advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rosemary’s Weekly Campaign Memo: Don’t Ever Misdial The FEC

It’s been an active couple of weeks as Rosemary Candidate (the potted plant that’s challenging both Republican “Ineffectual Dave” Reichert and “Generic Democratic Opponent” in Washington State’s 8th Congressional District) continues to grow through the legal process of officially becoming a PAC.

Rosemary recently obtained her Taxpayer ID Number from the IRS, she also opened her campaign bank account, and she’s about to file the last official paperwork before the inanimate potted plant becomes an official political entity.

Along the way, we had an encounter with the Federal Election Commission that involved misdirection, extraordinary irony, and a phone call that could well have cost $1.99 a minute – and the scary part was that, for a minute, it all made actual sense.

We have a lot to talk about this time; we better get right to it.

For many ladies the victor cuts a ridiculous figure because he is swelling with importance and yet cannot cope with the never-ending handshaking, saluting, bowing, and waving, while the defeated keep their mouths shut and casually pet the necks of their whinnying horses.

--From the storyReflections for Gentlemen-Jockeys, by Franz Kafka

As we’ve mentioned in a previous story, it’s impossible to be a political candidate or committee without handling the money issues first (did you need direct evidence that money rules politics? Here it is…); that required Rosemary to obtain from the IRS a Taxpayer ID Number which then allowed her to open her bank account, and that will allow her to file her FEC Form 1, which is the document announcing to the Federal Election Commission your plant friend’s intention to form an “independent political expenditure committee”.

The IRS helpfully provides an online and a telephone service to issue Taxpayer ID Numbers; it took about 15 minutes to get it done, and there’s no charge for the service – and that’s pretty darn good for dealing with the IRS.

She also had to file an IRS Form 8871 to tell them that the Write In Rosemary PAC is an official nonprofit, in this case a 527(c)(4) organization, which, as with all political groups, means donations are not tax deductable (as opposed to charities, which are 527(c)(3) nonprofits; their donations are tax deductable).

When we first began to search out a bank, we tried Key Bank, but they wanted $250 to open an account, and that created an apparent “Catch-22”:

The Write In Rosemary PAC cannot accept or solicit donations without first opening a bank account, and $250 is a legally reportable donation, which, obviously, Rosemary cannot accept until after her account is opened.

The bank representative suggested perhaps Rosemary could ask for small donations to get to $250, but, again, that’s soliciting donations, which is illegal absent a bank account.

So I figured I better call the Federal Election Commission for advice, which, in their “Committee Treasurers Brochure”, they encourage, so I went to the website and dialed the 1-800 number.

The recording told me to hang up and dial the “Live Talk Line”, or something to that effect, which I thought was a bit odd, but then I figured, hey, maybe the FEC is doing some sort of phone tree reorganization to create better customer response outputs.

So I called.

The somewhat overly dramatic female voice who answered the “Live Talk Line” reported to me in no uncertain terms that I had come to the right place if I was looking to engage with one of her colleagues in some sort of live chat designed to…well, to elicit a better customer response output, anyway…and by the time she began to discuss the manner in which she intended to handle certain shafts that might come her way (a manner which, I might add, was wildly outside the context of any mining situation that you could possibly imagine), I was pretty darn sure that this wasn’t the FEC or any other Federal regulatory agency on the other end of the line – although, if you think about it, if it really was the FEC it could actually make a lot of sense, in its own weird way:

After all, there has been a real effort on the part of the Republicans in the House to cut funding for the regulatory agencies, and this is a good way to raise a buck, I suppose (a buck? How about $1.99 a minute), and there is a close connection in the minds of the public between elections and getting screwed, so I could see, conceptually, where the FEC might be going here – but it’s pretty hard to imagine, even for me, that anyone in the “No-Drama Obama” Administration would be willing to allow the FEC to turn the 1-800 number over to a performance artist in an election year, and that’s what really convinced me that something must be wrong.

Sure enough, I’d transposed two of the numbers (I’ll leave it to y’all to figure out which ones), and once the error had been corrected the again very helpful folks there at the FEC let me know that, as far as they were concerned, until I got to $5000 in either donations or expenditures they weren’t too worried about how I was taking in donations (although they did point out that, even under $5000, I still have to report certain donors, which is true within the boundaries of the Citizens United ruling).

With that advice in mind, Rosemary has since found a smaller local bank that allowed her to open a no-fee campaign account with a $100 initial deposit (no names, in order to protect the innocent, but it starts with an “S” and ends with “terling”, and so far they seem quite nice), and she will soon have all the legal “t”s dotted and “i”s crossed to allow her to accept (non tax deductable) donations from interested members of the public.

Rosemary is also about to begin her actual public campaign work, which is a subject about which we’ll have more to say shortly; for now let’s just say that Rosemary is planning a bit of political performance art of her own, and we’ll see how that goes when we get together next time – and if we get lucky, there’ll be some fun video to get the conversation going.

So that’s where we are for the next few days: the final paperwork is going into place, then we move along to the actual parts of the thing that are the hardest: getting out there and reminding folks en masse how much Reichert really does suck, and learning how to ask for money, which is something I don’t do naturally and Rosemary is going to have to learn to do fast if she wants to stay in the campaign in any real way.

Any questions? You can always email Rosemary at; if you Twitter you can also follow @ElectRosemary to keep up with all the fun.

It’ll be an interesting summer, that’s for sure, and if nothing else I’m already learning, in a real way, that there in nothing in politics before money – and if any of you ever wonder as to why there aren’t more “plain folks” in politics, I suspect we are getting a pretty good handle on one of the biggest reasons why.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On Being Petarded, Or, Michele Bachmann, It’s Time For The Fork

As we speak, the Iowa Caucuses (which, even before the deportations, had a remarkably small Ingush population) are about to take place, and while we aren’t sure who will ride the wave of victory all the way to the White House – or if the wave will crest even before New Hampshire – we are petty sure that whatever happens, it ain’t gonna happen to Michele Bachmann.

And I feel bad for her, because she really has put in the time in Iowa, having virtually moved there some time back, and probably having shaken every available hand in the State…but it’s still never going to happen for her.

It’s not her ideology, either; those of you who follow her know she can hit all the right notes a conservative electorate (caucusate?) wants to hear, and she can do it with those crazy bug eyes that just tell you that whatever she’s saying she’ll do in office, she’ll probably try to do it.

And I have a feeling she either doesn’t know or doesn’t want to acknowledge what the real problem here might be – but I’m here to help, and we’ll see if we can’t set her straight.

At the end of their third long visit, the Butthole Surfers wanted to thank us by throwing a party, and there was a ceremonial, portentous aspect to the whole thing. First they made a huge dinner of Tex-Mex shrimp, red hot. Then came the real party, for which we cleared all the furniture from one side of the loft. They were going to play.

Early on, a friend of the band showed up with thirty-five tabs of acid. I don’t remember who took what. There were dozens of friends there. But try to imagine a band, especially this one, playing with high-powered amps in an old loft building on the Bowery. I loved it, though I knew this was the end.

--From the story, My Boyfriend Brought Home A Rock Band, by Jerry Rosco

So she really does hit all those right notes, and if you go visit her website (which first requires a visit to the donation page, and then, in a new twist, a page that sales pitches you on her new book – then you can go visit the site), and she does it that special Lutzian language we love so well. Here are a couple of examples from her American Jobs, Right Now page:




Here’s a classic from the A More Secure Nation page:

...Instead, we have a President who devalues the special relationship with our most trusted ally, Britain, even as he bows to kings, bends to dictators, bumbles with reset buttons, and babies radical Islamists. We have a President who tells our true friend, Israel, that it must surrender its right to defensible borders to appease forces that have never recognized that nation’s right to exist…

... We have a President who – in unprecedented fashion – is ravaging our military strength and structure at a time of war, while elevating political correctness over readiness in its ranks. And we have a President who is declaring a premature end to the war on terror against the advice of his own generals.

So she can throw the red meat, just the way Iowa GOP voters like, and according to her website, she’s visited every single Iowa county, just like Rick Santorum – and yet she doesn’t have anywhere near Santorum’s poll numbers.

The thing that’s really weird about all this, at first glance, is that in a State full of conservatives who are still truly distraught about the fact that same-sex couples can marry in Iowa…she really don’t like “Teh Gays”.

Consider this, from an article by Michelle Goldberg in The Daily Beast, back in June of ’11…

Lots of politicians talk about a sinister homosexual agenda. Bachmann, who has made opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of her career, seems genuinely to believe in one. Her conviction trumps even her once close relationship with her lesbian stepsister.

…or this, from Perez Hilton:

Why doesn't she just walk around with a sandwich board draped on her body, equipped neon lights flashing the words, "Homos Be Gone"? That would be more subtle.

And while they may officially deny it, it appears that the Bachmanns are able to earn a living because her husband, Marcus, actually operates one of those “pray away the gay” operations, which should be enough to out-homophobe even Santorum, who has achieved near-legendary status for his elaborate gay-themed fantasies.

Add it all up, and I’m sure Michele Bachmann wonders, right about now, why things aren’t going better?

Well, I hate to tell you this, Michele, but all the homophobia in the world ain’t gonna cover up the fact…that a lot of folks out there think your husband is gay.

And with video like this out there, it’s not really a huge surprise:

And God bless him, he is a rock for Michele: you can see him at personal appearances, right next to her, and she introduces him to almost everyone: “This is my husband, Marcus…” – but when he looks right back at the person proffering the handshake, and he smiles that big smile, and he does that “Soo nice to meet yew…” thing that he does to say hello…well, you can actually see that for some of the voters, it’s a bit awkward.

Especially when you consider that he’s running that “pray away the gay” clinic…

And it’s not just me: Dan Savage and Jon Stewart have famously suggested that Mr. Bachmann might be in the closet – and in fact, that led to a response of its own, from June Thomas, over at Slate:

In other words, the man who launched the “It Gets Better Project,” an effort to stop the bullying of gay teens, was acting like a big bully. As Savage always notes, the kind of smear-the-queer taunts that can cause so much pain to young people aren’t aimed only at kids who are gay, they’re often aimed at boys who don’t live up to some mythical standard of masculinity and girls who just aren’t girly enough. I can only imagine how listeners who happen to have the kind of lisping, effeminate speech and affect that Savage was ridiculing felt upon hearing the attack.

(For what it’s worth, I’m on Stewart’s and Savage’s sides here: that’s because they are pointing out Bachmann’s perceived hypocrisy; as Savage puts it, the effort to drag people back into the closet is Marcus Bachmann’s life work, and I don’t see that kind of attack as being really out of line.)

So, listen, Michele, if you’re out there…I don’t know what to tell ya.

You have staked your political and personal fortune on homophobia, and it worked out pretty well for awhile, but now it’s quickly become a national joke – a Field of Dongs, as it were – and all those people you were counting on to hate Teh Gay, do.

And whether it’s appropriate or not, a lot of those very same haters get kinda squeamish when they see Marcus out and about.

They wonder if maybe he, too, has a bit of a “wide stance”, if you know what I mean.

And when your anti-gay-indoctrinated voters hear him lisp his way though an entirely bizarre anti-gay rant that suggests that what gay people really need is more discipline…well, that’s not helping.

So good luck Tuesday, and I’m sorry that perception sometimes equals reality, especially as it relates to Marcus – but if things go as badly for you as they now appear they will Tuesday, I think it’s officially going to be time to stick a fork in it and call it done, because South Carolina and Florida are not going to be the bastions of bedrock conservative, LBGT-accepting voters that you’ll apparently need to get over the hump here…and after that, well, it actually doesn’t get better.

I’m not a Biblical kind of writer myself, but you can’t help but notice that sowing and reaping are surely connected in this case, and as much as I see Michele preaching from the pulpit, I hope it’s a Bible lesson she someday learns.

On Holding Down The Conversational Fort, Or, Jobs, Republicans, And Hooey

As the next Congressional fight over payroll tax extensions and unemployment benefits and pipelines gets set up in the next few weeks for either its final chapter or to be kicked down the road a bit farther, one or the other, you’re going to hear a lot from our Republican friends about how much they value work and workers; most especially, they’ll tell you, they value American jobs for American workers.

After all, they’ll say, creating American jobs is the most important thing of all.

But if we were to look back over just the last few months, some would tell us, we could quickly find examples of how Republicans promote ideas that don’t seem to value work or workers at all, much less American jobs.

Well as it turns out, “some” seem to be right; to illustrate one of those examples we’ll look back a month or two or three to a time some Republicans might wish was long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

A successful comedian usually becomes more megalomaniacal as the success barometer rises. Initial success might be achieved from stand-up but then the comedian envisions a sitcom, then Broadway, albums, extended tours, Europe, and then his or her own production company. These things are all fine. Don’t do dinner theater. Don’t open stuff, like shopping centers or bowling alleys. Don’t do fairs, especially if you follow the pig contest.

--From the book “How To Be A Stand-Up Comic”, by Richard Belzer

So…the House Republicans went and promoted and passed out their payroll tax cut plan, and within that plan was a demand that the Junkie XL Pipeline – sorry, that should be Keystone XL Pipeline – get special “expedited” approvals, despite the objections of those who are worried about their water supply, and we have to do this, right now, those same House Republicans tell us, in order to put more or less 6500 folks to work getting the thing built.

And as we mentioned above, this is because the House Republicans care about American jobs and American workers.

So…it may strike you as a bit odd that the exact same House Republicans sent to the Senate in September the “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act” (HR 2587), which has only one purpose: it tells the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB”) that if workers at a company decide to form a union, or the company even thinks a union might be coming, and the company, in retaliation, decides to move work from that plant – or, for that matter, decides to move the entire plant – then neither the NLRB nor the United States Courts shall have the authority to do anything about it.

All of this stems from an effort by Boeing to move work from Washington State to South Carolina in retaliation for union activity by the Puget Sound workforce; the NLRB has ruled that Boeing cannot move the work, and the Company and its friends in Congress have joined forces with other anti-Union Members of Congress to move this legislation.

Need a third-party expert opinion to help make sense of the NLRB’s involvement and remedies? Consider this comment from University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Ellen Dannin, via Dennis Kucinich:

The NLRB has decades of experience with cases of this sort, and the National Labor Relations Act is clear that employer actions like Boeing’s violate the law. If this were a murder case, it would be a case in which the police found a person saying : “I did it,” while standing over a fresh corpse with smoking gun in hand.

Decades of experience, did she say? Yes she did – and she was right. In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the NLRB had the power to order remedies that include making companies “bring work back”, the relevant case being Fibreboard Paper Products Corp. v. Labor Board, 379 U.S. 203.

The 250 law professors who wrote a letter explaining why HR 2587 is such a bad idea point out that it’s not just about Boeing: companies will no longer have any reason to even bargain with unionized workers (or those who wish they were) before closing plants and moving work overseas, as they have to do now under the law; again, that’s because no one will have the power of enforcement in these cases anymore.

As you might imagine, that’s going to accelerate the departure of jobs overseas, and it won’t take very long to get to 6500, which makes all that Republican fussin’ and fightin’ and sanctimoneoussin’ about Keystone look a bit hollow, eh?

Let’s jump to the side track, as it were, and take a moment to talk about why the question of which Party controls Congress matters: HR 2587 was introduced into the House, and if the Democrats controlled the Chamber it would have died in Committee, and that would have been that…but they don’t, and it didn’t, so the bill made it to the House floor, where it passed with no Democratic “aye” votes and six Republicans voting “nay”.

Then it went to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Sometimes Frustrating) has a bit more power than a Speaker of the House to kill any bill before his Chamber, if he’s so inclined; in this case the bill sits on the Senate Legislative Calendar, and unless he says otherwise, that’s where it’ll stay. Of course if Mitch McConnell (R-Hates Obama With The Fire Of A Thousand Suns) were Majority Leader, he would have that bill on the Senate Floor in a heartbeat – and it would pass with a Republican majority, unless Democrats were willing to stand firm and filibuster the thing or the President was willing to use the veto pen, neither of which seems particularly certain.

A companion bill, S 1523, was introduced by Lindsey Graham; it was referred to Committee, possibly to never be seen again – which is also thanks to Harry Reid, with an assist from Tom Harkin, who is the relevant Chair.

At this point I was going to move on to the “what have we learned today” part of the deal, but before I do, I want to take a moment to show you just what kind of legislation our GOP friends will bring to the table, given the chance:

S 1720, the “Put All Your Crazy Eggs In One Basket Act” (not the real bill title, but close enough), was introduced by John McCain just before Halloween (it’s now on the Legislative Calendar, not doing much), and it’s a classic.

This one single bill calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment vote, a semi-flat income tax, repeals “ObamaCare”, repeals Dodd-Frank (Wall Street reform), says you basically can’t sue for medical malpractice anymore, says that if Congress fails to approve any Federal Agency regulation in 90 days, it’s invalid, and then says no Agency can pass any regulation, of any kind, until unemployment hits 7.7%...and there’s a lot more besides, including, I kid you not, forbidding the EPA from regulating the discharge of pesticides into water.

So now let’s get to “what have we learned?”

How about this:

We are going to hear a lot over the next 60 days about how the GOP loves you, the American worker, but at the exact same time they are looking to…well…put all the crazy eggs in one basket, if they can get away with it, and at the same time they’re looking to make it easier and easier to send more jobs to more countries than ever before, even to the point of trying to tell courts and regulators that they can no longer enforce laws Republicans can’t get repealed.

As our GOP friends stand before you, these next couple months, professing their undying love, remind them of this conversation today, and HR 2587, and S 1720, McCain’s “Crazy Egg Basket” bill, and then ask them if they think the GOP really cares about American jobs, or if they’re just getting hustled by slightly-slicker versions of used-car dealership credit managers?

Then you lean in close, look ‘em in the eye, smile just a bit, and you say to ‘em: “And hey, while you’re here…what do I gotta do to get you into a slightly used 1993 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagontoday?”

Then you can both have a little laugh – while you take their money and run.