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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Obama Campaign Raises Over $51 Million In July

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., looks at the choices of shaved ice for himself, family, and friends at Island Snow in Kailua, Hawaii Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. Sen. Obama is in Hawaii for a vacation.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

CHICAGO — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised more than $51 million in July and the Democratic National Committee reported $27.7 million in donations last month, putting Obama in a strong position for the fall campaign.

Obama began August with $65.8 million on hand and the DNC had $28.5 million available, according to statements released Saturday. His July total was slightly less than the $52 million he raised in June but still eye-popping because he was off the fundraising circuit at home during his trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Obama's Internet-powered fundraising efforts have shattered all previous records for a presidential campaign, bringing in a total of $390 million so far. The Illinois senator has announced he will forgo public financing for the general election, giving up $84 million in taxpayer dollars for the final two months of the campaign and committing himself to a steady pace of fundraising.

By contrast, Republican candidate John McCain has raised just $140 million and has agreed to accept public financing for the general election and the spending restraints that come with it. Unlike Obama, McCain will not feel the intense pressure to raise money in the fall.

Though lagging Obama in fundraising, McCain has remained competitive because of the Republican National Committee's success in attracting donations.

On Friday, McCain's campaign said the presumed GOP nominee had raised $27 million in July, his biggest monthly haul since clinching the party's nomination. McCain's campaign reported having $21 million available to spend.

The RNC said Friday it had brought in nearly $26 million in July and had $75 million on hand to compete with the Democrats. Much of that money has come through fundraisers by President Bush, unpopular nationally but still a potent draw among those who donate to the GOP.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Saturday that 65,000 new donors contributed to the Obama campaign in July and that more than 2 million had now given Obama money for his presidential bid. The large pool of donors also means a larger number of people to ask for more money in the future.

McCain's campaign said it has logged 600,000 donors.

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McCain Says No To Choice: 'I Will Be A Pro-Life President'

If you're pro-choice, John McCain isn't for you. Here he is earlier tonight at the Saddleback forum:

I have a 25 year record pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate, and as President of the United States I will be a pro-life president, and this presidency will have pro-life policies. That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you.

Too bad he isn't pro-life when it comes to war.


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Top CEOs Give 10 Times More To McCain Than Obama; McCain Promises Huge Tax Breaks For Them In Return

The Hill reports that the CEOs of the 100 biggest Fortune 500 corporations have given approximately 10 times as much to John McCain as they have to Barack Obama. McCain has received $208,200 from these chief executive officers; meanwhile, Obama has taken in $20,400 from the same group of people:

In 2004, the difference between the Republican and the Democratic candidates was much less pronounced in terms of Fortune 100 donations. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) nearly kept pace with President Bush.

Among the same 100 individuals, the vast majority of whom were in their current positions in 2004, Kerry raised nearly three-quarters of what Bush did. Kerry brought in $74,500 from the business leaders, while Bush raised $103,200. The difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates this election is more clear-cut, with McCain’s 10-to-1 advantage over Obama.

McCain has cultivated support from mega-corporations by promising to dole out huge tax breaks in return should he win the presidency. As the Wonk Room reported in June, McCain’s plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent would yield $45 billion in tax breaks for the 200 largest corporations:

Eight companies — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Bank of America Corp., AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Microsoft Corp. — would each receive over $1 billion a year.

McCain would deliver about $4 billion in tax cuts to the five largest oil companies. He would also hand over $2 billion to the top 10 health insurance companies. Unlike the highest-rung of the corporate ladder, much of the rest of Wall Street refuses to be bought off. Those employees are giving more to Obama than to McCain.

While McCain caters to the rich, Barack Obama’s tax plan “offers three times the break for middle class families” than the proposals of John McCain. To clarify the contrast in the two candidates’ plans, consider this fact: John and Cindy McCain would reap over $300,000 from McCain’s own tax plan. By contrast, both the Obamas and McCains would receive a substantial, albeit much smaller, savings under Obama’s plan (see a comparison here).

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Ohio's Election Stolen Again? State May Face 600K Voter Purge in Coming Weeks

Voting rights attorneys say hundreds of thousands of voters could be purged from voter rolls.

Editor's note: In 2004, election integrity activists challenged the results of Ohio's presidential election before the Ohio Supreme Court, and convinced Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to challenge the state's Electoral College vote before a joint session of Congress. The reaction by Ohio's then Republican-controlled Legislature was to enact a series of election reforms that punished likely Democratic voters. Some of the laws adopted were later thrown out in court, such as penalizing voter registration drives. But others, including a technical process to require certain voters to prove their registrations are valid on Election Day -- or lose their right to vote, remain in effect. Two of the nation's top voting rights groups, Advancement Project and Project Vote, this week reported 600,000 Ohio voters could be effected. This article is a combination of the releases both groups issued this week. George W. Bush beat John Kerry by nearly 119,000 votes in Ohio in 2004. -- Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet Democracy and Elections editor.

Columbus, Ohio August 13, 2008 -- Nearly 600,000 eligible Ohio voters may be dropped from the voter rolls if Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner doesn't act to protect these voters, according to findings based on publicly available information discovered by Advancement Project and Project Vote.

These voters -- disproportionately voters of color and young voters -- are subject to being removed from Ohio's voter registration rolls without notice or a hearing because of the state's vague regulations on vote caging, a process that enables representatives of one political party to challenge the voter registration credentials of voters at polling places on Election Day.

The Ohio counties with largest numbers of returned notices prior to March 2008 Presidential Primary are Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit, where Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo are located.

The mechanism of caging or challenging voters dates back to legislation passed soon after the 2004 presidential election.

In 2005, Ohio's General Assembly introduced legislation, House Bill 3 (H.B.3) that overhauled Ohio's election system. H.B. 3, in part, requires voter information mailings and amends Ohio's challenge statute(s). In particular, it requires that 88 county boards of election mail all Ohio registered voters a non-forwardable notice 60 days before the election. Each board must compile into a list any notices that are returned as undeliverable. These lists, in turn, are available as public records to any individual or group seeking to use the list as a "caging list" to challenge voters.

The amended challenge law no longer requires the county boards to provide Ohio voters with notice that they are being removed from the voting rolls or a hearing for them to defend themselves of a challenge. Rather, the Ohio law permits the boards to review their own records and make a determination to the validity of the challenge.

This law was effective beginning 2006 and covers all primary, general, and special elections from 2006 through the November 2008 General Election. Advancement Project finds it extremely interesting, that this law "sunsets" effective January 1, 2009.

"A single returned piece of mail is not a reliable basis for challenging the right to vote," said Donita Judge, Ohio staff attorney, Advancement Project. "Mail may be returned for many reasons, including errors in the database from which the mailing is derived, errors in the mailing labels, failure to include an apartment number or poor matching criteria."

Advancement Project and Project Vote would like to see the Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, issue a directive prohibiting Ohio electors from challenging Ohio voters whose name appear on any returned mailings and/or any past, current or future caging list. This is the best remedy to ensure that all Ohio voters are treated in a uniform manner during the November 2008 election because it permits the county boards to send out information to Ohio voters and at the same time ensures that all voters are permitted to vote without the threat of being placed on a list that is subject to challenge for no other reason than a returned mailing.

"Partisan, challengers who have obtained a list of returned letters shouldn't be allowed to strip Ohio voters of their right to update their addresses" said Teresa James, attorney with Project Vote. The lack of notice to challenged voters under Ohio's 2006 challenge law allows this interference to take place quietly and behind closed doors. This violates the principles our nation was founded on. It is imperative that Secretary Brunner establish guidelines so that partisan challengers will not be permitted to lodge unfounded challenges that clog the election process, burden poll workers and disenfranchise eligible voters."

Ohio's current law is internally inconsistent. For instance, Ohio law permits voters who move from one precinct to another to change their address from 28-days prior to the election, up to and including Election Day. Yet, if a voter is challenged and removed from the rolls within 20 days of the Election and their registration is canceled, without notice, this cancels the effectiveness of a voter changing their address since there is no longer a registration on file. It also violates Ohio law and equal protection of the laws because this voter is not provided the same meaningful opportunity to update a valid registration up to and including Election Day as other Ohio voters.

The new election law also unfairly impacts black and Latino Americans and other voters of color. Advancement Project anticipates that significant number of voters of color will be included on the county generated caging lists because census data indicates that they move more frequently than whites. Furthermore, in light of the fact that college students change residences frequently, it is anticipated that large numbers of young voters will be included on the lists as well.

"Voter suppression and intimidation is driven by a desire to maintain the status quo, concluded Judge." "These acts are carried out in an effort to deprive certain Americans, especially those most marginalized, of a voice in our democracy. Election Day is the great equalizer -- it is the one day where if all was right in our democracy, it would not matter if a person is rich, poor, black, white, educated or not, we all would have the same amount of power."

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Old legal feuds divided, linked McCain and ex-wife

This Sunday, May 13, 2007 file photo  shows  Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as he talks to reporters after appearing on NBC's 'Meet the Press' with his mother, Roberta McCain, left,  in Washington.  Republican presidential candidate John McCain's divorce was amicable enough that he and his ex-wife jointly brought a lawsuit 10 years later to recover damages for lost mementos, but it wasn't amicable enough to prevent McCain's mother from suing his ex-wife to get back some personal property. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, file)By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - An old lawsuit on record at the city courthouse reveals a moment of friction between John McCain's mother and his ex-wife. Years later, McCain and his former wife presented a united front in a lawsuit of their own.

McCain, the Republican candidate for president, calls the first lawsuit a mistake and says he never authorized the second. Both legal actions were settled out of court before they went to trial.

Curiously, although the records clearly list the plaintiffs, McCain's campaign says his mother's 1980 lawsuit was filed "unintentionally" and that the Arizona senator didn't know about or authorize the 1990 lawsuit with his ex-wife, Carol. And McCain's 96-year-old mother, Roberta, says she never sued Carol.

Others involved dispute those assertions.

In the 1980 lawsuit, filed shortly after John and Carol McCain divorced, Roberta sued Carol to reclaim some personal property, including paintings, a needlepoint screen and a pair of earrings. A settlement was reached in 1981.

In a brief telephone interview, Roberta denied filing the lawsuit.

"I have never heard of what you're talking about. ... I will put my hand on a Bible," she said, to attest that she had never sued Carol.

Roberta's denial prompted laughter from her former daughter-in-law.

"Yes, she sued me," Carol said in a brief phone interview.

Roberta's lawsuit sought personal property she claimed Carol was refusing to return. The disputed items included an "18th century Burmise Buddist Preist (Burmese Buddhist priest)" valued by Roberta at $2,000, and a "Butlers Tray for Liquor" she valued at $225.

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said in an e-mail, "Of course, by all accounts the divorce was completely amicable. After John and Carol McCain's divorce, there was apparently some confusion about belongings that were Roberta McCain's but we understand the court papers were unintentionally filed, and the matter never went further in the legal system. It went nowhere, and was of no consequence."

In the 1990 lawsuit, John and Carol McCain jointly sought $1 million in punitive damages after a property management firm mistakenly threw out some McCain family treasures from a garage the McCains shared with an adjacent townhouse. The lost items included letters McCain wrote to his wife as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

In his e-mail, Bounds said McCain "had no knowledge of the suit: He did not authorize the suit or participate in its filing."

But the lawyer who represented the McCains said she did indeed speak to McCain and get his permission to sue on his behalf.

"You can be sure that I talked to and got the permission of any client who is listed as a plaintiff," said attorney Barbara P. Beach.

It would be a serious violation to file an unauthorized lawsuit, and "I haven't been disbarred yet," Beach said with a laugh.

Beach said she's not surprised, though, that McCain doesn't remember the case. She recalled that Carol was much more deeply involved.

"I don't think it took more than 15 minutes of his time," Beach said. "The fact that they don't remember it doesn't bother me."

The 1990 lawsuit lists five pages of lost property, including autographed pictures of U.S. presidents, Super Bowl programs from every year the game was played and a Chinese Foo dog sculpture.

Some were surely items the family considered priceless: photos of McCain's grandfather alongside Gen. Douglas MacArthur when the Japanese surrendered in World War II, the letters McCain wrote as a POW and the press clippings documenting his release.

Much of the property appears to be memorabilia of Carol's days running the White House Visitors Office under President Reagan, including several dozen wooden Easter eggs from the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, signed by such celebrities as Burt Reynolds and Brooke Shields.

The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

According to court papers, when the townhouse next door to the McCains' townhouse changed hands, a property management firm mistakenly threw everything out of the garage, unaware that half the garage belonged to the McCains.

By 1990, only Carol lived in Alexandria, but she and her ex-husband continued to jointly own the property.

The defendants argued the McCains were out of line in seeking punitive damages because there was no evidence anybody acted maliciously.

Darren McKinney, a spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association, said, "Plaintiffs' lawyers will routinely ask for significant damages to try and prompt a settlement."

Carol said she had no interest in discussing details of the two lawsuits.

"What possible difference could it make? It was all 25 years ago," she said. "I wish him well, but I don't talk to reporters."

In his autobiography, McCain has taken responsibility for the breakup of his marriage. Carol was friendly with prominent Republicans and civic leaders, including the Reagans and billionaire H. Ross Perot, who at times treated John McCain coolly after the divorce.

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GOP Hack Tries To Attack Obama, But Slams McCain Instead

GOP strategist John Feehery attacks Barack Obama for proposing a UN Security Council resolution to deal with the crisis in Georgia...but John McCain has the exact same position.

It provided for a funny moment on Hardball -- but only if you knew the facts. Unfortunately, neither host David Shuster nor Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis knew the truth, so nobody corrected the record.

Here's video of Feehery's errant attack, along with McCain taking the exact same position Feehery was skewering.


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U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules

Washington Post Staff Writers

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years.

The proposed changes would revise the federal government's rules for police intelligence-gathering for the first time since 1993 and would apply to any of the nation's 18,000 state and local police agencies that receive roughly $1.6 billion each year in federal grants.

Quietly unveiled late last month, the proposal is part of a flurry of domestic intelligence changes issued and planned by the Bush administration in its waning months. They include a recent executive order that guides the reorganization of federal spy agencies and a pending Justice Department overhaul of FBI procedures for gathering intelligence and investigating terrorism cases within U.S. borders.

Taken together, critics in Congress and elsewhere say, the moves are intended to lock in policies for Bush's successor and to enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era.

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Supporters say the measures simply codify existing counterterrorism practices and policies that are endorsed by lawmakers and independent experts such as the 9/11 Commission. They say the measures preserve civil liberties and are subject to internal oversight.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration agrees that it needs to do everything possible to prevent unwarranted encroachments on civil liberties, adding that it succeeds the overwhelming majority of the time.

Bush homeland security adviser Kenneth L. Wainstein said, "This is a continuum that started back on 9/11 to reform law enforcement and the intelligence community to focus on the terrorism threat."

Under the Justice Department proposal for state and local police, published for public comment July 31, law enforcement agencies would be allowed to target groups as well as individuals, and to launch a criminal intelligence investigation based on the suspicion that a target is engaged in terrorism or providing material support to terrorists. They also could share results with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and others in many cases.

Criminal intelligence data starts with sources as basic as public records and the Internet, but also includes law enforcement databases, confidential and undercover sources, and active surveillance.

Jim McMahon, deputy executive director of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the proposed changes "catch up with reality" in that those who investigate crimes such as money laundering, drug trafficking and document fraud are best positioned to detect terrorists. He said the rule maintains the key requirement that police demonstrate a "reasonable suspicion" that a target is involved in a crime before collecting intelligence.

"It moves what the rules were from 1993 to the new world we live in, but it maintains civil liberties," McMahon said.

However, Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposed rule may be misunderstood as permitting police to collect intelligence even when no underlying crime is suspected, such as when a person gives money to a charity that independently gives money to a group later designated a terrorist organization.

The rule also would allow criminal intelligence assessments to be shared outside designated channels whenever doing so may avoid danger to life or property -- not only when such danger is "imminent," as is now required, German said.

On the day the police proposal was put forward, the White House announced it had updated Reagan-era operating guidelines for the U.S. intelligence community. The revised Executive Order 12333 established guidelines for overseas spying and called for better sharing of information with local law enforcement. It directed the CIA and other spy agencies to "provide specialized equipment, technical knowledge or assistance of expert personnel" to support state and local authorities.

And last week, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said that the Justice Department will release new guidelines within weeks to streamline and unify FBI investigations of criminal law enforcement matters and national security threats. The changes will clarify what tools agents can employ and whose approval they must obtain.

The recent moves continue a steady expansion of the intelligence role of U.S. law enforcement, breaking down a wall erected after congressional hearings in 1976 to rein in such activity.

The push to transform FBI and local police intelligence operations has triggered wider debate over who will be targeted, what will be done with the information collected and who will oversee such activities.

Many security analysts faulted U.S. authorities after the 2001 terrorist attacks, saying the FBI was not combating terrorist plots before they were carried out and needed to proactively use intelligence. In the years since, civil liberties groups and some members of Congress have criticized the administration for unilaterally expanding surveillance and moving too fast to share sensitive information without safeguards.

Critics say preemptive law enforcement in the absence of a crime can violate the Constitution and due process. They cite the administration's long-running warrantless-surveillance program, which was set up outside the courts, and the FBI's acknowledgment that it abused its intelligence-gathering privileges in hundreds of cases by using inadequately documented administrative orders to obtain telephone, e-mail, financial and other personal records of U.S. citizens without warrants.

Former Justice Department official Jamie S. Gorelick said the new FBI guidelines on their own do not raise alarms. But she cited the recent disclosure that undercover Maryland State Police agents spied on death penalty opponents and antiwar groups in 2005 and 2006 to emphasize that the policies would require close oversight.

"If properly implemented, this should assure the public that people are not being investigated by agencies who are not trained in how to protect constitutional rights," said the former deputy attorney general. "The FBI will need to be vigilant -- both in its policies and its practices -- to live up to that promise."

German, an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. In addition to the Maryland case, he pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered.

"If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," German said. "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."

Civil liberties groups also have warned that forthcoming Justice Department rules for the FBI may permit the use of terrorist profiles that could single out religious or ethnic groups such as Muslims or Arabs for investigation.

Mukasey said the changes will give the next president "some of the tools necessary to keep us safe" and will not alter Justice rules that prohibit investigations based on a person's race, religion or speech. He said the new guidelines will make it easier for the FBI to use informants, conduct physical and photographic surveillance, and share data in intelligence cases, on the grounds that doing so should be no harder than in investigations of ordinary crimes.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that updating police intelligence rules is a move "in the right direction. However, the vagueness of the provisions giving broad access to criminal intelligence to undefined agencies . . . is very troubling."

Staff writers Joby Warrick and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

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Why Didn’t McCain Call Ralph Reed To Testify During Abramoff Investigation?

reed.gif On the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) often touts his work fighting corruption, highlighting the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation he led into the Jack Abramoff scandal. In May, he bragged:

I led the Abramoff investigation. I saved the American people — excuse me, not only American people, but native Americans, millions — hundreds of millions — millions and millions of dollars.

In particular, the committee put out a 357-page report on its findings. Mentioned on at least 38 pages is former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, who assisted Abramoff in overbilling Indian tribal clients out of millions of dollars.

Yet on Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be attending a fundraiser in Atlanta, which Reed is helping to organize. Reed “touted himself as a member of McCain’s ‘Victory 2008 Team’ in an e-mail that solicited donations on McCain’s behalf.” McCain has refused calls by ethics watchdog organizations to denounce Reed and cancel the fundraiser.

In a Democratic National Committee conference call today, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) questioned why McCain would want to associate himself with someone who was “tied up in a gambling scandal.” He noted, however, that McCain has never been particularly tough on Reed — he never even called him to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during its investigation:

I give John McCain credit for having exposed Jack Abramoff, when he held hearings in the Senate Committee on Native Americans. But he never called Ralph Reed. And our committee did a further investigation of the Abramoff contacts with the White House, and we found Ralph Reed an active participant in trying to influence the White House for Abramoff’s clients.

Listen here:

In reality, McCain’s report on the Abramoff scandal was also far weaker than it should have been; it steered clear of any connections between Abramoff and McCain’s conservative Senate colleagues, even though many of them were complicit in the lobbyist’s schemes. Additionally, during McCain’s investigation, Abramoff’s old firm — Greenberg Traurig — hired McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann “for advice on handling the Senate investigation.” Scheunemann also advised McCain during the 2000 election.

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ExxonMobil owns the media’s convention coverage.

As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, ExxonMobil is sponsoring CNN’s coverage of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. We also noted that CBS’s political coverage is sponsored by ExxonMobil. Now, it appears that National Journal has also opened its doors to Big Oil sponsorship, announcing on its website that its coverage of the 2008 conventions will be “presented by ExxonMobil”:

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