Tag Archives: Tim Mak

Live, From CPAC, It’s Friday Afternoon!

David Weigel:

First, a word about hecklers: It’s awful that they get so much attention. A few bad apples in a room of thousands can create the impression of massive dissent, when it really isn’t there.

That said, boy, was there a lot of heckling when Donald Rumsfeld arrived at CPAC to accept the Defender of the Constitution Award. The ballroom for big events fills up many minutes in advance. In this instance, the people who wanted to hear Rand Paul speak at 3:45 had to arrive around 2:30, and stay there. If they did, they sat through a speech from Donald Trump (a surprise to attendees who weren’t checking the news frequently), and used every possible moment to yell “RON PAUL” at the Donald. When Trump responded to one of the heckles, and said that Paul “can’t win” the presidency, there were loud and righteous boos.

It takes a while to exit the ballroom. This means that hundreds of Paul fans — recognizably younger and sometimes beardier than the median CPAC attendee — are in the room or in lines as Donald Rumsfeld is introduced.

“I am pleased to recognize our chairman, David Keene, to recognize Donald Rumsfeld,” says emcee Ted Cruz.

There are loud boos.

Robert Stacy McCain:

Total CPAC attendance is more than 10,000, among whom are hundreds of Paulistas – more than 10 percent of the total attendance, due not only to the fanaticism of Paul’s following but also because Campaign for Liberty has paid the way for his student supporters to attend the conference.

As might be expected, the Paulistas are at odds with most conservatives on foreign policy and this coincidence of scheduling that had many of the anti-war libertarians in their ballroom seats during the Rumsfeld recognition is just typical of the unexpected happenings at CPAC. And this unfortunate incident of inexcusable rudeness should help put the whole GOProud “controversy” in perspective. Are conflicts between anti-war libertarians and pro-war neocons really any different than the clash between gay Republicans and pro-family social conservatives?

Grant that these would seem to be what might be called irreconcilable differences, and yet if the broad coalition of the Right is to cohere — as it was powerfully coherent in 2010 — the disagreements must be tamped down. Courtesy and forebearance would seem to be requisite to the endeavor.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Republicans may not yet have the ideal candidate to take on President Obama in 2012. But at least they have an apprentice program.

“This is the largest crowd we have ever had in eager anticipation of our next speaker!” Lisa De Pasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, told the annual gathering this week. “We have overflow rooms filled! This ballroom filled!”

The reason for this eager anticipation, and for the whoops and hollers from the crowd: “someone who is thinking about tossing his hat in the ring for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.”

The sound system played the theme from NBC’s “The Apprentice.” A puff of orange hair appeared on the stage, and somewhere underneath it was the billionaire Donald Trump, giving a flirtatious, finger-wiggling wave to the crowd.

“You’re hired!” a woman in the front called out to him.

Basking in the adulation, Trump announced: “These are my people!”

Oh? The last time Trump tested the presidential waters, as a prospective Reform Party candidate a decade ago, he favored abortion rights, campaign finance reform and universal health care. He’s thrice married and has had many girlfriends in and out of wedlock. He’s behaved erratically in his handling of the Miss USA competition. He’s contributed to Democrats as recently as four months ago. And – unbeknownst to most in the audience – he was invited to CPAC by a gay Republican group, GOProud, whose participation in the conference sparked a boycott by social conservatives.

“Over the years I’ve participated in many battles and have really almost come out very, very victorious every single time,” the Donald said. (Except for the bankruptcy, that is.) “I’ve beaten many people and companies and I’ve won many wars,” he added. (Though he didn’t serve in the military.) “I have fairly but intelligently earned many billions of dollars, which in a sense was both a scorecard and acknowledgment of my abilities.”

Joshua Green at The Atlantic

Jennifer Rubin:

Mitt Romney’s wife Ann introduced Romney, trying to humanize a candidate that in 2008 seemed remote if not plastic. However, this line didn’t exactly make him seem warm and cuddly: “When the children were young and Mitt would call home from a business trip on the road, he would often hear a very tired and exasperated young mother, overwhelmed by our rambunctious five boys.” She’s an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic; she however needs better material.

Romney’s delivery was more relaxed and quick-paced than in the past. His use of humor was perhaps the most noticeable change. (This got a hearty laugh: “The world – and our valiant troops – watched in confusion as the President announced that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan….as long as it didn’t go much beyond August of 2011. And while the Taliban may not have an air force or sophisticated drones, it’s safe to say… they do have calendars.”) Romney is a polished and professional pol.

As for the substance, he made clear he’s not a pull-up-the-drawbridge Republican. In fact he began his speech with a foreign policy riff:

An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak President. The President who touted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression. His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How’s that worked out? Iran armed Hezbollah and Hamas and is rushing toward nuclear weapons. North Korea fired missiles, tested nukes, sunk a South Korean ship and shelled a South Korean island. And his “reset program” with Russia? That consisted of our President abandoning our missile defense in Poland and signing a one-sided nuclear treaty. The cause of liberty cannot endure much more of his “they get, we give” diplomacy!

But the heart of his speech was the economy. But, for obvious reasons, he limited his focus to job creation, entirely ignoring ObamaCare. His attention to jobs was effective insofar as it went:

Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can’t find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles.

Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy–a moral tragedy of epic proportion. Unemployment is not just a statistic. Fifteen million unemployed is not just a number. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!

Curiously his only mention of debt was this: “Like the Europeans, they grew the government, they racked up bigger deficits, they took over healthcare, they pushed cap and trade, they stalled production of our oil and gas and coal, they fought to impose unions on America’s workers, and they created over a hundred new agencies and commissions and hundreds of thousands of pages of new regulations.”

Reason

Michael Scherer at Time:

The heirs to Ronald Reagan’s conservative legacy gathered Thursday in a hotel ballroom to exchange variations on the dominant theme in today’s Republican politics: It is evening in America.

“The Germans are buying the New York Stock Exchange,” announced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world,” exhorted reality television star Donald Trump. It’s “a national reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime,” explained former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rick Santorum, a one-time Pennsylvania senator preparing a run for president, rounded out the collective cry of Cassandra by announcing that the nation was being run by a heretic. “This is someone who doesn’t believe in truth and evil in America,” he said of President Obama. (Read about what to expect from CPAC 2011.)

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a bellwether of conservative thought. And the first day of this year’s event, with record attendance boosted by ever multiplying scores of college students, did not disappoint. For journalists looking to crack the code on the right’s narrative for the 2012 election cycle, it was evident in nearly every speech delivered in the main ballroom.

The next election, different speakers argued in different ways, would not just determine the occupant of the Oval Office, but the very survival of the country as a global superpower. “This is a crossroads of American history. This is a moment,” said Santorum. “Were you there? Did you see it? Did you understand what was at stake?”

As can be expected, much of the blame for America’s precipitous state was laid at the feet of Obama and the Democratic agenda, which Rumsfeld poetically described as “the gentle despotism of big government.” Several speakers accused Obama of not believing in the exceptionalism of America, or understanding American power, and therefore precipitating the country’s declining influence. Downstairs, in the exhibit hall, supporters of Mitt Romney distributed stickers that read only, “Believe In America,” as if his Democratic opponents did not.

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with a round-up

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

The new chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, today distanced his organization from GOProud, telling FrumForum in an exclusive interview that “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with the gay conservative organization.

The ACU, which annually organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference, has faced some criticism for including GOProud as a co-sponsor for the second year in a row. Socially conservative organizations have denounced the move, and the Heritage Foundation claimed that GOProud’s inclusion was part of their decision to opt-out.

Cardenas, who was selected yesterday to replace outgoing chairman David Keene, told FrumForum that he disapproved of GOProud’s response to the furor.

“I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable. And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things,” said Cardenas.

GOProud had asserted that Cleta Mitchell, the chairman of the ACU Foundation, was pushing conservative groups and individuals to boycott CPAC because of GOProud’s inclusion. Chris Barron, the chairman of GOProud, recently said in an interview that Mitchell was “a nasty bigot.”

“It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude,” Cardenas told FrumForum.

Asked for GOProud’s response, the group’s chairman apologized for his comments about Cleta Mitchell.

“For the past six months, we have watched as unfair and untrue attacks have been leveled against our organization, our allies, our friends and sometimes even their families. Everyone has their breaking point and clearly in my interview with Metro Weekly I had reached mine. I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell and for that I apologize,” said Chris Barron.

Asked about whether he values a big tent approach to conservatism, Cardenas said that he did – but that his vision applied principally to reaching out to different minorities and ethnic groups.

“There are not enough African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities here. That diversity is critical – you don’t need to change your value system to attract more diversity into the movement… [but] I’m not going to – for the sake of being inclusive – change the principles that have made the movement what it is,” said Cardenas.

“David [Keene] invited these folks [GOProud] in an effort to be inclusive… Having friends of ours leaving… presents difficulties to me,” he said. “There’s always going to be some tension, [but] there should never be any tension between time-tested values.”

Asked if someone who supported gay marriage could be a conservative, Cardenas replied, “Not a Ronald Reagan conservative… I will say this: we adopted a resolution unanimously at ACU advocating traditional marriage between a man and a woman, so that answers how we feel on the issue.”

Cardenas says that his priorities as the new ACU chairman will be focused on “making sure that our true friends never leave the table.”

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The Lead Is Buried, But Tucker Carlson Still Wins The Internets Today

Jonathan Strong at The Daily Caller:

According to two knowledgeable sources, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele once raised the possibility of using party money to buy a private jet for his travel.

“I know that … regular ongoing use of planes was something that was looked at,” says one person with direct knowledge. “I can’t speak to how serious those inquiries were.” Both sources say Steele considered purchasing a plane outright, or buying fractional ownership in one, through a company such as NetJets.

Steele’s spokesman, Doug Heye, did not deny that such discussions took place, responding that the RNC never had a “plan” to buy a plane. “I don’t know what somebody might have discussed or might not have discussed.”

While Steele has not purchased a plane, he continues to charter them. According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNC’s last three months of filings.

The RNC explains that Steele charters jets only when commercial service is unavailable, or when his tight schedule requires it. “Anytime the chairman has taken any private travel has been a either to a route that doesn’t exist or because of connections and multiple travel to where he just wasn’t able to do so,” Heye said. Yet Steele’s office repeatedly refused to explain in specific terms the circumstances of the February charter flights.

Once on the ground, FEC filings suggest, Steele travels in style. A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.

I asked an RNC spokesman about the story — specifically the charge that money was spent at Voyeur West Hollywood.

The spokesman said: “We are investigating the expenditure in question. The story willfully and erroneously suggests that the expenditure in question was one belonging to the chairman. This was a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer. The chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable. Good reporting would make that distinction crystal clear. The committee has requested that the monies be returned to the committee and that the story be corrected so that it is accurate.”

Further, the spokesman gives the indication that there’s more to the plane story — or, rather, less to it — than the piece suggests and insists that “Steele’s expenses” are not always “Steele’s expenses” but finance and fundraising expenses. I suspect this story isn’t going away soon . . .

Tucker Carlson at The Daily Caller:

The complaints from the RNC about this morning’s Daily Caller article, “High Flyer: RNC Chairman Steele suggested buying private jet with RNC funds,” while loud, lack substance. Despite claims to the contrary, no one from the committee has ever explained the specific circumstances of any of the expenses listed in its most recent disclosure filings.

Our questions remain: Why did the committee spend more than $17,000 on private jets in the month of February? How and why was RNC business conducted in a bondage-themed nightclub, and how and why were the nearly $2,000 in charges that resulted approved by RNC staff?

To be clear: We did not claim that Michael Steele personally visited Voyeur West Hollywood. In fact, and unfortunately, we still know almost nothing about that trip, including its purpose. If the RNC provides details, we’ll put them on the site immediately.

The Daily Caller requested interviews with Michael Steele on Jan. 14, Jan. 15, Jan. 18, Feb. 10, Feb. 23 and again on March 23. All were denied.

The story we ran today is accurate, as the RNC knows.

That’s certainly the RNC’s line, as Kathryn notes. But in a defense published a few hours after the original story, DC editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson says, “We did not claim that Michael Steele personally visited Voyeur West Hollywood.” Go back and read the excerpted paragraph. Steele is elided in the second sentence, but there is simply no way it could be referring to anyone else. And Carlson’s claim that, “The story we ran today is accurate, as the RNC knows” belies the follow-up DC later posted revealing that there is no evidence Steele attended or even knew about this menagerie, and revealing the actual bondage fetishist in question to be California publicist Erik Brown.
But even if DC goofed up the reporting, the question remains whether the RNC is really stupid enough to have knowingly reimbursed a hired gun for two Gs he dropped at a go-go? I have to believe, for my own sanity, that they are not.
The reimbursement form from the visit lists the only expense as “meals.” The RNC likely as not took Brown’s receipt and his word and considered the matter closed. Now, it might be objectionable in this economy for the RNC to spend $1,946.25 on a single dinner meeting, but it wouldn’t be all that unusual — and certainly not scandalous. Of course, anyone familiar with West Hollywood could probably guess that a place called “Voyeur” located within its limits is probably not a charming little bistro. But — and this is just a hunch — I doubt any of the RNC functionaries in charge of rubber-stamping these expense reports are familiar with the establishment.

Of course, even if Steele didn’t know, and even if the reimbursement really was just a mistake by some bookkeeper who couldn’t be bothered to run a quick Google search, it doesn’t make this not a big deal. I’m just saying, maybe we should put away the handcuffs, for now.

Alex Pappas at The Daily Caller:

The Republican who spent $1,946.25 on “meals” at a bondage-themed Hollywood nightclub — and expensed the charges to chairman Michael Steele’s Republican National Committee — is the owner of a marketing firm who recently worked for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in California, The Daily Caller has learned.

Erik Brown, who owns Dynamic Marketing Inc. and within the last year charged the Steve Poizner for Governor campaign more than $10,000 for campaign literature and mailings, was reimbursed by the RNC for the almost $2,000 in charges at Voyeur West Hollywood, according to FEC filings and online reports reviewed by The Daily Caller.

RNC spokesman Doug Heye, interviewed on Fox, said the RNC would be reimbursed for the money spent at the club, but said he did not know the individual who spent the funds, even when asked if it was Brown.

Records show Brown charged Poizner for more than $10,000 in services in May 2009, but a Poizner spokesman immediately distanced the candidate from Brown. “You can’t call someone a ‘Poizner consultant’ who we haven’t dealt with in nearly a year,” spokesman Jarrod Agen said in an e-mail to The Daily Caller. A phone message left with Agen asking for details on the nature of the working relationship with Brown was not immediately returned.

The wording has already fostered inaccurate headlines. “Michael Steele Spent RNC Cash at Bondage Club‎” says the Daily Beast. The Daily Caller itself now calls the event in question an “orgy.” Liberal bloggers are…Well, you can guess.

The RNC is adamant that Steele never attended the strip club in question and says it can prove he was elsewhere.  “The story willfully and erroneously suggests that the expenditure in question was one belonging to the Chairman. This was a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer. The Chairman was never at the location in question, he had no knowledge of the expenditure, nor does he find the use of committee funds at such a location at all acceptable.”

The staffer, according to a search you can do yourself, was “Erik Brown” from Orange, CA.

Elsewhere, the story suggests that “Steele’s office repeatedly refused to explain in specific terms the circumstances of the February charter flights.” The RNC says this isn’t true: Steele was on a fundraising swing that can be corroborated through news accounts. Then the story suggests that “Steele himself declined numerous interview requests.” The RNC spokesperson says that Steele never talked to the reporter.

The flashy implications of the story are going to hurt Steele, who absorbs body blows (like the leak of a devastating internal fundraising memo) as if he had guts of, well, steel. But the sad truth for the RNC chairman is that he escapes censure because his party isn’t organized enough to censure him, because Steele wields too little power to be considered a threat, and because the locus of Republican energy these days can be found in the House. These last two errors have been made by staffers, but they point to a culture of casualty at the RNC. No one, it seems, is afraid of enough the boss to go out of their way to avoid embarrassing him or the party.

Jules Crittenden:

Yee ha! Sounds like what P.J. O’Rourke once called a Republican party reptile.

That Christian right everyone is always talking about isn’t going to like this … though some of them might be jealous.

Sounds like this could be a problem for Steele, especially since due to the Republican exemption, he can’t just dismiss the scrutiny and aspersions as racism. One weird thing is that the story ledes with this bit about how they once talked about buying a private jet, or a private jet time-share, but didn’t. And buries the strip club and other signs of high life. Not sure why they’d do that. Tends to suggest it isn’t that good.

NRO’s The Corner has an RNC flak saying the strip club expenses were run up by “non-committee staffer,” whatever that is. Non-committee staffer with a committee expense account? Sounds like a heck of a job.  But back to Steele and the Daily Caller story … which goes out an unnamed aide saying “This is not somebody who is out recruiting candidates … He is not meeting with donors. He’s not asking for money. The guy is writing his book or doing his speaking gigs, or whatever the hell else he fills his days with. Those are his priorities” … it almost sounds like someone wants him out before the GOP gets any deeper into the 2010 campaign season.

OK, let’s think about this for a minute. Does the Christian right wants him out? Or is this whole thing a putup, a cheap cynical bid for independents. You know, the big untapped independent bondage/lesbian-themed strip club American voters now up for grabs. Sorry, bad word choice. Now in play. Ugh, sorry again, another bad word choice.

Wonkette:

What is this “Club Voyeur” place? Better check Yelp:

Oh. Wow. Rolled up here with 6 girls around midnight on a Saturday night after we realized that the crowd at Crown Bar had gone drastically downhill.

The girl at the door sent us in right away and told us to go to a table by the bar and get some free Champagne. Seriously. This club is amazing. There are topless “dancers” acting out S&M scenes throughout the night on one of the side stages, there’s a half-naked girl hanging from a net across the ceiling and at one point I walked to the bathroom and pretty much just stopped dead in my tracks to watch two girls simulating oral sex in a glass case.

Really understated elegance here.

Also, Lindsay Lohan was at our table at one point.

What else did human comedy Michael Steele blow the white people’s money on, during February? The chartered jets cost $17,514. The limousines cost $12,691. The tab for a single trip GOP party trip to Hawaii was more than $43,000.

Okay okay but let’s hear more about this strip club, this time from the L.A. Times‘ interview with the founders of Club Voyeur:

“David and I had just seen the movie Eyes Wide Shut, and it all just kind of started clicking together,” added partner Matt Bendik, formerly at the Las Vegas hospitality company the Light Group.

On the club’s opening night, Oct. 8, that vision swam into view. The dark, leather-heavy interior is reminiscent of the masked orgy scene from the movie. The reference is taken a step further with impromptu bondage and S&M “scenes” being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad performers throughout the night — not presented as “shows,” like they are in clubs such as Playhouse Hollywood. There is also a heavy net suspended above the club’s lounge area where performers writhe above the heads of clubgoers. Even more provocative scenes are played out in an enclosed glass booth area adjacent to the club’s dance floor area.

“It’s pretty . . . intense,” clubgoer Lee Stone admitted on opening night as one female performer with a horse’s bit in her mouth was being strapped to the wall by another just behind the booth he was sharing with friends. His friend was more intrigued by the action. “I wonder if I would get in trouble for joining them?” she joked.

Hahahahahahah well props to Michael Steele for trying to get back to old-school Republican secret-sex clubs with bondage and women slaves with horse’s bits in their mouths. Sorry, you poor dumb Teabaggers, but the GOP is going back to Historical Levels of True Elite Depravity. Read up on the Hellfire Club and make some illiterate poster-board signs about that.

Steele won’t answer any questions about all this, because he just woke up at the W in Washington (where the GOP spent nearly $20,000 last month) with hella hangover and three passed out ladies in his king-size. But what a night! [Daily Caller]

Thanks to EVERYBODY for sending this, and congratulations to Tucker Carlson’s Internet Concern for winning the morning!

Dan Riehl:

There’s no there there, people. And if its GOP prudes, or rejected power-hungry inside the beltway types, pushing this crap, they’re the GOP’s problem, not some nightclub. You want to play the game, you go where the players go. And the GOP has to stop knee-capping itself with meaningless pap no one should even care about.

Get over it. MoveOn! You people don’t seem to know how, or want to win anything if you can’t get yourself in front of the parade. We have bigger fights ahead. This BS needs to end, especially now. I’d like to see some Hollywood money in the GOP’s coffers for a change, if you don’t mind. And if you aren’t down with that, you can’t be that serious about winning anything given the environment and culture we’re in today.

It’s how the game is played, so deal with it.

Allah Pundit:

And now that the PR clusterfark is in full swing, Erik Brown’s decided he doesn’t really want that reimbursement after all. Which is super, but doesn’t solve the problem of finding out which moron(s) at the RNC approved the reimbursement in the first place.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey

Chris Good at The Atlantic

UPDATE #2: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Kenneth Vogel at Politico

Ed Morrissey

Michelle Malkin

Justin Elliott at TPM

Tim Mak at FrumForum

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Right On Right Violence To A Soundtrack Of Lee Greenwood

Debbie Schlussel:

For the last several years, Sean Hannity and the Freedom Alliance “charity” have conducted “Freedom Concerts” across America. They’ve told you that they are raising money to pay for the college tuition of the children of fallen soldiers and to pay severely wounded war vets.  And on Friday Night, Hannity will be honored with an award for this “Outstanding Community Service by a Radio Talk Show Host” at Talkers Magazine’s  convention.

But it’s all a huge scam.

In fact, less than 20%–and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively–of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses, including consultants and apparently to ferry the Hannity posse of family and friends in high style. And, despite Hannity’s statements to the contrary on his nationally syndicated radio show, few of the children of fallen soldiers got more than $1,000-$2,000, with apparently none getting more than $6,000, while Freedom Alliance appears to have spent tens of thousands of dollars for private planes.  Moreover, despite written assurances to donors that all money raised would go directly to scholarships for kids of the fallen heroes and not to expenses, has begun charging expenses of nearly $500,000 to give out just over $800,000 in scholarships

David Frum at FrumForum:

It’s of course possible that this is a misunderstanding or mistake by Schlussel.

If mistaken, one would assume we’ll hear a defense from Hannity himself or his many admirers. If not mistaken, you’d assume we’d hear some kind of reaction from conservatives – and some kind of explanation/apology from Hannity. It’s not possible – is it? – that the conservative world will just pass by the affair in embarrassed silence?

True, Schlussel’s piece went up yesterday evening, and as of 9 am I can find no mention or reference in the conservative blogosphere. But its early.

So here’s my personal query. I’m going to set my google alert and twitter feed to find Hannity items. If anybody who can plausibly be considered a conservative discusses – even mentions – the Schlussel allegations, I’ll let you know. And if nobody does … well that’s not possible. Is it?

John Tabin at American Spectator:

I suppose it’s possible that Hannity himself wasn’t aware of what the balance sheet looks like, but a source tells Schlussel that Freedom Alliance founder Oliver North confronted Hannity at one point about how much of the charity’s money was being spent on private jets, luxury SUVs, and hotel suites. If that’s true, Hannity has a lot of explaining to do.

UPDATE: I’m hearing from reliable sources that Schlussel’s suggestion that Freedom Alliance pays for Hannity’s travel expenses is wrong. There’s little doubt that, if the numbers she cites are correct, the charity is seriously mismanaged, but it might not be as bad for Hannity personally as Schlussel’s report makes it look. Stay tuned.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Further exculpatory information here. Schlussel’s story seems to be falling apar

4 PM UPDATE:

Readers:

Information regarding Freedom Alliance that appeared earlier in this spot was innacurate or misleading and has been removed. Any further mention of this material as having appeared in this post will either mention or disavowal or be deceiving to readers.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

Freedom Alliance’s statement refuting the charges (pdf)

March 18, 2010

Dear Friends of Freedom Alliance:

This week, false and malicious allegations about Freedom Alliance were posted on the Internet and we want to address them with you. We don’t know the motivation for these vicious smears, but we will not allow them to go unanswered.
First, we want to thank you for your support and assure you that Freedom Alliance’s record of financial stewardship and programmatic achievements not only meets, but exceeds standards of program efficiency set by most charity evaluators. We are extraordinarily proud of our work at Freedom Alliance and stand by our efforts 100 percent.

False Accusations

1. The blog posting accuses our friend Sean Hannity of personally benefiting from Freedom Alliance. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean. Sean gets nothing from Freedom Alliance except our gratitude for his personal generosity and for all he has done to help the troops and our organization. We have never had to ask Sean for anything, he always generously offers his help before we have a chance to ask him. But to be clear Sean pays for all his own transportation, hotels, and all related expenses for himself and his family and friends and staff, which over the years has added up to tens of thousands of dollars. He does not use any Freedom Alliance Funds or Concert funds in any way, period.

2. Sean Hannity has contributed $100,000 to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, over $200,000 to the Freedom Alliance, and over tens of thousands of dollars to other military charities and individuals. We only make this information public because of the outrageous slander against him. Sean has no management or operational involvement in, or control over, Freedom Alliance. He has been a selfless patriot in his efforts to raise funds for the education of children of armed services personnel.

3. The blog posting accuses Freedom Alliance of spending less than 20% of money raised on program activities. This is FALSE. Listed below are the amounts that Freedom Alliance spent for each of the past three years and the categories on which they were spent. The figures are taken from our Federal Form 990 which is filed with the Internal Revenue Service and posted on our web site and audited by an independent auditor using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. This financial record not only meets, but exceeds standards of program efficiency set by most charity evaluators.

4. In 2008, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $6,745,717. Of that:

•79 percent ($5,317,970) was spent on Program Activities 14 percent ($945,950) was spent on Fundraising 7 percent ($481,797) was spent on ManagementIn 2007, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $7,461,350. Of that:
• 81.5 percent ($6,084,474) was spent on Program Activities • 13.5 percent ($1,011,501) was spent on Fundraising • 5 percent ($365,375) was spent on Management

In 2006, Freedom Alliance spent a total of $7,064,839. Of that:

• 77 percent ($5,434,538) was spent on Program Activities • 18.5 percent ($1,308,414) was spent on Fundraising • 4.5 percent ($321,887) was spent on Management

5. The blog posting accuses Freedom Alliance of spending money intended for student scholarships on other expenses. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has distributed $3.4 million in Scholarships and created a Scholarship Trust Fund with the additional money that we have raised for that program. That fund now contains $15 million, over $10 million of which has been raised by Hannity and the concerts. Our scholarship program is managed with the understanding that it will be needed for at least the next 20 years as there are children who will ultimately receive a scholarship who are now only a few years old. As indicated on our Federal Form 990, these funds are restricted and used only for future scholarships.

6. Our Scholarship Fund is one of four programs operated by Freedom Alliance. Supporters may donate to a specific program or for general operating purposes. In 2008, Freedom Alliance received $2.1 million in scholarship donations. The same year, we awarded $802,250 in scholarships and applied $1.3 million to our Scholarship Trust Fund. The funds donated by Sean Hannity directly — or through the proceeds of the Freedom Concerts — and the support of thousands of Americans are used for these purposes:

• Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund: Providing scholarships to those whose parents have been killed or severely injured in their service to our Country. There is now over $15 million in the scholarship fund for the students as they come of age.
• Support our Troops: Many events each year are planned and executed by our staff to show appreciate and provide special opportunities for those actively serving in the military.
• Leadership Academy: A program for high school students in which they are encouraged and trained to serve their country.

These programs would not be possible without the support of Mr. Hannity and many others.

We are proud of our work and numerous accomplishments. We are grateful to our supporters whose voluntary contributions make it possible and we thank you. While it is discouraging to have our record misrepresented in such a malicious way, our work is important and, with your support, it will continue.

Respectfully,
Thomas P. Kilgannon Oliver L. North President Founder & Honorary Chairman

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

Schlussel Accusation: Sean Hannity improperly benefited from Freedom Alliance by charging private jets, hotel stays and luxury cars.

Freedom Alliance’s press release today stated categorically that they have “never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean [Hannity] … to be clear Sean pays for all his own transportation, hotels, and all related expenses for himself and his family and friends and staff.” We are satisfied that this is true.

It is true that Freedom Alliance spent $60,000 on aviation services in 2006, but there is no evidence that this was for Sean Hannity’s benefit, and it seems unlikely that the money was used to lease a Gulfstream 5. Rates for G5 aircraft average around $8,000 an hour. $60,000 would not buy much at that rate.

We have also been able to confirm that Sean Hannity has no operational control over the organization. Nor is he even a member of the group’s board.

If Schlussel stands behind her statement, then she will have to do better than a quote from a blind source, who is, as she admits, a friend of a friend.

Schlussel Accusation: Too Little of Freedom Alliance’s Spending Has Gone to Program Outcomes.

FrumForum has intensively investigated Freedom Alliance’s 990 Forms, which have been submitted to the IRS and checked by an independent auditor.

Debbie Schlussel alleges that only $1 million of the organization’s $8.8 million in revenue was going to soldiers and scholarships in 2008. This figure is the product of a misleading and selective reading of the organization’s tax forms.

The numbers that Schlussel cite refer to direct financial transfers to individuals – that is, if there is a direct grant that Freedom Alliance gives to a soldier. This does not include all the positive work that doesn’t involve a direct grant.

Freedom Alliance also spends money on non-cash benefits for military families, involving things like taking soldiers to sporting events and sending care packages to troops.

The highest paid employee earned $152,000 in 2006. The second highest paid employee earned $83,000. In 2007, Freedom Alliance spent about $1 in $7 on salary and benefits.

Total staffing costs may seem high, but they are not out of line with what is spent at many other charities. For example, the Armed Services branch of the YMCA spent about $1 in $2 on salaries and benefits in 2008.

Schlussel Accusation: Soldiers Get Grants of Very Low Value

Schlussel is unhappy with “the fact that in each year’s tax returns soldiers described as having brain trauma injuries, multiple amputated limbs, and severe burns over most of their bodies get a few hundred bucks each from Freedom Alliance and in almost every case, no more than $1,000.”

However, this accusation is much weaker when you examine the Department of Defense regulations regarding donations to active duty soldiers.

According to the DOD Joint Ethics Regulation, gifts with a value of over $1,000 must go through a lengthy bureaucratic process which involves ethics officials. Calls to the Department of Defense confirmed this point.

What becomes clear is that there is a bureaucratic process to get approval from an ethics official, and that the costs of working through the bureaucracy for this purpose may want to be avoided by a charity, especially one that is working in a lot of other areas.

Schlussel also decries Freedom Alliance donations of less than $1,000, complaining for example that Freedom Alliance only gave $200 to a serviceman who lost both legs and his left arm. FrumForum has determined that lower-value grants like these are approved for specific purposes, often requested by a DOD case officer. This applies to cases where, for example, a serviceman may need a bus ticket home to visit his family.

The sums may seem small, but a soldier who is already receiving a government benefit may greatly value an airline ticket that goes above and beyond the Department of Defense’s budget.

Schlussel Accusation: Too Little Money Is Being Spent on Scholarships for Children of the Fallen

Schlussel complains that “167 students got an average of just $4,803.89 each in tuition.  With the amount this charity raises, these kids should all be getting a free ride paid for by Freedom Alliance.”

The scholarships that she is referring to are considered and approved annually, meaning that a freshman can qualify for about $20,000 over four years.

Further, $4,800 covers more than a year’s tuition at an average Catholic private school and a substantial portion of tuition at many colleges. For example, it nearly covers a year’s tuition at the University of Georgia ($4,900), and covers about a third of a year’s tuition at the University of Michigan ($11,600 for freshmen, $13,000 for upper-classmen).

Overall, Freedom Alliance raised $2.1 million for scholarships in 2008. About $800,000 of that went to scholarships for that year.  Schlussel claims that the remainder, “$1,238,636 – all of which was supposed to go to scholarships for these kids of the fallen – went to Freedom Alliance.”

FrumForum was able to confirm with Freedom Alliance that the $1.2 million that Schlussel cites did not go into the general Freedom Alliance revenues, but instead to the organization’s Scholarship Trust Fund.

Why didn’t Freedom Alliance spend all of its $2.1 million on scholarships that year? Considering your average active duty combat soldier is in his mid-20s, many fallen soldiers have children that are not of age to go to college. Saving a substantial part of funds is simply good planning – the process of funding children of the fallen will continue for fifteen to twenty years. The organization’s trust fund now stands at around $15 million.

Schlussel Accusation: Freedom Alliance’s Postage Costs Are Too High

Debbie Schlussel complains that Freedom Alliance spends too much on postage. Freedom Alliance’s listed cost for postage was $775,599 in 2008, which may seem high given their overall expenses. However, Freedom Alliance sends care packages to active duty soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, which explains a good deal of the cost behind the postage figure.

Comparing Freedom Alliance to other groups that specialize in sending care packages, Freedom Alliance’s expenditures seem ordinary. For example, Operation Gratitude is a group that specializes in “sending care packages addressed to individual Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines deployed overseas.” When reviewing their tax forms, FrumForum found that they spend similar amounts on postage. Operation Gratitude spent $773,680 in 2008; Freedom Alliance spent $775,599.

More Frum:

Our friend John Guardiano tweeted this afternoon: “Earlier today @DavidFrum asked why conservatives were “ignoring” the charges against Sean Hannity. Now we know why: because they were bogus!” The charges were indeed bogus. But sadly, that’s NOT “why” they were “ignored.” The people who ignored the charges did not know the charges were bogus, and in almost no case did they make any effort to find out. If conservatives now know the charges against Hannity are bogus, it’s because we at FrumForum asked on their behalf.

Freedom Alliance put out a statement earlier today. But that statement was not fully responsive to the charges. And while we appreciate Freedom Alliance’s willingness to invest the time to answer our questions, too often they seemed to take for granted that their plain statement should suffice to dispose of all concerns.

Conservatives rightly demand accountability from government. We need an accountability culture within our own institutions too however. We’re delighted to report that Sean Hannity has not betrayed his fans’ trust. But remember that old Reagan saying about needing to verify as well as trust? More of that please.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

The last time I was on the show a few weeks ago, Sean had just announced that his new book, Conservative Victory, would soon be released. With his platform he could have made a ton of money on it. But in a tradition we should laud here at NR, he’s in it to make a point, not a profit, so he insisted that it be put out in paperback at a modest price so that he could get the message out. As K-Lo points out, he and his wife give goo-gobs of money to our troops and, especially, our fallen heroes. Why do you know that? Not because of Sean. His friends feel it’s important to defend him against a libel.  If Sean had his way, he’d keep giving his time, his money, and his energy without anyone knowing the details. He’s from a long lost tradition in which doing the right thing for America is the least we can do, not something we expect a medal for.

It’s a ritual among the millions of Hannity fans that when they call in to Sean’s radio show, they say, “You’re a great American.” The reason the ritual got started — and the reason it’s not stale — is that he really is a great American. It’s a bad sign of the times that anyone should feel compelled to make such an obvious case, but, like K-Lo, I’m proud to make it.

Michelle Malkin:

My Fox News colleague and friend Sean Hannity has devoted countless hours helping the Freedom Alliance — which has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator – raise money for the dependent children of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have been killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The charity funds scholarships to students who have lost a parent on the battlefield in Persian Gulf War, the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, and terrorist attacks on the USS Cole and the Pentagon. Sean has hosted Freedom Concerts across the country and helped raise millions for troops and their families

[…]

Indeed, I’ve known her a long time, linked her work and praised her reporting over the years, and once made the mistake of sympathizing with one of her old gripes about Sean. She has accused me (and everyone else on the planet) of stealing her work, hating Jews, and being less intelligent, less brave, and less successful than she is. Some very vindictive people will never be happy and have made it their life’s mission to drag the world down with them. It is very, very sad.

And one more thing: Does David Frum realize what an ass he made of himself?

Frum responds to Malkin:

Michelle’s defense of Sean Hannity consists of three points:

1) An invocation of the heroism of the slain soldiers who have received citations from the Freedom Alliance. (Which proves nothing about the charity.)

2) The Freedom Alliance’s own press release. (Which is assertion but not proof.)

and 3) The reporting done by the FrumForum website! Malkin mentions the names of the reporters, but not, ahem, the name of the place at which the work was published. (Voila.)

Michelle Malkin might pause to consider the irony that those of us who do not stand up and salute at the mention of Sean Hannity’s name were the people who did the work that rebutted the allegations against him.

And then, as a matter of manners: If you’re going to rely on other people’s work, don’t insult them for doing it.

John Guardiano at FrumForum on Frum:

So first try and trash a man’s character and reputation without knowing all the facts. Then when the facts prove you wrong, admit this, but claim that it somehow proves your journalistic virtue. And then proceed to gratuitously dump on the charitable efforts of your target — despite his manifest innocence!

Needless to say, this is neither gracious nor classy; and it doesn’t correspond with the David Frum that I know, like and admire.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with hard-hitting criticism of your political friends and allies. I myself, in fact, am often quite critical of many conservatives, including John McCain, Robert Spencer, and Ralph Peters.

What’s more, I have defended David, publicly and in print, for his criticism of Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh.

But you attack a person’s ideas and policies, not the man himself. And you limit your criticism to what is known and truthful, not what is unknown and possibly false.

That’s why Dan Rather’s stories about Bush’s alleged National Guard failures were enough to drive Rather from journalism. Rather, you will recall, had made allegations on air that his reporting simply couldn’t support or back up. Rather charged Bush with being AWOL for much of his required National Guard service.

It would have been a great and legitimate story had Rather been able to prove it, but he could not. Rather’s reporting was flawed and inadequate. But rather than admit error, Rather forced the issue and thus committed an act of journalistic malpractice.

David Frum has not committed journalistic malpractice. In fact, quite the opposite: he committed today an important and civic-minded act of journalism; and for that he and Tim Mak are to be commended. Both gentlemen, after all, devoted themselves to ascertaining the truth or falsehood of Schlussel’s serious allegations against Sean Hannity.

But David never should have published these allegations in the first place unless and until he knew they were true or false and could say so with a reasonable degree of certainty!

David failed that test today; and, in so doing, he failed himself, journalism, and the conservative movement. Even worse, David initially helped smear a man who, so far as we can tell, has done absolutely nothing wrong other than try and raise money for severely wounded war veterans and their families.

David, fess’ up. You made a mistake. And you owe Sean Hannity an apology.

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

I know the value and necessity of cleaning up our own side. I regularly do it. But the good work the Freedom Alliance does means those who cast stones at it should check, double check, and check again before trying to smear it. Same with Sean Hannity. He does tremendously good work for our soldiers, sailors, and veterans.

Schlussel responds to Freedom Alliance and others:

The liars and frauds at Freedom Alliance want to keep the gravy train going for them and their cronies. So, instead of actually refuting a single fact, they make claims without any hard evidence . . . because they don’t have any. None of the circle-the-wagons, fraudulent “conservatives” defending this group have dared post the tax forms because they tell the unvarnished truth.  One of the “prominent bloggers” who posted the phony response is Erick Erickson, a nut from Kentucky, who supports the equally nutty, pro-Iran, anti-American, anti-Gitmo Rand Paul, and who defended Emily Zanotti, the lunatic who has been stalking me for four years, who praised Muslim death, rape, and torture threats against me and my family, and who recently lost a scurrilous, unhinged attempt to threaten my free speech rights by trying to challenge my law license (which she did with the participation of a number of the bloggers now defending Freedom Alliance).  And I love how because the wasteful, lying charity claims in its response that Vannity paid for all his travel (he, in fact, paid for none of it and it was in fancy private planes, which I’ll tell you about in the coming days), that’s now “fact.”  Yup, repeating CYA press releases by perpetrators is now deemed an “exhaustive investigation.”

Here is my initial response to Freedom Alliance’s extremely weak PR attempt at covering its hide  (I will be posting more, next week, as I’ve discovered even more sleaze on the group’s part):

In fact, the Freedom Alliance “response” doesn’t answer any of the questions I raised and goes on to lie more. They don’t address why they gave a triple amputee only $200—and in fact there are many of these examples provided in their tax return addendum, but I only cited a few for brevity’s sake. They also lie and claim that they gave a lot more money to charity b/c they categorize it as “program expenses.” But I’m sorry—calling over $3 million in consulting fees, printing, and postage “program expenses” doesn’t change the fact that it still went to their cronies, not to a fund and not the soldiers who only got on average less than $900 apiece. It also doesn’t change the fact that out of the money spent (I didn’t count the money they claim they raised for their scholarship fund in my percentages or the figures would have been even more outrageous against Freedom Alliance), the vast majority of spending goes to those kinds of expenses.

Also, the “scholarship fund” is really a war chest for something else, since it isn’t being used to fund scholarships for kids of soldiers now.  If it has $15 million dollars, as they claim, then the interest alone should fund a free ride for all of the soldiers’ children currently in college.  What are they waiting for?  Likely, to convert the fund to something else, not what the donors intended.  Do you really think people who held bake sales and bought tickets to the concerts thought they were funding a Merrill Lynch account for a nebulous promise that some kids of fallen troops might go to college from it in 20 years?  No.  They thought they were funding kids to go to college on a full ride now.  But it was all a lie.

As I noted, Hannity said on his nationally-syndicated radio show that a $30,000 donation from Boca Java will fund a full year for one of these kids in college.  Sadly, it never did.  I don’t think anyone listening to his show thought that he meant 20 years from now.  That’s not what Boca Java thought, according to a company spokeswoman.

Sean Scallon at The American Conservative:

Were the “Freedom Concerts” a part of the same kind of scam that has infected the “movement” for the past 30 years? It remains to be seen. But before you make your next donation to your favorite “cause” you may want to ask first where the money is going and how its being spent, otherwise it could very well wind in some stripper’s G-string in D.C. while you’re out beyond the Beltway believing it’s helping a soldier’s kid go to college.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post

UPDATE #2: Joe Conason in Salon

2 Comments

Filed under Conservative Movement, Mainstream, Political Figures

The California Senate Race And Israel

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

Philip Klein at American Spectator

Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard:

In 1999, Rep. Tom Campbell introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel.  This amendment, titled the “Campbell Amendment,” was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-413.

In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing Congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (again, titled the “Campbell Amendment”) to cut foreign aid to Israel.  The resolution failed 9-32 in committee.  This amendment was particularly offensive to the pro-Israel community because it came at the same time that Israel had agreed to a complete phase out of economic aid over a 8-year period.   This was not sufficient for Campbell and his amendment called for an additional cut beyond what had been agreed to.

In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34.

He was a consistent opponent of the Foreign Aid bill which has Israel and Egypt as the largest recipients.

He rarely signed pro-Israel letters as a member of Congress.

Additionally, Tom Campbell endorsed the work of Ms. Allison Weir, who leads an anti-Israel organization called “If Americans Knew.”  This organization calls on the United States to cut financial and diplomatic support for Israel.  Campbell said the following about Ms. Weir’s work at If Americans Knew: “Ms. Weir presents a powerful, well documented view of the Middle East today. She is intelligent, careful, and critical. American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses.”

If Campbell wins the Republican primary, a huge window will open for the incumbent, Barbara Boxer, who will be able to point to her record of supporting Israel in contrast to Campbell’s hostility toward one of America’s closest allies.

More Philip Klein at American Spectator:

Last week, I wrote a post on the anti-Israel voting record of Tom Campbell, a Republican candidate for the California Senate seat currently held by Barbara Boxer. Some readers thought I was being unfair. But today I see, via Jennifer Rubin, that during his 2000 race for the Senate, Campbell received campaign contributions from Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who pled guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (As I noted below, Al-Arian has resurfaced in the news because Obama’s  new envoy to the Muslim world is on record defending him prior to his guilty plea).

I double-checked the Federal Election Commission database, and was able to confirm that on May 2, 2000, Al-Arian made two donations totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. At the time he made the contributions, as he admits in his plea agreement, Al-Arian was engaged in “Conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist…”

In defense of Campbell, one could argue that the donations were made prior to Al-Arian’s guilty plea. But with that said Al-Arian was already under investigation by the government in 2000 and his publicly radical views were known. Also, it’s kind of random for an Islamic radical in Florida to contribute to a Republican Senate campaign in California. The only other political donations listed from Al-Arian were made to Democrats: David Bonior, Jim Davis, and Cynthia McKinney — none of them fans of Israel, and in McKinney’s case, a 9/11 truther. So where does Campbell fit into this picture, and why would Al-Arian want to contribute to him?

More Rubin:

Campbell then responded and shockingly revealed “not only that Al-Arian donated money to his campaign, but that he visited Al-Arian’s brother-in-law (himself associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in prison.” And if that were not enough, he confirms “that when Al-Arian was fired from the University of South Florida (after controversy generated by a Bill O’Reilly report on Al-Arian’s terrorist ties), he sent a letter to the school protesting the action.”

At least we know where Campbell stands on these issues and for whom he chooses to go to bat. Campbell’s opponents have yet to comment on any of this, but if Campbell should make it through the primary, one thing is certain: Sen. Barbara Boxer will certainly beat him over the head with this.

And even more Rubin:

One of his Senate opponents, Carly Fiorina, has now issued a statement raising not only Al-Arian but Tom Campbell’s record on Israel:

“I am deeply troubled by these reports. I think the people of California deserve to know more about Tom Campbell’s association not only with Sami Al-Arian but also his association with other people of questionable record. What is clear is that Tom Campbell and I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to policy regarding our nation’s relationship with Israel. I am an unwavering supporter of Israel and believe strongly that the United States should continue to support and defend the country.”

(Campbell’s previous response on Al-Arian is here.)

It seems that that California Republicans will face a stark choice on foreign policy, Israel, and the war against Islamic fundamentalists, in addition to domestic issues. One can only imagine that Sen. Barbara Boxer must be looking on with extreme interest. If her opponent is Campbell, she surely will have an energized pro-Israel base (Jewish and non-Jewish) of support (financial and otherwise) in the general election.

Jon Ward at The Daily Caller:

Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell hit back Monday at primary opponent Carly Fiorina for saying that he does not support Israel, calling her accusations “desperate” and “bizarre.”

“Carly Fiorina’s latest attack suggesting that I am anti-Israel and pro-jihadist is desperate and irresponsible,” Campbell said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller.

Fiorina, the 55-year old former Hewlett Packard chief executive, said Sunday night that she was “deeply troubled” by recent “reports” about Campbell’s associations with Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian immigrant to the U.S. who was arrested in 2003 for working with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and later pled guilty to providing material support to the group.

Even President Obama’s recently appointed envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference has come under scrutiny for his remarks in the past defending Al-Arian. The envoy, Rashad Hussain, said Friday that his past comments about Al-Arian were “ill-conceived.”

Recent reporting by conservative outlets Commentary Magazine and The American Spectator have focused attention in recent days on Campbell’s receipt of a campaign donation from Al-Arian and his arguments against his firing from the University of South Florida.

“I think the people of California deserve to know more about Tom Campbell’s association not only with Sami Al-Arian but also his association with other people of questionable record,” Fiorina told Commentary Magazine.

“What is clear is that Tom Campbell and I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to policy regarding our nation’s relationship with Israel,” she said. “I am an unwavering supporter of Israel and believe strongly that the United States should continue to support and defend the country.”

Campbell, a 57-year-old former congressman who has led Fiorina and fellow Republican Chuck Devore in polling since switching from the governor’s race to the Senate race in January, hit back Monday, saying that Fiorina was distorting his record and past associations.

“In Congress, I always voted in favor of providing military aid to Israel, and have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself — including taking military action against Iran to prevent its development of nuclear arms,” Campbell said.

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–>David Frum at FrumForum:

The criticism of Campbell’s terrorism-and-Israel record rests on 5 main claims:

1)    It’s claimed that Campbell twice voted to cut aid to Israel during his time in Congress.

2)    It’s claimed that Campbell voted against Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

3)    It’s claimed that Campbell made fund-raising appearances before radical Islamic groups.

4)    It’s claimed that Campbell employed on his staff a California Muslim with ties to radical groups.

5)    It’s claimed that Campbell wrote a letter in support of a deportable alien with ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Let’s take each in turn.

On 1: These claims turn on a relatively small amount of money, $30 million, less than 1% of Israel’s aid package. As part of the Wye River round of peace talks, President Clinton proposed a $700 million increase in Israel’s economic aid. To embarrass Clinton, congressional Republicans proposed to increase that aid by an additional $30 million. But Congress in those years was operating under pay-go rules that required every spending increase to be matched by a spending cut somewhere else. (Good rule.) So it was proposed to take the extra extra money for Israel out of the allotment for aid to Africa. Campbell happened to be a senior member of the Africa subcommittee of the House International Affairs Committee. He objected to the transfer on the grounds that it was unnecessary for Israel and injurious to important African projects.

It’s important to note – as stated in Campbell’s reply above – Campbell has always supported Israel’s military requests in full. His qualms about economic aid are shared by many Israeli free-market economists who worry that this money may harm Israeli export industries by contributing to the over-valuation of the shekel.

On 2: The Jerusalem vote occurred in 1990. It was introduced by a Democratic member of Congress to embarrass the George H.W. Bush administration. While agreeing in principle that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital, Campbell acceded to the administration’s request and voted No on this one measure.

On 3: Campbell did indeed speak to Muslim-American groups in the late 1990s. So did Gov. George W. Bush whom nobody would accuse of lack of friendship for Israel – and for the same reason: party strategists had identified Muslim Americans as potential Republican voters. As Ronald Reagan used to say when he was criticized for accepting support from odd groups: “I’m not supporting their agenda. I’m asking them to support mine.”

On 4: The person in question – Suhail Khan – would become a White House colleague of mine in 2001-2002, where he worked in the Office of Public Liaison. I heard many of the same rumors about him then that are being circulated today. I looked into them as searchingly as I could and never found any foundation for them.

Yes it’s true that some dubious characters visited the White House complex in 2001, both before and after the 9/11 attacks. But it’s ridiculous to think that Khan invited them. Khan might meet them at the gate, but the invitations came from a much higher pay grade.

By the way: Suhail Khan now serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. If he’s a jihadist mole, he has also deceived John Bolton, Tom DeLay, Becky Norton Dunlap, and Allen Roth, among others.

As to Allegation 5:

Campbell’s libertarian sympathies were exploited by some very bad actors.

In 1996, Congress had amended the immigration laws to allow for the deportation of aliens based on secret information of terrorist activities.

The trouble was that for many of the worst such aliens, there was nowhere to deport them to. They ended up languishing in American jails indefinitely.

The family of one such alien appealed to Campbell for help, and he was persuaded to take up the cause.

It was in time publicly confirmed that the alien in question, Mazen al-Najjar, was very, very implicated in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as was his brother-in-law, Sami al-Arian. A deal was eventually struck to send Najjar to Lebanon. After a complex set of criminal proceedings, al-Arian is now awaiting trial on contempt charges.

Campbell has acknowledged that he was wrong and apologized for his mistake. But he did not make this mistake alone.

Candidate George W. Bush for example posed for a photograph with Sami al-Arian in the spring of 2000. Al Arian visited the White House after Bush’s election. When al-Arian’s son was barred from the White House by the Secret Service, the deputy director of the Secret Service was ordered to telephone the young man to apologize.

Bush met with another Islamic extremist, Abdel Rahman al-Amoudi in 2000: Amoudi is now serving a 23 year prison sentence.

During campaign 2000, Bush publicly demanded the repeal of the secret evidence law. He restated his pledge during one of his debates with Al Gore.

The people responsible for these much more serious mistakes have never expressed remorse. Yet they continue to play a respected part in the conservative world. Yet the one person in the affair who has said he was wrong – he’s the one who is supposedly unacceptable? How does that make sense?

Especially since he is the candidate with the clearest and most detailed pro-Israel platform in the California Senate race?

Daniel Larison:

Philip Klein normally has a rather flexible definition of what passes for being “anti-Israel.” As I recall, when J Street held their first conference, he declared that they were an “anti-Israel” organization. So when he asserted earlier this month that California Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell had an “anti-Israel voting record” I was pretty skeptical. As it turns out, Klein and the others who have embarked on this get-Campbell campaign are amazingly wrong about Campbell and his record. This isn’t some disagreement over emphasis or interpretation of ambiguous statements or actions. The critics have been simply wrong. While it is rather amusing to see foreign policy hawks attempting to tear down one of their own out of sheer ignorance and overreaction, the entire episode over the last week and a half does tell us some more important things about the state of the GOP and conservative movement and about the California Senate race itself.

To take the second point first, we can see that Campbell’s opponents are flailing about in desperation and will employ any claim to attack him, no matter how much misrepresentation it might involve. Since he entered the race, Campbell has enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls over Fiorina and DeVore, and of the three he has the best polling numbers against Boxer. DeVore was the one to get the ball rolling in attacking Campbell on this point, but he remains a distant third and is mainly running a protest candidacy with little chance of prevailing over the other two. Except for the mostly negative and mocking attention she was able to garner with her weird “demon sheep” ad, Fiorina has not been able to gain much traction, and so she has started trying to exploit Campbell’s tenuous, limited connection with the Al-Arian case. Like her tenure at HP, Fiorina’s campaign has not been going well. What we learn from this is that Campbell’s opponents seem unusually unscrupulous and/or sloppy, and it also tells us that hard-line hawkish policy views are must-haves even within the California GOP primary electorate.

The campaign to cast Campbell as “anti-Israel” started in the camps of his primary competitors, but it was then picked up by some conservative blogs and took on something of a life of its own. Obviously, the unfounded attack was aimed at destroying Campbell’s candidacy within the GOP. This would have had the effect of eliminating or crippling the candidate with the best, albeit still remote, chance of defeating Boxer. Some of the people carrying out the campaign attacking Campbell claimed that they wanted to prevent the GOP from nominating someone with such a grave liability, when the liability, so called, never existed.

What they managed to do instead was to demonstrate their own knee-jerk fanaticism on this question of what is required to be “pro-Israel,” and it shows how ready some movement conservatives are to turn against even those Republican candidates who are reliable hawks when there is the slightest hint of deviation from their own hard line. As it turned out, the “hints” in Campbell’s case were misleading and meaningless. Campbell is safe from continued attacks because he is actually a dangerous and aggressive hawk himself, exemplified by his support for Israeli military action against Iran, but if someone as genuinely hawkish as Campbell can be targeted even temporarily with a smear campaign for being “anti-Israel” there is not going to be much chance for candidates who hold skeptical, realist or non-interventionist views within the Republican electorate. As for Campbell, he will be sure not to risk taking any positions that might be misinterpreted in the future. Of course, the reinforcement of the party line is the point of the exercise, so unfortunately it scarcely matters that some of the enforcers have shredded their credibility in the process.

UPDATE: Philip Klein at AmSpec

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary

David Frum at FrumForum on Klein and Rubin

Jim Antle at AmSpec on Larison

Larison responds to Antle

UPDATE #2: Jim Antle at AmSpec responds to Larison

Larison responds to Antle

Pejman Yousefzadeh at New Ledger with an interview with Campbell

UPDATE #3: Jacob Heilbrunn at National Interest

UPDATE #4: Tim Mak at FrumForum

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Filed under Israel/Palestine, Political Figures

Add Cream, Add Sugar, Get A Political Party

Running under the Tea Party brand may be better in congressional races than being a Republican.

In a three-way Generic Ballot test, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Democrats attracting 36% of the vote. The Tea Party candidate picks up 23%, and Republicans finish third at 18%. Another 22% are undecided.

Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Tea Party comes out on top. Thirty-three percent (33%) prefer the Tea Party candidate, and 30% are undecided. Twenty-five percent (25%) would vote for a Democrat, and just 12% prefer the GOP.

Among Republican voters, 39% say they’d vote for the GOP candidate, but 33% favor the Tea Party option.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM:

The question was phrased as follows: “Okay, suppose the Tea Party Movement organized itself as a political party. When thinking about the next election for Congress, would you vote for the Republican candidate from your district, the Democratic candidate from your district, or the Tea Party candidate from your district?”

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

These results are in alignment with the other features of the right that Rasmussen has been tracking: weak support for the GOP among self-identified conservatives, and disdain for the Republican establishment among self-identified GOP voters.

On the other hand, Republican voters seem to be open to giving Tea Partiers a chance – the poll shows widespread favorability for the Tea Party movement – 70% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the movement, while only 7% have an unfavorable view.

Indeed, a tide may be cresting in American politics: a substantial minority (41%) told pollsters that the Republicans and Democrats are so much alike that a new party is required to represent American voters.

However, Rasmussen notes that a Tea Party party would likely be unsuccessful:

In practical terms, it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process—written by Republicans and Democrats–provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties.

This is a wakeup call for GOP leaders: they will need to find a way to capture the energy of the Tea Party movement, or else be deluged by it.

Ed Morrissey:

Fortunately, there is no such thing as a Tea Party, er, Party, which Rasmussen asked respondents to assume when answering this survey.  It would take too long to form such a party, and as the results above show, it would be a self-defeating process, especially in 2010.  A split on the Right would produce another Democratic victory at a moment when Congress desperately needs a course correction from its radical, statist path.

The news here is not good at all for Republicans, however.  Even registered GOP voters split 39/33 on whether to vote for a generic candidate from their own party.  This reflects the damage done to the GOP during 2001-6, when voters thought they were electing small-government, fiscal-restraint politicians, and wound up instead with porkers who spent hand over fist.  Democrats don’t have that same kind of problem; they have 71% of their voters locked in to the party, with only 7% favoring the Tea Party brand.  Independents, as noted above, are even less enamored of the GOP, favoring the Tea Party 33/12, with 25% going Democrat.

The key in 2010 is to have the GOP represent the Tea Party brand, and the only way to do that is to firmly insist on fiscal restrain and reduction of government as the platform for the election.  The Right needs to put aside all of its usual hobby horses and focus on the message from the Tea Party movement.  If they need an excuse, call it a moment of national crisis as the Democrats attempt a takeover of the health-care and energy industries.  The next election has to be fought on those narrow terms in order to bring the GOP into line with the tea-party momentum and unite against what is clearly a fringe progressive movement to massively expand an already-broke government.

If the Republican Party can do that, these generic numbers will become formidable.  If not, expect another cycle of loss and frustration.

Tom Maguire:

I’m Waiting For The Video…

Tea baggers on top in a three way.

Greg Sargent

Meredith Jessup at Townhall

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

James Joyner

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Peacocks And The Punk’d

NBC Peacock

Matthew Vadum at Big Government:

Apparently NBC “Dateline” producer Jane Stone or someone else who has access to her Blackberry has a problem with groups that oppose ACORN and with an ethnocultural minority.

When Stone received an email urging Congress to defund ACORN from Alex Rosenwald, director of media outreach for Americans for Limited Government, the following sentence came back to Rosenwald from Stone’s account: “Bite me, Jew Boy!”

The e-mail here

Michael Calderone at Politico:

NBC News president Steve Capus fired back at Americans for Limited Government Friday, after the conservative group published an email allegedly from NBC producer Jane Stone to its director of media outreach Alex Rosenwald, with one line: “Bite me Jew Boy.”

“I’m still in shock, and outraged that this reckless organization would go out with such a defamatory, irresponsible statement,” Capus told POLITICO. “We have done a complete email analysis, all of our IT, all of our records.”

Here’s what both sides agree on: Stone responded Thursday to a mass email from ALG.

But Stone’s response email—provided to POLITICO—did not have any anti-Semitic comment. In fact, it had just one line: “Take me off this list!”

“Somebody, on the other end, I’m assuming, took the return stamp from the email and then put in this hateful message,” Capus said. “I don’t know who did it. It’s outrageous to suspect that somebody from NBC News would do it.”

Capus said he contacted the group and asked them to rescind the press release that accompanied publication of the email. He said that ALG would not agree, and the instead responded with a “politically-fueled rant against NBC, and a completely irresponsible diatribe.”

Dan Riehl

Update 2: ALG pushes back, Ed Driscoll is also on it here:

Carter Clews, Director of Communications, Americans for Limited Government

We at Americans for Limited Government are saddened that instead of helping us to get to the bottom of the hateful email that was indeed sent from NBC’s server, and this can be verified, and was not tampered with, which can also be verified, that NBC President Steve Capus has instead chosen to circle the wagons and protect what is indefensible with hysterical, frantic accusations.

This email has left a digital footprint that is undeniable.  We did our due diligence.  We have confirmed that it indeed came from NBC’s server and Jane Stone’s email address.

As before, we renew our offer that we made to both Ms. Stone and NBC President Capus over the phone today to get to the bottom of who sent this email from Ms. Stone’s Blackberry email address.  That offer remains open, and we would like it very much if both Ms. Stone and NBC would issue an apology to both Americans for Limited Government, and Mr. Alex Rosenwald, who was the target of this hateful email.

The Jawa Report

Megan McArdle:

I have no idea what to think about the accusation that an NBC producer responded to a blast email from Americans for Limited Government by writing “Bite me, jew boy!”

It’s so bizarre that I simply can’t believe that an NBC producer did this.  But it’s also so bizarre that it’s not actually all that much more plausible that Americans for Limited Government made the thing up.  It’s not like they’re playing to the common stereotype that the television world is hostile to Jews.

ALG says they checked where the email comes from, in language that suggests they tracked it at the server level, not from the email headers.

The most likely explanation is that someone punk’d them.  But who?  And how?

UPDATE: Tim Mak at New Majority

Virgina Postrel

Julian Sanchez

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In Michigan, They Will Call It A “Pop Tax”

coke-machine

So the federal soda tax is coming or not? And is it a good idea?

Will Saletan on the plan to change behavior by taxing soda.

Matt Y.:

Think about the case for taxing income, via the income tax and FICA. Why do it? Well, to get the money. That’s how we finance Social Security, the Department of Defense, Medicare, interest payments on the national debt, Medicaid, federal aid to schools, veterans’ health care and benefits, the FBI, etc. Now what’s the case against taxing people’s income? Well, it’s that it discourages work and it discourages investment. And that’s bad for the economy. Now we go back and forth over whether any given expenditure has a value that outweighs the economic costs. Liberals, like me, tend to think that a relatively high level of expenditure is justified whereas folks on the right tend to disagree.

But what if we could raise some revenue by taxing something else? Like, say, cigarettes. Or soda. Or booze. Well, then the case for doing the taxing remains similar—you can fund useful programs with it. But the case against looks a lot weaker, since reducing consumption of cigarettes or soda is not so bad. You introducing a little bit of allocative distortion into the economy, but not a huge amount, and you’re improving public health which is going to be beneficial.

Jonathan Alder at Volokh. Ezra Klein.

Kevin Drum argues we should tax the sugars and the syrup, not the soda.

Two of Jacob Sullum’s posts at Reason, here and here. He links to David Leonhardt at NYT. Leonhardt:

Soda consumption has changed — a lot. The typical person now consumes 190 calories a day from sugary drinks, up from 70 a day in the late 1970s. That 120-calorie increase represents about one-half of the total daily caloric increase during that span, C.D.C. data shows.

Of all foods and beverages, says Mr. Brownell, the obesity researcher, “the science is most robust and most convincing on the link between soft drinks and negative health outcomes.”

Just as important for the purposes of a soda tax, economic research has found that soda drinkers are price sensitive. In the past, when the price of soda has risen by 10 percent, consumption has dropped by an average of roughly 8 percent. This means a soda tax may not be quite as regressive as it sounds, because poor people would end up buying less soda than they now do.

I found these arguments fairly compelling, and I wanted to hear how executives at Coke and Pepsi would respond. But they refused to talk.

Sullum responds:

Leaving aside the question of whether a soda tax would have a significant impact on total calorie intake, there are a couple of problems with Leonhardt’s reasoning. First, smoking and overeating (unlike, say, air or water pollution) do not inherently “place a cost on the rest of society”; if taxpayers pick up the tab for the treatment of smoking- or obesity-related diseases, that is only because the government forces them to do so. Second, even if government-funded health care is taken for granted, both smoking and overeating actually seem to save taxpayers money. A 2008 Dutch study, for example, found that thin nonsmokers generate higher lifetime medical costs than obese people or smokers do because they tend to live longer.

Andrew Sullivan brings us a spate of posts on the subject. Two from the Beckner-Posner Blog, first from Richard Posner:

I am skeptical, because the author ignores the possibility of substituting untaxed sugar-sweetened foods or beverages. People who crave sugar will find no dearth of substitutes for sugar-sweetened sodas. Moreover, most consumers of these sodas are not and never will be obese. They may well be overweight, but all that that means is that they are heavier than the “ideal” weight calculated by physicians; if they are only slightly or even moderately heavier, the consequences for health or social or professional success are apparently slight.

To the extent that a soda tax would cause substitution of equally sugared foods, it would not only have no effect on obesity; it would yield no revenue–a material consideration because supporters of the tax hope, albeit inconsistently, that it will both reduce obesity significantly and contribute significantly to financing the Administration’s ambitious and very costly program of health-care reform.

Gary Becker:

They also claim that a review of various studies indicates that a 10% increase in the price of beverages reduces consumption by about 8%. These assumptions imply that a tax on beverages that increases its price by 10%-that means a 10 cent tax on a can of soda that sells for about $1.00- would slightly reduce the intake of calories from sodas by 0.8% to 1.2%. Even this overstates the total effect on calorie consumption, given that consumers who like sugar would substitute toward cakes, candies, and fruit drinks that naturally have lots of sugar. The result of this tax on beverages would be at most a very small reduction in the intake of calories and sugar.

Derek Thompson, however, argues the other way:

But for whatever reason, I’m feeling even giddier about sin taxes. I think we could also raise taxes on legal “sinful” products (cigarettes, soda, beer, etc) to further prime government revenue. I see the government is already considering this, having estimating that a mere 3 cent tax per 12-ounce serving of soda could generate $24 billion in four years. That’s not going to pay for health care, but it’s a not-insignificant amount money that seems to have addition social benefits.

UPDATE: Free Exchange at The Economist

UPDATE #2: David Gratzer

UPDATE #3: Ezra Klein

Tim Mak at New Majority

UPDATE #4: Marc Ambinder

UPDATE #5: Karen Kaplan at the LA Times

Veronique de Rugy at NRO

UPDATE #6: More Yglesias

Reihan Salam

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #7: Jason Kuznicki at Cato and then at The League

Matthew Schmitz at The League

Mark Thompson at The League

Rufus F. at The League

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Filed under Economics, Health Care