Government Shutdown

Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown

The Conservative Action Project is a right-wing group that has contributed to the recent government shutdown. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The Nation

At Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, a small shop next to Union Station and around the corner from the Heritage Foundation, “fair trade” coffee is dispensed and Christian books are available for customers to read.

A group of political operatives and evangelical firebrands behind the strategy to shut down the government over healthcare reform couldn’t have picked a more unassuming meeting place. Though the more famous “Wednesday meeting” is across town at the offices of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the shutdown plotters often meet at a weekly lunch held on Wednesday at the event space of Ebenezer’s. (The group also meets regularly on Wednesday mornings at the offices of the Family Research Council.)

This other Wednesday group is a convening of the Conservative Action Project, an ad hoc coalition created in the early years of the Obama administration to reorganize the conservative movement .

The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.

Yesterday, The New York Times revealed in great detail how the Conservative Action Project has orchestrated the current showdown. The group initially floated the idea of attaching funding for Obamacare to the continuing resolution, and followed up with grassroots organizing, paid advertisements and a series of events designed to boost the message of senators like Ted Cruz.

Though the Heritage Foundation, through its 501(c)(4) Heritage Action sister organization, has played a lead role in sponsoring advertisements and town-hall meetings, tax disclosures reviewed by show that the Council for National Policy has provided a steady stream of funding for the organizing effort.

In my new book published this year, The Machine: A Field Guide the Resurgent Right, I profiled how the Conservative Action Project came about, and how its existence sparked a schism within the conservative movement. The group has played a background role in several high-profile political debates.

It was this rival Wednesday group that gave rise to the farcical “Ground Zero Mosque” conspiracy in 2010. The Conservative Action Project also played a consequential role in whipping up opposition to a number of key Obama judicial nominees, including judges David Hamilton and Goodwin Liu. Through rapid-fire memos and coalition advocacy, the Conservative Action Project can claim large responsibility for the fact that Obama has been deprived more than any modern American president of appointing judges of his choice for the federal bench.

But like the quagmire that GOP leaders find themselves in today, the hard-charging Conservative Action Project has bristled at establishment criticism in the past. Notably, it was the Conservative Action Project that first courted controversial Senate candidates like Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller. For my book, I spoke to Colin Hanna, a Conservative Action Project leader, who told me that through weekly meetings with Republican legislators, his coalition members were able to persuade Republican campaign committees to generally back off and allow their insurgent candidates to compete in GOP primaries. O’Donnell later went on to cost the GOP one of its most prized Senate seats.

In another episode that enraged the Republican establishment, Republican Study Commission employees were caught encouraging conservative advocacy groups to attack the debt-ceiling deal negotiated by President Obama and Speaker Boehner in 2011. The story, reported by Politiconoted that RSC employee Wesley Goodman e-mailed a listserv, “We need statements coming up to the Hill every hour of the day in mounting opposition to the plan.” Goodman now officially works for the Conservative Action Project, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Many of the leaders involved in this effort are well-known Christian conservative icons, including “Christian Zionist” and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, an activist famous for his over-the-top attacks on the gay community.

The group has engaged in clashes with libertarian-leaning GOP leaders, particularly Norquist. That is not to say the group is not well connected with well-heeled interest groups.

The board of the Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project’s sponsor, features Michael Grebe, an influential Republican lawyer who leads the Bradley Foundation—a GOP money machine with close ties to Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and Governor Scott Walker. The Heritage Foundation’s Ed Meese and Becky Norton Dunlop, both well-respected among mainstream Republicans, are said to be prime players in the effort.

Kevin Gentry, a key employee of Koch Industries’s lobbying subsidiary Koch Public Sector, has served on the board of CNP. Gentry now helped to run the new $250 million fund for conservative advocacy groups called Freedom Partners and manages the twice-annual secret gatherings for Charles Koch’s cohorts. (It was at a CNP gathering that Charles Koch once compared himself to the theologian Martin Luther.)

One CNP official has a surprising connection to President Obama and the shutdown. Since 2009, a consultant named Patrick Pizzella has helped to ensure that the Conservative Action Project achieves its goals. For a fee of $133,333, he’s been the highest-paid full-time employee since 2009, when the effort began.

In August of this year, President Obama nominated Pizzella to be a member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. The FLRA acts as a miniature National Labor Relations Board for federal workers, helping to arbitrate disputes between federal employees and labor unions. Two months later, 800,000 federal employees now find themselves at home because of Pizzella’s political project.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: September 22, 2013

Chinese politician Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison.

The Week

Militants attack a Kenyan shopping mall, Bo Xilai is convicted of corruption, and more

1. Hostage standoff continues at Kenyan mall following militant shootout
An attack by Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked rebel group, al-Shabab, at an upscale mall in Nairobi on Saturday killed at least 59 people and wounded 175. Multiple barrages of gunfire erupted Sunday morning from inside the building where a hostage standoff continues with Islamic extremists nearly 24 hours after they attacked using grenades and assault rifles. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, in which they specifically targeted non-Muslims. Al-Shabab told the BBC it carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. [CBS News]

2. Cruz: Democrats have too much leeway in ObamaCare funding
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reiterated his commitment to blocking a Senate vote on a House-approved spending bill, saying that currently Senate Democrats have too much leeway to add funding for ObamaCare. “Any vote for cloture, any vote to allow Harry Reid to add funding to ObamaCare with just a 51-vote threshold, a vote for cloture is a vote for ObamaCare,” the Texas Republican said on Fox News Sunday. [Politico]

3. Bo Xilai found guilty of corruption
A Chinese court found disgraced former top politician Bo Xilai guilty of bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power on Sunday. Bo was sentenced to life in prison with the right to appeal. He denied all the charges against him in a fiery defense at his trial. Bo was removed from office last year amid a scandal which saw his wife convicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. [BBC News]

4. Obama asks supporters to continue gun control push
President Obama urged supporters on Saturday to “go back at it” and pursue gun-control measures after two mass shootings in the past week. Obama made passing tough gun laws a top priority after the Newtown school shooting in December, but Congress rejected his proposals to restrict sales of certain types of guns and require greater background checks. The Obama administration has largely moved on since, but a recent spate of shootings including last Monday’s Navy Yard massacre brought the issue back into headlines. [Reuters]

5. BlackBerry delays iOS7, Android BBM app
One day after posting more than $900 million in losses and announcing plans to lay off 40 percent of its workforce, BlackBerry delayed the rollout of iPhone and Android apps for its popular BlackBerry Messenger messaging service after an unreleased version of the Android app leaked. That version saw 1.1 million users in the first 8 hours, but the unofficial version “caused issues.” The company did not specify what the issues were. [USA TODAY]

6. “Hiccup girl” convicted of murder
Jennifer Mee, whose uncontrollable hiccupping won her national TV appearances in 2005, was convicted of first-degree murder. Mee was accused of masterminding a 2010 robbery, luring a man to an apartment supposedly to buy marijuana, but was instead shot four times. When she was 15, Mee developed a case of the hiccups that wouldn’t stop for five weeks and caused her to hiccup up to 50 times a minute. [NBC News]

7. Customers sue LinkedIn for allegedly hacking email addresses
LinkedIn, the most popular professional-networking website, was sued by customers who claim the company hacked into their email accounts and downloaded contacts’ addresses for marketing purposes. The customers asked a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., to force it to end the practice and to return any revenue stemming from using their identities to promote the site to non-members. [Bloomberg]

8. U.S. came close to nuclear disaster in 1961
A hydrogen bomb 260 times more powerful than the device that flattened Hiroshima nearly detonated on the U.S.’ east coast on Jan. 24, 1961, according to a new book by Eric Schlosser, the supervisor of the nuclear weapons safety department at Sandia national laboratories. Two hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, N.C., that day after a B-52 bomber broke up in flight. One simple switch prevented the catastrophe. [Associated Press]

9. Primetime Emmys to air this evening
The 65th Annual Primetime Emmys will air on CBS tonight, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. House of Cards is the first Netflix series to be nominated for an Emmy, with actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright nominated for their roles on the show and the series nominated for Best Drama Series. AMC’s Breaking Bad, which airs its final episode next week, is seen as a frontrunner this year. [The New York Times]

10. Jones defeats Gustafsson in UFC 165
Jon Jones retained his UFC light heavyweight championship Saturday night, defending his title for a record sixth consecutive time at UFC 165 with a hard-fought, five-round unanimous decision over Alexander Gustafsson at Air Canada Centre. Gustafsson gave Jones what the champion called the most difficult fight of his career. The fight lasted 25 minutes, after which both opponents went to the hospital. [ESPN]


West Wing Week

West Wing Week: 9/30/11 or “Set Your Sights High”

The White House 

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, the President announced reforms to No Child Left Behind, traveled to California to hold a town hall on job growth at LinkedIn, spoke on what the American Jobs Act could mean for America’s schools and gave his third annual Back To School address.


The American Jobs Act · Unemployment

Audience Member Asks Obama: ‘Would You Please Raise My Taxes?’

President Barack Obama addresses the House Dem...
Image via Wikipedia

Of course some people think this guy was a “prop”, set up by the Obama campaign committee.   Most bloggers on the right seem to have that opinion.  Could it be because they can’t  possibly “handle the truth!”

Think Progress

Earlier today, President Obama  fielded questions from a town hall audience in Mountain View, California, hosted by LinkedIn.  At one point, a man stood and asked Obama, “Would you please raise my taxes?” He continued: “I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants, infrastructure, and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am.” In his response, Obama dismissed “class warfare” rhetoric and emphasized that everyone benefits from government investments that companies would not have made on their own.

Watch it:

After Obama spoke, the man — who said he is voluntarily unemployed after making a healthy return from investing years ago in a search engine start-up company (presumably Google) — pleaded with Obama: “Please!” “We’re gonna get to work,” Obama concluded.

UPDATE:   Mark Knoller tweets, “The man who asked Pres Obama to raise his taxes was Doug Edwards, former Dir of Consumer Marketing & brand management for Google.”
UPDATE:   In a recent interview, Edwards — author of “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59″ — said, “It’s hard to see how real change is gonna come when money is still the largest voice in politics.”
Related articles

Why Facebook lost 6 million U.S. users: 4 theories

This Week

The social networking giant reportedly lost quite a few friends in May. Market saturation, or the beginning of the end?

Facebook may be nearing 700 million users with a $100-billion IPO on the horizon, but all may not be well in Zuckerberg land. According to Inside Facebook, the social networking giant lost nearly 6 million users in the United States in May, along with 1.52 million in Canada and hundreds of thousands in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Russia. The company still managed to add 11.8 million new users worldwide last month, but its growth has been slowing significantly. What’s happening? Here, four theories:

1. Facebook has made as many friends as it can
Mark Zuckerberg and Co. may be “hitting a saturation point in key markets,” especially in the U.S., where roughly 50 percent of the population is already on Facebook, says Kent Bernhard Jr. at Portfolio. If that’s the case, the social network might not be able to reach Zuckerberg’s goal of 1 billion users without conquering China (and its strict online censorship).

2. People are sick of Facebook
“I think users are deleting their accounts because they… are burnt out,” says Lindsay Mannering at The Stir. Even Bill Gates, a Zuckerberg friend and Facebook investor, recently quit the social networking site, saying his friend requests had gotten “out of hand.” I don’t blame him. “Between the feeds and the friends, it’s too much… more of an obligation than a fun way to pass a few minutes.” No wonder people are logging off for good.

3. This is just a temporary dip
“Seasonal changes like college graduations, and other short-term factors, can influence numbers month to month and obscure what’s really happening,” says Eric Eldon at Inside Facebook. These May figures are certainly intriguing, but let’s not overreact. The long-term trends are the ones that really matter.

4. Other social networks are on the rise
It’s “worth noting” that Twitter and LinkedIn are gaining in many of the areas that Facebook saw big losses — namely the U.S. Canada, and the United Kingdom, says Robin Wauters at TechCrunch. But let’s not forget that “on a global level… Facebook is drawing more visitors than ever.”


Tea Partiers · Tea Party

Tea Party Woes

Randi Rhodes Blog

What happens when the Tea Party universe collides with reality? Surprise, surprise—it turns out that a lot of people in Tea Party whacko and New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s inner circle have shady pasts. In fact, the only thing in New York State with a more tainted past than Carl Paladino’s inner circle is Love Canal.

One Paladino adviser has been indicted on charges of stealing more than $1 million from Michael Bloomberg’s re-election bid last year. What kind of advice does this advisor give? “Hey, why don’t you let me take care of the checkbook?” Yeesh! Who is dumb enough to hire an advisor who stole from his last employer? That would be like hiring a convicted drunk driver to be your driver. Oops. Paladino did that too. Yep. Paladino’s driver is a drunk driver.

Paladino’s campaign advisor stole money from another campaign. I can only assume that Paladino’s press spokesperson has Tourette Syndrome. Hey Carl, do you need a dog walker? Michael Vick is out of jail. Here’s an idea, Carl—put the drunk driver in charge of your campaign money, and let the embezzler be your driver. That way at least they’re not dealing with their field of criminal expertise.

In a separate reality check, both Sharron Angle and her husband receive healthcare from the federal government. So if Sharron Angle says she wants to get government off of your back, it’s only so it can take care of her needs. Angle gets federal health insurance through her husband, who is a retired federal employee. They also get a federal pension check. Sharron Angle didn’t respond to the revelations—maybe her mouth was full, sucking on the government teat.

Finally, Christine O’Donnell has been claiming that she studied at Oxford.  You don’t have to be an Oxford grad to figure out that’s not true. O’Donnell’s LinkedIn bio page lists “University of Oxford” as one of the schools she attended. Not likely. A quick perusal of Oxford shows that they don’t even offer courses in witchcraft, creationism, or masturbation avoidance. In reality, Christine took a course from the on-line Phoenix Institute, which rented space at Oxford. What is this? A mail drop? It sounds like Christine O’Donnell was at the educational equivalent of a Cayman Islands business address. A spokesman for the Phoenix Institute called O’Donnell’s claim that she went to Oxford “misleading.” I think the proper term is “lying,” but then I never took a semantics course at Oxford.

Greg Sargent · Washington Post

The Plum Line: LinkedIn responds to O’Donnell and Happy Hour Roundup

The Plum Line – Greg Sargent

LinkedIn has now responded to Christine O’Donnell’s claim that she had no role in posting her online bio, which falsely claimed she studied at Oxford. But right now, LinkedIn says, it’s not yet in a position to determine whether or not O’Donnell is telling the truth.

“We have taken the profile down. That’s all we are confirming,” LinkedIn spokesperson Shannon Stubo emailed me. “It was taken down in response to Christine O’Donnell’s request. This is not an acknowledgment that the profile was fake.”

To reiterate: O’Donnell’s campaign spokesperson didn’t indicate that the profile was unauthorized when I contacted her for comment last week, or when I contacted her yesterday before publishing.

* Also: When the O’Donnell campaign was pressed by a skeptical Associated Press reporter to answer why they didn’t challenge the veracity of the profile when I asked about it, the campaign declined to answer directly:

Asked Wednesday to explain why she did not challenge authorship of the profile when talking with Sargent, O’Donnell spokeswoman Diana Banister replied simply, “Ms. O’Donnell has clarified any questions about her education and the LinkedIn page.”


Happy Hour Roundup:

* Max Baucus throws down the gauntlet with all those outside groups flooding the midterms with cash, calling on the IRS to take a close look at whether they are in compliance with tax codes — and even hinting at a possible Senate probe. Keep an eye on this one.

* Brian Beutler breaks the news that House Dems have made it official: They will postpone the vote on extending the middle class tax cuts until after the election.

My understanding is that Nancy Pelosi wanted this vote, and was pushing for it as late as this morning as a way to make it crystal clear to voters who is on the side of the middle class. Majority Whip James Clyburn wanted the vote, too, I’m told.

But while Steny Hoyer wanted to extend the middle class tax cuts, he was sympathetic to Dems in marginal districts who argued that a vote would interfere with their efforts to localize the election. They claimed they could better push the issue on their own in their districts. In the end, though, all the leaders agreed that there wasn’t enough support in the caucus to hold it.

* And: Chris Van Hollen, addressing the postponed middle class tax cuts vote, vows Dems will “take the fight to the election.”

* Don’t miss Aaron Blake’s overview of the House map and the DCCC’s and NRCC’s ad-buying strategies.

* It’s not just Fox and MSNBC: Ben Smith makes an important point, acknowledging that even self-described nonideological news outlets at times inevitably function as “political actors.”

* Fox News, ever bashful about making itself the story, goes on a jihad against Obama for speaking the truth about Fox News.

* More proof of the “Charlie Crist crunch” I noted below: In a new CNN/Time poll, Marco Rubio has pulled away from Crist, 38-31 — because Crist is losing Republicans to Rubio and Dems to Kendrick Meek.

* AOL News asked the O’Donnell campaign about the Oxford/LinkedIn bio way back on September 15th, so O’Donnell’s people may have known about this for two weeks without claiming it was fake.

* Jane Hamsher defends the “professional left’s” attacks on Obama, claiming liberals haven’t really turned on him and that he’s merely enduring an unprecedented level of “detailed process scrutiny.”.

* And here’s the headline of the day: Dave Weigel has the full rundown on why liberals don’t like Rahm, in a piece called…

So Long, Jerk

What else is happening?


Another Christine O’Donnell embellishment: She misleadingly claims she studied at Oxford

The Plum Line – Greg Sargent

In another move that will raise further questions about Christine O’Donnell’s embellishment of her education record, she claims she studied at the University of Oxford — but a look at her actual record shows this is at best an exaggeration and at worst an outright falsehood.

O’Donnell’s LinkedIn bio page lists “University of Oxford” as one of the schools she attended, claiming she studied “Post Modernism in the New Millennium.” But it turns out that was just a course conducted by an institution known as the Phoenix Institute, which merely rented space at Oxford.

What’s more, the woman who oversaw Phoenix Institute’s summer program at Oxford tells me O’Donnell’s claim about studying at Oxford is “misleading.”

By itself, O’Donnell’s Oxford claim might not matter too much. But the larger context is that O’Donnell has already been nabbed fudging her education record not once, but twice. She claimed for several years to have graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson Unversity, but she actually obtained her bachelor’s degree last summer. And in a lawsuit she suggested she was trying for a Master’s degree courses at Princeton — but subsequently acknowledged she hadn’t taken a single Princeton graduate course.

O’Donnell’s LinkedIn bio page lists the following under education:

Christine O’Donnell’s Education

Fairleigh Dickinson University 1989 — 1993

Claremont Graduate University

Constitutional Government

University of Oxford

“Post Modernism in the New Millennium”

Asked to account for the claim about Oxford, Diana Banister, a spokesperson for O’Donnell, told me it was a reference to a certificate she obtained from a course at Oxford overseen by the Phoenix Instutute, which “runs summer seminar programs at universities around the world.” The Phoenix Institute defines itself as an institution that runs summer sessions “on three continents” in the quest to answer the question, “What is it to be human?”

But Chris Fletcher, who oversaw the Institute’s 2001 Oxford Summer Programme, which included the course O’Donnell took, tells me the course was not overseen by Oxford.

“We never represented it as a course run by Oxford University,” Fletcher, who is now an assistant professor of religious studies at Benedictine University in Illinois, told me. Fletcher said the only connection to Oxford is that they rented space there and organized some lectures with “guest lecturers from Oxford and Cambridge” as well as from other institutions.

“It wasn’t an official course of Oxford University,” Fletcher said. “It wasn’t sponsored by Oxford University. We rented the space.”

“It was our curriculum, and we did the grades,” Fletcher continued. Fletcher’s conclusion about O’Donnell’s Oxford claim: “It’s misleading.”