Thursday, April 30, 2009

Campaign Finance, Its Value to Corporations and Its Role in Corporate Communications


The Capacity of Corporate Entities to Influence Federal Elections:

Like any individual citizen, corporations have a stake in the outcomes of federal elections. A candidate’s economic, foreign, social and environmental policies can either threaten or provide hope for a particular organization. The stakes for corporations aren’t necessarily greater than those of the individual, but they are on a greater scale of complexity and scope. It’s no surprise, then, that corporations have long played a role in influencing the outcome of federal elections.

For as long as campaign finance has existed, corporations have been a part of it – pushing the candidates who are best for business to the top. Corporations clearly possess more funds than private citizens, and so, historically, disproportionate attention has been given to the needs and desires of the big businesses which are able to help fund the expense of getting elected. Not surprisingly, this practice has created a tenor of distrust in the country towards campaign finance and corporate issue advocacy.

In direct correlation to this populist discord, the United States Government has spent the past 40 years tweaking regulation on campaign finance and issue advocacy – seeking to put corporations and private citizens on an even playing field. But has the increased regulation succeeded in tapering the influence of corporations in federal elections? Is campaign finance still as influential as it once was? What has changed for the corporation which seeks to influence a federal election?

To answer these questions, I will first provide a concise overview of campaign financing and how it can play into a corporate communications strategy. I will then explain the role campaign financing played in the 2008 election. From there, I will outline the general value of issue advocacy for the corporate entity, and then I will conclude with a brief summary of the salient points.

Understanding Campaign Finance and Its Risks:

“Campaign finance” is the fundraising and spending a political campaign does during its election race as a means of garnering funds and support. Political campaigns have many expenditures including travel, advertising and staff expenses. The financial support candidates receive through campaign financing helps cover those costs.

Typically, contributors tend to aid the candidate of the party which they are predispositioned to support; meaning, most organizations fund the party they feel is best for their business. There is a stigma in popular culture, perhaps facilitated by such films as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Distinguished Gentleman, which suggests campaign finance is frequently offered in exchange for direct compensation. This plays on the idea of dirty politics and bribery, where the elections of politicians are funded by corporations and then, once elected, those politicians find themselves obligated to the special interests of the corporations which backed them.

Likely unbeknownst to many Americans is the fact that contributions from labor unions and corporations is actually prohibited. At the federal level, the largest source of campaign funding comes from private individuals.

Another source of private financing comes from political action committees (PACs), overseen by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). According to the FEC, an organization becomes a PAC by receiving contributions or making expenditures in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Before an interest group or corporation can make political contributions, it must first create a PAC. Federal PACs can only donate $5,000 per candidate per election, where primaries, general elections and special elections are each counted separately. PACs can also only offer $15,000 per political party per year and, at most, $5,000 per PAC per year.

Technically, PACs can spend money independently of the campaign they’re supporting insofar as they do not coordinate these efforts with the campaign; organizations which make such efforts are frequently confused with “527 groups.” These groups are named after United States tax code, 26 U.S.C. § 527, which defines them and generally exempts them from taxation. However, 527 groups are issue-advocacy organizations which are not regulated by the FEC.

Money which is donated to a PAC or a 527 group, so as to indirectly benefit one’s preferred candidate, is referred to as “soft money.” Money which is donated directly to a campaign is referred to as “hard money.”

According to the FEC, Buckley v. Valeo, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1976, held that limitations on donations to campaigns are constitutional but limitations on the amount campaigns could spend is an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. However, this decision was later tapered by the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, which banned national political party committees (namely the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee) from accepting or spending “soft money.” This created a scenario where campaigns could still spend unlimited amounts of money, but they couldn’t fund PACs or 527s to do their advertising for them. The intent of this act was to increase accountability and civility in campaign advocacy.

With regards to the first finding in the Buckley v. Valeo (relating to the limiting of donations to a campaign), there are still caps on the amount an individual, party or PAC may donate. According to the FEC, these caps range from the $2,400 an individual may give a single candidate per election to the $42,600 a national party can give to its senate candidate per campaign. Of course, there is no limit to the number of individuals or PACs who can donate, just the amount they can donate.

Fundraising has become so vital to a campaign’s success that one survey found 23% of candidates for statewide office spent more than half of their scheduled time raising money, and over half of all candidates surveyed spent at least a quarter of their time fundraising (Jeffrey). Of course the “private” in private financing isn’t meant to imply any level of anonymity on the part of the donors, but rather a private obligation to raise funds on the part of the candidate. In fact, full disclosure regarding the source(s) of funding is required in instances where private financing is attained.

According to the FEC, campaign finance law requires federal-level candidates, parties and PACs to file frequent reports disclosing the money they raise and spend. Federal candidates are obligated to identify their contributing PACs and party committees, and they must provide the names, occupations, employers and addresses of any individuals who donate more than $200 in a given election cycle. The FEC publishes this information on its website: http://www.fec.gov/.

As mentioned earlier, corporations may not make direct contributions to federal election campaigns. However, they can, and frequently do, create PACs. While union PACs are typically funded through membership fees, corporate PACs get their funding from the voluntary contributions of their stake holders.

PACs get around the findings of Buckley v. Valeo, which prohibited PACs from explicitly advocating the election or defeat of federal candidates or their parties, by advocating or attacking specific issues tied to the candidates. In this way, corporations and unions have played a significant yet seemingly invisible role in many federal elections.

For corporations, campaign finance can easily be a double-edged sword. We’ve discussed the business benefits of aiding one candidate in his or her bid for election, but less obvious is the PR effect financing a political campaign can have. The process of holding corporations accountable to all their advocacy efforts can be tenuous, but insofar as they have to create PACs to fund campaigns, citizens have a mechanism to “follow the money.” This can bode well or poorly for a corporation depending on the candidate and their relation to him/her.

For instance, after the housing market collapse in 2008, Mr. Obama took a brief hit in the polls when it was revealed that he was the second largest senatorial recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac funding. From the corporate communications standpoint, however, Fannie and Freddie’s investment in Obama’s campaign finance paid off because (unlike GM, Chrysler and AIG who have been eviscerated for their failure to adapt to the economy) Fannie and Freddie had essentially purchased the support of a man who became a wildly popular president. For whatever reason, Fannie and Freddie have not been held to the same standards as many other large organizations – and this can, in part, no doubt be attributed to the support they’ve received from Mr. Obama.

By contrast, the oil companies which backed President George W. Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign have likely came to regret their ties to the politician because of controversies surrounding the roll of oil in the war on Iraq. From the communications strategy standpoint of these oil companies, Bush became a PR liability but, in many opinions, a business necessity.

In the very least we can say there are strong motivators for corporations to invest in campaign finance. We can also say there are extreme risks. Because of the heightened skepticism of campaign finance, every action a president takes which relates to a corporate backer, at some point, will probably bring attention to their financial relationship. In this way, the fate of a company’s public image becomes linked to the candidates it supports.\

Campaign Finance in the 2008 Presidential Election:

In the wake of a 2008 presidential election in which one of the candidates spent more in advertising than any politician in American history, it is prudent to see what effect, if any, political advertising has had (Rutjim & Rutenber). By the end of October, 2008, Senator Barack Obama surpassed the $188 million advertising record set by George W. Bush in the 2004 campaign (International Reporter). With advertisements which ran repeatedly day and night, on local stations and on the major broadcast networks, on niche cable networks and even on video games and his own dedicated satellite channels, Mr. Obama out spent Senator John McCain in advertising nationwide by a ratio of at least four to one (Rutjim & Rutenber).

The huge gap between the two candidates’ spending was the result of Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of the Federal Campaign Finance System 4 ½ months before the general election. Earlier in the election, both candidates had agreed to participate in the Federal Campaign Finance System, which gives presidential nominees $84.1 million in public money but prohibits them from spending any more than that amount from the day of their party convention to Election Day (Jensen & Salant).

This is, of course, a variation of public financing. In theory, such a system aims at removing the power of special interest groups (union and corporate funded PACs) and restoring candidate focus to the wants and needs of the people. In this system, candidates are still able to solicit private donations, but the money can only be used toward legal and accounting expenses (Kolawole).
“After initially vowing to take public funds if McCain did, Obama became the first presidential candidate since the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s to raise private donations during the general election” (Overby & Montagne).
When the campaign finance system was created after the Watergate scandal in 1974, it had two goals: reduce the influence of money in politics and level the playing field for candidates (Rove). When asked if he would agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign and participate in the presidential public financing system, in a questionnaire issued by the Midwest Democracy Network in October, 2007, Mr. Obama responded:
“Yes. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election...”
Seven months later, Bloomberg news reported a retraction on Obama’s part:
“Obama pledged in March 2007 to pursue an agreement with the Republicans to participate in the public-financing system, which is designed to limit the influence of big money. That was before he began shattering private-fundraising records.”
Mr. Obama ultimately opted out of the federal campaign finance system in mid June 2008, saying:
“It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system" (BBC).
From the beginning of his campaign to the end, Mr. Obama raised nearly $750 million in private funding, exceeding the amount raised by George Bush and John Kerry combined ($653 million) in 2004 (Overby & Montagne). It’s no surprise, with such a record-breaking capacity for fund raising, that Mr. Obama opted out of his public financing promise.

Conversely, Mr. McCain stuck to his promise to use the campaign finance system. Mr. McCain’s reasoning is perhaps best highlighted by a statement made several years before the 2008 election when speaking to the University of Oklahoma in 2001 as a co-sponsor of the “McCain- Feingold” legislation, "Throughout history America has gone through cycles. We go from clean to corrupt and back to clean again. Right now (campaign finance) is corrupt and it's time to clean it up” (McNeill).

When asked about his pledge to the federal campaign finance system in April 2008, Mr. McCain reiterated, “I’m committed to it… I am the presumptive Republican nominee; I will take public financing” (Cooper). Of course, after championing the cause of the aptly named McCain-Feingold Act, it would have been difficult for Mr. McCain to justify backing out of his promise to use public financing.

After Mr. Obama made the decision to use private funding, he reported that nearly four million donors contributed to his campaign (Overby & Montagne). The nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute found that Mr. Obama collected about 26% of his donations from people who gave less than $200 — about the same as President George W. Bush did in his 2004 campaign (Overby & Montagne). Approximately 74% of Mr. Obama’s funds came from large donors (those who donated more than $200), and nearly half from people who gave $1,000 or more (Rove).

So it went that Mr. McCain’s advertising budget was limited to an $84.1 million pool of public finance from the day of the Republican National Convention until the fourth of November, and Mr. Obama raised over $100 million in private funds in the month of September alone (Brown). Due to this inequity, Mr. McCain turned in vain to the Republican Party to help level the difference.
“McCain relied heavily on the Republican National Committee to help narrow the financial discrepancy. But even with the party resources Obama had a vast money advantage… The RNC reported raising $75 million during the latest reporting period. Overall this year, the party committee raised $322 million. It ended with $13.5 million cash on hand. The Democratic National Committee reported raising $36.5 million (for Mr. Obama) in its latest filing, for a total of $186 million for the year. The party had $8.7 million cash on hand, but it also reported owing $5 million on a line of credit” (Overby & Montagne).
From the first of January to the first of November, Mr. Obama spent an estimated $280 million on television advertising, while Mr. McCain spent less than half as much (just under $134 million) (Kolawole).

In the final week before the election, Mr. Obama spent $23.6 million to Mr. McCain's $4.8 million in television advertising, a difference of about five to one (Kolawole). Also, in television advertising, Mr. Obama outspent Mr. McCain in Indiana by a range of nearly seven to one, in Virginia by more than four to one, in Ohio by almost two to one and in North Carolina by nearly three to two (Rove). Mr. Obama won all four of these states, which had favored George Bush just four years prior. During the final weekend preceding the presidential election, Barack Obama ran 77% more TV ads than John McCain (5,947 vs. 3,358) in seven key swing states: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (Nielson Wire, Oct. 30, 2008). Mr. Obama applied a similar spending philosophy in the once “red state” of Florida and garnered similar results.
“In mid-September the Obama campaign said its budget for Florida was $39 million. The actual number was probably larger. But in any case, Mr. McCain spent a mere $13.1 million in the state. Mr. Obama won Florida by 2.81 percentage points. Mr. McCain was outspent by wide margins in every battleground state.” (Rove).
Similar to a maneuver used by Ross Perot in 1992 (and JFK before that), Barack Obama purchased 30 minutes of uninterrupted airtime with several television networks and cable stations at the rate of about $1 million per network (Burkeman). An online opinion poll done by MSNBC asked, “Will Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial influence your vote?” Out of 76,085 votes, 56.4% said “No.” Even still, the infomercial reached 33.5 million viewers (Nielson Wire, Nov. 3, 2008). The broadcast aired on CBS, NBC, FOX, UNIVISION, MSNBC, and NY1 between 8pm and 8:30pm EST and, in the top 56 local television markets where Nielsen maintains electronic TV meters, 21.7% of all households watched Obama’s telecast (Nielson Wire, Oct. 30, 2008).

Mr. Obama even went so far as to purchase advertising space within 18 different video games (FOX News). The ads targeted 10 states that allowed early voting (Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Colorado) and were designed to appeal to males from ages 18-34 (a notoriously difficult demographic for advertisers to reach) (FOX News).

Barack Obama’s decision to opt out of his promise to use the Federal Campaign Finance System, offered him a distinct and insurmountable financial advantage over John McCain which affected every aspect of their campaigns, from staff salaries to broadcast media investments. Significant to the discussion of PACs, however, is that Mr. Obama did not accept funding from any PACs during his presidential bid and, abiding by the rules of the Federal Campaign Finance System, neither did Mr. McCain. This suggests PAC donations are not necessary to fund a winning election campaign. Certainly, one might make that argument that, had Mr. McCain not been obligated to use public finance, he might have been able to curb Mr. Obama’s funding advantage by tapping the donations of individuals and PACs – thus forcing Mr. Obama to also take donations from PACs. But, clearly, neither candidate felt direct PAC funding was necessary during the General Election. So, we are left to conclude that corporations which seek to influence future federal elections will likely have to do so through issue advocacy, rather than direct funding. The 2008 presidential election may have signaled the death of PAC (and by extension corporate and union) direct-funding affluence.

The Value of Issue Advocacy for a Corporate Entity:

There’s no question that advocacy groups can and do shape the way people think about the candidates. For instance, the now infamous 2004 “Swift-boat” ads were produced and funded by a 527 organization known as “Veterans for Truth.” Undoubtedly, their portrayal of John Kerry had some effect on the psyche of voters. How much effect is impossible to say, but there was a markable effect (Chris).

For any corporate entity, however, the tangible return on investment for issue advocacy is difficult if not impossible to measure. Say, for example, that you’re the owner of a massive oil conglomerate and one of the presidential candidates has promised to usher in an age of clean energy. How much would you be willing to spend to advocate or attack issues so as to prevent that candidate from winning?

The decreased funding for and spending of 527 groups, over time, suggests that corporations are less and less interested in issue advocacy. In 2004, 527 organizations spent a grand total of $442,472,913 on issues pertaining to the federal election (OpenSecrets.Org). In 2008, 527 groups spent almost half that amount: $257,995,880 (OpenSecrets.Org). With Obama spending unprecedented amounts on his campaign, one would think the 527 group spending would go up in direct proportion. However, this was not the case.

Likely adding to the decrease in 527 spending was the McCain-Feingold regulation on “soft money” and political advertisements - which not only prevented candidates from sending money to 527s to do their hard-hitting advertising for them but also required candidates to “stamp” their name on each add funded by their campaign.

Moreover, with the increased accessibility of new and social media, private individuals are now more able than ever to practice issue advocacy of their own. Given the frequently viral nature of new and social media, these issue advocates have almost as much potential of affecting the psyche of voters as a well-funded 527 group. Who can forget the Drudge Report’s role in the Clinton sex scandal, or the ferocity with which The Huffington Post and the Daily Kos hounded the Bush administration?

Issue advocacy still has its role in presidential elections but it seems, with increased PAC regulations and decreased barriers to entry for issue advocates, the corporate ROI for PAC is ever-dwindling. It’s unlikely that PACs and 527s will ever disappear, and for the sake of free speech we should hope they don’t. But the days where corporations and special interest groups pulled the strings of federal elections through PAC donations and issue advocacy appear to be behind us.

Summary:

One should not assume corporations no longer have a means for influencing public opinion. It’s still a general truism that an entity’s capacity to influence typically correlates to its financial status. Certainly, we can say corporations are among the wealthiest of entities. We must also understand that a favorable result in an election is looked upon as a business investment. If one elected official will create a scenario for a corporation where it can obtain higher dividends, then it is within that corporation’s best interest to help that official get elected. To assume that corporations will suddenly stop seeking out election results which favor their business simply because regulation has increased would be an err in judgment.

While the FEC regulates PAC activity and laws limit 527 ability, there is no legal infrastructure in place to stop corporations from taking their efforts to the internet. While limitations on 527 ads apply to television, radio and print, there are no such limitations on something like a YouTube video or podcast. And while PAC funding may no longer be as valued as it once was, those corporate funds can now be redirected to “get out the vote” initiatives which can be facilitated by far-reaching social networks.

PACs haven’t died; it’s just time for them to evolve with innovation and around regulation. As the role of PACs evolves, the expectations for a corporation’s capacity to influence a federal election must evolve as well. Is the capacity for corporate influence as great as it once was? No, it isn’t. Caps on donation amounts, limitations on soft money and the general negative stigma towards corporate campaign finance have all irreversibly damaged corporate capacity to overtly influence an election. But there is still a significant potential to influence which can, will and should calculate into any corporation’s budget and agenda.

As with any investment a corporation makes, an organization must take into consideration the affect its campaign finance will have on its communications strategies. The relative success or failure of a candidate can often spell success or failure for his/her campaign backers. There’s no doubt that campaign finance and issue advocacy represent strong business investment opportunities, but they also represent a public relations gamble because, once money has exchanged hands, the fates and reputations of those involved are invariably linked. The relative value of a campaign investment for a corporation is relative to the combination of potential ROI and risk a candidate represents.


References:

BBC News (June 19, 2008). Obama shuns public campaign funds.

Birnbaum, Jeffrey (June 6, 2000). The Money Men : The Real Story of Fund-raising's Influence on Political Power in America. Crown.

Borick, Chris (February 5, 2009). "The Swift Boat Ads in Comparative Context: An Empirical Examination of Advertisement Effectiveness" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association For Public Opinion Association, Fontainebleau Resort, Miami Beach, FL.

Burkeman, Oliver (October 30, 2008). Obama, the infomercial: A 30-minute pitch to America. The Guardian.

Brown, Campbell (October 28, 2008). Commentary: Obama breaks promise on campaign finance. CNN.

Cooper, Michael (April 11, 2008). McCain to Obama: ‘Keep Your Word.’ New York Times. .

Federal Election Commission:
January, 2009. About the FEC.

January, 2009. The FEC and the Federal Campaign Finance Law.
FOX News (October 15, 2008). Obama Campaign Buys Ads in 18 Video Games.

International Reporter


Jensen, Kristin and Salant, Jonathan D. (June 13, 2008). Obama Risks `Pristine' Image in Question of Public Financing. Bloomberg.com.

Kolawole, Emi (November 3, 2008). Who spent more money on advertising, McCain or Obama? FactCheck.org.

McNeill, Ryan (February 27, 2001). McCain speaks at U. Oklahoma on campaign finance, stresses major reform. University Wire. Found on HighBeam.com.

Midwest Democracy Network Presidential Candidate Questionnaire: Found in on AllBusiness.com.

Nielson Wire:
November 3, 2008. 33.5 Million Viewers Watched Obama’s Infomercial.

October 30, 2008. In Philly and Tampa, Viewers Chose Baseball Over Obama.
OpenSecrets.org

Overby, Peter & Montagne, Renee (December 5, 2008). Obama Campaign Shatters Fundraising Records. Associated Press.

Rove, Karl (December 3, 2008). McCain Couldn't Compete With Obama's Money. Wall Street Journal.

Rutjim , Jim & Genberg, Rutenber (October 18, 2008). Barack Obama to Break Advertisement record of President Bush.

No Voucher For You


Editorial Cartoon by Yogi Love
"The reckless dismantling of the D.C. voucher program does not speak well of the promise by Obama to be the Education President."
-- Juan Williams
Is it really all that surprising that liberals are opposed to voucher programs? Let's think this through: Aside from the MSM, what is the biggest supplement of liberalism?

That's right... student indoctrination.

While the Left has a powerful system of regulated indoctrination in place within the public school system, the same cannot be said for private schools. Therefore, democrats will do whatever necessary to take students out of private institutions and put them into public schools - where FDR policies, "climate change" alarmism, "everyone's a winner" mentalities and forced dilution of moral values are the status quo.

Of course the success of the Washington D.C. vouchers poses a threat to democratic arguments which suggest competition is not the key to solving our education woes. Liberals don't want competition-based initiatives like the voucher program to succeed (or even exist) because such programs rob democrats of the ability to take money from people who don't vote for them to purchase the continued favor of those who do.

God forbid our supposedly "capitalist society" apply a capitalist solution to our underperforming educational system.

Hannity Intro Video on Obama's First 100 Days




These 100 days seem so much more disastrous when you compile them like this, don't they? Props to Sean Hannity for another great intro video.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded FIVE times, NOT 183


Like the 90% myth regarding American guns seized from the Cartel, the MSM took the story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being "waterboarded 183 times" and ran with it - poisoning the American public with a falsehood before the facts could be realized. The MSM will stop at nothing to push their liberal agenda...
Despite Reports, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Not Waterboarded 183 Times
The number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded was the focus of major media attention -- and highly misleading.

By Joseph Abrams
FOX NEWS
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The New York Times reported last week that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, was waterboarded 183 times in one month by CIA interrogators. The "183 times" was widely circulated by news outlets throughout the world.

It was shocking. And it was highly misleading. The number is a vast inflation, according to information from a U.S. official and the testimony of the terrorists themselves.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the interrogation program told FOX News that the much-cited figure represents the number of times water was poured onto Mohammed's face -- not the number of times the CIA applied the simulated-drowning technique on the terror suspect. According to a 2007 Red Cross report, he was subjected a total of "five sessions of ill-treatment."

"The water was poured 183 times -- there were 183 pours," the official explained, adding that "each pour was a matter of seconds."

The Times and dozens of other outlets wrote that the CIA also waterboarded senior Al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah 83 times, but Zubayda himself, a close associate of Usama bin Laden, told the Red Cross he was waterboarded no more than 10 times.

The confusion stems from language in the Justice Department legal memos that President Obama released on April 16. They contain the numbers, but they fail to explain exactly what they represent.

The memos, spanning from 2002-2005, were a legal review by the Bush administration that approved the use of waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." Obama banned the procedure on his second day in office, saying that waterboarding is torture.

Click here to see Memo 1 | Memo 2 | Memo 3 | Memo 4

The memos describe the controversial process: a detainee is strapped to a gurney with his head lowered and a cloth placed on his face. Interrogators pour water onto the cloth, which cuts off air flow to the mouth and nostrils, tripping his gag reflex, causing panic and giving him the sensation that he is drowning.

At that point the cloth would be removed, the gurney rotated upright and the detainee would be allowed to breathe. The technique could be repeated a few times during a waterboarding session; Zubaydah said it was generally used once or twice, but he said he was waterboarded three times during one session.

The Justice Department memos described the maximum allowed use of the waterboard on any detainee, based on tactical training given to U.S. troops to resist interrogations:

-- Five days of use in one month, with no more than two "sessions" in a day;
-- Up to six applications (something like a dunk) lasting more than 10 seconds but less than 40 seconds per session;
-- 12 minutes of total "water application" in a 24-hour period

Bloggers who read the memos last week noted that the CIA's math "doesn't add up" -- meaning that the 12 long pours allowed in a day couldn't add up to the 12 minutes mentioned in the memo, and they could barely even guess how the detainees could have been waterboarded an astounding 286 times in one month.

The memos did not note that the sessions would be made up of a number of short pours -- the ones the U.S. official said lasted "a matter of seconds" -- and that created the huge numbers quoted by the New York Times: 183 on Mohamed, 83 on Zubaydah.

Pours, not waterboards.

A close look at a Red Cross report on the interrogations makes the numbers even clearer.

As the Red Cross noted: "The suffocation procedure was applied [to Abu Zubaydah] during five sessions of ill-treatment ... in 2002. During each session, apart from one, the suffocation technique was applied once or twice; on one occasion it was applied three times."

The total number of applications: between eight and 10 -- not the 83 mentioned in the Times.

Mohammed similarly told the Red Cross that "I was also subjected to 'water-boarding' on five occasions, all of which occurred during the first month." Those were his five "sessions"; the precise number of applications is not known but is a fraction of the 183 figure.

All of those individual pours were scrupulously counted by the CIA, according to the memos, to abide by the procedures set up for the waterboardings.

"[I]t is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process," read a memo from May 10, 2005.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the only other detainee known to be waterboarded, was not discussed in the memos.

The Times wrote that until the release of the memos, "the precise number" of 286 total waterboardings was not known.

And the precise number of waterboarding sessions is still not known. What is known is that Mohammed was not waterboarded 183 times.

FOX News correspondent Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.

Specter's Switch Signals the Death of American Democracy


Editorial Cartoon by Eric Allie

With Arlen Specter officially switching his party alignment from republican to democrat and Al Franken knocking on the door of the Minnesota seat, Obama will have the necessary 60 senators to fast-track any piece of legislation he wants. Then again... it's not like Specter wasn't in Obama's pocket anyway... but I digress.

Under Obama's proposed tax structure, 50% of the population won't pay federal income tax - which means half of this country will literally be living off the other half.

So, not only is there no way to stop the federal crazy train from spinning off the tracks, but half the country no longer has a stake in federal spending.

Congratulations Obama voters, we no longer have a democracy of checks and balances. For all intents and purposes, American democracy is virtually dead. How ironic, then, that Senator Arlen's name is "Specter."

Isn't change great?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Week's Politicization of Interrogation Techniques


After White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC in an interview on Sunday that President Barack Obama will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised enhanced interrogation policy for terrorist detainees, I made the mistake of actually believing something an Obama official said.

This morning, President Obama caved into pressure from far-left groups and opened the door for possible prosecution of Bush officials. In particular, intense pressure has been applied by the liberal advocacy website MoveOn.org, who recently started a petition to encourage the prosecution of Bush-era officials for their role in the approval of enhanced interrogation.

All of this, of course, comes on the heels of the decision by the Obama administration to release highly classified documents on the CIA interrogation program last week. A move which most people with commonsense feel will only serve to further divide this country and arm our enemies with the specific knowledge they need to prepare themselves to resist our interrogation techniques.

Here are those memos:


OLCMemo1 - Get more Legal Forms

In response to the release of these memos, former Bush adviser Karl Rove outlined just how humane and controlled the alleged "torture" was:


Last night, former Vice President Dick Cheney told FNC's Sean Hannity, that the Obama administration cherry-picked memos to release for the sake of political expediency:


Today, The Washington Post released a surprisingly on-point article arguing that the CIA's questioning techniques worked, contrary to Obama's recent contention that enhanced interrogation had not made America safer.

Only three terrorists were waterboarded, yet members of all American special operations units in all branches of the U.S. military are waterboarded as part of survival school (SERE) training to psychologically prepare soldiers for being captured by enemy forces.

Even the Obama administration has previously conceded that terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention - contrary to the Left's repeated assertion that enhanced interrogation is unlawful.

As I've pointed out on this blog before, it's important to note that Bush policies prevented at least 20 potential terrorist attacks. Yet, the Left would have Americans ignore that fact that we've been safe since 9/11 and prosecute Bush-era leadership for employing the very techniques which kept us safe.

Arm yourselves with the appropriate information folks, this is going to be one hell of a brawl.

The Three Amigos


Editorial Cartoon by Glenn McCoy

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Happened to Miss California is Just a Taste of How Conservatives Are Treated


Just in case you haven't seen it, here's Miss California's now infamous response to a loaded gay marriage question from Perez Hilton:



Shortly there after, Miss California lost the Miss USA crown and Perez Hilton rushed backstage to post this scathing response:



Let me start by saying that, in part, Perez is correct. Miss California did not directly answer the specific question posed to her. She was asked whether she thought other states should follow the path of those states which have legalized gay marriage. She said that she thought it was great that Americans had the choice to be with whomever they wanted, but she thought marriage should be between a man and a woman. That doesn't directly answer the question, but it does indirectly address it.

In other words: No, she doesn't think other states should follow in the same path. And for your information, Mr. Hilton, the answer you condescendingly offered didn't directly answer the question either. I think you're just bitter, Perez, because your attempt to strong arm the acceptance of gay marriage into yet another avenue of pop culture backfired.

But I'm not terribly concerned that the question was asked, or even that the judges might have felt she didn't frame her answer as well as she could have. What I'm concerned with is the systemic defamation which followed and will continue to follow her answer.

You could see it on her face the instant she realized Perez would be asking her a question; she knew she was going to get a loaded question about homosexuality. She knew, no matter how well she framed her answer, she was going to be portrayed as an ignorant bigot.

I'm sorry to say this, but her situation is not unique. What happened to Miss California is just part and parcel of what conservatives face every day. We're not permitted to voice our responses, and when we are brave enough to speak out against liberalism, we're eviscerated. What she faced on stage last night is what conservatives in nearly every college classroom across the country face every day.

No doubt, Miss California will have one of two futures in the coming days. Either she will succumb to pressure and dilute her answer to get the dogs away off her throat, or she'll stand her ground and have the MSM demonize her until her reputation and life are ruined.

I don't know which path she will choose, but I call tell you this: It took a hell of a lot of courage to stand by her convictions, even though she knew it would likely cost her the crown. And for that, I would have been honored to have her as our Miss USA.

Here's to you Miss California, for having more intestinal fortitude than Perez Hilton ever will.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Your Thoughts About the DHS Report on "Rightwing Extremism" and Our Vets




So, the RNC is looking for your response to the recent Department of Homeland Security "report" on "Rightwing Extremism" and our vets. If you make a video response, please post it in a reply to this article so I can get it some additional exposure.

Also, there is discussion on the topic taking place in the official RNC facebook group. Drop in and post your thoughts about your recently acquired "extremist" label and Napolitano's political profiling.

Susan Roesgen Reminds Us of a Natural Truth:
MSM are Liberally Prone


Close on the heels of an election season abound with liberal double standards in journalism, CNN's Susan Roesgen has reminded us all of just how partisan the MSM really are. You no doubt remember these infamous (yet recent) interviews where the liberal bias of the MSM became all too transparent:
Yesterday, CNN's Susan Roesgen offered yet another chapter of liberal bias to the annals of journalist history:



Compare her hostile treatment of the Tea Partier to the kids gloves she used to handle liberal protesters a few months ago:



Liberal MSM bias exists and it's disgustingly misleading. Confront it wherever you see it because it's out of control and ruining this country.

Ziegler Handcuffed at USC For Asking Questions at Couric Award Ceremony



Friday, at a USC ceremony where Katie Couric received the "Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Journalism" for her hit job on Sarah Palin, conservative documentarian John Jiegler was handcuffed and denied permission to ask questions of passersby.

Ziegler said it best:
This is the country we're now living in... I'm being now handcuffed for standing on a sidewalk, asking questions outside of an award ceremony on Journalism excellence. You can't get more irony than this... This is what it's come to America. At the "Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalsim," I'm standing outside, asking questions about why we're not allowed to cover the event, causing no problems whatsoever, and I've now been handcuffed, roughed up and prevented from getting to my own property... This is what journalism has become. This says it all, right here...
Of course, this type of disturbingly ironic suppression of voice is commonplace in today's America. In fact, it's a major premise of Ziegler's most recent documentary, Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted. Pick up your copy today.

Ted Nugent ROCKS the Star-Spangled Banner at the Alamo Tea Party




Eat your heart out P. Diddy...

Shout out to Justin Tomczak for the awesome video find.

Napolitano Tries to Distance Herself from Political Profiling Report



As you are probably already aware, a recent Department of Homeland Security report on "Rightwing Extremism" suggested that those with conservative sentiments were a threat to the safety of Americans. Apparently, the government now considers you a terrorist threat if you oppose abortion, own a gun or are a returning war veteran. Nice.

Here are six things you need to know about this report, as outlined by FOX News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano:
1. The summary contains few proper names, has no footnotes of any significance, lists very few sources, and is drafted with a prejudice against anyone who criticizes the role of the federal government in our lives today. It lumps together in its definition of “rightwing extremism” hate groups, anti-government groups, and single issue groups “such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

2. The document itself cautions the reader that the document is “not to be released to the public, the media, or other personnel who do not have a valid need-to-know without prior approval” of the DHS. The document refers to itself as one of a series of intelligence assessments intended to “deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.”

3. The thrust of this report is that in the present environment of economic instability, returning military veterans, those who fear of the loss of Second Amendment-protected rights, those threatened by an African-American president, and those who fear “Jewish ‘financial elites’” could all be a fertile breeding ground for groups whose power and ideas the government hates and fears. The document is essentially a warning for DHS and FBI officials to be on the look-out for rootless persons looking for the comfort of groups as they may be a danger to American security.

4. The summary (unclassified) document is terrifying. One can only imagine what is contained in the classified version. This document runs directly counter to numerous U.S. Supreme decisions prohibiting the government from engaging in any activities that could serve to chill the exercise of expressive liberties. Liberties are chilled, in constitutional parlance, when people are afraid to express themselves for fear of government omnipresence, monitoring, or reprisals. The document also informs the reader that Big Brother is watching both public and private behavior.

5. The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to guarantee open, broad, robust debate on the policies and personnel of the government. The First Amendment presumes that individuals — NOT THE GOVERNMENT — are free to choose what they believe and espouse, what they read and say, and with whom they associate in public and in private. The writers of this abominable report are particularly concerned with the expression of opinions that might be used to fuel ideas that challenge federal authority or favor state and local government over the federal government. Unfortunately, legislation passed during the past eight years gives the DHS and the FBI the tools to monitor everything from a telephone conversation to the keystrokes used on a personal computer without a warrant issued by a federal judge.

6. My guess is that the sentiments revealed in the report I read are the tip of an iceberg that the DHS would prefer to keep submerged until it needs to reveal it. This iceberg is the heavy-hand of government; a government with large and awful eyes, in whose heart there is no love for freedom, and on whose face there is no smile.
As you can imagine, many conservative and veteran organizations have taken issue with this "report." As a result, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has had to distance herself from the report and issue an apology.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party Crashers


Editorial Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Today, I heard a professor ask a class of Boston University grad students what they thought about the tea parties. And, like the New York Times-reading, MSNBC-watching group of liberal sheeple they are, they responded with Keith Olbermann talking points. One student even went so far as to tell the rest of the class about an interview he had seen on CNN, where they interviewed the most fringe, illiterate extremist they could find.

He said, "I saw an interview on CNN today where they interviewed this crazy old woman and she started going off about how America is turning into a socialist country..." He was briefly interrupted by uproarious class laughter. I'm not sure if they were chuckles of glee at the suggested change or if it was just the typical contemptuous guffawing. He went on to say, "People are protesting taxes. I mean... I think the whole world would agree, every country needs taxes."

To which the professor replied, "Right. I know, it's crazy."

Would you expect anything less from the land of Kennedy?

So why do I feel compelled to tell you about this story?

Well, I think it speaks to a larger point about the influence of liberal media. Clearly, a significant portion of the American population isn't going to investigate the validity of the claims made by the liberal MSM. Clearly, the historical context of socialism has been lost in a sea of revisionist history. Clearly, the virtues of capitalism have been skewed by partisan political bickering. Clearly, we cannot expect the ill-informed masses to educate themselves about things like the thousands of tea parties that were held nation-wide today.

If the masses had taken the time to inform themselves, they'd know that these tea parties were non-partisan demonstrations against tax and spend economics; that politicians are disproportionately taxing people who didn't vote for them to pay off those who did. That's socialism no matter how you spin it.

But the Left knows that the American people have never been in support of socialism (even though only 53% of Americans currently support capitalism over socialism). And because the Left knows this, they've repackaged socialism into a new brand that America ate up in November. As a result, liberals spew vitriol over anyone who (accurately) points out that America is becoming a socialist country, and that socialism has never, ever succeeded, or that capitalism is what made America the wealthiest country in the world.

And while many Republican politicians have tried to hop on the Tea Party express as a publicity stunt, these demonstrations had nothing to do with the GOP. I should know, I helped organize Boston's first tea party and I couldn't even get the GOP on the phone to help me out. The same people who were upset with Bush's big spending policies are even more upset now.

No, these tea parties are far more significant than the Left will admit. They represent what remains of the truly American perspective, an ideology which suggests that Americans should be self-sufficient and that the federal government should play a minimal role in our lives. To date, this has been the predominately distinguishing factor between the sub par economies of socialist Europe and the booming success of America.

So, don't be fooled by GOP wolves in sheep's clothing. While some republicans supported the grassroots tea party movements and should be commended for that, many others (like RNC chair Michael Steele) only wanted to participate after all the heavy lifting had been done.

Also, as I frequently point out, never trust the MSM. They seek profits, not the truth.

It really is time for Americans to take their country back, and it starts with making up their own damn minds for a change.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Liberal MSM Trying to Discredit Tea Parties


Editorial Cartoon by Lisa Benson

Observe as MSNBC far-left spin merchant, Rachel Maddow, attempts to undercut the sincerity of the tea parties being held nationwide. Of course, Maddow, Dan Gross, The New York Times, the Huffington Post and The Daily Kos probably all got there cue from John Stewart (what else is new?).

Apparently, the thousands upon thousands of people protesting the generational theft being committed by this administration are irrelevent because the crafty liberals were clever enough to associate conservative "tea parties" with the sexual innuendo of "tea-bagging." Classy, right? Apparently, the left thinks that calling these protests "tea-bagging parties" rather than "tea parties" will discredit the economic concerns of millions of Americans.

Here's a good story from the Washington Examiner which speaks to this issue: Tea parties reveal Left’s quick descent to hubris

Sunday, April 5, 2009

House Republican Leader Boehner Discusses Dem Budget and GOP Alternative on PBS


From the Office of the House Republican Leader

Washington, Apr 3 - In an interview on PBS’ Newshour, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) discussed the struggling economy, the Democrats' fiscally-irresponsible budget that would destroy more American jobs, and the House GOP alternative would help put America back on a path to prosperity. Boehner also discussed the Democrats’ “cap-and-trade” energy tax, the state of the American automobile industry, and the President’s performance in his first two-and-a-half months in office. Following is the full transcript and video of the interview:



KWAME HOLMAN: Leader Boehner, thank you for joining us.

Leader Boehner, you and other Republicans on both sides of the Capitol have looked at this budget that the Democrats are moving today in the House, that is a reflection of what President Obama has called for, and railed against it. What’s wrong with what they’re proposing?

REPUBLICAN LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): Well, I don’t know where I should begin.

The first problem is it spends too much. When you look at the level of spending in this budget, it will make President Bush look like a piker. And I and other Republicans felt like we spent too much during the Bush years. But this budget, at some $3.6 trillion for next year, will be the largest expansion of our government in our history.

Secondly, it taxes too much. There are some $2 trillion worth of taxes in this proposal that will tax every American. Not only do we have higher taxes for capital gains and the top rate and bringing the death tax back in full force, but we have this national energy tax.

You know, they like to call it cap-and-trade. But what it does is that it taxes energy. And so, if you drive a car or turn on a light switch, or you have – buy products that use a lot of energy, everybody’s going to pay this tax.

But it’s not just the tax that’s so onerous. It’s the millions of American jobs that I believe will be at risk because our competitors around the world don’t have such a policy. And so you’ll see products coming in from China and India and elsewhere that will make our products made here more expensive relative to theirs.

And so you’ve got higher spending. You’ve got higher taxes. And then you get to the real whammy, and that’s the national debt.

President Obama’s budget will double the national debt in the next five years. It will triple the national debt in the next 10 years, given their projections.

This is unacceptable. I think it will imprison our kids and grandkids. It will slow our economy. It will slow job growth in America. It’s just not, in my opinion, not the way to proceed.

HOLMAN: The speaker, Speaker Pelosi, says your budget being offered by the Republicans in the House gives too many tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and does not do those kinds of investments in renewable energy, in education, in health care.

BOEHNER: I think we have a responsible budget. It does curb spending. It does curb taxes to allow more investment in our economy.

We’re in the middle of a serious recession. The best way to help solve that recession is to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn. And, most importantly, we have much smaller deficits as we go forward.

And so I believe that we have a responsible approach to our budget, far more responsible than the budget plan that they’re bringing up.

HOLMAN: Speaker Pelosi says, in order to get the economy growing again, you need to invest in health care reform. It takes money to do that. You need to make investments in energy and in education, which makes the populace more productive.

BOEHNER: Well, there are certainly some investments that could be made in our society, but this budget that they’re bringing up avoids all of the tough choices. All the tough choices get stuck on the backs of our kids and grandkids. And when you keep spending money and spending money, you don’t have to make tough choices.

HOLMAN: There may be a tough choice Republicans will have to face, in that it could come to pass that the energy -- that the health care investment could pass the Senate with only 51 votes through a process called reconciliation. It’s a process that both parties have used from time to time. Why do you oppose it now?

BOEHNER: But never been used to institute great, big national policy. While it is a tool that’s available to the majority, it’s a tool that’s been used with some discretion in the past, and I would hope that that would continue.

HOLMAN: Is it all right just to have it as what the speaker calls a last resort, using that 51-vote threshold, reconciliation, while the speaker says she continues to seek bipartisanship with your party?

BOEHNER: All I can do is chuckle. There’s been no bipartisanship. I’ve reached out, reached out. We’ve offered better solutions in many cases.

But there’s been no effort on the part of the administration or Speaker Pelosi to work in a bipartisan manner. We continue to see these policies rolling out of committee and brought to the floor with little or no debate. This is not -- this is not the way to run the United States House of Representatives.

And, unfortunately, they’ve taken a go-it-alone strategy, which I don’t think is healthy for the country.

HOLMAN: Turning to the auto bailout, you come from Ohio, a state with auto production. You’ve criticized the way the Obama administration handled Rick Wagoner, apparently moving him out.

It’s also been said that the auto industry has been treated more harshly than the Wall Street banking companies. How do you assess the way the Obama administration has dealt with both?

BOEHNER: Well, I don’t think the federal government has any right to suggest who the CEO of any company ought to be. But in this case, not only is it the CEO, now they’re going to decide -- the administration’s going to decide who the board of directors should be. This goes against everything that I believe in.

But at the end of the day, it’s the stakeholders, whether it’s the employees, the shareholders, the bondholders, the suppliers, they’re the ones that have to come to an agreement on how they can preserve the future for G.M., and I’m hopeful that they will.

HOLMAN: In all of these interventions, have the taxpayers in the financial bailouts, the money loaned to the auto industry, have the taxpayers been put on the hook for too much money? Does that concern you deeply at this point?

BOEHNER: Well, there’s certainly bailout fatigue here in Congress and bailout fatigue in the country. How much money can we afford to invest? How much risk can we take with our kids’ future by spending this money today?

But somebody ought to be developing the exit strategy, because we can’t continue this effort of pumping trillions of dollars of taxpayer funds into these institutions.

HOLMAN: Finally, Mr. Leader, Mr. Obama has been in office for a couple of months doing a lot, working with the G-20 right now. How do you assess the work he has done? People have said he’s put too much on his plate, missed focus on the economy.

BOEHNER: I like the President. We’ve got a good, open and honest relationship.

He has put more on the plate than any president in the history of our country. And I have profound disagreements over his budget and his direction that he wants to take our country.

This huge expansion of the federal government in the midst of a crisis is, in my view, everything I came to Washington to fight against. And my job as the Republican leader here is to fight those proposals with everything that I have on behalf of the American people and, when we disagree, to make sure that we offer what we would think would be a better solution.

We need to have this fight, if you will, and let the American people decide who’s going in the right direction.

HOLMAN: House Republican Leader John Boehner, thank you very much.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

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