The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin interviewed Tim Miller, executive director of a new conservative political action committee centered on opposition research, who reminisced about how conservative operatives successfully used blogger Matt Drudge to push debunked or thinly-researched smears against Democrats in 2004, describing it as a "great model" that needs to be updated.
In a March 24 post at Rubin's "Right Turn" blog, Miller described his organization, America Rising, as being dedicated to the "collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats," and uses Drudge's DrudgeReport.com circa 2004 as a model to return to (emphasis added):
Last week former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and two young Republican sharpshooters, Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, announced they would set up a new organization, America Rising, devoted to the collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats and a counterpart to the hugely successful American Bridge on the left. On Friday I sat down with Miller and Pounder at a Capitol Hill Starbucks to talk about their new venture.
They plan on instigating nothing less than a revolution in the way the right does and uses oppo research. They are keen on connecting research to communication and every other aspect of campaigns. Pounder tells me, "It must be responsive to the news cycle and polling." Miller jokes that "research has been people sitting in a dungeon or going through trash cans" and then funneling the information up to a press person to send out in a mass e-mail. Miller says, "Now you have to drive the news cycle."
The Romney campaign was certainly hobbled by the Democrats' opposition machine, which cranked out information on everything from Bain to Cayman bank accounts, funneled it to friendly press outlets and the Obama super PAC, and kept the Romney team on perpetual defense. But the problem is not specific to the Romney campaign. Miller recalls, "We had a great model in 2004 -- research guys who fed to Drudge. Drudge drove the mainstream media." But, he says, "in a lot of ways we haven't done a good job of updating [that model]. Over time we rested on our laurels."
In 2006, ABC News highlighted Drudge's influence on media, particularly in the 2004 election cycle, saying, "Republican operatives keep an open line to Drudge, often using him to attack their opponents...And then the mainstream media often picks it up."
Drudge did help drive stories to Fox News, right-wing radio and other outlets during the 2004 presidential election, but much of the blogger's content -- which included discredited attacks on John Kerry's military service -- was thinly-researched, deceptively edited, or flat-out wrong.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh used lyrics from a recently-released song by Beyoncé to claim that the singer "now understands it's worth it to bow down" to her husband. On the March 20 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh claimed that Beyoncé's new track "Bow Down/I Been On" conveys the message that women should be submissive to their spouses, saying, "She got married, she married the rich guy, she now understands -- she now understands it's worth it to bow down."
However, others have noted that Beyoncé's lyrics are directed at her critics. From Slate.com:
What's interesting about the better (and shorter) portion of the song, "Bow Down," is not so much the grandiose, rap-style boasting, nor the repetition of "bitches" (or sometimes, "bishes") in the chorus; Beyoncé's been trading on the "Queen Bey" thing for quite some time, on similarly styled tracks like "Diva" and "Run the World (Girls)." What's alarming is that it seems to be directed at a very specific audience: The women who have criticized her. The opening lyric begins, "I know when you were little girls/ You dreamt of being in my world/ Don't forget it, don't forget it/ Respect that: Bow down, bitches."
"I took some time to live my life, but don't think I'm just his little wife / Don't get it twisted, get it twisted, this my shit, bow down bitches," Beyoncé sings, sounding just like Beyoncé.
Limbaugh's pro-submission tirade is just the latest in a long history of anti-woman commentary -- most notably his sexist attacks against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke -- that have resulted in a mass exodus of advertisers from his show.
The Washington Post's editorial board has adopted the right-wing fixation on the interruption of White House tours while ignoring cuts to critical services in both of its sequester-related editorials since cuts took effect on March 1. The first lauded the decrease in federal support for remote, small-town airports while the second decried the halted tours on Pennsylvania Avenue -- odd priorities for outrage given the devastating effects sequester cuts are having on basic government services like paving roads and caring for seniors, the unemployed, and schoolchildren.
In its most recent editorial, the Post described the cancellation of White House tours as "bureaucratic hostage-taking," and opined that the media backlash against the Obama administration was "proper comeuppance":
The popular tours have been suspended indefinitely as part of the response to the so-called sequester that went into effect March 1, mandating across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion. The decision - coming just as Washington readies for the busy part of its tourist season, when cherry blossoms bloom and school groups on spring break descend on the nation's capital - prompted an immediate outcry.
Administration officials, The Post's David Nakamura reported, said the decision was made by the Secret Service, which estimated that ending the tours would save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs. Why overtime is needed for the self-guided tours that are plotted out with plenty of advance notice is anybody's guess. But even accepting the explanation by a Secret Service spokesman that the decision involved a broader reassignment of officers to minimize furloughs, is the $2 million that's estimated to be saved through September really worth the price of shutting Americans out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
The Post's criticism ignores the plethora of budget cuts to critical government services that have taken effect since March 1. While the paper's news coverage has reflected the harm these cuts have on the country's most vulnerable populations, the editorial board has turned a blind eye to them.
The Post isn't the only media outlet focusing on White House tours in the wake of sequestration. As ThinkProgress pointed out, major cable news networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have mentioned the tour cancellations 33 times as often as other effects.
Meanwhile, regional newspapers have picked up on some of these real sequester impacts overlooked by many national media outlets: cuts like reductions in military tuition assistance, decreased funding for volunteer programs like VISTA and Americorps, and slashes in healthcare spending.
Local officials from across the country are in the Post's backyard this week, lobbying Congress to pay attention to the devastation being wrought on municipal governments' ability to provide basic services like paving sidewalks, mitigating damage from natural disasters, and providing school lunches to students.
When will the Post's editorial pages accurately reflect the effects of the sequester storm?
Fox News' Sean Hannity followed up two days of attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) by trying to link the Muslim congressman to Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam. The attack was just the latest in Hannity's long history of anti-Muslim attacks on Ellison.
On the February 28 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity tried to link Ellison to Farrakhan:
Hannity's allegations follow a long line of smears that he and his peers at Fox News have leveled at Ellison and the Islamic faith. The attacks began as far back as 2006, when Hannity attacked Ellison's intention to take the oath of office on a Quran. Hannity suggested that using the Muslim holy book for a swearing-in was comparable to using "Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible."
Days after Fox News began deceptively cropping President Obama's comments regarding automatic spending cuts, a similar attack emerged in an ad by the Republican National Committee. Like Fox's manufactured attack, the ad is being criticized for taking Obama "wildly out of context."
Media Matters originally found that Fox News had taken a 2011 speech by Obama out of context in order to claim that he threatened to veto any replacement for looming budget cuts. The unedited version of his speech, however, clearly shows that the President was calling on Congress to reach an agreement that would avoid it. Shortly after Fox aired its attack, the RNC released an ad that followed Fox's playbook, accusing the president of standing in the way of any agreement to avoid the spending cuts:
After employing the same tactics as Fox, the RNC ad is being subjected to similar criticism. Buzzfeed posted the video under a headline that accuses the ad of taking "Obama wildly out of context."
As government scientists and policymakers attempt to safeguard disappearing populations of Atlantic Cod off of the New England coast with stricter catch limits, state and national media continue to ignore the role of anthropogenic climate change in displacing cod from their longtime habitats.
For over four hundred years, New Hampshire has maintained a thriving commercial fishing industry, reliant to a large degree on groundfish like the cod. Cod are now disappearing from the New England coast, and scientists are attributing this disappearance in part to warmer and more acidic waters -- driven by industrial emissions of carbon dioxide -- that are driving cod northward into preferred cold-water habitats.
Rising ocean temperatures pose a challenge for fish and wildlife managers attempting to protect these cod populations (and, by extension, the fishing industry in New England). From The Boston Globe (emphasis added):
Warming waters and an evolving ocean ecosystem possibly related to man-made climate change are contributing to the anemic populations, not just decades of overfishing, government officials say.
"While we are not blaming fishermen, this is not good news,'' said John Bullard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's regional chief. "We can control overfishing -- it's hard but we can do it -- but how do you control this?"
The only option, Bullard and other regulators say, is to dramatically restrict fishing to give the bottom-hugging fish any hope of a comeback.
On the February 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, New Hampshire Republican and noted "climate change skeptic" Sen. Kelly Ayotte attacked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) attempts to protect U.S. cod populations by implementing stricter catch limits. No one during this segment mentioned climate change:
And in Ayotte's home state, New Hampshire's largest newspaper -- the Union Leader -- has been following suit.
Ohio media reporting on Gov. John Kasich's (R) new education funding plan neglected to inform readers that the plan funnels millions of dollars in increased spending to private schools and charter schools whose operators have donated millions in campaign contributions to Kasich and Republicans in the state legislature.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported on the Kasich plan's significant enrichment of private school operators and the charter school management industry (emphasis added):
The $8.5 million expansion in the first year represents a 7 percent increase in allocations for vouchers. Based on the average voucher cost of $5,997, the additional funding could afford scholarships for more than 2,800 children by the end of the budget cycle in 2015.
The budget also expands funding for charter schools, adding an additional $100 per pupil for facility improvements at the privately operated alternative schools. That's an additional $11.9 million for charter schools based on the Beacon Journal's projection of 2011-2012 student enrollment figures.
The Beacon Journal didn't mention that the additional $11.9 million for charter schools represents a significant return on the investments of for-profit charter school operators who have helped fund Republican campaigns in Ohio for years. One such operator is David Brennan, whose White Hat Management is among the largest for-profit charter school operators in the state. Brennan and his immediate family contributed over $430,000 to Ohio Republicans in 2010, including $46,000 to Kasich's gubernatorial campaign, according to a Plunderbund.com review of state campaign disclosures. Brennan and another for-profit charter school operator, William Lager, have reportedly funneled over $4 million to Ohio Republicans since 2001.
Ohio's largest print news outlets -- including the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dayton Daily News, Toledo Blade, and the Beacon Journal -- not only ignored the financial connections between Kasich's charter-friendly plan and his campaign donors, they also failed to note that the charter school industry is receiving this boon despite consistently performing well below Ohio's traditional public school districts. Recently released report cards for the 2011-12 school year indicated that "while 92 percent of the state's public school districts scored effective or higher...only 26 percent of charter schools did."
Brennan's White Hat Management has a particularly poor record of academic success, according to reporting by NPR.org. NPR's examination found that for the 2010-11 school year, no White Hat school in Ohio earned higher than a "C" on the state report card, and most received a rating of "D" or "F." White Hat was also sued by the schools it manages for pocketing "at least 95 percent of the schools' tax funding."
Nevertheless, White Hat stands to benefit from Kasich's new plan. Unfortunately, Ohio's parents and students are not benefitting from adequate media focus on Kasich's continued financial conflicts of interest.
As Republican lawmakers in Virginia moved to further tighten the state's voter ID requirements, the state's two largest newspapers abandoned the larger factual context of the debate by failing to report the scarcity of voter fraud and the state's history of voter disenfranchisement.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Norfolk's Virginian-Pilot reported that both a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee and the Senate Privileges and Election Committee approved separate bills that would further tighten Virginia's voter ID requirements. The newspapers each employed a he-said/she-said presentation of the debate and failed to inform readers of the fact that in-person voter fraud -- the kind of fraud ID laws are supposedly meant to mitigate -- is extremely rare.
From the Times-Dispatch, which characterized the arguments for and against the proposed photo identification election bill in shallow back-and-forth fashion:
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1256, has said it would help ensure integrity in elections and deter voter fraud, while critics said it would further disenfranchise poor, elderly and minority voters.
Democrats, voting groups and civil rights organizations accuse Republicans of attempting to suppress the vote.
Meanwhile, the Virginian-Pilot balanced a pro-voter ID anecdote from a House panel witness who found "that someone else had voted under her name in 2008" against "a variety of other speakers -- representing groups from the League of Women Voters to the NAACP," who opposed the ID requirement "as costly and unnecessary, saying it would disenfranchise minority, elderly and low-income Virginians."
The Times-Dispatch and the Virginian-Pilot ignored objective realities about the kind of "voter fraud" Sen. Obenshain claimed to be fighting. According to NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, in-person voter fraud is "more rare than getting struck by lightning." Investigations by The New York Times, News21 and Demos have all found little or no evidence of in-person voter fraud, and there are no credible claims that voter fraud swayed the outcomes of any major election in 2012.
The editorial board of the Times-Dispatch acknowledged the scarcity of voter fraud in an editorial on January 17, describing voter impersonation as "virtually nonexistent" and noting that "the evidence of need for [tightened voter-ID requirements] is almost as scant as the evidence of Bigfoot." Yet this fact remained absent from the newspaper's January 30 news coverage of the voter ID debate.
Furthermore, both newspapers missed an opportunity to inform readers about Virginia's history of race-based voter disenfranchisement -- a history that remains procedurally relevant thanks to the Voting Rights Act, which (via Section 5 of the Act) requires states like Virginia to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before they may finalize changes to their electoral system.
Virginia media followed in the footsteps of the Associated Press, which failed to note the importance of the VRA in a similar story about a Republican voter ID push in North Carolina earlier this month. While the Virginian-Pilot acknowledged the existence of the VRA in the lawmaking process, it failed to explain the state's history of voter disenfranchisement, which is why the VRA Section 5 applies to Virginia. The Times-Dispatch failed to mention the Act at all.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli proposed an agreement with power companies that would repeal state incentives for clean energy programs and save the companies money, but the Associated Press and the Richmond Times-Dispatch failed to note that Cuccinelli, who is running for governor in 2013, recently received major contributions from Dominion Power, Koch Industries, and other companies that could directly or indirectly profit from the proposed agreement.
From the Times-Dispatch:
Customers of Virginia's two big electric power companies likely will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 12 years under an agreement worked out between the state Attorney General's Office and the utilities.
The proposal would repeal the state's bonuses for renewable energy programs and building fossil-fuel power plants. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a report in November that the bonuses have not produced intended environmental gains or encouraged power plant construction.
The article noted that the proposal would "reduce Dominion Virginia Power's revenue requirements by $38.5 million," and provide the following benefits to the power companies:
• expanding the financial performance limits defining when the companies "overearn" or "underearn" compared with their state-authorized rate of return; and
• allowing utilities to recover the costs of catastrophic natural events and early power plant closings, because of new environmental rules or factors beyond the companies' control, during the biennial review period they occur for financial reporting purposes.
A Dominion Power statement called the proposal "another step forward for Dominion Virginia Power's customers."
Neither the Times-Dispatch nor the Associated Press mentioned that Cuccinelli has recently received $10,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion Power's political action committee and another $50,000 from the Koch brothers, who are deeply invested in the oil and gas industry. Other large contributions from the fossil fuel industry have been recorded, including Alpha Natural Resources, a coal company notorious for its dangerously poor safety record.
Right-wing rhetoric on potential gun control measures in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, continued to come unhinged as right-wing radio host Mandy Connell (Kentucky's WHAS-AM) compared a proposed firearms policy to the Nazi practice of forcing Jewish Germans to wear yellow stars.
Louisville radio station WFPL described the exchange between Connell and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) which took place on January 10:
In a tense exchange over gun control, WHAS radio host Mandy Connell told Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., some regulations could be the first step in total citizen disarmament.
Yarmuth has co-sponsored a bill that would ban high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and is a proponent of other regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre.
In an on-air interview with Yarmuth on Thursday, Connell said responsible gun owners should also be concerned about further regulations, and compared attempts to register legal gun owners to the Nazi regime tagging Jewish Germans.
"Every country in the world that has taken and de-armed its citizenry started with incremental gun measures," she said. "This is not unprecedented in history and anybody that pays attention is right to be concerned of an overly intrusive government. Things like Diane Feinstein requiring gun owners to register if they're already a legal gun owner. Why don't we make them wear yellow stars as well? Why don't we tag everybody?"
Connell's statements aren't isolated. Right-wing media figures ranging from Matt Drudge to personalities on Fox News have dipped into the Nazi analogy pool in recent days. Drudge linked to a report about a potential executive order regarding guns by placing photos of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin adjacent to the headline. A variety of Fox News' guests and contributors, as well as other right-wing pundits, have made similar comparisons.