The Palm Beach Post ran a blockbuster story November 25 in which several former high-up GOP officials admitted that “Voter ID” laws and a law cutting back early voting were GOP tactics aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote in Florida. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist and Jim Greer, former chair of the Florida Republican Party, both admitted that the GOP’s push to enact “Voter ID” laws out of a purported concern for voter fraud was really a ruse to block Democratic voters from the polls. Greer told the Palm Beach Post, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates…It’s done for one reason and one reason only.” Greer said Republican staffers and consultants told him ,”We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.” Wayne Bertsch, who coordinated campaigns for GOP candidates for local offices, also admitted the reasons GOP officials gave for advancing voter ID laws were bogus. Crist said while he was in office as Florida’s governor, Republican Party leaders contacted him to discuss curtailing early voting hours as a way to suppress turnout among Democratic voters. Crist has since left the GOP and is now an Independent. Greer has been indicted for using a phony campaign fundraising operation to pocket $200,000. But the Post also found another GOP-affiliated consultant, who asked not to be named who confirmed that the true purpose behind enacting voter ID and a law to cut back on early voting in Florida were meant to suppress Democratic turnout in the general election.
Source: Palm Beach Post, November 25, 2012
Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform, have long lobbied for tobacco industry interests — earning huge payouts from RJR and Philip Morris
Grover Norquist, who for decades has been the patron saint of anti-tax sentiment for Republicans, is fast losing relevance as Republicans finally start to grasp that the only way America can get out of its fiscal mess is to raise taxes. Legislators are starting to see that their allegiance must be to the United States of America and its people, and not to Grover Norquist. But for GOP legislators, leaving Norquist behind will be one of the best things they can do to help get some credibility back with the American public. By pledging their allegiance to Norquist for so many years, Republicans have put stock in one of the most reliable allies of one of the world’s most reviled industries: the tobacco industry. Previously-secret tobacco industry documents show Norquist and his group Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) have for decades been highly dependable allies to Big Tobacco. Norquist was always at the cigarette makers’ beck and call whenever they needed him. As ATR president, Norquist annually sought and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to support the companies’ agenda of low cigarette and corporate taxes. In return for the big bucks, Norquist offered his organization up as a conduit for tobacco industry lobbying. Norquist figured prominently in Philip Morris’ quiet, internal 1995 “Get Government Off Our Back” project, in which the cigarette maker secretly created a phony “grassroots” group, to push to “shift government’s priorities” off regulating business. In 1999, Norquist helped cigarette makers fight President Clinton’s proposal to add a one dollar tax on cigarettes to fund health care. Norquist was cast as a “core ally” in Philip Morris’ efforts to enact “tort reform” to block people’s access to the courts. Norquist helped defend cigarette makers against the Department of Justice’s 1999 Lawsuit in which the industry was found guilty of perpetrating five decades of fraud against the American people. Philip Morris’ law firm of Covington and Burling even secretly took the privilege of drafting letters to government agencies, like FDA, that Norquist could sign so they would appear to be from ATR and not a tobacco company.
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Photo of Ray Giunta from Ambassador Speakers Bureau website, which says Guinta brings the “sustainable hope of Christ to people.”
The Pentagon has hired Las Vegas-based Ray Giunta, a known fraudster, to be the guest speaker at the “Pentagon Prayer Breakfast” on November 28th. Giunta, who advertises himself as the friendly “Pastor Ray,” a Christian motivational speaker, has also put himself out as “Doctor Ray,” a clinical psychologist and addictions counselor who practiced using a fake Ph.D. degree that he bought online for a few hundred dollars. A California state audit revealed that in a previous job as director of the California Cemetery Board in the mid-1990s, Giunta illegally diverted over $10,000 in cemetery trust funds meant for maintaining graveyards. He used the money to open a bank account, pay his dry cleaning bills and his creditors and to help support his nonprofit group, “We Care Ministries.” While not an ordained minister, more recently he has started putting himself out as a chaplain and pastoral counselor. Giunta and his wife purchased online degrees from a place called “Rochville University” which charged $769 for a “master’s and doctorate degree package.” He ordered a white lab coat with the word “Doc” embroidered on the lapel that he wore while “counseling” people on behalf of a church. The personal license plate on Giunta’s car said “CAREDOC” and he wore a stethoscope on a church-sponsored missionary trip to Africa. In June of 2008, the Las Vegas Sun published an extensive article describing Guinta’s string of frauds and the people he had deceived. Giunta says he and his wife believed their degrees were real and didn’t realize they were bogus. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is protesting Guinta’s appearance at the Pentagon event and a has asked the Pentagon to rescind the invitation to Giunta. The bigger question remains, however, and that is why a taxpayer-funded institution is holding an event that endorses religion.
Source: Military Religious Freedom Foundation, November 26, 2012
NBC’s upcoming feel-good holiday TV program, the “American Giving Awards” to be broadcast on December 8, is nothing more than a highly-orchestrated public relations stunt designed to rain good feelings upon JP Morgan Chase, one of the most reviled U.S. financial institutions and a major contributor to the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Chase was behind the creation of many of the problematic financial products like credit default swaps which almost brought down the global financial system in 2008. Chase has been fined hundreds of million dollars for lying to investors, perpetrating mortgage fraud and engaging in other illegal financial schemes. To further thumb it’s nose at consumers, Chase recently hired an executive to head up the company’s Foreclosure Victims Bureau who the Justice Department concluded helped enable mortgage fraud. To help repair its tarnished image, Chase created the “American Giving Awards,” using a PR company called Intersport, which boasts that it is an “innovator and leader in the creation of sports and entertainment-based marketing platforms” designed to benefit “global brands.” Actor Gary Sinise and singer Colby Caillat are two of the stars recruited to help draw attention to this televised PR stunt in which JP Morgan Chase gives away millions of dollars to charity.
A church in Leakey, Texas intentionally violated IRS rules by urging people to vote for Romney.
Russell Renwicks, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manager in the mid-Atlantic region, said at a legal seminar in Washington, D.C. October 18 that the IRS is intentionally opting not to audit more than thousand churches across the U.S. that have purposely violated federal laws restricting political activity. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian activist group that recently changed its name to the “Alliance Defending Freedom,” since 2008 has urged church pastors across the country to openly endorse political candidates from the pulpit and then send a record of their statements to the IRS. Pastors who do violate a federal tax-exempt rules that say federally-registered charities “may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” The ADF considers the rule an unconstitutional government intrusion and is urging the mass lawbreaking to try to goad the IRS into taking action against violators that could eventually end up in court. Dean Patterson, an IRS spokesman in Washington, D.C. said Renwicks “misspoke” when he charged the IRS was purposely failing to take action against the churches, but attorneys who specialize in tax law for religious groups say the IRS has indeed taken no action at all over the last three years to audit any of about 1,500 churches that have been reported to the agency for intentionally engaging in partisan political activity.
Main source: Minnesota Public Radio, November 3, 2012
Big food, candy and chemical companies are pouring tens of millions of dollars into fighting California’s Proposition 37, which would require foods be labeled as to whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically-modified foods have their DNA artificially altered in a laboratory, for example Monsanto genetically engineered a type of sweet corn to make it also contain an insecticide. GMOs have been linked to allergies, organ toxicity and other ailments. The problem is, consumers are in the dark about whether the foods they buy contain GMOs because food producers have not been required to identify foods that contain them. Monsanto has paid over $4.3 million to fight Proposition 37, followed by DuPont, ($4 million), Pepsi ($2.1 million), Bayer ($2 million), Dow ($2 million), Coca Cola ($1.69 million), Nestle ($1.46 million) and ConAgra Foods ($1.1 million). Other companies working to defeat the disclosure law include familiar household companies that dominate the grocery stores, like Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Bumble Bee (tuna), Hershey’s, Heinz, Kellogg, Kraft, Land O’Lakes (butter), McCormick (spices), Nestle (cocoa), Tree Top (apple juice), Smuckers (jam), and Welch’s (grape juice). The big food and chemical companies have hired former tobacco industry operatives to apply big Tobacco’s playbook to fight the initiative. Hiring out professional PR flacks to oppose the measure also distances the companies from the unpopular effort and helps shield their valuable brands from backlash. The “No” campaign is using the tobacco industry tactic of hiding behind a front group made to appear as though it is made up of small businesses, family farmers and the like, to give the public the impression that the anti-37 effort is a “grassroots” campaign by real people. Far from it. The “Yes on 37” campaign points out that many of the wealthy companies secretly bankrolling the fight against Prop. 37 are the same ones that for years assured Americans that cigarettes were safe, and DDT and Agent Orange were harmless.
General Motors publicly rebuked Mitt Romney over a misleading Ohio radio campaign ad that wrongly infers GM is planning to move U.S. auto manufacturing jobs to China. The ad’s narrator states, “Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China.” GM spokesman Greg Martin said “We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days. No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, similarly tried to limit the damage Romney has done to his company’s reputation after Romney lied at a campaign event October 27 when he wrongly stated Jeep was moving all its manufacturing jobs to China. Marchionne sent an email out to employees reiterating that “Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China. The numbers tell the story…Those include more than $1.7 billion to produce the successor of the Jeep Liberty and hire about 1,100 workers on a second shift by 2013.” Earlier this month, the Salt Lake City Tribune, the leading newspaper in the most Republican state in the U.S. and in the heart of Mormon country, endorsed Barack Obama for president, calling Romney “shameless” and suggesting the GOP presidential nominee will say whatever he thinks he must to win votes.
Main Sources: Business Insider, October 30, 2012 and the Detroit Free Press, October 30, 2012
Romney speaks to crowd in Defiance, Ohio (from YouTube)
GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney openly lied — again — at a campaign event in Defiance, Ohio Thursday, October 25, when he told a crowd of about 12,000 that Jeep is considering shifting all of its North American production to China. “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said. The statement is verifiably false. Chrysler’s vice president of communications, Gualberto Ranieri, publicly corrected Romney in a blog post on the company’s website. “Let’s set the record straight,” Ranieri wrote, “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.” Representatives from Romney’s campaign said candidate had misread the first two paragraphs of a Bloomberg news report that discussed the manufacture of Jeeps for the Chinese market. The article started out by saying Fiat, the company that now owns Chrysler, “plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in the country.” It said that Chrysler and Fiat are evaluating additional production sites in China, not that they are shifting their output from North America to China. Despite being publicly called out on the purported error by Chrysler, neither Romney nor his campaign workers have corrected the erroneous statement. Quite the contrary — the Romney campaign has built on it. Romney has created a new campaign ad around his misleading statement. The ad says, “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.” The Salt Lake City (Utah) Tribune, a conservative newspaper in the home of Mormonism, endorsed President Obama in an October 19th editorial titled “Too Many Mitts”, that called Romney the Republican Party’s “shape-shifting nominee.”
Misleading May, 1971 ad in LIFE magazine ad encouraging sugar intake
The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine has an explosive new analysis of more than 1,500 pages of internal documents from the archives of now-defunct sugar companies that reveals that for 40 years, the sugar industry engaged in a massive PR campaign to sow doubt about studies linking sugar consumption to disease. After a growing body of independent research started implicating sugar as a significant cause of heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes and other diseases, the sugar industry responded by developing a PR scheme that included secretly funding scientists to perform studies exonerating sugar as a source of disease. The sugar industry also secretly created a front group, the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council, that they stocked with physicians and dentists who were willing to defend sugar’s purported place in a healthy diet. Sugar companies also worked to shift the conversation about diabetes away from sugar and boost the notion that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, were a bigger culprit in causing heart disease than sugar.
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Church sign in Leakey, Texas violates IRS rule by urging people to vote for Romney.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has asked the Internal Revenue Service (pdf) to investigate a Texas church after the pastor posted a message on the church’s marquee urging people to “VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! The “Mormon” reference is to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. ABC News reported that the sign is an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, whom many conservatives believe is a “secret Muslim” even though President Obama says he is a Christian and attends church with his family. According to ABC News, Ray Miller, the pastor of the Church of the Valley in Leakey, Texas, said he put the sign up because “he feels strongly about the election.” The church sign violates U.S. law, however, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including all churches, from endorsing political candidates.
Source: Americans United for Separation of Church and State press release, October 23, 2012
For most people, it’s a given that politicians lie, but even with such universally low expectations for candidates, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stands out. The brazenness and persistence of Romney’s lying has drawn notice from all quarters. This isn’t just the perception of wild-eyed liberals, either. In October, 2011, Matt Welch of Reason.com, a right-leaning publication that supports free markets, wrote about Romney’s prodigious lying in an article titled “Mitt Romney’s Lying Problem”. An October 8, 2012 Forbes.com article noted Romney’s large number of lies and reversals in positions on policies. Even far right-wing Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich openly called Mitt Romney a liar on CBS News’ “The Early Show.”
Mitt Romney’s prodigious lying exceeds anything ever seen before in American politics, by all accounts. Given this, one overall question remains: How can Romney be so comfortable with such lying? Most average Americans would recoil at the idea of spewing as many lies as Romney has, let alone doing it in the white-hot spotlight of the national and global media. So what has given rise to a person like Romney, who so verifiably, consistently and freely lies the way he does? And how does this square with his Mormon religion, which, at least in print, preaches that complete honesty is necessary for salvation?
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Insurance companies are hot targets in the national discussion of skyrocketing medical costs and health care reform. But there is another, little-noticed factor could also be sucking untold health care dollars out of our pockets. It’s one we are also loathe to address: the part that doctors play in pushing up the costs of medical care. This is an area that is begs for closer scrutiny, and in which patients need more help.
An Examination Day Surprise
My interest in this topic was piqued by a personal experience that brought home the problem of runaway medical costs in a truly shocking way.
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U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
Republicans have long had the reputation of being the party most supportive of the military and of veterans in particular, but no more. On September 19 Senate Republicans, in their continued effort to oppose any idea introduced by President Obama, used a technicality to kill a bill that would have helped American veterans’ dire unemployment situation. The Veterans Job Corps Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), would have trained and placed veterans in jobs on federal public lands like national parks, wildlife refuges, veterans’ cemeteries and forests. The bill would have cost about $1 billion over five years — the equivalent of less than four days of the war in Afghanistan. The Act would have been funded through the collection of delinquent taxes from Medicare suppliers and providers, and from individuals who have over $50,000 in unpaid taxes. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida), a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Murray, said Republicans’ opposition to the bill stemmed from the party’s refusal to support the Veterans Job Corps Act because the idea for it came from President Obama, who proposed the Act during his State of the Union address in January, 2012. Republicans killed the bill in a 58-40 procedural vote to waive a budget rule which would have allowed the bill to go to a vote of the full Senate. Sixty votes were required. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which supported the bill and appealed to Senators to pass the measure, expressed outrage that “This Congress let partisan bickering stand in the way of putting thousands of America’s heroes back to work.” Among those voting “no” was Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), himself a veteran, albeit one who has a job. A full list of senators’ votes on the bill can be found here.
Main source: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, September 19, 2012
How do corporations influence entire media markets? A 1995 Philip Morris (PM) document shows one way in which corporations work to influence the larger media to manipulate larger public opinion. The previously-secret document shows that PM hired a Denver-based public relations agency to implement an ambitious and comprehensive plan aimed at influencing Colorado media outlets and thus shift public opinion more in the company’s favor.
The document, titled “PM Media Action Network – Media Plan for Colorado,” was written by public relations firm Russell, Karsch & Hagen, based in Denver. It states:
“[We] will begin to reshape public opinion through the media…” and “…[W]e are confident we can continue to shift the media’s view, and, ultimately the view of the general public…toward issues affecting the industry.”
In keeping with PM’s internal adversarial view of public health efforts to reduce smoking, Russel, Karsch planned to develop a “War Book” of “key issues and message points we believe will be effective in Colorado.”
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Guest post by Ken Gordon, former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate
Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon
It would take you less than an hour to drive from Columbine High School to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. Both venues are in the suburbs of Denver and subject to the laws created by the Colorado Legislature.
Few politicians have mentioned laws when talking about the shooting in Aurora. The following story will help explain this reluctance.
I was the Minority Leader in the Colorado House when the Columbine shooting occurred.
Most of the guns used at Columbine were bought at the Tanner Gun Show in Adams County. Robyn Anderson, a friend of the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold, went with them to the show, and helped them buy the guns. She testified in a House hearing that they purposefully bought guns at tables that were not federally licensed dealers, because they did not want to give their names and addresses for a background check.
Following Columbine, I sponsored the legislation to require background checks for any purchase at a gun show. We referred to it as “closing the gun show loophole.”
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Mesa County, Colorado Commissioner Craig Meis: Doesn’t understand what “fire ban” means?
Mesa County, Colorado County Commissioner Craig J. Meis epitomizes the self-important, small-town elected official. During his stint as County Commissioner, Meis has repeatedly broken the law and then used his elected position to pressure law enforcement officers to drop actions against him. In 2007, police showed up at Meis’s home in response to a loud party complaint. Meis dropped the names of prominent local Republican elected officials attending his party to pressure the officers to stop demanding he turn the music down. Then, in 2010, Colorado State Parks officer Craig Johnson issued Meis a $50 ticket at Mesa County’s Highline Lake State Recreation area for allowing his 14 year old son to operate a personal watercraft on the lake in violation of the law. In his report about the incident, Officer Johnson wrote that Meis repeatedly tried to use his elected position as a county commissioner to pressure him to reduce the ticket to a warning. According to the report, during the encounter Meis boasted repeatedly that he was good friends with the District Attorney. After Officer Johnson refused to reduce the ticket to a warning, Meis complained about him in an email to the director of the state Department of Natural Resources, saying officer Johnson exhibited a “lack of discretion” in issuing the ticket. Meis copied the email to a long list of other public officials. When asked about the incident, Meis claimed Officer Johnson lied about the statements he made during the incident. Meis then insisted on taking the ticket all the way to a jury trial, was found guilty and had to pay a $78 fine. Now, just this month, a Chaffee County Deputy ticketed Meis for lighting an open grill in a forested area during a highly-publicized, state-wide fire ban that came amid severe drought and extreme fire danger. After getting the ticket, Meis wrote an email to the Chaffee County Sheriff explaining that he was aware of the fire ban but didn’t understand what a fire ban “truly means.” He wrote that he is “getting educated on it daily.” Meis argued that the disposable charcoal grill he used was far too small to be troublesome and asked for “discretion” regarding the ticket.
Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer emailed Meis back saying, “It’s not often I receive a request to have a ticket fixed, and yours is the first from a county commissioner.” Palmer pointed out that either Stage I or Stage II fire bans had been in effect for weeks, and the information had been posted publicly for over a month on the Chaffee County Sheriff’s website. At the time, Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire — the most destructive wildfire in state history — was raging and had destroyed hundreds of homes, killed one person and caused over 30,000 people to have to evacuate their homes. Yet amid this disaster, Meis cavalierly lit an open fire, and then tried to avoid the legal consequences. Throughout his time in elected office Craig Meis has constantly shown he thinks his position as county commissioner puts him above the law. His behavior has been an embarrassment to Mesa County and caused the County added expense. Help us get Commissioner Meis to leave his position by adding your name to our petition, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis: Resign.
Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.’s family (Screen capture from Democracy Now! video)
The family of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. has filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit against the City White Plains, New York and the White Plains Police Department. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., 68, was shot dead inside his own home in the early morning on November 19, 2011 by White Plains police after he accidentally set off his life aid medical alert pendant while sleeping. Police arrived at his apartment, but responded as though a crime was in progress instead of as if responding to potential medical emergency. The police knocked in Chamberlain’s door and demanded he open it. Chamberlain told the police he was okay, and didn’t need their help, but the police continued to pound on Chamberlain’s door, yelling racial slurs and demanding Chamberlain open the door. Afraid, Chamberlain refused. Police then broke down Chamberlain’s door, shot him with a taser, then fired beanbags at him. Finally, White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain dead. Police claimed Chamberlain tried to attack them with a knife. Video from a camera on the taser gun surfaced in May, showing police breaking down Chamberlain’s door and shooting him with the taser. Chamberlain is seen standing inside his apartment, shirtless and wearing boxer shorts. The family filed the lawsuit just under two months after a Westchester County grand jury refused to indict Police Officer Anthony Carelli for the shooting.
Source: Democracy Now! July 2, 2012
Spontaneous abortion, one of the symptoms seen in livestock eating genetically-modified corn feed.
The big biotechnology firm Syngenta is facing criminal charges for covering up a U.S. study that showed cows died after eating the company’s genetically-modified (GM) corn. The charges came after a long struggle by Gottfried Gloeckner, a German dairy farmer and former supporter of genetically-modified crops, agreed to participate in authorized field tests of “Bt176,” a corn variety manufactured by Syngenta that was genetically-modified to express an insect toxin and a gene that made the corn resistant to glufosinate herbicides. Gloeckner allowed the GM corn to be grown on his farm from 1997 to 2002, and fed the resulting corn to his dairy herd. By 2000, Gloeckner was feeding his cows exclusively Bt176 corn. Shortly after, several of Gloeckner’s cows became sick. Five died and others had decreased milk yields. Syngenta paid Gloeckner 40,000 euros as partial compensation for his losses and veterinary costs. Gloeckner brought a civil suit against Syngenta over the loss, but Syngenta refused to admit its GM corn could be in any way related to the illnesses and deaths of Gloeckner’s cows. The court dismissed the civil case and Gloeckner received no further payments from Syngenta, leaving him thousands of Euros in debt. Gloeckner stopped using the GM feed in 2002, but continued to lose cows. In 2009, Gloeckner discovered Syngenta had commissioned a study in the U.S. of its GM feed in 1996. In that study, four cows died within two days of eating the GM feed, and the study was abruptly ended.
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