Shortly After Major Bush Donor Takes Over MSNBC, Network Selectively Applies Rules To Suspend Olbermann

November 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Earlier today, MSNBC declared that it would be suspending progressive host Keith Olbermann because he violated NBC’s ethics rules by donating to three Democratic candidates for Congress. As many bloggers have noted, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has donated to Republican candidates for Congress while promoting the same candidate on air, but has never been disciplined. Moreover, Gawker notes that MSNBC has been exempt from the formal NBC ethics rules for years. It is still a mystery why MSNBC selectively applied NBC’s ethics rules to Olbermann. However, it important to realize that MSNBC has undergone a fundamental change in leadership in the last two months.

Late last year, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider and second largest Internet service provider — inked a deal taking over NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC. Comcast moved swiftly to reshuffle MSNBC’s top staff. On September 26th of this year, Comcast announced perhaps the most dramatic shift, replacing longtime MSNBC chief Jeff Zucker with Comcast executive Steve Burke. Burke has given generous amounts to both parties — providing cash to outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) as well as to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other top Republicans. But as Public Citizen has noted, Burke has deep ties to the Republican Party. Public Citizen’s report reveals that Burke served as a key fundraiser to President George Bush, and even served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology:

Comcast – the country’s largest provider of cable TV and broadband Internet services – has increased its political giving along with its mergers and acquisitions. CEO Brian Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention. Comcast Cable President Stephen Burke has raised at least $ 200,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign. [...] Comcast’s political giving has increased along with its mergers and acquisitions. The company was a “platinum sponsor” at the 2000 GOP convention, and Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the Philadelphia event. Burke was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology in 2002.

Why would Comcast be interested in silencing progressive voices? Historically, Comcast has boosted its profits by buying up various telecommunication and media content companies — instead of providing faster Internet or better services (overall, American broadband services are far slower than in many industrialized nations). Many of these mergers, as Public Citizen and Free Press have reported, have been allowed by regulators because of Comcast’s considerable political muscle. Comcast’s latest regulatory battle has been to oppose Net Neutrality — a rule allowing a free and open Internet — because the company would prefer to have customers pay for preferred online content.

Olbermann has been a strong voice in favor of a free and open Internet. Republicans, on the other hand, have supported the telecommunication industry’s push to radically change the Internet so corporate content producers have the upper hand over start-ups like blogs, independent media, small businesses, etc. As Reuters has reported, the incoming Republican Congress has signaled that it will vigorously side with companies like Comcast against an open Internet.

It is not clear why MSNBC has selectively suspended Olbermann indefinitely without pay — but the move showcases the limits of the corporate media. While modern technology has created a seeming multitude of entertainment and television choices, the reality of corporate media consolidation has resulted in fewer investigative news options and less voices in the media with a critical perspective on powerful business interests. Olbermann has stood out as a voice for working people in a media universe dominated by “reality television” and business lobbyists posing as political pundits. It is unfortunate that Comcast and MSNBC have chosen to suspend him.


Justices turn aside election appeal over outside donor disclosures

November 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) - With the mid-term elections looming, the Supreme Court on Monday turned away from the opportunity to further loosen campaign finance restrictions, this time over disclosure of donors.

At issue was whether “political committees” - unincorporated groups that make only “independent expenditures” - can be required to disclose its donors.

CNN Political Ticker

GOP donor class eyes 2012

October 24, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Haberman and Vogel check in with an Established accustomed to picking its candidate:


As the 2010 campaign draws to its raucous close, the Republican Party’s biggest donors are slowly beginning to choose sides, with some still looking for a strong alternative to a populist conservative movement that makes them uneasy.

The big New York, Texas, California and Florida donors who traditionally play a key role in choosing the GOP nominee lined up behind George W. Bush in 2000 and, largely, John McCain in 2008.

This year’s early favorite appears to be Mitt Romney, donor sources confirmed to POLITICO, who has already lined up quiet commitments from more than a dozen top names, among them billionaire David Koch and his wife Julia, financier and former Goldman Sachs partner Lewis Eisenberg, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and Ogilvy Government Relations Chairman Wayne Berman.

Romney is already raising copiously for his political action committee and has the help of his longtime campaign finance adviser Spencer Zwick, who’s currently assisting Meg Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign in California — a role that also provides the former Massachusetts governor with a toehold in a major state.

But other big donors remain unsure of Romney. His 2008 run showcased his strengths and drawbacks, high among them the government-run health care plan he supported while in Massachusetts.

Some in the big donor class claim to welcome the tea party’s energy, but many are nevertheless nervously eyeing Palin, who posted big numbers this quarter with a surprisingly small number of maximum donations — a sign that she could be poised to, like GOP Senate nominees Sharron Angle in Nevada or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, capture an internet cash wave that has largely favored Democrats so far.

“Most longstanding donors are worried about a candidate, or multiple candidates, coming forward who are too extreme,” said a major Republican donor with long ties to the party. “You’ve got a lot of people that don’t want to support the tea party movement.”

And a bit more on Romney’s head start in the money:


Romney also has commitments from some of the biggest names in Republican donor circles. In addition to Koch, Berman, Eisenberg and Johnson, he’s got on his side Donald and Muffy Miller, hedge fund titan John Paulson, Related Companies Chairman Stephen M. Ross, Skybridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, hedge funder David and Ginny Knott, Bush Ranger Patrick Durkin and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Richard Breeden.

Former Ambassador John Rood, who lives in Florida and is backing Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor has effectively built on momentum from his fundraising base in 2008.

“Others have been through Florida, but I haven’t seen anywhere near the same outreach through their PAC’s or their teams, so to speak,” he said. “I don’t see anybody at the level that Mitt Romney is.”


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Ben Smith’s Blog

Fake Charity Scammer And GOP Donor ‘Bobby Thompson’ Indicted

October 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The Ohio attorney general’s office announced this month that a grand jury had indicted an alleged charity scammer, who donated tens of thousands to conservative pols, on charges of money laundering and grand theft.

The man, known as “Bobby Thompson,” allegedly operated a charity called U.S. Navy Veterans Association from 2003 to 2010. The charity took in millions, and Thompson allegedly pocketed some 90 percent of the cash.

He used some of the money to make huge donations to conservative political candidates, including $ 55,000 to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and $ 10,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). Both have given the donations away to (presumably real) charities, and there’s no indication they knew the money was coming from a scammer.

He also liked to go to fundraisers and meet and greets, where he could shake hands and pose with Republican elites.

[TPM GALLERY: Bobby Thompson and Friends]

Thompson is not his real name. He’s also alleged to be an identity thief, and his true identify and whereabouts are not known.

He was indicted Oct. 13 along with Blanca Contreras, who was an officer in his charity. She was arrested in North Carolina on Oct. 15.


Axelrod on anonymous donor ads

October 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

CNN Political Ticker

Shadow donor groups a bipartisan affair

October 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) - In rural southern Virginia, 14-term Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher says he’s never had an election enemy quite like the ones he’s facing this year.

Its not his opponent, but instead it’s what he calls a “shadowy” group that is funding television ads against him.

Full story

CNN Political Ticker

Chamber of Commerce: The White House Wants Our Donor Lists So Its Allies Can Intimidate Our Donors

October 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Tuesday afternoon, I spoke with Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, about the White House pressing the Chamber to release its donors list, after President Obama seized on a ThinkProgress report suggesting that since some Chamber money comes from foreign multi-nationals and foreign-based Chamber affiliates, foreign money may be being spent on the Chamber’s political ads.

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Political Punch

Rep. Jessie Jackson Jr. Allegedly Asked A Donor To Buy Plane Tickets To Chicago For Former Model

September 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) allegedly directed one of his major campaign contributors to give Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign contributions in return for appointing Jackson to the then-empty Senate seat of President Barack Obama. Jackson also allegedly directed the same contributor to buy plane tickets to Chicago for a “social acquaintance” of Jackson’s who is a former model now working as a hostess at a D.C. restaurant.

Those revelations appear in articles this week in the Chicago Sun-Times, citing anonymous sources, that detail the part of the FBI’s investigation into Blagojevich that touched on Jackson.

Jackson allegedly directed Raghuveer Nayak, a businessman and major fundraiser, to purchase two plane tickets from Washington to Chicago for Giovana Huidobro, a hostess at Ozio restaurant in D.C., the paper reported. Huidobro was interviewed by the FBI as part of the Blagojevich investigation about a year ago regarding a dinner with the congressman and the businessman at the restaurant on Oct. 8, 2008, according to the Chicago Sun Times. In a March 2009 FBI interview as part of the Blagojevich investigation, Jackson described Huidobro as a “social acquaintance,” sources told the newspaper.

Jackson has not been charged in connection with the investigation of Blagojevich, and publicly said that he was cooperating. A congressional investigation into Jackson was suspended in mid-2009 because it would potentially interfere with a “pending criminal proceedings and ongoing investigation,” said the newspaper. Both the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office have declined to comment on the current status of the Jackson inquiry, said the paper.

On Tuesday, Jackson said he is “deeply sorry” for his actions, acknowledging having “disappointed some supporters” regarding his relationship with the woman.

Jackson did not address the allegation about the payments for plane tickets, which could raise ethical questions under the U.S. House of Representatives’ gift ban act, the newspaper reported. Such an inquiry is not likely to proceed until the Blagojevich case was closed.

Jackson also allegedly directed that Nayak offer former governor Rod Blagojevich $ 6 million in campaign cash in exchange for him appointing Jackson to the Senate, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Sources told the paper that Nayak had told the FBI about both incidents. Jackson denied he tried to raise money for Blagojevich.

“The very idea of raising millions of dollars for a campaign other than my own is preposterous,” Jackson said in a statement. “My interest in the Senate seat was based on years of public service, which I am proud of, not some improper scheme with anyone.”

Prosecutors said last month that they will not retry Rod’s brother Robert Blagojevich in the scandal. The former governor was found guilty of one count of lying to the FBI, but he is appealing. Prosecutors said they planned to retry Rod Blagojevich on the more serious charges.

Jesse Jackson - Rod Blagojevich - Barack Obama - Chicago Sun Times - United States Senate


Harry Reid’s Pay To Play? Helping Himself Get Re-Elected By Rewarding Contracts To Big Dem Donor Arcata Associates

September 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

It appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to reward Arcata Associates, a big Democratic donor, a huge no-bid contract on the heels of two separate $ 10,000 (maximum) donation to the Nevada Democrat party.

Senator Harry Reid, along with his House cohort Nancy Pelosi, promised to drain the swamp when they took full control of Congress. Their behavior since taking office would indicate the exact opposite has happened.

In fiscal year 2010, Arcata won a 1.36 million dollar contract for the Continuous Threat Alert Sensing System (CTASS) according to after spending $ 50,000 to lobby the Senate. What the site fails to mention are the multitude of Arcata donations to Harry Reid and the Nevada Democrat Party. In addition, Arcata stands to gain another two million dollars in 2011, also a no-bid earmark directed by Senator Reid. The requests for these earmarks can be found here and here.

The Wong family, owners of Arcata Associations, have a long history of donating generously to Harry Reid. Their donations are over $ 130,000. Here is a PDF of all the donations.

In fact, the very existence of Acata Associates can be linked to a questionable Defense Department contract awarded back in 1981 by the Small Business Administration. From Associated Press Writer Mike Feinsilber on April 8, 1981:

A program designed to help disadvantaged small businesses climb the economic ladder is being abused by some companies which farm out government contracts awarded without competitive bidding and then keep the profits, government investigators say.

In one case, a congressman charges, a small California firm was given a contract, over protests of the Army, to test sophisticated new weapons systems, although it was clear the firm was not up to the job. The company subcontracted with a more experienced outfit.

“This guy comes in and gets a $ 44 million contract and everybody knows he cannot do it,” said Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, complaining to officials of the Small Business Administration.

The 12-year-old SBA program has awarded $ 5.5 billion in contracts to 4,600 “socially and economically disadvantaged” companies, but only 4 percent of the businesses have managed to cut their government ties and become competitively self-sufficient.

Brooks focused on how Arcata Associates, Inc. of Burlingame, Calif., with less than $ 1 million a year in sales and 87 employees, landed a five-year, $ 44 million contract to test the Army’s most sophisticated new weapons and tactical concepts.

Arcata’s president, Buck Wong, previously ran a company that had the hot dog and beer concessions at Stanford University football games.

When it landed the weapons contract, Arcata was chiefly in the business of advising minority-owned firms on how to win government contracts, according to investigators for the House committee.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said Arcata subcontracted 67 percent of the professional work to Planning Research Corp. of McLean, Va., a high-technology firm with $ 270 million in sales and a staff of 6,450 employees.

A spokesman for Arcata, asking not to be identified, said the work subcontracted to PRC amounted to only 38 percent of the contract’s value.

So a company with no defense testing expertise was “made” by the SBA and continues to exist by receiving multiple no-bid government contracts via earmarks after donating to Democrats, specifically the Nevada Democratic Party and Senator Harry Reid.

The most recent donations indicates a possible quid pro quo relationship between Arcata and Senator Reid. Arcata executives gave the Nevada Democratic Party $ 20,000 on June 5, 2009.

To understand why the timing of this large donation raises eyebrows, one must understand the timing of the congressional earmark process. For an organization to obtain an earmark, the organization must submit a request to Sen.Reid’s by their appropriations request deadline. In 2009, Sen. Reid’s deadline was at the end of February.

After receiving submissions, Reid would go through the many submission and some of them to submit to the Appropriations Committee for consideration. Thee committee’s deadline for submissions is sometime between April and June (the deadlines vary from year-to-year; this would most likely happen in mid-May). Between then and when the bill is released, Reid would prioritize the list of requests he submitted. Members typically submit many requests to the committee, but only some of these are funded. For example, in Fiscal Year [FY] 2010, Reid submitted 58requests to the committee, of which 31 were funded.

Taking into account these priorities, the committee releases its bill with the list of earmarks. In 2009 (the FY 2010 bill), the committee released the bill on September 10, 2009. The FY 2011 bill was released on September 14, 2010.

On or about June 5, 2009, Tim Wong and his wife Shari each gave the Democratic Party of Nevada $ 10,000—the maximum about allowed by law. Note that June 5 is in between the date when requests were submitted to the Appropriations Committee and when the committee releases their list of earmarks.

On or about April 20, 2010, Buck and Aurora Wong each donated $ 2,200 to Harry Reid—nearly the maximum of $ 2400. Again, the timing here raises questions.

All this to demonstrate that Democrats, especially their Senate Leader Harry Reid are hypocritical at best, and criminal at worst when it comes to how they use money to buy power.

This particular nefarious politics-as-usual act can be stopped, however. The Senate votes Tuesday on the Appropriations Bill in question. Will Senator Reid strip this no-bid earmark from the bill? He should.

Also, don’t forget, this is the same bill that Senator Reid tacked on the highly controversial DREAM Act.

Liberty Pundits Blog

Broliath: Racist Wingnut Blogger A Democrat Donor

August 31, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

You aren’t surprised but they are.

Liberty Pundits Blog

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