Yesterday Cleveland's top newspaper, the Plain Dealer endorsed Nina Turner in the congressional race where early voting has begun for a May 3 decision. The editors wrote that they "endorsed Nina Turner last year, and do so again this year. She has the passion, experience, toughness and out-of-the-box thinking to give Cleveland a powerful, socially committed and independent congressional voice, much in the spirit of the late U.S. Rep. Lou Stokes, who successfully fought for this majority minority congressional district. In backing 2009 Cuyahoga County corruption reforms, Turner stood up to the Democratic Party. In 2012, she successfully fought for the downstate GOP votes then-Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson needed to make his Cleveland school reform plan a reality. [Shontel] Brown is congenial and pleasant, but often leaves the impression she’s speaking talking points, not convictions. And her determination to stay on as chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party during both the August election and this election shows a troubling lack of fair play. Brown has also drawn fire for seemingly taking credit for federal earmarks for her district that were requested well before she joined Congress... But a fighter is what Greater Cleveland needs in Congress, especially with the strong possibility of a GOP takeover of the House. And a principled and focused fighter is what Greater Cleveland will get in Nina Turner."
I've been doing a lot of writing recently about the billionaire class coming in and buying elections. A couple of them love a hopeless centrist hack like Brown and are scared to death about a fighter like Turner. Writing for The Lever over the weekend, Andrew Perez reported that besides crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried who we already exposed as backing a stable of candidates like Brown and dumped $2 million into this race, another sleazebag billionaire is doing the same. And both are doing it through the shadiest "Democratic" PAC, DMFI (Democratic Majority for Israel), which is run by slime bucket Mark Mellman.
A super PAC bankrolled by a fossil fuel magnate is launching last-minute ads to try to crush the congressional candidacy of a leading proponent of a Green New Deal as scientists warn that oil and gas emissions are making the planet unlivable. If successful, the gambit would deliver an intimidating message from the fossil fuel industry to other Democratic candidates pressing the government to address the climate crisis.
One month after Samson Energy mogul Stacy Schusterman poured $2 million into DMFI PAC, the group purchased TV ads starting Monday to boost Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) in her primary campaign rematch against former Ohio State Sen. Nina Turner in a newly redrawn Cleveland congressional district. The primary election date is May 3.
...Schusterman chairs Oklahoma-based Samson Energy, whose website describes it as a company that “was formed to allow the Schusterman family to remain in the oil and gas exploration and production business following their sale of Samson Investment Company in 2011.” The company has been one of the country’s largest per-well emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.
Schusterman’s donations to DMFI PAC accounted for nearly 70 percent of the $2.9 million in funding that the organization raised in the first quarter this year, between January and March. Overall, since 2019, she has donated $3.4 million to the super PAC, which publicly bills itself as a pro-Israel advocacy organization.
Americans hate billionaires even more than they hate rapists. How do I know? I polled America:
Jane Mayer dealt with a related aspect of the bad billionaire phenomenon for New Yorker readers over the weekend: The Slime Machine Targeting Dozens Of Biden Nominees. She wrote that "the fierce campaign against [Ketanji Brown Jackson] was concerning, in part because it was spearheaded by a new conservative dark-money group that was created in 2020: the American Accountability Foundation. An explicit purpose of the A.A.F.-- a politically active, tax-exempt nonprofit charity that doesn’t disclose its backers-- is to prevent the approval of all Biden Administration nominees... [T]he A.A.F.’s approach represents a new escalation in partisan warfare, and underscores the growing role that secret spending has played in deepening the polarization in Washington."
Rather than attack a single candidate or nominee, the A.A.F. aims to thwart the entire Biden slate. The obstructionism, like the Republican blockade of Biden’s legislative agenda in Congress, is the end in itself. The group hosts a Web site, bidennoms.com, that displays the photographs of Administration nominees it has targeted, as though they were hunting trophies. And the A.A.F. hasn’t just undermined nominees for Cabinet and Court seats-- the kinds of prominent people whose records are usually well known and well defended. It’s also gone after relatively obscure, sub-Cabinet-level political appointees, whose public profiles can be easily distorted and who have little entrenched support. The A.A.F., which is run by conservative white men, has particularly focussed on blocking women and people of color. As of last month, more than a third of the twenty-nine candidates it had publicly attacked were people of color, and nearly sixty per cent were women.
...Tom Jones, the A.A.F.’s founder and executive director, is a longtime Beltway operative specializing in opposition research. Records show that over the years he has worked for several of the most conservative Republicans to have served in the Senate, including Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin; Ted Cruz, of Texas; Jim DeMint, of South Carolina; and John Ensign, of Nevada, for whom Jones was briefly a legislative director. In 2016, Jones ran the opposition-research effort for Cruz’s failed Presidential campaign. When I asked Jones for an interview, through the A.A.F.’s online portal, he replied, “Ms. Meyers... Go pound sand.” Citing an article that I had written debunking attacks on Bloom Raskin from moneyed interests, including the A.A.F., he said, “You are a liberal hack masquerading as an investigative journalist-- and not a very good one.” Jones subsequently posted this comment on his group’s Twitter account, along with my e-mail address and cell-phone number.
...The A.A.F. describes itself as a champion of transparency, but it declines to reveal the sources of its funding. Its official mailing address is a handsome historic building a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. But when I stopped by there recently, to ask for the group’s basic financial records-- which all tax-exempt nonprofits are legally required to produce-- a woman at the lobby’s front desk said there was no such group at that address. Instead, the building is occupied by a different nonprofit group: the Conservative Partnership Institute, which serves as a kind of Isle of Elba for Trump loyalists in exile. It has become the employer of Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and of Trump’s former ad-hoc legal adviser Cleta Mitchell, both of whom are fighting subpoenas from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Cameron Seward, the general counsel of the Conservative Partnership Institute, appeared in the lobby and assured me that there was no relationship between his group and the A.A.F. Yet documents that the A.A.F. filed with the I.R.S. in 2021, to secure its tax-exempt status, describe the group as existing “in care of” C.P.I. Moreover, C.P.I.’s 2021 annual report notes that it launched the A.A.F. because “conservatives didn’t have a group performing research on Biden’s woke nominees-- even though plenty of liberal groups were digging up (or manufacturing) dirt on our side.” The groups have several overlapping directors, including Jones, who sits on both boards. The A.A.F. told the I.R.S. that its mission is to conduct nonpartisan research, but it is curious that the largest contribution by far to its parent group, C.P.I., is a million-dollar “charitable contribution” from Save America-- Trump’s political-action committee. Trump reportedly raised much of the pac’s money from supporters after his 2020 defeat, and his campaign has called the group an “election defense fund.”
Save America made its contribution to C.P.I. a few months after Meadows joined the group. Meadows’s son, Blake, an associate attorney at the Georgia law firm Foster, Foster, & Smith, appears to be involved with C.P.I., too: his name appears in a lawsuit filed last month on behalf of the A.A.F. against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Matthew Buckham, the A.A.F. co-founder, also has a Trump connection: he worked at the White House during his Administration, in the personnel office. (His father, Ed Buckham, is chief of staff to Marjorie Taylor Greene.)
It’s a great advantage to be able to treat opposition research as a tax-exempt charitable expense rather than as, say, a campaign cost. On March 21st, Paul Teller, the executive director of an advocacy group that serves as former Vice-President Mike Pence’s political operation, gave a lecture to Christian pastors in which he said, of the A.A.F., “I’m just in love with these guys!” Teller enthused, “They are just taking it to every Biden-Harris nominee that comes across to Congress,” adding, “Some of the stuff that we’re fighting with the Supreme Court nominee Jackson came from our friends at the American Accountability Foundation.” He went on, “We’re partnering, we’re collaborating.” Teller’s group is widely seen as promoting a potential Pence campaign for President in 2024.
When the A.A.F. applied for its tax-exempt status, it portrayed itself, under penalty of perjury, as a nonpartisan charity that would neither participate in political campaigns nor try to influence legislation. As a tax-exempt nonprofit dark-money organization, Jones’s group isn’t required to publicly disclose its donors, so it’s impossible to know all the sources of its funding. Clearly, though, it has big ambitions. In its I.R.S. filing, the A.A.F. submitted revenue projections that predict its budget as six hundred thousand dollars in 2021, a million dollars in 2022, and one and a half million dollars in 2023.
Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and Trump critic at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank, believes that the A.A.F. is doing “frightening, sleazy stuff” with serious implications. Not only is the group creating needless vacancies in important Administration positions; it is intimidating well-qualified people from wanting to undergo the nomination process. “It’s tough enough to get top-flight people in government,” Ornstein said. “But, if you also have to go through a well-funded, well-oiled slime machine, it’s really an attack on government.”