Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last Call For Conservative Chumps

GOP Old and Brokedown: "We will stop the IRS from investigating Tea Party poliical groups! They are unfairly being targeted for political reasons! SCANDAL!  IMPEACH!  HEADS WILL ROLL!"

New Hotness:  "Why didn't the IRS protect us from these fraudulent Tea Party political groups?"

In the last few years, political organizations of various kinds have proliferated, as all kinds of people seek to take advantage of the post-Citizens United world in which money can flow in so many directions. This has provided a splendid opportunity for the participants in an old game, one in which gullible conservatives are scammed out of their money by a seemingly limitless number of con artists.

Some of those con artists are obscure consultants and operators, but some of them are quite famous, which we’ll get to in a bit. But today, John Hawkins of Right Wing News released a report on a group of conservative PACs that took in millions of dollars in contributions in 2014, ostensibly for the purpose of electing Republicans, but spent almost none of it on actual political activity. Instead, the money went into the pockets of the people who run the PACs and their associates. Jonah Goldberg, reacting to the report, calls this the “right wing scam machine.”

Perhaps instead of investigating the IRS, you might want to ask why Republican lawmakers weren't investigating these scam artists.

For example, let me tell you how conservatives can be (and have been) ripped off by scam groups. Let’s say Ronald Reagan is still alive and someone starts the Re-Elect Ronald Reagan To A Third Term PAC. Because people love Reagan, let’s suppose that conservative donors pony up $500,000 to help the organization. However, the donors don’t know that Ronald Reagan has nothing to do with the PAC. Furthermore, the real goal of the PAC is to line the pockets of its owner, not to help Ronald Reagan. So, the PAC sets up two vendors, both controlled by the PAC owner: Scam Vendor #1 and Scam Vendor #2. Let’s assume it costs $50,000 to raise the half million the PAC takes in. Then, the PAC sends $100,000 to the first company and $100,000 to the second company to “promote Ronald Reagan for President.”

Each of the companies then goes out and spends $1,000 on fliers. The “independent expenditures” that show up on the FEC report? They’re at 40%. That’s because the FEC doesn’t require vendors to disclose how much of the money they receive is eaten up as overhead. The dubious net benefit that Ronald Reagan receives from an organization that raised $500,000 on his name? It’s $2,000. On the other hand, the net profit for the PAC owner is $448,000. Is that legal? The short answer is, “It’s a bit of a grey area, but, yes, it is legal.”

 Huh.  If there was only some government agency that would take a look at PAC expenditures and issue rules of conduct that prevent such actions.

Oh wait.

That tradition continues, but in new and more complicated ways that I like to call the circle of scam. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks pay radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity big money to offer on-air endorsements that are the radio equivalent of “native advertising.” Future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sells his email list on “miracle cancer cures” hidden in the Bible. Conservative media figures like Dick Morris solicit contributions that somehow are never turned to the political ends they claim. Nobody wants to upend the system, because too many people are getting a taste.

The common thread can be found in the marks: the little old lady in Tupelo who sends in $50 thinking that she’s striking a blow against Barack Obama, the couple in Topeka who hopes Mike Huckabee’s biblical cancer cure can save their daughter’s life, the man in Toledo who thinks that the group with “Tea Party” in its name is going to have an impact on his state’s races. What none of them know is that their money is just going to make somebody who’s already rich a little bit richer.

So even the big name right-wing groups are scamming people out of millions. And there's millions of suckers feeding them money constantly.

You wonder if now the right-wing wants campaign finance reform after it turns out they were played for chumps and suckers?

Courting A Fight Over Immigration

Looks like the Republicans got the federal judge they wanted to block President Obama's immigration programs announced last November, and now begins the GOP plan to simply run out the clock by tying the executive orders up in court for the next two years. Of course, real peoples' lives are at stake here. Vox's Dara Lind:

Here's what this means: Until this ruling is reversed or a different ruling comes down in the future, the federal government isn't allowed to do anything to implement either of the new programs President Obama announced in November to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation. 
Between the two programs, millions of immigrants were supposed to be eligible for deferred action (three years of protection from deportation) and work permits. Neither of those programs had actually started accepting applications yet, although one was supposed to start on Wednesday. Now they won't be able to start until further notice. 
Immigrants who are older than 30 but who came to the US as children or teenagers (and meet other requirements) were supposed to be able to apply for deferred action starting on February 18, an expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Now they'll have to wait. That's about 230,000 immigrants who'll remain vulnerable to deportation. 
There are also the 3.7 million unauthorized immigrants who are parents of US citizens or permanent residents who'd benefit from another program: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Applications were supposed to open this spring, but the government still hasn't put out the official application requirements and fee; it won't be able to finalize that, or announce it, under this ruling.

So yes, about 4 million people are directly affected by this, it's going to head to the Fifth Circuit, and it will probably be months before they get through with it. And surely the states suing the White House over immigration actions are going to want a SCOTUS injunction/appeal either way, which would most likely lead to a Supreme Court battle next year. Even if the injunction is lifted, the damage from the delay will be real:

When the administration created the first deferred-action program in 2012, for young unauthorized immigrants, they discovered the success of the program relied on people signing up — and on the ground, organizers learned that finding eligible immigrants and getting them to apply was the hardest part. Now, community groups are trying to educate a much larger, more diffuse immigrant population about the new deferred-action programs, and persuade them that it's safe to apply. But news and misinformation about the lawsuit is spreading confusion and fear among the very people these groups are trying to reach. 
Organizers are worried about a "chilling effect": by the time applications do open for deferred action, immigrants will have been intimidated out of applying, because they won't believe the program is safe or permanent.

Which of course is the entire point.

The Mask Slips Again...

...And Republicans say what's really on their mind about African-Americans.  This one comes to us from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi, in an article about education spending in the Magnolia State when 2 in 7 third-graders in the state are expected to fail the state's reading test and will have to attend summer school.  We go to near the bottom of the article, for responses to the request for more state school funding. GOP State Rep. Gene Alday is not a fan and lets the mask slip:

For years, Southern Echo, a grassroots civil rights group in Jackson, has been working with African-American students. "If the governor is sincere about making universal literacy a gateway, rather than a gatekeeper, he would support full funding for what it will take to get the literacy job done," said co-founder Mike Sayer, pointing out that Florida has invested $1 billion. 
State Rep. Gene Alday, R-Walls, doesn't believe any more funding is needed. "I don't see any schools hurting," he said. 
But then he went on to say that Mississippi "has a lot of bad school districts. The people are electing superintendents that don't know anything about education." 
The former mayor of Walls (population 1,248) went on to say, "I come from a town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call 'welfare crazy checks.' They don't work." 
He had to go to the emergency room for pain, he said. "I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots."

Needless to say, in a state that's 38% black, that's not going over well as at least one Clarion-Ledger columnist is calling for Alday to retire.  If that's the case however, a lot of Mississippians are going to have to recuse themselves from public office, because you're straight up bonkers if you think Alday -- or his constituents -- are alone in thinking this.

Keep up that minority outreach, guys.


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