Monday, November 29, 2010

On Palin and the Ongoing Wikileaks Dump

I'm getting ready to go through some old photos and videos from the 1990s, hoping to help some people making a documentary on aspects of Sarah Palin's real real Alaska. Summer parade, school event pictures and so on. At the same time, the radio, the web radio, emails and blogs are commenting on the ongoing Wikileaks dump.

Less than 1% of the current crop have been released. They seem to be targeted on several countries' views of Iran. This morning in Tehran, two Iranian nuclear scientists were attacked by motorcyclists, who attached bombs to the engineers' cars, pulled away, and then the devices were remotely detonated. One scientist was killed, another injured, and both men's wives were badly hurt. It wasn't a big news item.

Palin tweeted and facebooked away as she signed book after book in Texas and Louisiana. Talk about multitasking.

She was being filmed by the TLC crews as she did all this. I can't wait until Palin allows TLC to sit through the entire process between when Palin cooks up one of those terse facebook missives and then posts it, cameras rolling the whole time.

Palin has supported every single government measure that seeks to be able to look into every aspect of Americans' electronic lives. She's never spoken out about the immense growth in automatic information gathering on all Americans, which flourished under Bush II and seems to be accelerating under Obama.

The government can look at us, but we can't look at them. That theme is consistent through her political and celebrity careers.

She has complained every time someone wanted to legally look into any aspect of her performance as a public official, even though she grew to state prominence by hacking a colleague's computer while he was out of his office. She continues to secretly support Joe Miller, who tried to oust the same guy Palin hacked - Randy Reudrich. That's the same Joe Miller who illegally hacked into a bunch of colleague's computers to try to oust Reudrich from his last bastion, state GOP chair. Probably at the behest of, or in attempt to curry favor with, Palin.

Has Palin condemned Miller for his illegal hacking? Of course not.

Hackers. It's OK to be one, if you are Palin or Miller.

Hack Palin's emails though? Go to jail.

Hack her book? Get sued by Harper-Collins.

Hack her book and ask questions about TriG? You get a pass.

At least until she becomes president. Then it's "find the nearest bunker" for bloggers like the ones at Palingates.

Some on the right, and on the neoliberal left want Obama to send a hit squad, like the ones who attacked in Tehran this morning, off to Sweden to deal with Julian Assange, the face of Wikileaks. Others are fitting Palin's Wikileaks rant into a more complex, baffling narrative:

Here's Palin on what to do with Mr. Assange, who lives in the neutral country where my wife's ancestors came from:
He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban.

Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?
Palin called Assange a "traitor" in one of today's tweets, no doubt twitted out between rows of books. Assange isn't an American citizen. Someone should ask her what she thinks of Jonathan Pollard, a real American traitor.

I doubt Palin has Daniel Ellsberg on her "to do" list. Yet.

The Wikileaks case is just a harbinger of what is to come. Not only have we only gotten 1% of the current document dump, but other Wilileaks copycats are sure to emerge.

If Palin gets elected, we'll be running out of drones to fire at Stockholm, London, places that aren't in "the real America," towns that didn't vote heavily enough for Bristol, Paul Jenkins' office, Taproots, Levi Johnson's workplace ("they hired him - collateral damage, you betcha") and Joe McGinniss' car, before you can say "I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism," or "I think it's appalling and a violation of our freedom of the press."

image - Palin's City of Wasilla City Council portrait, reading a John Birch Society-linked newsletter in her official binder

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 7: The Reviews Are Uniformly Bad

Which reviews?

The book?

headlines it, "Do Not Steal (or Read) This Book" It didn't even show up on the New York Times Top 35 list today.

The reality show's third episode?

I found the only reference to Alaska is the gazillion times Sarah say's "Alaska".

You will love this show if you are a Sarah Palin junkie. You will be pretty disappointed if you aren't.

The politician?

She can sue Sweden from her house...

My favorite review of Palin's book has to be Jeanne Devon's page-by-page close look at this unremarkable work at The Mudflats. AKM is on Chapter Two now (AKM is in red, to confuse lurking Palinbots):

Why don’t Hollywood elites get it? Back in the day, Hollywood used to make war movies where we were the good guys. Hollywood used to admire the military. Even Hollywood celebrities used to be IN the military, like Jimmy Stewart in World War II (LEAVE HIM ALONE ALREADY!), and Henry Fonda in World War II and director John Ford filmed the Battle of Midway in World War II.

“Later Elvis Presley interrupted his career as the reigning king of rock and roll to be drafted into the army.”

(Wasn’t that amazing of Elvis? He put his career on hold to let himself be drafted. --- Screechy brake noise --- Now wait a second… they serve because they got DRAFTED? I mean I suppose he could have decided to go to jail instead of the army, just like someone else we know… *cough cough* But I know I cannot be the only one who caught that ridiculous example.)

Go read Jeanne's reviews. They are better than the book. OK - far better than the book.

At Palingates, they have been featuring guest reviewers - Leadfoot LA and her daughter, Bella - for each episode of the reality show. This week's episode has several gems. Here are a couple of them:
Inside, Sarah and Piper are baking a cake. Sarah is trying to control the process and makes Piper count the eggs she put in the bowl. Piper counts 3 yolks. Sarah tries to read the directions on the cake box and says, "It's in Spanish!" Piper says "no it isn't! It says 3 egg whites!" Nobody notices that she has also put in the yolks.
Track and his "crew" go fishing. Willow feeds Trig banana baby food. Tripp walks around in a diaper. Sarah, Todd and Piper go down to the beach to meet up with Track. On the boat, Sarah complains that she has gnats stuck to her lips. They clean out the fishing nets while Sarah cleans down the boat with a brush. Todd "takes over" because he fears the nets will get stuck in the mud. Track says his dad is "paranoid" and is visibly angry at Todd. His friend says Track is "annoyed." Track seems like a whiny, lazy brat.

Anyway, the reviews are in. Palin fatigue seems to be growing rapidly.

image - DZ

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 6: Can You Say "Non Event"

Award-winning Dallas-based photographer, Barry B. Doyle was at the local Barnes and Noble in that Texas city yesterday, to cover Sarah Palin's book signing. He hoped to take several photographs of the event, but B & N wouldn't let him. Early in 2010, Doyle had gotten permission to take photos at Palin's book signing at Dallas's Legacy Book Store.

The picture above is from yesterday's book signing, just before it started. The Palin protectors couldn't keep Doyle from taking a picture from across the street.

The picture below is from the signing at Legacy, for Palin's first book:
Doyle wrote about yesterday's experience for today:
While I was able to get employee credentials at the Legacy Bookstore in Plano for Palin's first book, Barnes & Noble is a different animal. All requests had to go through its corporate offices, and I was just too late with my requests. To be honest, I didn't even know Sarah Palin was going to be in town until Friday.

Another reason I couldn't get inside was that her reality television people were there filming the event. TLC managed to get Barnes & Noble to restrict other media access during the signing.

The local news outlets could not videotape during the actual signing of the books; there were to be no print journalists allowed and no questions could be asked of Palin while she was in the store.
Doyle writes that some waited in line for the first book for up to 14 hours. This past Sunday, "there were about 30 people in line."
At both Dallas-area events, there was a common theme. The people waiting to see her were devoted and enthusiastic followers, and almost all of them were a homogeneous demographic -- there were very few people of color, which made that contrast stand out all the more.
Doyle concludes his photo essay with:

One last note: At the Legacy Bookstore signing in 2009, Palin signed about 1,300 books. At the Barnes & Noble store, they set aside about 250 books for her to sign.

It was a non-event.

T-Shirt of the Week

hat tip - Howie Klein

Meet John Shimkus - The Guy the GOP Will Put in Charge of Thwarting Climate Science

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PA Arts Sunday - Erin and Hig's Alaska at the AIFF Next Weekend

Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman, the young couple who walked, skied and pac-rafted from Seattle to Unalaska without any motorized support in 2007 and 2008, took hours of video on their epic trek. When they finished, I asked Hig if they were considering a movie.

He laughed. "We don't know how to make one," he replied.

I answered Hig with "Your stuff is amazing. Find someone to help."

They did. The product will premiere next weekend at the Anchorage International Film Festival at two Out North showings. A day later it will premiere in Homer. Erin and Hig live in a magnificent little yurt in Seldovia.

If you're new to Progressive Alaska and you don't yet know about these two amazing young people and what they're doing, you're missing one of the most important continuing Alaska stories.

Their trek from Puget Sound to the Aleutians was inspired by a desire to draw attention to the Pebble Mine project. On their way to Unimak Pass, they walked through the proposed site of Pebble. They walked 1,600 miles to get there. Half of it in the winter. Nobody we know of had ever done that. Very, very few had even come close. They photographed, journaled and blogged about it as they went. When they got to communities of all sorts, they visited schools to share their experience with the kids. They made presentations in several villages, towns and cities.

They are continuing their treks. Their book about the long coastal journey, A Long Trek Home, came out early this year. Hopefully, the movie will bring more attention to their continuing activities.

Erin and Hig hope to be at both film showings in Anchorage. Here's the movie trailer:

Erin and Hig's Alaska is profoundly different from that of Todd and Sarah's.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 5: The Seriousness of Palin Fatigue vs. the Fun of Watching Her "Farcissism"

When I first started blogging, and Sarah Palin, who was about to begin her second year as Alaska's governor,would come up, I tried to be careful to edit out my biases that might be read or seen as sexist. When writing critically, my pre-2008 presidential campaign articles concentrated on environmental issues in state policy.

After her selection as John McCain's running mate, one of the first national reporters with whom I was able to discuss sexist treatment of Palin was Michelle Goldberg. She told me of her surprise at how well Alaskans seemed to be dealing with such an Alpha female. Since her Alaska visit in 2008, Goldberg has continued to cover this issue well. Here is a somewhat prophetic snip from Goldberg's July 2009 Daily Beast resignation coverage of Palin:
Yet some of her most ardent backers have a different explanation: She’s gearing up to run for president in 2012. As Bill Kristol, a man who’s had an enormous role in creating her national profile, wrote, “If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It's an enormous gamble—but it could be a shrewd one.” He continued, “[H]aven't conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she'll try to be that.” And there were parts of her speech suggesting she’s getting ready for a new challenge: “It would be apathetic to just kind of hunker down and go with the flow. We’re fisherman. We know only dead fish go with the flow… There is such a need to build up, and fight for our state and our country.”

On the face of it, it seems preposterous that Palin might think she could maintain any political credibility at all after walking away from her job simply because she has her eye on bigger things. But Palin has long had an almost dementedly inflated sense of her own destiny. In one of the most quoted passages of Todd Purdham’s eviscerating Vanity Fair profile of Palin, he writes that, in traveling through Alaska, several people told him that, in trying to understand their governor, “they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Said disorder, Purdum points out, is marked by “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”

As a description of Palin, that sounds about right. It also sounds about right as a description of Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, and maybe even Bill Clinton. There is nothing new about politicians who are staggeringly egotistical and heedlessly dishonest, politicians with fantastic reserves of self-righteousness and self-pity but a shriveled capacity for loyalty. But we don’t usually see this particular kind of craziness in women. Palin is the rare female politician who is as much a megalomaniac as her male peers. Maybe more.

Goldberg goes on to illustrate the way Palin seems to lie, even when a normal person would realize you're gonna get caught:
Palin’s public statements have been full of petty, easily refutable mendacity, delivered with the vehemence of a compulsive liar. Purdum’s piece reveals one tiny but telling incident, in which Palin told McCain aides that she and her husband had been without insurance of any kind in the early years of their marriage. “Checking with Todd Palin himself revealed that, no, they had had catastrophic coverage all along,” Purdum writes. “This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small.”

Those questions persist. Palin herself seems to beg them to be brought back up, every day. It is part of the celebrity cult's baggage. As many have noted, Palin has brought the marriage of celebrity culture to political culture in a unique way. We're 50-plus years beyond Ronald Reagan selling 20-Mule Team Borax soap on the Death Valley Days TV weekly.

Palin is everywhere, every day. I've long dreaded that some day more will have been written about Palin than about everything else in Alaska history. We may be arriving there soon.

Rebecca Mansour from SarahPAC, Palin's most effective verbal response organizer, must be overwhelmed by the clashing images crossing her desk and screen every minute: The kids nastily tweeting and facebooking away, the DWTS vote fiasco, doing 180s on Korea at the same Rebecca has to teach Palin how few miles Seoul is from the DMZ. Tough job.

Palin's people must be enduring fatigue, with the book tour, reality show series continuity (another 5 weeks), abstinence fairy dissonance and other stuff intruding on the product branding process and what not.

So is the rest of the country. Palin Fatigue might soon become serious. Every plank of Palin's platform now seems to be packaged in episodes designed to be rolled out a couple of days apart. Relentlessly.

All this generates internet hits on the web. It makes some people money. That crosses over into print media profits too. Like nothing else out there. If they could somehow fix Sarah's voice, the package would be an even bigger phenomena.

Living in Wasilla, I heard someone say, long, long ago, when asked about Palin's popularity, "Maybe she's too fun to watch to make up for the rest."

I didn't know what he meant. Was it physical attraction? Or was it her latent comedic value, her "farcissism."

Here's part of Friday's coverage of this new word Palin has helped launch. Adele M. Stan's article at AlternNet may have started it:
It seems, in fact, that Sarah Palin's "new feminism" is nothing more than narcissism dressed up in feminist clothing. Call it farcissism. For when it comes to matters that affect her directly, Palin is all about feminism writ large. Despite her anti-government rhetoric, Palin on the campaign trail applauded Title IX, the federal mandate that barred federal funds from educational institutions that discriminated against women, even in their sports programs. This heralded a record expansion of girls' and women's athletic programs, of which Palin, a star basketball player known statewide as Sarah Barracuda, rightly availed herself. [bold added]

Stan goes on, regarding the uniqueness of Palin's ambition:
I have seen Palin derided in sexist terms, and called on progressives to cut the crap when I see it coming from our own. But I wouldn't count on Palin to step up for a liberal feminist -- unless Palin found a way to make it about Palin herself.

"There is a narcissism in our leaders in Washington today," Palin writes inAmerica By Heart (via the Huffington Post). "There's a quasi-religious feeling to the message coming from them. They are trying to convince us that not only are they our saviors, but that we are our saviors... as candidate Obama proclaimed on Super Tuesday 2008, 'We are the ones we've been waiting for, we are the change that we seek.'"

Yet it's Palin who has a so-called reality show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," based around her own life in her home state. It's hard to get more narcissistic than that. And it's Palin who wants to reshape feminism in her own image -- to hell with any woman who's faced a different form of sexism than she has.

When calling narcissism or farcissism on Palin, I don't use the terms lightly. Too many women of ambition are tagged as narcissists simply for behaving as ambitious men do. But if there were ever an example of someone living in a glass house, it's one whose life is willingly scripted and served up on a flat screen, for the modest payment to Palin of $250,000 per episode.


Digby, commenting on Stan's article, wrote:
I cringe when I see some of the things people say about her too, and have also called out progressives for being jackasses. But that doesn't make her a heroine either, especially when she's so incredibly disrespectful and arrogant to her fellow females in similar situations.

Palin's walking a thin line here. In the past week, she has dissed Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush. Palin is sparring with HRC. The mama grizzly is roaring so loud and stridently, she's probably going to wonder in about two weeks at how isolated she is beginning to feel among so many, more experienced, mama bears. Just when her voice turns hoarse from all the yelling.

At the end of the weekend, Palin will be in the Dallas-Houston area, for book signing, and other events for her favorite causes there. The mama griz is descending from her new winter lair in Arizona on Babs' den.

Meanwhile, as Robert Paul Reyes unintentionally illustrates here, male writers continue to fall into the traps Michelle Goldberg and others first noted:

Barbara Bush missed her calling, she has the comedic timing and the deadpan face of a professional comic. The former First Lady expertly set up her zinger:

I hope she`ll stay there. There are millions of us who agree with Barbara`s sentiments, but Hollywood has a stronger pull on Palin than Wasilla.

The former First Lady didn`t say.

I sat next to her once and I was impressed with her intelligence and grasp of the issues. A politician who can see Russia from her porch and is a steadfast supporter of our North Korean ally, isn`t going to dazzle anyone with her mental acumen.

Mrs. Bush was struck by Palin`s beauty, it`s unfortunate that the former governor of Alaska doesn`t realize that her looks are her greatest asset.

We're probably reaching a point where the conflict between the actual worth of Palin vs. the image we're being bombarded with with reaches some sort of critical mass.

My hunch is that Palin's people know she has to announce by the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan's birth on February 6th. But they'll milk this flighty ambiguity, until celebrity-driven suspense is trumped by the yet untried post-Citizens United presidential race gravity.

Nobody knows when that might be. Meanwhile, we'll have to endure a period of "farcissism."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Saradise Found - Chapter 19 - Happy Thanksgiving

I. Judy and I have a lot to be thankful for: our own health, our kids' wellbeing, our mom's continuing robustness, into her 92nd year, and many other things. We both have jobs that reward us spiritually even more than materially, jobs that allow us to share our experiences and skills with young people either about to embark on their careers, or - in Judy's case - who have just started a life of public service in teaching elementary level kids.

Maybe it is time to look back on what my interest in Sarah Palin has brought into our lives. Without Palin's inclusion in the 2008 presidential race, there are a lot of very good things that wouldn't have happened.

First of all, I wouldn't have been drawn into the fledgeling Alaska progressive blogging community in the way I was. When Palin was chosen, Linda Kellen Biegel's blog, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis was the most longstanding of the credible lefty blogs. Dennis Zaki's Alaska Report was going through changes, but was the best web-based source in Alaska for timely news from all over the spectrum, particularly the left. Steve Aufrecht's multi-faceted approach to looking at Alaska and other issues was into its third year. The Immoral Minority was into its second year. The Mudflats had just gotten started that 2008 summer. Most of the Palin-centric blogs, in Alaska, down below and overseas hadn't yet been started. Nor had the other side of that story, the Palin shrines, gotten very far.

That changed remarkably fast. All of us made many, many friends as 2008's summer brightened into colorful fall, and the reporters, journalists and writers made their way up here from all over the world.

Without Palin, I probably would have never met people whose work I already admired, like Michelle Goldberg, David Neiwert, Max Blumenthal, Joe McGinniss, Stephen Braun, Steve Lopez and others - all in the short space of a few weeks.

As time went by, even after the 2008 campaign was over, Palin's remarkable durability has led to our being able to meet many more people from all over the world. It is hard to even know where to begin. I should probably be brief.

Probably the recent acquaintance that most blew my mind was with the Belgian-American photographer, Jerome de Perlinghi. I had seen some of his portraits of musicians before, but didn't associate them with Jerome until after he had photographed me and we were sitting around the table talking, along with his colleague, Fabrice Rousselet.

Jerome turned me on to his web site, which features photographs of many well-known people, mostly blues and jazz musicians. Here are a few of his images Jerome told me I could share here. He asks his subjects not to smile:

BB King
Taj Mahal

Bo DiddleyHappy Thanksgiving, Jerome.

II. Other things to be thankful for:

That I got to know Scott McAdams this year, and that so many others did. Jeanne Devon posted a remarkable interview with Scott yesterday at The Mudflats. Scott is also thankful to Alaskans for the opportunity our investing in his campaign gave him to get to know thousands of us:
Devon: What would you say would be the highlight, one of the moments that stuck out for you as a highlight of the campaign?

McAdams: You know, I think the highlights, and it was a reoccurring thing – we mentioned that “everywhere we go, we grow” in stump speeches throughout the campaign. I think the highlights were those moments at Town Hall Meetings, at Unity dinners where you saw people come into the room curious, sometimes skeptical, sometimes uncertain, and leave the room convinced that ours was the right cause, the right message for Alaska. I wish we’d had six months instead of six weeks to continue and hit every town and have a town hall or a meet & greet in every town in the state. I think we ran [out] of time.

I'm also thankful that once again Jeanne has decided to trudge through Sarah Palin's most recently published string of lies, cries, sighs, spite, fright and false plight, so that many of us won't have to.

Talk about courage to be thankful for.

Off to finish helping getting dinner ready.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BP's Inside Game

--- by Jeffrey St. Clair

By the morning of May 24, the tide had turned against President Barack Obama in the Gulf. Weeks of indecision at the White House and the Interior Department had shifted the balance of blame. BP was no longer seen as the lone culprit. Now, the Obama administration was viewed by many – including some senior members of their own party – as being fully culpable for the ongoing disaster off the coast of Louisiana. The political situation was so dire that Rahm Emmanuel called an emergency meeting in the Oval Office to regroup. Huddling with Obama and Rahm that bleak morning were Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, climate czar Carol Browner and, most cynical of all, economic advisor Lawrence Summers, author of an infamous 1991 memo at World Bank calling “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country […] impeccable and we should face up to that.”

The president was pissed. In a rare display of emotion, Obama ranted for 20 straight minutes. The target of his anger wasn’t BP but the press. He fumed that he was being unfairly portrayed as being remote and indifferent to the mounting crisis in the Gulf. “Hell, this isn’t our mess,” Obama railed. The president expressed particular contempt for Louisianan James Carville, whose nightly barbs on CNN seemed to have found their mark. After two hours of debate, Obama’s Gulf supposed dream team arrived at the dubious conclusion that the main problem was that there were simply too many public voices speaking for the administration. No one seemed to be in control. There were discordant accounts of the severity of the spill between the EPA and the Interior Department. Agencies were intruding on each other’s terrain.

So, it was decided that the administration would speak with one voice, and that voice would be Thad Allen’s, the portly Coast Guard Commandant who had been lauded in the press as a heroic figure in the aftermath of Katrina. It was the wrong lesson to draw after a month of false moves. The problem wasn’t message control, but a profound bureaucratic lethargy that ceded almost absolute control over the response to the spill to BP. This fatal misstep came courtesy of yet more bad advice from Ken Salazar, who told Obama that under the terms of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed in the wake of the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, BP was legally responsible for the cleanup of the Gulf.

Salazar’s logic was perverse. He reasoned that, by giving free rein to BP under the cover of the Oil Pollution Control Act, the administration could keep its hands clean and blame any failures in the Gulf on the oil company. This strategy blew up in the face of the administration. It was all over once Rep. Ed Markey pressured BP into releasing the live video feeds from the remote-controlled submersibles, showing the brown geyser of crude erupting from the remains of the failed blowout preventer.

But then the administration was boxed into an untenable position. Instead of distancing itself from BP, the Obama team, thanks to Salazar, found itself shackled to the company. Two weeks after the blowout, a top Coast Guard official went so far as to praise “BP’s professionalism” during a nationally televised press briefing.

It should have been different. Within hours of the explosion, the federal government should have seized control of both the well and the cleanup operations. The only responsibility that should have been left to BP was to sign checks for billions of dollars. The authority for such a takeover derives from an administrative rule called the National Contingency Plan, which calls for the federal government to take authority over hazardous waste releases and oil spills that pose “a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States based on several factors, including the size and character of the discharge and its proximity to human populations and sensitive environments. In such cases, the On-Scene Coordinator is authorized to direct all federal, state, or private response and recovery actions. The OSC may enlist the support of other federal agencies or special teams.”

The National Contingency Plan calls for the On-Site Coordinator “to direct all federal, state and private response activities at the site of discharge.” The Plan, written in 1968, came in response to one of the world’s first major oil spills and cleanup debacles. On March 18, 1967, the Liberian-flagged supertanker Torrey Canyon, taking a dangerous shortcut near Seven Stones reef, struck Pollard’s Rock off the coast of Cornwall, gouging a deep hole into the holds of the ship. Over the course of the next few days, oil drained into the Atlantic. Then, on Easter the ship itself broke in two, releasing all 35 million gallons of crude oil, owned by, yes, British Petroleum into sea. The wreck plunged the government of Harold Wilson into crisis mode. The government allowed BP to pour millions of gallons of an unproven but toxic dispersant on dark-stained waters – the chemical had been manufactured by a subsidiary of the oil company. When that proved to have little effect, the Wilson government called upon the Royal Air Force to conduct a bombing raid on the Torrey Canyon. The planes dropped 42 bombs in effort to sink the ship and burn off the oil slick. The sea burned for two weeks, but the incendiary raids did little to staunch the oily tides. In the end, more than 120 miles of the Cornish Coast were coated in oil and the spill took a heavy toll on fish, birds and sea mammals. The crude spoiled beaches from Guernsey to Brittany.

In order to avoid a similar cleanup folly in the U.S., the National Contingency Plan called for a single agency to take swift control over big oil spills. That agency was the newly created EPA. But when Rahm Emmanuel summoned the administration’s oil response team to the strategy session in the Oval Office, he didn’t send an invitation to Lisa Jackson, the spunky head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Why was Jackson missing? Because she had reportedly incurred the wrath of BP executives for pressing the company to curtail its controversial use of the toxic dispersant Corexit. Also noticeably absent from the Obama brain trust were two other officials who might have contributed a more realistic appraisal of the deteriorating situation in the Gulf: Jane Lubchenko, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, owner of the Nobel Prize, so often invoked by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs as a public assurance that the administration was on top of the situation. Each had been inexplicably exiled from Obama’s inner circle.

It didn’t help, of course, that in the early days of the disaster Obama’s officials opted to downplay the severity of the oil gusher erupting out of the crumpled riser pipe 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. In the first official remarks from the administration after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, Coast Guard rear admiral told the press that the spill was expected to be very minor, amounting to only the few thousands gallons of crude present in the mile-long pipe at the time of the accident. This false information flowed directly from BP. A few days later, after the incinerated rig had toppled and sank to the bottom of the Gulf, this specious number was revised upward to a total of no more than 1,000 gallons a day. So said Admiral Thad Allen, head of the Coast Guard and Incident Commander for the Gulf. Again, Allen had made this optimistic assessment based solely on information coming from BP. Two weeks later, the upper limit for the leak was raised to 5,000 barrels a day.

But NOAA knew better. In fact, in the hours after the spill, top NOAA officials gathered in Seattle for an emergency session that was streamed live on the agency’s website. The video feed, which was later removed from the website, captured the agency’s top scientists at work. Their initial survey of the scope of the spill proved prescient. One scientist warned that the agency needed “to be prepared for the spill of the decade.” Another NOAA scientist charted out the worst-case scenario on a whiteboard: “Est. 64k – 100k barrels a day.” Right on the money, even though it took the Obama administration more than 50 days to admit that the oil was flowing at a rate of more than 14,000 barrels a day.

Of course, the administration could have simply subpoenaed BP’s own records, as Congressman Ed Markey eventually did. On June 20, Markey released an internal memo from BP that estimated that as much as 100,000 barrels a day might be surging out of the broken wellhead. Far from fact-checking BP’s information, some members of the Obama administration were acting as conduits for the company’s lowballing. None played a more important role than Sylvia Baca, whose facility with moving seamlessly between the government and the corporations she was meant to regulate should had won her frequent flyer points for trips through the revolving door. Last summer, Ken Salazar appointed Baca to serve as assistant administrator for lands and minerals of the scandal-rife Minerals Management Service (MMS). This powerful but shadowy post did not require Senate confirmation. Thus, Baca’s previous career did not become the subject of public inquiry.

Salazar had plucked Baca right from the ranks of BP’s executive suites, where, according to her CV, she served “as general manager for Social Investment Programs and Strategic Partnerships at BP America Inc. in Houston, and had held several senior management positions with the company since 2001, focusing on environmental initiatives, overseeing cooperative projects with private and public organizations, developing health, safety, and emergency response programs and working on climate change, biodiversity and sustainability objectives.” Prior to joining BP, Baca spent six years at the right hand of Bruce Babbitt, serving as assistant secretary of the Interior for Lands and Minerals Management.

Baca’s years in the Clinton administration proved very productive for the oil industry as a whole and her future employer in particular, a period when oil production on federal lands soared far above the levels of the first Bush administration. An internal Interior Department memo from April 2000 spelled out the achievement for Big Oil:
“We have supported efforts to increase oil and gas recovery in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico; we have conducted a number of extremely successful, environmentally sound offshore oil and gas lease sales; and we have opened a portion of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to environmentally responsible oil and gas development, where an estimated 10 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas resources lie in the northeast section of the reserve.”
The memo goes on to highlight the feats in the Gulf of Mexico, which saw a tenfold increase in oil leasing during the Clinton years.
“From 1993 to 1999, 6,538 new leases were issued covering approximately 35 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf…. Lease Sale 175 in the Central Gulf of Mexico, held on March 15, 2000, offered 4,203 blocks (22.29 million acres) for lease. The Interior Department received 469 bids on 344 blocks. There were 334 leases awarded….More than 40 million acres of federal OCS blocks are currently under lease. Approximately 94 per of the existing OCS leases (7,900) are in the Gulf, and about 1,500 of these leases are producing…. Issued over 28,000 leases and approved over 15,000 permits to drill…Implemented legislation changing the competitive lease term from five years to ten years, allowing lessees greater flexibility in exploration without endangering the lease.
Thus had the table been set for the depredations of the George W. Bush administration.

Mission accomplished, Baca settled into her high-paying gig as a BP executive. One of Baca’s roles was to recruit Hollywood celebrities to help greenwash the oil giant as environmentally enlightened corporation, which was engaged in a mighty war against the evil forces of climate change. When Baca left BP to join the Obama administration, they weren’t left in the lurch. As the curtains closed on the Bush administration, BP recruited one of the Interior Department’s top guns to join its team. As the chief of staff for the MMS in the Gulf Region, James Grant had worked to make sure that deepwater leases moved forward with, as he put it in one memo, “few or no regulations or standards.”

Having succeeded in this endeavor, BP enticed Grant to join their team as their “regulatory and environmental compliance manager” for the Gulf of Mexico, an assignment that included shepherding the Deepwater Horizon through the regulatory maze at MMS. Grant began lobbying his former colleagues in the Interior Department to open currently protected areas to oil leasing, particularly in the eastern Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Florida. Grant also warned the Obama administration, including his former corporate colleague Sylvia Baca, not to cave to demands by environmentalists for “policies that may establish exclusionary zones, disrupt MMS leasing or affect opportunities for economic growth.” He needn’t have worried.

* * *

It’s clear that Sylvia Baca should never have been eligible to resume her job at the Interior Department. Obama had piously pledged to close the revolving door and bar corporate lobbyists from taking posts in agencies that regulated the activities of their former employers. Several environmental lobbyists were denied positions in the Interior Department and EPA under these supposedly ironclad ethics rules. However, Baca slipped through at the behest of Salazar who made a special appeal to Attorney General Eric Holder. Salazar told Holder that Baca was an “indispensable” member of his team, emphasizing her “detailed knowledge of Interior's land and energy responsibilities.”

According to Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, Baca recused herself from all leasing decisions regarding BP. However, sources inside the Interior Department tell me that Baca played a key role in a procedural decision in the early days of the Obama administration that allowed the Deepwater Horizon project and Big Oil operations on federal lands to move forward with scant environmental review. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law passed during the glory days of environmental legislation, otherwise known as the Nixon administration. It requires a full-scale environmental impact statement (EIS) for any federal project that might pose a “significant impact on the quality of the human environment.”

These EISs often run to more than a 1,000 pages in length and evaluate the possible ecological, social and economic consequences of the proposal, including worst-case scenarios. These documents are prepared by the permitting agency with consultation from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA. But an administrative order during the second Bush administration ordered the Minerals Management Service to issue “categorical exclusions” from NEPA compliance to Big Oil projects in the Gulf and Alaska. In addition, the Bush administration allowed the oil companies to prepare their own safety and environmental plans, which would then be rubber-stamped by officials at MMS. From 2001 through 2008, more than 2,400 oil leases had been allowed to go forward in the Gulf without any serious environmental review.

When the Obama administration came into power, this policy was under furious legal and political assault by environmental groups. But Salazar was zealous that there would be no interruption in the pace of oil leasing in the Gulf. In fact, he wanted it speeded up. Restoring NEPA compliance to the oil industry, Salazar’s enforcer, Baca warned, would slow down the approval process for leases by a year or more and, even worse, make the projects vulnerable to protracted litigation by environmentalists. She counseled that it would be better to stick with the Bush era rules. Salazar agreed.

So, it came to pass that on April 6, 2009, the Interior Department granted BP a categorical exemption for Lease 206, the Deepwater Horizon well. The BP exploration plan included a skimpy 13-page environmental review, which called the prospect of a major spill “unlikely.” The company told the Interior Department that in the event of a spill “no mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources.” The request was approved in a one-page letter that imposed no special restrictions on the oil company, warning only that BP “exercise caution while drilling due to indications of shallow gas.”

Famous last words.

Composer Henryk Górecki Passes

Polish composer, Henryk Górecki passed away on November 12th. I just read about it today, as I was catching up on musical events outside of Alaska. Górecki would have reached his 77th birthday on December 6th. One of Poland's most revered post-World War II composers, he was mostly known for one of his many works, the Third Symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).

I don't think it has yet been played in Alaska. The only work of his I have heard here was his String Quartet, performed in Anchorage several years ago by the Kronos Quartet, in one of their two Anchorage appearances.

My favorite quote from him is this advice to a young composer:
If you can live without music for two or three days, then don't write – it might be better to spend the time with a girl or with a beer.
At the time he wrote his Third Symphony, he was in turmoil, as the underground and open efforts toward democracy in Poland were being thwarted by the communist government and their Soviet allies. Here's a description of the year before and three years after composition of the Third:

In 1975, Górecki was promoted to Professor of Composition at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice, where his students included Eugeniusz Knapik, Andrzej Krzanowski and Rafał Augustyn.

Around this time, Górecki came to believe the Polish Communist authorities were interfering too much in the activities of academy, and described them as "little dogs always yapping". As a senior administrator but not a member of the Party, he was in almost perpetual conflict with the authorities in his efforts to protect his school, staff and students from undue political influence.

In 1979 he resigned from his post in protest at the government's refusal to allow Pope John Paul II to visit Katowice and formed a local branch of the "Catholic Intellectuals Club"; an organisation devoted to the struggle against the Communist Party.
Largely because of some of his expansive, Brucknerian musical canvases and his adoration of Catholic iconography, he has been linked to the Holy Minimalists, along with American composer Allen Hovhaness, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina.

Here is a performance of the middle movement of his 3rd Symphony. The words were taken by Górecki from the wall of a former Gestapo headquarters in the Polish highland city of Zakopane. The inscription reads:
"O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie" (Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always)
This performance was at Auschwitz, one of the few live performances allowed there, as part of HOLOCAUST - A Music Memorial Film from Auschwitz. The soprano is Isabel Bayrakdaraian, the Sinfonietta Cracovia is conducted by John Axelrod:

Adam Savage Smuggles Two 12-inch Blades Through the Naked Scanner and Past TSA

Do you feel safer yet?

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 2 - "Gotta Stand With Our North Korean Allies"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

WTF - Below Zero? Updated

Here's what Palin says:

"It's flipping freezing cold. I was up to 3:00 this morning doing an interview, and it was below zero. So be thankful, wherever you are, that it's not zero."

Where was she?

This interview, which references the new book, has to have been done recently. Palin has been in the Southwest - at the Dancing With the Stars set and in Arizona, so she might be out of touch with what the weather in Alaska has been doing, but it has not been "below zero" Fahrenheit in Wasilla since last winter. These past few days, the weather has ranged from the low teens to the high 30s here.

Has she switched to describing temperatures in Celsius?

Have Contributions From Donors Been Finding Their Way Into DCCC Officials' Pockets?

--- by Howie Klein

Friday Nancy Pelosi didn't pick supposed front runner Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the next chair of the DCCC. She picked someone just as bad, Steve Israel [upper left].

In fact, he's actually worse that Wasserman Schultz in one key way. She at least supports progressive legislation. Until 2 years ago the conservative Suffolk County congressman was a member of the Blue Dog Caucus. He's the epitome of the DLC/Third Way hack. The Washington Post describes him as someone who "joined the Blue Dog Democrats in the House and crossed party lines to support President George W. Bush on a number of key issues, most notably Bush’s 2001 tax cut package [one of only 28 mostly right wing Democrats who did] and the GOP prescription drug bill the following year. He has also espoused more hawkish views on foreign policy, voting to authorize military force in Iraq."

I've been working on a DCCC investigation since September and, just by coincidence I ran across an interesting relationship I wasn't aware of-- or looking for-- one between top DCCC operatives John Lapp, Jon Vogel and... Steve Israel. And now they'll all be together again, just like they were when they all worked on Israel's first congressional campaign in 2000 to win the seat being vacated by hapless Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio. Although I tried contacting every DCCC source I know for my story-- from out-going chair Chris Van Hollen and incoming chair Steve Israel to Lapp and Vogel, the only person who would speak to me on the record-- and only partially on the record as a matter of fact-- was Jon Vogel. Vogel played the role of DCCC Executive Director this year. He assured me that "all our decisions were based on polling with the strategy of winning a Democratic Majority... We were working off a poll that gave us an instrument that tested different ways that we could move numbers in a district.” I kind of wish I could have gotten Lapp on the phone instead (or at least as well)-- a mere senior advisor to the I.E. committee-- but he didn't want to talk. I can understand why.

First off, I need to say that I don't really care that what I've found is standard operating procedure for the NRCC, the DSCC and the NRSC and that "this is the way it's always done Inside the Beltway." I sincerely hope Republicans and like-minded insiders choke on their own corruption, and I'll leave it to right-wing bloggers, who are already onto the trail, to work it out for themselves. This is about the DCCC. More specifically, it's about the systemic corruption inside the committee and how they allocate money and where that money goes. Maybe "corruption" is too strong of a word. Maybe. "Devoid of ethics" might be a fairer description.

How were all those insane Republicans able to win?

Some of them-- too many of them-- really are dangerous crackpots. Was it really just because Obama didn't deliver enough of the Hope and Change agenda? Or was it because some of the very Democrats tasked with victory were focused on something entirely different from winning-- focused instead on personal enrichment? This is a story of, at best, horrifying dysfunction at the DCCC. What if one, single person:

(a) could decide-- or even influence-- which candidates got the DCCC's $82 million in independent expenditures this year, and which didn't;

(b) could get payments that looks a lot like kickbacks from the DCCC, for "advising" those candidates; and

(c) could "earn" 15% "media" commissions on millions upon millions of dollars in TV, radio and other ad buys, from those candidates to whom he directed DCCC support?

Well, at least one person could-- and did. One person could put his own money-making opportunities ahead of what was good for the Democratic Party. One person could help to waste much of that $82 million-- and send so many Democratic House candidates down to defeat-- by diverting some of that firehose of DCCC money into his own and his cronies' bank accounts.

Below, I would like to introduce you to DCCC revolving door operative John Lapp.

We've already talked quite a lot at DWT about how so much of the DCCC 2010 budget was allocated to the Democrats who least supported the party's legislative agenda. Bobby Bright was the perfect case, since he supported the party agenda least of any member and still found himself the recipient of $1,411,243.95 worth of DCCC Independent Expenditures in his failed quest for reelection. Stalwart Democrats who supported the agenda-- and who were defeated by millions of dollars of concentrated negative ad campaigns against them from GOP front groups, like Rove's two Crossroads machines and the foreign-financed U.S. Chamber of Commerce-- were cut off by the DCCC, including progressives Alan Grayson, Mary Jo Kilroy and Carol Shea-Porter.

Just for reference, here's the list of the Democrats whose campaigns benefited by over a million dollars each (over half the total spent by the DCCC) in Independent Expenditures against their opponents, courtesy of the DCCC's $65 million I.E. fund:

Chad Causey (Blue Dog-AR)- $1,771,176.95- LOST
Denny Heck (WA)- $1,747,599.58- LOST
Dan Seals (IL)- $1,746,828.70- LOST
Larry Kissell (NC)- $1,705,392.71- WON
Gerald Connolly (VA)- $1,602,785.32- WON
Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD)- $1,514,468.48- LOST
Zack Space (Blue Dog-OH)- $1,512,696.39- LOST
John Boccieri (OH)- $1,449,104.74- LOST
Bill Keating (MA)- $1,433,411.49- WON
Joe Garcia (FL)- $1,422,238.20- LOST
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)- $1,411,243.95- LOST
Dina Titus (NV)- $1,382,353.12- LOST
Mark Schauer (MI)- $1,377,652.69- LOST
Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN)- $1,376,746.34- LOST
Gary McDowell (MI)- $1,319,440.14- LOST
Colleen Hanabusa (HI)- $1,304,253.42- WON
Debbie Halvorsom (IL)- $1,303,014.50- LOST
Mike Oliverio (WV)- $1,264,731.94- LOST
Ike Skelton (MO)- $1,256,818.68- LOST
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)- $1,247,472.30- WON
John Salazar (Blue Dog-CO)- $1,192,722.15- LOST
John Spratt (SC)- $1,124,025.67- LOST
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ)- $1,089,932.74- LOST
Phil Hare (IL)- $1,067,804.37- LOST
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)- $1,056,844.12- LOST
Jerry McNerney (CA)- $1,031,192.02- (leading)
Julie Lassa (WI)- $1,027,637.45- LOST
Mike Arcuri (Blue Dog-NY)- $1,008,038.47- LOST

Who Or What Is Ralston Lapp?

I bet you've never heard of Ralston Lapp Media, Global Strategy Group, Dewey Square Group or GMMB... unless you're an Inside the Beltway politico, steeped in Democratic Party politics. Then you know them quite well; you have to to do business in DC. Let me start with Ralston Lapp, a K Street media company whose website's front page justifies itself with a Washington Post quote from another year: "One of the principal architects of the Democrats’ takeover of the House." Among their clients this year were Arizona Blue Dog Gabrielle Giffords and Kentucky Blue Dog Ben Chandler, each of whom eked out a narrow win against a reactionary opponent.

Another client, Jerry McNerney (CA-11), is slightly ahead as votes are still be tabulated almost three weeks after election day. Ciro Rodriguez (TX-23), another of their 2010 clients, was defeated by Quico Conseco 49-44% (just half of Rodriguez's 2008 voters turning out for him 3 weeks ago). Here's a list of checks reported to the FEC from the DCCC's I.E. Committee to Ralston Lapp Media:

AZ-05 (Harry Mitchell)- $10,695.89
AZ-05 (Harry Mitchell)- $11,698.72
AZ-05 (Harry Mitchell)- $10,381.47
AZ-07 (Raul Grijalva)- $13,500.00
CO-04 (Betsy Markey)- $ 2,177.65
IL-14 (Bill Foster)- $ 1,537.04
IL-14 (Bill Foster)- $11,993.63
MI-07 (Mark Schauer)- $10,914.56
MI-07 (Mark Schauer)- $10,736.25
MI-07 (Mark Schauer)- $10,860.28
MI-07 (Mark Schauer)- $10,543.12
MI-07 (Mark Schauer)- $10,502.24
MO-04 (Ike Skelton)- $13,498.37
MO-04 (Ike Skelton)- $11,065.59
MO-04 (Ike Skelton)- $10,435.39
NY-23 (Bill Owens)- $10,218.71
NY-23 (Bill Owens)- $ 1,222.34
NY-23 (Bill Owens)- $10,395.01
NY-23 (Bill Owens)- $ 2,153.67
NY-23 (Bill Owens)- $11,365.29
NY-24 (Mike Arcuri)- $11,965.12
NY-24 (Mike Arcuri)- $ 1,959.64
NY-24 (Mike Arcuri)- $10,332.42
NY-24 (Mike Arcuri)- $10,990.35
OH-16 (John Boccieri)-$10,536.29
OH-16 (John Boccieri)-$11,120.01
OH-16 (John Boccieri)-$13,102.34
OH-16 (John Boccieri)-$10,040.16
PA-08 (Patrick Murphy)-$13,390.55
VA-11 (Gerry Connolly)- $11,342.61
VA-11 (Gerry Connolly)-$2,497.43
WA-03 (Denny Heck)- $10,900.74
WA-03 (Denny Heck)- $11,927.69
WA-03 (Denny Heck)- $10,415.96

Now this is what they claim to offer their clients:
Ralston Lapp Media is a full-service communications agency providing strategic communications services to political and issue campaigns.

• Strategic consulting and message development

• Creative advertising and production for TV, Radio, Newspapers and the Web

• Media planning and placement

• Press strategy and media training

• Speech and debate prep

I don't have the Ralston Lapp fee structure, but I've been told that they probably get a 15% commission on any advertising created, although my guess is that they share that percentage with the media buying firm.

Now, Who Is John Lapp?

One of the two partners in Ralston Lapp is John Lapp, somewhat better known as a longtime DCCC insider. This is what the current DCCC website says about him:
John Lapp, Independent Expenditure Senior Advisor-- John Lapp served as DCCC Executive Director in 2006 under then Chairman Rahm Emanuel, and later as the DCCC Independent Expenditure Director. Lapp is credited with being one of the principal architects of the Democrats’ winning the House Majority in 2006. He served as a consultant to the DCCC during the successful 2008 campaign that strengthened the Democratic House Majority. Lapp has had a long career in Democratic politics, leading successful candidate and issue advocacy campaigns for many years. He is a partner at Ralston Lapp Media.

He's got power. Incumbents told me they would go to DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen or Debbie Wasserman Schultz and ask for financial help for their campaigns, only to be told that it was up to Lapp. One Member even told me that Van Hollen promised him help on four separate occasions, help that was never authorized by Lapp... and never came.
Lapp's biography at the Ralston Lapp website doesn't mention he was the senor advisor for the I.E. Committee at the DCCC this year. Maybe it just hasn't been updated. Maybe it was viewed as just too unseemly... even in Washington.
Lapp served as Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee under former Congressman Rahm Emanuel, and later, Independent Expenditure Director for the Committee. For the first time since 1994, Lapp helped deliver a Democratic majority to Congress and without sacrificing a single Democratic incumbent-- something not achieved since 1922. The Washington Post called Lapp, “one of the principal architects of the Democrats’ takeover of the House in 2006.”

The Problem Isn't Really Lapp; It's Systemic

GMMB is a real powerhouse in Democratic politics, consulting for a wide range of politicians, from Obama and Clinton to Harry Reid, Mark Warner, Max Baucus, Barbara Boxer and Donna Edwards. I noticed that this year they made and placed ads for the DCCC that ran to help the campaigns of dozens of Democratic candidates, including many of the big-name losers the DCCC was fighting the hardest to keep, like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Frank Kratovil (MD), John Salazar (CO), Ciro Rodriguez (TX), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Baron Hill (IN), Mike Arcuri (NY), Chris Carney (PA) Scott Murphy (NY), Travis Childers (MS), etc. Lapp's partner at Ralston Lapp Media, Jason Ralston, whose official bio brags he was "a chief media consultant for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure effort" in 2006 and 2008, was a partner in GMMB before he and Lapp founded their own firm.

Global Strategy Group is another Inside the Beltway Democratic campaign firm. They say they offer their clients the following services:
• Research

• Strategic Communications

• Grassroots & Grasstops Organizing

• Branding & Marketing

• New Media & Interactive Solutions

Among their clients are now ex-Congressmembers Mike Arcuri (NY- $1,008,038.47), Bill Foster (IL- $1,303,014.50), John Hall (NY- $502,692.18), Phil Hare (IL- $1,067,804.37), Patrick Murphy (PA- $557,612.95) and Scott Murphy (NY- $686,418.54), each of whom had something in common, very large DCCC I.E. media buys (indicated after the state abbreviations above). DCCC Executive Director Jon Vogel assured me he has no ownership stake in Global Strategy Group and that he only worked there for three weeks. He's mostly scrubbed from their website, although I did manage to find a news release from Match 13, 2009:

GSG's Jon Vogel becomes Executive Director of DCCC:

March 13, 2009

Jon Vogel, partner at Global Strategy Group, has been named the Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC).

During the past two election cycles at the DCCC, Jon has been at the center of unprecedented back-to-back gains that have resulted in the largest Democratic majority since 1992. Jon was one of the DCCC’s top strategists during the historic 2008 cycle where Democrats picked up 24 seats. Jon served first as the Political Director overseeing candidate recruitment and campaign planning and strategy, and finished the cycle as director of the Independent Expenditure Program.

Jon directed an $85 million Independent Expenditure Program that operated in over 60 Congressional districts and tracked 135 races nationally. He won races in every corner of the country and oversaw successful programs in conservative districts across the Deep South (Alabama and Mississippi), the Rustbelt (Ohio, Michigan and Western Pennsylvania) the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada), the Mountain West (Colorado and Idaho) and in the suburban Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

In passing, I'll mention that when Rahm Emanuel was Chairman of the DCCC, his Executive Director was Karin Johansen, a former Steny Hoyer Chief of Staff and a principal partner in DSG (Dewey Square Group), and Michael Whouley, a DSG founder, also worked for Rahm, overseeing the DCCC's GOTV (get out the vote) efforts. DSG describes itself as "delivering winning public affairs strategies for our clients, from creating grassroots and strategic communications campaigns around federal legislation to building lasting relationships with customers and consumers."

During the 2008 cycle Rodd McLeod headed the DCCC efforts in the Northeast and sent quite a bit of direct mail business to MSHC Partners, which was grateful enough to hire him on as a vice president immediately after the election. At least he wasn't a vice president while he was directing checks MSHC's way.

On the other hand, every time DCCC Independent Expenditure Program senior advisor Lapp had a check cut to Global Strategy Group, Ralston Lapp Media or some of these other well-connected consulting agencies that are routinely pushed onto congressional candidates, were they actually personally benefiting? I was told that the DCCC built a kind of Chinese wall around Lapp so that he had no part in the discussions involving any of the clients his firm was working with. No one I mentioned this to seems to find that credible. I called Chris Van Hollen, who headed up this year's failed DCCC efforts, and he refused to discuss it or anything about the DCCC with me. I've been talking with people at the DCCC for years. No one wanted to discuss this matter on the record, particularly not Lapp. Several Members of Congress told me the situation is outrageous and at the very least creates an impression of serious abuse.

One congressman was willing to state categorically that when he was first running, Rahm bluntly and unambiguously told him that if he didn't hire a consulting firm owned by Lapp, he would get no I.E. help from the DCCC. He did hire Lapp's firm, and did get a hefty I.E. buy, a percentage of which of course wound up in Lapp's personal bank account. Sounds vaguely illegal to me... but what do I know?

As we look at the direct business the DCCC Independent Expenditure committee sent Ralston Lapp's way for media production, let's remember it's just one little case study from this particular cycle. Far vaster sums went through GMMB for media placement this year and this is something that has certainly been going on for at least the three cycles I've studied. The crowd running the DCCC likes to point to their brilliance and success as a kind of excuse for behavior that is, at least, by appearance, shady, They think their incredibly overpriced ads-- which Madison Avenue and Hollywood ad makers laugh at as amateurish at best and counterproductive in too many cases-- are brilliant and unassailable. I just hope that if Darrell Issa decides to investigate, he investigates all four party committees, since they're all operating the same way.