Issues ››› Elections
  • NRA Passes Largest Pro-Trump Super PAC In Outside Spending Opposing Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association committees making independent campaign expenditures to oppose Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have spent more than $14 million on the race, surpassing the spending of the most active pro-Trump Super PAC.

    According to FEC filings collected by ProPublica covering spending through October 20, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action has spent $7,057,970 opposing Clinton and the NRA Political Victory Fund has spent $7,127,423:

    The combined $14 million is more money than Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump Super PAC, has spent. Additionally, the NRA has spent nearly $9 million so far on independent expenditures supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom the NRA endorsed at its annual meeting in May.

    While other conservative outside spenders have backed away from Trump, the NRA has thrown its lot in with him -- and continues to do so despite Trump’s ongoing collapse in national polling amid multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

    As of October 12, the NRA had already spent a record-breaking $21 million attempting to get Trump elected, nearly double the $12 million the group spent in its failed “all in” effort to elect Romney in 2012.

    The NRA is showing no signs of letting up either. This week, it released a $5 million ad that distorted comments Clinton has made on the Second Amendment and on her use of a private email server in order to falsely brand her as a liar. Other NRA ads have pushed the falsehood that Clinton opposes all gun ownership, an NRA claim that has been repeatedly rated false by independent fact-checkers.

    As early as August, The New York Times reported that conservative outside spenders other than the NRA were backing away from Trump. The Times article reported that “Donald J. Trump’s candidacy has driven away throngs of Republican elected officials, donors and policy experts. But not the National Rifle Association,” noting that the NRA is “the institution on the right most aggressively committed to his candidacy, except for the Republican National Committee itself” and that the NRA “has spent millions of dollars on television commercials for Mr. Trump, even as other Republican groups have kept their checkbooks closed.”

    According to the NRA’s November magazine, the group is touting itself as “the key” to electing Trump and claiming he is the only candidate who can “save our freedom.”

  • VIDEO: How False Equivalence Ruins Trump-Clinton News Coverage


    News outlets covering the presidential election have made the mistake of treating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as two equally flawed candidates. That false equivalence has made it harder for voters to understand the categorical differences between their options on November 8.

    In typical elections, news outlets often treat both major presidential candidates as relatively similar -- comparing their flaws, scrutinizing their respective scandals, and framing the election as a choice between two comparable options.

    That approach hasn’t been appropriate this election cycle. Clinton is not a flawless candidate -- her campaign has been dogged by conspiracies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But she is a relatively conventional one -- abiding by both constitutional and political norms.

    Trump, on the other hand, represents a dramatic break from mainstream American politics. He threatens the First Amendment, demonizes minority groups, cozies up to white supremacists, championed the birther movement, invites Russian interference in the election, promises to arrest his political opponent, lies constantly, lacks the most basic interest in and knowledge of public policy, says he may not accept the results of the election because he believes it to be “rigged” -- the list goes on and on.

    These are not equally flawed candidates. But a number of news outlets have treated them as such, devoting similar amounts of attention and ink to Clinton and Trump’s respective controversies.

    The New York Times has been criticized for its disproportionate focus on Clinton’s email server and the Clinton Foundation, so much that the paper’s public editor penned a defense of the paper’s coverage:

    The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates.


    If Trump is unequivocally more flawed than his opponent, that should be plenty evident to the voting public come November. But it should be evident from the kinds of facts that bold and dogged reporting unearths, not from journalists being encouraged to impose their own values to tip the scale.

    That approach, treating both candidates’ scandals equally and hoping voters come to the correct conclusion, is a big part of the reason that voters view Trump and Clinton as being similarly untrustworthy, and view their missteps as similarly concerning. Audiences internalize the way the media covers each candidate in relation to the other.

    Treating two wildly different candidates as if they’re equally flawed is not “fairness” -- it’s a journalistic failure. And news outlets that have failed to explain the categorical differences between the controversies dogging Trump and Clinton’s presidential campaigns have done a real disservice to voters who want to understand what’s at stake in November.

    Illustrations by Dayanita Ramesh.

  • Complaining That Trump Wallows In Conspiracies, Conservative Press Wallows In Latest Clinton Conspiracy

    Self-Awareness Deficit

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Caught up in this increasingly chaotic campaign season, sometimes it seems confused conservative media members can’t keep track of what both hands are doing. Confronted with a nominee who’s been rejected by key editorial outlets such as The Weekly Standard and National Review, conservative commentators often find themselves simultaneously condemning Trump’s behavior while trafficking in those same traits.

    For instance, on the one hand, lots of GOP commentators have forcefully criticized “unshackled” Trump for wallowing in endless, unsupported conspiracy theories, such as the candidate’s recent claim that the pending presidential election is “rigged” and that he might not accept the November election results.

    But on the other hand, the conservative press has been nearly unified this week in excitedly pushing yet another unsupported conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton’s emails, this one featuring a supposedly ominous “quid pro quo” arrangement between the State Department and the FBI. (Fact: The premise is completely bogus.)

    So yes, there are some major self-awareness issues on display during the final weeks of the campaign as the dysfunctional conservative media -- which for years (and for decades) has wallowed in wild, baseless conspiracies -- calls out Trump for wallowing in wild, baseless conspiracies.

    The disconnect is pronounced. “Mainstream Republicans are watching these developments at the top of the ticket with a growing sense of alarm, calling Trump’s latest conspiracy theories of a rigged election irresponsible and dangerous,” The Boston Globe reported.

    Really? Conservatives and Republicans are alarmed that Trump trumpets make-believe claims of “rigged” elections? That he might not concede defeat?

    “It is interesting that Republicans have chosen to draw the line at Trump’s completely unfounded claims,” noted Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. “For the past 16 years, the GOP has fervidly stoked Americans’ fears of voter fraud and repeatedly declared that Democrats were stealing elections without any basis in reality.” (Making it harder for people to vote has also become a hallmark of the GOP legislative agenda.)

    The GOP’s “stealing” claim goes double for right-wing media, which for years have delighted in fanning race-baiting flames about “voter fraud” and stolen elections. But Trump openly discussing “rigged” elections goes too far for the same community of pundits? Apparently the nominee’s sin isn’t claiming Democratic voters, and especially black Democratic voters, cheat at the ballot box, it’s that he lays it on too thick.

    I suspect the Republican and conservative media tsk-tsking over “rigged” rhetoric must be confusing for a political novice like Trump who’s trying to figure out which far-out conservative conspiracies are okay to campaign on, and which are deemed to be out of bounds.

    Here’s a possible cheat sheet for Trump:

    Claiming elections are “rigged” is bad, but insisting there’s been a wide-ranging Clinton email “cover-up” is good.  

    Pushing the Obama “birther” story is bad, but claiming Obamacare is built around “death panels” is good.  

    What’s also confusing is that the same conservative commentators and publications that are denouncing Trump conspiracies today are often busy simultaneously pushing their own dubious plots.  

    For instance, in July, The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes admonished “crazy” Trump for pushing nutty schemes, like suggesting Sen. Ted Cruz’s father played a role in the JFK assassination, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered, and that thousands of people in Jersey City, N.J., celebrated in the streets when the towers at the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11.

    Trump’s conspiracy gibberish sounded like something “one might expect from a patient in a mental institution” wrote Hayes.

    So Hayes is adamantly opposed to political conspiracies and thinks Trump looks foolish pushing them. But guess who authored The Weekly Standard article that recently launched the debunked FBI/Clinton email conspiracy? And guess which Weekly Standard writer spent three years concocting or running with unsubstantiated claims about the terror attack in Benghazi?

    Stephen Hayes.

    Hayes and The Weekly Standard aren't alone in their hypocrisy. Last year, National Review Online also criticized Trump for his support of the absurd birther conspiracy theory. More recently, NRO has attacked Trump for hyping the “rigged” allegations: “This is reckless in the extreme.”

    Indeed, for conservative commentators who have refused to back Trump this year and who have openly disparaged his candidacy and his nomination, his love of unproven conspiracies has served as a central plank for their opposition. 

    But like The Weekly Standard, NRO this week eagerly pushed the tall Clinton/FBI email conspiracy tale. Separately, NRO has claimed the reason Clinton wasn’t prosecuted for her use of private emails was because the Obama administration covered up the Clinton “felony” in order to protect the president’s equally illegal email use.

    Or something.

    Thinly sourced plots that supposedly reveal Democratic criminality (and worse!) have certainly defined the conservative press during the Obama administration. Just look at Benghazi, the three-year conspiracy-palooza proudly presented by Fox News and the entire conservative media galaxy. 

    Media Matters spent years debunking the endless claims.

    Simply put, this is a conservative movement that’s so addicted to dopey conspiracy plots and to connecting non-existent dots, and has so normalized the practice in the pursuit of partisan politics, that it can’t even recognize Trump is simply channeling their own paranoia into a national campaign.

    Watching Trump’s ugliness projected onto a big screen, conservatives recoil. But they’re really just watching a self-portrait.

  • ThinkProgress: Trump Has Funded Discredited Right-Wing Activist James O’Keefe Through His Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ThinkProgress has identified a $10,000 donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to Project Veritas, the 501(c)(3) organization run by discredited conservative activist and videographer James O’Keefe.

    O’Keefe has a long history of engaging in criminal, misogynistic, ethically dubious, and bizarre behavior related to his video stunts. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of entering a government office under false pretenses; sought to set up a video “sting” in which he would lure a female CNN reporter onto a boat filled with sex toys and attempt to seduce the reporter on camera; and had to pay a former video target $100,000 and publicly apologize in a legal settlement. O’Keefe’s videos often make a big splash, but they fall apart under scrutiny by reporters and state investigations.

    The Trump campaign has used O’Keefe’s latest dubious and heavily edited videos to support its baseless claim that the election is “rigged” against the Republican candidate, and O’Keefe attended the final presidential debate on October 19 and pushed his videos in spin room interviews after the debate. But as ThinkProgress explained, Trump may have a more direct connection to O’Keefe’s new videos through a $10,000 donation his private charitable foundation made to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in May 2015, barely more than a month before he officially became a Republican candidate for president. Project Veritas’ affiliated 501(c)(4) organization Project Veritas Action, which is more free to engage directly in political matters, is the group that released this week’s videos. From ThinkProgress:

    Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”

    Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.

  • Trump Ally Roger Stone A Repeat Guest On White Nationalist-Supporting Radio Show

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Longtime Donald Trump ally and adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly appeared on a radio program that is hosted by Sam Bushman. Bushman “proud[ly]” syndicates a leading white nationalist radio program, participated in a pro-Trump white nationalist radio ad, and said he agrees that “white people should be able to advocate for their race, for their cause.”

    Stone appeared on the October 20 broadcast of Liberty RoundTable with host Bushman. Bushman is the owner of the Liberty News Radio Network, which syndicates The Political Cesspool with host James Edwards. Bushman is also a regular guest host for The Political Cesspool, including as recently as last weekend.

    The Political Cesspool’s statement of principles says it represents "a philosophy that is pro-White." One of its principles reads, "We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races." Edwards is an acolyte of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and he “has probably done more than any of his contemporaries on the American radical right to publicly promote neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, raging anti-Semites and other extremists," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Edwards has written: “For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unfortunately, it's the worst thing that ever happened to white Americans”; “MLK's dream is our nightmare”; and “Interracial sex is white genocide.”

    Bushman has defended Edwards from criticism, stating that “we are personal family friends and I will not back away from James Edwards no matter what they say. He is a personal dear friend. And I vouch for him a thousand percent.” He added of Edwards: “He will appear on Liberty RoundTable going forward. I will appear on his show going forward. I syndicate his show and absolutely am grateful and proud of doing so. And I will not back away one bit.”

    Bushman also stated that he agrees with Edwards on his pro-white advocacy:

    SAM BUSHMAN: One of the aspects of James Edwards, among a million other things, is that he believes that white people should be able to advocate for their race, for their cause, for their heritage as well. He does believe in protecting his heritage, preserving his people, if you will, European ancestry. And I think that I agree with him.

    Bushman added that he doesn’t believe that Edwards is a white supremacist and that the media is smearing Edwards by labeling him as such. Bushman stated that while he doesn’t agree with Edwards on everything, “we agree on the fundamentals.” Bushman also claimed he has “never, ever promoted white supremacy in any way and I never will, because I don’t believe it” because all men are created equal.

    Stone appeared on Bushman’s October 20 program to promote Trump’s candidacy and his performance during the third presidential debate. Stone also again claimed that Democrats may try to steal the election.

    In between the multiple segments of Stone’s guest spot, the show aired a pro-Trump advertisement read by Edwards for the white nationalist American National Super PAC. Bushman participated in the ad, as he read the legal disclaimer at its conclusion. 

    Back in March, Donald Trump Jr. was heavily criticized when he appeared on Bushman’s program because he was interviewed by Edwards, who was a guest and questioner on the show. Edwards separately interviewed several members of Congress and Trump campaign official Gary Berntsen at the Republican National Convention.

    Bushman hosted Eric Trump on his October 6 program. Trump adviser Stephen Moore has also appeared on the program. The Trump campaign defended Eric Trump’s appearance on the program, telling CNN: "Liberty Roundtable is a conservative program heard on radio stations and online, and dedicated to promoting the principles of the American founding. We would never associate with any program that was even wrongly perceived to be affiliated with a message of hate."

    Stone previously appeared on the October 3 edition of Liberty RoundTable.

    Stone has a history of spewing racist commentary from his Twitter account. His book The Clintons' War on Women is dedicated to and repeatedly cites research from the late Victor Thorn, who wrote The Holocaust Hoax Exposed and blames a "Jewish plot" for the 9/11 attacks. Stone promoted the book in an interview with Thorn for the American Free Press, an anti-Semitic publication founded by "one of the most influential American anti-Semitic propagandists" who used his "publishing to denigrate Jews and other minorities and galvanize the movement to deny the Holocaust."

    Members of the white nationalist/“alt-right” movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including appearances in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.