Fox News continued its scandal-mongering campaign with an attempt to connect a Department of the Interior (DOI) investigation of the Gibson Guitar Corporation to recent reports that the IRS paid undue scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, misrepresenting Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz's political donations to Republicans and Democrats to claim that the Gibson Guitar investigation was politically motivated.
In 2009 and 2011, agents from the DOI's Fish and Wildlife Bureau investigated Gibson Guitar premises on suspicion that the company had violated environmental protections by illegally importing certain types of wood. Gibson Guitar admitted that it "may have violated" Madagascan laws and agreed to pay a $300,000 fine. The 2011 investigation was widely reported on by the media, but at the time, only Fox baselessly speculated that the political leanings of Juszkiewicz were to blame for the investigation into Gibson Guitar.
On May 28, Fox & Friends co-hosts again focused on the Gibson Guitar DOI investigation, reaching to connect it to reports that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups, reports which Fox have relentlessly pushed to frame as part of a larger government scandal. Co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that the existence of the IRS investigation report raised the possibility that Gibson Guitar may have been mistaken in thinking that its alleged improper use of "this eccentric, very rare wood was the reason why they were being investigated" by the DOI, and co-host Gretchen Carlson noted:
CARLSON: At the time there were whispers: oh, you know, the guy who runs the company is a conservative, he's given to Republicans in the past. Maybe that could have had something to do with it, because it turns out that they had done absolutely nothing wrong at the company. Well now some people are trying to put together the dots and draw the lines based on this IRS investigation. Could it be that some of these other things that were going on were also concerted targeted things?
But in 2011, Juszkiewicz himself directly pushed back against speculation that Gibson Guitar was targeted for political reasons. As The Wall Street Journal reported (emphasis added):
The fact that Gibson was singled out when other guitar makers use the same woods has fed speculation that the company was targeted--because it is not unionized, perhaps, or didn't donate enough to the Democratic Party.
"I don't think it's a political issue," Mr. Juszkiewicz says, shaking his head. "But I will say this: I wrote a letter to President Obama. I spelled out what happened. I said: You know, we got raided and here are the facts, I think it's unfair. What do you think we should do? No response."
Furthermore, in attempting to frame Juszkiewicz as a victim of political targeting, Carlson highlighted the fact that he had "given to Republicans in the past." However, Juszkiewicz's own campaign donations reveal that he donated to both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the 2012 cycle. An OpenSecrets.org search of political donation listed under the name Henry Juszkiewicz from "Gibson Guitar" from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 cycles yielded this list:
The vast majority Juszkiewicz's contributions went to the Consumer Electronics Association, which donated $163,300 to Republicans and $69,900 to Democrats in the 2012 cycle.
As Media Matters previously reported, there were legal reasons why Gibson Guitar was singled out for investigation. Quinnipiac University School of Law professor John Thomas noted that while other companies also import unfinished wood from India, irregularities on Gibson Guitar's paperwork raised red flags, and court documents have suggested that Gibson Guitar "knew that it was buying illegal woods" from Madagascar:
My take is that the 2009 and 2011 seizures are related in that Gibson's conduct has given USFW [US Fish and Wildlife Service] officials probable cause to be suspicious of Gibson's wood-buying activities. In 2008, Gibson, Martin, and Taylor officials [Guitar companies] toured Madagascar and observed the illegal logging operations. Martin and Taylor promptly stopped using Madagascar woods; Gibson did not. Internal Gibson emails, as quoted by the US Attorney's office appear to indicate that Gibson knew that it was buying illegal woods. Federal officials seized that wood and as per the 2008 Lacey Act amendments, need not charge Gibson with a crime. Gibson must prove the legality of the wood to secure its return. Gibson has been unable to do that. [After the November 2009 raid, Gibson stopped buying wood from Madagascar.]
The 2011 seizure concerned Indian woods that would be legal but for the thickness. I believe that USFW is investigating because of suspicions due to 1) Gibson using the same wood supplier as it did for the Madagascar woods, 2) irregularities in the wood designations on the paperwork that could be due to innocent error or intentional attempt to deceive officials as to the thickness of the wood and 3) though Gibson is the ultimate purchaser, the paperwork lists an intermediary, LMI, which delivers the wood to a warehouse near the Nashville airport. Gibson retrieves a bit of the wood at a time when it needs it.
Fox News contributor and Republican pollster Frank Luntz praised the ability of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to communicate without disclosing that both men were past clients of his.
During a Fox & Friends appearance on Wednesday, communications strategist Luntz claimed that "almost no politician is connecting right now" with voters because "the American people are so angry and frustrated with Washington." He then highlighted the supposed ability of Rubio and Ryan to connect with voters, highlighting real-time responses given by his focus group as Rubio talked about immigration and Ryan talked about federal debt.
Luntz claimed that the tone Rubio used in the remarks Luntz selected for the focus group is "why he is becoming one of the most popular politicians in America today." Luntz added that the Ryan remarks he selected for the focus group proved that Ryan "has this ability to transcend traditional partisan politics":
Luntz did not disclose that both lawmakers were formerly his clients. According to a January 2012 Wall Street Journal article, Rubio hired Luntz to help him craft his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future" when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives:
Mr. Rubio, a budding GOP activist in Miami when Mr. Gingrich unveiled the Contract With America in 1994, modeled his speakership on Mr. Gingrich's. He recruited Frank Luntz, who did polling work for the Contract With America, to help him craft his "100 Innovative Ideas." In a 2006 speech before the Florida House, Mr. Gingrich singled out Mr. Rubio, who was about to become the state's first Cuban-American speaker, as a potential national figure.
"Rubio's approach...came straight from the concept of the Contract," Mr. Luntz said, adding that Messrs. Rubio and Gingrich "shared a similar approach to governing."
And according to Federal Election Commission filings from the 2012 election cycle, Luntz received $45,000 from Ryan's congressional campaign for polling and consulting services.
Luntz previously praised Ryan in his capacity as CBS analyst while failing to disclose his financial ties to the Ryan campaign. Luntz also praised an American Crossroads anti-Obama ad during the 2012 presidential election without disclosing that Crossroads paid him for surveying and polling services.
A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust's funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests.
Between 2008 and 2011, Donors Trust doled out over $300 million in grants to what it describes as "conservative and libertarian causes," serving as "the dark money ATM of the conservative movement." Donors Trust enables donors to give anonymously, noting on its website that if you "wish to keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues," you can use it to direct your money.
One of the "controversial issues" that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions.* The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged:
Several of these organizations have sown confusion about the science demonstrating climate change. The Heartland Institute, which The Economist called the "world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change," received over $14 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, making up over a quarter of Heartland's budget. in 2010. In 2012, Heartland launched a billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate science to The Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro. Several corporate donors distanced themselves from the organization, but Donors Trust made no comment. Heartland removed the billboard soon afterward but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Meanwhile, The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) received over $4 million from Donors Trust from 2002 to 2011, accounting for over 45 percent of CFACT's budget in 2010. The highest-paid member of CFACT's staff is Marc Morano, who runs a website that pushes misleading attacks on climate science. Morano defended Heartland's billboard and said that climate scientists "deserve to be publicly flogged." Despite Morano's sordid background, CNN twice hosted him to "debate climate change and if it is really real" without disclosing that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization. CFACT lists the Forbes columns of Larry Bell, who calls global warming a "hoax," as "CFACT research and commentary." The organization is advised by several prominent climate misinformers, including Lord Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon.
The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) has revealed the sources of approximately $18.8 million of Donors Trust's funding from 2008 to 2011, culled from Internal Revenue Service filings. That leaves over $281 million in anonymous funds during that period, assuming that the organization gives out approximately as much as it takes in each year.
While the individuals and corporations funding Donors Trust remain largely hidden, we know that at least five separate foundations connected to Koch Industries have given over $3.8 million to Donors Trust in recent years. Koch Industries, owned by brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, is the largest privately owned company in the U.S. and controls several oil refineries and pipelines.
Fox turned to undisclosed Mitt Romney supporter Ken Blackwell to attack President Obama's efforts to gain the support of women voters in Ohio.
In the latest example, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed Blackwell, a former Republican Ohio Secretary of State. Blackwell claimed that the presidential race in Ohio had narrowed because Romney had closed "a tremendous gap that existed with women."
But Fox did not disclose that Blackwell is the chair of the Tea Party Victory Fund, an organization that has spent more than $144,000 to help Romney win the presidential election - even though Fox previously identified Blackwell as affiliated with another pro-Republican super PAC.
In August, Neil Cavuto hosted Blackwell on his Fox show Your World to promote an offshoot of the Tea Party Victory Fund, Defend Paul Ryan PAC. Blackwell described the organization's purpose as "making sure that the opposition and Obama forces don`t define, distort, and destroy Paul Ryan`s record and his chances of becoming, you know, Romney`s vice president."
During his Fox & Friends appearance, Blackwell dismissed the Republican Party's efforts at the state and federal level to restrict women's reproductive health choices. He claimed that the Obama campaign "overplayed their hand in thinking that women were only concerned about abortion rights and contraception when many women in Ohio are worried about jobs and the education of their children."
Usually Erick Erickson does you the courtesy of getting past the headline before lying, but now that we're less than a month from Election Day he's apparently decided to dispense with pleasantries.
"I Donated to Barack Obama," declares the headline to Erickson's latest blog post, wherein the CNN contributor documents his attempt to demonstrate that President Obama's campaign is committing some sort of fraud through an "illegal donor loophole" that allows them to accept contributions from overseas (a right-wing meme that's actually a bit of warmed-over nonsense from 2008). Not until the 13th paragraph do we learn that Erickson, after attempting to donate to Obama as a Russian with a made-up passport number, actually had his contribution rejected by the campaign.
So he didn't donate to Barack Obama. Nor did he document any evidence of fraud (in fact he demonstrated that the campaign's anti-fraud measures are working, as he would have known had he read the Obama campaign's statement after John Hinderaker tried this same exact stunt in April). But he had to write something, right? He went to all that effort. Just for us.
Outlining the growing controversy about the timeline of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital career, CNN's Jim Acosta recently asked the candidate if he believed he was "being swift-boated in this campaign." Later that same evening, reporting on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN's Tom Forman forged a tighter connection, suggesting "Republican analysts fear Mitt Romney could become the second politician from Massachusetts swift boated out of the presidency."
Here's how Forman describe the Swift Boat affair [emphasis added]:
FORMAN: He's talking about the Swift Boat campaign, in which President Bush's challenger John Kerry was demonized over what his campaign considered an attribute. His decorated service as a soldier in Vietnam. The Swift Boat ads, backed by a group of pro-Bush veterans, questioned the Democratic challenger's conduct in the war, his anti-war activities later and his patriotism.
Kerry was slow to respond and never very effective in refuting their claims even though his critics offered little in the way of proof. He lost the election of course. And for many Democrats, swift-boating became a catch-all term for any unfair, untrue, personal assault on a candidate.
Trying to tie contemporary questions about Romney's Bain past with an infamous GOP smear campaign is an exercise in false equivalency. "The Swift Boat campaign was completely a lie," Esquires' Charles Pierce recently reminded readers. "Nothing the Swifties said about John Kerry was true." And yet, despite the cavernous gap between the Swift Boat affair and the ongoing Bain story, the comparison continues to gain currency.
The conservative Washington Examiner editorial page on Monday lamented the "Swift-Baining of Mitt Romney." What had the Obama campaign done that was so unfair to the Republican candidate? It had "seized on reports by liberal websites Mother Jones and Talking Points Memo -- and later by the Boston Globe -- citing Securities and Exchange Commission filings that listed Romney as the CEO of Bain after he was said to have left for the Olympics."
Quoting news outlets that cite government documents regarding Romney's employment record now constitutes a smear campaign?
Let's stipulate this fact going forward: A candidate having his résumé or biography examined during the course of a presidential campaign does not constitute being "swift boated." Enthusiastic "vetting" of candidates' backgrounds is a routine aspect of general elections.
The distinguishing feature of a Swift Boat smear campaign, of course, was that virtually every single war-era allegation made against Kerry's military service proved to be false, leaving the assumption that the entire point of the coordinated, deep-pocketed attack was to purposefully spread as manly lies as possible. And not just small fibs, but truly unconscionable lies about a serviceman's record during the unpopular Vietnam War.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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In his regular Monday appearance on Fox & Friends, Donald Trump promoted "Dine with the Donald," a fundraising contest for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in which donors to Romney's campaign are entered for a chance to win a stay at the Trump Tower and a dinner with Trump and Romney. During the segment, Trump touted a previous event in which he "raised a lot of money for Ann Romney" while the three co-hosts allowed Trump to promote his upcoming fundraiser. From Fox & Friends:
TRUMP: The big dinner is going to be the Trump dinner. You know that, dine with Donald, you know that. Well, Mitt Romney and the whole group came up with a plan. They were looking for a big celebrity, and then somebody said, "we have the biggest celebrity. It's Trump."
They said, "you're right." And they're having a dinner, dine with Trump, and it's going to be like in a month, and I'm going to be involved in a dinner. And I hear it's selling like hot cakes. And Mitt Romney is going to join us for the dinner. And I think it's going to make a lot of money.
This promotion of this Romney fundraiser comes less than a week after Fox & Friends aired a Fox-produced, four-minute anti-Obama attack ad. This is also hardly the first time that Fox and its guests have promoted pro-GOP fundraisers.
On ABC's This Week, George Will and Laura Ingraham engaged in a bit of revisionism to try to distance conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts from an incendiary plan to re-manufacture the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, and in the process accused the New York Times of journalistic malpractice. Will claimed that Ricketts, who commissioned the plan, immediately repudiated the proposal, while Ingraham asserted that he "didn't even see" it. In fact, the proposal stated that Ricketts had given "preliminary approval" of the plan and commissioned it in part because he thought it was a mistake that John McCain's campaign refused to use Wright to attack Obama in 2008.
During a discussion of the plan, which was made public by the New York Times, Will claimed that Ricketts "repudiated [the proposal] the instant he saw it." Will went on to accuse the Times of fudging the facts of Ricketts' involvement because "it didn't fit their narrative: billionaire behaving responsibly."
Fellow panelist Ingraham added: "As far as I know, he didn't even see this proposal -- I believe, George -- and the idea that he was considering it was a total false narrative put forward by the New York Times to send a message to other people, don't you dare get involved in this election in any type of, quote, 'controversial,' way."
But their contentions aren't supported by the facts.
From the April 27 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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The conservative hosts of Fox News' The Five acted horrified at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's statement that she wants to "amend the Constitution" to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a decision that Pelosi said "flies in the face of our founders' vision." The Fox hosts acted as if this was a radical idea, but Fox hosts and congressional Republicans have repeatedly proposed amending the Constitution.
Fox News continued its history of favorable treatment of Herman Cain with a nearly half-hour long interview that completely ignored questions that have reportedly been raised about the legality of early funding to Cain's presidential campaign.
On October 30, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Cain's two top campaign staffers ran a non-profit group that paid for early campaign expenses, which "might breach federal tax and campaign law." The article further reported:
Election law experts say the transactions raise a host of questions for the private organization, which billed itself as a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the Cain team.
"If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds," said a Washington, D.C.-based election lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues. The lawyer asked not to be identified because of those affiliations.
The Washington Post reported on October 31 "Such payments are forbidden under federal tax and election laws, because nonprofit charities are not allowed to donate money or services to political campaigns, according to election law experts." On November 7, the Journal Sentinel further reported that federal investigators were under pressure from outside groups to investigate financial transactions connected to the Cain campaign.
Fox in general, and Neil Cavuto in particular, promoted Cain for months before he announced a run for president, dating back to April 2010. In September 2010, Cain himself noted that "Neil has been trying to drag" a presidential announcement "out of me for months now." Cain has also called Cavuto "one of my closest friends."
So it's no surprise that when Cavuto aired a pre-recorded interview of Cain on Friday which took up half of his Fox News show, Cavuto never mentioned reports that Cain's campaign may have violated federal election and tax laws.
From the October 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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On his Fox News show tonight, Sean Hannity attacked President Obama for hosting a birthday fundraiser, claiming that Obama was "turning his back on the American people" at a time when the nation is struggling with debt and a slow economy.
During the segment, Hannity aired a graphic prepared by the "Fox News Brainroom" that claimed Obama had headlined 37 "re-election fundraisers" "to date," while President George W. Bush had only headlined three fundraisers "as of June 2003."
First of all, the numbers shown for Bush are simply untrue.
In June 2003 -- shortly after Bush had declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, but with fierce fighting still going on in the country -- Bush headlined re-election fundraisers on June 17, June 20, and June 23. Bush then capped off the month with two fundraisers on June 27.
Note to Fox's "Brainroom": That's five fundraisers in June 2003 alone. And these are just the events in which Bush made a speech that was posted on his White House website.