Over the weekend, the New York Times published a sprawling, nearly eight thousand-word story detailing for readers the fate of those who die alone in the Big Apple.

Using the life and death of George Bell, who passed away some days before he was discovered in his home this past July, the Times recounts the painstakingly arduous process that New York City public employees embark upon to make certain the estates of people like Bell end up in the hands of its rightful beneficiaries.

In the case of Bell – spoiler alert – distant relatives and friends he had not communicated with in many years inherited his nearly half a million dollar estate no doubt surprised both to have been named beneficiaries in the first place and also that Bell could have had such ample means considering his modest lifestyle.

George Bell lived an obscure life and like thousands of other New Yorkers each year, he had no close family or friends to help settle his estate when the time came. While Bell’s beneficiaries were eventually united with their share of his estate, an untold number of Americans never learn that a loved one who has passed has made arrangements for them leaving behind life insurance policies, bank accounts, and other property.

By law, insurers and banks are required to try and find those entitled to this “unclaimed property.” How hard these companies actually work to carry out the decedent’s wishes is debatable. If they are unable to find the beneficiaries, they are required to turn the money over to state unclaimed property departments.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but all too often life insurance companies are unable to find the beneficiaries of a policy. If they fail to turn the money over to state unclaimed property departments and instead choose to sit on it, they are unjustly rewarded with the ability to continue profiting from the investment of someone who is now deceased.

In order to make sure this does not happen, states are authorized to audit these companies and often contract with professional non-government auditors to help assure compliance with state laws.

In a perfect world, that would be the end of this story but powerful corporate interests are working hard to quietly influence a little-known commission with the power to reshape state unclaimed property laws. These interests are single minded in their focus to make it far more difficult for states to return unclaimed property to its owners.

According to its website, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) “provides states with non-partisan, well conceived, and well drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas” of state law. In other words, this arcane non-profit organization gives states model legislation on a host of issues where having similar laws from state to state can be important.

The ULC’s involvement with state unclaimed property law dates back more than 60 years. Most recently, it made revisions to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act in 1995, stating at the time that the measure was aimed at preventing “ordinary people for the most part, from losing their rights to property that is justifiably theirs. It is theirs because they earned it, inherited it, or were given it. Those entities and institutions that hold property are its custodians, not its owners.”

Now, almost exactly 20 years later, the ULC has convened a drafting committee to revise the Act. If this committee’s first round of suggested changes is any indication, it is the interests of the aforementioned “ordinary people” that appear to be in jeopardy. Since about 40 states have enacted some version of the ULC’s unclaimed property legislation, efforts to water down safeguards that protect hardworking Americans could have a disastrous impact.

A letter sent to drafting committee members by several national consumer watchdog organizations earlier this month detailed several of the “detrimental revisions” being considered noting they “would be harmful to consumers throughout the country, making it more likely that they will lose property that today would be found and reclaimed.”

That such dramatic changes to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act are being considered is not by accident. Powerful special interests are actively pressuring committee members to alter the model legislation in their favor. Among those leading the charge are the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), whose member companies stand to make a windfall if laws are changed making it more difficult for states to recover unclaimed property and reunite it with its rightful owners. The ACLI’s efforts have the backing of America’s leading corporate special interest group – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, Michael Houghton, a longtime ULC commissioner responsible for co-chairing the this drafting committee has fought to undermine state unclaimed property laws and works as a partner in a law firm whose clients would benefit greatly if the Act is gutted. In fact, a few years ago, Houghton co-authored an article praising state legislation to weaken Delaware’s unclaimed property law, indicating that while it did not go far enough “to completely address complaints [of] the national business community,” it was a step in the that direction “and hopefully the start of a process.”

It is hardly a surprise then that the “national business community” has taken such a keen interest in Houghton’s drafting committee.

The sad truth is that the Uniform Law Commission’s Drafting Committee to Revise the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act is considering a number of changes that would keep beneficiaries separated from property that is rightfully theirs for as long as possible and thus enabling big corporations like life insurance companies and banks to make even bigger profits.

That means, for example, hardworking men and women who do not know they are entitled to a claim on an insurance policy taken out by a loved one who has passed away will not receive money when it might be needed most. Worse still, these loved ones will lose the peace of mind they thought they had purchased with their policy.

Americans win when big corporations hand over unclaimed property to the states. Because states are legally obligated to return property to the owner whenever it is claimed, they make it easier for consumers to search through websites to see if they are entitled to unclaimed property they may not have even known existed.

If the ULC’s drafting committee is guided in such a way that it betrays a conflict of interest in its leadership or succumbs to pressure from industry, it is the “ordinary people” who will lose what they rightly earned, inherited, or were given. And it is precisely this type of corporate excess that this Uniform Unclaimed Property Act was initially developed to guard against.

Dear Republican Also-Rans: It is time to give it up. You will not be the Republican nominee next year. You will never be Commander-In-Chief. You will never deliver a State of Union address. You will never call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue “home.” Your wives, or husband in the case of Michele Bachmann, won’t be choosing a fabulous gown for a series of swanky Inaugural balls. You will never be President of the United States. Am I making myself perfectly clear? When this race was just getting started, Donald Trump was the front-runner. This is a man whose day job consisted largely of making D-list celebrities compete in a human mousetrap before telling them they are fired during a weak economy. While he works in reality television, it is his political views that avoid reality almost entirely, which is perhaps why Trump is best remembered in this race for his obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate -- an obsession only matched by his zeal for Eastern European supermodels and reading his name in gaudy gold-leafing. And yet, there he was, leading all of you in the polls. If that wasn’t enough to make you reconsider your life’s choices, I am not sure there is any hope for you. But, let me give it a try. Look, you would not be the only Republican to see the writing on the wall. Just this month two of your better-liked colleagues decided to opt out on their own much discussed potential candidacies. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin decided not to run. She did not even mount half of a campaign as homage to her less than two years as Governor of the Last Frontier State before resigning to cash-in and star in her own reality show. Then there was Chris Christie, whose angry, red-faced attacks on teachers and women have inspired Kool-Aid Man jokes across the morning zoo radio landscape. Despite saying so many, many times -- even telling reporters "short of suicide, I don't really know what I would have to do to convince you people that I'm not running." --- he made it official one last time on October 4. (Unless you have heard otherwise. Is he running? Are you sure? What if everyone else gets out of the race? Would he run then? What if we let him walk?) Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman, you will never be President. Your victory in the Iowa Staw Poll is proof positive that the wild-eyed, right-wing extremists that win these beauty pageants have little hope of winning the nomination. You would be better off helping your husband’s clients “pray the gay away” since that act is about as possible as you winning the presidency. George W. Bush may have served two terms as President but Texas Governor Rick Perry will never have such luck. His time would be better spent traveling the country painting over signs that contain the n-word adorning the entrance at his various vacation properties. That should keep him busy until at least 2016. Perry’s Lone Star State colleague, Congressman Ron Paul, you too will never be President. While your Libertarian magic dust may enchant your Walking Dead zombie-like supporters, it is not likely to inspire others who believe, for example, that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a good idea. And yes, I know you are not a racist. It is your political philosophy that seems to enjoy cavorting with the white-hooded. Herman Cain, I do not want you to think I have forgotten about you even though others will in a matter of days. Questioned about your 9-9-9 plan to cut taxes on the wealthy and raise income and sales taxes of the poor, you said the working class can eat “used” food to save dough under your plan -- basically telling the 99 percent, “Let them eat poop!” I doubt it is a popular pizza topping even given your previous role as head honcho of Godfather’s Pizza. That leaves us with Mitt Romney. Mitt, like nearly every Republican nominee over the past 30 years -- you will likely win the GOP nod simply because you have run and lost it before. If you choose not to flip-flop and pull out of the race -- like you have on nearly every issue -- you should be prepared to eventually lose the general election because that is exactly what will happen. To Jon “I know China” Huntsman, Newt “three wives” Gingrich, Gary “drugs!” Johnson, Buddy “who?” Roemer, and Rick “don’t Google me” Santorum, I apologize for not elaborating on your candidacies in this letter but I was concerned that any mail addressed to your campaign headquarters would only encourage your doomed, electoral vanity ventures. Suffice it to say, you are just like your better-known competitors. You all might as well start polishing your resumes for Fox News because it is far more likely that you will find yourselves behind Glenn Beck’s old desk in New York City than the President’s desk in the Oval Office. Sincerely, America Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and Democratic strategist at Bullfight Strategies in Washington, DC. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns and updates by email.
Originally posted at Cagle. Growing up, my father -- now retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after 35 years of service -- frequently took me shooting and to just about every gun show within a 100-mile radius of our Southern California home. In fact, as I write this, several of the guns from his collection are on display at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia. I may be a progressive but I have absolutely no problem with private gun ownership. If we are to learn anything from the horrible tragedy in Arizona that claimed the lives of six including a nine year-old girl and federal judge and injured 14 including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) it should be that law abiding, mentally stable Americans should be allowed to own firearms while people like Jared Lee Loughner should not. We now know that Loughner legally purchased the Glock 19 used during his assassination attempt. Legal too was the once-banned 33 round magazine that allowed him to kill and injure so many before being tackled while attempting to reload. In the aftermath of Arizona, we should be addressing the issue of gun ownership if we are to prevent something like this from happening again. Some Second Amendment advocates contend that outlawing guns will mean that only outlaws will have guns because criminals do not bother to purchase firearms through legal channels. Talk about red herring. Yes, with enough effort, criminals and the mentally ill will always be able to find guns through questionable means but that does not mean we should make it any easier for them to make these purchases legally. Such a response to gun violence would be accurate only if there was actually a serious push in Congress to amend the Constitution or pass a law banning gun ownership outright. There is not. The issue here is not about whether Americans should be allowed to own firearms or what types of guns they should be allowed to own, it is a question of the small number of Americans that should be restricted from owning guns. For the better part of a decade, Democrats largely abandoned their long-standing support for gun control in an effort to win House and Senate races. Even more moderate approaches to the issue like strengthening background checks and closing the gun show loophole have fallen off the political radar. Meanwhile, over in the GOP -- long ago bought and paid for by the gun lobby -- I’m guessing it is more likely that Republicans would seek the repeal of today’s stripped down gun control laws rather than suggest sensible new ones. Even so, members of the House of Representatives and Senate from both parties are now drafting gun control legislation to address issues raised by the shooting in Tucson. Democrats like Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) announced new gun control legislation following the shooting that would limit the size of ammunition magazines. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has announced plans for legislation that would outlaw firearms within 1,000 feet of lawmakers. Well meaning to be sure, the real issue is gun ownership by those who have no business possessing a gun in the first place. I do not pretend to have all of the answers. But this is America -- land of freedom, liberty, and innovation. Surely we can design a system that keeps the mentally deranged, those on no-fly lists, violent ex-cons, and those who have used guns in the commission of a crime from being allowed to legally purchase firearms and munitions without infringing on the rights of other Americans. Those in Congress who would stand in the way of such sensible reforms should quit hiding behind hollow Second Amendment rhetoric designed to stall change and admit that they are really fighting for the rights of lunatics like Loughner by neglecting to take action. The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I for one would prefer it if such a “well regulated militia” did not count violent criminals and the mentally disturbed among its membership. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon | DailyKos (Recommend It) Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. I grew up in Los Angeles, so the notion of living in or around snow was romantic -- the thing of movies. Living in Washington, D.C. for the past several winters has proven to be an entirely different experience. Don’t get me wrong, the calm quiet brought to my neighborhood by several feet of fresh powder blanketing the streets and sidewalks can make for some amazing photos or an impromptu snowball fight or two. But Republicans and conservatives have spoiled the Rockwellian images that I’d always associated with snow in my youth. Like clockwork, every time even a few inches of snow fall, out come the conservative anti-science crazies. To them, cold weather proves what they already believe: that there is no global climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a very real difference between weather (what we experience outside over a short period of time) and climate (the study of weather over a relatively long period of time). Got that? When right-wingers tell you that a winter cold front or blizzard (short period of time) disproves global climate change (long period of time) they are either lying or shockingly misinformed. Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of Republican leaders and media conservatives, all with a history of denying the climate change reality. Perhaps no one is in deeper denial than Senator Jim “in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship” Inhofe. The Oklahoma Republican attacked former Vice President Al Gore, climate scientists and climate science this spring on the Senate floor saying, “We’ve heard a lot about [Gore]. He was the one who was actually assembling a lot of the science or so-called science, or creating the science, I should say, to support the position of those who believe that anthropogenic [gases] cause global warming.” Inhofe is not one to let the truth get in the way of a good smear. According to a 2008 report from MetOffice — the UK’s national weather service — “the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1997.” Even Senate Republicans who have acknowledged the existence of climate change can’t be trusted to help address the problem. Sure, Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham have talked the talk in years past, but they have been AWOL on the issue ever since Obama entered the oval office and the ability to actually address the subject sans-Bush became a reality. These politicians aren’t alone; Right-wing media outlets like Fox News have their backs. Fox’s Sean Hannity adds to his extensive history of science denial each holiday season. Last winter the conservative found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had “tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C.” to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, “Global warming, where are you? We want you back” while discussing snowy weather. Over on the network’s morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintains her long-held passion for dismissing climate science. And co-host Steve Doocy is always there to add to the nonsense, making such idiotic statements as, “the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, ‘How can there be global warming if it’s snowing and it’s fairly cold?’” Then there’s the reigning king of right-wing radio, Rush Limbaugh, who never misses an opportunity to use cold weather to dismiss climate science, often attacking former Vice President Al Gore in the process. When I hear news reports that forecast snowfall, I grimace. Not because I don’t love making a good old-fashioned snowman as much as the next guy. It’s the absurdity from conservatives that follows, which makes me cringe. Global climate change is real, but with the GOP flat-earthers in charge of one chamber of Congress and right-wing media backing them up, don’t expect anything to be done about this threat any time soon. Consider it this year’s lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon | DailyKos (Recommend It) Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. Nine months after nearly 400,000 servicemembers and over 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component servicemembers were surveyed by the Pentagon for their views on a potential repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the results are in. In what’s been called “one of the largest surveys in the history of the U.S. military,” more than 70 percent of the 115,052 service members who completed the survey said the impact of repealing the policy that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the armed forces would be positive, mixed or nonexistent. Of course, such decisive findings will likely mean nothing to those opposed to lifting the ban including obstructionist-in-chief John McCain, who is now serving out his twilight years as the nation’s elder, bitter, not quite statesman. To be fair, while McCain says the policy “is working,” he really doesn’t understand how the policy works or his past positions on the issue. See, ever since the Arizona Senator lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, he’s been merely a shell of what he once was. Remember McCain the media’s “maverick?” He died during the 2008 Republican primaries as the former Vietnam prisoner of war became captive to the fringe within his own party to secure its nomination. Gone are the days when McCain would occasionally cross party lines to work with Democrats on widely popular issues like campaign finance reform. That guy was buried for good during his contentious primary campaign for reelection this year when he was forced even further to the right by his tea party rival and ultimately disavowed his work on issues like comprehensive immigration reform. In June of 2009, McCain seemed open to the idea of repeal when and if military leaders said it was time -- a position he’d long articulated. He said, “My opinion is shaped by the view of the leaders of the military... I am especially guided, to a large degree, by their views.” What happened when military leaders like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen told McCain that it was, in fact, time for such action? He reacted angrily saying it was Congress that should be consulted on such matters. How’s that for being “especially guided” by military leaders? McCain went on to add new conditions that he claimed could very well change his mind on the subject -- the completion of the Pentagon’s survey of servicemembers -- but now that the study has been released and finds our men and women in uniform having little trouble with the concept of serving alongside their openly gay brethren, McCain is pushing the goal posts even further. Arizona’s seasoned Senator isn’t even all that familiar with how the policy he claims “works” so well actually, you know, works. He told a room full of reporters in September, "We do not go out and seek. Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone's sexual orientation. We do not!" A point he repeated again and again as journalists attempted to offer him examples of troops who met that very fate. McCain should’ve been familiar with at least one such example. As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee he heard testimony from Michael Almy, a 13-year Air Force veteran who was discharged after emails to his same-sex partner were discovered. The plain truth is that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doesn’t work. Nearly 15,000 servicemembers have been discharged because of the ban, including decorated officers and those in “critical occupations” costing taxpayers an estimated $555.2 million through fiscal year 2008. Lifting the ban would likely result in retaining more than 4,000 men and women who would’ve left otherwise each year. Lifting the ban wouldn’t undermine retention, morale, or unit cohesion -- many of our own allies (at least 25 countries) allow open military service not to mention the findings of the new Pentagon survey. Perhaps that’s why more than 100 retired U.S. generals and admirals along with a hefty majority of Americans support lifting the ban. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either uniformed or deliberately trying to deceive you for his or her own political agenda. That includes Senator McCain. This late in life, politics may have gotten in the way of McCain serving his country with dignity and respect but that doesn’t mean he should stand in the way of gay men and lesbians offering such service openly and honestly in our armed forces. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon | DailyKos (Recommend It) Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. In just a few weeks, Republicans will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since the 1994-midterm elections brought them to power after nearly half a century in exile. The freshly minted majority knew just who to thank for its 1994 victory: nationally syndicated conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. With great fanfare the GOP bestowed upon its cheerleader the unique title of honorary member of Congress. It was quite an honor given the right-wing talker’s long history of misogynistic, racially charged, homophobic and all-too-often patently false commentary. Though I guess it would be hard to argue that anyone other than El Rushbo did more to sweep Republicans into power 16 years ago. So, if past is prologue, who will Republicans credit with such accolades this time around? My money is on Glenn Beck, Fox News’ resident crew cut conspiracy theorist. He above all others embodies the mentality of the tea party crowd swept into office earlier this month. Think about it. It was Beck who said President Obama was a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” How many racially charged rally signs have we seen at tea party events across the country? More than a few. How many tea party leaders have been forced out following a racist outburst? Again, more than a few. As Forrest Gump might say, Beck and the fringe tea party movement go together so well, they “was like peas and carrots.” From the time that Beck jumped to Fox News from CNN’s Headline News in 2009, he has led the charge against Obama and Democrats in Congress like no one else -- which says a lot given the network’s status as the de facto communications and organizing arm of the Republican National Committee. When the Republican Party was in shambles after losing control of both the House and Senate in 2006 followed by the White House in 2008, it was Beck who went about building and promoting the tea party movement and his own 9/12 faction. All of which culminated in his rally at the Lincoln Memorial that hijacked the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed “I have a dream” speech. Beck’s promotion of these fringe festivals provided the ground troops a distraught, depressed, and lethargic Republican Party needed to mount the massive ground campaign necessary if there was to be any hope of success for the GOP in 2010. Heck, the Republican majority shouldn’t just make Beck an honorary member of Congress for all of his hard work, it should elect him president of the incoming freshman class. It would be the closest Beck could ever get to any presidency. To cut down on costs associated with traveling back and forth from Congress to his Fox News studio, Beck could even share a Capitol Hill apartment with Alan West who was elected to Congress from Florida on November 2. West, whom Beck has described as “a man of integrity,” has quite the sordid past. Representative-elect West assaulted a detainee in Iraq during an interrogation while he served in the U.S. Army -- military officials say his actions violated the law. Worse still, West is a fan and defender of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which, according to reports, has been “targeted by the FBI” for such things as “racketeering” and “attempted murder.” In no time at all Beck and West could be hosting dinner parties for right-wing Beltway luminaries while calling themselves roomies and concocting Venn diagrams tying the President Obama to Fidel Castro, Mao, and Satan. For the sake of our republic, I hope that Democrats and sane Republicans won’t be yielding the floor to “the gentleman from Fox News, Mr. Beck” next year or anytime soon for that matter. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Reddit | StumbleUpon Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. Who was the big winner in this week’s midterm election? The Republican Party? No. Former half-term Governor Sarah Palin? Not hardly. Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner? Nope. The Tea Party movement? Think again. Tuesday night’s big winner was undoubtedly Fox News. It did more than just about anyone to weaken President Obama, peel off Senate seats and wrestle control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats. Let’s face it, we all saw this coming. Just after the President was sworn in, Fox News vice president for programming Bill Shine called his employer the "voice of opposition” and Fox chief executive Roger Ailes -- a former advisor to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush -- described the network’s role “as the Alamo.” How can any news organization claim the mantle of “Fair and Balanced” when it sees its role under a new president as that of history’s fearless Texas soldiers attempting to fight off Mexican troops led by President General Antonio López de Santa Anna whose cruelty inspired countless others to join the Texian Army? Tellingly, Fox News didn’t wait long before inspiring an army of its own. In the early days of 2009, the network co-opted the then-fledgling Tea Party movement, swelling its ranks with endless promotion. As the first round of nationwide Tea Party protests approached on April 15, Fox News repeatedly described the events as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties” airing segments encouraging viewers to attend and get involved. In fact, in the week leading up to the protests, Fox aired more than 100 commercial-like promos for its coverage surrounding the events many of which featured Fox News personalities. The Tea Party promotion has continued unabated for more than a year. Compounding its activism, the conservative network moved on to lobbying Congress just a few months later. As Members of Congress went home for summer recess to hold traditional town hall meetings with constituents, angry protesters who had been organized by conservative special interest groups were ready to meet them. Footage of the events was enough to make Fox News swoon as network personalities repeatedly praised the disruptions and encouraged viewers to join in the right-wing fun. As 2009 became 2010, Rupert Murdoch’s American cash cow of a network morphed even more explicitly into the communications arm of the Republican National Committee. Leading Fox News contributors with an eye on the 2012 presidential race -- Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum -- raised an astonishing $33.1 million in the 2010 elections to help fund the candidates of their choice and advance their various causes. Former Bush advisor Karl Rove -- another Fox contributor -- raised and spent an astonishing $38 million to elect Republicans and it didn’t hurt matters that Fox News hosted him time and again to discuss the election without noting this blatant conflict of interest. Now that’s what I call journalistic ethics. All told, more than 30 different Fox News personalities -- from hosts to contributors -- supported Republicans in at least 600 instances, in nearly every state during the election. Republican candidates knew where their bread was buttered too. After Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s disastrous debut on the national stage, Palin advised her to “speak through Fox News.” She got the message -- one Fox source reportedly said O’Donnell went on Hannity to “get a certain type of treatment.” Perhaps it was that “certain type of treatment” that led Nevada’s Sharron Angle to suggest she preferred appearing on Fox News because the network let her plug her website for contributions. News Corp. -- the parent company of Fox News and sister network Fox Business -- was not going to let its employees have all the fun. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, it donated at least $1.25 million to the Republican Governors Association to defeat Democrats and at least $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing special interest deeply involved in this year’s election. Yes, it was a stellar election night for Fox News -- they won a slew of governorships, the U.S. House of Representatives, and came darn close to winning the U.S. Senate. But don’t expect the right-wing “news” network to rest on its laurels. After all, it has a President to defeat in two short years. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. The Republican Party could regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in next Tuesday’s midterm elections for the first time since losing power four years ago. How’s that for a scary Halloween trick? Sure, there are familiar faces among those hoping to take power — people like Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the GOP’s leader in the House. The pumpkin skinned, chain smoker has complained for years that President Obama and Democrats have not reached across the aisle enough with the hope of finding “common ground.” Accepting for a moment that Boehner is correct, even though the President has repeatedly sought to work with Republicans to little success — how closely does Boehner plan to work with Democrats should he become Speaker? Not too closely. After all, it wasn’t long ago that Boehner said he supports bipartisanship “if the balance leans in our direction, and things that we believe in.” While it isn’t nearly as likely, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky could very well become Majority Leader. His version of bipartisanship? Doing everything he can to defeat Obama in 2012. And here I thought bipartisanship was a two way street. “Speaker” Boehner and “Leader” McConnell won’t be all alone should things go splendidly for Republicans and horribly for the rest of us on Election Day. In an effort to speed along the introductions, I present to you some of the leading contenders for the 2011 Republican freshman class — from the statehouse to the halls of Congress. In New York there’s Carl Paladino, the Republican nominee for Governor. This guy has a history of sending racist and sexist emails. Once he even sent around a bestiality video. And still, GOP voters chose him as their nominee. Perhaps it was his proposal to put those most in need in prison where they would be taught about "personal hygiene" that won over Republican primary voters. Down south in Kentucky we have Rand Paul running as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. He’s been attacked by his opponent for belonging to a secret society in college, “that called the Holy Bible 'a hoax'” and “was banned for mocking Christianity and Christ." Perhaps even more bizarre, it has been reported -- though he denies it -- that in college, Paul and others in the secret society once tied up a woman before attempting to force her to “take bong hits” and telling her to “worship” a god named “Aqua Buddha.” Over on the policy front, Paul has said that had he been in office at the time, he would have questioned a portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which bars private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race. Now that’s what I call a winning southern strategy. Sigh. Heading out west we find Republican Meg Whitman, the former head of eBay, who has spent more of her own personal wealth on a bid for Governor of California — at least $160 million — than any candidate in any state ever. Whitman has said that she moved to the Golden State “30 years ago” because “anything was possible” back then. Her opponent, Jerry Brown, is quick to point out that he was Governor when Whitman thought things were so peachy keen. Apparently all the money in the world can’t buy you a good California history textbook. As for candidates hoping to join Boehner in the House? In Florida we’ve got Allen West who is a fan and defender of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which, according to reports, has been “targeted by the FBI” for such things as “racketeering” and “attempted murder.” Then there’s Glenn Beck’s buddy, Stephen Broden of Texas who has said that a violent overthrow of our government is “on the table.” In the Buckeye State a city prosecutor is reviewing molestation claims made against candidate Tom Ganley and we’ve discovered that Rich Iott’s hobbies apparently include dressing up like a Nazi. Yes, the nation continues to laugh at Delaware Senate hopeful Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell for her colorful past (and present), but it bears noting that she is far from the only GOP joke on the ballot next Tuesday. In fact, this column could be extended ten-fold and it would still miss some of the GOP’s fringe candidates. It would be funny if it weren’t so absolutely frightening and if Republicans succeed next week, we’re in for the scare of our lives. Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. The Democratic Party is spending nearly 100 million dollars raised in part from foreign contributions to help elect more immigration reform minded men and women to Congress. If you happen to be a conservative of the Grand Old tea Party variety, how does such startling "amnesty" related news make you feel? Suspicious? Fearful? Angry? Perhaps even more xenophobic than usual? Each of those emotional responses would be expected from tea partiers had the Democratic Party actually taken this foreign money -- it has not. The "U.S." Chamber of Commerce however, is a different story entirely. According to an investigative report by the Center for American Progress' Think Progress blog, the Chamber has pledged to spend $75 million to defeat Democratic gubernatorial, house and senate candidates in the November mid-term elections -- a dollar figure that towers over the campaign spending of other outfits. The exposé found that this money will come from the Chamber's general account "which solicits" funds from foreign corporations and governments. As the report notes, gulf coast killing BP and other foreign corporations are active Chamber boosters but that support pales in comparison to the massive money the Chamber raises from independent and government run corporations in foreign locales like "China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia and many other places" around the world. Imagine for a moment if a group like the right-wing reviled though now defunct community group ACORN had been caught receiving money from Middle Eastern corporations in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Fox News would run the story day and night while tea party heads the nation over exploded. Heck, if Fox News actually covered this story like it has others, it would not even be calling these businesses "foreign corporations," instead they would be called "terror companies" and we would be seeing segments asking why the Chamber has an office just 3.5 miles from ground zero. How insensitive. Of course, News Corp. -- Fox News' parent company -- gave the "U.S." Chamber of Commerce a $1 million donation recently, so refrain from holding your breath because they are not likely to obsess over the group's foreign funding. Revelations about the Chamber's shadowy foreign stash of cash should not be a surprise to those following the organization's recent escapades. Earlier this year it was discovered that major health insurance companies and their professional lobbying organization -- America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) -- were secretly funding $10-20 million worth of the Chamber's misleading ads against health care reform. So, why would foreign entities be interested in defeating Democratic candidates this fall? I'm sure that Democratic efforts to stop sending American jobs overseas to other countries are just the tip of the issues iceberg. The Chamber has responded saying that no foreign "money is used for political activities." This categorical denial is far from trustworthy without the confirmation of an independent third-party source and the Chamber isn't likely to open its books for public inspection any time soon. Such a denial does not even pass the smell test. Think about it. If the "U.S." Chamber of Commerce has an annual budget of $150 million and plans on spending $75 million from its "general account" on politics, then every foreign dollar raised pads its bottom line making it easier to spend money on politics without jeopardizing the funding of other Chamber initiatives. In recent years, several major American companies -- Apple, Nike, PG&E, PNM, and Exelon for example -- have parted ways with the Chamber over the organization's denial of the reality of global climate change. Perhaps it is time for other American corporate Chamber backers to show their patriotism and ask if they like the idea of our nation's political candidates being influenced directly by what amounts to foreign interests. At the very least, shouldn't we expect our own government to be made in America? Please Help Promote This Column So Others Will See It: Twitter | Facebook | Digg | Reddit | StumbleUpon | DailyKos (Recommend It) Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].
Originally posted at Cagle. Say what you will about the tea party but it has been remarkably effective at pushing select fringe candidates to electoral victories. In late 2009, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone in Washington who would have believed that a Republican would soon fill the Senate seat held for decades by the late Ted Kennedy. Enter tea party-backed Scott Brown. Brown -- a state senator at the time of his election -- was the first in what would become a long line of tea party endorsed candidates with rather colorful pasts. See, long before he entered the public arena Brown graced the pages of Cosmopolitan as a nude centerfold model where he was dubbed “America’s Sexiest Man.” Despite his scantily clad past, tea partiers rejoiced watching Brown’s election to the most exclusive club in the country. In the months since Brown’s election, the pasts and positions of victorious tea party candidates have become even more peculiar. It is as if the tea party gene pool has been diluted with each passing primary. First, we have the May primary victory of Kentucky’s Rand Paul. The son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Rand called President Obama’s criticism of BP following the gulf oil disaster “un-American.” Living up to his libertarian namesake -- he’s named after Ayn Rand -- Paul said that he would have questioned a portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which bars private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race had he been in office at the time. He also opposes the Americans with Disabilities Act, OSHA workplace safety regulations, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture. It is unclear what type of tea Paul has been drinking to come to such positions but he’s obviously been sharing it with other tea party backed Senate candidates. Less than a month after Paul’s victory, Nevada’s Sharon Angle won her Republican Senate primary with tremendous support from the tea party. If you can believe it, Angle’s past comments and positions on pressing issues are even more jaw dropping than Paul’s. Angle, twice picked as the “Worst Member” of the Nevada legislature, once pushed to spend taxpayer dollars on a Scientology administered drug rehabilitation program for prisoners. Equally disturbing, Angle has indicated her support for an armed insurrection -- “Second Amendment remedies” as she called it -- should conservatives fail in stopping congressional Democrats this fall. Revolutions aside, Angle also wants to “phase Medicare and Social Security out” and, like Paul, scrap the Department of Education. The dilution of the tea party gene pool continued well into the summer with the late-August Senate primary win of Alaska’s Joe Miller. The fringe candidate defeated an incumbent Republican Senator due in large part to support from the Tea Party Express. Seniors, the sick, and Americans hit hardest by the economic downturn will undoubtedly have trouble understanding what Miller will do for them if elected. After all, Miller has suggested that Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Miller also said that President Obama is “one of the major forces moving this country toward socialism” -- perhaps he was just channeling Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Brown, Angle, and Miller pale in comparison however to what the tea party would pull off as summer came to a close. I’m of course talking about the Senate primary victory of Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell -- a gift from god to comedians to be sure. A lesson in the absurd, her history consists largely of crusades against masturbation, condoms that she called “anti-human,” and witchcraft. You read that right. Appearing on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect almost a decade ago, O’Donnell confessed to having “dabbled” in witchcraft including a date on a “satanic altar.” Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Grand Old tea Party -- warts and all if you’ll pardon the play on O’Donnell’s misspent Wiccan youth. Since his election to the Senate, Scott Brown has occasionally crossed party lines voting with Democrats to support the President’s agenda. It remains unclear what these increasingly bizarre tea party candidates would support if elected. Federal funding for the aerial hunting of Big Foot? An investigation into that phony moon landing perhaps? Hopefully we’ll never find out. Karl Frisch is a syndicated columnist and progressive political communications consultant. He can be reached at KarlFrisch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube or sign-up to receive his columns by email. Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. For information on carrying Karl's columns, call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail [email protected].