Laugh-Off: Mitch McConnell’s 1985 Stand Up vs. David Cross on Minimum Wage [VIDEO]

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February 17, 2014

Yesterday we pondered Mitch McConnell’s stance on minimum wage. Alison Lundergan Grimes and President Obama want to raise the minimum wage. The vast majority of the American public agrees as do a strong majority of Kentucky voters.

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:

Does Mitch McConnell Want to *LOWER* the Minimum Wage?

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February 16, 2014

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.

The letter was roundly derided (some felt it may have gone a bit too far) but Perkins is generally sticking by his point, even expounding upon it.  On Thursday night in a Q&A at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, Perkins further explained the oppressed predicament of the 1%.

“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."]

1988 McConnell:

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.

2014 McConnell:

“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 thisthisthisthisthis.]

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 — if raising 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.

Is that Tom Perkins or is that Mitch McConnell?

Who can tell at this point.

Comcast Taking Over Time Warner Which Took Over Insight… What if we could take over the internet? [*UPDATE*]

February 13, 2014

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.

Read it all here.

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.


Time Warner’s

“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).

What is the “Committee to Protect Prosperity and Free Enterprise”? Why was Andy Barr In It? And Where Did It Go?

February 9, 2014

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.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield on Grooveshark

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 [linklinklink]. 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 TARP bailout and the succeeding Recovery and Reinvestment 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.

Started From the Bottom by Drake on Grooveshark


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.

Deep in the Heart of Texas (feat. Woody Herman) by Bing Crosby on Grooveshark

McConnell v. Bevin and the Down Ticket Races

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February 6, 2014

The other day we noted the “massive slide” in Mitch McConnell’s lead over Matt Bevin in the Republican primary, with poll after poll showing McConnell locked in neck-and-neck race with Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes — and Bevin perhaps in a better position to defeat her.

We also noted that McConnell, through his Bluegrass Committee PAC, has doled out $1,000 checks to almost half the Republican State Senators and almost all of the Republican State Representatives. That’s an effective way to try to control your political fate — the campaign finance patronage means allies in local communities to help turn out the vote. It’s one of McConnell’s big advantages in his race against Bevin, even as Bevin finds himself getting serious help (and serious money) from national conservative and Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots.

That mobilization of conservative grassroots activists could spell trouble for McConnell. And if so, could McConnell’s patronage of down ticket Republicans turn an asset for their own Republican challengers?

To find out, I’ve been reaching out to Republicans in the State Representative and State Senate races to take their temperature on the question.

In the 32nd District State House race, McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee gave a $1,000 check to Rep. Julie Raque Adams… but then Raque Adams announced she was running for State Senate, leaving this seat open. It is now a race between Shellie May, a Jefferson County Republican Party Chair, and failed 2011 Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett.

I asked Moffett what he thought of the McConnell/Bevin race and what shadow, if any, it might cast over his race.

“I don’t see it influencing my state House race because the races are on completely different levels,” Moffett replied. “Voters in my district are interested in things like traffic improvement, noise abatement, maybe a few state tax issues – hardly U.S. Senate topics.”

Moffett’s 2011 race for Governor was supposed to be demonstrate the muscle of the Tea Party but ultimately fizzled out. It’s interesting that in this race for the State House Moffett is taking a pass on putting the race in a larger context but, of course, his job isn’t to care about McConnell (or Bevin, or for that matter the Tea Party), it’s noise abatement and traffic — and it will be interesting to see how the race shakes out.

In the 89th District House race, things are a bit different. The incumbent Republican, Marie Rader, received $1,000 from McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee.

Marie Rader for State Representative
PO Box 323
Mc Kee, Kentucky 404470323
Committee Contribution 1000.00

Two other Republicans are running against Ms. Rader – Gerardo Serrano and Michael Bryant. CN|2 pegged this race as one of the Top 10 Primaries in the state to watch:

Rep. Marie Rader, R-McKee, has drawn a primary challenge in four of the last five elections in the 89th District, which covers Jackson County, southern Madison County and northern Laurel County. She has won the nomination with at least 55 percent of the vote each time. But the district has changed. The 89th lost Owsley County, where Rader fared well. And it picked up precincts in southern Madison County. She faces two primary opponents: Gerardo Serrano, who like Rader hails from Jackson County, and Michael Bryant of London.

So with Rep. Rader taking $1,000 from McConnell and the shape of her district changing, how are Bryant and Serrano viewing their chances and the landscape of the Primary with the larger US Senate battle brewing?

I asked and both Bryant and Serrano were good enough to answer. First up, Mr. Bryant:

MICHAEL BRYANT: Regarding the Bluegrass Committee’s contribution to Marie Rader’s campaign, I have no expectation that her contributors will all equally support my bid for the KY House. You ask, “Does that factor into your campaign?” Yes. That is $1000 that she will spend to run against me. :) But we are very confident that folks in the 89th District are willing to invest in the positive change they say they’re ready for and that they believe we can bring to the job.

Regarding the U.S. Senate race here, thanks for your confidence that either of the top Republican candidates might need or want our support. At this time, neither have reached out for our endorsement.

Bryant’s response was a good one, careful but playful. It was marked with smiley faced emoticons — sometimes that can seem obnoxious, sometimes it seems crazy but in this case, and how Bryant used them (there were three in full), they were actually pretty humorous. And you can’t help but appreciate that. There’s some good nature behind the Bryant campaign.

Mr. Serrano, on the other hand, is leaving no doubt where he stands and if the Bevin campaign continues to pick up steam, Mr. Serrano may be in a good position to benefit come Primary time:

GERARDO SERRANO: Mitch McConnell supporting my opponent was expected. She is part of the establishment. She is going to need every dime because I intend to win this race… I do support Matt Bevin and from what I saw in the current polling Matt is doing well.

As far as a struggle between the parties, I think the people of both political parties are tired of the same kind of unresponsive leadership. I meet people everyday from both parties and everyone seems to feel the same. The 89th district is a wonderful area to live but a lot remains to be done. The recent arrests in Jackson County serve as a reminder that cronyism is still running strong in Southeastern Kentucky which also contributes to the high unemployment rate. That is why I decided to run. The 89th District can’t continue on the course it is heading, I believe we need a new direction for our area and our party.

If you can’t help but enjoy Bryant’s good nature, you can’t help but respect Serrano’s straight-forward drive.

Rader, the Republican incumbent, has taken Mitch’s moolah, and now she’s facing a new district against two motivated Republican opponents. There are plenty of ways the race could shake down, but Bevin keeps tightening the score on Mitch, that $1,000 end up being more trouble than it’s worth. It’s just one more dynamic to watch as the Republican Primary ramps up and groups like FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots continue to target McConnell for removal.

We’ve asked several other Republicans for comment on their particular races and many of them have indicated their comment is forthcoming, so we’ll update as we get ‘em.

Mitch McConnell, Patronage or Patronizer?; Poll Problems and PAC Payouts

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February 4, 2014

A poll out last week put Mitch McConnell up just 1% over his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes — 45% to 44%. Mitch’s disapproval rating is 51% overall, 24% among Republicans and 54% disapproval among Independents.

Two weeks earlier, the national Republican Party was tweeting about Mitch’s “massive lead” over his Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin — 53% to 31%.

But that 22% “massive lead” is less massive when you consider that just a few months ago Team Mitch had the race against Bevin at 59% to 20%. It’s still a lead but it’s a diminishing one which indicates a “massive swing” among Republicans in Kentucky toward Matt Bevin. The two polls, both touted by Mitch and his allies, show Bevin has very nearly slashed McConnell’s lead in half.

The rose-colored reading from McConnell and the GOP establishment comes, conveniently, at a time when rose-colored readings are desperately needed by McConnell and the GOP establishment.

It came two weeks after the Senate Conservative Fund dumped $1,000,0000 into the Bevin campaign against McConnell. And it came one just one week before FreedomWorks — the powerful Tea Party/conservative group — endorsed Matt Bevin in the Republican primary, pledging to drop at least an additional half million dollars into the Bevin campaign.

Yet another poll, out yesterday from Republican-pollsters at Rasmussen, has the McConnell/Grimes race deadlocked at 42%. That’s bad news for McConnell but not as bad as the other news in the Rasmussen poll — if Mitch loses the primary and voters were picking between Bevin and Grimes, Bevin would win 40% to 34%. Mitch appears to be the weaker, less electable Republican candidate.

The money from the Senate Conservative Fund and FreedomWorks is no small potatoes. As the New York Times reported Sunday, the balance of power in Right Wing fundraising is shifting markedly. The conservative groups outraised conventional Republican fundraising efforts last year behind a growing perception that Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove are ideological and tactical failures:

Groups representing the party establishment, like Karl Rove’s Crossroads, are struggling to bring in the level of cash they raised in 2012, when Crossroads spent more than $300 million in a failed effort to defeat President Obama and retake the Senate, leaving donors grumbling that their dollars had been wasted.

Meanwhile, insurgent conservative groups like the Tea Party Patriots — emboldened by activists’ fury over compromises that Republican leaders have struck with Democrats on federal spending — now have formidable amounts of cash to augment their grass-roots muscle.

For their part, Tea Party Patriots announced Monday that they were forming a Super PAC to target races were an approved conservative could oust a sitting — and stagnant — Republican:

“We are currently huddling with activists on the ground in South Carolina looking for an alternative to Senator Lindsay Graham, and in Kentucky, where many have lost faith in the Senate Minority Leader,” [Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s president] said in a statement. “We will be expanding the mission into the Mississippi, Nebraska, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina Senate races shortly.”

While McConnell and his folks crow about a “massive lead” it is clear they are beginning to worry about a “massive uprising.”

McConnell’s own Super PAC — the ironically named “Kentuckians for Strong Leadership” — took in $1.2 million in the back half of 2013, but not one penny of it came from Kentuckians. Instead, Mitch is being forced out of Kentucky to strum up big money from two dozen donors including a Florida investor, a Chicago hedge fund manager, a media mogul and a fancy DC lawyer.

Under assault from conservatives across the country, McConnell must find a tourniquet before all his support bleeds out. To that end, Mitch is flailing about — opportunistically seeking to shove himself front and center on environmental deregulation while at the same time disingenuously (and rather belatedly) putting on a Tea Party beard and going after Obama for using the IRS to crush far right political groups. Which is hilarious since the supposedly crushed Tea Party groups Mitch is (finally) defending are the very ones that are raising massive amounts of cash to defeat him.

The consummate DC insider must now figure out how to prove to the voters of Kentucky that he actually cares about them. Although “prove” may be too strong a word.

McConnell knows the power of Kentucky’s grassroots Republicans all too well. Three years ago his hand-picked US Senate candidate, Trey Grayson, was crushed by Rand Paul in the Republican Primary. A stinging rebuke of McConnell’s DC way of doing business and a possible foreshadowing of Mitch’s current re-election predicament.

Mitch McConnell isn’t just now figuring all this out. He’s been doomsday prepping for years. Mitch brought on Ron and Rand Paul ally Jesse Benton to run his campaign and cozy up to these Tea Party types. Even after Benton was caught on tape dissing his boss, Mitch – a famously cold-blooded campaigner — couldn’t bring himself to fire his insubordinate campaign manager. McConnell must put up with Benton and Rand Paul and do their bidding because if Mitch loses them, he loses what conservative boehnerfides he still has.

“Between you and me, I’m sort of holdin’ my nose for two years because what we’re doing here is going to be a big benefit to Rand in ’16, so that’s my long vision.” — Jesse Benton, Team Mitch campaign manager.

With Rand Paul’s conservative allies increasingly lining up against McConnell it is more important than ever that Mitch keep Rand on board — as the Bevin opposition grows, so too will Rand’s isolation and things might get dicey. After all, if Rand’s long vision is also set on 2016, then his alliance with McConnell loses its luster if Mitch can’t guard his own yard.

Perhaps that’s why on December 11th, 2013, Mitch McConnell’s wife, the Honorable Elaine Chao, wrote a check for Rand Paul’s Victory Committee:

P.O. BOX 1118
WASHINGTON, DC 200131118
HERITAGE FOUNDATION 12/11/2013 5200.00

Team Rand is not the only group McConnell must keep happy.

Mitch is a power player and after thirty years in the US Senate, he weilds that power and influence mightily. Being on Mitch’s good side is helpful; being on his bad side is not. McConnell has his own political action group, the Bluegrass Committee.

In the last half of 2013, Mitch McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee doled out big money to the Republican legislators in Kentucky’s General Assembly.

In all, McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee wrote $1,000 checks for fourteen of the twenty-four sitting Republican State Senators (and an additional $1,000 check for a Republican candidate for State Senate).

In the State House, McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee sent out forty-five $1,000 checks to sitting State Reps and Republican candidates. The Kentucky State House currently has 100 members — forty-four of them are Republicans.

(Aside from one check to a group in DC, the Bluegrass Committee focused the brunt of its monetary energy on state-level races.)

This network is a powerful part of McConnell’s strength. While Bevin may end up with a formidable grassroots presence thanks to the outside groups helping him — FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots both have large email networks, in addition to their monied power — McConnell’s “stewardship” of the state Republican party infrastructure gives him a foothold in Kentucky’s counties, nooks and crannies. From Paducah to Pikeville, as they say.

So long as the recipients of McConnell’s largesse remain supportive of Team Mitch, McConnell’s campaign can feel confidant they have a groundwork for local support in each of these legislative districts. The local legislator should deliver votes to McConnell.

Of course — that too might get tricky. If Bevin’s support continues to rise, and McConnell’s lead continues to experience this “massive slide,” these State Reps and State Senators may find their own voters turning on them. If they’re seen as too close to the not-conservative-enough perpetual Senate Minority Leader, no amount of political patronage (or arm twisting) may be enough to keep them, too, from jumping ship.

Undoubtedly, these will be pressure points FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Patriots and the Senate Conservative Fund will focus upon — if they can get grassroots supporters to break through McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee firewall, they may just find the tender little Mitch that hides beneath that protective shell.




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