Saturday, August 1, 2009

How can you tell if a republican is lying? . . .

. . . his lips are moving.
Eric Cantor Rips Chris Matthews, MSNBC, HuffPo, Liberal Bloggers For Inflating Birther Story

GOP Rep. Eric Cantor says he’s no birther — he has no questions about Obama’s citizenship, his spokesman tells me. But Cantor is placing the blame for the spread of birtherism not on its authors or on those politicians playing along with it, but rather on Chris Matthews, MSNBC, lefty news outlets and bloggers.

Asked for Cantor’s views on birtherism, his spokesman, Brad Dayspring, emailed me this:

“Mr. Cantor doesn’t question the President’s citizenship, but he has serious questions about the President’s push for government controlled healthcare, taxes on small business job creators, and a huge energy tax on middle class families. He finds it ironic that those most eager to talk about the President’s citizenship are in fact some of his biggest cheerleaders–whether it’s Chris Matthews or others on MSNBC, the Huffington Post, or camera toting liberal bloggers chasing people through the streets of Washington.”

This is the first time Cantor has publicly declared his disagreement with birtherism. But that aside, this is actually a really interesting response. Cantor would rather pick a base-pleasing fight with those who are trying to knock down birtherism than denounce those who are promoting and playing footsie with the idea that Obama isn’t legitimately our president.

And that’s the number two in the House GOP leadership speaking…

  • Josh finds No Secret Signals in Your Dental Work
    Reading through all the 'birther' emails we're getting, I'm sort of reminded why you just don't want to get into a conversation with LaRouchies, various others cultists or even just the random unkempt middle-aged guy in Central Park screaming about socialism. They've pre-plumbed every rabbit hole.
Think Progress: Right-Wing Harassment Strategy Against Dems Detailed In Memo: ‘Yell,’ ‘Stand Up And Shout Out,’ ‘Rattle Him’

This morning, Politico reported that Democratic members of Congress are increasingly being harassed by “angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior” at local town halls. For example, in one incident, right-wing protesters surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety.

This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:

Tea Bagger Memo

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

The memo above also resembles the talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks for pushing an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by Americans for Prosperity, is currently busing people all over the country for more protests against Democratic members. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now “over.”

Meanwhile, AHIP, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry is sending staffers to monitor town halls and other right-wing front groups are stepping up their ad campaign to smear reform efforts. The strategy for defeating reform — recently outlined by an influential lobbyist to the Hill newspaper as “delay” then “kill” — is becoming apparent. By delaying a vote until after the August recess, lobbyists are now seizing upon recess town halls as opportunities to ambush lawmakers and fool them into believing there is wide opposition to reform.

Think Progress: NRCC is luring doctors to oppose reform by pretending to ‘honor’ them.

The Wonk Room has learned that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is engaged in a misleading campaign to trick physicians into opposing health care reform. The NRCC has been placing calls and sending “hand-written” faxes to physicians across the country to ostensibly recognize physicians for their “invaluable experience” and ask recipients to call a toll-free number and approve a press release “to honor the achievements of you and other concerned physicians like you.” The missive invites doctors to “represent” their state “as a consultant on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) ‘Physicians’ Council for Responsible Reform,’” but a call to the “Council” suggests that the NRCC’s real goal is to scare physicians and add legitimacy to Republican efforts to stall reform. (Download a copy of the letter HERE.) Listen to the call:

Rather than seeking “critical input” or “guidance” from doctors “who are respected by their peers”, the “Council” warns doctors about the “very real threat of Washington interfering even more with doctor’s efforts to provide the best possible care for their patients” and explains that the physicians on the Council have already agreed to “a free market type thing.”

Josh Marshall's Irony Free Zone

Sen. Vitter (R-LA) attacks Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) for straying from conservative values.

Think Progress: NAACP-Forgery Group, Bonner & Associates, Has A Decades-Long History Of Astroturf Tactics

A DC-based consulting firm has been exposed for forging letters in opposition to the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The letters, replete with letterhead and made-up identities, purported to be from Virginian minority organizations including the NAACP. Rep. Tom Periello (D-VA) received multiple letters pressuring him to vote against clean energy reform. According to Daily Progress, Periello staffers discovered that the letters were actually forged by Bonner & Associates. Going through past correspondence regarding ACES, staffers found at least six forged letters purporting to be from Cruciendo Juntos, a nonprofit hispanic group, and the NAACP.

ThinkProgress has acquired the forged letters. See them here:


Bonner & Associates has a long history of shady tactics and big business corporate associations:

Show Me the Money: Founder Jack Bonner bragged in 1994 that the group has no “idealogical or political bent,” the Washington Post noting that “if you’ve got the money and need some ‘regular people’ to flog your issue, Bonner will find them for you.” [8/23/94]

Defrauding the U.S. Government: In 1986, the firm was caught defrauding the U.S. government in order to retain a contract. Bonner & Associates was fraudulently submitting names from phone books, yearbooks, agency employee books, and other sources. The firm claimed to fire the offending employee: “We fired the people we determined were involved in it…what they did was in direct violation of the written policy of the firm.” [New York Times, 12/18/86]

Fighting the Smoking Ban on Behalf of Philip Morris: Bonner & Associates was hired by Philip Morris during the early 90s to build opposition to the workplace smoking ban. A 1994 National Journal piece reports that the firm “was paid about $1.5 million to solicit 7,000 letters to OSHA from small businesses, criticizing the indoor air proposal.” [National Journal, 12/3/94]

Killing Health Care Reforms on Behalf of PhRMA: After the group was hired by PhRMA to kill Maryland legislation that would have affected prescription drug legislation, they faxed dozens of community leaders with a petition that was meant to appear grassroots, “including grammatical errors and a handwritten cover letter.” A community leader that received one of the faxes said, “I wish they would take off the masks. If the drug industry wants to organize people at the grass roots, they should be honest.” [Baltimore Sun, 3/9/02]

In a statement following their most recent offense against Rep. Periello, the company responded, “We immediately fired the person on our staff responsible for the error.” The Bonner firm’s weak dismissal of their breach as “an error” is a laughable attempt to ignore the nefarious nature of the company’s entire strategic philosophy: Astroturfing (that is, misrepresenting corporate-backed policy as a real grassroots movement).

This incident demonstrates the incredible lengths that the vested interests of health care and energy are willing to go through to undermine reform. With Congress going on recess soon, more of these astroturf tactics will undoubtedly occur as corporate backed anti-reform groups gather in Congressional districts throughout the country to obstruct health care and clean energy reform.

Update Bonner & Associates is placing responsibility of the forgery on a lying "temporary employee":
We take our business very seriously. A temporary employee--lied to us--and contrary to our policies sent these letters. We--no one else--we on our own found this out. We immediately fired the person. We then, called those effected, explained what happened and apologized. In the case of the group in the story--we did it in person and by letter.

This should not have happened--we had a bad employee--but through our internal checks, we found the problem, and on our own initiative took the step to notify the affected group.
Update Protestors braved the DC rain today to protest outside of the Bonner & Associates offices. Watch it:
Update NAACP issued this statement:
“The NAACP is appalled that an organization like Bonner and Associates would stoop to these depths to deceive Congress. In this case Bonner and Associates are exploiting the African-American Community to achieve their misdirected goal. These tactics illustrate that discriminatory tactics normally used to deceive voters are now being used to deceive the Congress,” stated Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy.

In which Lou Dobbs aligns himself with all the RW crazies . . .

Sudbay (AmBlog): Media Matters has an ad on CNN about Lou Dobbs and his birther obsession. Lou Dobbs doesn't like it.

Dobbs is giving all kinds of free publicity to Media Matters and its ad campaign about his birther obsession, which will be running on CNN. The ads notes "CNN Has a Lou Dobbs Problem." And, CNN does indeed have a Lou Dobbs problem.

Dobbs doesn't like Media Matters:

This must make all of those fine reporters at CNN cringe. I mean, Lou Dobbs is fast becoming the best known reporter on all of CNN -- and for all the wrong reasons. Nice work, Jon Klein. This is what happens when you give air time to a racist.

  • Sargent: Media Matters Running Ads Attacking Lou Dobbs’ Birther Obsession — On CNN!

    Okay, this is an intriguing new frontier in political media criticism. Media Matters, which has been attacking CNN for not reining in Lou Dobbs’ birther obsession, has now purchased air time to run a TV ad attacking “CNN’s Lou Dobbs problem” — during Dobbs’ show!

    A Media Matters spokesman tells me the group has bought a week of ad time on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in D.C., New York, and Atlanta, beginning Tuesday. The catch: Media Matters has specifically purchased time to air the ad during Dobbs’ show — putting CNN in the position of either running the spot or nixing it and making this a bigger story.

    Here’s the script of the spot:

    TITLE: CNN’s Dobbs Problem –- 30 Sec.

    Chyron: CNN Has a Lou Dobbs Problem

    Voice Over: CNN’s Lou Dobbs has been promoting the false, right-wing conspiracy that President Obama hasn’t produced a valid U.S. birth certificate.

    Clips: A series of short clips of Dobbs saying “birth certificate”

    Voice Over: CNN President Jon Klein said Dobbs’ obsession was “legitimate.”

    Clips: Another series of short clips of Dobbs saying “birth certificate”

    Voice Over: It’s time for “The Most Trusted Name in News” to live up to its slogan. Let CNN know there’s nothing “legitimate” about racially charged paranoia.

    Chyron: Take action at

    CNN, obviously, hasn’t yet been informed of the ad’s content. It seems that Media Matters’ goal is to get CNN’s competitors to pick up on the story as news, to bait CNN into responding, and to foment internal tensions over Dobbs within the network. Media Matters has been closely documenting the Dobbs/birther story, and this is a real escalation. It’ll be interesting to see how CNN and Dobbs react.


    Update: A statement from Media Matters president Eric Burns earlier this afternoon gives more context:

    “Between the reaction from other media figures and the crashing of Dobbs’ ratings, CNN is making a mockery of its claim to being ‘the most trusted name in news.’ CNN can’t continue to condone Dobbs’ birther coverage and expect to be taken seriously. Jon Klein owes viewers — and his network — more.”

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