Newt Gingrich’s primary financial funder, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, is considering infusing the presidential hopeful’s super PAC with an additional $10 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Adelson and his family have already given the Winning Our Future super PAC $11 million this year. With Gingrich floundering in the polls, Adelson is taking an almost-Machiavellian approach, according to a source close with the billionaire, by using “his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls…[thereby] improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election.”
Gingrich PAC Took $7.6 Million From One Donor, Used Money To Fly Across The Country For Public Events
The Supreme Court’s decision to gut campaign finance laws in its 2009 Citizens United decision predictably opened the gates of the American electoral system to an influx of corporate money and influence, first in the 2010 midterm elections and then in numerous statewide and local campaigns. In Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states with contentious campaigns, corporations flooded the system with money — in judicial elections alone, just three corporations spent 13 times as much as the labor movement.
Yet, as much as Citizens United managed to jar the political system with its influx of unlimited corporate money, former House Speaker and leading presidential candidate Newt Gingrich may have set a new record for the most audacious injection of big money donors into politics. Gingrich accepted millions of dollars in donations to an independent political committee and used those funds to travel the country in the lead-up to his presidential run. As McClatchy reported today:
The former House speaker appears to have made unprecedented use of a supposedly independent political committee that collected unlimited donations, financing a coast-to-coast shadow campaign that raised his profile and provided a launch pad for his presidential run.
Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future, which he shuttered in July, shelled out at least $8 million for the chartered jets in which he hop-scotched the nation for public appearances while weighing whether to enter the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.
The committee’s acceptance of huge cash donations — including $7.65 million from Sheldon Adelson, a pro-Israel, billionaire Las Vegas casino owner, and more than $2 million from five energy companies — has sewn concerns that Gingrich would be beholden to his benefactors if he won the White House.
Massive donations, unfortunately, have become common in the wake of Citizens United. A super PAC supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), for instance, took in an undisclosed million dollar donation from a company that dissolved immediately after the donation. Former candidate Herman Cain, meanwhile, was linked extensively to Americans for Prosperity, a conservative organization backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. In the first six months of 2011, just 12 wealthy donors accounted for most of the donations to major super PACs, another example of Citizens United expanding influence of corporations and the wealthy in the American electoral system.
The McClatchy report wasn’t the only big news for Gingrich, however, as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint today with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that his campaign unlawfully used campaign funds when it paid Gingrich $42,000 for his “lucrative mailing list” — a transaction that was not disclosed on his financial report.
The Gingrich campaign responded to the McClatchy report, saying only that the donors gave to him because they agree with his political views, but Gingrich declined to comment on the CREW complaint when asked today in Iowa.
For all the hawkish Mideast rhetoric among the GOP presidential field, Newt Gingrich is quickly distinguishing himself for right-wing stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the latest such posturing, the former House speaker cited an example of Palestinian incitement against Israelis — a real issue, but just not quite in the fact-free way Gingrich confidently spoke of in last week’s Republican debate.
Gingrich was asked about his earlier remark, plucked from “an ideological tract disguised as history,” that Palestinians are an “invented” people — a view he hasn’t walked back, but qualified with support for a two-state solution to the conflict. At last week’s GOP presidential debate, however, Gingrich doubled down and declared of the Palestinians, “These people are terrorists.” He went on:
They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, ‘If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?’ We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East.
Watch a video of Gingrich’s remarks at the debate:
Gingrich invoked truth and spoke with certainty. But an Associated Press fact check of his quite specific claim — that U.S. money pays for school textbooks that teach math by counting Jewish deaths — found it didn’t check out:
Three researchers — [George Washington University political scientist Nathan] Brown, Itamar Marcus from Palestinian Media Watch and Eldad Pardo from IMPACT-SE — said the example Gingrich cited in the Dec. 10 Republican debate does not exist in the texts. Gingrich’s office did not respond to two emailed requests for further comment.
Incitement in the Mideast conflict is a complicated and serious issue, and it’s an impediment to peace. By making false claims about incitement, Gingrich cheapens the discourse on this serious issue.
The full AP article describes religious schools in Occupied Palestinian Territory — constituting about 750 Palestinian students of the Territories’ 1.6 million students — that glorify martyrdom. A study found that government schools, which teach more than 700,000 students, had two examples of anti-Jewish sentiments in their textbooks, but the largest concern was that the Israeli national narrative was omitted from the books.
Last year, the Washington Institute For Near East Policy (WINEP) noted some progress against Palestinian incitement in textbooks, while important areas of concern persist. “We need to recognize what needs to be improved and recognize and praise the progress that’s been,” WINEP chief Robert Satloff said. “We need to stay away from hysteria and its opposite, whitewash.”
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich declared Thursday that he would work to abolish federal judges if he didn't agree with their "anti-American" or "dictatorial" rulings.
At a GOP debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly noted that at least two conservative former attorneys general had blasted Gingrich's "dangerous" and "totally irresponsible" plan because it would alter the balance of powers.
"It alters the balance because the courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful," Gingrich admitted. "I've been working on this project since 2002 when the Ninth Circuit court said that 'one nation under God' is unconstitutional in the Pledge of Allegiance. And I decided that if you had judges that were so radically anti-American that they thought 'one nation under God' was wrong, they shouldn't be on the court."
"Like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and FDR, I would be prepared to take on the judiciary if, in fact, it did not restrict what it was doing," he added.
As for those conservative former attorneys general, Gingrich wanted to know if they had studied "Jefferson, who in 1802 abolished 18 out of 35 federal judges?"
"I would suggest to you, actually as a historian, I may understand this better than lawyers, and as lawyers, those two attorneys general are behaving exactly like law schools which have overly empowered lawyers that they can dictate to the rest of us," he insisted.
What's the difference between Newt Gingrich and God? God doesn't think he's Newt Gingrich.
In a Republican presidential contest in which most of the major contenders, including Gingrich, claimed God "called" them to run, Newt alone worships at his own altar. Even after burning through three religions and three wives, Gingrich's self-proclaimed mission on earth remains to be "definer of civilization" and "leader of the civilizing forces."
Newt's belief in his destiny as a "world historical figure" dates well before he assumed the mantle of GOP frontrunner, became Speaker of the House or even led the 1994 Republican revolution. As he explained to the Washington Post in 1985:
"I have an enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I'm doing it...Oh, this is just the beginning of a 20-or-30-year movement. I'll get credit for it."
As it turns out, the Newt the historian's grandiose self-vision was strongly influenced by science fiction. Gingrich's personal mission statement, uncovered in 1997 during the House investigation into his ethical woes, reads like the cover of Isaac Asimov's The Foundation about "a future century the Galactic Empire dies and one man creates a new force for civilized life":
"Gingrich--primary mission: advocate of civilization, definer of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, arouser of those who fan civilization, organizer of the pro-civilization activists, leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces."
And the Great Civilizer doesn't merely believe that "I am much like [Ronald] Reagan and Margaret Thatcher." As Gingrich explained in 1994, "People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz."
As Gail Sheehy revealed in her jaw-dropping 1995 Vanity Fair profile of then-Speaker Gingrich, Newt's belief in his epic role has deep roots:
"I'm a mythical person," says Newt, no stranger to revolutions. "I had a period of thinking that I would have been called 'Newt the McPherson,' as in Robert the Bruce." He is referring to his childhood, when he strongly identified with his biological father, Newton McPherson.
"Robert the Bruce," Newt continues, "is the guy who would not, could not, avoid fighting...He carried the burden of being Scotland." Like the Bruce, Newt feels he must carry the burden of being his nation.
"What makes me unusually intense is that I personalize the pain of war, the pain of children being killed, the pain of a 16-year-old who has been permanently cheated by his school and cannot read."
If Gingrich's self-description as a fighter who personalizes the pain of war seems odd, it should. After all, Newt never served in the military, getting deferments while his first wife funded his education. "Without corrective lenses, he couldn't see across the room," Colonel Bob Gingrich sneered about his stepson Newt, "Flattest feet I've ever seen. He's physically incapable of doing military service."
Newt Gingrich may not actually be a fighter, but he apparently fancies himself a lover. As Sheehy made clear, Gingrich's endless appetite for women other than his wives goes back to his earlier runs for office:
Along with his amorphous political persona, Newt showed a propensity for the kind of behavior boys boast about in the locker room. Throughout his first campaign he was having an affair with a young volunteer. Dot Crews, who occasionally drove the candidate, says that almost everybody involved in the campaign knew. Kip Carter claims, "We'd have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk."
As Anne Manning, with whom Gingrich had a dalliance in the 1970's explained, Newt the "definer of civilization" put plausible deniability at the top of his civilizational values:
In the spring of 1977, she was in Washington to attend a census-bureaus workshop when Gingrich took her to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. He met her back at her modest hotel room. "We had oral sex," she says. "He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, "I never slept with her." Indeed, before Gingrich left that evening, she says, he threatened her: "If you ever tell anybody about this, I'll say you're lying."
After dispensing with wife number one in 1980, Newt the world historical figure explained to wife number two why he had to leave her. As Marianne Gingrich (nee Ginther) told Esquire:
He'd just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he'd given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.
The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, "How do you give that speech and do what you're doing?"
"It doesn't matter what I do," he answered. "People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."
Gingrich, of course, had been involved with Callista Bisek, a Congressional staffer and the future Mrs. Gingrich #3, for years. Even during his role as Clinton impeachment inquisitor, Bisek was, as Vanity Fair described her, his "frequent breakfast companion."
But in God Gingrich's moral universe, it's all good. As he put it in 1994:
"I think I am a transformational figure. I think I am trying to effect a change so large that the people who would be hurt by the change, the liberal machine, have a natural reaction."
Gingrich, who swapped his Baptist faith for Catholicism just in time to attack President Obama's 2009 address at Notre Dame University, later explained that his rapid fire infidelities were the actually product of his own patriotism:
"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn't trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them."
"I found," Gingrich told CBN in March, "that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness."
And then got it, from himself.
But while even Gingrich has begun to downplay expectations, hoping rather than sweeping the field to “hang on” until South Carolina, he does hold a few advantages. First of all, it’s not clear who will take his place among the front-runners, with the rest of the field either unacceptable to the same establishment forces or already having experienced their turn on the yo-yo. Second, it appears that the neoconservative establishment, one leg of the conservative movement stool, has warmed to Gingrich. Rudy Giuliani and even Dick Cheney have praised him of late. And third, there’s this guy with $20 million to invest.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is planning to direct $20 million to an outside group backing Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, multiple sources told POLITICO – the first answer to urgent pleas from allies to the former speaker’s long-time billionaire supporters.
After leaving Congress, Gingrich cultivated a network of a few dozen uber-wealthy backers who poured tens of millions of dollars into a network of groups that helped him maintain a foothold in politics. Now, operatives supporting his presidential campaign are asking those same donors to write fat checks to a suite of new super PACs they hope can spend big on ads to offset Gingrich campaign fundraising that had lagged behind his rivals [...]
Adelson spokesman Ron Reese denied the $20 million commitment, saying “there’s no truth to any speculation that Mr. Adelson has made a commitment to either contribute or raise this amount of money.”
That denial is important, and this could all turn out to be Politico-manufactured nonsense, which wouldn’t be the first time. But I want to focus on the fact that in modern America, it’s perfectly normal – and perfectly legal – for one billionaire to invest $20 million in the candidate for President of his choice. This is what life looks like in a post-Citizens United world. Greg Sargent explains: [cont'd.]
It turns out there are scenarios under which this might not be legal. If someone who works directly for Gingrich’s campaign solicted this money in any way from Adelson, that would violate Federal laws that prohibit coordination between campaigns and super PACs.
But here’s the interesting twist: The scenario under which this is legal is, at bottom, not significantly different from having Gingrich’s campaign aides directly solicit such contributions.
Thanks to Citizens United and a subsequent court decision, Super PACs can raise unlimited sums, and spend it all advocating directly for or against a candidate, as long as there’s no coordination between the Super PAC and the candidate’s campaign. But this prohibition against coordination doesn’t really have much significance in the real world.
Consider that one of the pro-Gingrich Super PACs that may receive this $20 million, Winning Our Future, is headed by Becky Burkett, who was the lead fundraiser for Gingrich’s main political operation for years, American Solutions. That group raised a total of $54 million.
What this means: Someone who has been closely consulting with Gingrich for years, and has spent years in direct contact with all his donors and advisers, is suddenly in a position to raise unlimited sums to put behind his candidacy — including $20 million from one man.
Indeed, if you read the whole Politico article, you’ll find plenty of hefty donations to Gingrich-allied SuperPACs, from millionaires and corporations who have given lots of money to American Solutions in the past.
So this is the new landscape, where billionaires and corporations can give unlimited sums for direct advocacy of political candidates, as well as to destroy the opposition. Citizens United created a monster.
Stephen Colbert couldn't quite figure out at first whether current GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich was supposed to be the hero or the villain of an episode of a James Bond movie during his tip of the hat, wag of the finger segment on the Colbert Report, but ultimately decided he's one of the villains due to his love of space mirrors.
Best lines by Colbert:
And just like Bond, Gingrich is calm under pressure, a little cocky, and is frequently seen with different leading ladies.
Plus, his half million dollar line of credit at Tiffany's proves he knows diamonds are forever.
And as David Brooks pointed out, Newt has called for a permanent lunar colony to exploit the moon's resources.”
Sounds to me like Newt is a Moonraker.
Still, tip of my hat, you know he's in the 1 top percent, which means he is creating jobs for all those evil henchmen.
Newt Gingrich got it wrong when he claimed “an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher” in New York City.
An entry-level “cleaner” is the closest thing to Gingrich’s description of an “entry-level janitor,” and someone in that position is paid substantially less than an entry-level teacher. Some may be surprised to learn that “custodial engineers” are better paid than teachers. But they are supervisors (not entry-level janitors), and even they are not paid twice as much.
Gingrich has twice cited the statistic while defending his plan to allow poor students to do part-time janitorial work in their schools. The most high-profile instance came during the Republican debate in Iowa on Dec. 10.
Gingrich, Dec. 10: What I suggested was, kids ought to be allowed to work part-time in school, particularly in the poorest neighborhoods, both because they could use the money.
If you take one-half of the New York janitors who are unionized and paid more than the teachers, an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. You take half of those janitors, you could give virtually– you could give lots of poor kids a work experience in the cafeteria and the school library and– and front office, and a lot of different things. I’ll stand by the idea, young people ought to learn how to work.
Two days earlier, Gingrich cited that same statistic at a forum with local business leaders in Greenville, S.C.
Gingrich, Dec. 8: Now, this is education in life. This is bringing people into the world of work, the world of prosperity, the world of savings, the world of investment — and we want every young American to have an opportunity to do that.
So, if you took the cost of the New York City janitors, the most expensive janitors in New York are paid more than the highest paid teachers. The entry-level janitor is paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. It’s all because of the union. So, I say let’s keep two janitors who are adults who are professional. They do all the heavy stuff and the dangerous stuff. And let’s take all the other jobs and divide them up into part-time kids.
At first blush, Gingrich’s claim appears to be substantiated by an April 18 story from NBC New York that stated: “First-year New York City school teachers without graduate degrees make about $45,000 a year. The minimum pay for a first-year custodial engineer is almost $80,000 a year.” But the report mistakenly confused minimum pay with base pay.
Let’s dig a little deeper. The starting salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor of arts degree is $45,530, and it’s $51,425 for someone with a master’s degree.
Things get trickier for “janitors.” For starters, there is no such job title as “janitor” in New York City schools. So let’s start with “custodial engineers,” the job designation in the NBC News report. It’s true that the base pay for an incoming custodial engineer is $81,000 a year, said Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the NYC Department of Education. But there’s a catch. According to the contract negotiated with the union, employees only get 70 percent of that base pay their first year. The pay then goes up 10 percent a year in subsequent years, up to the full base pay. So it’s more accurate to say that a first-year custodial engineer makes about $56,000. That’s more than a first-year teacher, but nowhere close to double.
More important, custodial engineers are supervisory positions (much like the ones Gingrich said he would keep). According to the description in the latest notice for the civil service exam, the job is a lot more than pushing a mop. It entails hiring, training and supervising custodial staff; doing payroll; and maintaining and doing minor repairs to HVAC, boilers and plumbing. In general, custodial engineers are “responsible for the physical operation, maintenance, repair, custodial upkeep and care of a public school building and its immediate grounds.”
There are several classifications of custodial workers, but the one that probably most closely resembles a janitor is a “cleaner,” said Robert Troeller, president and business manager of Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Brooklyn, N.Y. These are the folks who dust, mop and sweep, among other things. Cleaners get paid $18.13 an hour. That comes to $37,710 a year. But there’s another catch. In the first two years, entry-level cleaners are paid 15 percent less than that — $32,054. That’s substantially less than an entry-level teacher.
And for the record, said Morgan, New York City schools already have an in-depth job readiness, career exploration program called Learning to Work, which includes internships.
– Robert Farley, with Scott Blackburn
Over the weekend, struggling Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson reminded MSNBC viewers that GOP frontrunner Newt Gingrich had once to called to punish some drug offenders with death.
"Newt Gingrich, in 1997, proposed the death penalty for marijuana -- for possession of marijuana above a certain quantity of marijuana," Johnson explained. "And yet, he is among 100 million Americans who've smoked marijuana."
"I would love to have a discussion with him on the fact that he smoked pot, and under the wrong set of circumstance he proposed the death penalty for, potentially, something that he had committed. I have troubles with that," he added.
Johnson, a former New Mexico governor who has advocated for marijuana legalization since 1999, is at least partially correct about Gingrich's position.
As Speaker of the House, Gingrich introduced the "Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996."
The bill would have required a "sentence of death for certain importations of significant quantities of controlled substances." It would have applied to anyone convicted more than once of carrying 100 doses -- or about two ounces -- or marijuana across the border. Defendants would have had a window of 18 months to file their one and only appeal.
"If you import a commercial quantity of illegal drugs, it is because you have made the personal decision that you are prepared to get rich by destroying our children," the Georgia Republican said at a fundraiser for Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) in 1995. "I have made the decision that I love our children enough that we will kill you if you do this."
"The first time we execute 27 or 30 or 35 people at one time, and they go around Colombia and France and Thailand and Mexico, and they say, 'Hi, would you like to carry some drugs into the U.S.?' the price of carrying drugs will have gone up dramatically."
U.S. law already allows the death penalty in the cases of large-scale drug operations -- or continuing criminal enterprises -- that result in murder.
Gingrich charged in 1994 that 25 percent of President Bill Clinton's White House staff used drugs, but at the same time admitted that he had also smoked pot 25 years earlier.
"That was a sign we were alive and in graduate school in that era," he explained.
"See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral," Gingrich reportedly told Wall Street Journal reporter Hilary Stout in 1996. "Now, it is illegal AND immoral. The law didn't change, only the morality… That's why you get to go to jail and I don't."