March 4, 2021 / by 


Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

images5thumbnail1.thumbnail.jpegAdam Cohen of the New York Times is a fairly astute writer on legal issues, and he has a new article up on the interesting case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case involves the ability of corporations to further pollute elections in the United States with unregulated big money. From Cohen’s NYT article:

The founders were wary of corporate influence on politics — and their rhetoric sometimes got pretty heated. In an 1816 letter, Thomas Jefferson declared his hope to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

This skepticism was enshrined in law in the early 20th century when the nation adopted strict rules banning corporations from contributing to political campaigns. Today that ban is in danger from the Supreme Court, which hears arguments next month in a little-noticed case that could open the floodgates to corporate money in politics.

The court has gone to extraordinary lengths to hear the case. And there are worrying signs that there may well be five votes to rule that the ban on corporate contributions violates the First Amendment.

If the ban is struck down, corporations may soon be writing large checks to the same elected officials whom they are asking to give them bailouts or to remove health-and-safety regulations from their factories or to insert customized loopholes into the tax code.

The entire article is not that long and well worth a read for the history and set up for the case at bar. Cohen is right that the ban is in jeopardy; and the Roberts court does seem to have a hard on for this issue, having taken extraordinary steps to wade into this case, which is not that well set up for a Supreme Court determination on such a critical and far reaching issue.

The Court did indeed take a case in which the ban on corporate political contributions was not a central issue and instructed the parties to brief on the ban’s constitutionality. The Court then accelerated oral argument on its calendar to a September date before the new SCOTUS term even starts. This sure looks to be the handiwork of Chief Justice John Roberts; anybody who says Roberts is not an "activist judge", and has no agenda, is nuttier than a fruitcake.

I do wish, however, that Cohen had written a longer piece and gone into some of the other fascinating aspects of this very important case. First off, Cohen did not even mention that this is the infamous "Hillary: The Movie" case from the 2008 primary election campaign. Citizens United is a right wing political hatchet group run by David Bossie, one of the key front men for the Congressional Republicans pressing the Whitewater investigations. There is a lot of wingnut skulduggery rooting around in the background here.

Secondly, Cohen (nor I) isn’t kidding when he says the Court is reaching wildly to frame the issues as it has demanded on corporate campaign donations. The issues on appeal were originally: (1) did the 2003 decision in McConnell v. FEC resolve the constitutionality of as-applied challenges to the disclosure and disclaimer rules; (2) do said rules impose an unconstitutional burden when applied to ”political speech” protected by the FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life decision; (3) did the FEC v. Wisconsin Right To Life decision require, for regulation, a definite call for a vote for or against a candidate; and (4) whether a feature-length documentary can be treated as if it were an “ad” of the kind at issue in the McConnell v. FEC decision. With, really, a fair amount of emphasis on "4", whether the movie was a political ad. This is a far cry from where the Roberts Court is now heading.

Third, Cohen doesn’t mention the bizarre procedural history behind where the case sits now. SCOTUSWiki has an absolutely great history and explanation, written by Lyle Denniston, of the issues and process of Citizens v. Federal Elections Commission. Suffice it, for here, to say that the case has already been argued to the Court once and ought to be decided by now. Problem seems to be that Chief Justice Roberts was put off by the more liberal members questioning of Ted Olson after some passionate, but mostly tangential, First Amendment arguments he made at the first oral argument. Remember that horse manure that John Roberts pitched at his confirmation hearing about his "job being to call balls and strikes"? He lied through his teeth.

Lastly, there is the advance of the femme fatales Cohen forgot to mention. First, and foremost, is the newly sworn in Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It will be, of course, her very first case heard as the new junior member (Alito must be relieved to be off coffee and donuts duty) of the Court. Here is Russ Feingold questioning Sotomayor about Citizens United v. FEC at her confirmation hearing (as with all questioners, he didn’t get much out of her).

And then, of course, we have Obama’s crack Solicitor General Elena Kagan. At least Sonia Sotomayor has a long and deep history of work in trial and appellate courtrooms, both as an attorney and a jurist, under her belt. Not so Elena Kagan. The Justice Department has confirmed Kagan will indeed personally argue the case on September 9. By all accounts, and all I have been able to discern, Kagan’s first words on September 9 will be the first words she has ever uttered in battle in any kind of courtroom, anywhere, at any time, ever. That, in and of itself, is both fascinating and stupefying.

With all this time, and a whole Solicitor General’s office of more experienced attorneys, not to mention the DOJ, to help her with the training wheels, she should at least not embarrass herself you would think. But, then again, she will be up against Ted Olson, as seasoned a SCOTUS pro as exists on the face of the earth (and a distinguished former Solicitor General himself). We shall see; ought to be worth paying attention to I think.

Senator Al Franken!


Makes me smile:

Five years after he put his money behind the Swift Boat ads that helped tank John Kerry’s presidential campaign, Senate Democrats gave T. Boone Pickens a warm welcome at their weekly policy lunch Thursday. 

Or at least most of them did. 

Kerry skipped the regularly scheduled lunch; his staff said the Massachusetts Democrat “was unable to attend because he had a long scheduled lunch with his interns and pages.” 

Sen. Al Franken managed to make time for the lunch — but then let Pickens have it afterward. 

According to a source, the wealthy oil and gas magnate and author of “The First Billion Is the Hardest” stepped up to introduce himself to Franken in a room just off the Senate Floor after the lunch ended

Franken, who was seated talking to someone else, did not stand when Pickens said hello. Instead, Franken began to berate him about the billionaire’s financing of the Swift Boat ads in 2004.

I’m happy with people who want to partner with Pickens. Fine.

But don’t do it at a party caucus lunch.

Don’t make your former Presidential candidate schedule lunches with his interns and pages!!

What’s in Feeney’s File on Rove?

In my post on the dead-enders doing Dallas, I briefly noted an exchange between Rove and a former Tom Feeney staffer. The eye-popping part was Rove’s admission that he has a file on Feeney’s perceived disloyalty to Bush.  But just as interesting was the staffer, Jason Roe’s reminder to Rove that Bush owed his presidency to Feeney, the speaker of the FL House of Representatives during the 2000 recount.

Roe walked over to the table, "I’m Jason Roe."

Rove: "Oh, the famous Jason Roe."

Roe: "I don’t know that I’m famous, but I’m Tom Feeney’s former chief of staff, and I’m offended by your comments on Fox about Tom. You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom. And you made these really degrading comments about him that offended a lot of people."

(Sidenote: Tom Feeney was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives during the whole Bush/Gore 2000 recount.)

Rove: "Well, I have a file on the things Tom Feeney said about George Bush."

Roe: "That says more about you than me that you kept a file on Tom Feeney. This guy was so restrained in his desire to criticize the president — even against this staff’s advice." 

Rove: "I have a file."

Along with a bunch of other people, I nagged Brad Friedman, who has covered allegations that Feeney contracted with asked a software company in 2004 to rig touchscreen voting machines, to comment on the Roe reference. Brad separated out Feeney’s known role in 2000…

But as to the "You guys wouldn’t be in the White House without Tom" line, we don’t have any hard evidence of anything newly nefarious in that, given what is already on the public record concerning Feeney’s helping hand to Bush during the FL 2000 democracy abortion.

Amidst the 36 day battle following Election Day 2000 in the Sunshine State, Feeney, who was then Speaker of the FL House and arguably the second most powerful politician in the state (after Dubya’s brother Jeb, who was Governor at the time), made it clear that he was prepared to pass legislation in the Republican Florida House to grant all of Florida’s electors to George W. Bush no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court ended up deciding. As the state’s Constitution grants the power to determine Presidential Electors to the legislature, and that power has been passed on by them to the voting electorate, Feeney was prepared to take that power back for his buddy Dubya (Feeney had previously run as Jeb’s running mate in his unsuccessful 1994 bid for the Governorship), and select Bush’s electors by government fiat, no matter what the courts had determined.

Sleazy? Of course. We’d expect no less from Feeney. But nefariously illegal? Not really. But that, we suspect, is what Roe was most likely referring to in his comments to Rove.

Feeney had other roles to play, of course, in the theft of Florida’s 2000 election, according to the whistleblower Curtis who spoke of "exclusion lists" and the use of armed police at polling places in minority areas which, he says, "Feeney used to brag about".

..from the allegations of voting machine hacking that came out in 2004…

In his now fairly well known allegations against Feeney, first broken here in December of 2004, Curtis had alleged that Feeney first asked the CEO of the company where they both worked (Yang Enterprises Inc. — Curtis as computer programmer, Feeney as general counsel and registered lobbyist, even as he was also speaker of the FL House) for what amounted to a touch-screen vote-rigging software prototype, in "late September or October of 2000", according to his sworn affidavit [PDF]. That would have been just a month or two before the 2000 FL election, and the short demonstration program that Curtis says he created for him, wouldn’t likely have been in time to use for that November’s election. Furthermore, though a version of the program could easily have been adapted for use on central tabulating computers (the main vote counters), the progam was allegedly meant for use on touch-screen voting systems, which FL hadn’t yet been using at the time.

After the 2000 race however — where paper ballots were allegedly gamed in Palm Beach County, according to the stunning on-camera testimony of 7 former company employees from Sequoia Voting Systems who’d produced the bulk of the state’s punch-card paper ballots (broadcast video here) — Florida moved quickly thereafter to touch-screen voting systems across much of the state.

Thanks, Brad, for laying that out. Click through to Brad’s post for a review of still-unexplained issues with the 2000 election. 

Now, if Jason Roe has any further revelations about how Feeney helped out Bush, I’d be happy to hear it. 

Update: corrected some inaccuracies. Curtis alleged that Feeney asked Yang Enterprises to do the vote-rigging software in 2000, though there is no indication it was or could have been used in 2000. 

Steele and Boehner Go Gangsta

Well, you just knew that the GOP wouldn’t take the bonecrushing loss in last November’s elections to Rico Suave Obama and the too cool for school Dems lightly. They were, like an octogenarian on Viagra, going to get hip. Or a hip replacement. Whatever.

They started by electing the rootin tootin slick dick midnight mustache Michael Steele as RNC Chairman. When coupled with Boner John Boehner, their ultra- tanned sensitive Minority Leader, this is a clear cut recipe for the GOP surgarific return to power. Let’s check in on their street cred. From today’s CNN Political Ticker:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."

He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”

Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone — off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don’t do ‘cutting-edge,’” he said. “That’s what Democrats are doing. We’re going beyond cutting-edge.”

Booyah. Get down James Brown and Fitty Cent take a backseat. Now let’s look in on the Steeley One’s partner in vice, Boner Boehner. Oooh, here he is jawing up the GOP stimulus position (yeah, okay, bad imagery) and his homeboy. What a twofer:

The stimulus has passed. In addition to voting against it, Republicans are all over the airwaves trashing it.

The leader of their pack is John Boehner, the man with a tan. According to him, the stimulus will not create jobs. According to Michael Steele, the new RNC Chair, if you work and earn money, you do not necessarily have a job. According to all Republicans who voted no, this bill, with terrible ideas such as helping states pay for Medicare, assisting our elders and our children, is a disaster for our country.

That’s right; the Tan With a Plan. Wow. What a dynamic duo. Crockett and Tubbs roll in DC. Oh yeah, and Sistah McKracka is going to take the toobz by storm. What could possibly go wrong?

Thank You Howard Dean, for Showing Us the Way!

ewpic2.JPGWhen I went to Cedar Rapids to work for Howard Dean in 2004 (when he was still leading in the polls), we moshed him outside of the Jeff-Jack Dinner. But I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I went to an ACLU fund-raiser with Dean later that year, I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I went to a another fund-raiser with him in MI, I didn’t ask for a photo.

When I saw him speak at YearlyKos, I didn’t ask for a photo.

Last night, I got my first photo with Dean (It’s a pity I look so crappy). 

It was at the Netroots Nation ball. I was coming out of the ladies room and someone ran up and said: Howard Dean is at the top of the steps!  Like he was a rock star … which, in this crowd, he is.

For some reason, I wanted a picture this time, with the man who got us to where we are today. I ran up the stairs (and promptly found my friend from MI, whom I met on the Dean campaign). We moved close to get a picture. But one after another person pulled him away to get a picture. A staffer of his started moving him towards the stage. Someone, I’m not sure who, was standing nearby with that staffer’s coat. "Give it to me," I said.

I went up, leaned over to the staffer, said, "I’ve got your coat. But I want to get a picture with Dean so I can put it on the front page of FDL." Dean started to turn around at that point–I don’t think Dean even heard the last bit … "so we can bitch about Rahm." 

In response to the first bit: "I want to get a picture so I can put it on the front page of FDL," Howard Dean said, "Oh, I’ve got time for that."

So, for FDL, this is my picture with the man who did so much to get us where we are today.

Thank you Howard Dean, for showing us the way forward!

McCain Was The Most Reprehensible Of The Keating Five And He Hasn’t Changed

McCain & Keating Bahama Buds

McCain & Keating Bahama Boondoggle

Teddy at the Campaign Silo pointed out yesterday, citing a damning new article in The New Republic, that John McCain was almost certainly the source for a set of illegal leaks during the Keating Five investigation — leaks that, if proven, would have been cause for his expulsion from the United States Senate for perjury, not to mention the underlying corruption and malfeasance from his relationship with Charlie Keating.

As The New Republic related:

One day in early March 1986, John McCain, an Arizona congressman, sat down to write a letter. McCain had heard that a long-time friend and donor, Charles Keating, was upset for being listed as a member of McCain’s campaign finance committee when a more prominent position would seem more appropriate. So McCain apologized. Needlessly it turned out, for "Charlie," as he signed his letter, would reply a few days later: "John, don’t be silly. You can call me anything…I’m yours until death do us part."

The entire article is a must read; it is a brutally clear exhibition of John McCain’s deeply ingrained, pathological, self serving dishonesty and soulless backstabbing lack of honor.

Now the thing that most, if not all, have overlooked here is the timing of Charlie Keating’s retort; it is not just that it was before McCain was sworn in as a United States Senator, it was right as Keating was pumping big money into McCain’s general election campaign for his first run at Barry Goldwater’s old Senate seat.

Charlie Keating wasn’t helping a friend, he was buying what he considered to be a future President. And they both knew it.

As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Fitzpatrick, who knew McCain intimately, both socially and professionally, presciently said back in 1989:

You’re John McCain, a fallen hero who wanted to become president so desperately that you sold yourself to Charlie Keating, the wealthy con man who bears such an incredible resemblance to The Joker. Obviously, Keating thought you could make it to the White House, too.

He poured $112,000 [amount later shown to be far greater] into your political campaigns. He became your friend. He threw fund raisers in your honor. He even made a sweet shopping-center investment deal for your wife, Cindy. Your father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was cut in on the deal, too.

Nothing was too good for you. Why not? Keating saw you as a prime investment that would pay off in the future.

So he flew you and your family around the country in his private jets. Time after time, he put you up for serene, private vacations at his vast, palatial spa in the Bahamas. All of this was so grand. You were protected from what Thomas Hardy refers to as "the madding crowd." It was almost as though you were already staying at a presidential retreat.

Twenty years later and Fitzpatrick’s words still drill right into the dishonorable heart of John Sidney McCain III.

What kind of man was Charlie Keating buying? A man just like himself; a man who was all ambition and no conscience. A man completely self centered and who had no compunction bleeding senior citizens dry, bullying and berating adversaries and corrupting the process of government. A man like John McCain.

It was a Faustian bargain. It was also a bad joke on the rest of us and a disaster for many old people who lost their life’s savings to Keating.

The money was never really Keating’s to give. But he never would have got his hands on it if you and the rest of the Keating Five didn’t halt the government takeover for two long years while Keating’s people continued their looting.

And now, the tab for the Savings and Loan heist must be paid from taxpayer pockets.

But the most telling part about John McCain is not that he was centrally involved in the Keating Savings & Loan scandal, many politicians get involved in political corruption scandals. Four others, although to a far lesser extent, were indeed involved alongside McCain in the Keating scandal. As bad as that was, the worse, and telling part about John McCain, was the lying and backstabbing of his friends and associates for the sole reason of saving his own pitiful skin. John Sidney McCain did not hesitate for one split second to plant and twist the shiv in the back of everybody around him, from Charlie Keating himself to his fellow Senators.

It was, and is to this date, classic John McCain. More from the late, great Tom Fitzpatrick in 1989:

Since Keating’s collapse, you find yourself doing obscene things to save yourself from the Senate Ethics Committee’s investigation. As a matter of course, you engage in backbiting behavior that will turn you into an outcast in the Senate if you do survive.

Those who survive will be the sociopaths who can tell a lie with the most sincere, straight face. You are especially adept at this.

You sought out a master criminal like Keating and became his friend. Now you’ve discarded him. It shouldn’t be surprising that you are now in the process of selling out your senatorial accomplices.

You’re John McCain, clearly the guiltiest, most culpable and reprehensible of the Keating Five. (emphasis added)

Pat Murphy, the former editor and publisher of McCain’s hometown newspaper, The Arizona Republic, is another man who knew McCain well, as both a close friend and professional subject. Murphy had these words of wisdom and caution on the eve of McCain’s last Presidential run in 2000:

Those of us who’ve known John McCain since he began his Arizona political career made two mistakes.

First, overestimating the Washington media’s willingness to look beyond a politician’s self-serving façade.

Second, underestimating McCain’s skill in camouflaging his bullyboy ways and reincarnating himself as a lovable maverick glowing with political virtue.

If McCain becomes President, America will have more than a prickly president with a low boiling point. He carries grudges, fibs rather than admits mistakes, cannot endure criticism, threatens revenge, controls by fear, is consumed with self-importance.

My friends, this is the once and future John Sidney McCain III. It is an angry, unattractive and dishonorable picture, but it is the real deal. The real McCain. The singularly self serving, erratic, say and do anything dishonesty and perfidy exhibited in his campaign against Barack Obama are proof positive that he is indeed the same old McCain.

John McCain hasn’t changed, he never will. And he is not fit to serve as President of the United States.

John McCain Still Living The Keating Five Lush Highlife

John McCain was never the principled steadfast man his false front public image painted him to be; although it is true that he really has been in a downward spiral of dishonor and deception during this year’s campaign. Even many of his staunchest supporters in major media are starting to realize the brutal truth for what it is. Joe Klein, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, a host of journalists at ABC, Andrew Sullivan … each day brings a familiar voice admitting that they can no longer harmonize the McCain persona with the truth in front of them. Thank you to each and every one of them, and welcome to my world. As a native Arizonan I have been witnessing what you are now realizing since John McCain plopped his carpet bag down and set up shop here in our state.

John Sidney McCain III would have you believe his Charlie Keating Five Scandal days of corruption and influence peddling are all a thing of his distant past and that he is some sort of legendary reformer now. Nothing could be further from the truth, he is still hard deeply entrenched in the lavish, exotic trappings of swag and influence peddled by the modern day equivalents of Charlie Keating.

In fact, new reporting by Ari Berman and Mark Ames of The Nation, in their article The McCain-Follieri Love Boat, which just hit the presses at the end of last week details how McCain has spent yet another birthday, his 70th, vacationing with a criminal con artist, Hollywood celebrities and big money lobbyists on a yacht in Montenegro. It shows what Arizonans have known all along: McCain is still the same old glad handing, do anything to serve his own raw ambition, politician who celebrated his birthdays with Charlie Keating and other power brokers at Keating’s private Bahamas resort two decades ago.

Before we delve into the recent foray of John Sidney McCain III into political influence swag land, a refresher on McCain’s malfeasance in the Keating Five Savings & Loan Scandal is in order. From a Keating Five Scandal retrospective by The Arizona Republic:

McCain already knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain spoke.

After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier and that he greatly respected McCain’s war record. He met McCain’s wife and family. The two men became friends.

Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception.

In 1982, during McCain’s first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.

In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000.

By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.

McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.

The first meeting, on April 2, 1987, in DeConcini’s office, included Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, as well as four senators: DeConcini, McCain, Alan Cranston, D-Calif., and John Glenn, D-Ohio.

(Years later, McCain recalled that DeConcini started the meeting with a reference to "our friend at Lincoln." McCain characterized it as "an unfortunate choice of words, which Gray would remember and repeat publicly many times.")

For Keating, the meeting was a bust. Gray told the senators that as head of the loan board, he worried about the big picture. He didn’t have any specific information about Lincoln. Bank regulators in San Francisco would be versed in that, not him. Gray offered to set up a meeting between the senators and the San Francisco regulators.

The second meeting was April 9. The same four senators attended, along with Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich. Also at the meeting were William Black, then deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., James Cirona, president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and Michael Patriarca, director of agency functions at the FSLIC.

In an interview with The Republic, Black said the meeting was a show of force by Keating, who wanted the senators to pressure the regulators into dropping their case against Lincoln. The thrift was in trouble for violating "direct investment" rules, which prohibited S&Ls from taking large ownership positions in various ventures.

According to nearly verbatim notes taken by Black, McCain started the second meeting with a careful comment.

"One of our jobs as elected officials is to help constituents in a proper fashion," McCain said. "ACC (American Continental Corp.) is a big employer and important to the local economy. I wouldn’t want any special favors for them – "I don’t want any part of our conversation to be improper."

Black said the comment had the opposite effect for the regulators. It made them nervous about what might really be going on.

"McCain was the weirdest," Black said. "They were all different in their own way. McCain was always Hamlet . . . wringing his hands about what to do."

Keating’s businesses continued to spiral downward, taking the five senators with him. Together, the five had accepted more than $300,000 in contributions from Keating, and their critics added a new term to the American lexicon: "The Keating Five."

The Keating Five became synonymous for the kind of political influence that money can buy. As the S&L failure deepened, the sheer magnitude of the losses hit the press. Billions of dollars had been squandered. The five senators were linked as the gang who shilled for an S&L bandit.

S&L "trading cards" came out. The Keating Five card showed Charles Keating holding up his hand, with a senator’s head adorning each finger. McCain was on Keating’s pinkie.

Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain.

On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain’s wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.

The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating’s expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating’s opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.

McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433.

When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself.

"You’re a liar," McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.

"That’s the spouse’s involvement, you idiot," McCain said later in the same conversation. "You do understand English, don’t you?"

He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife’s ties to Keating.

The stench and taint is on not just the Senate, but Congress and the Federal government as a whole. The destruction of so many people, their life savings, and the national treasury for the bailout of the savings and loan industry caused by a powerful group of greedy and opportunistic businessmen and their lobbyists, through their bought, coddled and co-opted Congressional agents like John Sidney McCain III has faded from the American conscience and memory. It should never be forgotten, because it is a window into the ethos of the once and future John Sidney McCain III.

Yes, that’s right; not just the old John Sidney McCain III, but the present and future John Sidney McCain III as well. McCain did one of his patented swivel and pivot jobs and has, since the Keating Five misconduct, painted himself as some type of "reformer" of ethics and campaign finance corruption, nothing has changed about him once the surface is scratched. He is the same old John Sidney McCain III of the Keating Five he has always been.

How do you know he is the same old McCain? Just scratch the surface and take a look instead of relying on the false persona he pitches with the aplomb of an old fashioned snake oil peddler. Let me get the ball rolling for you (although if you turn over any of McCain’s rocks, you find the same rot upon close inspection). As promised at the beginning of this article, John Sidney McCain III is right back at conduct that is almost the twenty year separated mirror image of his dining on the teat of Charlie Keating.

The video at the top (h/t hidnusr) tells the story of John Sidney McCain III, con men and lobbyists. The basis is supplied in print by the Berman and Ames article from the Nation cited above, The McCain-Follieri Love Boat:

John McCain has been hammering rival Barack Obama for being little more than a vapid "celebrity" and "elitist." But The Nation has obtained a photo revealing just how star-struck a straight-talking maverick can become when offered the chance to celebrate his birthday aboard a yacht filled with celebrities–even if one of those celebrity types turns out to be an A-list con man.

During McCain’s visit in 2006 he celebrated with birthday cocktails and sweets aboard the Celine Ashley yacht. In the photograph, taken in Montenegro at the end of August, McCain is shown boarding the yacht ramp towards the smiling Follieri and Hathaway. Just ahead of McCain and shaking hands with Follieri appears to be Rick Davis–McCain’s top aide and now co-manager of his campaign, who accompanied him on the trip and advised the government of Montenegro. A few months after McCain’s yacht party, Follieri strengthened his ties to McCain’s orbit by retaining Rick Davis’s well-connected Washington lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, and offering Davis both an investment deal and help in securing the Catholic vote for McCain’s presidential bid.

McCain-FollieriYachtPicFollieri, who posed as Vatican chief financial officer in order to win friends and investments, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Manhattan district court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering. As part of the plea, Follieri admitted to misappropriating at least $2.4 million of investor money and redirecting it to foreign personal bank accounts that were disguised as business accounts.

An even bigger mystery is how Follieri’s boat came to be docked in Montenegro on McCain’s birthday. According to a journalist in Montenegro, the yacht had been anchored there for several days before McCain’s arrival, and only sailed away after McCain boarded. According to Vijesti, locals were told that McCain was meeting "friends from Florida" on the yacht.

According to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, in January 2007 Follieri sent Rick Davis a packet of information on his companies Follieri Capital and Follieri Media, apparently hoping to get financing from Pegasus Capital Advisors, a hedge fund in Connecticut that Davis represented. "Follieri’s proposal to Davis had two dimensions to it–first, as an investment opportunity for Davis’s fund; but secondly, there was the political dimension, in which Follieri offered to help deliver Catholic votes to McCain," said Claudio Gatti, a reporter for Il Sole 24 Ore, who investigated Follieri for eighteen months.

In February 2007, according to a recent article in the New York Daily News, Follieri retained Davis’s lobbying firm, Davis Manafort. According to the paper, "on Feb. 27, 2007, Davis Manafort partner Rick Gates signed a confidentiality agreement drafted by the Follieri Group.

John McCain is still freeloading with bigwigs, lobbyists and criminal influence peddlers in exotic and foreign seaside haunts of the wealthy. Sounds just like the Keating Five Scandal, where someone in McCain’s immediate personal orbit, in Keating it was his wife Cindy that got an unbelievable "financial opportunity" from the criminal con man and influence peddler (Keating) and McCain got the promised delivery of political support, huge contributions and vote delivery in the election he was engaged in. In Follieri, it is his best friend Lobbyist/Campaign Manager Rick Davis getting the big "financial opportunity" while McCain reaps the gain in campaign funding and delivery of much needed votes as he runs for the Presidency he craves at any cost.

How similar in appearance are these constants in John McCain’s real, ingrained political persona? Take a look at this photo of John Sidney McCain III living large and phat with multiple generations of the Keating clan, lobbyists and power brokers taken during McCain’s 51st birthday bash at Charlie Keating’s private Bahamas resort. Photo scanned from the September 12, 1993 edition of the Phoenix Gazette (original photo; color by teh wolf). From the same Gazette article, Krista Keating recalls the idyllic days she spent with McCain while he bonded and partied with Charlie Keating, his family, and his rich and powerful friends:

I watch Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous, and I see all the places we stayed.

She travelled to Paris, Monte Carlo, South Africa. She and C3 [Charles Keating III] lived for six months in Switzerland.

She partied with Michael Milken, Dolly Parton, Cheryl Ladd and lesser-knowns who wanted to be part of the Keating magic. She met the Pope.

There were vacations with John McCain and his wife, Cindy, to the Keating’s posh and private Bahamas resort, where she and C3 frolicked in the crystal blue waters with McCain, then a member of the US House of Representatives. They partied to the tunes of a calypso band hired by Keating and celebrated the August birthdays of McCain and C3, which are one day apart.

On the surface, it seemed the greatest freedom you could hope for. But Charles [Charlie] Keating was always there; always watching. (Emphasis added).

And so, here they are, matching bookends, then and now, on the career and ethos of John Sidney McCain III. Then Keating; now Follieri. McCain isn’t different; and he certainly is no "maverick" whatever in the world that amorphous term was supposed to mean in the first place. No, McCain is a standard issue, glad handing, moneyed up, self serving politician hocking his wares to whoever and whatever will benefit John Sidney McCain III the most at the time. Americans, and American media, are beginning to realize that there is nothing honorable nor unique about McCain and his political ethos. The shiny Earl Schieb paint job he has been fooling people with for years is wearing thin, and the real McCain is showing through; it is not an attractive sight, but it is the real John McCain.

The US economy is currently battered and on the precipice of significant meltdown from a housing and financial market scandal that is, although much larger in scope, eerily similar to the Charlie Keating led Savings & Loan crisis of the late 1980s that John McCain played such a significant role in. And once again, John McCain is out partying and pandering with money movers, power brokers and their lobbyists in posh and exotic foreign seaside haunts of the rich and famous.

For too long, McCain has been allowed to skate along in this election without acknowledgment and understanding by the press and the public of his deep involvement in the Keating Five Scandal. As another housing and finance scandal hangs like a guillotine over the necks of Americans, John McCain’s intimate ties with the power brokers, money men and lobbyists that create these scandals should be front and center in the discussion. John Sidney McCain III is, as so many are coming to realize, not an honorable politician, the US and world financial markets hang in the balance, and McCain’s Keating like tendencies should be known and considered.

My friends, John McCain is not "change you can believe in", just more of the same. More of the Same, and Old, McCain.

Did Vicki Iseman “Steal Honor” in THREE Presidential Elections?

John McCain denies any honor was stolen–neither his nor Ms. Iseman’s. Or rather, he denies "the story," though it’s not clear whether he’s denying that his relationship with Iseman was inappropriate or that he did favors for her. So I guess I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether she stole McCain’s honor in both the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections.

For the moment, though, I’m more interested in the 2004 election–the one McCain didn’t run in. You see, I find it a mighty curious coincidence that two of the companies for which Iseman was lobbying John McCain in 1999 and 2000–the time of their potentially inappropriate relationship–also happen to be the two television companies that championed the Kerry smear, "Stolen Honor," in 2004.

Stolen Honor

Stolen Honor, you’ll recall, was a 45-long propaganda piece, repeating the allegations the Swift Boaters made against John Kerry. It came out in September 2004 (as Republicans have promised a smear against Hillary or Obama will come out at precisely the same time this cycle). Shortly thereafter, Sinclair Broadcasting ordered its stations to pre-empt normal broadcasting to play the "documentary." Sinclair also fired one employee who complained about the order.

After a blogswarm in response, Sinclair’s advertisers started pulling their advertising, which eventually led Sinclair to cut back its plans for the "documentary," showing clips of it as part of a program on Vietnam POWs on just 40 of its stations.

Friday night brings to a conclusion the fiercest media battle of the presidential campaign, when 40 of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s 62 stations nationwide air a special program about the media and Vietnam War POWs. The show is likely to include generous portions of an anti-Kerry attack film, "Stolen Honor," that Sinclair executives had originally intended to air in its entirety just days before the election. In the face of lawsuits by stockholders, loss of advertising, questions about its abuse of the public airwaves and a falling stock price, however, Sinclair quickly cobbled together a revised program.

In the same time frame, Paxson Communications aired the entire "documentary" a number of times in the days leading up to the election, supported by NewsMax.

As FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein described, the two companies were two disturbing examples of politicized broadcast policies.

Recent events seem to validate claims that broadcasters’ news coverage has been increasingly devoid of information to help citizens participate in their democracy, or, worse yet, promoting an ideology or unbalanced political agenda thinly disguised as journalism.18 Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which refused to air an ABC Nightline tribute to U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq deeming the show “politics disguised as news,” then instructed its 62 television stations to preempt regularly scheduled programming to air a politically-charged documentary, “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” even going so far as to fire its long-time reporter Jon Lieberman for criticizing the company’s plans.19 Lieberman subsequently asserted that Sinclair’s entire news operation is systematically ideologically driven by its owners’ political perspective. Although Sinclair broadcast a modified program, Paxson, which sells much of its non-prime air time for paid programming, then quietly broadcast the “Stolen Honor” documentary in its entirety ten times the weekend before the election on the PAX broadcasting network as an infomercial.20

These two companies (which in 1999, when Iseman’s relationship with McCain was in question, accounted for two of just 15 companies she represented) happen to be the two that aired right wing propaganda combating Kerry’s election.

Incidentally, McCain condemned Sinclair’s refusal to air the Nightline tribute.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted Sinclair’s decision: "There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq." In response, Sinclair V.P. Hyman tried to demean the military service of the decorated former prisoner of war, "To be perfectly honest, it’s been 25 years since [McCain’s] worn a military uniform."

But he resisted appeals for him to condemn Stolen Honor, in spite of its arguable violation of campaign finance issues. When finally asked formally about it, he declined to make any statement about the "documentary" itself. Though in a statement that is height of hypocrisy, McCain stated that it was a problem of media consolidation.

At a fund-raiser in Philadelphia last night, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) complained of "media concentration" when asked about the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s decision to air Stolen Honor – a documentary critical of Sen. John Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War activities. McCain was asked about the film and its premise that Kerry’s antiwar comments prolonged the Vietnam conflict and the abuse of American prisoners of war. McCain, a former POW, said he had not seen the documentary and declined to discuss it. "I do have an opinion that this is an issue that results when you have media concentration, which I have been opposed to," he said at a fund-raiser for Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.). "When you have media concentration – this is the largest TV owner with 62 stations – this is something that happens." [my emphasis]

Paxson Communication

I said that it was the height of hypocrisy for McCain to complain about media concentration, because his contribution to the consolidation of Paxson Communication–the company whose plane he was flying around on, in the company of Vicki Iseman–is well documented.

The Alliance for Progressive Action and the QED Accountability Project charge Senator John McCain with influencing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval of a hotly contested three-way Pittsburgh public television license exchange and sale. The decision favors Paxson Communications, a contributor to McCain’s presidential bid. The community groups await a response from the General Counsel of the FCC to their late Monday request for an investigation of McCain’s unusual actions.

On November 17, 1999 the Senator and Presidential candidate instructed the FCC commissioners to take action on the deal no later than December 15, 1999. "If in your judgment the Commission cannot meet this request, please advise me of this fact in writing, with a specific and complete explanation, no later than November 18, 1999," wrote McCain.

In a second letter, dated December 10, 1999, written to FCC Chair William Kennard, McCain was even more forceful in his resolution. He demanded, "if the license applications were not acted upon" that Chairman Kennard "…explain why." Obviously feeling the pressure, the commissioners voted to approve the application. However, the FCC press release indicated that the 30-page opinion included four separate dissenting opinions.

Kennard responded to McCain’s letter by saying, "It is highly unusual for the commissioners to be asked to publicly announce their voting status on a matter that is still pending." He said such inquiries "could have procedural and substantive impacts on the Commission’s deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties." [my emphasis]

This is the intervention that McCain’s advisors were allegedly so worried about in 1999, when he first ran for President.

Sinclair Broadcasting

What’s less clear is his role in the consolidation of Sinclair Broadcasting–the very same network that, McCain complained, was too concentrated. In the same period when Iseman was lobbying McCain to approve the channel swap in Pittsburgh for Paxson, Iseman was also Alcalde and Fay’s lead partner lobbying for Glencairn Broadcasting. She listed the House and the Senate as the parties she lobbied; presumably that includes the then Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, John McCain, with whom she was flying around the country.

Glencairn was actually a shell corporation set up to allow Sinclair to own more than two broadcast stations in a particular market. While a former executive from Sinclair–who as an African American qualified the company as a minority owned business–was ostensibly its president, the Smith family (which owns Sinclair) owned a majority of Glencairn’s equity.

Sinclair operates six LMAs through a company called Cunningham Broadcasting, previously known as Glencairn Ltd. Cunningham is controlled by trusts in the name of Carolyn Smith, the mother of Sinclair president and CEO David Smith, as well as two Sinclair vice presidents, Duncan Smith and Frederick Smith, and Robert Smith, a director on Sinclair’s board.

The FCC established LMAs in the early-1990s to assist failing stations or to help start-ups share costs for such expenses as maintenance and advertising with older, established broadcasters.

However, Schwartzman says Sinclair used these business arrangements for the sole intention of eventually acquiring the stations themselves. "Sinclair has operated these LMAs as little more than a fig leaf for all but owning them outright," he said. "They’ve been pressed on this but unfortunately this FCC has let them off the hook."

Sinclair’s use of LMAs goes back to 1991 when it purchased WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh and then sold a Pittsburgh station it already owned, WCWB-TV, to a station employee, an African-American named Edwin Edwards. Edwards became the president of Glencairn, owning it under a minority tax-incentive program.

Between 1994 and 1997, Sinclair acquired second television stations in San Antonio, Greenville, S.C, Asheville, N.C. and elsewhere, placing them under Glencairn.

When the FCC liberalized its "duopoly rules" in 1999, permitting companies such as Sinclair to own two stations in markets with eight or more independent television owners, Sinclair applied to the FCC to purchase all of Glencairn’s stations.

However, Rainbow/PUSH, which has historically lobbied broadcasters to cover minority issues, filed a complaint charging that the company had "misrepresented facts and concealed the true extent of their business relationships" to own television stations that otherwise would not have been permitted under federal rules.


In November 2001, the FCC fined both Sinclair and Glencairn $40,000 for violations to the 1934 Communications Act. However, FCC Chairman Powell and two other Republican appointees approved Sinclair’s request to purchase all but six stations. Shortly afterward, Glencairn’s name was changed to Cunningham Broadcasting.

Sinclair itself did less than $20,000 of lobbying in 1999, 2000, and 2001 (the years during which its two-station shell gimmick was under investigation); another lobbying firm did less than $10,000 of lobbying in 1999 and 2000. Shaw Pittman (which has a retired partner serving on Sinclair’s board) was also registered as a Sinclair lobbyist at the time, though it reported no activity. Which suggests the better part of the lobbying done in this period was done by Iseman and her colleagues (listed as $80,000 a year)–and done primarily through Congress, without contacting the FCC directly.

And at least according to what other lobbyists have to say about Iseman, her big asset in her lobbying portfolio was her access to John McCain.

Three telecom lobbyists and a former McCain aide, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Iseman spoke up regularly at meetings of telecom lobbyists in Washington, extolling her connections to McCain and his office. She would regularly volunteer at those meetings to be the point person for the telecom industry in dealing with McCain’s office.

It sure makes you wonder how much that access contributed to Sinclair getting off so lightly for using a shell corporation to evade restrictions on media ownership, doesn’t it? And it sure makes McCain’s complaints about media consolidation–particularly as it relates to consolidation his friend Iseman helped push through–rather hypocritical.

What this Means

Iseman’s role in two media corporations who did big favors for Bush, rather than McCain, actually raises more questions for me than it answers. My biggest question about this whole scandal is why this is coming out in 2008, rather than during the South Carolina campaign in 2000. If Iseman was bragging so openly about her access to McCain–and if McCain’s advisors saw it as one of his big weak points in the 2000 campaign–then why didn’t Karl Rove use it?

The stories about Iseman all suggest (without saying what it means) that her career took off out of nowhere, from receptionist to president’s special assistant to partner all in a matter of a couple of years. And her portfolio appears to be rather different than the earmarks portfolio that the company specializes in. Is there a back story to how Iseman became a one-person media lobbyist in such a short time? (Note, I’m not suggesting that she slept her way to the top–rather, I’m suggesting she may have been tapped to play a certain role for conservative media companies and that contributed to her value to the company.)

I don’t think Iseman’s earlier lobbying of McCain to help these two companies expand in 1999 and 2000 means Iseman had a role in the airing of Stolen Honor. But it does suggest something about the powerful people on whose behalf Iseman was lobbying McCain.

International Republican Institute Endorses Accuracy of Exit Polls

Congratulations Presidents Kerry and Gore, the State Department‘s-backed [see Redshift’s comment here; title changed accordingly] International Republican Institute has just belatedly declared you both President.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps the IRI has not released its exit poll from the Kenyan election precisely because doing so would suggest exit polls are an accurate measure of election fraud–and all that might imply for recent US electoral politics.

An exit poll carried out on behalf of a U.S. government-backed foundation indicated that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suffered a resounding defeat in last month’s disputed election, according to officials with knowledge of the document.

The poll by the Washington-based International Republican Institute — not yet publicly released — further undermines Kibaki’s claims of a narrow re-election victory. The outcome has sparked protests and ethnically driven clashes nationwide, killing hundreds.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga led Kibaki by roughly 8 percentage points in the poll, which surveyed voters as they left polling places during the election Dec. 27, according to one senior Western official who’s seen the data, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. That’s a sharp departure from the results that Kenyan election officials certified, which gave Kibaki a winning margin of 231,728 votes over Odinga, about 3 percentage points.


It wasn’t clear why the International Republican Institute — which has conducted opinion polls and observed elections in Kenya since 1992 — isn’t releasing its data. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kenya confirmed that a poll was conducted but referred questions to the institute, where officials couldn’t be reached for comment.


The senior Western official, who reviewed partial results of the poll, described them as credible. The survey included a sufficient sample of voters from around the country, and Odinga’s lead was comfortably outside the margin of error, the official said.

"What it tells me is there was an exit poll that had one candidate with a significant lead who, at the end of the day, was not declared the victor. That seems to me to be a little surprising," the official said.

It kind of makes you wonder how many more "credible" exit polls US government agencies are sitting on.

Why Rove Resigned? To Grant the Administration Immunity

There have been a flurry of stories depicting the degree to which the Bush Administration has politicized … everything. McClatchy described how Treasury and Commerce were making decisions based on the political value for the Republican party. And today, the WaPo describes how Interior and Labor were doing the same. And based on interviews and documents, the WaPo describes the whole process as more systematic than anything before.

But Rove, who announced last week that he is resigning from the WhiteHouse at the end of August, pursued the goal far more systematicallythan his predecessors, according to interviews and documents reviewedby The Washington Post,enlisting political appointees at every level of government in apermanent campaign that was an integral part of his strategy toestablish Republican electoral dominance.


Investigators, however, said the scale of Rove’s effort is far broaderthan previously revealed; they say that Rove’s team gave more than 100such briefings during the seven years of the Bush administration. Thepolitical sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and ahandful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providinggrants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the StateDepartment’s Agency for International Development.

Well, so what? What are you going to do about it?

See, for the most part, we’re talking about civil Hatch Act violations. And the punishment for civil Hatch Act violations? To be fired from your job. Shall we review the names of those most involved in leading this process?

  • Karl Rove
  • Sara Taylor
  • Scott Jennings
  • Barry Jackson
  • Ken Mehlman
  • Susan Ralston

Rove, Taylor, Mehlman, and Ralston are gone, and Jackson is rumored to be leaving. Add in Monica Goodling, who only admitted to her massive Hatch Act violations after she resigned. So how are you going to hold the White House responsible for its massive Hatch Act violations, if the people involved have already mooted the only punishment available?

FWIW, with the David Iglesias firing and cover-up, the Administration has strayed into criminal Hatch Act violations, which carry a criminal penalty (if we can find anyone who would actually charge them for it). And there may be more examples where you could make the case. But most of what the recent flurry of reporting talks about? By resigning, Rove basically made the Administration immune from any punishment for it.

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