Start the popcorn machines going now. Right now.
Mitt Romney is trying to seize momentum with a five-day bus tour through small towns across six battleground states.Romney will be traveling from New Hampshire to Michigan over the course of five days, during which time he will be talking with "real Americans," which is the single thing that consistently gets Mitt Romney in trouble more than anything else. So much trouble, in fact, that his campaign has been dodging those situations wherever possible. I can't even imagine Mitt Romney willingly spending five straight days on a bus, much less spending the time talking to jus' folk. I give it two days before he snaps and has to be replaced by a Mitt Romney lookalike.
The presumptive Republican nominee announced plans Monday to visit with families and business owners during his ?Every Town Counts? bus tour, which begins Friday morning on the same New Hampshire farm where he formally launched his campaign just over a year ago.
This seems like a hugely dangerous move on the campaign's part. Mitt and normal folk just do not get along very well; Mitt Romney pissed off from non-stop bus riding probably isn't going to be at the top of his game when talking to them. And that's six states with different local traditions and foodstuffs that need complimenting! For Mitt, this stuff is got to be the campaign equivalent of jumping the Grand Canyon on a rocket-bike?while trying to remember what "donuts" are called.
In other words, I can't wait. Mitt Romney's return to retail campaigning has the potential to be awesome.
Is he making a contribution?Monday night, the Federal Election Commission issued an advisory opinion which will take the small-dollar campaign finance revolution which started with Howard Dean, and went stratospheric during the Obama campaign, into a whole new era. Starting now, political campaigns can raise funds via text messaging, much in the way that charities have been doing for years.
The problems holding up such contributions in the past have concerned FEC regulations regarding (a) how quickly funds have to be transferred to the recipient committee from a conduit, and (b) verification that the contributor is legally permitted to do so. The vendors which sought the advisory opinion have agreed to limit contributions to $10 per text, and $50/device/recipient per month (and you must have a U.S.-based provider), and to have contributors verify their eligibility just as they do now for online contributions by having to respond to messages such as:
Reply YES to give $20 to Obama & certify ur 18+ & donating with own funds, not foreign national or Fed contractor. Terms m-qube.com/r Msg&Data Rates may Apply.The vendor will provide the phone number (not name) of each contributor to the recipient committee, to allow them to track the point at which the contributor has crossed the $200 aggregate threshold beyond which her name must be disclosed. Moreover, via a process known as "factoring," the vendor will float the money to the recipient committee in enough time, prior to the contributor's paying of her bill, much like credit card companies do now and as the FEC had approved for contributions via 1-900 numbers back in 1990.
How big of a deal is this? GOP new media guru Vincent Harris explains:
Why are mobile donations so important? To ?Millennials? their mobile device is the center of the universe. They?re not only listeners of streaming radio, and rabid Facebook users, but they are also rapid texters. A Pew Study released last year highlighted some of the age gap: "For instance, most cell phone owners only use two of the main non-voice functions on their phones: taking pictures and text messaging," the report states. "However, most Millennials also use their phones to surf the internet, send email, play games, listen to music, and record videos." While usage among the youth is much higher, even usage of mobile devices among older Americans is quickly increasing.Or, as he asks, "How long will it be until the [Obama] campaign turns its famous $3 email ask into a $3 SMS ask and raise millions from an untapped medium?" Nick Nyhart, from Public Campaign, concurs:
The ability to accept donations via text will greatly increase the percentage of donations coming in from mobile users as a whole. On the Gingrich campaign mobile users made up 18% of visitors to the campaign website but only 8% of our donations came via mobile users. The ability to text in a donation should help close that gap.
With billionaires and super-PACs drowning out the voices of hardworking Americans, text message campaign contributions can enhance the role of small donors and, combined with public matching funds, could provide a megaphone for the masses.Indeed. Mobile giving led to $35M for Haiti in the three weeks after the earthquake. If we want to overcome the power of big money in elections, it's by strengthening the ties between candidates and ordinary citizens. This is the path forward.
Overpayment on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, is nearly 3 percent, so clearly that's a huge problem requiring stronger enforcement and, just for good measure, reducing benefits for 500,000 families who rely on the program to eat every day. Anyway, that seems to be the Republican logic that's leading to increased enforcement against waste and fraud and $4.5 billion in cuts to the food assistance program in the proposed version of the upcoming farm bill. Some Republicans in the Senate and the House want to make even deeper cuts, of course. Because fraud!
Oh, wait, no. Who are we kidding? Senate Republicans don't actually think food stamp fraud is a real problem, they think it's an opportunity to make low-income Americans even more desperate than they already are and paint their need as fraudulent, all at once:
Egregious fraud happens so infrequently that stronger enforcement being proposed for SNAP isn?t even expected to result in meaningful savings to taxpayers, and it wasn?t scored by the Congressional Budget Office, notes Stacy Dean, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.Cracking down on basically non-existent fraud may be silly, but cutting benefits is concretely harmful to families who need the food. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is fighting to replace the $4.5 billion in food assistance cuts, which would cut benefits by an average of $90 per month for 500,000 families, by lowering payments to crop insurance companies. As a New York Times editorial supporting Gillibrand's amendment points out, with the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee having already voted for far deeper food stamp cuts, "For the Democratic-led Senate to allow any reduction to food stamps is no way to open negotiations with the House." But that's today's Democratic party: Start out by offering a compromise, then compromise some more. Meanwhile, 500,000 American families will go hungry.
11:47 AM PT: A Republican amendment more extreme than a mere $4.5 billion in cuts has been defeated. Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) amendment would have abolished the food stamp program altogether, replacing it with a state block grant program. The fact that the Senate voted 65-33 against this should tell you something about how extreme it was.
Clearly the big news to start the week: The ECB pledged 100 billion euros to help shore up Spain’s banking sector. So now Spain has joined Greece, Portugal, and Ireland in receiving a bailout from the European community.
The market took the bailout news well; the euro rose sharply, gold fell, and stock futures across the world rallied. … [visit site to read . . . → Read More: How to Play the Contrarian View of Spain?s Bailout
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Zach Carter reports on a key leaked document from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This is the "NAFTA for Asia" trade deal that Senators sought more transparency for earlier in the week. Well, thanks to Public Citizen, now they know a bit more[...]
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The rich Wall Street-types approached Arizona lobbyist Mike Williams out of the blue.
Claiming to be executives from a New York firm known as Longford Solutions, they expressed interest in getting into Arizona's real estate market by buying up property from cash-strapped government entities.
But they were FBI agents, and Longford Solutions, it turns out, was a front company.
Working from court documents, public information requests, campaign finance records and interviews with individuals familiar with the case, TPM has put together a picture of a federal investigation into small town corruption that has already seen the arrest of an Arizona politician, with suggestions of more to come.
Federal prosecutors allege that Rep. Ben Arredondo -- a Tempe city council member who would go on to be elected to the statehouse -- began a relationship with the FBI's fake company in February 2009. His good friend Williams would register to lobby on behalf of Longford Solutions a few weeks later.
Three years later, the 63-year-old Republican-turned-Democrat has been charged in a corruption case, accused of accepting tickets to sporting and charity events in exchange for advancing Longford Solution's agenda.
Williams, meanwhile, has been going about his business amid a cloud of suspicion in Arizona's lobbying community that he is working with the FBI against his former political allies.
Reached by TPM a few weeks ago, Williams said he stopped representing Longford Solutions in November 2009, though filings indicate the relationship did not formally end until June 2010. Williams declined to provide any details about the company or his interactions with its representatives, saying he normally referred media requests back to the company itself.
He said he didn't have contact information for Longford Solutions readily available and claimed he knew nothing about Longford Solutions being part of an FBI sting.
"I don't know anything about that, I'm sorry I can't help you out," Williams said before hanging up. Williams has not responded to multiple subsequent phone calls and emails.
FBI Ruse Included Website, Campaign Donations
The FBI put in a significant amount of work to make Longford Solutions look real. It was formed as a limited liability company (LLC) and incorporated in Delaware on May 6, 2008 using BizFilings.com, a search of records shows. Longford Solutions had an address in New York City and a simple website at LongfordSolutions.com (at right).
Outside a now-defunct website, Longford has very little web presence. A representative named as John Williams apparently attended the Arizona Solar Summit in 2011, though many of the names attached to Longford are thought to be aliases.
The company does, however, show up on Arredondo's publicly available campaign finance records. William Monahan gave $410 to Arredondo's statewide campaign on May 17, 2010, as did an Anne Monahan of Trenton. Three men purportedly working for Longford Solutions -- William Carino, Keith Ryan and Patrick Daley -- also gave Arredondo $410 each on the same day, as did their wives, Dee Carino, Lynn Ryan and Susan Daley. TPM could not locate records of any of these people actually existing. The phone number previously listed with Longford Solutions has been disconnected.
Those donations, totaling $3,280, came about a month after an April 15, 2010 meeting in which Arredondo allegedly discussed his campaign for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives and told representatives of the fake FBI company they would have everything they needed once he was in the legislature.
An Introduction At IHOP
Arredondo allegedly had a relationship with Longford Solutions for over a year before he introduced the undercover agents to his colleagues on Tempe's city council. At the time, Arredondo was gearing up for his statehouse race and his niece Robin Arredondo-Savage had been elected to a seat on the council.
Calendar entries obtained by TPM through a public records request reveal that two current members of the city council met with Arredondo and a man named Bill Monahan at an IHOP about a mile away from city hall on June 17, 2010. The FBI affidavit in Arredondo's case alleges that the Arredondo "indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to introduce councilmembers to a representative of Company A so that Company A would continue to have personal access to the City Council after Arredondo's departure."
Here's how the meeting appeared on Woods' and Navarro's calendars:
Arredondo is the only person charged so far in the federal sting. The city of Tempe said it has no records of any of the councilmembers communicating with Longford Solutions before or after that meeting. And other than Arredondo, none appear to have accepted campaign donations from Longford Solutions. Still, prosecutors said in court filings last week that an investigation is still ongoing.
Williams Suspected Of Involvement In Another Federal Case
U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Martone last week ruled that federal prosecutors could keep information about Arredondo's case from going public. The government argued it might impede ongoing investigations or "impair the privacy rights of third parties whose conduct is or was at one time under investigation."
That evidence includes more than 10,000 pages of documents and about 50 hours of audio and video recordings. Much of it, federal prosecutors claimed, has little or no connection to the Arredondo case but they provided it out of "an abundance of caution.''
Williams political connections in the state -- and the FBI's admission that there are ongoing investigations connected to the Arredondo case -- have left Arizona's political class wondering what shoe will drop next.
A former staffer to Sen. John McCain, Williams has been working as a lobbyist for about 20 years. His current list of clients includes the Arizona Police Association, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the United States Fireworks Safety Council, the Arizona Collectors Association and TASER International.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to Williams said Longford Solutions executives told the lobbyist they were interested in building relationships with Arizona's political elites, a fact supported by their future interactions with members of Tempe's city council. None of the real estate projects they spoke of seemed to go anywhere.
The sources said they believed Williams was working with the feds, but weren't sure what had made him flip. The sources said rumors he was working with the feds began circulating in Tempe political circles earlier this year.
A lawyer for former Arizona state representative Richard Miranda, a Democrat who was recently sentenced to over two years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and attempted tax evasion, said he suspects Williams also played a role in the case against his client.
"There is no evidence that he did start the investigation into these two members of the Arizona legislature, but if you're smart enough and put the pieces together, that's what I believe the case started from," Jose A. Montano, a lawyer for Miranda, told TPM.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on their relationship with Williams.
Additional reporting by Nick Martin.
Obama’s approval ratings took their biggest dip among independent voters, who could be crucial to the ultimate outcome of the election in November. Approval for Obama among independents fell from 48 percent to 35 percent. – Reuters (via Reuters/Ipsos survey)
GOP ANGEL SHELDON ADELSON just forked over $10 million to a pro Mitt Romney Super PAC. It comes amid a flurry of fundraisers from both presidential candidates this week and the day before Pres. Obama addresses the economy, in a damage control move in what’s become a brutal June. But from the scuttlebutt making the Washington circuit what he’s likely to say isn’t going to move the independent voter meter, because he’s evidently going back to the warnings of returning to George W. Bush economics.
Instead, he will make the case that he needs four more years to undo the damage left by George W. Bush, his Republican predecessor in the White House, and argue that a President Romney would bring back the weak financial regulation and budget-busting tax cuts of the Bush years.
One very big problem is Mitt Romney doesn’t come off like George W. Bush, so it doesn’t translate beyond the Democratic donor crowd, which is where Pres. Obama is trying out this patter. The problem is also far larger than Bush.
Where Obama needs to begin is with today’s global financial interconnection and where that intersects with austerity measures that have cratered Britain’s economy and put them into a double-dip recession. It sounds something like this: We’ve all seen the tremors in Europe, Britian’s in a double-dip recession due to austerity measures, because they tightened their belts too soon. Obama’s message: This is the Mitt Romney plan. It will come through Paul Ryan’s budget mumbo jumbo in Congress, which is why Obama needs Democrats in charge over there. It places the voter into the unknown, risky world of What Would Romney Do?, then answers it in the context of austerity that is frightening.
This tactic would have the added benefit of elevating Pres. Obama beyond the past Bush era and projecting him into the future, where voters minds are riveted, because they’re uneasy about what lies ahead. Relitigating Bush era economic blunders to get reelected is small politics and not nearly what Pres. Obama needs right now.
Mr. Romney must be seen as a bigger gamble than sticking with Pres. Obama who, whether you approve of his presidency or not, stopped the U.S. from a cratering depression, even if the stimulus was far short of what was required; a larger effort might have actually offered proof that reelection was earned, because better times were being felt by average Americans, instead of them having to be shown the progress in charts.
The reason Democrats are sounding the alarm is there’s a feeling something is setting in. No one can predict how long it will last, which is why the advice is coming in a cascade of web pages, but it’s easy to log the moment it began. When team Obama’s Bain attacks against Mitt Romney were met with a strong defense by Democratic hot shots, including Pres. Bill Clinton no less, but also progressive favorite Cory Booker. It was a tipping point that Pres. Obama and his team haven’t been able to set straight, perhaps because they didn’t have anything but Bain, which was their main attack and primary strategy.
They’ve got no plan B, as stunning as that is to grasp, but to go back to Bush.
As James Carville’s group Democracy Corps has warned, that’s just not enough.
With Wall Street in a swoon over Mitt Romney, which will become more and more obvious as CEO’s start singing his praises this fall, Pres. Obama needs to frame Romney as dangerous by attaching already failed austerity measures tried in Europe to what Republicans want to do in the future. It’s not hard, because Paul Ryan provided an austerity plan, which Mitt Romney has openly embraced, that should scare the hell out of everyone, including those fickle, finger in the air independents that no one can win without.
“Independents are especially susceptible to economic pressures, which is why we see them bouncing all over the place in their approval of the president,” Jackson said. “The finding that he is not doing that well with them this month is something for Obama to worry about.” [Reuters]
These are the images Kelly & Barber picked for themselves. Voters picked Barber (r)
Arizona is a red state and AZ-8 is a red district. But, after Gabby Giffords announced her injuries were just too great for her to run again and that she would be resigning, triggering a special election, the DCCC stepped up to the plate... and stepped up big. Ron Barber, like Giffords for whom he was a staffer, is a conservative Democrat with ties to both the odious Blue Dogs and the New Dems. The district has the kind of Republican registration advantage that usually sends the DCCC hiding under a bed-- 38.4% Republican, 31.4% Democratic. But, for a change, the DCCC didn't lose heart. Let's look at the money first:
On top of that, though, Republican outside groups spent a fortune against Barber. The NRCC spent almost $300,000 and the Arizona Republican Party spent another $125,000. Most Democratic groups gave Barber the money to spend himself. Except one-- the Democrat's House Majority PAC spent $692,811 tearing down Kelly, including a last minute TV flight on June 4 for $152.010. The House Majority super PAC is run by a bunch of revolving door DCCC staffers. If they're not coordinating... then neither is Mitt Romney. But they spent a lot and they spent fearlessly and they apparently spent wisely enough to win in a red district.
The final results we Barber- 101,559 (52%), Kelly- 88,569 (46%). The Green Party candidate, Charlie Manolakis won 4,482 votes (2%). Barber outperformed in every county, benefitting from a 5 point net move in favor of Democrats from 2010. Voters are starting to get the message that the Republicans in Congress are deliberately sabotaging the economy in the hopes of wrecking President Obama's reelection chances. They responded by defeating the GOP in a race they should have won.
Tuesday night a DCCC staffer, Jennifer Crider, tweeted that there are 84 districts held by Republican incumbents that are less red than AZ8. So they know! Do they have the heart to target them-- to really go after them. This morning we started the day talking about how the DCCC never goes after powerful senior Republicans. They're leaving Boehner and Cantor alone and they're not bothering with vulnerable House committee chairmen. And they should start with two of the most destructive villains in Washington-- each from a district Obama won, each from a district with a solid opponent: Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee and Buck McKeon, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
The lesson from Tuesday's special election is that Democrats can win-- if they fight. If Steve Israel can't do it-- or can only do it when it involves Blue Dogs-- he should be replaced... immediately.
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Okay, this cracked me up.(H/t Towleroad.)What this video is based on, all - all 25m views worth:
Lovely. I was driving down I-95 the other day, and there was a diesel truck spewing such dense, thick smoke from both smokestacks that it looked like fog settled across the eight-lane highway in its wake. I said to my friend, "Wouldn't you think someone would, oh, I don't know, enforce the law? How the hell did that truck ever pass inspection?" (He told me not to ask such silly questions.) Now it's more important than ever to enforce the air pollution laws, in light of this news:
LONDON (AP) ? Diesel fumes cause cancer, the World Health Organization's cancer agency declared Tuesday, a ruling it said could make exhaust as important a public health threat as secondhand smoke.
The risk of getting cancer from diesel fumes is small, but since so many people breathe in the fumes in some way, the science panel said raising the status of diesel exhaust to carcinogen from "probable carcinogen" was an important shift.
"It's on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking," said Kurt Straif, director of the IARC department that evaluates cancer risks. "This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines."
Since so many people are exposed to exhaust, Straif said there could be many cases of lung cancer connected to the contaminant. He said the fumes affected groups including pedestrians on the street, ship passengers and crew, railroad workers, truck drivers, mechanics, miners and people operating heavy machinery.
Hah! So much for my friends who make fun of me for walking on a treadmill at the gym, instead of outside. Did you know that urban runners take in even more pollution, because they have larger lung capacity?
The new classification followed a weeklong discussion in Lyon, France, by an expert panel organized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The panel's decision stands as the ruling for the IARC, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization.
The last time the agency considered the status of diesel exhaust was in 1989, when it was labeled a "probable" carcinogen. Reclassifying diesel exhaust as carcinogenic puts it into the same category as other known hazards such as asbestos, alcohol and ultraviolet radiation.
The U.S. government, however, still classifies diesel exhaust as a likely carcinogen. Experts said new diesel engines spew out fewer fumes but further studies are needed to assess any potential dangers.
"We don't have enough evidence to say these new engines are zero risk, but they are certainly lower risk than before," said Vincent Cogliano of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He added that the agency had not received any requests to reevaluate whether diesel definitely causes cancer but said their assessments tend to be in line with those made by IARC.