Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama Was Top Fundraiser At $36 Million For January

The candidates competing to be your next president raised $3.3 million per day last month, according to reports that those still in the running and those who dropped out filed last night with the Federal Election Commission. January brought the field's total haul since fundraising began to $685 million, $586 million of it now spent. With $36 million in January -- the most any candidate has ever raised in a month while still in competitive primaries -- Barack Obama was the top fundraiser, by far. Hillary Clinton came in with about $14 million, plus $5 million from her own pocket. (Had she not lent herself that money, she would have had less to spend going into Super Tuesday than John Edwards.) Republican John McCain collected $12.6 million and reported a total of $5.5 million in loans and other debts. Summary figures for the candidates have been updated on The Donor Lookup, Fundraising Over Time and State/Metro data are also new. Updates to the site, including categorization of January contributors by industry and employer, will continue into next week as we analyze the data.

*Race for the White House:

*Look up individual donors to presidential candidates:

*Fundraising by state and metro area:

*Fundraising over time:


Following the money, you could have predicted how Tuesday's Democratic primaries in Wisconsin and Hawaii were going to turn out -- Barack Obama had a commanding fundraising lead over Hillary Clinton in both states. As for the Republican primary in Wisconsin (the GOP in Hawaii will assign delegates at a convention in May), the top Republican fundraiser last year was Tommy Thompson, the state's former governor, who ended his presidential campaign way back in August. John McCain was the top fundraiser among the remaining Republican candidates. Looking ahead to the next big contests, the fundraising in Ohio suggests a tight race between Clinton and Obama. And McCain was far outraised in the Buckeye State by dropouts Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. In Texas, Clinton has a wide lead over Obama among larger donors. Both Democrats have raised more in Texas than McCain has.

*Fundraising in Ohio:

*Fundraising in Texas:

*Presidential primary calendar:


For a group that doesn't plan to run for re-election in November, this year's exceptionally large class of congressional retirees has sure been raising and spending a lot of money. Last year the 26 House and Senate retirees -- almost all of them Republicans -- managed to spend $13.5 million from their campaign accounts and political action committees, or well over half a million dollars each. In some cases, it looks like they're paying for their own extended retirement parties.

*Read the full article:

A Look Back

"Not since the Depression has a larger share of Americans owed more on their homes than they are worth," reports The New York Times, as Congress weighs various proposals to help the "8.8 million homeowners, or 10.3 percent of the total," who "are underwater."

Despite his rhetoric against lobbyists and special interests, "virtually every one" of Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) "closest advisers" are "part of the Washington lobbying culture." McCain's campaign manager, chief political adviser, and other senior advisers are all current or former lobbyists. Some are still being paid by lobbying firms while working on the campaign.

Former Gitmo prosecutor Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned over political interference in the military tribunals, has agreed to appear at a hearing for defendant Salim Hamdan. "I'm more than happy to testify," Davis said. He called it "an opportunity to tell the truth."

In "the first confirmed ground operation by the Turkish military into Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion," as many as 10,000 Turkish troops pursued separatist Kurdish rebels across the border into Iraq yesterday. The operation raises concerns of a wider conflict between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds.

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia on Friday to extend a ceasefire for another six months. Those who honor Sadr's "pledge will be treated with respect and restrain," the U.S. military said.

Several hundred Serb demonstrators, "incensed by the U.S. recognition of Kosovo's independence, overran and burned part of the American Embassy in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Thursday." The European Union said the attacks "risked harming efforts to bring the Balkan nation closer to the EU."

Yesterday, Congress held a bipartisan meeting to broker a compromise on surveillance legislation. Republican lawmakers, however, prevented their staffs from attending. House Speaker Steny Hoyer (D-MD) responded by noting conservatives want "to have a political issue rather than a strong new FISA bill in place as quickly as possible."

A "surge of immigrants" are going to court "to force U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to complete their background checks and act" on their citizenship applications, which are often delayed for several years. In 2005, there were 4,400 suits filed against USCIS "over delayed name checks," up from 270 in 2005.

And finally: Last weekend, Janet Huckabee, wife of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, had a room booked at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas. She was in town "to root for fellow Arkansan and friend Jermain Taylor," who was boxing against Kelly Pavlik. At the last minute, however, "plans changed" and Huckabee ended up staying at "the pride of Sin City, the Hooters Casino Hotel." "It was the only thing, quite frankly, that was available," said Huckabee.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Under The Radar

The Senate approved an intelligence bill that bans waterboarding, "temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." The measure will limit the CIA "to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in a U.S Army Field Manual." CIA Director Michael Hayden recently acknowledged that the agency had used the tactic of waterboarding on at least three prisoners nearly five years ago. Other administration officials, such as Attorney General Mike Mukasey, have refused to say that waterboarding is torture. The White House has even left open the possibility of using the technique in the future. While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has previously called waterboarding "very exquisite torture" and co-sponsored a bill to ban any military use of the technique, he voted against yesterday's Senate bill banning waterboarding -- effectively siding with President Bush, who has vowed to veto the bill.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), under investigation for funneling money to a contributor's clients, "was among the top lawmakers securing money for special projects in this year's spending bills," according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Lewis ranked second among all House members in "solo earmarks." Though the current status of the Lewis investigation is uncertain, in May 2006, "federal authorities in Los Angeles began looking into the relationship between Lewis and Washington lobbyist Bill Lowery, a former congressman from San Diego." In 2007, "Lewis collected $59,000 in donations from Lowery, members of his lobbying firm, and clients, some of whom received earmarks supported by Lewis." The investigation is an offshoot of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case, in which the former congressman is serving jail time after pleading guilty to accepting bribes.

ADMINISTRATION SHUTS DOWN WEBSITE TRACKING U.S. ECONOMIC INDICATORS: With the U.S. economy faltering, conservatives have attempted to deflect attention from the crisis by blaming the media's negative coverage and insisting the United States is not headed toward a recession, despite what economists are predicting. The Bush administration's latest move is to simply hide the data. Forbes had awarded one of its "Best of the Web" awards. As Forbes explains, the government site provides an invaluable service to the public for accessing U.S. economic data. Economic Indicators is particularly useful because people can sign up to receive e-mails as soon as new economic data across government agencies becomes available. While the data will still be available online at various federal websites, it will be less readily accessible to members of the public. The Bush administration has decided to shut down this site because of "budgetary constraints," effective March 1, even though Bush recently submitted a record $3.1 trillion budget to Congress for FY '09.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Progress Report: Labor Gets Screwed Again

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- a bill authored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993 -- grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in case of a serious health condition, or to care for a new child or sick family member. The law protects an employee's job during such an absence and provides various benefit and privacy protections. For nearly fifteen years, the law has made it easier for over 50 million American workers to provide a better balance between work, health, and family life. The FMLA currently allows employees up to two days after the beginning of a shift to notify their employers of their intention to claim time off. But the Labor Department recently proposed changes to the law that would add restrictions to the FLMA -- provisions benefiting employers and making it more difficult for workers to take advantage of the law. Some of the proposed changes include requiring workers to notify their bosses in advance when taking non-emergency leave, allowing employers to require "fitness-for-duty" evaluations for those who took FMLA time off, requiring employees to obtain medical certifications of their illnesses every year, and allowing businesses to exclude workers who took FMLA time from perfect attendance awards.

Even if the Labor Department's proposals -- which some businesses regard as
welcome news -- are not adopted, the FMLA needs to expand in order to cover more American workers and to provide increased benefits. As it currently stands, the FMLA does not apply to businesses employing fewer than 50 people, a provision that allows the exclusion of nearly 40 million America workers from the law. Millions more are excluded because of rules not covering part-time workers and those who have not worked for their present employer for over one year. Yet "while unpaid leave has helped millions of families, there is little question that many employees have been unable to take time to care for a new child or an ill loved one because they cannot afford the lost pay." Indeed, a study released last year by Harvard University and McGill University found that the United States lags "far behind virtually all wealthy countries with regard to family-oriented workplace policies" such as maternity leave and paid sick days. According to the study, the United States is one of just five countries out of 173 "that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave." Expanding the FMLA is necessary because nearly "half of all full-time private sector workers (and three quarters of low-wage workers) in the U.S. get no paid sick days." Businesses also suffer in productivity and other workers face health risks when sick employees are forced to go to work. In fact, expanding employee benefits has overwhelming support: "95 percent of the public thinks it is unacceptable for employers to not provide paid sick leave" while "60 percent think it is illegal."


House, Education, and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) has said that the Labor Department proposal tightening the FMLA "clearly benefits employers at the expense of workers." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, has also
criticized the proposals, saying they "will make it more difficult for workers to use this leave when they need it" and "impose burdensome new paperwork requirements on both workers and heath providers." Hearings on the Labor Department's proposals will be held this week in both the House and Senate. The National Journal notes that, under a new administration, Congress "could do away" with the Labor Department rule change proposals in "early in 2009 under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to withdraw regulations within 60 session days after they are published."


On July 1, 2004, California's
Paid Family Leave (PFL) Law went into effect. The law is a 100 percent employee-funded provision that provides workers in that state "with a maximum of six weeks of partial pay [55% of wages up to a maximum of $882 per week] each year while taking time off from work to bond with a newborn baby, newly adopted or foster child, or to care for a seriously ill parent, child, spouse or registered domestic partner." While five other states have proposed similar bills to provide some form of paid leave, California is currently the only state mandating comprehensive paid family leave. Nearly 85% of California adult residents in every segment of the population support paid family leave, and one survey of California businesses found that more workers returned to their jobs where employers offered leave benefits beyond what is required.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Strike At Wal-Mart!

In January 2008, at a Wal-Mart Dispatch Center in Shenzhen, China, 55 employees sat for two days in a meeting room to demand back overtime pay. Instead of paying overtime, Wal-Mart had given the employees "compensative rest". Wal-Mart's public relations department said that the company is in the process of researching the overtime problem and will be able to give a response at a later time. According to Pan Dungang of Guangdong's Wen Tian law firm using compensative rest instead of overtime pay is illegal. [Nanfang Daily via Sina, 1/4/08]


Drowning Liberty

Great Lakes Danger Zones?

An exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states was supposed to be released last July, but the Bush administration has kept it under wraps - reportedly because it contained such potentially "alarming information" as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates.

The Center for Public Integrity published key excerpts of the report that top officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thought was too hot for the public to handle.

Click here to read the investigation.

The Center is receiving tremendous recognition to our report, Iraq: the War Card - Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War. In only two weeks since its release, it has already generated a great deal of worldwide news coverage and citizen response.

Here are a few things people are saying about it:

  • "Sure to evoke passionate responses from supporters and opponents of the Iraq war..." (USA Today)
  • A nonprofit group pursuing old-fashioned accountability journalism..." (The Washington Post)
  • The Center "has done a real service to place nearly 1,000 of these in one easy-to-access location..." (Daily Kos)

To Torture Or Not To Torture

CIA Director Michael Hayden has acknowledged for the first time publicly that the agency had used the tactic of waterboarding on at least three prisoners nearly five years ago. Waterboarding is an interrogation practice in which, "the victim's lungs fill with water until the procedure is stopped or the victim dies." As Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism specialist who taught at the Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school in California, told Congress, "Waterboarding is a long-standing form of torture used by history's most brutal governments, including those of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, North Korea, Iraq, the Soviet Union and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia." Yesterday, "after years of dodging and dissembling, the Bush administration boldly embraced" its record of torture and said it would "definitely want to consider" using it again. "It will depend upon circumstances," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, adding that future acts of waterboarding would "need the president's approval," and the White House would notify "appropriate members of Congress."

LEGAL PARSING: In 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for waterboarding a U.S. civilian. "Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago." Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said in an interview this month, "There's just no doubt in my mind -- under any set of rules -- waterboarding is torture." But inside the Bush administration, such clarity has succumbed to legal parsing. "I would feel" waterboarding was torture "if it were done to me," Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress recently. But Mukasey, who promised to lead a legal review of the practice before being confirmed, is now refusing to brief Congress on the legality of waterboarding. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told the New Yorker in January, "Whether it's torture by anybody else's definition, for me it would be torture." But McConnell said his comments should not be interpreted to reflect an official administration position. When he said waterboarding was "torture," McConnell explained to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), he meant he just personally didn't like water up his nose.

FROM DENIAL TO OPEN ADVOCACY: For years, the White House had done its best to deny the obvious: that it had employed waterboarding against prisoners. When Vice President Dick Cheney told a conservative talk radio host in Oct. 2006 that it would be a "no-brainer" to "dunk" an individual in water if it would save lives, the White House tried to dispel any notion that Cheney was embracing waterboarding. Now the White House strategy has changed -- "the administration has apparently decided that this is a debate they can win out in the open." The switch comes as Congress is considering legislation that "if passed, would require all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies to abide by the Army Field Manual's prohibition against waterboarding." The White House said yesterday it wants to retain the option to use waterboarding, even while President Bush has frequently claimed "we do not torture." "Torture is illegal," Fratto said after McConnell's testimony. "We don't torture -- we maintain and as we have said many times that the programs have been reviewed, and the Department of Justice has determined them to be legal."

SPOTLIGHT ON THE SENATE: In December, the House passed an amendment that extends the current prohibitions in the Army Field Manual against torture to U.S. intelligence agencies and personnel. Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Christopher Bond (R-MO) has said he would lead an effort to remove that requirement when the legislation reaches the Senate floor. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who in the past has made a series of statements against the use of waterboarding, has placed a hold on the anti-waterboarding bill. A number of key Republican swing votes -- including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) -- will likely make the difference if the bill comes to a vote. McCain has previously called waterboarding a "horrible, odious" technique that "should never be condoned in the U.S."

Citizens United Sets It Sights On Obama

InfoCision Management Corporation client Citizens United has produced a film now in distribution attacking Hillary Clinton called “Hillary, the Movie”. Citizens United has embarked on a legal battle to advertise their film unconstrained by campaign finance laws. A Federal District Court ruled that the group could not air advertisements without attaching a disclaimer and disclosing their donor list. Claims that the film should be treated as a documentary prompted "outright laughter from the judges".[2] Citizens United now has its sights set on a new target: Barack Obama.

The group has budgeted about $1 million to produce a documentary film about Mr. Obama that is set to be distributed this summer. At the moment, Citizens United has its researchers poring over Mr. Obama’s records as a community organizer, state legislator and United States senator in the same way that it lied and disregarded Mrs. Clinton’s record. And with the absolute purpose of playing upon the ignorance of the people InfoCision will be calling for donations to get the barely literate suckers to cough up their last dime.

Citizens United was co-founded by Floyd Brown[1] in 1988 and currently headed by David Bossie. Its offices are on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., near the White House. It has run smear ads of President Clinton's record on terrorism, and ads praising President Bush's terrorism record. Citizens United filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Fahrenheit 9/11 using the same law it is now fighting against. "Obama is a completely clean slate,” David Bossie has said, “We will develop the image that we want the people to see. We’re doing the hard work of the research right now. The American people don’t know much about Obama, except that they like his speaking style.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Progress Report Of Not Much Progress

President Bush took office in 2001 with an advantage few presidents have enjoyed:
a $236 billion budget surplus. But Bush quickly "blew through" President Clinton's surplus. Now the next administration will have to pay the price for Bush's fiscal irresponsibility. With his new budget, Bush is trying to create the appearance of compensating for his fiscal exuberance, terminating or reducing 151 government programs -- while still producing near record deficits. While Bush's budget plan "has little chance of surviving in a Democratic Congress," he is in effect washing his hands clean of his economic mismanagement, delaying "until 2009 decisions on how to cope with short- and long-term financial problems." The next president will "inherit a fiscal meltdown,"Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said. Conrad and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) are considering setting up "a bipartisan commission to help the next president and Congress deal with these issues, possibly through legislation."


In 2001, Bush said his tax cuts would cost the government $1.3 trillion, but his 2009 budget -- which calls for making his signature tax cuts permanent -- indicates they would "
cost the government more than $2 trillion in their second decade." Extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would give the top one percent of households more than $1.1 trillion in benefits over the next decade, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities -- more than the entire amount the government spends on elementary and secondary education or veterans' medical care. Without offsets, permanent tax cuts would increase deficits and add to national debt, "essentially doubl[ing] the size of the debt in 2050." Not surprisingly, Bush has not proposed adequate measures to pay for the cuts. Conrad noted the irony of preserving Bush's tax cuts while proposing devastating blows to Medicare and Medicaid. "We believe that is a very odd sense of priorities. That is not a sense of priorities that are shared by the American people," he said. The budget also includes $19.7 billion for SCHIP funding, but this would not "allow states to cover more uninsured children" and is still inadequate to maintain current programs.


"Slumping revenues and the cost of an economic rescue package will combine to produce a huge jump in the deficit to
$410 billion this year and $407 billion in 2009, the White House says, just shy of the record $413 billion set four years ago." This deficit will undoubtedly hamstring future administrations. For example, budget experts "agree that there is not enough money to be had" from conservative approaches to cut "wasteful federal spending." But the White House remains cheerful. "This budget is one that keeps spending under control," Bush trumpeted. And while Bush has attempted to embrace fiscal conservatism by cutting earmarks, his budget would only cut pork by $18 billion, a number "so small as to be of symbolic importance." Furthermore, unless the "economy rebounds" and revenue pours in, "deficits will push the cumulative federal debt past $12 trillion in the next five years." "I would suggest to you the debt is the threat," Conrad stated, saying Bush will likely see an "almost a doubling of the national debt on his watch."

The "budget
achieves balance by 2012," Bush said yesterday. But the forecast is likely to be worse than what the White House is saying. To achieve its deficit goals, the White House predicts the economy will grow at 2.7 percent rate this year, "higher than what private sector economists" anticipate and a full point higher than the Congressional Budget Office's projections. House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC) said a more likely scenario is a "deficit that remains in the $200 billion range in 2012." Moreover, billions in spending are unaccounted for in the budget. For example, Bush budgeted $70 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- but only accounted for costs up to the first half of FY2009. In reality, around $200 billion is expected to be spent. Furthermore, Bush did not take into account the costs "of assuring that higher alternative minimum tax rates originally aimed at several hundred very wealthy people don't hit tens of millions of middle-income earners." Conrad accused Bush of "hide-the-ball budgeting." Gregg concluded that this budget is "not a serious budget."

Wal-Mart And Salmonella

In February 2007, the Center for Disease Control confirmed the presence of the dangerous germ salmonella in recalled peanut butter sold under the Wal-Mart Stores house brand Great Value. ConAgra Foods Inc. had recalled all Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter made at its Sylvester, Ga., plant after federal health officials linked the product to a salmonella outbreak that had sickened at least 329 people from 41 states. [USA Today, 2/23/07]

See You On Rooftops

Driven To Drink