Steve Beshear’s decision to appeal the court’s ruling that Kentucky must recognize gay marriages is sad but not surprising. Outside one single issue, Beshear has shown himself again and again to be a weak Democrat and a weak leader.
Maybe he’s planning a run for Senate in 2016. Maybe he’s just as useless on equal rights as he is on the environment. Maybe he’s just a useless homophobe and we should treat him like the dinosaur he is and retire him to his Ark Park.
But what I’m curious about in this story is this: What Would Andy Beshear Do?
Steve’s son, who’s known to start food fights in food pantries, is running for Jack Conway’s job… Attorney General of Kentucky.
Perhaps Steve’s decision to appeal is actually an attempt to protect his son, to swaddle Andy in a warm blanket of “not in my control” and pamper him with the soft coos of “I’ll wait to see what the court decides.”
If Kentucky appeals and the matter is settled one way or another, Andy Beshear is handed yet another political silver spoon and never has to pick a side.
But why shouldn’t he pick a side? He’s running for Attorney General.
Either Andy Beshear agrees with his father — who is quite clearly wrong — or he agrees with Jack Conway.
“Judge Heyburn’s decision does not tell a minister or a congregation what they must do, but in government, ‘equal justice under law’ is a different matter,” Conway said. “For those who disagree, I can only say that I am doing what I think is right. In the final analysis, I had to make a decision that I could be proud of — for me now, and my daughters’ judgement in the future.”
Conway made his decision, in part, with an eye toward how his children would look at him. Maybe Steve Beshear made his decision for the exact same reason.
So someone tell us… what would Andy Beshear do?
What kind of Attorney General would he be? Which side is he on? Does he agree with Conway, or his homophobic father?
And ‘letting the courts decide’ isn’t an answer.
Watch Jack Conway’s powerful statement on why appealing Judge Heyburn’s decision is wrong, and contemplate why Steve Beshear thinks discrimination is right:
Last Thursday, February 13, 2014, LFUCG had a Cable Franchise Workshop for the members of the City Council to inform them of the status of the franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable.
The workshop was facilitated by Linda Ain, outside legal counsel for LFUCG and an expert in cable franchise agreements, who also counseled LFUCG in negotiating the previous franchise agreement back in the ‘90s. Ms. Ain seemed extremely knowledgeable in her field of expertise, but there was an obvious disconnect between the narrow scope for which she was hired to advise LFUCG and the issues that many on the council wanted to see addressed.
First a little primer on the cable company’s franchise agreement (which expired in September and is operating month to month) and LFUCG’s role in regulating the cable company.
The franchise agreement deals with cable TV and specifically, only basic cable (the first 20 channels). LFUCG has no regulatory authority over phone, internet or channels not included in basic cable.
Let me repeat that. LFUCG has zero regulatory authority over internet service, VoIP phone service or any cable television service above basic cable.
In addition, federal law states that local governments have to renew a franchise agreement as long as the cable company meets these four criteria.
1. If TWC substantially complied with the previous agreement.
2. If the quality of service is reasonable. Quality of service only concerns signal strength, response to customer complaints and billing practices. It does NOT include rates, mix of channels or any other services provided over the wires (i.e. internet, phone or non-basic cable packages).
You ain't negotiating but two things right now: Jack and Shit, and Jack left town.
3. If TWC has the financial, legal and technological capability to provide the regulated services (basic cable).
4. If TWC cable can meet the future basic cable needs of the community.
If TWC meets the four above criteria, then LFUCG has no option but to renew based on federal law. In addition, pursuant to federal law, LFUCG cannot consider cable rates or issues related to phone or internet service when making its decision on the renewal of the cable franchise.
As you can see, LFUCG has very little leverage when negotiating a new franchise agreement but what little it does have may disappear in the near future. By Federal law, the local government loses it’s regulatory authority if 15% of households in a community subscribe to television service from someone other than Time Warner (think Direct TV and Dish Network). This past fall, Time Warner filed a petition with the FCC stating that Fayette County now has 18.68% penetration by providers other than Time Warner.
LFUCG’s role in regulating the cable company was far less than I (or the members of the council) had thought before the beginning of the workshop. In fact, it was apparent from the questions asked that signal strength of basic cable was not the primary concern of the council but rather internet service.
I don’t think I need to make the argument that internet access is not a luxury service like television but a necessity similar to electricity, water and sewer. The Economist put it very well, “In eras past, economic success depended on creating networks that could shift people, merchandise and electrical power as efficiently and as widely as possible. Today’s equivalent is broadband … Easy access to cheap, fast internet services has become a facilitator of economic growth and a measure of economic performance.” It is crucial that our ISPs continually build out their networks to increase speed, access and affordability, to the citizens of Lexington.
Thank God for Missis... I mean Mongolia.
In Lexington, we have two options for broadband service, Time Warner and Windstream. Local companies like QX.net offer wonderful customer service but are simply reselling access to the networks provided by the previous two (EDIT: This is in reference to QX’s residential service). So how close are the telecoms in offering “world class” internet access to Lexington. According to Ookla, Lexington has an average download speed of 14.3 mbps, which puts us right between Slovenia and Mongolia in terms of ranking. I won’t lie, I had to look up where Slovenia is located (it is a part of the former Yugoslavia for those curious).
That is pathetic. And it is about to get worse. If the Time Warner and Comcast merger goes through, Lexington will not only have piss poor download speeds, but caps on the amount of data you can use in a month. Comcast currently has a cap of 300 gigabytes per month for customers in Elizabethtown and Campbellsville, Kentucky. To put this in perspective, my family’s usage as of February 15, was 99 gigabytes for the month and we still have two weeks to go. I am terrified of what it will be in a few years when my youngest kids become teenagers.
It is for the above reasons that local governments made fools of themselves when Google announced that they would bring 1 gigabyte service to a city back in 2010. Topeka renamed itself Google for a while. Officials in Baton Rouge made a parody of Roger Hodgson’s “Give a Little Bit” entitled “Give a Gigabit.”
Please sir, may I have some internet.
The reason over 1,100 communities went to Google with hat in hand is because they knew that fast and reliable internet service is a huge economic boon for a city. And the same scenario is playing out today in Lexington. Administration officials told me that they are currently working on enticing other providers to enter the Lexington market to provide the desperately needed competition.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Lexington doesn’t have to simply wish upon a star for some corporation to swoop in and rescue us from substandard internet service. Communities all around the country are getting tired of waiting and are directly providing their citizens with quality internet service by creating a municipal ISP.
TechCrunch estimates that Google will spend a total of $170 million constructing its gigabit service to 300,000 homes that have become the envy of the nation. The City of Chattanooga just recently built a municipal ISP to provide gigabit service to 147,000 homes at a cost of $330 million (of which $111 million was provided by the feds). Christopher Mitchell, the director of Telecommunications as Commons Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, did some very rough back-of-the-envelope calculations for the City of Lexington and estimates that a full gigabit fiber network to every resident and business would be somewhere in the $200 million range. That would make our fair city’s average download speed faster than the average speed of the first place position, Hong Kong. We are talking about a $200 million dollar investment to become a world leader. And the feds are throwing money at communities that are doing the same.
Those are huge numbers and should give anyone pause, but consider that we are spending $1.6 million on sidewalks for Tates Creek Road, $17 million for resurfacing a few blocks of South Limestone and $310 million dollars renovating Rupp Arena. Ask yourself if any of the above projects could come close to offering the economic impact that gigabit internet service would bring. It isn’t even close.
I am but merely a father of three kids that loves his city. I don’t know what the best course of action is nor the best way to persuade our officials, but I also don’t want to sit idly by while Lexington falls further behind the technological divide. We as a community need to explore all of our options with the same vigor and resources that we expend to renovate a basketball arena.
And one last word of advice to the members of the council that remarked on how many complaints they receive about Time Warner. The level of outrage you hear today is nothing compared to what it will be when caps on usage are imposed by Comcast. Back in April, Roku announced that Lexington is the number one city in the nation for streaming television over the internet. Not Seattle, or San Francisco or New York, but Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington has a growing appetite for broadband. The day is coming very soon when your constituents will be livid that the city’s sole provider is cutting off their access. I urge you not to have to look them in the eye and say you did nothing.
Mitch McConnell does not. As we discussed, McConnell on Friday employed the exact same set of arguments against raising the minimum wage in 2014 as he did back in 1988, claiming that any increase in the minimum wage:
Would Kill Jobs.
Doesn’t really matter or really affect anyone.
May be popular in polls but regular people are morons and have no idea what they’re talking about.
You can see 2014 Mitch here and 1988 Mitch right here:
Raising the minimum wage above $3.35/hr will utterly destroy the economy!
McConnell was asked on Friday any increase to the minimum wage would be acceptable. McConnell said “No.” He claimed that any increase in the minimum wage would kill jobs, the same claim he made in 1988. He further claimed that PolitiFact, the nonpartisan factcheckers, had affirmed that his “job killing” contention was “Absolutely Right” — even though it doesn’t appear PolitiFact ever made such a ruling and despite the fact the preponderance of evidence doesn’t support McConnell’s “job killing” claim.
We suggest that the real question is not “Is any increase in the minimum wage acceptable to you, Mr. McConnell?” but is instead:
If any increase in the minimum wage kills jobs, how many jobs would be created if we lowered the minimum wage — and how much of a decrease in the minimum wage does Mr. McConnell support?
We haven’t got an answer to that question yet but while we wait, it seems like a good time for a laugh.
Some people claim that Mitch McConnell is “humorless.” That’s simply not the case. In 1985, the National Press Club hosted a diner for the Vice President of the United State, Mr. George H. W. Bush. The event was hosted by Sam Donaldson of ABC News and featured stand-up routines from several freshman legislators. While a couple of the others were definitely funnier (John Kerry made a fat joke about Ted Kennedy, John Rockefeller made a bunch of jokes about the Trilateral Commission), Mitch McConnell certainly held his own, complete with a just hilarious story about how he condescended to the waiter who’s job it was to serve him butter.
McConnell’s routine begins with Sam Donaldson asking, “What rhymes with Mitch?”
McConnell, playing the part of a hurt and confused little boy, makes his way to the podium and answers, “Is Barbara Bush here?”
She was. Sitting right next to him. The routine only went up from there. Watch:
And for all you insatiables out there still looking for a laugh, here’s comedian David Cross on the subject of the Minimum Wage:
Late last month the famous — and famously rich — venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he explained that America’s super-wealthy 1% are exactly the same as the Jews of 1930s Germany and that the progressive hoards who populate the entire rest of the 99% are Nazis.
Perkins’ letter forewarns us (or them, it’s unclear) of a precipitating “Kristallnacht” after which presumably Perkins and his fellow 1% — including Dannielle Steele, of course — will be rounded up and killed.
“I don’t think people have any idea what the 1 percent is actually contributing to America,” he said at one point.
Coming at a time when [San Francisco's] tech boom is creating widening income inequality, Perkins’ talk seemed perfectly calculated to ignite further conflict. He sneered at protests against tech shuttles, casually dismissed gentrification as “inevitable,” advocated for cutting food stamps, and condemned Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty for “unknowingly creating the destruction of lower-end families in America.”
Perkins suggested that if Germany was as awash in guns as modern day America, Hitler would’ve never existed. He lamented the persecution of the poor billionaire Koch brothers. And at one point he claimed that our American democracy could be stronger if ”You don’t get to vote unless you pay $1 in taxes…If you pay $1 million in taxes, you should get a million votes.”
Once a supporter of Democratic causes, Tom Perkins has shifted right over the past several years (like much of post-Great Recession Wall Street), giving north of $80K over the past couple cycles to Republican candidates. [link, link]
Indeed Perkins appears to have developed a powerful interest in seeing Republicans take control of the United States Senate. Over the past four years Tom Perkins has given at least $71,500.00 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee [link, link, link]:
The mission of the NRSC is, of course, to elect Republicans to the United States Senate and their ultimate goal is to win majority control of the Senate. If the NRSC were ever able to do this, Mitch McConnell, currently the Senate’s Minority Leader, would fulfill his lifelong dream and become the Senate Majority Leader.
McConnell wields tremendous power over the NRSC. His “unseen hand,” as Roll Call put it, guides the mission and focus of the NRSC.
Last August, McConnell installed Josh Holmes, his chief of staff, at the NRSC to – as POLITICO reported – “focus exclusively on the GOP leader’s reelection campaign and the national Republican effort to take back the majority next year.”
McConnell has even sought to use the NRSC’s muscle to blacklist a consulting firm that’s done work on behalf of the conservatives challenging him in the upcoming primary race [link, link, link, link].
On Wednesday, Mitch McConnell enraged conservative voters across the country — and around Kentucky — by joining a handful of other Republican Senators in voting with the Democratic majority to stop a filibuster and raise the nation’s debt limit [link, link].
His vote case, McConnell left the Senate floor, avoiding journos, and slipped out the door on his way to a party. National Review reports:
After the late-afternoon vote, McConnell headed to a meeting with senior adviser Josh Holmes. Then the two went to a National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) fundraiser at its offices on Capitol Hill. They arrived late to a room that — surprising to many, given the terrible weather — was packed with dozens of attendees. Sources say about 50 to 100 people were present and tell NRO that when the minority leader entered, he was greeted with an eruption of cheers, and that many attendees stood to applaud him.
On Friday — the first Valentine’s Day in Kentucky history where married homosexuals were considered something close to equal citizens — Mitch McConnell was in Louisville holding a press conference to address the silent violence of Adolf Hitler’s President Obama’s increasingly aggressive class warfare.
The appearance was particularly important because it offered an opportunity for McConnell to use the claim of class warfare to change the subject away from his own complicity in raising the debt limit which his ‘true conservative’ constituency believes will kill jobs right and left.
McConnell’s ‘class warfare’ argument follows the same basic beats as Mitt Romney’s, Rush Limbaugh’s and Tom Perkins’:
There is a mass of (possibly dangerous; definitely lazy) Takers feeding off the 1% Makers.
Faced with Kentucky’s successful rollout of Obamacare — the number enrolled will soon hit a quarter million, nearly half of them under the age of 35 — McConnell describes these Kentucky voters as “people signing up for something that is free.” [link]
After Alison Lundergan Grimes endorsed the idea of raising the minimum wage back in December, Joe Sonka reported that the Kentucky GOP had accused Grimes of trying to “buy some votes.”
McConnell’s campaign manager said Grimes’ support of an increased minwage is an example of “a tried-and-tested part of the liberal playbook to use the politics of class warfare.” [link]
And on Friday in Louisville, McConnell claimed that an increased minimum wage:
Would Kill Jobs.
Doesn’t really matter or really affect anyone.
May be popular in polls but regular people are morons and have no idea what they’re talking about.
Asked if his opposition to the increase was dangerous because polls show overwhelming public support for the raise, McConnell responded:
My main concern is not what the polls are, but what’s the right policy. And we know for sure, this kind of minimum wage increase is going to be a job killer.
Asked if there was an appropriate level the minimum wage should be raised to — like, if $10.10 is too high, is he in favor of any increase — McConnell indicated that “he doesn’t believe there is an acceptable minimum wage increase level.” [link]
In Mitch McConnell’s Nanny State, the public does not understand its own expenses. Just because people think that if they were just paid a little bit more, they would be better able to feed their families and pay their bills, the truth is that these people — a majority of Kentucky voters — are too stupid to understand basic economics. The reality is that if they were paid even a penny more, they would all lose their jobs. Their jobs would be killed. Only Mitch McConnell’s Nanny State can stop this from happening.
And Mitch McConnell should know. Because Mitch McConnell’s been singing this exact same song for almost three decades.
Ladies & Gentlemen… Mitch McConnell, 1988:
Raising the minimum wage above $3.35/hr will utterly destroy the economy!
In the above, Sen. Mitch McConnell argues that raising the minimum wage from $3.35 an hour to $5 an hour will kill jobs no matter how popular it is with an economically ignorant public. He made literally every single argument in Louisville in 2014 against a minimum wage increase that he made a quarter century ago in Bowling Green.
Would Kills Jobs.
Doesn’t really matter or affect anyone.
May be popular in polls but regular people are morons and have no idea what they’re talking about.
Mitch McConnell has opposed increasing the minimum wage every time it’s been proposed over the course of his time in the US Senate. And even though he’s never been right about that opposition (minimum wage goes up yet somehow jobs still exist), he continues to voice the exact same opposition based on the exact same reasoning.
[Aside to the Tea Party grassroots and the True Conservatives: Even though McConnell's opposed every single minimum wage hike, he's ultimately caved and supported the wage increases. That means Mitch McConnell is an ineffective leader who claims to be concerned with conservative policy and not public opinion polls but who consistently fails to advance and protect those supposed conservative values. Put another way: "Losers go home, winners make policy."]
McConnell said, however, that increasing the minimum wage means the loss of 10,000 jobs in Kentucky. Small businesses could not afford to pay the increase and would therefore need to reduce the number of employees.
“I think we need to be creating jobs, not looking for ways to destroy them,” McConnell said. “I mentioned it was a job killer on one of the Sunday shows, and one of the factcheckers, I think it was PolitiFact, looked at it and said I was absolutely right.” [link]
McConnell claims that PolitiFact looked into his “Job Killing” argument and says they ruled he “was absolutely right.” If they did, I can’t find it.
After McConnell’s recent Sunday morning show appearance, PolitiFact did look into whether his claim that the minimum wage most often affects young people — “Mostly True,” they said… not “absolutely.” But there does not appear to be any Fact Check on McConnell’s “job killing” claim. [I've reached out to PolitiFact for clarification/comment and/or a fresh Fact Check on McConnell's "absolutely right" assertion.]
In fact, the evidence over a couple decades of studying the effects of minimum wage increases suggests no such causal relationship. When the minimum wage is raised, unemployment does not increase… and in many cases historically it’s gone down. [You can go down this hole if you'd like; BusinessWeek has a good current argument here, and there's this, this, this, this, this.]
But let’s stop for a second.
What if Mitch McConnell is absolutely right?
What if raising the minimum wage does kill jobs?
When asked about raising the minimum wage from $3.25 to $5.00 back in 1988, McConnell said any raise would kill jobs!
When asked about raising the minimum wage in 2014, McConnell said any raise would kill jobs.
“I think we need to be creating jobs, not looking for ways to destroy them,” McConnell said.
If that were true — ifraising the minimum wage destroys jobs — then what about the inverse? Mitch McConnell was opposed to raising the minimum wage in 1988. He’s been opposed each successive time the minimum wage has been raised since 1989 (when he ultimately caved and voted to raise it). Is it not then safe to assume that:
a) Tens of thousands if not millions of jobs have been destroyed.
b) Actually lowering the minimum wage would create jobs.
On Friday in Louisville, the press asked Mitch McConnell what level of minimum wage increase he might accept. Perhaps that is the wrong question.
Perhaps what we should be asking of Mitch McConnell is:
How much should we lower the Minimum Wage?
How many jobs will we create if we slash the Minimum Wage completely?
If we returned the Minimum Wage to its perfectly reasonable 1988 level which clearly never needed to changed to begin with, could we then reach full employment in America?
Or would we need to completely dismantle the minimum wage in order to truly eradicate unemployment?
On the one hand, these are idiotic questions because the founding premise (Mitch McConnell’s argument) is painfully wrong.
And on the other hand, if Mitch McConnell truly believes that any increase in the minimum wage will result in the elimination of jobs — and he must believe this because it is his recurring argument against any such raise – then would it not be the case that he believes keeping the minimum wage at its current rate will keep the nation’s employment rate stable while slashing the minimum wage would actually create jobs?
“I think we need to be creating jobs, not looking for ways to destroy them,” McConnell said.
In trying to explain his letter to the Wall Street Journal, Tom Perkins — the billionaire funder of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — laid out a series of solutions to the income inequality “problem” currently facing America:
“The 1 percent are not the problem,” Perkins said. “It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich, and doing what the rich do… which is getting more rich by creating opportunities for others.”
According to Perkins, the rich as a class are threatened by higher taxes and higher regulation, both of which make job creation more difficult. He argued that he believed the solution was “less [government] interference” and “lower taxes,” which again, “would let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer.”
And, you know, create a rising tide for all the rest of us.
That message follows the typical trickle-down economics playbook that the GOP has been pushing since at least the 1980s. And yet, despite lower marginal tax rates than at any point since the Great Depression, income inequality just keeps getting worse. [link]
Lower taxes on the wealthy, less government regulation of the industries that keep them wealthy, and less ‘interference’ in how they make their money… like dictating to them how much they must pay their lowly workers.
News this morning is that Comcast is taking over Time Warner. Three years ago, Time Warner began the process of taking over Insight. If you have phone, internet or TV with Time Warner you already know that their customer service is terrible, that their billing practices are shady, that their prices are egregious, that their internet speeds are slow, and that if you try to have a semi-reasonable conversation with them about any of that they’re going to be incredibly rude and incredibly unhelpful because, hey, they can afford to do that.
What if it could be another way?
What if instead of corporations taking over and controlling your internet, a little local cooperation could achieve the same end?
As it just so happens…
By way of a little bird, we hear that Time Warner is holding a “Franchise Agreement workshop” with the Lexington Council today — 4:30PM at the Government Center in the 2nd Floor Caucus Room.
Since all the members will be there, it has to be open to the public (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM).
Back in 2011, Roy Cornett had an incredibly bright idea — Lexington could take over the internet.
Coming on the heels of the announcement of Louisville and Lexington’s formation of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) to team up and make the Bluegrass an attractive destination for advanced manufacturing and the 21st Century economy, the two largest cities in Kentucky served by Insight can boost our stock and standing even more.
We can choose to maintain the status quo and allow out-of-state corporations to continue to control our access to the Internet, or we can rescind the franchise agreements to the copper and fiber lying in the ground around our community and treat the Internet as the piece of infrastructure essential for our future economic growth that it is.
Just as public roads fueled the industrial revolution and the highways aided interstate commerce, an open and sophisticated fiber optic network can be used to attract new businesses to the Bluegrass.
Guaranteed quality service at reasonable rates can be a very powerful tool for economic development. If costs were allowable, a joint municipal service could incentivize businesses to locate here with ultra-low or no-cost high-speed access. In the world of advanced manufacturing, that can be powerful.
There’s nothing really stopping us except motivation, coordination, interest, and big money lobbyists. The Telecoms are fighting across the country to create laws that would block municipalities from doing exactly this.
Why do Telecoms not want municipalities to take over control of the internet?
And like we wrote in 2011… if you meet someone who says the city owning the internet is “socialism” you can politely point out to them that it’s actually CAPITALISM.
A cutting edge urban region that unlocks the power of the internet — increasing up and down speeds that, in most communities, the cable companies keep choked off — would create a powerful incentive for businesses to locate in the Bluegrass. The move would not negatively affect businesses at large, just one large business.
And it wouldn’t even shut that business down — ComcastTimeWarnerInsight could continue providing its terrible service, just now it would have some serious competition.
Even more serious if Louisville and Lexington teamed up to create a Silicon Alley/Research Triangle super region where the internet was as fast as the horses we race… call it THOROUGHBRED ALLEY. You want business startups? That’s how you do it. You want tech businesses to build here? That’s how you do it.
“Franchise Agreement workshop”
with the Lexington Council today
4:30PM at the Government Center
in the 2nd Floor Caucus Room.
Be there. Or be on hold with Time Warner customer service waiting fifteen minutes for them to finally get on the line and tell you how stupid you are for asking for something faster, cheaper, smarter, better… just more.
A very helpful birdy tells us:
This workshop today is not being held by Time Warner for the Council. The Council called this workshop which will be dedicated to receiving as much information as possible from our representatives who work with the franchise. Of course the public has a right to know this meeting is taking place which is why it was advertised by public notice a few days ago. However, there is a great deal of information to be presented and a limited amount of time to do so meaning it is unlikely that the Council will have time to allow the public to speak.
This clarification is much appreciated. The meeting is open but you probably can’t speak. That doesn’t mean don’t go… the more feedback Council gets from the community the better, of course (and from feedback we’re getting, they do seem to want to do something). So help them along! (You may also have a chance to speak at 6pm-er afterwards, and of course if you go you can find out how to follow along the process more closely).
If you look at the year-end campaign finance report from Congressman Garland H. Barr IV, the United States Representative of Kentucky’s 6th District, several items will pop out at you.
Garland — or “Andy” as we colloquialize him (see also: “dumb down”) — has $900,032 on hand. In the fourth quarter he raised $278,604, less than the each of the previous three. About 10% of that came from political committees.
Alpha Natural Resources gave Barr $5,000 (putting their yearly total at $10,000) and another big coal outfit, Alliance Coal, gave $3,000 (also putting their total for the year at $10,000).
Mitch McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee gave Garland $5,000 — again, putting the YTD at $10,000.
John Boehner’s Freedom Project wrote Andy one $5,000 check on November 6th and another $5,000 check on December 29th.
And then there’s $1,090.96 from something called the “Committee To Protect Prosperity And Free Enterprise.” On the year, the “Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise” gave the Andy Barr for Congress campaign $42,808.96.
But what — or who — is the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise? And why the interest in Kentucky’s 6th District Congressman, Garland H. Barr IV?
The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise was created on June 27th, 2013 as a “Joint Fundraising Representative.” [PDF]
“This committee collects contributions, pays fundraising expenses and disburses net proceeds for two or more political committees/organizations, at least one of which is an authorized committee of a federal candidate.”
The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise represented six Republican congressional campaigns. They were: Andy Barr for Congress; Michael Grimm for Congress; Duffy for Congress; Fitzpatrick for Congress; Gary Miller for Congress; and Rothfus for Congress.
The Committee collected money from contributors, subtracted fees for vendors and divvied the rest out equally to participating campaigns.
This is all in the past tense because the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise no longer exists.
On January 30th, 2014 the Committee filed its “Termination Report” with the FEC, just seven months after its founding [PDF]. Apparently Prosperity and Free Enterprise no longer needed protecting.
Still, in its very brief existence, the Committee was able to dole out $40,000+ to six different Republican congressmen. So where’d that money come from and why, if they were having such great success, did they disband so quickly?
The Committee’s “Custodian of Records” was Campaign Financial Services and their Treasurer was Brenda Pejovich.
Campaign Financial Services manages fundraising services for Republican campaigns. It’s run by Paul Ritacco. Paul and his wife — a former top aide to Karen Hughes in the Bush White House — have a scholarship fund [link] at The Fund for American Studies. TFAS was founded in 1967 by William F. Buckley and other conservatives “in response to the political and social upheaval of the 1960s” and was aimed at “college students [who] needed a balanced perspective on political and economic institutions” because “the counterculture and many of the youth movements of the 1960s not only rejected the American political tradition, but also actively worked to undermine and subvert the ideas and principles on which America was built.” [link]
If you’ll recall, the 1960s saw the rise of the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Rights movement, the creation of Medicare and various other totally terrifying threats to the founding principles of America, such as Rock n’ Roll.
The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) seeks to create a brighter, more prosperous future by preparing young people for leadership and teaching them the ideas of freedom and a free-market economy. [link]
But back to the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise, the group that gave $42,000 to Andy Barr.
The Treasurer, Brenda Pejovich, runs an eponymous consulting firm in Dallas and sits on the board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank whose members gave over $1.5 million dollars to Texas Gov. Rick Perry from 2001 to 2010.
In 2010, Perry named Pejovich to the University of Texas Board of Regents [link]. (Pejovich had personally given $38,000.) Last year Pejovich found herself in an awkward position before the Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Operations as lawmakers tried to discern the power the Texas Public Policy Foundation might hold over Gov. Perry and the state’s higher education policy. (In an email to Pejovich and others, Perry sympathized with his Board of Regents for being “hammered by charlatans and peacocks” and compared their fight, graphically, to the Battle of Bulge.) [link]
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, where Pejovich sits on the Board, is part of the State Policy Network. The State Policy Network is one of the central conservative forces behind the GOP’s ongoing war on labor and regulations (see Wisconsin, Michigan, etc). As Mother Jones reported in 2011 [link]:
Conceived by the same conservative ideologues who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the State Policy Network (SPN) is a little-known umbrella group with deep ties to the national conservative movement. Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases. By blasting out policy recommendations and shaping lawmakers’ positions through briefings and private meetings, these think tanks cultivate cozy relationships with GOP politicians.
The SPN affiliate in Kentucky is the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, whose Board Members include Tom Dupree Jr. and Warren Rogers [link]. Dupree Jr. has given Barr $4,000 since the 2010 race (his father, Dupree Sr., has given Barr $18,000) [link, and year end report] while Rogers and his wife have given Barr almost $14,000. [link].
But neither Dupree nor Rogers gave money to the very short lived yet highly lucrative Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise.
In fact, of the $42,000 The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise funneled to Garland H. Barr IV, not one cent of it came from anyone in Kentucky, let alone from anyone in the 6th District Andy is supposed to represent.
In the 3rd Quarter they raised $287,407. All but thirteen donors came from Texas; over 80% of the total haul of the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise came from the Lone Star state. And all of it came between July 2nd and September 28th. In the second — and final — filing of the Committee’s existence, covering the 4th Quarter of 2013, they took in just $4,800.
Barr’s $42,000 comes primarily from donors who primarily live in Texas. Some came from PACs, most came from individuals. Among the donors there is a heavy presence of Pay Day Lenders — Online Lenders Alliance PAC, Ace Cash Express, Cash America, the family behind Cash Now Arkansas.
There’s also a heavy presence of mortgage related businesses. Eric Green runs Real Time Resolutions, “one of the largest mortgage specialty servicers and mortgage consulting firms in the U.S., collecting and servicing mortgage loans and performing mortgage related consulting, evaluation, scoring and component related services for many national institutions and investment banks.” [link] James Frappier’s BDF Law Group is involved in mortgage and loan collection and litigation [link].
There are banks and investment and insurance firms. These include Compass Banc PAC and BOK Financial Corporation PAC. Clint Carlson runs Carlson Capital, an asset management firm that manages over $7 Billion in funds. Randall Goss is the head of US Risk Insurance; Billy Don Henry runs insurance giant MHBT and William McIntyre, who gave $15,000, runs Americas Contractors Insurance (and has helped fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation [pdf]). The good folks at Clarity Services, a Florida based credit bureau that tracks consumer financial and credit transactions, gave over $14,000 — Tim Ranney, the head of Clarity, gave $12,000; and also penned this interesting counter-take on Pay Day Lending and the consumer-as-victim storyline.
Beau Fournet and David Haley, both of HBK Investments, gave $15,000 each. HBK is an arbitrage risk hedge fund, investing in things like CDOs and bank debt… something that got it burned in 2007/8 but they’ve since, thankfully, bounced back [link].
Andy Beal, on the other, hand never gets burned. The guy’s a total character (loves poker, hangs with Steve Wynn and George W. Bush) and his Beal Bank has made a name for itself by buying up troubled assets after Enron, 9/11 and the 2008 financial collapse [link, link, link]. He gave $31,200 to the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise.
The list goes on (including $15K from the grandson of oil tycoon HL Hunt) but there is a general pattern. With few exceptions the donors to the Committee hail from Texas, and the predominant feature among them is a usual connection to the financial services industry. Shared interests of these groups would likely include payday lending, “consumer protection,” and general banking regulation at large.
Andy Barr sits on the House Financial Services Committee. As the New York Times noted last August, Barr has no real experience with the intricacies of Wall Street, yet there he is providing oversight of the nation’s sprawling banking industry… at the same time he pockets their cash.
Mr. Barr, 40, a first-time elected official, has raised nearly as much money this year from political action committees run by major banks, credit unions and insurance companies as longtime lawmakers like Speaker John A. Boehner and other party leaders.
The flood of financial industry cash — $150,000 in political action committee donations to Mr. Barr in just six months — is hardly an accident.
That article came out August 11th, before the bulk of the fundraising action at the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise had even begun. But recall, Andy Barr was not the only recipient of the Committee’s money. The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise — which has no web presence — was a ‘Joint Committee.’ It represented the fundraising interests of six Congressmen: Andy Barr (R-KY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Gary Miller (R-CA) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA).
What do these six Republicans have in common? If you answered ‘threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony and break him in half like a little boy,’ you’re wrong. (That’s just Rep. Grimm. So far.)
If you answered that all six sit on the House Financial Services Committee, then you are correct [link]. And five of the six, including Barr, sit on the Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. (Only Miller is missing) [link].
So… did treasurer Brenda Pejovich, the Rick Perry ally and board member at the conservative Texas Public Policy Institute, pull this whole Committee together — a valiant effort to connect six Republican Congressmen from more northern climes with a cash spigot of mostly Texan financial interests? The Committee’s documents only indicate the Treasurer and the Custodian of Records (Campaign Financial Services), not necessarily the braintrust behind the group.
And why was it created for what basically amounted to a two month fundraising binge and then as quickly as it got started, shuttered?
The only other evident clue is in the disbursements. The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise gave roughtly $42,000 to each of its six candidates, but also $18,000 to a woman named Bunni Pounds. Pounds was paid out on September 20th for “Fundraising Consulting.” The Committee took only six more contributions after that date, about $10,000 additional in all.
Bunni Pounds lives in Garland, TX. Among other things, she’s a musician, a sort of Christian rock Ani DiFranco:
She is also the campaign manager for Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling [link]. And Brenda Pejovich routinely serves as Treasurer of Hensarling’s fundraising committees. [link, link]
In office since 2003, Hensarling represents the 5th District of Texas, and counts former Senator Phil Gramm as his mentor. Hensarling is a conservative (strong record against abortion, gay marriage, and flag burning) and voted against the 2008 bailout and the succeeding TARP program. From 2011 to 2013, he was the fourth ranking Republican in the House, serving as Chair of the Republican Conference (he beat out Michelle Bachman for the honor).
And Hensarling is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — the same committee on which all six of the “Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise” Congressman sit.
Last September, Hensarling took five of those six Congressmen to Dallas. They took this picture with the head of the National Association of Credit Services Organizations, Doug Parker. [link]
Garland H. Barr IV started from the bottom, now the whole team here.
Parker, pictured in the center standing next to Garland H. Barr IV, wrote a $1,000 check to the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise on September 3rd. The visit falls right at the heart of the Committee’s fundraising activities and on the 5th of September, the Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise records receipts and disbursements for email blast services, lodging, transportation, gifts and mementos and postage to “Friends of Jeb Hensarling,” the campaign committee of Rep. Hensarling which is run by Bunni Pounds.
In a flurry of press reports last spring and early summer, Jeb Hensarling laid out his new path forward for Republican Party regarding financial regulation — which is to say, peeling back consumer protections and banking reforms. The plan, which includes “unwinding” government’s role in Fannie and Freddie Mac, supposedly struck fear in the heart of Wall Street [link]. Yet Hensarling’s top six industry donors have been and remain, in order, 1) Commercial Banks, 2) Insurance; 3) Real Estate; 4) Securities & Investments; 5) Misc. Finance; 6) Finance/Credit Companies [link].
In fact, Hensarling has received more money from the Financial/Insurance/Real Estate industry than any other Member of Congress except the two men who run (or try to) the House majority, John Boehner and Eric Cantor [link].
If Hensarling is striking fear in the heart of the financial industry, that’s a funny way of showing it.
Hensarling recently found a good way to pay this all forward, giving $1 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee. [link]
“Today we have a set of policies that caused taxpayers to have to shell out $187 billion in bailouts for Fannie and Freddie,” Hensarling argues. “Today the federal government has what is known as a virtual monopoly of the housing finance system. That has to change.”
But why are we in this predicament, the curious might ask.
As mentioned above, Hensarling is an acolyte of former Texas Senator Phil Gramm.
Phil Gramm was the key architect of the 1999 law that dismantled the Wall Street regulations instituted after the Great Depression, laws that had been created to keep the Great Depression from ever happening again.
Gramm changed the fiscal rules, allowing banks and investment firms to join forces, among other great ideas. This led to wild debt trading and free enterprise lending to create more debt to create (something like) more money. In short, Gramm’s deregulations were at the center of creating the financial collapse that lead to the government bailouts that Hensarling is now trying to use as justification to repeat the type of deregulations Gramm created that created this whole mess.
Hensarling watched Gramm’s failure up close, yet somehow cannot understand it. Worse, he seems determined to repeat it by again undoing what meagre reforms the US government has so far managed to enact. And now Hensarling is ushering the young Republicans on his House Financial Services Committee into his mixed up economic worldview.
The Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise was around for only a few months — just as quickly as it had appeared, it vanished — but its lessons, presumably, are lasting.
For the bankers, investors and lenders who gave money… they’re expecting a return on their investment.
For the congressmen, like our own young, impressionable Mr. Andy Barr, who took that money… they’re hoping for re-election so they can provide that return on the investment.
And for Rep. Hensarling who now has six little helpers sitting beneath him…. he’s helped them, now they’ll help him.
In his first race for Congress over a decade ago, Jeb Hensarling was asked by a voter if he was “pro-business.”
“No,” Jeb said, ”I’m not pro-business. I’m pro-free enterprise.”
Being “pro-free enterprise” is like being “pro-jobs,” “pro-happiness” or “pro-America” — it’s a great thing to be, but the question is what you mean.
In Hensarling’s case, he means dismantling consumer protections and giving over free rein — yet again — to the payday lenders, mortgage brokers, rogue bankers and financial destructors who believe wealth is created by piling up debt upon unpayable debt as though the money will still magically be there when there’s no one left to pay it. That’s not an enterprise, it’s not free, and it very clearly does not work.
So: Where does that leave Congressman Andy Barr?
From here, it looks like Andy’s splitting his time between Wall Street and Texas. It’s possible his heart is still in the Bluegrass, but it is obvious Andy Barr’s brain is somewhere else.