Elections

Issues ››› Elections
  • The GOP’s war on the press explodes into full view

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    First came the body slam, as Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte grabbed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by the neck and lifted him off the ground Wednesday afternoon at a Montana campaign event. Then came the punches as Jacobs lay sprawled on the floor.

    Here’s how Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna described the jaw-dropping assault. She and two of her colleagues were in the room when the Gianforte attack took place:

    At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"

    The candidate, who’s running in a special election today, has been charged for the assault.

    It’s all very shocking, but it's not surprising. It’s shocking that a grown man who wants to represent the voters of Montana in the halls and chambers of Congress decided to physically assault a reporter who was pressing the candidate with wonky questions about the Congressional Budget Office’s projections for the proposed GOP health care plan.

    “The eye-witness accounts and the recordings have stunned us,” wrote the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest newspaper, which withdrew its endorsement of Gianforte last night. “We must adopt zero tolerance for such behavior if freedom of expression means anything.”

    But it’s not surprising.

    It’s not surprising because the Republican Party, led by President Donald Trump, has been widening its war on the press at a breathtaking pace over the last two years.

    Unequivocally targeting journalists as the “enemy of the people,” Trump has signaled to the party and to the larger conservative movement that it’s open season on the news media.

    “I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people’ -- and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none,” Trump announced during his media-bashing address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.  

    And during a visit to CIA headquarters, the new president bragged that he had “a running war with the media” and called reporters “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” This while his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, demanded the media "keep its mouth shut."

    After that, Trump reportedly urged then-FBI Director James Comey to jail reporters.

    And of course, on the campaign trail last year, Trump regularly called reporters "disgusting" and "horrible people.” His ardent followers soon picked up his cues and began raining down insults and death threats on journalists covering the Trump campaign.

    And don’t forget that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with simple battery of a reporter last year (the local prosecutor ultimately decided not to prosecute him), and that a Time photographer was slammed to the ground during a Trump rally.

    Cumulatively, that has helped create a hothouse environment where reporters have perpetual targets on their back.

    HuffPost’s Michael Calderone recently rounded up just the very latest disturbing attacks on the First Amendment:

    Alaska Dispatch News reporter Nathaniel Herz told police earlier this month that Republican state Sen. David Wilson slapped him during an encounter over a recent story.

    West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman was arrested on May 10 while trying to ask a question of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who later praised police for their handling of the situation.

    And last week, CQ Roll Call reporter John M. Donnelly said he was pinned against a wall by security guards after trying to ask a Federal Communications Commission member a question in Washington.

    Sadly, we can now add the Jacobs assault to the mounting war on the press, sponsored and promoted by today’s Republican Party.

  • HuffPost: Data Analytics Firm Tied To Trump And Bannon Threatening To Sue Guardian After Paper Investigated Links To Brexit

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    On May 17, HuffPost reported that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica -- principally owned by Republican Party megadonor Robert Mercer -- has threatened to sue U.K. newspaper The Guardian for publishing “a series of articles investigating links between the conservative billionaire and last year’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union.” Mercer is also an ally of President Donald Trump and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

    The Washington Post reported in October 2016 that Cambridge Analytica was paid “millions of dollars by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign” for its data analytics program. The program used “a psychological model for identifying voters that can ‘determine the personality of every single adult in the United States of America’” by using “up to 5,000 pieces of data” per adult. According to at least three Republican strategists, the Trump campaign brought the firm onboard at the urging of Robert Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer.

    Bannon was vice president of Cambridge Analytica’s board at the time, and The New York Times reported in March that he “had a stake in the company that he valued at $1 million to $5 million, which he plans to sell.” Federal Election Commission reports also indicated that millions of dollars allegedly paid by a pro-Trump super PAC to Cambridge Analytica were mysteriously sent to a California address registered to Bannon. The firm has no publicly listed address in California.

    According to HuffPost’s May 17 report, Cambridge Analytica’s attorneys sent The Guardian a “Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation” after writer Carole Cadwalladr reported that the firm and its British affiliate “tied to competing pro-Brexit Leave campaigns … hadn’t disclosed a partnership” and potentially violated British election law. According to The Guardian’s Sunday edition, The Observer, Cambridge Analytica said that the reporting “contained significant inaccuracies and amounted to a sustained campaign of vilification designed to paint a false and misleading picture of their clients,” also alleging that the newspaper was “conducting a concerted campaign to undermine their clients and cause them damage.” From the report:

    Cambridge Analytica, a U.S. data analytics firm backed by Robert Mercer, and its British affiliate, SCL Elections Limited, have threatened to sue The Guardian following a series of articles investigating links between the conservative billionaire and last year’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

    On Wednesday, The Guardian informed staff that the firms had threatened legal action and it added a disclaimer to more than a half-dozen articles and editorials, including “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media” and “Revealed: how US billionaire helped to back Brexit” from February and this month’s “The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked.” 

    “These articles are the subject of a legal complaint on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Limited,” the disclaimer reads.

    [...]

    The aforementioned articles were written by Carole Cadwalladr, who reported Sunday that two data firms tied to competing pro-Brexit Leave campaigns, Cambridge Analytica and Canada’s AggregateIQ, hadn’t disclosed a partnership, a possible violation of British election law. The firms denied such a relationship.

    That most recent line of inquiry appeared to especially rankle Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections, as Cadwalladr tweeted that the firms’ lawyers approached the paper on Saturday.

    Cadwalladr said the firms’ attorneys, Squire, Patton & Boggs, sent the paper a “Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation.”

    And the firms’ displeasure with Cadwalladr’s reporting was made clear in the article, which was published in The Observer, The Guardian’s Sunday newspaper.

    Lawyers for Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections wrote to the Observer on Saturday to complain about our previous stories, which they said contained significant inaccuracies and amounted to a sustained campaign of vilification designed to paint a false and misleading picture of their clients. They said we were conducting a concerted campaign to undermine their clients and cause them damage. They said their clients have done no wrong, broken no laws and breached no one’s rights and had not been part of a ‘shadowy’ or unlawful campaign to subvert British democracy or dupe the British public.

  • Megadonor Super PAC Parrots Media Spin To Attack Georgia’s Jon Ossoff For Out-Of-State Donations

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A Republican-aligned super PAC released an attack ad against Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running for an open U.S. House seat in Georgia, that hypes a media-fueled smear focusing on his out-of-state donations. But the ad comes from a group that relies on big-money donations, most from donors outside of Georgia.

    The Congressional Leadership Fund released an attack ad on May 9 targeting Ossoff, who is running to fill the vacant seat in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. The ad, according to Roll Call, “draws attention to the out-of-state money that has boosted Ossoff.”

    The ad echoes similar smears made by both President Donald Trump, who slammed Ossoff for raising “major outside money,” and media figures who adopted Trump’s spin and glossed over Ossoff’s primary victory by highlighting his out-of-state donations.

    But the Congressional Leadership Fund itself takes millions of dollars from major right-wing campaign donors like the Adelson family as well as dark money groups like the American Action Network. The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) pointed out that the American Action Network, an “out of state dark money” nonprofit, “contributed $3.5 million to its ‘sister’ super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund.” The PAC used over $2.5 million of that money, according to CREW, in an attempt to defeat Ossoff.

    In the 2016 election cycle, the biggest donors to the Congressional Leadership Fund -- which The Atlanta Journal Constitution described as “a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan” -- included Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who own the Las Vegas Review-Journal; Republican mega donor Paul Singer; and investor Charles Schwab. Additionally, according to the group’s pre-special election Federal Election Commission filing report, which details contributions to the PAC up until March 29, it has received only one contribution from an organization or person in the state of Georgia -- Southern Company Services, an electric and power distribution company based in Atlanta, GA, that operates “fossil fuel generating plants.” Most of the big money donations to the PAC leading up to the special election came from the American Action Network, major corporations like the oil and gas company Chevron and Geo Corrections, a for-profit prison firm based in Florida, and Republican megadonors, such as Thomas McInerney.

    In addition, despite the portrait painted by the misleading ad, many of the donations in the race overall have come from outside of Georgia and have primarily gone toward opposing Ossoff. As The Center for Public Integrity noted, ahead of the April primary, Republican-aligned super PACs had spent $5.8 million dollars opposing Ossoff or about 65 percent of all non-candidate spending. In addition, “just one of [the] outside groups spending money to influence the Georgia 6th election ... is headquartered within state lines" and it supported Ossoff to the tune of $1,070 in total. The Center for Public Integrity noted that Ossoff's opponent, Karen Handle, has also taken in outside funds and that "23 percent of Republican candidate Karen Handel's big dollar contributions -- more than $200 per donor -- came from out of state sources."