campaign finance

Right Wing Round-Up

  • The Washington Post got its hands on Robert McDonnell's master's thesis from Regent University and TPM posts some of the highlights.
  • Alan Colmes: George Roeder has pleaded “not guilty” in the killing of abortion provider George Tiller, and has told the AP that the killing was justified to “save the lives of the unborn.”
  • Bill Berkowitz takes a look at the new right-wing supergroup, The Freedom Federation.
  • Bill Donohue warns that “militant, dogmatic” atheists are “out to get” Catholics and dismantle American society.
  • Finally, various pieces of NOM-related news: Justin McLachlan examines the organization's 2007 990 tax form; authorities in Iowa are questioning the group over potential violations of campaign finance laws; the organization is positively giddy over the Washington Post puff piece last week; and Jamison Foser adds several important details that were left out of that article.

How Much Are Mainers Willing To Spend to "Stand for Marriage"?

Yesterday, Joe Sudbay took a look at the first campaign finance report in the Maine marriage campaign that was released yesterday and found out that national Religious Right groups were dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the fight.

Today, the Lewiston Sun Journal took a look as well and concluded that "the group hoping to overturn Maine's same-sex marriage law has out-raised the measure's proponents by more than two to one":

Stand for Maine Marriage, the group leading the effort for repeal, raised a total of about $343,000 from nine donors as of July 5, the end of the reporting period.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland contributed $100,000, the Knights of Columbus of Washington, D.C., chipped in $50,000 and Focus on the Family, a Christian group based in Colorado Springs, Colo., donated $31,000 to the political action committee seeking to repeal the gay marriage law.

Nearly half of the group's fundraising, $160,000, came from the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey-based group established in 2007 "in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures," according to its Web site.

While Stand for Marriage raised more than $340,000, Maine Freedom to Marry raised about $138,000 - but the amazing thing is that of the donations brought in by Freedom to Marry, $80,000 came from residents of Maine. 

Guess how much of the money raised by Stand for Marriage came from Maine residents?

The campaign finance report also shows four Maine citizens contributed a total of $400 to the cause.

$400?  That means that, out of the total amount raised, the amount donated by actual residents of Maine to the effort constituted a whopping .1%, whereas the amount donated by Religious Right groups like NOM and FOF made up the other 99.9%.

I can't wait to see how this right-wing effort manages to spin this and produce ad claiming to speak on behalf of Mainers who want to protect "traditional marriage" considering that actual residents of the state don't seem to support the effort at all.

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Greg Sargent says that "it looks like Sarah Palin is one heck of a prolific fundraiser — for the left, that is."
  • On a quasi-related note, Nate Silver takes a look at Palin's PAC fund-raising figures and notes that while she is lagging behind other Republican candidates, she has a large percentage of small grassroots donors.
  • Good As You reports that the National Organization for Marriage has opened its Washington D.C. office.
  • Pam Spaulding posts the open letter sent to President Obama by Harry Jackson, Niger Innis, and others.
  • David Corn wonders if Richard Viguerie has been watching the same Sotomayor hearings as everyone else.
  • Joe Sudbay examines the campaign finance report in the Maine marriage campaign and reports that right-wing groups have already dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the effort.

Jackson Moves To DC In Order to Save It From Gay Marriage

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post wondering if Harry Jackson, the main force behind efforts to prevent the District of Columbia's city council from recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere, was even a DC resident.

It turns out that he is ... and the Washington Blade reports that he has been for just over one month:

The pastor of a Maryland church who’s seeking a voter referendum in D.C. to overturn a city law recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions did not become a registered voter in the city until April 22, according to voter registration records.

Rev. Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Christian Hope Church in Beltsville, Md., and the lead proponent of the marriage referendum, lists his D.C. residence on the city’s voter registration rolls as an apartment in the upscale Whitman Condominium at 910 M St., N.W.

The city’s election law requires that persons proposing a voter referendum be a District resident and a registered D.C. voter. People participating in the signature gathering process to place a referendum on the ballot must also be District residents and duly registered voters.

The interesting thing about this is that we wrote a post about how Jackson was going to lead the fight in DC weeks before he even registered to vote in DC.  Apparently Jackson realized that his efforts to save DC might look a little suspect if they were being run by someone who didn't even live in The District and so he quickly moved into town and set about establishing himself as a resident.

The Blade article also contains other interesting tidbits, such as this:

In a separate filing required under the referendum law, Jackson filed papers with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to register the campaign committee he created to advance the referendum: Stand4MarriageDC.

The finance papers identify Jackson as chair of the committee and list Brian Brown as the committee treasurer. The papers show that Jackson and Chuck Donovan, who is identified in the papers as an “executive” with the anti-gay Family Research Council in Manassas, Va., as each having contributed $50 to the Stand4MarriageDC committee, representing the first two contributions received.

It's no surprise that Jackson would be working with Donovan, the Executive Vice President for Family Research Council, considering his close ties to the organization and its president Tony Perkins.

And Brian Brown, the committee's treasure, just happens to have the same name as the Executive Director of the National Organization for Marriage ... presumably because it is the same person.

Gingrich and His Ego Contemplate Another Presidential Run

Apparently Newt Gingrich was so moved by the rousing, presidential-like reception he received at CPAC, that he is once again mulling over the possibility of a presidential bid (via Ben Smith):

Newt Gingrich, the conservative former Speaker of the House, didn't rule it out tonight in Ashland, before he was to address a packed house of 650-plus at Randolph-Macon College.

"Callista and I will look seriously and we'll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011, Gingrich told reporters during a sit-down interview before last night's speech.

"We'll look seriously at whether or not we think its necessary to do it. And if we think it's necessary we'll probably do it. And if it isn't necessary we probably won't do it."

So if, two years down the road, Gingrich decides it is "necessary" for him to run for president, then he's in.  If not, then he's not.  What, aside from his own ego, could ever make a Gingrich campaign "necessary"?

There certainly isn't any reason to think that a future run will be any more successful than the last one he contemplated when, just days after saying that if he could raise $30 million he'd run, he announced that he wasn't going to run after all and then blaming the whole thing on campaign finance laws:

After months of teasing—all the way up to last week—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced over the weekend that he would not, in fact, run for president. According to Gingrich, his plan to campaign for $30 million in commitments would conflict with his role as chairman of “American Solutions for Winning the Future” due to “misguided and destructive campaign finance laws.” Reactions on the Right ranged from relief (“there were lots of people ... who are glad that he made the decision not to run,” said Marvin Olasky) to bitter disappointment (“Was it a scam? That's what people are sort of hinting at,” speculated long-time Gingrich ally Matt Towery).

Gingrich founded the futuristic American Solutions (zen-like motto: “Real change requires real change”) as a 527, the controversial IRS category known for its use as a way to channel unrestricted “soft money” toward “issue advocacy,” occasionally—as with the Club for Growth and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—for the transparent purpose of supporting or opposing the election of candidates. When Gingrich founded his group, it was immediately suspected as a way for him to build a mailing list and rehabilitate his national profile while avoiding the protracted primary season, which he called “stupid.” Maintaining leadership of the 527 while dropping the pretense that he was not running would have made the group’s practical aim almost explicit, despite his cheeky claim that it is “a unique non-partisan institution -- the only 527 of its kind.”

“It was a curious argument, since both the 527 group and Gingrich's apparent White House ambitions have been around for about a year. Why did it take so long for Gingrich and his crack team of lawyers to realize that he couldn't have it both ways?” asked the National Journal blog.

Right Finds No Need to Work Over McCain on GOP Platform

Back when the Republican primary was still hot and heavy, Phyllis Schlafly told right-wing voters in New Hampshire that it was their job to “work these guys over” and pin them down on the issues important to them.

Once John McCain secured the nomination, the Right then began girding for what it expected to be a bloody fight before the convention over the party’s platform:

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September's Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles.

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the GOP platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.

"There is just no way that you can avoid anticipating what is going to come. Everyone is aware that McCain is different on these issues," said Jessica Echard, executive director of the conservative Eagle Forum. "We're all kind of waiting with anticipation because we just don't know how he's going to thread this needle."

But they needn’t have worried, because the McCain campaign decided to sit this one out and let them have their way:

Republicans are inviting suggestions for their party platform this year, and thousands have responded online. But when a committee meets to draft the document in Minneapolis next week, one voice will be largely absent: John McCain's.

The Republican standard-bearer is at odds with his party on such hot-button issues as global warming, immigration, campaign-finance overhaul, stem-cell research, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Many party stalwarts are also deeply skeptical when it comes to judicial nominations, given his Senate record.

Instead of fighting with party activists to form the platform around his own ideas, Sen. McCain has taken a hands-off approach.

And so they did:

Republicans on Tuesday debated election principles influenced by their conservative base as well as by presidential candidate John McCain, taking a hard line on abortion while edging toward a more moderate position on global warming.

In its platform debate, the party stuck to its call for a constitutional abortion ban despite McCain's opposition to that, and toughened already uncompromising language on the issue.

Conservatives succeeded in removing a line from a platform draft urging a reduction in abortions _ underscoring their point that abortion should be eliminated.

So why did McCain decide to take a hands-off approach this time around?  Maybe because he remembers what happened to Bob Dole back in 1996; Phyllis Schlafly certainly does

In recent years both parties' platforms have become less relevant: they're often written by and for the parties' bases and largely ignored by the candidates. That's what happened in 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole, angry at some of the language in the document, claimed he hadn't read it. Dole lost his bid for the presidency to incumbent President Bill Clinton.

Still, the platform can be a harbinger of new directions the party is likely to go, and conservatives say McCain would do well to pay attention to it.

``When we didn't do what Bob Dole wanted he just went out and said he wasn't going to pay attention to it anyway,'' said Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of the advocacy group Eagle Forum, who has been active in Republican politics since 1952. ``And we know what happened to Bob Dole.''

Will DeLay Be Cleared on a Technicality?

The Austin American-Statesman reports that former Rep- Tom DeLay might end up being cleared of money-laundering charges merely because they were dealing with checks, not cash:
Money-laundering charges against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two indicted co-conspirators may be dismissed because the 2002 campaign finance case involved checks and not cash, a lawyer for DeLay said Sunday night. "We win," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lawyer, "because there's nothing but checks in the case." The state's 3rd Court of Appeals on Friday actually upheld the money-laundering indictments against DeLay's two campaign associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington. But the ruling contained a silver lining for the trio's lawyers because it concluded that the state's money-laundering statute — written in 1993 to combat illicit drug activity by focusing on the cash in the criminal transactions — did not apply to checks at the time DeLay is accused of laundering corporate money into campaign donations. The Legislature changed the law in 2005 to include checks. ... DeGuerin said he would take the appellate court's opinion back to Pat Priest, the trial judge in San Antonio, who has dismissed the check argument previously. Armed with the opinion, however, DeGuerin said he expects Priest to reconsider DeLay's motion to dismiss the charges because only checks — not cash — were involved in the transactions.

Right Set to Converge on GOP Convention

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that right-wing activists were preparing for a fight at the Republican Convention in Minnesota in September:

Conservative activists are preparing to do battle with allies of Sen. John McCain in advance of September's Republican National Convention, hoping to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles.

Well, the St. Paul Pioneer-Press has done some digging and calling around and reports that, indeed, many of the Religious Right’s leaders are planning on attending: 

Former Sen. Bob Dole will attend. But Sen. Elizabeth Dole will not.
 
Newt Gingrich will be in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. Evangelist Pat Robertson will not.

And first lady Laura Bush will join President Bush here on Sept. 1, the White House says. But former first lady Nancy Reagan will not show up.

With the convention about a month away, the RSVPs and the regrets are piling up. So far, organizers have been reluctant to reveal which dignitaries plan to attend Sen. John McCain's nominating party Sept. 1-4.

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schafly will attend, as will Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Also bound for St. Paul are Gary Bauer of American Values and Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition. But anti-abortion activist Randall Terry said he's still deciding.

"Denver is a for-sure, and St. Paul we're still discussing," Terry said of the two conventions.

If Terry comes to St. Paul, he promises some unspecified civil disobedience, he said, "but it would be done in a way that honored the party's commitment to the pro-life cause."

It should be interesting, considering that the Right has traditionally used the GOP convention as an opportunity to showcase its radical agenda.  In fact, the last time GOP was fielding a nominee who was unpopular with the right-wing base was in 1996 with Bob Dole, and when the Right descended on that convention, they tried to throw their weight around and ended up embarrassing the party on national television:

On the eve of the convention, leaders of the Christian Coalition were boasting openly of their influence in the party. Ralph Reed, the group's baby-faced leader, described in detail how his troops had been prepared to ensure that their views triumphed on their key issue of outlawing all abortions, by mobilizing pro-life delegates through a sophisticated network of floor co-coordinators.

As it turned out, a floor fight was averted and the Christian forces were left on the sidelines. One morning last week, 2,000 of them gathered at an outdoor amphitheatre surrounded by palm trees and placards portraying bloody aborted fetuses. Several kilometers from the convention site, they indulged themselves in the kind of rhetoric that Republican leaders were desperate to keep off the prime-time airwaves. Former vice-president Dan Quayle, one of their heroes, assured them that they should not fear being labeled extremist. "Know what?" he asked. "You aren't extreme; you are mainstream America."

Roger O'Dell, a convention delegate and Christian Coalition member from El Paso, Tex., tipped back the white cowboy hat with a "Life of the party" slogan on the band that shielded him from the hammering sun. "I don't think we've been pushed aside," he reflected. "Most of the people at the convention are with us. We own the convention. But here's the deal: it took 30 or 35 years to move away from American values, and it'll take a while longer to win the country back. So we can be patient."

Another Christian activist, retired electrical engineer Meredith Raney of Florida, proudly sported a T-shirt bearing the uncompromising slogan "Intolerance is a beautiful thing." On the back was the explanation: God is intolerant of evil; Lincoln was intolerant of slavery; and Churchill was intolerant of Hitler. "Thing is," said Raney, "Christians are criticized for being intolerant in this party. But there's a whole lot of intolerance in our history that we're proud of. With abortion, we're where we were at with slavery just before the Civil War. Some people thought it was bad, some people said it was OK. I hope we don't need another civil war to resolve it, but we will win this fight for the unborn." As for the Republicans' efforts to keep the Christian right under wraps, Raney said: "I think it could cost them the election. There's a lot of Christians that won't vote for Dole - and there's an awful lot of us."

Oklahoma Pol Explains Gay Conspiracy Against Him in Campaign Comic Book

From the state that brought us Sally Kern comes yet another elected official who believes gays are conspiring against him. Embattled Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart is facing felony campaign finance charges, but his re-election campaign is in full swing, distributing a crudely drawn comic book explaining to voters how he stood up to "the homosexuals, the good ol' boy politicians, and liberals"--not to mention a cartoon Satan: Sample drawing (Via Reason.)

GOP Convention Platform Stokes Conflict

According to the Washington Post, some right-wing activists fear that McCain will make “wholesale revisions” to the Republican platform, a hundred-page document where “all but nine pages mention Bush’s name.” Specifically, groups like the Eagle Forum are “preparing to do battle…to prevent his views on global warming, immigration, stem cell research and campaign finance from becoming enshrined in the party's official declaration of principles.”

At End of Supreme Court Term, Right Wing Points to November

According to Politico, the Right is warming to John McCain’s far-right stance on judicial appointments, and with the 5-4 decisions that closed out the Supreme Court’s term, we can see the outline of McCain’s and the Right’s campaign to get the base to turn out in November on the issue of judges.

Last month’s Supreme Court decision on habeas corpus was likened by the Right a “white flag of surrender” that would cause “more Americans to be killed”; Fred Thompson, a judicial advisor to John McCain, wrote that the “remedy” was for “concerned citizens to turn out on Election Day to elect a new president.”

The more recent decision overturning D.C.’s gun ban inspired Ted Nugent to write in Human Events that “the 5-4 ruling is another painful example” of “a divisive culture war raging on, and four supreme justices frighteningly disconnected from the heart and soul of America.” Michael Reagan warned that the majority “will vanish if the liberals manage to elect Barack Obama and give his party sufficient control of Congress to guarantee that future Court vacancies will be filled with activist liberal justices who will turn the Constitution upside down.”

The Family Research Council called the Second Amendment case “a reminder for voters of just how important the elections are this fall.”

The next President is likely to name 2-3 Supreme Court justices, who will be examining the constitutionality of a variety of laws for the next few decades. Life, marriage, and religious freedom are all issues that are likely to land in front of the Supreme Court. … For fiscal, social, and national defense conservatives, judges are one issue that brings all conservatives together.

According to the Weekly Standard, a case restricting capital punishment to murderers and not rapists of children demonstrated “that the fight to turn the Court from a capricious and imperious vanguard of liberalism into an impassive umpire is far from over.” The Standard’s Matthew Continetti advised McCain to “take this opportunity to explain how his judicial philosophy differs from Obama's, and why it matters.” A National Review editorial similarly responded, “Too many of our justices are evolving away from democracy. Let’s not elect a president who will encourage them — and appoint more of them.”

Traditional Values Coalition’s Lou Sheldon wrote that the death penalty case and the habeas corpus decision “are perfect examples showing why it’s important that Americans choose the right person to assume the Presidency in January 2009.”

The person who becomes President and Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces will likely have to replace Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter – all liberals who use their power to impose their leftist ideology upon all Americans. …

If we fail to put a man into the Oval Office who understands judicial restraint and the rule of law, our legal system will be set back 30 years. This is especially true if a liberal President appoints young liberals to the Court and fills up the federal judiciary with more radical leftist judges.

Finally, there’s the 5-4 decision overturning the “Millionaire’s Amendment,” a part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that lifted contribution limits for politicians facing self-funded opponents. Despite McCain’s role in originally passing the law, McCain supporter Hans von Spakovsky wrote that the narrow ruling “graphically illustrates just how important the next president's appointments to the Supreme Court will be to preserving our First Amendment rights in the political arena.”

“[G]iven the number of Supreme Court appointments a Democratic president will be able to make, an Obama victory will move America more radically leftward than ever in its history,” Dennis Prager summarized.

All these cases will continue to be cited by the Right in pushing its unmotivated constituency to the polls, as “are reminders that elections are not just about putting candidates in office for a few years,” as Thomas Sowell put it to those “who are thinking of venting their frustrations by voting for some third-party candidate that they know has no chance of being elected. There will be a president chosen this November, and he will appoint Supreme Court justices during his term, regardless of whether you stay home or go to the polls.”

McCain’s Judges Pledge Paying Dividends

Back when he was running for president, Rudy Giuliani was not particularly popular with the Religious Right, so he went out of his way to promise to deliver on their most pressing issue:  the future of the Supreme Court.  

For its part, the Right was torn between the idea of standing firm in its refusal to support Giuliani and swallowing its principles for the sake of the next Justice, with some claiming all that mattered was getting control of the Supreme Court while others insisted that they would not be bought off with such promises.  

As it turned out, Giuliani’s campaign quickly collapsed and the Right was spared the dilemma of having to choose … at least when it came to Giuliani; they are now facing a similar dilemma with John McCain.  

As with Giuliani, some right-wing leaders like James Dobson have already declared that they will not, under any circumstances, vote for McCain even though the McCain campaign has been busy working hard to woo them by guaranteeing more nominees like John Roberts and Samuel Alito … and maybe even a Robert Bork thrown in for good measure.

And it looks like those efforts are starting to pay off:

Prominent conservatives and activists are indicating they will put aside their differences with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and rally their supporters to his side because of one issue: federal judgeships.

In big gatherings and small, in e-mails and one-on-one conversations, conservative opinion leaders fear a Democratic president, especially Sen. Barack Obama, will use the presidential power to appoint federal judges who will remove references to God and religious symbols from public places.

They predict the incoming president likely will fill more vacancies on the federal bench over the next four years than at any time in recent memory, giving a Democratic administration the power to shape the courts to reflect a liberal worldview.

Federal judgeships have become the ultimate recurring political battle. The Senate yesterday confirmed the second appeals court nominee of the year, a far lower rate than Republicans had anticipated and underscoring the political stakes involved. Even with Republicans in control from 2003 through 2006 they had a difficult time getting appeals court nominees passed in the face of Democratic filibusters.

Conservatives said the issue is so powerful that it could be worth looking past what they see as Mr. McCain's other flaws. They have clashed with the senator on issues such as his support for strict limits on campaign finance, his teaming with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, on immigration and his votes against President Bush's two major tax-cut packages.

McCain Wins By Losing

Suffice it to say that John McCain and Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) have had something of a rocky relationship in the past, engaging in extensive litigation over the senator’s flagship McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation ever since WRTL ran ads back in 2004 targeting WI senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold despite a provision in the law “banning ads that mention the names of candidates for public office within certain ‘blackout periods’ ranging from 30 to 60 days before an election--if funds from corporations or unions are used to pay for the ads.”

As the Weekly Standard explained:

McCain has thrown himself into the McCain-Feingold litigation with unusual fervor, personally intervening in Wisconsin Right to Life's lawsuit rather than relying solely on the lawyers for the Federal Election Commission and Justice Department who are charged with defending the constitutionality of federal election laws. "It is not a common, ordinary occurrence" for sponsors of federal legislation to become involved in litigation over their handiwork, notes Bradley A. Smith, a law professor at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, who served as FEC chairman during Bush's first term and is a vocal opponent of McCain-Feingold as well as most other regulation of elections. "How rare it is I can't tell you, but it's more common just to file an amicus [friend-of-the-court] brief."

The case ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court and McCain even filed a brief in which he argued that WRTL’s actions were “a classic case of business corporations funneling unregulated monies to an advocacy group to pay for ads that will influence a federal election” in violation of the law.    

Unfortunately for McCain, he ended up losing the case on a decision written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justice Alito and and others whom he voted to confirm to the Court.  

But it looks like WRTL isn’t one to hold a grudge, because they have now endorsed him and are citing his pledge to appoint more justices like Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court as one of the key reasons:

The Wisconsin Right to Life Political Action Committee today announced its endorsement of Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.

Senator McCain has a stellar 100% voting record on protecting unborn children from abortion.  He opposes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand in the United States and he voted to ban the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure. He opposes taxpayer funding of abortion and supports legislation that would require parental notification prior to a minor's abortion.

Senator McCain opposes human cloning and the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes.  He has stated that he would nominate U.S. Supreme Court justices in the mold of Justices Roberts and Scalia.

Presumably, all McCain needs to do to rack up support from his former Religious Right foes is to keep pledging to appoint the type of judges they demand, even if that means ones who will strike down legislation and views he otherwise champions.

Janet Folger: Sheep

For the last several months, Janet Folger dedicated her life to helping Mike Huckabee try to secure the Republican presidential nomination, hosting the Values Voter Debate where she anointed Huckabee the "David among Jesse’s sons," serving as co-chair of his Faith and Values Coalition, praying for bad weather to keep voter turnout down, and even launching a front-group to attack Mitt Romney and John McCain. All along she warned that Huckabee was the only acceptable candidate in the race and the only one who could keep the Right out of prison while declaring that McCain was unacceptable because he:
Pushed "campaign finance reform" that would put a gag rule on citizen groups like Wisconsin Right to Life, who McCain sued when they suggested people actually contact their senators to let them know how they felt about the filibuster on judicial nominees. He was also one of the gang of 14 who kept the filibuster alive. He also voted against the Marriage Protection Amendment.
Folger made clear that only "sheep" would support McCain, while the principled "shepherds" were intent on backing Huckabee:
We heard the mantra, "A vote for Huckabee is a vote for McCain!" Interestingly, the same people who said that are now saying, "Don't vote for Huckabee. Vote for McCain!" Really? Support the guy who wants to force us to fund medical experimentation on human beings like Joshua and Rachel Hubbard – who were themselves once frozen embryos. Real human beings. Just older than they were when they were shoved in a freezer and vulnerable to policies like those of Sen. John McCain. Just because someone shoves children in the freezer doesn't mean they're no longer human beings in need of adoption. "Thou shalt not kill" doesn't say "unless they're really small and discarded by people who don't want them." If you found a kid locked in a closet, would you justify performing medical experiments on him before taking his life because he "was going to die if nobody let him out of that closet anyway?" They are rallying to the very guy who wanted a two-month gag rule prior to an election on all of us who want to inform people about what Congress may be doing – like forming a gang (of 14, for example) to block good judicial nominees. Ann Gimenez, whose husband Bishop John Gimenez, a true Christian leader who just went on to his reward, said, "This is not the time to lose our moral compass. Take a stand for righteousness, and don't deviate from it." Good advice. There are sheep, and there are shepherds. Sheep follow the pundits, the polls, political expediency and promised perks. Shepherds follow principle. Gov. Mike Huckabee is such a man. So are those who stand on principle with him.
Well, now that McCain has secured the nomination and Huckabee has dropped out, Folger has suddenly abandoned all her talk of sheep and shepherds and declared that the prudent, principled thing to do is to vote for John McCain:

Who Will Console Rick Scarborough?

With the Republican presidential campaign seemingly narrowed to a race between John McCain and Mitt Romney, one wonders what will become of Mike Huckabee’s more high-profile Religious Right backers?  While Janet Folger appears busy starting up her own anti-Romney front group, Huckabee’s other most vocal and committed supporter, Rick Scarborough, seems to have been reduced to complaining and finger-pointing:

Scarborough was scathing in his assessment of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who picked up Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement Wednesday (and might haul in the backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who had supported Giuliani).

Scarborough told me: “We are left with a candidate for president who showed his disdain for the Christian Right in 2000 when he tried to salvage his candidacy by trashing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson while campaigning in South Carolina. He destroyed any attempt by (Senate Majority Leader) Bill Frist to end once and for all the unconstitutional requirement of 60 senators to affirm judicial appointments by joining the Gang of 14 (senators from both parties agreeing to avoid frequent partisan wars over judges) and his McCain/Feingold (campaign finance) bill was a direct assault on grassroots activism while McCain-Kennedy (an immigration act) revealed his true convictions about amnesty. Oddly enough, the ‘establishment’ candidate once threatened to leave the party he now will likely represent.”

Scarborough took issue with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney too, saying Romney “was wrong on every pro-family issue his entire career until he decided to run for the Republican nomination.”   

Scarborough rued: “The most visible Christian leaders in our movement decided that Huckabee was ‘unelectable,’ which became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am angered and frustrated by that reality, but secure in God’s sovereignty.”

It has been a tough campaign for Scarborough, who has been struggling from the very beginning to figure out how best to position himself in order to maximize his influence and visibility.  Initially, Scarborough sounded like he was supporting Sam Brownback and announced that he’d be launching a “70 Weeks to Save America” crusade to mobilize “100,000 Values Voters, 10,000 key leaders, 5,000 Patriot Pastors and 5,000 women” – an effort that almost immediately put the organization deep in debt. 

Over the coming months, he went on to suggest that none of the top-tier candidates was going to be acceptable to the GOP’s Religious Right base and that they should consider leaving the party all together.  But then, when others began suggesting the same thing, Scarborough flip-flopped and told them to “grow up,” hold their noses, and support the Republican nominee for the sake of judges … only to flip-flop back again and say that his political work was not about winning elections but “honoring Christ.” 

He then got involved with the Values Voter Debate, where Mike Huckabee firmly established himself as the “David among Jesse’s sons" and soon he was serving on Huckabee’s Faith and Family Values Coalition and hard to work organizing pro-Huckabee get-out-the-vote rallies and joining the candidate at fundraisers.

But now that Huckabee’s campaign seems to be winding down, Scarborough is on the verge of being left without a candidate or a coherent set of principles on which to move forward.  What, oh what, is a Christocrat to do?

Is the Right Secretly Endorsing Romney?

Last week on Time’s Swampland blog, Michael Scherer took notice of Focus on the Family Action’s post-South Carolina primary political analysis and observed that, despite the fact that those involved have all refused to endorse any candidate, they certainly seemed to have a favorite candidate:
The video about Rudy Giuliani suggests that the former New York mayor would appoint a judge who would uphold Roe v. Wade, and knocks him for dressing in drag on Saturday Night Live. The video on John McCain hits the Arizona senator for campaign finance reform, his opposition to the federal marriage amendment and his 2000 comments about Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. "You want someone to depend on when you are in a fight, and you never really know where he is going to be," says Perkins about McCain in the video. This is all to be expected. But then it gets controversial. The video on Mike Huckabee, who is the overwhelming favorite among the nation's evangelical voters, is surprisingly harsh. After praising Huckabee's social views, both Perkins and Tom Minnery, a policy expert at Focus on the Family, hammer the former Arkansas governor for his foreign policy views. Minnery suggests that Huckabee does not understand the cause for which American troops are dying in Iraq. Then Perkins suggests that Huckabee lacks the fiscal and national security credentials needed for a conservative presidential candidate. "The conservatives have been successful in electing candidates, and presidents in particular, when they have had a candidate that can address not only the social issues, [but] the fiscal issues and the defense issues," says Perkins. "[Huckabee] has got to reach out to the fiscal conservatives and the security conservatives." Ouch. So what about Romney? He comes up roses. "He has staked out positions on all three of the areas that we have discussed," says Perkins. "I think he continues to be solidly conservative." Then Minnery defends Romney from criticism that he is too polished and smooth. "Mitt Romney has acknowledged that Mormonism is not a Christian faith," Minnery adds. "But on the social issues we are so similar."
Scherer went on to note that Mat Staver, a Huckabee backer, complained that the analysis of Huckabee was “lacking objectivity and context” and, shortly thereafter, Focus on the Family Action went back and re-edited the video to include more praise for Huckabee’s stand on social issues. Scherer concluded logically that this could amount to a “stealth endorsement” of Romney, but Tom Minnery, of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council both insist that it is nothing of the sort:
First of all, rest assured that we have not been endorsing any candidates, either “stealthily” or otherwise. Our comments are what they are — a review of what the candidates, both Democrat and Republican, are saying on issues we think Christians care about. … Last Saturday night, after the polls closed in South Carolina, I joined our friends at Focus on the Family Action in a live web cast discussion of the election returns. My comments about each of the presidential candidates were excerpted for home page clips on the Focus Action web site. The interpretation being given to those comments by some is just wrong. I have not endorsed any candidate for the White House and have no plans to do so.
They may deny that they are supporting Romney, but seeing as James Dobson and his ilk have already ruled out the possibility of supporting John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, and refuse to back Mike Huckabee, the process of elimination and their own rhetoric suggests that Romney is indeed their candidate of choice.

Religious Right Loves McCain’s ‘Christian Nation’ Rhetoric

Senator John McCain has had a tough time attracting support from the Religious Right in his presidential bid.  Some have never forgiven him for calling Religious Right leaders “agents of intolerance” during the 2000 presidential primary.  And many hate the campaign finance bill that bears his name.

But he is now winning praise from Religious Right leaders for repeating the type of bogus claims promulgated by their favorite pseudo-historian David Barton.  In an interview on interfaith religious website Beliefnet, McCain said, “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”  And in response to a question about the possibility of a Muslim for president, he said  "I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles ... personally, I prefer someone who I know . . . has a solid grounding in my faith."

In the wake of some criticism, McCain has backpedaled a bit, saying that “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”  His spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said: ''The senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another.''

But some Religoius Right leaders have leapt to his defense. Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council praised McCain’s “Straight Talk.”  Christian Coalition of America blogger Jim Backlin went even further, gushing that “McCain’s ‘America is a Christian Nation’ Comments Might Make Him President.”

Not praised by the Right was McCain’s comment in the same interview that “I think that our Founding Fathers believed in separation of Church and state and they stated it unequivocally.” Maybe the Right was mum on that point because McCain softened its impact by saying that “every statement that [the founders] made had to do with belief in a divine creator. So, they didn't mean, in my view, separation of church and state that there's no place for God, a superior being, a creator, in our discourse and in our lives.” Or maybe the Right ignored that part of McCain’s interview because they believe church-state separation is a “myth” and a “lie of the left.”

Your Futuristic Campaign Has Been Killed by an Ogre

After months of teasing—all the way up to last week—former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced over the weekend that he would not, in fact, run for president. According to Gingrich, his plan to campaign for $30 million in commitments would conflict with his role as chairman of “American Solutions for Winning the Future” due to “misguided and destructive campaign finance laws.” Reactions on the Right ranged from relief (“there were lots of people ... who are glad that he made the decision not to run,” said Marvin Olasky) to bitter disappointment (“Was it a scam? That's what people are sort of hinting at,” speculated long-time Gingrich ally Matt Towery).

Gingrich founded the futuristic American Solutions (zen-like motto: “Real change requires real change”) as a 527, the controversial IRS category known for its use as a way to channel unrestricted “soft money” toward “issue advocacy,” occasionally—as with the Club for Growth and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—for the transparent purpose of supporting or opposing the election of candidates. When Gingrich founded his group, it was immediately suspected as a way for him to build a mailing list and rehabilitate his national profile while avoiding the protracted primary season, which he called “stupid.” Maintaining leadership of the 527 while dropping the pretense that he was not running would have made the group’s practical aim almost explicit, despite his cheeky claim that it is “a unique non-partisan institution -- the only 527 of its kind.”

“It was a curious argument, since both the 527 group and Gingrich's apparent White House ambitions have been around for about a year. Why did it take so long for Gingrich and his crack team of lawyers to realize that he couldn't have it both ways?” asked the National Journal blog.

While Gingrich says he’s standing down from candidacy because he’s “not willing to sacrifice American Solutions” and its efforts to transcend politics through the use of hokey platitudes, it may be more likely that he’s unwilling to give up what the Washington Times called a “lucrative empire as an author, pundit and consultant” for a doomed presidential bid.

Nevertheless, Gingrich was able to demonstrate his power as a “citizen leader” on “Solutions Day,” the futuristic holiday he organized as a climax for American Solutions. Commemorating the anniversary of the 1994 “Contract with America,” which he and other House Republicans announced dramatically in front of the U.S. Capitol, Gingrich reprised the occasion in an appropriately futuristic setting: a scale model of the Capitol building rendered in 3-D in “Second Life,” an online virtual world.

Gingrich’s specter floated in virtual space before landing in front of a small audience of motley spectators, variously attired in virtual suits or skimpy outfits with purple panda ears. There was reportedly even a virtual streaker. Although its lips weren’t moving, the cyber-Gingrich lauded “Second Life” as a triumph of “the world that works,” the theme of American Solutions.

(Video via the Weekly Standard, which notes that Gingrich’s speech apparently plagiarized the magazine. Gingrich's speech begins at around 1 minute and 12 seconds into the clip.)

Some on Right Wary of Candidate Thompson

While Fred Thompson’s presumptive candidacy for president has been bolstered by right-wing activists dreaming of finding a perfect match in the “Law & Order” star, some in the conservative movement are taking a skeptical look at his political career, and chinks in his image are emerging to match those of the other leading Republican contenders.

First, James Dobson came out early on to say of Thompson that “I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression” (a statement he later tried to back away from). Then, a video clip from his Senate campaign was released in which he appears to show support for abortion rights. And the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a provision of campaign finance reform – FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life -- reminded many anti-abortion activists of his critical role in passing the legislation that they strongly oppose, as well as his investigative subpoenas into the finances of interest groups, which raised hackles among religious-right groups targeted.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported that, when he worked as a lobbyist in Washington, Thompson took a job from a pro-choice group to convince the first Bush Administration to lift the “gag rule” on federally-funded clinics mentioning abortion. A former colleague called Thompson’s denial of pro-choice lobbying “absolutely bizarre.”

And yesterday, the Times reported more on right-wing outrage at Thompson during his campaign-reform days, not only from McCain-Feingold and his subpoenas – which James Bopp, a lawyer who represented the groups back then and who now works for Mitt Romney’s campaign, called an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” – but also for failing to dig up dirt on a supposed fundraising scandal involving President Clinton. Larry Klayman – founder of Judicial Watch and a key figure seeking Clinton’s impeachment -- put the Tennessee senator on a “wanted” poster.

Longtime conservative movement activist Richard Viguerie is calling on the Right to “Beware Fred Thompson”: “Fred Thompson plays a tough guy in the movies and on television, but in real life he is a marshmallow who would pose no threat to the Big Government Establishment that continues to dominate Washington.”

At the same time, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has come to Thompson’s defense on the lobbying charge, and he received an enthusiastic response at a Young Republicans this weekend.

“With all the [candidates] who keep changing their minds on abortion, that's got to be unsettling,” Paul Weyrich said of these reports on Thompson and abortion. But Thompson’s star power and personality will likely allow him to keep pace with the other leading GOP candidates, who have their own issues with the finicky right-wing base. For example, while John McCain’s campaign reform work has apparently made him a permanent enemy of the Religious Right, former Sen. Rick Santorum said that he and others might forgive Thompson for the same because, unlike McCain, Thompson has not “made a career of poking conservative colleagues in the eye.”

Anti-Abortion Advocates Shun McCain over Campaign Finance Reform

Sen. John McCain “is far and away the most consistently anti-abortion of all the top contenders” for the Republican presidential ticket, according to Charlotte Allen in The

Weekly Standard, yet many anti-abortion advocates won’t have any truck with him. “The aversion to McCain is often visceral,” wrote Fred Barnes recently in the same magazine, citing James Dobson’s promise never to support McCain. Allen reports that McCain’s far-right position on abortion has, for some anti-abortion activists, taken a back seat to his legislation on campaign finance:

McCain has a major problem with the nation's largest and most influential anti-abortion advocacy organization, the National Right to Life Committee. And the source of that problem is . . . not abortion at all. It's the McCain-Feingold Act, that set of restrictions on political advertising during election seasons that McCain (along with a number of Democrats) started pushing in 1995 and succeeded in enacting into federal law in 2002.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) regards McCain-Feingold as a major hindrance to its mission of pro-life advocacy--and, pari passu, McCain himself as something close to a personal enemy. A so-far-successful constitutional challenge to a key portion of McCain-Feingold mounted by an NRLC affiliate, Wisconsin Right to Life, is pending in the Supreme Court, with oral argument set for Wednesday, April 25.

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campaign finance Posts Archive

Peter Montgomery, Friday 02/11/2011, 3:35pm
A group of right-wing legal advocates warned CPAC participants – or more accurately, a tiny subset of CPAC participants – about “The Left’s Campaign to Reshape the Judiciary.” Panelists discussed the meaning of “judicial activism” and why the kind of right-wing judicial activism we’ve seen from the Supreme Court doesn’t qualify. (Overturning health care reform? Also not judicial activism.) But the main thrust of the panel was the supposedly dire threat posed by efforts at the state level to replace judicial elections with a merit... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Friday 02/11/2011, 3:35pm
A group of right-wing legal advocates warned CPAC participants – or more accurately, a tiny subset of CPAC participants – about “The Left’s Campaign to Reshape the Judiciary.” Panelists discussed the meaning of “judicial activism” and why the kind of right-wing judicial activism we’ve seen from the Supreme Court doesn’t qualify. (Overturning health care reform? Also not judicial activism.) But the main thrust of the panel was the supposedly dire threat posed by efforts at the state level to replace judicial elections with a merit... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 01/28/2011, 12:13pm
In another sign that Rick Santorum is gearing up for a presidential bid, the former Pennsylvania Senator hired two top Republican strategists from Iowa. CNN reports that Nick Ryan and Jill Latham “will serve as advisers to his political action committee, America's Foundation.” Ryan and Latham both originally worked at the Concordia Group, a lobbyist firm that primarily worked to help the ethanol industry. Ryan is also a founder of the American Future Fund (AFF), a shadowy political group that was accused of violating campaign finance law. The New York Times found the AFF... MORE
Brian Tashman, Friday 01/28/2011, 12:13pm
In another sign that Rick Santorum is gearing up for a presidential bid, the former Pennsylvania Senator hired two top Republican strategists from Iowa. CNN reports that Nick Ryan and Jill Latham “will serve as advisers to his political action committee, America's Foundation.” Ryan and Latham both originally worked at the Concordia Group, a lobbyist firm that primarily worked to help the ethanol industry. Ryan is also a founder of the American Future Fund (AFF), a shadowy political group that was accused of violating campaign finance law. The New York Times found the AFF... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Wednesday 09/01/2010, 9:34am
The National Organization for Marriage, which has been pouring money into District of Columbia elections to punish officials who supported DC’s  new marriage equality law, has sent voters in the city’s Ward 5 a lurid campaign piece supporting an anti-marriage-equality candidate (see below) and warning that “Outside Special Interests are Targeting Delano Hunter.”  Thousands of dollars from homosexual activists outside Ward 5 are attacking Delano Hunter because he supports our right to vote on whether the District legalizes ‘gay marriage.’  ... MORE
Peter Montgomery, Monday 06/14/2010, 11:09am
We noted last month that flyers sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage had been appearing on front doors around the District of Columbia. The flyers urged people to vote against every elected official who supported marriage equality in DC and is up for reelection this year. NOM, which has been pouring money into campaigns around the country to punish pro-equality elected officials, was particularly stung by marriage equality’s victory in the nation’s capital. It has been working to overturn that victory in the courts, and it’s now clear just how... MORE
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 04/07/2010, 11:30am
It seems as if legal professionals in Texas have become quite alarmed by the prospect that Rick Green could end up on the state's Supreme Court and have been dumping money into his opponent's campaign, at least judging by the latest campaign finance reports: In a race focused on who is better equipped to sit on the Texas Supreme Court, the state's legal profession has picked its candidate for the GOP runoff election: Debra Lehrmann, a Fort Worth state District Court judge. In addition to getting solid backing by lawyers and law firms, Lehrmann raced to a huge fundraising advantage with... MORE