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01-11-2013, 11:26 AM #1
A Conspiracy So Immense
A Conspiracy So Immense
Column: What will it take for the mainstream media to cover the progressive movement?
Michael Brune, Phil Radford, Larry Cohen, Ben Jealous, Barack Obama
BY: Matthew Continetti
January 11, 2013 4:59 am
Let’s pretend that in the spring of 2012 Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, John Engler of the Business Roundtable, Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, and Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association began to organize an assembly of right-leaning groups.
Let’s pretend that in the months since there had been not one but two meetings where these luminaries joined with representatives of Christians United For Israel, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Tea Party Express, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the American Petroleum Institute to discuss strategy and promote a series of “structural reforms” that would make it easier for them to advance conservative goals in Congress.
Let’s pretend that by the time of the second meeting, which was held within sight of the White House, the coalition had grown to encompass some 36 different interest groups pledging millions of dollars.
How much press coverage would be devoted to this fictive cabal?
It is impossible to say. But is it not unreasonable to assume that our pretend meeting of the vast right-wing conspiracy would attract far more scrutiny than was devoted to the actual, real-life, believe-it-or-not inaugural meetings of the progressive “Democracy Initiative”? After all, no one seemed to know anything about those meetings, held in June and December 2012, until a writer for Mother Jones named Andy Kroll broke the story on Wednesday. As of this writing exactly two other people, a blogger for the Washington Monthlyand a blogger for The Ed Show, have picked up Kroll’s story.
The rest of what is too generously called the “mainstream media” has not said a word. Instead the campaign finance reporter of the New York Times, who used to work at the Washington Monthly, had a long investigative pieceon the various conflicts-of-interest associated with advocates of pro-growth tax and entitlement reform. (Spoiler: They’re in it for themselves.) Slatemeanwhile asked the pressing question, “Why Do the Rich and Famous Always Sunbathe Topless?” Other outlets were distracted by the glitzy baubles of nomination fights and gun control. About this major story of coordination and concerted spending among powerful lobbies, however, the press had little to say.
And it is a major story. The brainchild of Michael Brune, Phil Radford, Larry Cohen, and Ben Jealous, the Democracy Initiative, according to Mother Jones’s Kroll, is “the first time so many groups teamed up to work on multiple issues not tied to an election.”
These guys have pull. Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club and former executive director of the more radical Rainforest Action Network. Radford runs Greenpeace. Cohen is the president of the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America, “the largest telecommunications union in the world.” Jealous is the president and chief executive officer of theNAACP. Their “conversations in recent years” about the malign influence of conservative donors in politics developed into the “invite-only and off-the-record” meetings in June and December, where representatives of “30 to 35 groups” pledged “a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front” on the issues of “getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation.” The most recent meeting was held at the headquarters of the 3-million-strong National Education Association, which is less than half a dozen blocks north of where President Barack Obama works.
That “total of millions of dollars” figure reported by Kroll is rather unspecific. In truth it will be difficult to determine how much money the Democracy Initiative is putting to work as long as mainstream reporters ignore the story in favor of following every microscopic action performed by Charles and David Koch and Sheldon Adelson. However, the most cursory glance at the list of groups in the Mother Jones story leads one to believe there should be at least two high numerals inserted before that “millions of dollars.”
Who showed up to the progressive retreat? Again, it is hard to say because Kroll does not divulge all of the participants. Can’t alert the enemy to your every move, I suppose. But here in alphabetical order are the groups he does mention: the AFL-CIO, the Center for American Progress, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Color of Change, Common Cause, Demos, the Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, Mother Jones (in a “non-editorial” capacity!), National People’s Action, the National Wildlife Federation, People for the American Way, the Piper Fund, Public Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers, and Voto Latino. Brune of the Sierra Club predicts there will be 50 participating organizations by spring.
Insiders might note that some of these groups were among those dropped from the Democracy Alliance—the secret consortium of progressive donors organized by George Soros and Rob McKay—when it opted for intervening directly in Democratic Party politics rather than seeding less partisan and more ideological institutions. So on some level the Democracy Initiative should be considered the Democracy Alliance’s younger and slightly less attractive sister. But it is also more than that.
The crack researchers at the Center for American Freedom tell me that totaling the reported revenue of only a portion of the groups participating in the Democracy Initiative gives you a figure of around $1.69 billion. Somewhat ironic, isn’t it, that an association of organizations with combined revenue of more than a billion dollars is launching a campaign to get “big money out of politics.” Like all such campaigns, of course, the Democracy Initiative is less about getting money out of politics than it is about getting the wrong sort of money out of politics—in this case, the sort of money dispensed by industries and ideologues opposed to the progressive agenda.
The Democracy Initiative will “target” Chevron, “which gave $2.5 million to a Super PAC backing House Republican candidates in 2012.” The Democracy Initiative will target Google “for its continued membership with the generally pro-Republican U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” The Democracy Initiative will target the American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of businesses and state-legislators that promotes conservative laws and has been under ferocious assault from liberals seeking to stigmatize its donors and thereby cause its collapse. “We’re going to put the pressure on ALEC even more,” Phil Radford of Greenpeace told Mother Jones. ALEC should consider itself warned.
And not only ALEC: The Democracy Initiative seems to be a fairly straightforward attempt to change the rules of the game so that greens and unions can push their agenda through the Senate. The logic here is that the Democrats have at least a chance of retaking the House in 2014, in which case Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would be the only obstacle to in-your-face progressivism. Why else the emphasis on filibuster reform? It was the threat of a filibuster in 2009 and 2010 that prevented the Senate from considering the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade energy tax bill as well as the card-check legislation that would make it easier for unions to bolster their ranks and political power. Without a Republican House and the ability of minority parties to block legislation in the Senate, the chances of passing bills to amnesty illegal immigrants and raise taxes further would improve. Fighting efforts to restrict “voting rights” is a useful means of mobilizing the Democratic vote. One team is playing the long game, friends, and it is definitely not the conservative one.
What little we know of the Democracy Initiative provides a useful lesson in the ability of fantasy to inspire political action. Progressivism sets the political and cultural and social agenda; it is embedded in Hollywood, in Silicon Valley, in the academy, in journalism, and in much of corporate America; many of the richest counties in the nation support liberal Democrats;President Obama outraised and out-spent his Republican challenger; the combined budgets of progressive interest groups and foundations and think tanks and nonprofits and community organizations is practically incalculable; the most liberal president since Lyndon Baines Johnson is barreling ahead with a confrontational and ideological approach to cabinet appointments and budget fights; Republicans and conservatives are in their greatest state of shock and disarray since 1992 and perhaps since 1964; and yet progressive elites such as the well-compensated Radford of Greenpeace still are swinging at the windmill of the “40-plus-year strategy by the Scaifes, Exxons, Coors, and Kochs of the world” to “take over the country.”
Someone needs to give the members of the Democracy Initiative a tap on the shoulder, a kick in the pants, a wonk-like nudge—anything to wake them from their fantasy of being weak and isolated and besieged, anything to alert them to the fact that it is they, not “the Scaifes, Exxons, Coors, and Kochs of the world” who actually run the country and therefore ought to be covered in a diligent, scrupulous, and adversarial fashion. One thing is for sure: It won’t be the mainstream media that holds the progressive movement to account.
This entry was posted in Big Labor, Media, Progressive Movement and tagged Ben Jealous, Communications Workers of America, Green Peace, Larry Cohen, Michael Brune, NAACP, Phil Radford, Sierra Club, Unions. Bookmark the permalink.
Column: What will it take for the mainstream media to cover the progressive movement? | Washington Free Beacon
01-11-2013, 11:31 AM #2
Revealed: The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics
A month after President Obama won reelection, America's most powerful liberal groups met to plan their next moves. Here's what they talked about.
—By Andy Kroll
| Wed Jan. 9, 2013 3:06 AM PST
It was the kind of meeting that conspiratorial conservative bloggers dream about.
A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA), a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the NAACP, the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record. Despite all the Democratic wins in November, a sense of outrage filled the room as labor officials, environmentalists, civil rights activists, immigration reformers, and a panoply of other progressive leaders discussed the challenges facing the left and what to do to beat back the deep-pocketed conservative movement.
At the end of the day, many of the attendees closed with a pledge of money and staff resources to build a national, coordinated campaign around three goals: getting big money out of politics, expanding the voting rolls while fighting voter ID laws, and rewriting Senate rules to curb the use of the filibuster to block legislation.
The groups in attendance pledged a total of millions of dollars and dozens of organizers to form a united front on these issues—
potentially, a coalition of a kind rarely seen in liberal politics, where squabbling is common and a stay-in-your-lane attitude often prevails.
"It was so exciting," says Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director. "We weren't just wringing our hands about the Koch brothers. We were saying, 'I'll put in this amount of dollars and this many organizers.'"
The liberal activists have dubbed this effort the Democracy Initiative.
The campaign, Brune says, has since been attracting other members—and also interest from foundations looking to give money—because many groups on the left believe they can't accomplish their own goals without winning reforms on the Initiative's three issues. "This isn't an optional activity for us," Brune tells me. "It is mission critical."
Liberal groups have joined forces around issues—and elections—before. Health Care for America Now (HCAN) was a megagroup formed to support Obama's health care reform bill in 2009. And in 2003, leaders from EMILY's List, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), AFL-CIO, and Sierra Club formed America Coming Together, the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation in the history of Democratic politics, to help elect presidential candidate John Kerry.
Indeed, progressives have collaborated specifically on voting rights or campaign finance before, too. But the Democracy Initiative may be the first time so many groups teamed up to work on multiple issues not tied to an election. "This is really the first time that a broad spectrum of groups have come together around a big agenda that impacts the state and national level," says Kim Anderson, who runs the NEA's center for advocacy and outreach and attended the December meeting.
The Democracy Initiative grew out of conversations in recent years among Radford, Brune,CWA president Larry Cohen, and NAACP president Ben Jealous. ("We all have a knitting class together," Brune jokes.) Brune says the four men bemoaned how the dysfunctional political process was making it impossible for their groups to achieve their goals. "We're not going to have a clean-energy economy," he says, "if the same companies that are polluting our rivers and oceans are also polluting our elections."
Greenpeace's Phil Radford notes that for decades conservatives have aimed to shrink local, state, and federal governments by reforming the rules so they could install like-minded politicians, bureaucrats, and judges. Radford calls it "a 40-plus-year strategy by the Scaifes,Exxons, Coors, and Kochs of the world…to take over the country."
So last spring Brune, Cohen, Jealous, and Radford called up their friends on the left and, in June, convened the Democracy Initiative's first meeting. A handful of groups attended, and they began to focus on the triad of money in politics, voting rights, and dysfunction in the Senate.
By December, the Democracy Initiative's ranks had swelled to 30 to 35 groups, Brune says. (He expects it to be 50 by the end of the winter.) Other attendees at the December meeting included top officials from the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Public Campaign, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Common Cause, Voto Latino, the Demos think tank, Piper Fund, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, People for the American Way, National People's Action, National Wildlife Federation, the Center for American Progress, the United Auto Workers, and Color of Change. (A non-editorial employee of Mother Jones also attended.)
According to a schedule of the meeting, the attendees focused on opportunities for 2013. On money in politics, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, a pro-campaign-finance-reform advocacy group, singled out Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina as potential targets for campaign finance fights. In a recent interview, Nyhart said the Kentucky battle would likely involve trying to oust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Public Enemy No. 1 for campaign finance reform, who faces reelection in 2014. In New York, Nyhart said, activists are pressuring state lawmakers, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to pass a statewide public financing bill in 2013. And in North Carolina, the fight is more about countering the influence of a single powerful donor, the conservative millionaire Art Pope, whose largesse helped install a Republican governor and turn the state legislature entirely red.
On voting rights, a presentation by a Brennan Center for Justice staffer identified California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and Minnesota as states where efforts to modernize the voter registration system and implement same-day registration could succeed.
But the most pressing issue right now for Democracy Initiative members is Senate rules reform. At the December meeting, attendees heard from Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on rule changes to curb the spiraling use of filibusters to block legislation. The use of the filibuster has exploded in recent years, and Republicans now block up-or-down votes on nearly everything in the Senate, requiring Democrats to muster 60 votes to conduct even the most routine business. Liberal groups in the Democracy Initiative want to fix that, and they used the December meeting to plan a coordinated push to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to rewrite the rules. Democrats have until January 22, when the window closes on easy rules changes, to get the reforms they want.
Other potential targets for Democracy Initiative action include Chevron, which gave $2.5 million to a super-PAC backing House Republican candidates in 2012. Google was mentioned as another target for its continued membership with the generally pro-Republican US Chamber of Commerce. And a 16-member coalition targeting the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative "bill mill" behind many voter ID, school choice, and anti-union laws, wants to use the Democracy Initiative to recruit members and so expand its efforts identifying lawmakers and corporations who are ALEC members and urging them to cut ties with the group. "We're going to put the pressure on ALEC even more" in 2013, says Greenpeace's Radford.
Radford, Brune, Cohen, and others say the Democracy Initiative is no flash in the pan; they're in it for the long haul, for more than just this election cycle and the one after it. It took four decades, these leaders say, for conservatives to shape state and federal legislatures to the degree that they have, and it will take a long stretch to roll back those changes. "The game is rigged against us; the corporate right has done such a good job taking over the Congress and the courts," Radford says. "We're saying we need to step back and change the whole game."
Revealed: The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics | Mother Jones
01-11-2013, 01:32 PM #3
The biggest single donor in political history backed all loosers
Sheldon Adelson Pledges to Double Support for GOP Politicians
GOP donors question million dollar loss
Karl Rove defends his $300 million disaster
Tea Party group chief quits, for $8 MILLION payoff
Tea Party Quitter DeMint Cashes In, Exposing DC's Dark Side
Is Karl Rove's media career kaput?
$2 billion price tag for presidential election
Sheldon Adelson Pledges to Double Support for GOP Politicians
. . . Adelson, who contributed $20 million to Mitt Romney’s super PAC "Restore Our Future," $15 million to Newt Gingrich’s super PAC – which for all intents and purposes kept the disgraced former House Speaker in the presidential primary race and handed the nomination to Romney -- and about $50 million to nonprofit Republican fronts such as Rove’s Crossroads GPS. . .
Adelson also claimed that he was "basically a social liberal," and that his views differed sharply from the Republican Party on a number of issues:
"Number one, I’m supporting stem-cell research." As exemplified by the new Adelson medical research foundation that is funding some stem-cell based science.
"I’m pro choice," he pointed out. . .
On immigration: "I’m pro-Dream Act . . .
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01-11-2013, 02:56 PM #4
It just keeps on coming. This is interesting that the PAID Federal infomant manged to worm his way around and wind being the person that actually handcuffed the reporter after Joe Miller left the building. Why did the FBI have PAID informants working th Alaska Republican primary?
01-12-2013, 03:29 PM #5
This is the way it is all presented to the followers of the left by the Soros funded Center for American Progress.
ssues » Federal Budget
The Deficit Reduction We Have Achieved So Far
SOURCE: AP/Charles DharapakPresident Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about the fiscal cliff, Monday, December 31, 2012, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington.
By Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger | January 8, 2013
Since the start of fiscal year 2011, President Barack Obama has signed into law approximately $2.4 trillion of deficit reduction for the years 2013 through 2022. Nearly three-quarters of that deficit reduction is in the form of spending cuts, while the remaining one-quarter comes from revenue increases. (see Figure 1) As a result of that deficit reduction, the projected rise in debt levels from today through 2022 has decreased by nearly 10 full percentage points of gross domestic product. In fact, under today’s policies, debt levels in 2022—as a share of GDP—will be only slightly higher than they are expected to be by the end of next year. That doesn’t mean there is no more work to be done, but it does show we’ve come a long way already.
Congress has enacted several major pieces of legislation since the start of the 2011 fiscal year that will reduce future budget deficits relative to what they would have been had we continued forward under the policies in place before the enactment of those bills. The first of these deficit-reducing bills were the continuing resolutions passed between September 30 and December 21, 2010. Those bills provided temporary funding for a wide swath of government services and programs, but they did so at a lower level than funding had been for the previous year, after adjusting for inflation. Because the Congressional Budget Office assumes that this type of spending—known as discretionary spending—will increase each year with inflation, those first temporary appropriations bills in 2011 cut the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of discretionary spending from 2013 through 2022 by more than $400 billion.
The last temporary appropriations bill passed in December 2010 ran out on March 4, 2011. The new Congress then enacted several more temporary bills, and finally, on April 15, 2011, passed a full appropriations bill for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. This second half of the appropriations process also cut a substantial amount of spending. Each new appropriations bill passed by the new Congress cut funding even more than the first set had. The result was another approximately $180 billion in spending reductions over the 10-year period. Altogether, the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process reduced future discretionary spending by $585 billion, or about 4.3 percent.
Over the subsequent several months, Congress engaged in a protracted debate over the looming debt limit. The result of that debate was a bill titled the Budget Control Act. The act—also known as the debt-limit deal—reduced spending again. It did so mainly by setting caps on the overall amount of discretionary resources that Congress could allocate each year for the next decade. These caps were set even lower than the just-enacted, inflation-adjusted 2011 levels. So after already cutting spending several times to the tune of more than $500 billion, the Budget Control Act cut spending again—this time by approximately $860 billion. Together, the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process and the Budget Control Act are responsible for nearly $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending cuts. This is a whopping 10.6 percent reduction from inflation-adjusted 2010 spending levels.
All these direct programmatic spending cuts also have a secondary spending effect on the budget deficit. Reducing the deficit—either through spending cuts or revenue increases—allows the federal government to incur less debt, which in turn means that there will be less interest to pay back to lenders. In this case, that $1.5 trillion in spending cuts will also result in about $200 billion in reduced spending on interest payments.
In addition to the discretionary spending caps, the Budget Control Act set up a second process whereby a special congressional committee, known as the “super committee,” was tasked with finding an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If this “super committee” failed—which it ultimately did—a set of deliberately draconian spending cuts totaling approximately $1.2 trillion would be automatically triggered. Known as the “sequester,” those cuts were intended to be so damaging that Congress would work together to find a better way to reduce the deficit. Because Congress didn’t do that, however, the sequester was triggered and was set to kick in at the beginning of 2013.
The beginning of 2013 also happened to be the deadline for dealing with the expiring Bush tax cuts, as well as a number of other expiring tax and spending provisions. The combination of all these fiscal deadlines became known as the “fiscal cliff.” And the resolution of the fiscal cliff resulted in yet more deficit reduction.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act—the bill passed by Congress and signed by the president to avoid much of the fiscal cliff—extended most of the Bush tax cuts but allowed those that affected only households with incomes of more than $450,000 to expire, resulting in a 10-year revenue increase of a little more than $600 billion.
The bill also included a number of other deficit-reducing measures. It paid, with offsetting spending reductions, for a one-year patch of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate—a formula that, if left unfixed, results in very large cuts to Medicare doctors’ pay. Since most projections of the future budget deficit assume that Congress will continue to patch the Sustainable Growth Rate without paying for it, the American Taxpayer Relief Act reduces those future deficits by actually offsetting the cost this time.
Similarly, the fiscal cliff deal temporarily postponed the sequester, paying for it with offsetting spending cuts and revenue increases. As with the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, projections of future deficits assume that the sequester will not go into effect. Postponing the sequester without paying for it, therefore, wouldn’t increase the future deficit since projections already assume Congress will postpone it. But by paying for the delay, the future deficit actually becomes smaller than we expected.
Several questions remain regarding the rest of the sequester, however: Will it eventually go into effect? If not, will its repeal be paid for? If so, how will it be paid for? These questions will determine if even more deficit reduction ultimately comes out of the Budget Control Act and the American Taxpayer Relief Act. Since those questions are as yet unanswered, the effects of the remaining sequester are not included in this analysis.
Altogether, the American Taxpayer Relief Act will reduce deficits over the next 10 years by about $750 billion. Of that deficit reduction, approximately $630 billion comes from revenue increases, approximately $30 billion comes from programmatic spending cuts, and the rest comes from interest savings resulting from lower deficits. (see Figure 3)
So where does all this deficit reduction leave us? Since the start of fiscal year 2011, Congress and the president have cut about $1.5 trillion in programmatic spending, raised about $630 billion in new revenue, and generated about $300 billion in interest savings, for a combined total of more than $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction. The result is a substantial cut in how much publicly held debt the country is expected to hold 10 years from now. Instead of reaching nearly 93 percent of GDP, debt is now projected to total about 83 percent of GDP—fully 10 points lower. And while that won’t be enough to finally put the budget onto sustainable footing, it is a massive improvement. In fact, it’s about two-thirds of the way toward stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio.
It’s been a bumpy few fiscal years. But don’t let all the twists and turns obscure the simple fact that we actually have accomplished a significant amount of deficit reduction along the way. Three-quarters of that deficit reduction has been achieved through spending cuts totaling $1.8 trillion, with only one-quarter coming from revenue increases.
Michael Linden is the Director for Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress. Michael Ettlinger is the Vice President for Economic Policy at the Center.
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02-02-2013, 03:40 PM #6
02-03-2013, 09:21 AM #7
THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON HAS OBTAINED A SECRET LIST OF DONORS TO A SHADOWY LEFT-WING ORGANIZATION KNOWN FORMALLY AS THE DEMOCRACY ALLIANCE. THE GROUP, ORGANIZED BY BILLIONAIRE CURRENCY SPECULATOR GEORGE SOROS, HAS FUNNELED HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO AN INSTITUTIONAL NETWORK OF DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATIONS THAT DO NOT DISCLOSE THEIR DONORS EVEN AS THEY WORK TO ADVANCE A RADICAL POLICY AGENDA. CHECK BACK REGULARLY AS THE FREE BEACON EXPOSES THE INDIVIDUALS BEHIND THIS DARK MONEY CAMPAIGN.
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