needs to do to care as much about whether a pile of death is to be indifferent to whether it is the result of the drug war or gun sale deregulation. He often mentions how disappointed he is that president Obama didn’t take on the big lobbies that control Washington. Well, the president will soon be taking on a very big lobby in a few months over some dead children in a school. Perhaps, somehow, Mr. Friedersdorf can find some way to support, if not the president, that cause in the fight. This man likes to damn progressives in all sorts of ways, and so I return the favor in kind: if he cannot do even this because his ideology restrains him, then I think it’s quite clear he’s an utterly callous partisan hack. That is an incivility, but what does it matter? Those words cannot have been written, this piece cannot have been written, because it was written by someone from outside the cosmopolitans, outside the american ruling class, part of a group of people that do not exist to Mr. Friedersdorf, and therefore, they do not exist, and so this piece was never written, it was never written by a nothing man, by no one.

* I first heard of this story from a reddit link, “More evidence Gary Johnson was a scam” which focused on whether his ad spending indicated there was something ersatz about his candidacy; I did not focus on this and was uncertain of whether this claim was substantial enough. Many in the thread dismiss it, and they also argue about the “sketchiness” of the source publication in which the “Swindle” story originally appeared. However, all the claims made in the story appear to be solidly backed by linked material from other publications: an analysis of Johnson’s filing document, and the document themselves, listing Maureen Otis as the filer can be found at “Gary Johnson’s documents reveal puzzling trail” by Peter St. Cyr; his hardline stance on crime, and refusal to grant amnesty to those arrested on drug charges was first published in the Albequerque Journal; that Johnson brought private prison firms to New Mexico and received campaign funds from them is written about in the Santa Fe New Mexican, “Prison firms donate thousands to Richardson” by Steve Terrell; the expensive widening of U.S. 550, which had none of the intended impact on reducing accidents, is described in the Claims Journal, “Widening of U.S. 550 in New Mexico Didn’t Improve Safety, Economy”; some of James Lacy’s unsavory work is described in “Slate Nailer: Conservative James Lacy plays turncoat to sway elections” by Nick Schou, in the Orange County Weekly; the process of vote caging is described in “Vote Caging: What is Vote Caging and Why Should We Care?” by Dahlia Lithwick in Slate; Roger Stone’s account of getting Anderson on the ballot in New York state is given by Stone himself in “Roger Stone, Political Animal” by Matt Labash; the history of nasty tricks Stone has been involved in are described in the profile, “The Dirty Trickster”, by Jeffry Toobin, Rick Perlstein’s essential Nixonland and the definitive Roger Stone chronicler, Wayne Barrett, in such articles as “Sleeping With the GOP”, “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings”, and “The (Roger) Stone Around Carl Paladino’s Neck”;Johnson’s achievements, including the movement of state medicare cases to managed care, were on his old, now expired site, Johnson for America 2012 – they can still be found in his listing at the State Policy Network, a consortium of free market / libertarian think tanks. A supplemental note, Maureen Otis’s Twitter account (motislaw) lists her as treasurer of Restore America’s Voice PAC, listed at the Sunlight Foundation as having spent over a million and a half in expenditures opposing Barack Obama in the 2012 election. This PAC spent its money exclusively in opposition to Obama, and shows no expenditures in favor of Johnson.

(Following its initial posting, two major edits were made: a change was made to address catholic institutions as employers, rather than catholic hospitals accepting federal funds, regarding contraception and the universal mandate; the source links for the NSFW Corporation’s story on Johnson were added. These changes were made christmas day 2012.)


1 “How Occupy Wall Street Is Like the Internet”

2 “8 Well-Intentioned Ideas That Occupy Wall Street Should Reject”

3 “Republican Delegates: Good People, Failed by Their Party”

4 “14 Specific Allegations of NYPD Brutality During Occupy Wall Street”

5 “What George Orwell Can Teach Us About OWS and Police Brutality”, “Reports Reveal Two New Scandals in the Pepper-Spraying at UC Davis”, and “The Pepper-Spraying Cop’s Long, Lucrative Goodbye”.

6 There are too many to mention all here. They include “The U.S. Constitution Is Worthless When John Yoo Interprets It”, “My Debate With John Yoo, Who Misunderstands the Constitution”, “The Terrifying Background of the Man Who Ran a CIA Assassination Unit”, “How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American”, and “Expanding CIA Drone Strikes Will Likely Mean More Dead Innocents”, “We’re Killing Alleged Militants Too Quickly to Reliably Determine Guilt”, “CNN’s Bogus Drone-Deaths Graphic”, “The Pentagon’s Vision: Drones Everywhere”, etc.

7 “Pragmatically Toward Libertarianism”:

In concurrence with the creed of The Atlantic, I consider myself to be “of no party or clique,” and the best insight I can offer into my work is its premise: that a writer’s job is to strive for the truth, and to remember that he’ll sometimes be wrong. As a result, I am reticent to characterize myself politically on occasions when I’m really being asked, “Whose side are you on?” The answer to that question should never be “the liberal side” or “the conservative side,” unless the person being questioned is naive enough to think that one ideology or the other has a monopoly on truth.

8 “Americans Should Be Able to Sell Stuff Without a Permit” and “The Triumph of Reality-Based Politics”.

9 “Marijuana Laws Enforced, Poor Hit Hardest”

10 “Apathy Causes Kidney Patients to Die Needlessly”

11 “The Case for Deficit Reduction, Even in a Recession”

12 “Forget Julia, It’s The Life of Ahmed That Demands Attention”

13 “Why Breitbart Started Hating The Left”

In some ways, this childhood sounds a lot like my own. My parents are decent, hardworking people who tend to vote Republican. Raised in an upper-middle-class neighborhood – far less ritzy than Brentwood, but no less safe or comfortable – I always had everything that I needed.

“Pointless Shame: The English-Speaking World’s Issue With Women’s Breasts”

When I was twenty I spent a summer studying in Paris. I’d somehow persuaded Florida State University to let me tag along on their summer abroad program. I ate little but baguettes and pasta so that I could afford a weekend trip down to Nice and Monte Carlo with some classmates.

“Is There an Education Bubble?”

Think of it this way. In large parts of America, a college graduate can inform his parents or peers or a woman he meets via Ok Cupid that he is about to quit his job in public relations, borrow $100,000, and spend it on a year studying journalism at Columbia University before returning home. Few people are likely to tell him that this is irresponsible.

14 “Is There an Education Bubble?”

For guilty young people intent on pleasing a certain kind of parent, grad school is one of the only socially permissible vehicles for work-life balance or opting out of the high status economy. Parents who’d be horrified by a child who was a yoga instructor think its romantic so long as it’s done during a summer between years at the Kennedy School of Government.

15 Pandering to a Privileged Class

“If we think it more important to spend this dough on education,” says Will Wilkinson, “then we should hand out the $6 billion in the form of scholarships to deserving prospective collegians of modest means, to help them earn their degrees without having to take out any loans at all.”

Obama earned degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. His wife, Michelle, graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School. Once you’ve done that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve borrowed. You’re in the one percent. The Obamas ought to have been writing those checks every month, because to subsidize couples with four graduate degrees from Ivy League schools between them — in a country with impoverished immigrants and struggling high school dropouts and hard-pressed single mothers — is perverse. That Obama offered up his own story in that way is a testament to our collective loss of perspective on this.

Of course, most people with student loan debt don’t have Ivy League degrees. They’re still generally better off than people without diplomas. And while decreasing the cost of college for those who’ve yet to attend ought to be a public policy goal, especially since educational subsidies have been structured in a way that helped to drive up costs to begin with, there is no good reason to subsidize not just hard up folks with student debt, but folks with student debt generally.

16 “Is Voting to Strike Down Obamacare Illegitimate?” and “Movement Liberals Cannot Credibly Demand Judicial Restraint”. It’s very likely both pieces can be refuted, but I’ll leave that to another time.

17 “The Sex-Friendly Case Against Free Birth Control”

Including birth control (as distinct from contraceptives used for other purposes) in universally mandated health-care coverage has its own unique redistributive effect, one that seems more problematic in a pluralistic society than funneling resources from the healthy to the sick or malfunctioning. Mandating participation in an insurance risk pool that covers birth control redistributes resources based partly on lifestyle choices, values, and conceptions of what is fulfilling. For example, gays and lesbians have no use for birth control, but are being made to participate in risk pools that cover it, effectively leaving them with fewer resources as a result of their status as a cultural minority group, rather than a part of the majority that desires birth control.

Once birth control for the poor is covered, I wonder why so many on the left either don’t recognize or don’t object to the redistributive consequences of pooling contraceptive costs among everyone else, even people who could afford them on their own. Compared to a system that just took care of the poor (or even to a system that included only the cheapest kind of birth control), here is a more detailed but by no means complete look at the winners and losers:

– Those who are sexually active, especially over long periods, benefit at the expense of those who aren’t, whether by choice or for lack of opportunity. This sure seems non-materially regressive.

– Straight people, who benefit at the expense of gays and lesbians, who have no use for birth control.

18 “The Sex-Friendly Case Against Free Birth Control”

But this series of legislative, judicial, and bureaucratic decisions, many of them defensible or even desirable on narrow grounds, add up to a health-care system that is unjust, for it needlessly privileges cultural majorities at the expense of cultural minorities, and obscures redistributive consequences that are sometimes regressive, especially compared to the alternative I suggest: subsidizing contraception only for the poor who can’t afford it. Individuals ought to decide what they find fun or meaningful enough to spend their money on. As progressives argue with social conservatives, whose positions on sex and contraception I too find wrongheaded, the progressives are unwittingly saying that subsidized birth control is desirable even when it involves forcing into the same insurance risk pools people who want little or no contraception with people who want a lot of it. Some claim that’s the only way our health-care system can avoid discriminating against women.

19 “A Real Commitment to Minority Rights Needs a Real Commitment to Freedom”

Originally, the footnoted sentence dealt exclusively with catholic hospitals distributing contraception – “while never mentioning the possiiblity that such institutions might do what they want by refusing federal funds”, and that such hospitals without federal funds would have greater leeway. The edited sentence deals with the broader issue of an institution refusing contraception for its employees.

There is no bright-line test for what is “reasonable,” or how burdensome an accommodation must be before government should no longer be bound to make it. But this contraception example seems easy. There are very few institutions in America with longstanding, obviously credible moral objections to contraception. Permitting these institutions to purchase health insurance for employees that doesn’t include contraception isn’t going to meaningfully interfere with the government’s ability to shape a functional health-care system. There are, additionally, the consequences for actual employees of institutions like the Catholic Church. Many share the position of their faith: they’re morally uncomfortable paying into a health-insurance system that doles out contraception.

20 “A Real Commitment to Minority Rights Needs a Real Commitment to Freedom”

This is but one example of my general discomfort with the attitude that both conservatives and progressives take toward minority groups and diversity. Both groups sometimes seek to impose their notions of what society ought to be like on everyone, and cite majority norms or expediency when doing so.

What I’d encourage is constant awareness that people have different values, morals, priorities, preferences, and approaches to pursuing happiness — an attitude that leads folks to happily accommodate diversity when possible, and to be regretful and limit the magnitude of coercion when it is necessary.

“The Contraception Controversy Was Never a Civil Rights Issue”

A straightforward bill to subsidize birth control for the poor might not pass Congress (even though I would support it). In order to avoid taking their chances on legislation of that kind, the Obama Administration pursued the path of least resistance: order employers to add this to their plans, even if doing so violates their conscience. This approach permitted them to hide the cost of providing birth control by bundling it into insurance premiums, mask the nature of who is being subsidized by whom, and build political support by offering a universal subsidy rather than one targeted at the poor.

What today’s compromise showed is that it there was never a need to choose between religious and contraceptive freedom. What was actually at odds was religious freedom and the ability of progressives to advance contraceptive freedom through the means they found most expedient. There were always lots of different approaches that would achieve the same ends. If the Obama Administration and its progressive allies were less casual about coercing people, they’d have discovered the current compromise — which they deserve credit for adopting — a lot sooner.

21 “The Bipartisan Interest in Making Women Feel Bad”

It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize the Blunt-Rubio bill and to set forth reasons why its passage would be bad for women. What’s objectionable is 1) the implication that the Republicans who voted for this bill are motivated by antagonism toward women and engaged in an aggressive campaign to war on them (the truthful motivation is some mix of concern for protecting religious liberty and pandering to religious conservatives and opponents of sweeping health-care mandates). 2) The sly invocation of the phrase “access to contraception,” as if what’s at issue here is the ability to buy condoms or birth control as opposed to a debate about who covers their cost.

As stated, the politically savvy see through the hyperbole and subtly inaccurate language. The true victims aren’t GOP political operatives, who engage in distortions of their own, but the class of women who don’t pay close attention to politics, hear these talking points, and erroneously conclude that if the GOP candidate wins the election birth control may disappear from commerce.

“In Defense of Stay-at-Home Moms”

The so-called “war on women,” which largely concerns abortion policy, isn’t an area of politics that is particularly driven by political donations. It is a wedge issue that appeals to Republicans because a large part of its socially conservative base feels very strongly that abortion is murder.

22 “What Charles Murray Gets Wrong: Bud Drinkers Live in a Bubble”

23 “Focus on the Ill-Gotten Gains of the Rich Instead of Their Tax Rates”

Do rich entrepreneurs owe their success to their own efforts or the commonweal? James Joyner has a good answer. “Of course nobody got rich totally on their own,” he writes. “Of course the fabled ‘job creators’ rely on the infrastructure we built collectively, whether it be roads and bridges, an educated workforce, relative safety from crime, a reasonably functional judicial system and what have you. But those building blocks were in place for those who didn’t get rich, too, so of course those who did deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the fruits of their labor.”

That sounds more sensible to me than what President Obama said, and I’m presuming the charitable interpretation of his remarks. Consider an enterprise like this one.

24 “Mitt Romney Isn’t Alone: Politicians Rarely Prioritize the Very Poor”

It should perhaps make us uncomfortable that our government is mostly focused on relatively privileged citizens, and that we think little about the very poor aside from providing a safety net. But it’s true of every viable presidential candidate from both major political parties, and the vast majority of pundits too. All Romney can be faulted for in this instance is saying he’ll behave as everyone else does without acknowledging it openly.

Shouldn’t we prefer a political discourse where forthrightness of that kind isn’t treated as a fault? Romney’s statement may hurt him with voters. But it shouldn’t.

25 “The Conservative Wonk Who Tried to Avert the ‘47%’ Disaster”

26 “Mitt Romney’s ‘Clinging to Guns or Religion’ Moment”

It is truly amazing what a different view of politics the donor class gets. Obama plays to rooms like this too. This cycle, he’s managed to keep his words from leaking (or perhaps, after his experience in the last cycle, he’s more careful about what he says). As such, expect the Obama campaign to start using footage from the hidden video to start attacking Romney any day now. And know that if you could hear what Team Obama says when they think no one is listening, it would likely be every bit as off-putting (if substantively different).

Josh Barro predicts that this will cost Mitt Romney the election. It certainly plays into the criticism that he doesn’t care about poor people and will govern on behalf of wealthier Americans.

But it also reminds me of Barack Obama’s infamous statement during the 2008 election that rural voters “get bitter, they cling to their guns or religion.” Those words were also said to donors at a private event, and broadcast only when a secret recording was made public. Rural voters aren’t 47 percent of the electorate, but folks who like guns or religion are a rather large demographic.

These sorts of remarks do double damage.

They needlessly insult some people whose votes the candidate would like to win. And beyond the particulars of what is said, they remind voters that candidate’s public persona is phony and affected.

Four years ago a lot of people felt they got a glimpse of “the real Obama.” They certainly saw a side of him that he hid when speaking to general audiences, as opposed to urban liberal supporters.

William Saletan, who I often disagree with, gives a precise explanation for why this analysis is wrong in “Half-Hearted Mitt: Romney says he’s ignoring 47 percent of America. Obama said rural voters cling to guns and religion. Which is worse?”.

In April 2008, Obama spoke at a fundraiser in San Francisco. Here’s what he said, according to an audio recording published by the Huffington Post:

“Here’s what it is: In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, they feel so betrayed by government, that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, there’s a part of them that just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by—it is true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism. (Audience laughs.)

“But—so the questions you’re most likely to get are going to be: ‘Well, you know, what’s this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ And what they want to hear is—you know, so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing: to close tax loopholes and roll back, you know, the top—the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s going to give tax breaks to middle-class folks, and we’re going to provide health care for every American. You know, we’ll have a series of talking points.

“But the truth is that our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s no evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.

“Now, these are in some communities. You know, I think what you’ll find is that people of every background—there are going to be a mix of people. You can go in the toughest neighborhood, you know, working-class lunch-pail folks, and you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you’d think that I’d be very strong, and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Conservatives find Obama’s line about guns, religion, and immigration patronizing. They’re right. The recording exposes Obama’s assumption that blue-collar conservatism on these issues should be taken not at face value but as a psychological symptom or rationalization.

But notice what else the recording shows. Obama tells his audience not to write off any group. He recommends humility and openness. Even in the most unlikely neighborhoods, among “people of every background,” he tells his volunteers they’ll find supporters.

He also advises the volunteers not to write off every voter who seems unreceptive. The tough reception, he suggests, might be just a “layer of skepticism,” a “part of them that just doesn’t buy it.” Beneath that layer, the whole voter is more complicated.

In particular, Obama rejects the caricature of hostile white voters as racists. Instead of assuming that they just ”don’t want to vote for the black guy,” he asks his volunteers to focus on these voters’ economic concerns. He counsels empathy. “They feel so betrayed,” he says.

The whole thrust of Obama’s answer is persuasion. He calls guns-and-religion precincts “the places where we are going to have to do the most work.” He says “our challenge is to get people persuaded” in those neighborhoods. “The important thing,” he concludes, “is that you show up” and make the case, based on tax and health care policy.

27 “Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney”

The centerpiece of Romney’s campaign?

A domestic agenda that he obviously cannot enact. As Romney tells it, he’ll cut tax rates 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, refrain from raising taxes on the middle class, refrain from cuts to Medicare, spend more on the military, possibly wage a war against Iran, and reduce the deficit. Doing all he’s promised is mathematically impossible. And the conservative wonks who say otherwise could be forgiven for their flawed analysis if it weren’t for the fact that every last one knows damned well that Romney is never in a million years going to keep all of those promises. If elected, he’ll most likely succeed in cutting taxes and fail at addressing the federal deficit. But it’s impossible to know for sure which promises he’ll break, only that it’ll be some of them.

28 “$204,000 Per Year: Is This Retired Cop’s Pension Too High?”, “The Problem With Public Sector Unions—and How to Fix It”, and “The Biggest Reason Why California Is Bankrupt”.

29 The original story by Michael Lewis on Vallejo is “California and Bust”; a critical response is “Our Town: A Literary History” by James Thomas Snyder.

30 “Why The Ex-Patriot Act is a Creepy Law and “Letter to the Editor: A Defense of the Ultra-Rich Who Give Up Their Citizenship for Tax Reasons”.

31 There are many, many examples, for the moment, “The Hubris of Barack W. Obama”, is good enough.

32 “How Barack Obama Vindicated ‘The Cult of the Presidency'”

33 Perhaps the best single article on congressional opposition to the closure of Guantanamo Bay is “Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility” by Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut.

34 Again, there are many examples, including “The Hubris of Barack W. Obama”, “Okay, Progressives, What’s Your Alternative to Ron Paul?”, “Obama vs. Romney: Choose Your Own Disaster”, “Liberals Need to Start Holding Obama Responsible for His Policies”, “What the Obamaphile Press Omitted From Its Endorsements”, Why I Refuse To Vote For Barack Obama”, and “The Responses to ‘Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama'”.

35 From the Washington Post Wonkblog, “Ron Paul’s economic plan”:

Ever wonder what Ron Paul’s America would look like? Then read the budget outline that Paul released as part of his 2012 presidential bid. It promises to cut $1 trillion during his first year in office, balance the budget by 2015, withdraw us from all foreign wars and eliminate five Cabinet-level agencies in the process. Economists across the political spectrum say the impact of such drastic government spending cuts would be majorly disruptive and harmful to the economy in the short term.

By reducing the deficit from more than $1 trillion to $300 billion in just a year, Paul’s plan would upend the economy at a time when it’s already fragile, says Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics for Moody’s Analytics. “That much deficit reduction in one year is going to be a huge drag on the economy . . . the reduction in spending is much greater than cuts in taxes,” says Faucher. “We’re seeing that impact in Europe right now, where severe fiscal austerity has caused big problems for the European economy.” While long-term deficit reduction is important, legislators need to make sure that the economy is strong before major cuts take effect, he adds, calling Paul’s plan “much more ambitious” than other Republican proposals to date. By comparison, the Congressional supercommittee is required to cut $1.5 trillion over a ten-year period—a feat Paul wants to accomplish in a little more than one year.

Liberal economists were even more dire in their assessments of the Paul budget. “This is almost having the economy fall off a cliff,” says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimating that cutting $1 trillion in 2013 would prompt the unemployment rate to jump by 3 percentage points. Even if the $1 trillion in cuts were done over two or three years’ time, there would still be double-digit employment, Baker concludes. “This will make it extremely hard to balance the budget, since if the unemployment rate goes to 11 or 12 percent, then the budget picture will look much worse. If his response is still more cuts, then who knows how high he can get the unemployment rate.”

Michael Ettlinger, vice president for economic policy at the Center for American Progress, said Paul’s cuts would destroy the social safety net, as the plan would turn Medicaid and other low-income entitlement programs into block-granted programs that would depend on discretionary appropriations. “Your kids would be out of school, working or begging,” he concludes.

The program would also turn Social Security, veterans’ benefits and Medicare into voluntary programs that would allow younger workers to opt out of the entitlements, while fulfilling promises to present-day seniors and veterans. Both liberals and conservatives such as Baker say such changes could destabilize Social Security. “We will likely see a substantial number of young people take that option, especially if he scares them enough that it won’t be there,” says Baker. What’s more, “you will have high-income earners who opt out, and the people you have left are going to be low-income, which could cause problems” in terms of financing, explains Faucher, of Moody’s. All this could complicate Social Security’s long-term fiscal health, as it could end up losing a lot of revenue.

An opt-out option for Medicare would present similar problems, AEI’s Hassett says. He agrees that Medicare reform is critical to achieving long-term deficit reduction but thinks that an opt-out would destabilize the program. “The system taxes young people to pay for benefits for old people. If young people opt out, who will pay for the benefits?” Hassett says.

36 “Why Does Ron Paul Scare You?”

What’s the worst that Ron Paul could do? Try to get America back on the gold standard, only to find that he doesn’t have the votes in Congress to do it? I am not just being funny. Though Paul has some radical domestic policy ideas, I just don’t see any of them getting passed into law. And in foreign policy and national security matters, the areas where he would exercise the most unchecked discretion, he is the candidate you’d least expect to unwisely provoke or launch a war.

The piece “The Progressive Critique of Ron Paul: He Isn’t Libertarian Enough” makes no mention of the impact of Paul’s policies on the social safety net.

37 Again, there are many, but some are: “America’s Most Important Anti-War Politician Is a Senate Republican”, “Rand Paul Launches a Preemptive Strike Against Domestic Drone Use”, and “Rand Paul Plays It Safe in His RNC Speech”.

38 “Rand Paul Compares U.S. Government To ‘Nazi Germany’” by Ian Millhiser:

In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) compared the federal government’s decision to reclaim some of its own property to Nazi Germany’s confiscations of Jewish-owned art.

A Rand Paul editorial, quoted in “Sen. Rand Paul Compares SCOTUS Decision Upholding Obamacare To Pro-Slavery Dred Scott Decision” by Ian Millhiser:

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision, can you still argue that the Constitution does not support ObamaCare? The liberal blogosphere apparently thinks the constitutional debate is over. I wonder whether they would have had that opinion the day after the Dred Scott decision.

Think of how our country would look now had the Supreme Court not changed its view of what is constitutional. Think of 1857, when the court handed down the outrageous Dred Scott decision, which said African Americans were not citizens. Think of the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson, which the court later repudiated in Brown v. Board of Education.

“Senator Rand Paul Touts False Claim From ’9/11 Truth’ Conspiracy Site” by Zack Beauchamp, reports that Rand Paul relayed that the National Weather Service was stockpiling ammunition.

39 The definitve story on Murrary Energy is “Coal Miner’s Donor” by Alec MacGillis. “Coal Workers Say Murray Energy ‘Coerces’ Them To Make GOP Donations: ‘If You Don’t Contribute, Your Job’s At Stake’” lists Rand Paul as a recipient of the co-erced funds. “Latest Disaster In A Dangerous Mine Kills Two Kentucky Miners After 15 Safety Violations Since 2010” reports on the collapse of an Armstrong coal mine which killed two people, and gives a quote of Rand Paul’s speech:

“The bottom line is: I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules,” Paul said at a recent campaign stop in response to questions about April’s deadly mining explosion in West Virginia…“You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”

40 From Senate Resoundingly Defeats Rand Paul Plan, Passes Disaster Relief Package on ThinkProgress:

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, 78 Senators voted against Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) plan to offset disaster aid relief and FEMA funding with cuts to foreign aid. Only 20 senators voted for it. The stand-alone funding bill will provide $6.9 billion in emergency relief funds for fiscal year 2012. Paul demanded that the Senate use funds “from the coffers of our numerous nation-building programs overseas” rather than by “borrowing on the backs of our children and grandchildren.” The Senate proceeded to pass the relief package 62 to 37.

From “Sen. Rand Paul Blocks $36 Million For Disabled And Elderly Refugees, Including Those Who Aided American Troops” by Marie Diamond:

Politico is reporting that Paul is single-handedly holding up $36 million in benefits for elderly and disabled refugees.

Funding for the refugees ran out on Friday, but Paul refuses to lift his hold out of a professed concern that the money could be used to aid terrorists:

In a statement to POLITICO on Tuesday, Paul confirmed he was blocking the bill over concerns the money could be used to aid domestic terrorists. Two alleged terrorists, who came to the U.S. through a refugee program and were receiving welfare benefits, were arrested this year in Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, Ky.

“This incident alone raises serious questions about the system through which they came to the United States, and I am insisting on a full investigation on our practice of providing welfare to refugees,” Paul said. […]

The bill would extend funding for one year for about 5,600 elderly and disabled refugees from war-torn regions of the world, including Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are victims of human-trafficking or torture.

From “Senate Republicans Kill Veterans’ Jobs Bill” by Ben Armbruster:

Senate Republicans prevented a veterans’ jobs bill from coming to a vote today by forcing a budget point of order vote. Democrats came up 2 votes short of the 60 needed to defeat the GOP’s budget measure.

The Veterans Jobs Corps bill — which is part of President Obama’s push to secure jobs for veterans — would have provided $1 billion over five years to hire 20,000 young veterans for public lands jobs and prioritize vets for first responder jobs such as police, firefighter, or EMT. The measure would have also provided young vets access to the infrastructure with which to assist in job searches, such as access to computers, internet and career services advisers.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a vets group that supported the legislation, called the GOP move “a huge disappointment,” adding, “Today, politics won over helping vets.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said on the Senate floor today that “this bill is fully paid for and does not violate pay-go rules.” (The New York Times said Murray’s aides say “say the program will be paid for by recovering more money from tax-delinquent Medicare providers and forcing big tax deadbeats to pay up before receiving passports.”)

Murray even tried to include most of the provisions of a competing Republican bill but Democrats still ran into opposition. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would block the measure until the Pakistani doctor that aided the CIA in looking for Osama bin Laden was freed.

41 “Grappling With Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletters”

42 Among others, “Dear Andrew Sullivan: Why Focus on Obama’s Dumbest Critics?” and “What the Obamaphile Press Omitted From its Endorsements

43 Omniscient Gentlemen of The Atlantic by Tkacik.

44 The Wikipedia entry on the riot.

45 “5 Reasons Why the GOP Can’t Nominate a Reliable Conservative”

46 Perhaps the best starting point for those curious about this bloody part of history would be Stephen Kinzer’s profile of U.S. ambassador to Honduras, John Negroponte. An indicator of the continuum running from Reagan foreign policy to George W. Bush policy is the appointment by Bush of Negroponte, after a long period of diplomatic exile, as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. A piece connecting the death squads of El Salvador with early investors in Bain Capital is “Mitt Romney Started Bain Capital With Money From Families Tied To Death Squads “.

47 From “Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney”:

On the eve of the Republican primary, before the field of candidates was established, I found myself hoping that the eventual nominee would be someone whose bid for higher office I could support. President Obama’s transgressions against civil liberties and expansion of executive power were dealbreakers. I wouldn’t back him as I had in 2008. Nor would I vote for a Fox News Republican like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, or Michele Bachmann. But a deficit hawk with a steady hand on foreign policy, like George H.W. Bush?

48 “The U.S. Already Had a Conversation About Guns—and the Pro Side Won”

49 “Why ‘If We Can Just Save One Child …’ Is a Bad Argument”

50 “The Coming Attack on President Obama’s Management Skills”

The Obama Administration’s efforts to create “green jobs” have fallen far short of what was promised, as Reuters reports in a detailed analysis that casts Solyndra as just one instance of failure. The Fast and the Furious scandal is surely going to come up in the course of the general election.

51 “Of Course ‘Fast and Furious’ Investigators Are Opportunists”

My thirst for answers is even more powerful than my aversion to partisan politics. I’d suggest anyone who feels otherwise is not in fact “a believer in sunshine and disclosure,” because there has never been a Congressional investigation in which the participants weren’t angling to score political points in one way or another. That’s just how the system works.

52 “The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal” by Katherine Eban. A select quote:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. [Darryl “Arson”] Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that [Dave] Voth [head of an ATF group charged with stopping the smuggling of guns] and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today.

53 “The Policy That Killed 100 Times as Many Mexicans as Fast and Furious”:

Said Texas Governor Rick Perry, “We’ve had over 300 Mexican nationals killed directly attributable to this Fast and Furious operation, where they brought those guns into Mexico. A former Marine and a Border Patrol agent by the name of Brian Terry lost his life. With Watergate you had a second-rate burglary.”

There has been enough commentary of that kind that political satirists are starting to notice. Said Bill Maher on his HBO show, “First of all, let me just say, Republicans don’t care about dead Mexicans.” His comments spurred outraged posts in the conservative blogosphere. But the problem isn’t that he was wrong, so much as that his biting remark ought to have been broader. Democrats don’t care about dead Mexicans either assuming a reasonable definition of “care.”

Abstractly, do they regret it when foreigners die?

Sure. So do Republicans.

Does either party put forth any effort to change the American policy that results in more dead Mexicans than any other?


They talk about how tragic it is that 300 Mexican nationals were killed by Fast and Furious. But they keep right on supporting the war on drugs.

54 “The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal” by Katherine Eban.

Some call it the “parade of ants”; others the “river of iron.” The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking within the U.S., so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF’s congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one.

[Dave] Voth’s [head of an ATF unit set up to stop gun smuggling in the southwest] mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation’s “weakest gun violence prevention laws.” Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they’re 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns. “In Arizona,” says Voth, “someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich.”

By 2009 the Sinaloa drug cartel had made Phoenix its gun supermarket and recruited young Americans as its designated shoppers or straw purchasers. Voth and his agents began investigating a group of buyers, some not even old enough to buy beer, whose members were plunking down as much as $20,000 in cash to purchase up to 20 semiautomatics at a time, and then delivering the weapons to others.

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Brian De Palma’s The Fury, Or: Hollywoodland

(The following contains spoilers for Dressed to Kill, Sisters, Femme Fatale, and, of course, The Fury. For obvious reasons of my own comfort, with reference to the above events, a few of the more graphic stills that might accompany this piece and might illuminate a point, will only be put up after a little time has passed.)

A movie about violence. If Dressed to Kill focuses on erotic fantasy, this looks at our thantic ones. It’s a movie about killing, about movie watching, and how we seek out our violent fantasies fulfilled in the movies we watch. I write of these observations as things self-evident, when they are not: they are suggestions that have always been there for me, of something beneath this movie’s surface, and what they most resemble to me is a thesis on violence we wish to act out, which is committed before our eyes, for us. I see this analogy for movies and movie making not to find some depth in a movie I greatly enjoy, but because it is a metaphor so strongly hinted at, I yield to it: I do not ever think of the meaning in something we enjoy, but our meanings, a semaphore which chimes deep with us, but which we can also find deeply grounded in the details of the work, one not entirely floating free, entirely of our own making.


The characters of this movie might be placed in three classes, classes which, even if not given formal names, are common to many popular movies. If we take our cues from Northrop Frye’s seminal Anatomy of Criticism, there are the heroes of romance, superior to us in degree, they “move in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended: prodigies of courage and endurance, unnatural to us, are natural to him” – these are Peter Sandza and Ben Childress, respectively, a spy of extraordinary agility and endurance, and his opponent, a man who commands a secret agency we have never heard of, an agency that is almost all-powerful in its ability to surveil and kill – in the words of Sandza, “it’s a frightening power these people have, they can make almost anybody disappear at any time”; there are the two gifted with telekinesis, Robin and Gillian, “superior in kind both to other men and to the environment of other men”, divine beings; there are those comic characters who are far less powerful than either of these two groups, men and women who are ridiculous, either lower than us, or who we are, but dearly wish not to be, characters of an ironic mode: those who are “inferior in power or intelligence to ourselves, so that we have the sense of looking down on a scene of bondage, frustration, or absurdity…this is still true when the reader feels that he is or might be in the same situation, as the situation is being judged by the norms of a greater freedom.” These last may include many of those in the movie, including the Nuckells family and the two cops. Even when Sandza has his ridiculous moments – when his pants fall around his ankles or a shot where we hear him panting like a dirty caller during a phone call while shaking from the cold so we at first think he’s masturbating – these are effective because they are ridiculous moments for a heroic character, a character we do not expect to have such moments – they might best be compared to Han Solo having to deal with a spaceship that keeps breaking down, or Indiana Jones confidently reaching for a pistol, but finding only an empty holster.

Such classes exist in many such movies, with one group of heroes set apart for idolatry, and another placed aside for contempt – though we often may realize that we are closer to the latter category than the former, and we might resent and deny the fact. Though these classes are in the movie, they are not unaccompanied without self-awareness and skepticism, the film questioning our perspectives on these men and women. For example: at various moments, Peter acts absurdly, and we are given no reason for his actions, a ridiculing of the assumption that every action of the hero contains heroic genius. Near the movie’s opening, Peter Sandza drives away from the beach, away from his son, out to the open ocean, a clear target – what tactical purpose does this serve? We assume, despite all appearances, something is to be accomplished in this, because he is the hero. His boat is then blown up, but since he is a hero, superior to us in degree, he survives the explosion and doesn’t drown. We next see him fire a machine gun at Childress in order to wound him, then throw the gun down and walk away, and we must ask again, why? Why simply wound the man, why not try to get his son back? We assume his actions all have a greater purpose, again, because he is the hero. What this early wounding most certainly serves is the story’s aim, which gives these characters an almost mythic genesis. Sandza is rendered into an exile, a near invulnerable, near invisible man. Childress, whatever his secret villainy before, now assumes the outward appearance of a nemesis. He only wears black for the rest of the movie, his arm now entirely dead, a good half entirely vanished, the man now engulfed in shadow. The lame arm also serves as a taint of evil, as any deformity used to signify, such as Richard III’s hump, not simply a noble creature who has strayed into malevolence, but a man who embodies it. From now on, every phrase and action of Childress is malicious, without any mitigating humanity.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The heroic and super-heroic types – Sandza, Childress, Gillian, Robin – are distinguished from the lower, ironic types in two other ways as well. They are very good looking, the beauty of marquee movie stars, distinguishing them from the unattractive rabble. They also have far more money than any of these low characters, this money giving them a further freedom and grace that the others lack. We see the gorgeous high-rise Gillian and her mother live in; Peter and Robin have access to the great schools and foreign travel expected from a man paid a high salary by a government agency; the Paragon Institute, of course, has the money to buy just about anything. These qualities – good looks and wealth – are intertwined with their great powers, of degree and kind. We are shown Raymond Dunwoodie (played by the late and well-missed De Palma stalwart William Finley), a man with something like the abilities of Gillian and Robin, a powerful telepathy and precognition, yet he is a figure of contempt: Gillian looks upon him as a freak, while Sandza treats him with barely veiled impatience. He is, despite his powers, not a divine figure, but an ironic, ignoble one, a man of rotting teeth and shabby clothes, a man of poverty and ugliness that might remind the audience of their own, or which they may have experienced, and which they feel is ever close. Whatever this man’s magic, we do not wish to be him.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The contrast between these two classes, not simply of character, but economic classes, is in the sequence that begins after the phone call to Dunwoodie, when Sandza must flee his apartment. He demonstrates the incredible athleticism that we wish for, not just in youth, but which gives a man hope that some virility will persist late into life. The feats demonstrated in the escape are extraordinary, but also casual, without dramatic camera placement, or any music cues, the everyday feats of a heroic man who has done them often.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Sandza finds himself in the apartment of the Nuckells, a family living in poverty, entirely helpless before greater forces that dominate them – oil barons and the CIA, unable to do anything but watch on TV as these powers impose themselves. While Sandza has the physique of someone god-like, their mother, of comparable age, has a body that is falling apart – one is near immortal, one is mortal. Though we are very far from the era of TV-watching people, we may well feel closer to them than the man of action, Peter Sandza, the heroic type we aspire to, a man of strength and endurance who at least is able to fight back, who has a fighting chance against these same oppressors. The Nuckells are, of course, helpless before this man – they are weak, they are poor. Added to their past humiliations, they are soon bound in place by Sandza.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

While at the Nuckells, Sandza puts on a disguise, and I think it’s further evidence of the distinction between these classes. It might be helpful at this point to quote a movie over which I have much mixed feelings, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, but which contains some dialogue that offers great insight into this moment. It is the well-known and oft-quoted “Superman” speech, that Bill gives near the film’s end:

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race. Sorta like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plimpton.

I think Sandza’s disguise reflects the very same thing, a superhero having to pass for an ordinary man, the appearance of this ordinary man carrying the qualities of how Sandza views this other, lower class, and how the movies present such people – he is poor, he is weak, he is overweight, he wears shabby clothes, he is helpless, his life is worth nothing.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The moment he walks onto the street, he is immediately set upon by muggers who see these very same cues. The police think him a complete joke until he steps into their car, and reveals something of the fearlessness and determination of the man he truly is.

We also see in this sequence that where material possessions mean a great deal to these ironic types who have so little, whose status is tied to these possessions that they work so hard for, which they barely have the money to afford, these possessions are meaningless to those like Sandza because they have so much money, and have known only lives of plenty. When intelligence agents come into the boarding house to get Sandza, the landlord pleads with them not to break the door down. The income he has is meagre, and to repair or put in a new door would be a killing cost. It is something he knows well, but which these agents would know nothing about.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Hey, government man. Don’t bust my door down, please. Use a pass key.

He, of course, must show great deference to this men, even if he wishes them to go to hell – because what power does he have in comparison to them?

We have something like this again after the incredible chase scene through the docks. Sandza has taken control of the car of the policemen, a car which this movie has made clear, is a recent purchase by one of the patrolmen, one that is very expensive for him, and which he values greatly:

EGGLESTON (honks horn)
Hey, how’s that for a horn?

EGGLESTON (turns on stereo)
Or listen to that stereo. I mean, you ever hear better fucking stereo sound in your life?

Hi Bob. Nice car.

Yeah, it’s brand new. I just picked up a half hour ago…I sure wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.

Don’t blame you.

God, oh god, please don’t let anything happen to my new car.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The end of this chase is well-known to anyone has seen the movie: another of the absurd moments of Peter Sandza, where we grant it some purpose because he is the hero. He takes this car, valued so much by the patrolman, and destroys it by driving off the pier and crashing into the water. This car has incredible value for this patrolman not just for its material qualities such as the stereo and horn, but how much it cost. The pride in owning the car lies in the pride of having earned so much, the pride of having worked so hard for it. Sandza, whose domain was of wealth, is entirely indifferent to the pride such a man might feel, and he tosses it away easily. We are left the same question as we have after the escapades in the beach – why not simply blindfold the men, or toss the keys into the river so they can’t follow him? We accept that in this grand, heroic gesture of flying into the river there is a reason. Sandza, of course, survives this crash: as we have seen already, like almost all action heroes, he is nearly immortal.


Brian De Palma's The Fury

I try to find what is the best place to speak of The Fury‘s character I find most sympathetic, whose appearance and death interconnect with so much of what I see in the movie. Though she is Sandza’s girlfriend, she is not heroic but a character of the low mimetic or ironic tradition. She is someone of great kindness, easily the gentlest character of the film, but also a woman that appears fragile and insecure. When she describes Sandza to Gillian and the description – the part about going out dancing and buying presents – doesn’t entirely match up to the man we’ve so far seen,

Well, he’s very charming…swept me right off my feet. In the park.

In the park?

Yeah, he picked me up in the park.

What was his line?

He said he needed help.

Some line.

What are you talking about, it worked.

Yeah…what’s he do?

Do? He…travels around a lot.


All over. Oh, when he comes to town we go to parties, he loves people…he takes me out dancing, buys me presents…oh, he dresses beautifully, and he’s a good dancer.


The only trouble is, he’s very hard to get hold of.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

We’re not sure if this is Hester trying to present her man as something he is not, or if these are details we just haven’t seen firsthand. An undercurrent to the whole film, it should be noted, are the unsatisfying relationships of three women: Hester and Peter, Lindstrom’s unreciprocated affection for Dr. McKeever, and Dr. Charles forced to act as consort for Robin. Gillian, who is in high school and may not have had any intimacies with a man, let alone a long-term relationship, has other ordeals to deal with.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Hester is a woman imposed on by others: when we first see her, she is obediently strapped into the telekinesis machine serving as a sample test subject. It is possible that Sandza sees in her this submissiveness, and he knows it will prove useful to his mission. She is, of course, entirely an order taker, never an order giver or dissenter in Sandza’s attempt to kidnap Gillian. That there is a mercenary component to his relationship with her, there is no doubt. Whether it is the sole motivation is another question. Sandza is genuinely moved by her death, but whether this feeling is for a woman he loved, or whether it’s over the death of a very kind-hearted woman who he knows that he used, is another question. Hester may well see this mercenary aspect as well, but deny it to herself. There is the suggestion of a woman who does not wish to see the most hurtful things beneath affection, perhaps because she has been very badly hurt in the past. I feel this maybe all the more strongly because of the resonant last images she’s in, where she runs cheerfully in the sunlight, the music buoyant, unaware of what a dangerous game she’s in the middle of.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Her death is a variation on the situations involving vengeance that occur again and again in the film, which begin with Childress shot in the arm, and ending with his death, inflicted by Gillian. In this scene, Sandza shoots at the agent (who has kept showing up in the background throughout the film) again and again, even after he’s wounded and helpless, solely as an outlet for his rage. This might be seen as a precursor to the finale, both with the same series of zooming cuts, both involving a good character, rather than the sociopath Robin, exacting revenge – but the vengeance of the movie’s end is purer, with an innocent, a blameless victim, destroying the villain. Here, the agent who is killed is not directly involved in Hester’s death, but more importantly, it is Sandza himself who is more to blame for this woman dying – it is he who involved her in this scheme, he who gave her no warning or preparation for escape. Once again, Sandza employs his heroic genius, employing a larger plan the audience can only guess at: he sits in a car far from the Institute, far from Gillian and Hester, then fires his gun at the on-coming car. He has nothing to fear in this situation, because he is near immortal; Hester, on the other hand, is very mortal, was built to die, so other men might kill other men in anger over her death.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury


Sandza’s storyline is one examination of the expected tropes of action movies, those of Gillian and Robin are another. Key to this examining is the opening, where Robin sees his father killed by arab terrorists, an event which will be used to make him into a weapon, a creature entirely of vengeance, vengeance for this terrible act he witnessed. This plot, a man who kills those in reprisal for the killing of a family member, perhaps even a family member killed by terrorists, is not an uncommon one in action movies. The Fury should not be seen as a political movie in the sense that it speaks to us in any way about the middle east, or U.S policy there. If The Fury is a political movie, it is because it examines the way in which the viewer is so easily manipulated by such simple provocative images, how movies give us a cathartic target for our anger, a release for our frustrations, an enemy we can hate and have a proxy destroy. That the convenient enemy here are arab terrorists is fitting for this thesis, but it could well have been a soviet military, a cuban militia, japanese or chinese business leaders, black gangsters and pimps – any number of villains.

The event from which Robin’s anger stems is, of course, entirely fabricated. Members of one intelligence agency play the part of the terrorists, and Sandza isn’t killed. The sole purpose is to create a fictional memory, which will give Robin a focus for his hate. This is not, I think, very different from many who form a sense of the world from TV and movies, where the outside world is an unending series of enemies to be destroyed. Robin disappears from the movie, and when we next see him, he is a lunatic sociopath – a proper rendering of someone governed only by destructive hatred. He has a power, and he only wishes to use it to kill.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

His opposite is Gillian, a young woman with an equal or greater power, but who is deeply afraid of it, and deeply upset any time she comes close to hurting anyone with it. The movie, by its end, cleverly plays with these characters and what we in the audience want in our fantasies: that we are sane, decent people, unlike Robin, but that we want some violent catharsis, which is finally given us.

I detect an undertone to these characters that I do not think accidental: that Robin and Gillian have something like divine powers, through which the audience acts out their own desires, makes them something like movie stars, who are often associated with the divine, their beauty exceptional and unearthly, their very presence having a charismatic power comparable to a supernatural being. That this presence is often ubiquitous about the planet is perceived not a sign of a well-designed publicity network, but another indicator of their mystic gifts.

The Paragon Institute itself makes me think of the entertainment complex dealing in young actors, who attempt to nurture and train those whose talents they recognise, and which they may well view as extraordinary, but just as Gillian and Robin are there because they could prove to be useful weapons, the primary reason for the cultivating of these young talents is because they might have very lucrative possibilities. That Robin’s ability is directed solely towards the purpose of violence makes me think of great actors whose talents are placed, over and over again, in the service of the most simple-minded action movies. The way Robin’s every appetite is indulged cannot help but suggest those celebrities whose every degenerate whim is sated so that they remain happy and productive clients.

Then there are several isolated moments that I see as comparable to that of the life of many well-known actors, such as the extended scene where Robin tries and fails to make a high pole vault:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

What’s he trying to prove?

Mentally, Robin has developed this perfect psychotronic relationship with all kinds of machines. And so naturally he’s trying to do the same thing now with his body. Except that physically, he’s just…adequate. And when he fails…he’s intolerable.

That Robin has extraordinary mastery over one field, which he then futilely tries to duplicate in physical prowess, makes me think of actors, masterful at acting, who then try, and fail, to somehow emulate their actual roles – they try to engage in real-life heroics (or have their publicist plant such stories), they become insufferable bullies as they try to be actual gangsters that they once merely played, they think themselves full of wisdom and sagacity because they were once awarded for their brilliant acting work as saints and sages.

Here is another moment, when Robin can feel the near presence of Gillian, and he gets upset with Dr. Charles:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

You know what’s the matter. It’s that goddamn girl.

What girl?

One that’s like me.

What do you mean, like you?

Oh, you think I don’t know she’s around. She’s right out there.

There is no girl.

That’s a lie.

No, it isn’t Robin.

She’ll do everything I’ll do, won’t she? And you won’t miss me at all.

Again, this makes me think of a noted star who realizes that his status is being challenged, as his agency and studio suddenly move their focus to some up and coming talent, and his anxiety that he’ll be reduced to some marginal figure.

There is this final scene, the last speech of Childress:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

How did you sleep? OK? I was here most of the night. I guess you don’t remember. Move a little closer to the fire. I know what you’ve been going through these past couple of days. I know how exhausted you must be. It’ll take more than one night’s sleep. I know how I feel. Peter was my friend. Maybe the best friend I’ll ever had. But I had to do what I did. I mean, you saw what happened. Peter could have saved Robin. Instead, he let him go. He deliberately killed his son. I hope you don’t judge me too harshly. I can’t say what I did was right or wrong. I only know I acted…and it’s done. Robin is gone. Peter is gone. And you’re the only one who matters now. Yes, I know that hurts. That hurts so bad you wanna lie down and die. But you have to survive. You’re a healthy…strong…young girl. And you must survive. You’ll begin by putting all the tragedies behind you. I think that’ll be easier if you accept my help. All the bad things you heard about me just aren’t true. I’m not a bad man. All I want is for you to trust me. Time will take care of the hurting. That’s the simple truth. Tears are good. Don’t be afraid of crying. Tears are just what we need right now. I’ll be a good father to you, Gillian. You can depend on that.

This performance, given by a speaker so mendacious he doesn’t even hear the obvious insincerity of so many lines, with its utterly phony compassion and icky paternal feeling, suggests to me nothing else than yet another reptilian agent or producer, who is always affecting some ersatz intimacy, who lies so easily and so often that he can no longer even hear the blatancy of his deceit.


For me, the central sequence of this movie, and the one which hints so strongly that this unusual action movie is very much a self-examination of the experience of watching movies, is, suitably, at its very center, when Gillian is asked by Dr. Lindstrom to use her powers to find the current location of Robin. Gillian passes her hand over the photo of the boy, and then, suddenly, she falls into a trance, and then she is Robin, transported to the recent past, a test chamber where they play the footage of his father’s death over and over again, trying to gauge his reaction. She sees entirely what he sees, she moves her head in response to the commands of Dr. Charles, while the world outside this vision has entirely disappeared. The movie Peter watches in fact becomes reality, no longer a movie on-screen, but a re-play of what took place before, actual life, or actual life for these characters, Peter and Robin, just as movies can become vivid as life. When Gillian sees Sandza killed, she responds as Robin overwhelmed with anguish at the death of a father – and it is this reaction which nearly ends up killing off Lindstrom.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

This, I think, is all not unlike what we experience in a movie, where our vision becomes that of the hero, and we respond with kindred feelings to the victories and suffering of this character we are linked to. That we are then unable to distinguish between reality and fiction, that we then do great harm through this lack of distinction, is an obvious truth as well. It is not so facile as movies inciting us to violence, but: say, a series of films are made, that are almost exclusively heroic narratives from the experiences of a recent war. Those who gain their sense of war from such films then expect that a subsequent war will unfold according to one of these heroic narratives, a brave native of their country in great battle against a foe whose defeat means that the chimes of freedom will now ring. That these narratives are made, and that we want them, is without question; yet with the wars launched years ago still on-going, no one now would be so cretinous to think that these heroic narratives come close to capturing the essence of what took place in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For we not only take on the perspective of a character in a movie, it often gives us the opportunity to fulfill our own fantasies. Sometimes those fantasies involve intimacy with a beautiful lover, what it’s like to be obscenely wealthy, or: to kill someone who might serve as a convenient target for our anger. We are given, over and over this fantasy in The Fury, which we might accept without scrutiny, but which instead, I believe, we are intended to question. At the center of Robin’s transformation is the possibility of the fulfillment of a revenge fantasy based around an event which we know to be false, the killing of Sandza by arab terrorists. Robin has been programmed by being forced to watch this event over and over again. We have in the carnival sequence an examination of the catharsis a movie death is supposed to provide: he is angered by the nuisances of his own life, jealousy over the lack of affection of a woman close to him, and then he moves this anger onto something both abstract and intimate, the arabs who he has seen, over and over, kill his father. He is given an ideal image of a target, saudi sheiks who are wealthy, clownish, entirely resembling each other, anonymous. He has the power to destroy at a distance, a power we ourselves might wish for our own revenge, and he exercises it. If it doesn’t give us the satisfaction of vengeance we might have in another movie, it is because we see clearly that our proxy for revenge here is a sociopath, that the inciting event is a manipulation, a lie – we cannot enter this vengeance fantasy, and we instead question the past times we have been given this same revenge plot.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The next involves Dr. Charles, and again, we have the possibilities of a satisfying revenge, but again, we are outside it. Dr. Charles has many of the qualities that would make her a villainous female marked for destruction in another movie: she is a variation on the taunting girl at Gillian’s school; beautiful, with a snooty british accent, sexually confident, but a little cold. She can have drinks with some male friends at a bar, and not care how it looks. She can describe a man’s performance in bed as, “he wants to please me”, adding “isn’t that the most important thing”, in a tone that suggests no, it isn’t. Yet despite these traits, despite the fact that she helps Childress, the entire performance is sympathetic, an ordinary female executive, tired and overwhelmed. Some have found the final violence done to her especially repulsive, and this misses the point: it is supposed to repulse us. We should not be able to watch this calmly, and marvel at its visual wit, or find satisfaction in her destruction, but be disturbed by it, just as we are repelled by Kate Miller’s death in Dressed to Kill: we question instead why movies so often give us this pattern, again, of a bitch nemesis destroyed. That the violence, again, is executed by the sociopath Robin only alienates us further.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

It is around this time that the two polarities of good and evil in this movie converge at the estate, Sandza and Childress, Gillian and Robin. Before, whenever Sandza drove off in a motorboat, shot Childress in the arm, or went off a pier into the river, we assumed some brilliant tactical purpose was behind these works. Throughout the movie, Sandza has appeared impervious to death. Now, he goes to this heavily guarded estate without any prior plan whatsoever to get his son back – we assume once again he has some rationale for an utterly absurd move. Again, that we must infer some genius when the hero acts in such a ridiculous manner is a staple of action movies. After Sandza is caught, then forced to retrieve his son, he ends up on the roof, his strength still that of heroic figure as he manages to hold onto the bulk of Peter with a single arm. His son, though, is now entirely lost to him, a complete lunatic who tries to kill his father. Sandza, whose whole quest was retrieving his child alive, ends up being the man who kills him. This man who seemingly cannot be killed by any man, gives himself the task, and dies by throwing himself off the roof.

After this death, Gillian and Robin lock eyes for the first, and only time, with Robin’s eyes flaring up with light, and Gillian’s briefly burning as well, as if some vital essence is passed between them. There is something of great significance in this moment, just as the moment when Kate and Liz lock eyes is key to Dressed to Kill: it is never hinted at what passes between them, and we can only guess at it. There is the possibility that some power passes from one to the other, but it’s already been made clear that Gillian’s abilities are extraordinary, far greater than Robin’s. A transformation takes place in Gillian between this scene and the next, but I don’t think it has anything to do with what powers she has; instead, a malevolence passes from one to the other, and finally, Gillian becomes an effective weapon.

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The last scene takes place in a woman’s bedroom, used often by De Palma as a setting for a woman changed into something else, a subtle, internal change.

In Femme Fatale, one woman takes over the role of another:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

The bedroom in Sisters is where we realize with horror that Grace Collier has been successfully hypnotised into forgetting about a murder:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Dressed to Kill‘s Liz Blake, always a self-possessed woman despite trying circumstances, a sexually experienced and confident female, is finally very frightened, and wearing virginal white:

Brian De Palma's The Fury

We open in this bedroom where Gillian has been asleep for a long time, the first shot not quite her, but her in a mirror. Prior to this, Gillian has always shown horror at what her powers can do, repelled by its effects, even when it hurts a school bully who has been taunting her. Now, as they say, things are different. Something has happened. Before, there was no place in this world for someone with such a destructive power who does not want to use it. Gillian, with her strange ability, has no idea where her place in the world is. She wants to meet Robin so he can show her what place there is for her in this world, and he, in the moment of light passing between them, has shown her. Where before we are given vengeance from which we were alienated, now, one is arranged through which we can finally take satisfaction. I have often wondered at the title of this movie: whose fury is it? I think I know now: it is our fury, the collected fury of the viewers, our private anger at so many things, for which we now get release. This movie which started in the maddeningly complex terrain of the middle east ends in a division that is entirely manichean. This, of course, is what is so often wanted from a movie, with whatever complex crisis is out there re-assembled into a match-up of good and evil. The villain is in black. Our heroine is in white. She, who never wished to use her powers for the most conscientious of reasons, now uses them with abandon, and it is what we want. The audience is indifferent to whether she is now a malevolent spirit like Robin. We want her to spill blood, and we want it now. She delivers for us gloriously, a sweet revenge we have been waiting for, with one of the great closing moments of any movie: “You go to hell.”

Brian De Palma's The Fury

Brian De Palma's The Fury

(On May 30, 2014, I changed the subhead “We Wants Revenge”, which I’d always hated, to “Vengeance is Ours”.)

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Relevant Notes from the Republican Session of the Campaign Decision Makers Conference

These are notes from a session of republican consultants of the 2012 presidential campaigns, part of the Harvard campaign decision makers conference that took place a week and a half ago. There is some information that is valuable, almost eternally, certain mathematical formulas, a poem of succinct genius – some of what’s said in this conference would have been given great attention had it been revealed during the course of the campaign, and is now entirely ignored. This allows us to see much political news properly for what it is, gossip, much as the first couplings of some famed and beautiful pair are newsworthy in the days following the eventful night, and of no interest at all a century after they’re in their coffins. I was struck by the fact that, allegedly, Chris Buck, a Newsweek photographer, told the Bachmann team that his editors had given the specific task of taking a photo of their candidate that made her look bad; that Newt Gingrich made his campaign decisions in conjunction with his wife; that the supposed alliance between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul did not exist, they simply were not competing for the same votes; that the states look at putting a name on a ballot as a shakedown measure by which they can extract as much money as possible from a campaign, this, again, according to a member of the Bachmann team.

All this is now considered bygone gossip, of no importance now that the parade has moved on, with the most important points at this time, shown equal inattention by news media, those dealing with the tumult in the republican party. In their detailing of the process, one can observe the obvious tensions between the conservative establishment and the populists who are the party’s true power base: those candidates unfavored by the establishment and moneymen, anyone other than Romney and Perry, had to struggle for finances, and were grateful for entry in the many debates, which gave them exposure that they otherwise barely had the money to pay for. Despite their meagre finances, at least one of these populist candidates, Rick Santorum, nearly took the nomination, and may have only lost his grasp at the ring because of the very well-funded super PACs on the side of Romney.

Though it is never explicitly said, the logical deduction to be taken from the conversation is that the republican establishment believes that a crucial factor in its loss for the presidency is lack of control over the process: in order to win in 2016, there needs to be tighter RNC grip on the debates, rather than handing off control to the liberal media, whose goals do not converge with the party’s (this Politico article points out that this process has already begun), and a shorter primary schedule that would give populists less of an advantage and less possibility of exposure, with money of course concentrating around the candidates most desired by the GOP mandarins. According to the consultants here, the major problem that the Romney campaign faced wasn’t a lack of ideas, but that they did not have enough money, leaving them vulnerable during the summer: this means, undoubtedly, that an attempted remedy for this will be even more big donor money flooding the race to guarantee a win. That states shake down campaigns for fees is of no concern for the party, as such actions will deter smaller, less will financed campaigns from coming close to victory. All this will help the preferred GOP candidate from moving too rightward from centrist positions to compete with rivals, positions which will later cripple their bid in the general, and keep the preferred candidate from using up too much money in primary fights.

There is only one major obstacle to this: the preferred candidate of the establishment is often not that of the populist heart, the party within the party, the tea party: Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and most especially, Rick Santorum, were all preferred to Mitt Romney by this group. However, if this populist voice can be fully suppressed in the primaries, then they will, of course, always vote for the republican candidate over the democrat with perhaps enough of a chunk of woo-able independents to win the general. This is what just happened in 2012: the tea party did not want Mitt Romney, they did not like Romney, but they were a reliable bloc of Romney voters, anyway. Whether this corralling can be fully successful is an open question: Dave Carney, Perry adviser, states that even though the establishment very much may want to change to a shorter primary schedule, the GOP base would never tolerate it. Carney makes another important point: the party will not be changed from the top-down, through the ideas of various conservative intellectuals, and the RNC leadership. The RNC, he stresses is a legal entity that does some fund-raising, some technical stuff, and that’s it: it is incidental to shaping the party. Voters shape the party. The beginnings of this attempt at populist suppression and the populist reaction to it might be found in this past year’s rules change at the convention, described by Michelle Goldberg in “Rules Change Sparks Grassroots Boos at GOP Convention”.

Those expecting foreshadowings of a dramatic ideological change at the GOP will be disappointed: the Obama coalition is viewed as one tied to Obama specifically. Better transmission of the republican message to latino voters is emphasised, rather than mentioning any change in GOP policies, in terms of amnesties or visa programs. Many consultants discourage the idea that they need to become more like democrats.

I have not made a full transcript – where the entire independent expenditures session was of interest, this only had select points of relevance. The structure of what follows is: a summary with each sentence giving a quick description of the transcript, with a footnote linking to the fragment (notable moments are accompanied by the audio, all fragments are accompanied by indicators of the approximate beginning and end of the fragment in the full audio of the conference). The conference fragments are given in chronological order, but they should be coherent in and of themselves. I encourage anyone finding any interest in this to go to the Harvard campaign decision makers conference for the full audio. I have transcribed sections of this, and the full independent expenditures conference as this is one of the few moments such consultant speak openly and frankly (or as frankly as one can expect from such a profession), without the specific purpose of advocacy for their candidate, and, in a major break from form, on the record with attribution.

The Players:

Moderators: Jonathan Martin (Politico) and Jan Crawford (CBS News).

Consultants, in no order (respective candidate is in parenthesis): Matt Rhoades and Stuart Stevens (Romney), Linda Hansen and Mark Block (Cain), John Brabender (Santorum), Matt David and Ana Navarro (Huntsman), Vince Haley (Gingrich), Rob Johnson and Dave Carney (Perry), Phil Musser (Pawlenty), Keith Nahigian and Brett O’Donnell (Bachmann), Trygve Olson (Paul), Carlos Sierra (Roemer)

The consultants are given a chance to ask each other anything, and there is silence1. Rhoades believes that the longer primary ultimately hurt the candidate2. Carney points out the conflict between what primary voters and the establishment want from the primary3. Brabender speaks out in support of the high number of debates, and helped to make up for their campaign’s lack of money4. O’Donnell is also thankful for the debates giving his candidate so much exposure5 (O’Donnell, a debate expert was, famously, let go by the Romney campaign for his outsize prominence in helping the candidate prep for these contests – this gets a mention in Robert Draper’s informative “They Retort, You Decide”, the main incident covered in “Mitt Romney splits with Brett O’Donnell” by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, the offending article: “Facing Second Loss to Gingrich, Romney Went on Warpath” by Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny). We’d like the debates better if our candidate was better at them, and they also tried to outflank each other on the right, says Navarro6. Hansen also stresses the benefit her candidate gained from the debate7. Stevens does not think the debates forced Romney to the right, but does think the debates were degrading to the candidates8. Musser does not think the debates, when conducted by the liberal media, are in the best interests of the party, but is unsure whether the RNC has the power to exert control9. Stevens further emphasises the lack of influence the campaigns have over the debates10. Musser says that the straw poll is a circus and a joke11. Carney and Johnson were originally with Gingrich, they explain why they left, and that the decisions of the Gingrich campaign were joint ones, of husband and wife12.

Carney and Johnson explain the sudden move of Perry into the presidential race, that the lack of prior long-term preparation hurt him13. Carney makes the point that Gingrich simply didn’t have the money for the extensive campaign that he wanted to run14. Johnson makes clear one of the reasons why Perry could enter the race – his access to a near unlimited amount of money from fundraisers15. Rhoades thought that prior to Perry’s entry, they felt their greatest threat came from Pawlenty, and that Perry’s campaign ended not due to his infamous gaffe (forgetting the name of a federal agency he wanted to get rid of), but because of the statements in his book Fed Up that social security was a ponzi scheme16. Carney goes into detail on how the absence of long-term prep prior to Perry’s entry ultimately doomed the campaign, then goes on a wild rant about the futility of candidate debates, then yells at Sierra because the debates were essential to his candidate17. Sierra hates the debates, because they were the near only chance for his candidate to get wide exposure and he wasn’t allowed in – now Martin yells at Sierra18. Hansen emphasizes the information value of the debates and questions whether the mainstream journalists are doing their proper part in this19. Olson complains of the way the debates ended up being Mean Girls, and speaks of the way Perry, with his regal motorcade, made himself into a target20. Carney again points to their lack of lead-up time as a factor in their inability to deal with attacks when they became a target21. Stevens believes the primary candidates were impressive, and many of them will be even more formidable in ’1622. Olson explains that Romney and Paul were sympathetic to each other, were not competing for the same votes, but there was no formal alliance23.

David emphasizes again that the format of the debates was to the detriment both of the candidates and the party24. Haley believes that Gingrich did well in every area, except in ads, where he was heavily outspent25. The pivotal moment when Gingrich swatted down a question about his marriage was unplanned, says Haley26. Stevens says that after they won New Hampshire, he was certain, whatever other states they lost, they would eventually win27. Stevens was not worried about Gingrich’s South Carolina win28. The moment that Gingrich angrily reacted to King’s question and the crowd broke out in cheers, Rhoades started concentrating on Florida29. Stevens explains a basic successful effective debate strategy, used by them against Gingrich: the most aggressive debater wins the debate30. Johnson talks about the major impact of Perry’s back surgery on his campaign31. Nahigian and O’Donnell talk about the double standard women candidates face when it comes to their appearance and health, and Nahigian argues that Iowa voters don’t vote for women in their legislatures, or for outside female candidates32. Hansen agrees that there’s a double standard33. Nahigian alleges that Chris Butler, a Newsweek photographer, before taking Bachmann’s picture for his magazine’s cover, revealed that his editors did not want him to take a good picture of their candidate34 (the cover was controversial at the time). Block says that they knew about the sexual harassment allegations against Cain before his entry into the race, and regrets that they did not dispel them through a press conference on Halloween35. Hansen emphasizes how important it is to prepare the candidate’s family for these things, because the media scrutiny during these scandals can be intensive36.

Brabender discusses the attempts to get Gingrich to quit the race, that the Gingrich campaign staff worked to get him to drop out of the race, so that a conservative would get the nomination, but Gingrich resisted this, and stayed in, perhaps an important factor in Santorum eventual loss37. Haley explains why Gingrich stayed in38. Haley explains that Gingrich took the attack ads personally, and wasn’t able to laugh them off39. Nahigian explains how getting on a state ballot now is a shakedown by the states for money40. Brabender says that they ultimately lost not to the Romney campaign, but to his super PACs41.Stevens explains how the noise of the primary ended up engulfing and tainting all the candidates42.

Rhoades talks about how you can only aim to win the primary, and then the general election43. Rhoades emphasises again the importance of the social security issue in defeating Perry44. When did the Romney campaign know their man was the nominee? Stevens says45. The burden of these campaigns on the candidate’s family: Stevens explains46. Why was Obama allowed to define Romney over the summer? Rhoades and Stevens give a detailed answer, with emphasis made on their lack of funds relative to the Obama campaign47. The Romney campaign stresses that they had no co-ordination with their super PAC, and that such organizations were both a gift and a curse48. Rhoades discusses the preparations made in anticipation of Bain Capital-related attacks, and the efforts to counter them49. Haley says that the “King of Bain” ad produced by the Gingrich super PAC was not, in fact, wanted by the campaign (this is a little surprising, since Gingrich had already attacked the Romney-Bain connection before the ad was produced, and Gingrich’s super PAC, Winning Our Future, got the funds to advertise the film from Sheldon Adelson, the main contributor to Gingrich’s campaign)50. Olson predicts that in ’16 all attack ads will outsourced to super PACs, to avoid any taint with the main campaign51. Stevens emphasizes again that the difference between the money their campaign and the Obama campaign had on hand was the reason they didn’t reply to the summertime attack ads52. David says that the Huntsman campaign did not succeed with moderate or conservative voters, nor did their super PAC provide them with the ads that they wanted, which, instead of portraying Huntsman as a moderate, played up his conservative credentials53.

David thinks that the republicans need to moderate somewhat, but that they lost this race because of technology and the difficulty of going against an incumbent president54. Musser does not think the Obama coalition will hold together, and stresses the importance of advertising on media that latinos watch55. Sierra thinks a more conservative candidate like Santorum would have resulted in more of an ass-kicking, Martin asks, so, someone like Bachmann, or…Sierra replies, more of an ass-kicking, Martin confirms: more of an ass-kicking56. Haley believes that making people’s lives better through conservative governing solutions is a winning message, with the policy to be more fully defined at a later time57. Carney believes that there is this misconception that a central party makes policy decisions, no: voters make decisions, the RNC is just a legal entity that does fund-raising 58. Johnson: Fox News is of incredible importance in terms of exposure during a republican primary 59. Nahigian believes republicans need to get back to small government conservatism 60. David thinks there’ll be at least one republican candidate in ’16 who’ll be pro-gay marriage 61. Brabender thinks there on dangerous ground if they try to be more like democrats 62. Olson believes the Obama coalition is not a long-term electoral coalition, and that the republicans need to take a less hawkish stance 63. Rhoades points to the incredible impact of the debates as his biggest surprise64. Stevens refers back to 2004, when it was believed republicans had a long-term electoral lock and argues that the current primary process is fundamentally sound and will serve them well in bringing about a republican nominee who will win the presidency four years from now65.


Jan Crawford: We’re going to actually toss out to you – because you were there from the beginning, formulating strategies, seeing what your opponents were doing. So we’re just going to say the first question, and the floor is yours. Come on, you guys. (Martin: what are the questions that have been on your mind ever since the primary (inaudible)?) (silence) (Martin: Dive in. Somebody dive in.) (laughter) (long silence) Come on, Keith.



Crawford: One of the things we were obviously tossing around was just the change in the rules to extend this campaign…the proportional voting. Any of you guys want to pick up on that one, what kind of impact did that have…did that draw out this campaign longer, ultimately to the nominee’s detriment in the general? Or did that as intended, allow for other candidates to come forward…Matt?

Matt Rhoades: Thanks Jan. Obviously, the process this time…this was why when we were doing our early planning on the Romney campaign, we never expected to win this early, because of the proportional allocation of the delegates…and early on, when the RNC was figuring out the rules, back in 2010, you know we knew that we didn’t want an extended calendar, we wouldn’t publicly say that, though…but behind the scenes, some of our supporters were focused on trying to keep the calendar a little less expansive, and…so we knew going into this, it wasn’t going to be…primaries aren’t easy, first off. (Martin: who was doing that?) There would be individuals such as Ron Kaufman, who works at the RNC, who were focused on that, but obviously, when the rules changed, publicly, we came out, and said we’re for it. Because, those are the rules. You can’t be against the rules. And at the end of the day, we knew we had to be patient throughout the process, and we knew there would be people who rose up to the top, and we would just have to stick to our strategy in the primary, but at the end of the day, we had to spend $87 million dollars, and we came out in April against an incumbent candidate who just had so much money, and maybe if it wasn’t an incumbent president we were going against, it would’ve been great for everybody, and I know a lot of people thought the Obama-Hillary Clinton campaign made Obama a lot stronger, and there were certainly parts of the primary that made governor Romney a better candidate, but at the end of the day, when we’ve spent $87 million dollars, and these are $2500 dollar cheques that we can’t collect, until after the convention, it was a disadvantage.

Crawford: So your bottom line is that that change ultimately hurt the nominee?

Rhoades: Yes.



Dave Carney: If you care about primary voters than proportional’s the way to go, because 40% voted for somebody, and 30% voted for somebody else, those 30% should be represented at the convention…

Jonathan Martin: So you’re saying stick with it then?

Carney: No. No, I’m not. I’m saying if you care about what the primary voters have to say, then proportional’s a fair way to do it, if you care about let’s get this thing done, and cooked things get cooked, so we can go and try to fight the general election, then you want winner take all. (Crawford: Weren’t-) The establishment is let’s get this over, the guys with the money, people like you [journalists, the moderators] fondling over them every day, you want to get this over with. Everyone, in a year, everyone’s gonna know who…the conventional wisdom who our nominee’s gonna be in O-16, and that’s going to help drive that candidate, you know, pretty far. But primary voters, and our party is very small d democratic, I don’t think they would stand to go back to the kingmaker…what they perceive as the insiders telling them who’s going to-

Martin: It’s here to stay then?

Carney: Yes.



John Brabender: But I would say it worked.

Martin: John Brabender.

Brabender: Representing Rick Santorum. Here’s…he spent between him and his super PAC about $27 million dollars. And went pretty darn far. Because of the way the system is set up, I’m guessing the nominee spent with his campaign and super PAC between the $120 and $130 million range. YET: we were able to have a continuous primary and not wrap things up after three states, which, I think for the party was a positive thing, I would even argue the prolonged debates was a positive thing and one of the reasons Mitt Romney won the first debate against the president. What I do think is a problem is when there’s inconsistency. Florida being a winner-take-all state, all of a sudden in the middle of nowhere, just changed strategies dramatically. Texas having to go to the end of the line because of changes down there, changed the system dramatically, so I think it needs to be more balanced and more consistent, but I would argue to many degree, the system worked.



Brett O’Donnell: The debates had a huge impact, both on the primary and on the general election this time.

Martin: Now, full disclosure, Brett, you’re a debate guy.

O’Donnell: I understand that, but I think that the airwaves were so crowded this time, that voters used the debates to make a lot of decisions about candidates, and that was seen in how the results bore out. I mean, Gingrich’s campaign came back twice on the back of debates. Our campaign was put on the map because of two debates. And Florida and South Carolina swung because of debates. I think debates matter, they give the public a chance to see candidates outside the paid media campaign, which I thought was pretty important.



Martin: Alright, what’s the downside of debates? I see Ana Navarro moving up to mike back there.

Ana Navarro: Maybe if our guy was better at debates, we would like them better. But since he wasn’t – I actually thought we had too many debates, and I thought it hurt in general-

Martin: What’s the downside?

Navarro: The downside was they tried to out-right wing each other, and we never got back to the middle in the general.



Linda Hansen: We feel the debates were very profitable, obviously the first debate especially helped Mr. Cain get on the map, shall we say? And help people understand who he was.

Crawford: If you guys remember, the focus group said that Herman Cain, who no one knew, was the winner.

Hansen: Not only that, but we didn’t have a lot of money, which was not secret. So the debates really helped to get out message out, but in a sense as well…I was just talking to someone from Minnesota who said, other than the debates, they really would never have seen the candidates at all. They said especially governor Romney…they said other than the debates, they never really had much contact. I feel that the debates, and the extra debates, are very, very helpful for citizens all across the country.



Martin: Matt and Stuart, did the debates push your candidate too far to the right you think, and hurt you in the general?

Stuart Stevens: No, I don’t think that’s the problem. I think these debates began with the best of intentions, then spun sorta out of control…the biggest problem from my perspective, and a lot of times when we talk here, we’ll be expressing our own opinions, not a unified opinion from inside the Romney campaign…we’ll have differences of opinions on things. My feeling is…having the news organizations sponsor these…began to give it a commercial quality…that at a certain point, became almost degrading to the candidates. And they should’ve been more serious, there’s something odd about this process…

Crawford: Can I interrupt? When you say degrading to the candidates, is there any moment or two that jumps out at you as examples?

Stevens: Well, I think the way the candidates are being introduced…it was sortof more of an “American Idol” kind of model, rather than a serious presidential debate, versus the way they’re doing the commission of presidential debates. They’re more serious. And there’s also something very odd about the branding of these debates, by large multi-national corporations, the CNN debate, the Fox debate, or the NBC debate. I think in an ideal world, debates would be put on, and news organizations would cover it, in the same way we do the rest of the campaign. We don’t have a CBS sponsored news conference, or a CBS sponsored rally. And I would like to think, ideally, in the future there would be some mechanism to control this.

Martin: Stuart, let me just follow up with you, if I could to the first answer that you gave, do you think the debates hurt your candidate in terms of how he ran in the general? The words “self-deportation” came out of your candidate’s mouth at the debate in Tampa. If it wasn’t for that debate, I don’t think Romney ever says that phrase. That wasn’t helpful for the candidate in the fall, was it?

Stevens: Listen, I think he was expressing an opinion.

Martin: But wasn’t that damaging to him in the fall?

Crawford: Going to Ana’s point, did the debates…and the media’s looking for interesting exchanges…did it push Romney to the right?

Stevens: I didn’t have a problem with it. I think when you run for president, I think you should expect to get asked tough questions. You should expect to be placed in a lot of situations where you’re going to be asked tough questions. And be that in an op-ed interview, or…wherever, there’s no gotcha quality, or ambush quality to the debates, everybody knows what they’re doing, they’re up there…so…that doesn’t…

Martin: But he wouldn’t have used that phrase (inaudible)…he wouldn’t have used that phrase in a print interview.

Stevens: I wouldn’t…make that assumption at all. He said what he wanted to say.

Martin: But there’s no pressure on that stage to outflank each other on the right, when you’re trying to get the republican nomination?

Stevens: Listen, if you go back, one of the advantages that governor Romney had in this process, in general, but in these debates, was having gone through these debates before. And one of the things we talked about, was that debates are never about the room. And you’re gonna get booed. And that was very true of the tea party debate in Orlando. Which is a very raucous event. And we were laughing about it before. We said, this is gonna be like rock’em, sock’em. They’re gonna boo everybody. And it happened. It was fun. It just happens.



Phil Musser: I want to turn your question a little bit forward looking, because you asked about 2016, and here’s what I think is gonna happen, because some of the viewpoints in this room are being reflected. I think you’re gonna find at the very beginning of this process, there was a good-faith effort to contain and limit the number of debates, and a lot of people in this room sat around the table, and said is this a good idea or a bad idea? The problem was, we all had different interests, right? John Brabender and the Cain people and the Pawlenty people to some, but differing degrees at the beginning of this race, were looking at the right goal for the party in the debates…I suspect, as you look forward, the republican party will probably re-introduce that…meaning, the chief rub is why are we out-sourcing control of the debates to liberal news media organizations, why are we not, Stuart’s point, putting some kind of framework around this that’s got common sense, and giving it to people that, frankly, are going to allow us to drive our message, as opposed to, play into the narrative that…the scripts of the major news organizations right [sic]. I think that process will be re-visited formally, in the next year, and it’s something you should look for, because there are probably too many of these things.

Crawford: Is that something the RNC would take control of?

Musser: Therein lies the rub, because structure of the national party committee, versus the tea party movement [Martin: Yeah.] versus the interests and needs of the candidates, are very different. But I just think that it’s something that’s clearly gonna be re-thought about again, and discussed with more seriousness.



Stevens: It was very, very difficult trying to deal with organizations on the debates. Because ultimately the only power you have is that you won’t show up.

Crawford: But is that much of a power-

Stevens: No, it’s not much of a power. It’s like, “Okay, don’t show up.”

Crawford: It’s held against you, presumably.

Stevens: Exactly. Which means you really don’t have any power. Which means…you end up showing up. Which means…you lose control. (laughing) So you end up doing twenty debates.



Crawford: Let’s go…let’s stay on the straw poll.

Musser: I hope that one of the legacies of the 2012 campaign is that, talk to your presidential candidates: don’t chase the shiny object in the straw poll. It’s a circus, it’s not a caucus. It’s a joke. And we made a fundamental strategic miscalculation about the level of investment we chose to deploy there, in part necessitated by the need to gain traction and momentum, and try to secure financial support, but ultimately, the straw poll, I think has run its course, in terms of the contest for Iowa, in that it’s unrepresentative of the broader contours of the caucus going electorate that turns out, and, interestingly, it’s really more of a celebrity contest…I’ve worked with Keith Nahigian in 1996, he’s probably the best organizer I’ve ever met in republican politics, and the fact that Michele Bachmann got into the race in May, and managed to win the straw poll in August, is amazing. Because it’s not just something you wake up and think about doing. It takes a lot of planning and timing.



Martin: We heard so much from Newt about the consultant driven campaign that he was forced to run in the early part of his bid…what exactly did he mean by that from your perspective, and what exactly did you guys want him to do that he pushed back on?

Rob Johnson: Well, first of all we couldn’t force Newt to do anything. So, if it was consultant…it was Newt driven…and…

Martin: Even back then it was Newt driven?

Johnson: Absolutely. And I think we were very honest when we…departed. That there’s just a fundamental, to use his words…frankly, there was a fundamental (laughter) difference of opinion on how to run a campaign. We-

Martin: What’d you want to do?

Johnson: I wasn’t a consultant, but the way. He was talking about Dave. I was the campaign manager.(laughter) But we felt like you needed to go to the states, and talk to the people, and do it more than a day at a time.

Martin: What’d he want to do?

Johnson: He wanted to go to the states and talk to the people, but a day at a time. He wanted to do television, he wanted to wait for the debates, and turns out, that was probably pretty good strategy.

Martin: How much of that was driven by Callista, his wife? The schedule?

Johnson: They were a team. (laughter) And so, I think, a lot was driven by the team.



Carney: For years…publicly, privately…he’s said he’s had no interest, didn’t want to do it. Thought he’d have a bigger role impacting the federalist movement, the tenth amendment movement from outside Washington, that was a very radical departure from everything he’d ever said and done over the years…to sortof position him to be a…try to help lead that states’ rights federalist movement, was designed to do that, and not designed to be a candidate for president, clearly. Had he given any sort of indication, frankly, “let’s think about it”, “let’s not rule it out”, “let’s wait and see”, I think there are hundreds of things that we could’ve done differently that could’ve better prepared to run. I think…when you talk to legislator, county chairmen, and political activists, in the early states, when you’re doing that days before getting into the race, and raising money, and getting up to speed on the issues, clearly that’s-

Crawford: So, did he have a grasp of how difficult it would be…getting in so late…when it dawn on him that playing catch up would be so hard?

Johnson: Before we answer that, I know that Matt and Stuart read the book…if he was going to run for president, he never would’ve written that book. [Martin: PONZI SCHEME] I mean, it’s what he believes, right, but you would have written that book later?



Carney: First of all, he’s a brilliant guy, and he has billions of ideas and he…he’s not somebody who’s looking for…he’s looking for help, he’s not looking for correction…but fundamentally, it comes down to finances. He did not have the resources, he did not have any financial infrastructure to support him…paying a bunch of consultants, hanging around, to implement a campaign that it wasn’t going to have the resources to execute. He wanted…originally we were going to…have a really aggressive, multi-million dollar effort, field operation, [Martin: Newt was.] Yeah, and we were going to do all of this new engagement, social media, and have basic, cutting-edge, sort of third way to run a campaign.



Johnson: And we always knew we could raise a lot of money out of Texas. Something else that was encouraging, I guess encouraging is the right word, in the latter part of July, we reached out to a national network, led by Peter Terpeluk, god bless his soul [Terpeluk, a former ambassador to Luxembourg, was involved in early Perry fund-raising, and died in August 2011). And…we would invite ten people, and a hundred people would show up in Austin, Texas. We were doing this three times a week. So, we were seeing three hundred national fund-raisers – bundlers – a week. And at the time, only one in five of the McCain elite donor bundlers were engaged in the race, so four out of five weren’t. And they were showing up in Austin, Texas to meet Rick Perry, and it was very encouraging.



Rhoades: First up, up to governor Perry getting into the race, the candidate in the race we were most concerned about up to that point was governor Pawlenty. Because, to the point that Phil Musser has made and their strategy…if governor Pawlenty was able to get through the travails of the Iowa straw poll, and was able to go on and win the Iowa caucus, he was one of those candidates that could pull it off with his retail politic way, both Iowa and New Hampshire. And if we had lost Iowa and New Hampshire to governor Pawlenty, things would’ve been pretty bleak for our campaign. When governor Perry got into the race, certainly we had a lot of respect for his record when it came to jobs and the economy, because the way people were talking at that time, you would think that every job that was created, was actually created in Texas. And up to that point, we had put an onus…or an emphasis, excuse me, on running a campaign focused on jobs and the economy. And so we knew this was going to be an obstacle to us moving forward, and that’s why, very quickly, during the course of governor Perry’s entry into the race, you know, governor Pawlenty had left, we made it a point to contrast on governor Perry’s record. And it included the initial debates, and the interactions, on those stages, and obviously, Rob, made a point about Fed Up, and I give credit to Stuart Stevens as the individual on the campaign who fell in love with Fed Up, we just kinda executed on the strategy behind it, but we made…with Stuart’s guidance, we decided to put an emphasis on governor Perry’s position on social security. And not go after jobs and the economy.

Martin: Did your polling show that was his biggest vulnerability, Perry’s?

Stevens: I don’t think we ever really polled it.



Crawford: What happened with that campaign? Why after jumping in, skyrocketing to the top, becoming the candidate the Romney guys were most concerned about…then it all fell apart. Why? Was it the debates, did he get in too late, was it never viable, the money drying up? What was it?

Carney: Well, I could talk to my therapist…I still haven’t…(laughter) It’s one of two things: we made a lot of mistakes.

Crawford: Like what?

Carney: Small mistakes. (Martin: like what?) The biggest, big tactical or strategic mistake…if he was gonna do this, he should’ve started years ago. Chairman of the RGA, governor of Texas, the legislature meets 140 days every two years, he has a lot of time on his hands, he could’ve been doing lots of things, you know, going to help people around the country, to meet people, become very helpful in Ohio, in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, some of these important states, meet donors and things like that, so we didn’t have that luxury of time. Two, we should’ve waited. We should’ve waited, actually, longer.

Crawford: You mean waited longer-

Carney: To get in. Spent more time…when he decided, is there a possibility, what (inaudible) taught me…the three questions we tried to answer…and put a framework or a plan together…it was based on, we need to get in, or Romney was starting locking people up, more than he had, he had a lot of people locked up already, and start fundraising…we had unlimited ability to raise money. That was not, ever, a problem. It wasn’t a matter of how to collect it. The problem was the political side: political support, and governor Romney’s team was excellent and had a long head start, and it was locking people up, and a lot of people were waiting to see who was getting into the race, we were concerned…we should’ve waited, until November, maybe. Or maybe the middle of October, because of the Florida move up, you know the declaration by the secretary of state to be on the ballot. It would’ve given us more to be prepared, more time to do some of the groundwork that’s necessary, get better prepared on the issues-

Crawford: You wouldn’t have had the September debates. (laughing)

Carney: Listen, this is the craziest thing about debates. First of all…

Johnson: First of all, they’re panels. They weren’t debates.

Carney: Whatever, yeah, exactly. This is the crazy…THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES NEVER DEBATES! Okay? It’s a skill that’s unrequired! Unnecessary! It’s not the fucking – uh, it’s not the (laughter) prime minister, he doesn’t stand there and take questions for half an hour! NOBODY EVER QUESTIONS THE PRESIDENT! In public. There’s never…you know, Putin and he do not argue on the red phone! I mean, this is crazy! (laughter) Number two, the RNC’s never ever enforced anything! The idea that the RNC, like last time, would fix this problem, that’s crazy! The establishment candidate is not gonna want to do debates, the front-runner, and everybody who has no money wants to get on for twelve minutes…on national cable TV. Because it’s their shot! And it’s free! You know, the idea that you go from California, to Florida, to California with a holiday in-between, ten days, that’s illuminating…whatever happened to town meetings? Matt’s 100% right. Candidates have to run their own campaigns.

Martin: But the [Buddy] Roemer folks – the debates were your candidate’s only shot?

Carney: WHAT KIND OF CRAZY IDEA IS THAT?!? (laughter)



Martin: Carlos, tell him.

Carlos Sierra: We hated the debates. We really hated the debates. I think we do need some debate reform. I think Stuart made a great point that it’s basically corporate sponsored…you know, it’s very undemocratic. I know you guys-

Martin: You guys were pining to get into the debates! NOW YOU’RE KNOCKIN THEM?

Sierra: Huh?

Martin: That was your whole strategy.

Sierra: No, everyone had their time to shine. And it was cuz of the debates. You either…Michele Bachmann shined…Perry…

Johnson: We shined before the debates. (laughter)

Sierra: Exactly. So…like I said last night, part of our strategy was, were the debates, and unfortunately we never got in. I know Gary Johnson never got in. And I don’t know what’s…we do need debate reform though. But it’s sad though that two governors were not allowed in.



Hansen: One of the things that I think we need to remember about the debates is…who we’re ultimately trying to serve, and that would be the citizens of the country. That would be the voters who are looking for information, many of whom never get to live in Iowa, and see the candidates, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but who do we serve? And as journalists, you know, what is your job? Your job is to give factual information to the citizens of this country. And so, we need to remember, what’s the purpose of the debates? And there’s positives and negatives about how many, where they were…you know, all that, and Stuart brought up a really good points, about who’s in charge of the questioning.



Martin: Trygve Olson, you are sitting next to Matt Rhoades, which is fitting to a lot of people in this room because there was much chatter about the Romney-Ron Paul-

Trygve Olson: I feel like Ron Paul at the CBS Foreign Policy Debate: sixty seconds. (Martin: Alright, alright.) But maybe we’ll be able to win another million dollars money-bombing.

Martin: What was the nature of the contact between the Paul campaign and the Romney campaign? Were you talking to Matt Rhoades-

Olson: No, I’m going to answer the- I’m going to use my own debate strategy, I’m going to answer the question I want to talk about rather than the- (Martin: I’ll follow up.) “This is typical media attacks”, to use a Newt Gingrich strategy. I think the thing with the debates, and there was some effort, and it started with a conversation between Jesse Benton and Ginsberg [Ron Paul campaign chairman Benton and Ben Ginsberg, Romney confidante], based off of 2008, to get all the campaigns together to talk about the debates, and try to impose a little bit of will back on. The problem with the number of debates is you can’t really get at it is because everybody has their own interests, so what ended up happening is “we’re not going over ninety minutes.” We don’t want to have a green room that’s six thousand miles away, so…Stuart [Stevens] and I have to ride around in a golf cart with a guy who gets lost because he doesn’t know where he’s going on the University of Tampa campus. And furthermore, why are Stuart and I are on the same golf cart because it only re-inforces the notion that we have an alliance from people like you? (Martin: No, but-) But: the important thing, one of the things that I think is missing from this conversation that matters, and the debates re-inforces this, and I don’t know how to refer to it any differently but there’s kindof a seventh grade girls, and I don’t mean any disrespect to seventh-grade girls, there’s kindof a seventh-grade girls component to this. And all the candidates are spending so much time at the debates, you know, like Bob likes Joe, and Joe doesn’t like Frank, and whatever, and so, like last time, Huckabee and McCain really didn’t, there’s been a lot reported on this, they didn’t want Romney to get the nomination, so they ganged up. This time, there was a tendency for candidates, as somebody would rise, everybody would gang up on them. The question I would like to ask is, to Dave, you know the one thing I couldn’t understand with you guys, when you guys did roll in, there was, you know, you had seven state troopers, and Simi Valley was the site of the first appearance, for everybody else, and all the rest of the campaigns were sitting around, here comes Rick Perry, he’s riding high in the polls, he’s got seven state troopers with him, he’s got this entourage, who’s he think he is, the prime minister of britain? Let’s all get him. And, I don’t know if there’s a way around it, but I do think…I always wondered had the “optics” of your rolling into this dynamic of people who’d been travelling…enter into the equation, because I do think it mattered. It certainly mattered in my guy going after you on Hillarycare.



Carney: In hindsight, would we have preferred not to have jumped into the race and had things go so well, I mean, things happened, and the poll numbers looking temporarily great? Nah, I wouldn’t trade that. I would rather have a longer ramp-up time. But once you get in, you sorta want that. We weren’t structurally sufficient to support that sort of meteoric rise, and we became a target just like most everybody else for their fifteen days in the sunshine. We were a target and we just didn’t have the infrastructure in place to support, that candidates need to-



Stevens: I just think it’s really important to note that…having run for president before was a great advantage for governor Romney. And I think it would be a great mistake to think that the candidates who are in this race that ended up not getting the nomination or maybe didn’t have such a good debate here or there, are not candidates who could be president. And who would not do a lot better next time they run. There’s nothing like running for president of the united states. And having run before is a great experience and I think there were a bunch of tremendously talented candidates that would do really well. And I think it would be a real mistake to look and say, okay, this stumble, or that stumble, that person’s not up to playing the game. Watch these candidates, I think a lot of them will come back and do really well.



Crawford: You know there would always be this effort to attack Romney by the alternatives, but Dr. Paul really didn’t do that in these debates. It looked like there were clearly some kind of bond or alliance that he had struck with Romney, why was that?

Olson: Matt [Rhoades], do you want to tell me what I should say? [Rhoades: Nah.] (laughter) There’s been a lot made of the idea that we didn’t attack, that we didn’t draw contrasts with Mitt Romney in the way we drew contrasts with other candidates, whether it was the debates or, you know, through our paid media, the reality is…we had lots of pieces of mail that drew contrasts. The Romney folks like to remind us about the day Mitt Romney announced, we raised one point seven million dollars off of that, with a pretty scathing “Mitt Romney is the establishment” But strategically, we were never in a place where we were competing with Mitt Romney for, essentially, establishment votes. And so, I think that matters. I think the other thing that matters is, on a personal level, and Stuart alluded to this, it matters to have done it before for a lot of reasons, but one of the things that mattered in that relationship is, and it’s been documented a lot, Ann Romney and Carol Paul, became friends…Ron Paul considers Mitt Romney someone that’s a friend. They had shared a journey that had gone on for four years and to some degree they’re at a similar station in life. They have five kids, so, you know, there were issues, certainly on foreign policy, where he disagreed with governor Romney, but strategically, you know, it was more important to draw a contrast with Rick Perry when he got in the race because he was taking votes, tea party type voters, from us in Iowa.



Crawford: You said the debates – you were speaking more broadly – you believe those debates actually harmed the party itself.

Matt David: Absolutely. I mean I talked to…I remember we did a debate and I talked to a friend that was outside of politics the next day, and he was, like, were you at that crazy Fox debate? And I was like, it was actually CNN. But yes, I was there. But, it tells me a lot. So, yeah, I think it did hurt the party.

Crawford: Why, because the candidates looked less presidential? I mean, does everybody agree with this? Or does this seem-

David: It’s like Stuart said, when we walk on stage, and it’s like a cross between “American Idol” and a football game.



Vince Haley: Dave mentioned about the financial limitations of the campaign [Dave Carney, speaking about his time at the Gingrich campaign] which made it very difficult to respond to negative attacks when they came. Gingrich, I think, was very successful in his approach, not just in the debates…he did very well in the debates, but also several public gatherings in Iowa that in key moments in October and November, he wowed the audience. So he was winning in many ways lots of support on the ground, not just in debates. But we were not prepared to deal with the onslaught of ads against us in Iowa.



Haley: Take South Carolina. You had two debates before the vote. I think…I forget exactly what the polling was that week…I don’t know how close it was…the first debate took place and I think Newt had two standing ovations, had enormous momentum, and then of course, the second debate, if you all remember there was this question that John King led off the debate with about the ABC News interview with Newt’s ex-wife, and Newt gave an answer, and the place erupted with a standing ovation, and I turned to somebody, and I said “Newt either won the primary right then or there, or lost it.”

Martin: Did he tell you guys before that debate that he was going to give that answer if the question came up?

Haley: No. Not me.

Martin: You didn’t know.

Haley: So, in South Carolina, the turn-out, if the figures are correct, there was a 30% bump-up in turn-out, in South Carolina. It shattered the record from 2000. A very positive momentum. And you go to Florida, which has eight media markets, you know, if there was a place to stop him, it had to be Florida.



Stevens: I don’t remember precisely, but I think there was, that one night…it was a double digit shift toward Newt after that first debate. Ten to fifteen points. And if you’ll notice, go back and look at it, in the second debate, the governor did not attack Newt. Because it was not a moment where Newt was attacking him. It was just one of those things that happened, that Newt, to his credit, seized a moment, he’s very good at that. And what’re you going to do? Just get out of the way. Florida…we always felt very comfortable about winning Florida. But we always felt that after we won New Hampshire, we could lose states, and just stay in, and we would win. We might lose some, win some, but that maybe this thing would go to June. But: we planned to stay to June. Went to the convention. Stayed to the convention. We were gonna do what it took to win, timewise. And we couldn’t control that calendar, so we were very steady and calm about it.



Crawford: Were you- how alarmed were you after South Carolina?

Stevens: Not at all. To be honest.

Crawford: Even though the state-

Stevens: Not at all, because-

Crawford: Your polling was up, though, you must have been surprised by-

Stevens: It was…listen, in politics, things happen. And Newt had great moments, the governor grew his vote, from four years earlier, he came in third, we didn’t see anything happening that was damaging to the candidacy, he didn’t lose because he had stumbled, he didn’t lose because he had been attacked, he didn’t lose because…his negatives didn’t skyrocket. Newt had a good week. I mean, give him credit.



Rhoades: Let me just echo, first what Stuart said…we had to stay calm in South Carolina…but I can tell you, fifteen minutes into the first debate in South Carolina, that was the last moment I thought about South Carolina the rest of the campaign. I simply shifted focus to Florida.

Crawford: Really?

Rhoades: You gotta stay calm.

Martin: South Carolina was cooked.

Rhoades: You knew it was a great moment for the speaker. And-

Martin: This is the Myrtle Beach debate, the Fox debate.

Rhoades: The very first debate in South Carolina. Within fifteen minutes of the first debate, I shifted my focus on Florida. And, uh, you know, that’s when we went and double downed on our efforts in Florida. I forget the specific amounts of money we spent, uh, but traditionally, you do a thousand point TV buy, and for the Florida primary, we upped that to at least fifteen hundred, maybe more, but I don’t remember the exact numbers.



Stevens: There’s a rule of thumb, perhaps O’Donnell can speak to this better than I, a large percentage of the time, the most aggressive person in a debate when people are engaging, will win that debate. And we had pretty clear-cut simple goals, we needed to engage, and win.



Martin: I want to ask Dave Carney something, before we forget this. And that is, the question of governor Perry’s health. To what degree did his back problems impact his debate performance?

Carney: I think it had a big impact.

Martin: How so? He was in pain.

Carney: Originally, what the doctors and the patient thought, you know in terms of recovery time it was supposed to be very short period, before he could get back on to his regular routine, his whole campaign was built upon a very aggressive, arduous schedule of travel, and in order to make up for lost time, and just never…the situation during the summer and early fall…was just never completely right…it was supposed to be two weeks…and then it was four months…it was still a problem. It’s just a fact, it’s not an excuse. We passed tort reform in Texas, so we can’t sue the doctors for what they told him but my doctor tells me I need to lose a few pounds, I may not exactly listen to what he had to say, I listen to what I think I want to hear, so it could have been the patient (laughter) The patient, wanting to think it was two weeks. You know, and everything would be fine. But it was, it was a minor thing. Everybody’s a…this little procedure was minor. And everybody’s…in the governor’s mind, in the office’s mind, it was not a big deal in the slightest. It was an in and out operation, and-

Crawford: But do you think that had an effect on his debate?

Johnson: Yes.

Crawford: Was it just- was he on medication, was it just the standing, having to stand, and he was in pain?

Johnson: Yeah, it was the standing…it was the inability to get a decent night’s sleep…you know, the travel. It was more difficult to study, more difficult to get comfortable. Again, this is our specific problem, because we had no time, so we would go to a debate site to do something, we would want to meet with fifty people, have different meetings, try to reach out, to introduce Perry to different types of people that we would have spent the last five years doing, and so, you know, you can’t do that when you’re in pain. You negative meetings. You don’t want to have it. So you end up really hurting yourself because- in the debate, and the debate prep takes up so much time. But it was definitely a factor, not an excuse, we made many other mistakes. It was a problem.



Crawford: There was another health issue that was raised on the campaign trail, and that involved Michele Bachmann. Keith, do you think that had an impact on her campaigning, or at least the public’s perception, the media’s perception of her, as the candidate?

Keith Nahigian: It was incredible how much coverage it got. I mean, a person has headaches. Probably no one would be in this room- I thought it was- It went to the question of commander-in-chief, the button, you know, the phone, that kind of thing, I think it’s a higher standard if it’s a woman running for office, especially if it’s a state like Iowa, and, uh-

Crawford: Wait, what do you mean a higher standard? You mean women have to be healthier, and-

Nahigian: Well, women don’t get out of Iowa. Ms. Clinton didn’t get out of Iowa. Ms. Dole didn’t get out of Iowa.

Martin: So why’d you campaign there in the first place?

Nahigian: Huh?

Martin: Why’d you campaign there in the first place?

Nahigian: Well, as a decision, you know, collectively we had to make. But if you look at the number of state-wide elected officials, there’s no women in the state senate, there’s no congressional members that are women, you just saw a woman first lady get beat in Iowa, it’s a different place, and I think the impact of that in a state like Iowa was a little bit more, and it’s kinda funny-

Crawford: You mean, the migraines? Had more- resonated with voters more?

Nahigian: I think it was a bigger issue. And remember it was an issue for like two weeks. It was kinda amazing. I mean, I was on the John McCain campaign in 2000, and we had to open up our medical records of John McCain and…post-POW camp kind of thing, and…that was kinda interesting, but…here we were, we were running against a guy with stage four cancer [Herman Cain], and they didn’t ask him a question about his health at all. It was kinda overblown, considerably. I mean, I was with her everyday, the entire campaign. I never saw her have any issues, at all.

Crawford: Never.

Nahigian: No.

O’Donnell: And I mean, we literally had reporters jumping into us, to ask questions about the migraine headache thing. It was absurd, and we also saw this in other ways…I mean, we saw stories about her nails, and about the dresses she wore, and nobody ever wrote about Mitt Romney’s tie, or-

Crawford: Wellllllll-

Martin: His hair, all the time! That’s not true.

Brabender: They did write about our sweater vests.

Martin: There were tons of stories about Mitt Romney’s hair!

O’Donnell: No no no, there were way more stories about- In every debate-

Johnson: They wrote about us not wearing boots.

O’Donnell: What dress she wore, and what colors she wore, and why it was a bad color, her hair, I mean, I think there were a lot of stories that focused that were gender specific, and the migraine headaches opened the door to that.



Hansen: You brought up Mr. Cain’s cancer, and I think one of the reasons that maybe that wasn’t a huge issue is that because he was open about that from the very, very beginning. He spoke very, very openly about it. So, in defense of the media, in that regard, he was very open about it, but the, the point still remains that there is a double standard. They don’t talk about, “Oh, my gosh, how much did Mitt Romney pay for his shoes?”, you know, they talk about different things about women, and why is that? You know, we have kinda a joke on our campaign , with out team, if I would say something intelligent, they would look at me and I’d say there’s not just air between these ears. You know, and it’s a joke, but every woman knows exactly what I’m talking about…and I think every man might, because there is this mild double standard, and we say there’s no glass ceiling, but there is, in a way? Because we focus on things that are inconsequential when it comes to women candidates.



Nahigian: It kinda rolled into our Newsweek cover, I remember that. We sat down with a photographer, who said my job is to come and take a bad picture of you. And we?

Crawford: He said that?

Nahigian: Yeah, that was the first conversation he had with her. He said, “my editors don’t want me to take a good picture of you.” And we were about to cut the whole thing off…and like I’ve said, I’ve done seven of these, from working with male-female to working with governor Whitman in New Jersey, and it’s a different game. I mean, I remember when governor Whitman had a…ovarian cyst when she was a governor, and the New York Times had a picture, this big of her anatomy, and what was going to happen, and six months later, Giuliani had prostate cancer, and the press said, “let’s give him his privacy.” You know, it’s just a little bit different. It goes to the question of commander-in-chief, a little bit heavy and that particular issue lingered much longer than it actually was…they were looking for a story, that didn’t exist, and they almost couldn’t take the answer: no.



Crawford: When were you two aware of the allegations of sexual harassment? When…did you know about these when he declared his candidacy? Were you aware of them before they were alleged? When did you find out about that?

Mark Block: Well, we didn’t have an opposition research department. (Hansen: We’d done our opposition research, though.) Just like, when you sit down with a candidate, you ask them what’s going to come up? We were very aware of the national restaurant association allegation.

Crawford: So when he got in the race you knew about what had happened at the (Block: Yes.) association?

Block: And…we knew about it, and there was nothing there. One of the things that I would say we did wrong is not respond forcefully, sooner, to the national restaurant association allegations, because we knew there was nothing there. He made the decision I’m not gonna chase something that I know there’s no substance to, alright? It spun out of control, and if I had to do it all over again, on Halloween Day, we would have came out with the news conference and tried to put it to bed.



Hansen: The other thing that I’ve said often, I think, we could have done a better job of, in that regard is, actually preparing his family. Preparing his family for the rigors…they were great, they were 100$ supportive, Mrs. Cain is 100% supportive, she was with him all the way through every bit. But when the media came on the family so much, it took a physical toll? And that’s when Mr. Cain decided he needed to think. Because the physical toll it was beginning to take on his family, not only his wife, but many people know he had his fourth grandchild, born January 1st, so his daughter in law was in a late trimester of pregnancy, so he’s looking at that in terms of my first job as a leader is to be leader of this family.



Martin: John, one of the things that I know people in this room were fascinated by for a long time, was this dynamic of having both Santorum and Gingrich in the race dividing the conservative vote, while running against governor Romney. Can you talk to us about the nature of the conversations that your boss had with Newt, during that period of time? Because they were talking, I believe, on the phone and occasionally at the debates? What were they talking about? Was it ever considered that one would drop out and carry the banner?

Brabender: Well, most of those conversations were staff-to-staff. Rick and Newt did talk a couple of times, I remember that Santorum told me a couple of times that Newt gave him some historical reference to the 1920s and, you know, type of thing…of how it was going to play out again. And I think Rick reminded him it was a senator that had won that year. But anyhow…there was…when we got to what I would say the final stage of the campaign we felt there were three things for us still to get to the delegate count that had to happen. Number one was for us to win Pennsylvania, number two was for Texas, which was at least having some discussions to going potentially winner take all, because they were so late in the process, and number three, we had to get Gingrich out. And it wasn’t where we were competitive with Gingrich, but in many cases where he was getting now four percent of the vote but it was killing us.

Martin: Was there a discussion to get him out of the race?

Brabender: There was clear discussions between our staff and their staff, you know, I got the sense that their staff thought it would be in the best interest if Newt Gingrich would step aside and there would be some unified nature…I believe there was very close to that happening…

Martin: When? Do you recall?

Brabender: Early April. And I remember receiving a call saying that Newt personally had decided he did not want to do that.

Martin: From who?

Brabender: What’s that?

Martin: Who was the call from? Do you recall?

Brabender: I know, but I’m not going to share that.

Martin: And if that had happened, you think your candidate would have gotten the nomination?

Brabender: Well, I think it would’ve helped, I think that if you look in retrospect, people forget how close Rick did come to getting the nomination.



Haley: In terms of what compelled him to stay in, I think part of the polling showed that Gingrich vote was not going to all go to Santorum. It was going to be a split going to, some to Santorum, some to Romney. And I think he also felt that, and this is speculation on my part, that it would be seen more as an…alliance against Romney? That I don’t think he felt comfortable with…and he held out hope for doing well in Delaware, and possibly a Reagan-style comeback in North Carolina. That was a long-range hope, and it was slight and tenuous, but those are some of the reasons.



Haley: Well, I think when you don’t have…one of the things in hindsight, we would have done much better would, hopefully, have been a much stronger surrogate operation. Because it’s always better when others can deliver messages, as opposed to…

Crawford: Right. And coming from him…

Haley: From him. Or you deliver such messages through paid media, television ads, and so, absent those resources, I think Newt used the term one time, that if he’s a running back or fullback coming through the line and no one’s blocking the noseguard, then he’s gonna run over the noseguard. It came up to him to call out some of the inaccuracies in the ads that were opposing him, and to, you know this is…running for president is a very personal thing. This is, you know…Newt’s been a national figure for thirty years. He’s been a builder of the republican party…builder of the conservative movement…so, one cannot simply…take some of those ads and sortof wash it away and say, oh, it’s all part of a big political game, and it’s all ironic and amusing, and so…

Crawford: So, he took it quite personal?

Haley: Well, I don’t think…my vantage point? You can’t but help take it, to some degree, and…I think the challenge will always be, how do you take negative attack ads, and either match them, to some degree on television, or find a way to transcend it, because you have such an overwhelmingly positive vision of the future that those ads sorta lose their potency, or do you do it in a sorta charismatic way by tossing it aside, and we didn’t find that right way to do that. And so it’s a very human thing, and Mitt maybe he coulda done it in a better way, but…there you are.



Nahigian: One of the goals of this forum is to kinda look back at the process, I do think one thing that didn’t match up with this open percentage delegates as you would go through, it was going to prolong the whole thing? Was…it didn’t really get written about in-depth, and that was the burden of ballot access. Getting on the ballot in these states was dramatic, and certainly Romney had a huge advantage, he had money, he had started early, but these states have figured out that it’s a shakedown now, and it’s unbelievable, they just make up a price, you want to be on the ballot in the district of Columbia? Well, let’s make it a hundred grand. It’s an unbelievable burden, for the natural growing of a campaign. If you have to build it to go till June, and you’re starting in the beginning, and you have to suddenly take a million dollars to get on these couple of ballots, it’s gonna really be a hurdle…we always say the RNC can’t reform anything, maybe it’s something they need to address, some kind of a consistency, at least maybe in the first couple of them. We experienced Virginia: you had to make a decision. Are we gonna be able to be on Virginia? You had to go door to door in every single county, and every single ballot. People had to be there, individually, and I think some of our campaigns, if we would have been the alternative to Romney, we wouldn’t have been on the ballot on a lot of these states, and I think some of these other campaigns weren’t on the ballot.



Brabender: I’d actually argue it wasn’t the organization so much as it was their super PAC. Because, the way the dynamics changed, we could fight a battle, in one state at a time with the Romney people and do it quite efficiently, we found. The problem is, while we’re fighting in Michigan, the super PAC is hitting us with ads in Ohio and Illinois. (Martin: Right.) And that was the big problem that we were running…was that we could not control the message further down the road like they could.



Stevens: You know, we were going back and reviewing what ads we had run for this campaign, before this thing, because, we forget. The spot that we ran, more than any other spot in the primary, was a spot we called “Mass record”. Which we ran because, it worked. Which was about the governor’s record in Massachusetts…if we had it here, you’d say “oh, yeah.” And I think what you’re able to do though, in each of these states on the media was completely dwarfed by the conversation that was being held and that conversation became a loud argument between candidates. And that dwarfed anything that each of the candidates was able to do. So: when we came out of these states and finally secured the nomination and started testing, we found a remarkable number of people thought that governor Romney was catholic and was against contraception. And it’s because he had been in these debates, and it’s sorta like you’re in a restaurant, and you’re not really paying attention, but you hear this argument at this table, over here. And you get bits and pieces of it, but you don’t really know what they’re saying. That’s how most of the public looks at the primary.

Martin: But Stuart, you said earlier that the debates didn’t hurt the candidate in terms of pushing him to the right, but now you’re saying that he was seen because of those debates as- (Stevens: it’s not just the debates.) against contraception, that sounds like it hurt pretty badly.

Stevens: No, it’s not just the debates. Because after Arizona, there weren’t any more debates. It’s what you’re seeing on the evening news, it’s how it’s being covered.



Martin: You bring up a topic I’m really fascinated by, and that is…to what degree was your primary strategy geared around general election viability…which is to say, how much did being strong against Obama inform your primary strategy? I mean, certainly not wanting to retreat on health care was part of that…you didn’t want to apologize for creating this health care law here in Massachusetts…what issues especially were you guys sortof very, very driven by in terms of not wanting to hurt yourself too much for the general?

Rhoades: Obviously, we put a premium on just talking about jobs and the economy and the president’s record, and that’s what we tried to make the primary campaign about. Obviously, that’s forward looking into the general. But when you’re running for the nomination, you gotta win the nomination. And if you’re looking beyond securing that nomination too much, you are jeopardizing your chances of winning that nomination.



Rhoades: I regret that…I truly believe…people were shocked that we were going after governor Perry in a republican primary on social security. They were critical of us at the time, saying we were hitting him from the left…and, if you look through the unwinding of the Perry campaign, a lot of people put a focus on that one infamous debate moment. But, it was the very early debates, the first and second debates, (Martin: the heartless) and by the third debate, and this is well before the other moment, (Martin: Sure) I think governor Perry was badly hurt and I…in retrospect, I believe we probably could’ve just beaten governor Perry with the social security hit.

Martin: Interesting.



Crawford: When was the moment inside the campaign that you realised that Romney was the nominee?

Stevens: When senator Santorum withdrew from Pennsylvania.

Martin: It was never before that?

Stevens: No.

Crawford: So…it was an open question throughout whether-

Stevens: You can’t be in a fight, and not be in the fight.



Crawford: Sure. Because I’m going to ask you a question next.

Stevens: I think there’s something difficult to realize unless you’ve been through this, and seen how hard this is for candidates and their families. And how much candidates and their families are…they’re real people. And how much that affects the flow…of campaigns. It’s a…no one runs for president at this level who’s not a tremendously accomplished, talented person. And, a very driven person. And each of these decisions become very difficult. But it’s very, very tough on families. Very tough. It’s a very difficult thing to report on, because you don’t get close to the family, but for a campaign, and these people, it’s a driving force that is at the center of so much.



Crawford: Because we are supposed to be going through the conventions on our panel, and one thing I’d like to ask the Romney campaign, what was the strategy in the summer, when you were allowing the president to define Romney. So that you came to the convention having to introduce your candidate to the american people when of course, he’d been the target of attack ads for months?

Rhoades: Let me start it off by saying, we made the decision going into the general that the thing the voters needed to learn first was first and foremost about governor Romney, what he would do as president. And so that’s why we went with day one, job one. And that was the focus of our paid advertising over the summer. To the first question, we had at the very beginning, you know, unfortunately, we had gone through a long primary process we called the long slog, and spent $87 million dollars to secure the nomination, to become the presumptive nominee, and we were not going to take matching funds so that we could be more competitive down the stretch, so that meant that we were being outspent over the summer. And, we always understood that was going to be one of the bigger challenges that we had, even to the point where we did take out a loan at the end of the primary process going into the convetion, so we could stay up on TV, for a longer period of time. So that was our initial thought, Stuart I don’t know if you have anything to add.

Stevens: Let me make three points on this, because it’s often misunderstood here. First, the day that Mitt Romney announced, in June, he had, what, a twenty-five percent of the electorate in the republican primary. President Obama had close to the amount of votes that he got on election day. So, when you think about that, it means, what was governor Romney’s task? He had to win the primary against a bunch of formidable opponents, and I think these opponents have been underestimated by the press, frankly. Then, present himself to the public and go garner a majority of the electorate nationally. That’s a tough process. What did the president have to do? The president had to hold on to the votes that he had. And that is a very different process. He probably, if you actually looked at it, the president’s campaign, probably lost votes over that year. But they started with enough votes to win. You come out of a primary, you are forced to look at the situation of what do you need to do when you have to triage this? And it is, every day in that campaign, in those situations is Sophie’s Choice: and when people say, you should be doing this, you should be doing that, my answer is, you’re right. It’s like scheduling, you should be in Richmond, you should be in Des Moines. You’re right. But you can only be in one. And, we tested this extensively, and what voters, and this makes sense if you think about it, what voters wanted to know most was what Mitt Romney would do as president. And they desired more information about Mitt Romney, but what they really wanted to know was, what would this guy do as president? And that was the essential element that we had to fill with voters, to give them. And I would just say, the premise of the Obama campaign was to define Mitt Romney such that by the time of the debates, we heard the spin over and over again, that there would not be enough persuadable voters et cetera. That didn’t happen.

Crawford: Well-

Stevens: It didn’t. I mean, all the national polls, his favourability was the same or higher than Barack Obama’s.

Crawford: So you don’t believe that the attack ads that they ran in the key toss-up states, which people in other states didn’t get, created a level of resistance that was just impossible for you to overcome?

Stevens: I think- No, I don’t believe that…the other thing was just the amount of money they had to spend, that we didn’t have to spend.



Martin: Matt and Stuart, I think Carl Forti and Charlies Spies are here. You guys couldn’t co-ordinate during the campaign, but now those restraints are gone. The truth can be told. What did you guys expect, the super PAC that supported you to be doing during the campaign? What were you hoping for, what was the discussion in the campaign?

Stevens: We didn’t talk about it.

Martin: There was never a discussion about, this massive entity outside that was blasting Newt-

Johnson: John, you don’t have time to sit around and talk about what other people are doing, you’re so busy worrying about what you’re doing.

Martin: So there was never discussion about what Carl and those guys were doing?

Stevens: No.

Martin: And what you hoped they would do in Iowa, and things like that?

Rhoades: There were parts of the campaign, during the course of the campaign, when super PACs were helpful to governor Romney’s campaign, no doubt about it. And I think the most obvious example is the baggage ad that Restore Our Future did, in Iowa. And Stuart and I were just reflecting and we should’ve looked at some…I’m not sure if our campaign did negative Newt Gingrich ad in December, leading up to Iowa. I think we were positive, so certainly that was helpful for the Romney campaign. But then again, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, super PACs were not helpful to governor Romney in South Carolina.



Martin: Newt’s super PAC went after you pretty fiercely, thanks to the man in Las Vegas [Sheldon Adelson], on the issue of Bain Capital. Did those attacks on Bain prepare you guys at all for the general election, or…if not, why weren’t you guys not more prepared in the general for the Bain attacks?

Rhoades: Obviously, we knew Bain would come up during the course of the campaign. It had certainly come up during governor Romney’s senate campaign in 1994. It came up in his gubernatorial campaign in 2002. It may even have come up a little bit in the primary in 2008, with some of governor Huckabee’s supporters. So, during the course of the primary season, the chairman of our campaign, Bob White, who was one of the founders of Bain, set up a task force which included staffers on the campaign, it included former Bain employees, and they just started wargaming this all out, in the fall. Literally, up on a whiteboard, what the attacks are going to be, (Martin: Fall of ’11) Fall of ’11, excuse me. Yeah, in the fall of 2011.

Martin: How much did the Newt and Perry Bain attacks hurt you guys? In the primary?

Rhoades: Well, I think in the primary, in the primary, there was a super PAC ad that was called “King of Bain” or a film…(Martin: I recall that) And within twenty four to forty eight hours, our Bain team was able to go through the film, and the ads, and find out that it was related to a company that was sold after Bain had actually owned it. So, it was viewed as inaccurate. So, what we were able to do was fact-check that and really make a push, an argument in a primary, that this was an attack on capitalism. And I think we were successful cuz we had organizations, news entities like the Wall Street Journal editorial board, conservative newspapers like the Washington Examiner, who called out speaker Gingrich and the super PACs that were perpetuating these attacks on capitalism. We even did an ad, when we had all these ads going up in Florida, there was an ad that we did that defended governor Romney’s record at Bain, and pointed towards these attacks on capitalism, so in the primary, I think we were successful with responding to that. Certainly, we set this group up in the fall of 2011, we thought these attacks could occur in the primary, we were a little bit surprised at the intensity in a republican primary on them, but we dealt with them.



Martin: If you guys could run your own super PAC, what’s the one thing you would have gotten your super PAC to have done for you? Either Newt or Romney?

Haley: Well, if I could just answer, I would say to change these rules to let the money flow to the campaign. The reforms should be that you should have unlimited money, with twenty-four hour reporting, and full disclosure. Our campaign wouldn’t have wanted the Bain attacks, we would have had more attacks on the Massachusetts record, drawing contrasts-

Martin: You guys didn’t want the Bain attacks?

Haley: No, it came completely out of the blue, it came up for the first time during one of the debates. Gingrich was not talking about the King of Bain, he was talking about Mitt the Massachusetts moderate. He was talking about his record. This was completely off the topic that we wanted to talk about, and the media became consumed by it. Now maybe there was an incidental benefit, that Santorum was completely washed out of the conversation for a couple of days in New Hampshire, because of all this attack on capitalism, but as Matt said, it was very effectively rebutted by Gingrich being seen as attacking capitalism. And we had many supporters, friendly supporters, who were quite displeased by what was happening, assigning to Gingrich and our team what we were doing. And, you know, there were times in South Carolina when the question could’ve been, do we continue on that vein? The King of Bain? And we didn’t. We focussed on other things.



Olson: But when we put up ads hitting Newt Gingrich, or Rick “Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader”, or serial hypocrisy, or whatever, Ron Paul had to put his own name on it, whereas when Restore Our Future was hitting Newt in Iowa, they could do it under somebody else’s name. And I think, really, when you look at 2016, you know, the first thing that everybody’s gonna run and do is, you’re gonna wanna run and get a super PAC to do your dirty work for you, so you don’t have to do that, and you’re gonna try and get John Downs [adman for Ron Paul, a profile can be found at the Washington Post: “The man behind the Ron Paul ads”] or your meanest ad guy, in terms of talent, go into the super PAC rather than internally, but then it’s outside the control of the candidate, which is unfortunate.



Crawford: Wanna pick up on what you were saying…so did you not have the money, to aggressively defend yourselves against the president’s attempts to define you over the summer, I mean was that why you didn’t- You said you spent $87 million dollars during the primary…

Stevens: Look, we spent all the money we had. (laughing) (Crawford: Right.) It’s not complicated. We had a primary that cost us $137 million dollars or something. The president didn’t have a primary, he had four years to build a war chest, which we didn’t, we had to go out and raise a lot of money in that summer…we spent all the money that we had, we had to choose what we were doing, and in states like Ohio, we were being outspent three or four to one. So it was not a…we watched this very carefully, and did what we felt and what our testing showed us was the most effective responses, given the limited options that we had. They had more bullets in their gun, it’s not an unusual circumstance.



Martin: Matt David, one of the bets that Jon Huntsman seemed to make after the ’08 election was that the defeat of John McCain was going to usher in a period where the republicans would embrace something close to a DLC [democratic leadership council] style of moderation…that there was an opening for someone in the party on the environment, perhaps on gay rights, to sorta move a bit to the middle, uh, obviously that calculation was mistaken in hindsight, but just can you talk to me about your candidate, and the sortof broader themes that he struggled with, of one day trying to be the conservative, but also trying to be more of a moderating force, and do you think the next time around, we’re gonna see more candidates in the GOP primary take a Huntsman like course in terms of trying to move more toward the middle? A more pragmatic approach?

Daivd: Well, yeah. This was actually reflected in the super PAC conversation too. Because we waited forever for the super PAC to come in, and then when they did, they came in New Hampshire, with an ad talking about how conservative we were, which was not really our message in New Hampshire. It was very unhelpful, but we struggled with…as I laid out last night, our initial path was to the left of Romney, but we hoped, what we had going for us at the end of the day, was he actually had a very conservative governing record in Utah. When you looked at it, and we hoped at the end of the day, conservatives would come back and give us a look. But it never happened.



Martin: Going forward as a moderate force in the republican party, are we gonna see more candidates that take the approach that at times your candidate took, of trying to say look, we’re not gonna win a general election by shouting at each other and trying to appeal to just our narrow base. Are more candidates gonna be emboldened in ’16 to take that approach do you think?

David: Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to moderate on some issues. Immigration, gay marriage, but I think Stuart wrote about this the other day in his column [“Mitt Romney: A good man. The right fight.”], we are gonna have to…it’s very difficult to beat an incumbent president. Very, very difficult. So while we’ve gotta make some changes, I don’t think it’s a freak-out moment for us. I think one area, we were talking about this last night, one area where we do have to catch up, and we should freak out a little, is on the technology front. I mean listening to Jeremy [Jeremy Bird, Obama tech guy], about their analytics, and their data, and their technology, that’s somewhere where we need to step up.



Martin: We read so much about Tim Pawlenty and the Sam’s club for so long. And it seemed like the most promising message for your candidate was to be the populist, running against the rich son of a governor and CEO, and here’s the son of St. Paul. But he never fully embraced the sort of Sam’s Club messages, or ran against Wall Street, or ran that real populist campaign. Is that an opening, you think, that the party, going forward, more of a populist approach, that Pawlenty talked about, but never fully embraced?

Musser: Yeah, possibly. Just to build on Matt’s [Matt David’s] point, you know, beating incumbents is very very challenging, and as you look at the potential field of 2016, I’m not sure that the Obama coalition that turned out in ’08 and O-12 can be reconstituted again by a nominee Cuomo or a nominee Clinton, against a nominee Rubio, a nominee Santorum, a nominee whoever may well run. And credit to the Obama campaign for turning out that coalition. I agree on the technology front, I think there’s obviously lessons to be learned there, and I suspect that the party will do due diligence and focus on that. And frankly, having no designated leader will lead to a period of somewhat disorganized chaos where a lot of us will get kicked out, that’s probably a healthy process, if an unruly one. And then finally I think, obviously the demographic challenge, most explicitly illustrated with the latino community is one that has instructive lessons. I think we didn’t spend enough money communicating there, early enough, if you want to understand functionally where El Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Mexicans, Cubans get their information, it’s overwhelmingly from two places on television, which is Univision and Tele Mundo. I would hope our party would look at developing a growth oriented, prosperity agenda, aimed at showing working-class latinos how a conservative set of principles could be good for them, and I would encourage our party to take the last $100 million dollars that went out the door at the very end of the campaign, and look at starting to communicate at the beginning of the cycle.



Sierra: You know if Bachmann, Cain, or Santorum would have gotten the nomination, it would have been more of an ass-kicking. I mean, I think, our party does need to moderate, I think minority out-reach is huge…our party’s dead unless there’s shake-up.

Martin: So if you guys had nominated a conservative like Bachmann, Santorum…

Sierra: It would have been more of an ass-kicking.

Martin: More of an ass-kicking.



Haley: I mean obviously money matters, message matters. I don’t know if I have a particular grand insight, other than…we have to grow the party and there’s nothing we can’t…there’s nothing that conservative governing solutions…we can offer conservative governing solutions to the country and attract a big majority. I don’t think this idea whether we’re a conservative populism, or moderate, or what have you, I think we’re talking about making people’s lives better, through a set of policies, and the definition of what that is can come later, but conservative governing solutions will be the way of the future.



Carney: I would say the biggest takeaway of this whole election cycle is that people have this misconception that there’s a party where people sit around and make decisions. Voters make decisions. Jeff Larson and Ben Key [Larson is a GOP consultant who worked on the 2008 convention;Ben Key is a top member of the RNC] don’t sit there and say “okay, we’re gonna be moderate here, let’s pick a little lighter, darker, whiter”, that’s crap. Candidates are good, they have a good message, they can win. Candidates are bad, they have a bad message, they’re gonna lose. And the media, and the elite want things nice and tidy and clean, and not messy, which is what everybody here but Romney became, and was, and they don’t like that. They like let’s get this thing over in January, so we have a whole year to beat up on the president, and the big chalk is no one…people think the headquarters of the RNC does something other than a legal entity to raise money and do technical things.



Johnson: Another interesting point, or thing that I learned, was how important Fox New was in a republican primary. You could sit in Washington, D.C., and talk to seventy percent of Iowans or sixty percent of South Carolinans…Carolinians…people from South Carolina…(Carney: oops.) Oops. I just think that Newt was on to something with that point. And I agree with Matt completely, we go to catch up with them in technology.

Martin: And Rob do you think that will affect future campaigns about going to Iowa and New Hampshire or do you think the candidates will do less of it because they can go to Fox and be on national TV?

Johnson: No. The candidates without money will do it, but the candidates with money will go press the flesh. And get on Fox from Des Moines.



Nahigian: My takeaway for the future is that our party has to get back to real conservatism, being able to show demonstrable differences in how we’re gonna govern, the philosophy of government, smaller government, and on the fiscal side as well.



David: When you’re dealing with…and Johnathan, you’ve written about this…vacuum, and trying to defeat the beast that is the Twitter, and Facebook, and…so keeping perspective about what you’re seeing as a campaign versus what voters are seeing, those are two different things…

Martin: Matt, yes or no, will there be a republican in ’16, in the primary, who’s for gay marriage?

David: Yes.



John Brabender: The lessons I think we learned, we learned as a campaign, is one, winning a Saturday primary means nothing, (laughing) number two is…we’re getting into dangerous ground I think as republicans saying “oh, let’s start acting more like democrats” I think the biggest lesson we learned in the primaries is a lot of blue collar people who feel we no longer represent or understand their lives. And I think that was also represented in the general election.



Olson: Alright, I’ll be fast. Biggest surprise: how the media and pundits are over-buying into the notion that Obama’s coalition is a democratic / demographic coalition…

Martin: This is a primary discussion I’m talking about…

Olson: Oh. Well. I think that’s true in the primary too. (laughter) And the second one is, I think the republican party needs to do better among younger voters and there are real lessons in Ron Paul’s message.

Martin: National security? Should the party be less hawkish, do you think?

Olson: Well, I think you can have a discussion about national security that may not be Ron Paul is, but maybe someplace not where John Bolton is.

Crawford: What do you think in Ron Paul’s message will attract a younger generation?

Olson: Economic empowerment is a huge one. An emphasis on the fact that their generation came of age in a, if you’re thirty years old, you were in college when 9/11 happened, you’ve seen friends go to Iraq and Afghanistan, come back as different people. You’ve had two recessions…And Ron Paul is speaking to them about the fact that government is not necessarily the answer to their problems and they shouldn’t sit around saying “we need to rely on government”, and Jeremy [Jeremy Bird] yesterday said that the demographic group that Obama was worried about was younger voters…there’s a huge opportunity there, Ron Paul…thirteen thousand people at the University of California, Los Angeles campus, six thousand University of Wisconsin…

Martin: Same with Matt. Yes or no: will there be a candidate in the ’16 primary who will be, Trygve, for marijuana legislation?

Olson: What candidate are you thinking about, Johnathan (laughing)? (laughter)

Martin: Yes or no?

Olson: I have no idea. I don’t predict future-

Martin: Is Rand [Rand Paul] gonna run in ’16?

Olson: I would be arrogant to try and make an announcement for Rand Paul, but I’m sure you’ll be the first one to know if he does.



Rhoades: Surprise? The debates. The debates were important in 2008, but in the 2012 primary, it was just shocking how they shook up the race, week after week, and how many people were watching these things.



Stevens: I think my biggest surprise was the degree to which governor Romney was considered a front-runner. Even though he never led in the polls. It was sorta odd. Takeaway is, we seem to be in a moment now that is very narrative driven. If we go back and look at the November-December 2004 moment, it was filled with why there was a republican lock on the electoral college, why it was unlikely for a democrat to be elected president in the near future, and I think that’s a similar moment here…and I think the primary process in four years is likely to serve us very well. And to produce a nominee that is likely to win the presidency. And we should remember that.


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Sentences I Very Much Liked

There is a spoiler to them, not plot-wise, since the plot detail is contained already in the story’s title, but because their aesthetic charge is a culmination, a gorgeous release from a strange, fascinating, still unfinished mystery, “Fallen Dean’s Life, Contradictory to Its Grisly End”, by William K. Rashbaum, Wendy Ruderman and Mosi Secret, with additional reporting by Kitty Bennett and Jeffrey E. Singer.

The sentences are these:

In death, on her bathroom floor, Dr. Chang’s face looked as if she were napping before her morning-court appearance. She wore a silky floral blouse paired with a black jacket. Her hair was neatly coifed. Her lipstick and rouge looked freshly applied, not at all smudged. There was barely a hint of anything askew, save for the shiny wire coiled around her throat like a necklace.



A comment posted to Richard Brody’s intriguing “Best Movies of 2012” list:

What a nice 1977 Village Voice Best Movies list! The New Yorker needs a younger guy or gal with a beard to do its online reviews.

Clearly, The New Yorker needs to hire more carnies.

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“Two And A Half Men: Camel Filters and Pheromones”: A Selection of Youtube Commentary

I saw oh wow…cameltoe… cameltoe

who cleans windows with a sponge?

That window can’t be more clean.

Wait… She was cleaning something??

She missed a spot when she was cleaning the windows

u know how fking much that annyed me? 😛

@DevilzDontCry you’re right she did miss a spot, right at the bottom of the window……….and yes I’m single

No joke, it bugged the hell outta me! The whole time I was like “get that spot right? there, stop going around it!” lol

She sucks at cleaning windows…

while she was cleaning she missed a huge spot in the bottom center of the window >>>> does tht bother any1 else

My thoughts at the window scene: DAMNIT MEGAN WASH THE FUCKING MIDDLE.

…watching megan fox wash that window…was the most annoying thing ever! she kept missing the biggest spots!!!

That bish has never cleaned a window in her life. and i can tell

she isn’t cleaning well.

She refused to clean the lower middle of the window door…..

Thank god Megan Fox is hot! Because she can clean a window for shit.

i wouldnt make her clean ! i would make her have sex with me !

if you watch closely, those two man are having a conversation.?

i have some news for you: you’re gay

Way too much makeup! lol!

She’s gotten better at acting though…too bad she’s sort of blacklisted? now…Wish her and her family all the best.

Does anyone have a clip of her on her husband’s show?

let me guess, gay?


Actress maybe, but how does she keep ending up in slut like roles?

She’s actually really short in real life. like 5’2” barely, also she sucks at acting

shorter chicks are hotter than talll chicks man i really want to fuck a midget

this show was good but now when i rewatch after charlie shean and Angus actions and opinions i just cant enjoy it anymore even old ep. Wow they just ruined it

these is the best two and a half man episode ever megan is still hot and one this show is not the same out charlie sheen he was the life the show that why watch charlie u still kick ass this show is dead with out u

thanks but are you giving me a sarcasm??

Am i the only that beat my meat?

Did he just run into the door… Twice?

I got naked pics of Megan fox’s body…..anyone?

is in america a sixteen y.o girl that look like that exist? not in my country…?

Have you seen her nose? She looks amazing now.

Guys,i don’t know if you wanna know or not but i’d do her

She has a picture album on her facebook named “things you cant do with your face if you have botox”. She does the things. She is real (:

if you are going strictly by looks, i’d say she’s a hard ten. if you are including personality and everything else, she’s probably more like a six. i don’t know her personally, but usually extremely beautiful girls are stupid, a total slut, or both. before you ladies jump all over my comment, key word is “usually”.

Might you be a homosexual??

my friends and I asked random people in our school who would you go out with/fuck

Jennifer lopez or Megan fox 87% said megan fox

i swear i saw her on pornhub and? xnxx (megan fox that is)! yes i masturbate often but who doesnt

no one needs to knw that

if megan fox called me a stud a shit my pants!

3rd fastest runner to the lunch room more like it!

RON PAUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I`m from Germany

I’m from ‘MERICA!

i like vagina

I’m almost 25 years old , and a female, is that sad for a girl to like some of this episode? I must say, some of the lines from the guys are quite entertaining! And Megan’s reactions!

am in fact 26. And it’s called rigor mortis you dumbass. I assume you don’t have a girlfriend, have you? So you wouldn’t have to … “play+the+meat+flute”. I just said, anywhere you see this woman, her mouth is open. She is in movies just for her lookings… have you seen “Jennifer’s Body” soooo effing bad acting. Just for her lookings.

Meagan fox is an ugly cunt. Pakistani women are Breyer looking than her

Only religious whackos and the pope dislike her. Even gay people would fuck her


and no pakistani and indian women arent even hairy. ive seen sexy pakistani/indian women on youtube and im having a hard time finding hair on their bellies or their skin. just look up sexy indian women on youtube and tell me if their skin is hairy. matter of fact just look at indian belly dancers or sexy mujra as for a few suggestions

Who gives a damn about a homemade video… Wow people are so weird lol.

Thumbs up if subject was racist lol

if your complaining about this… then i guess u have a floppy disk~

If this should have been funny… or offensive in any kind. You should make sure your joke is understood. Wasn’t neither funny nor offensive… quite nonsense… any modern computer these days does not have a floppy disk drive.

She not deserve to stay and play moviess like thiss … Her place is to BRAZZERS XD likeee if you think sooo 😛 god dam shee is hotttt 😀

Oh, so are you masturbate every time you hear that annoying laugh ? Kill yourself.

I’ll kill you instead.

Oh I’m so scary. Come here to eat some more of my shit.

Gee, nothing beats ‘Two and a Half Men’ from yore…

Oh, look, a shit American comedy for a change

I have to catch up on some paper work


what is that..ha ha background to tell us..when to fucking laugh ..?

hi *hahahahahahahaha*

whats your name *hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah­a*

really wheres the joke…

This is just embarrassing. It pains to watch. All I can hear is locomotive breath playing in my head.

so if you are 16 you can drive a car and wreck and murder people but you can’t have sex? seems strange to me

Did you murder many people when you were a kid?

if you wreck and kill people its murder. so shut thy pie hole fatty

There are laugh tracks for dialogs which are not even funny at all

Filmed in front of a live audience. It automatically let the cast and writers know what did and didn’t work. That’s why the show became so great.

Might be live but the laughs are FAKE.

They are not fake… These shows are acted out in front of live audiences.. So when it is funny they laugh or might be prompter to… either way… Live audience.

the laughs were mostly recorded 60 years ago so we basically hear a lot of dead ppl laugh

74 people have been transformed into gay guys ;o)

All this hate over this woman… damn cant yall just leave her be? Shes actually a trained actress and deserves to not be ridiculed simply because of her looks. In short, guys, dont hate just cuz you cant get none…

hahaha dumbass asshole that’s not going to bring you good karma or make her love you, she doesn’t really care what anyone writes here hahahahaha

I would walk 5 miles on glass (Bare footed) just to hear her fart through a walkie talkie.

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