Monday, January 25, 2016

Last Call For Dark Money

This month being the anniversary of the odious Citizens United Supreme Court decision that unleashed unlimited money into our political system, it's worth going over author Jane Meyer's book Dark Money as a hard look at the billionaire right that has all but purchased our political system. The Koch Brothers did everything they could to stop the book coming out, and that included going after Meyer herself.

In the summer of 2010, she published a pathbreaking, in-depth piece, headlined "Covert Operations," which chronicled the rise of the Kochs' ideological network—dubbed the "Kochtopus"—and the efforts of the publicity-shy libertarian brothers to guide the burgeoning tea party toward policies that favor Koch Industries. The article depicted the Kochs as secretive bankrollers waging a war against President Barack Obama and opposing environmental safety measures. The Kochs were enraged by the story. A lawyer for their company complained; David Koch called the story "ludicrous." But the New Yorker saw no reason to correct anything. And the kerfuffle seemed to die down. Or so Mayer thought. 
While reporting for her book, Mayer discovered that after her story was published, the Koch political machine assigned six or so operatives, who were working in borrowed space in the lobbying firm operated by J.C. Watts, a former Republican congressman, to dig up dirt on her. She notes that a source told her, "If they couldn't find it, they'd create it." And Mayer maintains that a private investigative firm, Vigilant Resources International, was hired for this job as well. (This company was founded by Howard Safir, who had been a New York City police commissioner when Rudy Giuliani was mayor.) 
Mayer writes that she was at the time unaware of this effort, but she began to spot clues. A blogger asked if she had heard the rumor that a private detective firm was on her trail. At a Christmas party, a former reporter told her that a private investigator had mentioned that some conservative billionaires were looking for dirt on a reporter who had written a story they disliked. Then, in January 2011, a New York Post reporter, Keith Kelly, contacted David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, to get a comment on "allegations" that would soon be published claiming that Mayer had borrowed heavily from other reporters. Shortly after that, as Mayer puts it in her book, Jonathan Strong, then a reporter at the conservative Daily Caller, emailed Mayer and Remnick and asked whether her work fell "within the realm of plagiarism." He sent several examples of her purported theft. 
Mayer mobilized quickly. She contacted the writers whose works she had supposedly swiped—in some cases she had given credit to these writers—and they told her they did not consider these instances of plagiarism. Mayer says she sent these facts to the Daily Caller, and the story disappeared. Subsequently, in the New York Post, Kelly wondered, "Who is behind the apparently concerted campaign to smear The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer?" Kelly asked Tucker Carlson, the editor of the Daily Caller, about the origins of these allegations against Mayer, and Carlson replied, "I have no clue where we got it. I never ask the reporters where they get stuff, only whether it's true. In this case, we didn't have enough." Strong declined to talk to Kelly about the story. 
The Koch operatives, Mayer was later told by a source she doesn't name in her book, "thought they had you. They thought they were going to be knighted by the Kochs." And Mayer observes, "Their search for dirt had started with my personal life, I was told, but when that turned up nothing truly incriminating, they moved on to plagiarism." Later on, the general counsel of Koch Industries sent a letter to the American Society of Magazine Editors decrying the article in an attempt to prevent the New Yorker from winning a National Magazine Award for the piece
When Mayer asked Safir if his firm had investigated her, he said, "I don't comment. I don't confirm or deny it." And a spokesman for the Koch brothers would not talk to Mayer about this. Indeed, another Koch brothers spokesman did not respond this week when Mother Jones asked if the Kochs had mounted a secret operation against Mayer.

The effort failed and Meyer's book came out this month, it's on my reading list.  But it should serve as a major alarm to our sleeping media, because the only reason they are allowed to exist is that the corporate giants who own them see benefit in keeping them around.

When that changes, when a journalist goes after the Kochs, for instance, all bets are off.

DIspatches From Bevinstan, Con't

Here in Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is raising a lot of eyebrows today after declaring a state of emergency for this weekend's major winter storm...and then jetting off for New Hampshire to give a speech in front of Republicans.

Bevin was guest speaker at a Saturday luncheon during the New Hampshire GOP's "First in the Nation Presidential Town Hall," according to media reports. Bevin, who took office as governor last month, grew up in the Granite State.

His administration defended his decision to leave Kentucky while it was under a state of emergency.

"Gov. Bevin has been directly involved in the management of this snow storm," said Jessica Ditto, Bevin's spokeswoman, in a text message.

Bevin decided Saturday morning that the weather situation was well-in-hand and that he would honor his commitment to speak in New Hampshire. She said the governor also was meeting with companies interested in moving jobs to Kentucky.

Earlier Saturday, Bevin posted pictures of himself on Twitter in front of a salt truck and alongside state highway workers.

Many parts of Kentucky got more than a foot of snow, stranding thousands of motorists overnight on Interstate 75 and leaving thousands without power.

So Bevin's answer to his first real test as Governor under a weather emergency was "Let me go give a speech in New Hampshire, you guys will be fine."

Yeah, that seems about par for the course for the guy personality-wise.  Not too particularly worried about thousands without power, but he's got to go take a trip to give a speech bragging about he's the future of the GOP heading into 2020.

He'll reimburse the state later for the trip.  Good job if you can get it.

Jeb Bush, Professional Loser Magnet

Jeb Bush is a horrible candidate, and I'm not sure how the reputation as "the smart Bush" got hung around his neck, but if there's one thing Jeb! is actually good at, it's siding with the losers well after the game is over.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Sunday applauded Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's response to the water contamination crisis in Flint -- even though the situation was caused by Snyder's own administration.

"I admire Rick Snyder for stepping up right now," Bush said on CNN's "State of the Union." "He's going to the challenge. He's fired people and accepted responsibility to fix this."

Bush's praise comes as some are demanding Snyder's resignation over the preventable disaster in Flint, where as many as 100,000 people have been drinking and bathing in brown, lead-contaminated water that the government previously told them was safe. As The Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney reports, this happened because Snyder's government gave Flint bad water treatment advice.

When host Jake Tapper said he was surprised to hear positive words for Snyder given his role in the catastrophe, Bush held firm and said he's impressed with the way the Republican governor is owning the issue.

"Instead of saying, 'The dog ate my homework, it's someone else's fault,' once it became clear, he's taking the lead now," Bush said. "That's exactly what I think leaders have to do."

The guy has all the political instincts of a particularly runny cow pie, I swear.  He's abysmal at this. Rick Snyder is as politically toxic as the sludge water he's still forcing Flint residents to drink, and we're supposed to think that praising the guy is going to help Jeb Bush's case as "a guy who makes good decisions"?

Oy.  Can somebody just shut the guy up already?


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