Daily Archives: February 2, 2010

Tea Party Profiteers: How Republican Operatives Are Exploiting Economic Anxiety For Power, Cash

I wonder if tea partiers really care that their movement has been corrupted and taken over by profiteers and charlatans?

Think Progress
Republican partisans — aided by lobbyists and corporate front groups — are exploiting the legitimate feelings of anger and distrust among many struggling Americans. These operatives and profiteers, many of them experienced public relations professionals, have set up sophisticated social networking portals and online solutions to control the flow of information within tea party organizations. As gatekeepers to ostensibly open forums, these political operatives and profiteers have been able to set the political agenda of the tea parties and hand out marching orders. And tea party profiteers are making millions cashing in on the movement. They are selling tea party support to candidates and policies which continue the legacy of Bush-era unregulated capitalism and corporate bailouts:

Eric Odom: Odom, who appears regularly on Fox News and on other venues as a spokesman for the tea party movement, is at the center of tea party profiteering. Odom maintains dozens, possibly hundreds of tea party websites and community forums which he controls through a “Ning” technology based social networking platform. Odom’s vast online control of county, state, and issue oriented tea party websites is done through his two for profit consulting companies: American Liberty Alliance and Strategy Activism, LLC. His American Liberty Alliance has served as a hub between disparate tea party groups and right-wing front groups. In a biographical video he posted on YouTube, Odom explained that he has worked for years on local and statewide Republican campaigns developing “stealth type marketing…some say ‘attack sites.’” He boasted that he built “sites behind the scenes, many of them to this day no one today knows I took part in, some of them were actually very effective in defeating the opponent.” While it is unclear exactly who is paying Odom now for his tea party profit ventures, Odom has delicately straddled independent populist rhetoric while proclaiming that his network will work exclusively for the election of Republican candidates this year.

Allen Fuller: According to Tennessee business records, Odom’s Strategic Activism, LLC business partner is Republican new media consultant Allen Fuller, who also maintains a firm called Flat Creek Public Affairs. Fuller may be the best clue to find out who pays Odom. On his website, Fuller counts Jane Norton, the GOP candidate for Senate in Colorado, as a client, and also receives payments from several other Republican members of Congress. Fuller helps corral tea party support to American Majority, a Republican training organization.

Glenn Beck: Beck, the most powerful promoter of the tea parties in the media, often rants during his regular programming that investing in gold is the only way to hedge against a supposed deep inflation in the future. He does not disclose, however, that gold companies are his primary sponsors, or that the gold companies he promotes have predatory fees: Goldline, one of Beck’s sponsors, sells gold for 30-35% more than market value. “Here’s the deal, call Goldline, study it out, pray on it,” Beck advises his listeners. Beck has cemented his control over the tea parties by launching his own 9.12 project network of social networking sites — which are hosted by his for profit media company Mercury Radio Arts.

Tea Party Nation: As a for-profit business, Tea Party Nation organized the Tea Party Convention this year at Nashville’s swank Opryland Gaylord hotel. The convention, set at the “grassroots” ticket price of $550 per person, features a Madison Avenue fashion company selling tea party jewelry and a paid ($120,000) speech by Sarah Palin. Tea Party Nation also maintains a message board.

Dick Armey: As ThinkProgress has documented, Armey has a long history of organizing conservative grassroots causes in support of his corporate clients. Armey presents himself as a ideologue, who helms his nonprofit FreedomWorks as a mere exercise in his free market beliefs. But while Armey rails against the Wall Street bailout and efforts to rebuild the foundations of the economy, his own lobbying firm represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bailouts. Indeed, even his nonprofit still pays him a lobbyist salary of $550,000 per year.

Tea Party Express: The Tea Party Express bus tour, and affiliated political action committee, has raised funds using tea party messages. The Tea Party Express effort has been a slick public relations gimmick of the Sacramento-based consulting firm Russo, Marsh and Rogers (RMR). RMR has worked on several stealth campaigns for Republican clients, including the underhanded push to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA). In any case, the Tea Party Express, which RMR staffers operate, has proved to be a cash cow for RMR — in 2009 alone, it plunged at least $1,025,559 of money it raised back into RMR.

The profiteers say that the original American revolutionaries cast their tea into the Boston harbor as a simple rejection of taxation, so the modern tea party movement should similarly reject increased financial regulations, health reform, and taxes on the rich. But the history tells a different story. Boston revolutionaries rejected subservience to the East India Company, a British-run international corporation. They cast the tea into the harbor as a symbolic message to say that their taxes should go back into the American community, not subsidizing the profits of London elites and foreign corporations. Now, Republican tea party profiteers are trying to exploit the movement, pushing them to oppose policies which would actually liberate the middle class and crack down on international corporations. Despite the populist rhetoric, the profiteers see the tea party movement as a pool to extract fundraising dollars and volunteers for Republican campaigns. Indeed, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, himself a former lobbyist, has said that he has an “expectation” that tea partiers loyally toe the Republican line.

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Filed under Glenn Beck, profiteers, Republican Operatives, Tea Party, Think Progress

Holt Issues Statement On NJ Court Decession Not To Require Paper Ballots With Voting Machines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –

(West Windsor, NJ) – Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today responded to the New Jersey Superior Court decision, which failed to require the expeditious deployment of paper ballots voting systems in New Jersey. The ruling found that “[s]ecurity vulnerabilities are present, to some degree, in every voting system. There is simply no such thing as a voting system that is impossible to manipulate.” Yet, the ruling allows for the continued use of New Jersey’s unauditable touch screen voting machines.

“If, as the court acknowledges, security vulnerabilities exist, then the court and the citizenry should want the possibility of audits capable of detecting and mistakes or misbehavior,” Holt said.

Holt has introduced legislation in Congress to create a national standard of voting to help ensure that every vote is recorded and counted as intended. The bill would require paper ballot voting systems accompanied by accessible ballot marking devices and require routine random audits of electronic voting tallies.

“The fundamental purpose of the lawsuit has been to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the vote tallies by requiring the use of paper ballots as the basis of those tallies,” Holt said. “Until New Jersey implements a paper ballot voting system, we will have faith-based voting,” Holt said.

Although the ruling requires New Jersey’s 11,000 voting machines to be re-evaluated by a panel of experts within 120 days to determine whether they are accurate and reliable, requires increased security measures, and prohibits connecting computers that are used for election duties from being connected to the Internet, the results they produce cannot be independently audited.

I happen to agree with Congressman Holt on this issue. Ensuring that each vote counts and that each vote is free from fraud is essential to our democracy. Not to have a paper back-up system to these electronic machines, that have been shown to be vulnerable to manipulation and failure is just plain crazy and needs to be rectified.

Case in point – This past November an electronic voting machine in my district failed during the last hour of the day. The poll workers were unable to reboot the machine in order to retrieve the result, hence the numbers from that machine were not recorded by the county election board and were not certified. In the big picture would those couple of hundred lost votes have made a difference in the outcome of the election? No, because the margin of victory was to large to have been swayed by those votes. But in elections that in the future are much closer those uncounted votes could have been the difference and changed the outcome of the race.

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Filed under New Jersey, paper ballots, Rush Holt, Voter Fraud, Voting Machines

Punxsutawney Phil & Milltown Mel Both Predict 6 More Weeks Of Winter

It seems as though the groundhogs have spoken, both the famous Punxsutawney Phil and his less than so brother from Milltown NJ, Milltown Mel, have seen their shadows this morning and are calling for 6 more weeks of winter!

I was really hoping for this winter to end soon, I’ve had enough already and can’t wait for the warmer weather, but if there is any light at the end of this long winter tunnel, it’s the fact that Punxsutawny Phil’s predictions has been correct only 40% of the time.

Watch the videos below and see how they did this morning:

Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow

Milltown Mel declares Six more weeks of winter

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Filed under Associated Press, Groundhogs Day, Milltown Mel, NJ.com, Punxsutawney Phil, six more weeks of winter

N.J. Senate panel considers plan to transfer affordable housing control to towns

(Question – How would this new proposal be enforced to ensure that towns did not shirk their responsibilities to provide affordabled housing and if RCA’s are reinstated how do you ensure that wealthier towns make timely payments to the towns receiving the compensation?)

NJ.Com
By Lisa Fleisher/Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — The state Senate began work today on a bill to transform the way affordable housing is handled in New Jersey, including transferring control to towns and abolishing a council that has been criticized as ineffective.

The proposal, still a very much a draft, would disband the controversial Council on Affordable Housing and turn its powers over to the State Planning Commission, ending 25 years of state power over municipal planning.

The goal is to create a standard level of affordable housing and allow municipalities to determine for themselves whether they meet that standard, said Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor.
“This bill is an attempt to simplify the process,” Lesniak said, noting he’s never met anyone who was happy with the council, known as COAH.
New Jersey’s current approach stems from the state Supreme Court’s 1975 and 1983 Mount Laurel decisions, which are named for the Burlington County township that was sued. The court said every resident is entitled to access to affordable housing.
A decade later, the state passed the Fair Housing Act and created COAH to implement policy. Critics of the policy say the models for determining the need for housing are outdated and saddle cities and towns with unnecessary extra housing and residents — and the accompanying cost of providing services to them.
Municipalities without enough housing would be able to offer builders incentives to make 20 percent of their developments affordable.
Under the legislation, builders still can legally challenge towns on whether they provide their required affordable housing. That provision allows developers the right to build units against a town’s wishes.
Dozens of people who came to testify at today’s hearing were cut off as time ran out, but Lesniak said they would have many more chances to speak. The committee will hold another hearing on the bill Monday but does not expect to vote.
Critics of the bill say it is a giveaway to developers, would allow municipalities to shirk their responsibilities and could endanger housing for the disabled. Lesniak said disabled residents would be protected in the legislation’s final version.
Low-income housing advocates say the bill would return New Jersey to pre-Mount Laurel practices and needs to be more targeted toward economic development goals.
“It’s shortsighted. It’s narrow-minded,” said Joseph Picard, spokesman for the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “We need to be thinking in terms of building housing near jobs and transportation.”
The bill also would temporarily bring back agreements between municipalities that allow towns, in essence, to sell off their affordable-housing requirements to other cities or towns. That practice was outlawed in 2008 with 5,000 units worth $116 million in the pipeline. The bill would allow those stalled deals to move forward if they are approved by the state by the end of 2011.
Though Lesniak said he has not spoken with Gov. Chris Christie, he thinks the proposal will have a “better opportunity” to pass than it would have under the Corzine administration. Christie has said he wanted to “gut” COAH but yesterday said he did not know enough about the bill to comment.

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Filed under Affordable housing, COAH, Fair Housing Act, New Jersey, NJ.com