The Benghazi “scandal” witchhunt made the world less stable

In a piece yesterday in The Globalist, David Apgar argues that the Republican obsession with drumming up a scandal over Benghazi has forced the United States to disengage further with the world at a dangerous crossroads in history.

Partly as a result of the hearings, the United States has withdrawn its last 100 military personnel from Yemen, a special-forces group that has been productive in disrupting terror plots if not in stabilizing the poorest country in the region.
What explains the withdrawal is the veiled threat that Congress will hobble the State and Defense Departments with investigations as arbitrary, burdensome and costly as the Benghazi hearings every time someone sets fire to a U.S. base or captured U.S. personnel appear in garish jump suits kneeling on video in front of knife-wielding psychopaths.
Neither the Obama Administration nor future U.S. governments can afford the distraction promised for adverse outcomes of useful risks — risks like contributing to the MNF in 1983 and maintaining a presence in Benghazi, the heart of a nascent Libyan polity, in 2012.

Our retreat from Libya very likely reduced our (already very restricted) ability to keep a lid on the tense national situation and to be aware of rapidly developing situations on the ground. The transition fell apart into chaos. Likewise, while I don’t support most of what the United States has been doing in Yemen for years now, I think it was probably preferable that we maintain a physical and diplomatic presence as long as possible during its sputtering transition.

Every president has been skittish about embassy attacks since the Iranian hostage crisis lasted over a year and helped undermine Jimmy Carter politically as he headed into his unsuccessful re-election bid. But that was a pretty huge crises in its own right, without anyone manufacturing one beyond that. In this case, an already tragic event — the death of four Americans including a veteran diplomat — became such a political battleground, despite the facts and despite the lack of a coverup, that the Obama Administration had to be wary of any elevation of risk at any embassy anywhere in the entire Middle East North Africa region.

And so it is that the people accusing Democrats of “running scared” in the world and not “leading” — or whatever nonsense they’re blowing hard about due to their lack of nuanced understanding of world affairs — are the very same people raising the political risk of doing anything in the world so high that retreat is the only option.

Oregon governor resigns in widening ethics scandal

In the interest of fairness (since I write about Republican governor scandals regularly), and because Federal subpoenas have been issued, I should acknowledge that Oregon’s Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber has resigned from office in a fairly bizarre ethics scandal that has been growing since just before he was elected last November to a fourth four-year term (his second and third terms were non-consecutive).

In early October 2014, the initial revelation was that his fiancée — whom he had been dating for about a decade before getting engaged — had once had an illegal Green-Card Marriage to an immigrant in the 1990s, which he claimed not to know about. The crime was past its statute of limitations by the time she was forced to admit it. At first I wondered why this fact was relevant enough for a journalist to investigate, because as violations of the law go, it’s not an egregious or dangerous one, so it just seemed sort of trashy (there was a lot of troubling emphasis on how many marriages she had had and when they had begun dating). But the hints of the bigger problem were starting to emerge, and they seem to have been what motivated reporters to look into her background in the first place.

That problem, which is now at the center of the state and Federal investigations, is that Kitzhaber’s fiancée had been drawing a lot of attention to herself and her romantic relationship, not just by claiming State First Lady status (with a desk in the governor’s offices) but by using that for influence-peddling. In other words, they probably only found the illegal sham marriage because she was making a lot of noise about being the First Lady (before marrying him) and having “access” to the governor, which she (allegedly) has been using to win consulting contracts. That’s a clear ethics law violation.

At the moment, it tentatively looks like Kitzhaber himself might have just shown extremely poor judgment (or turned a blind eye) on multiple fronts, but it’s starting to look pretty hard to see how these actions weren’t on some level visible and acceptable to him. In all likelihood, he was aware of some or all of the transgressions by his partner and failed to stop them or do anything.

After waffling back and forth for several days over the past week, Gov. Kitzhaber resigned on Friday, just a month into his fourth term, handing over the governorship to second-in-line Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, a Democrat, who will serve at least until a November 2016 Special Election is held, whether or not she runs for the job in her own right. She is relatively well known in some select national circles, particularly national LGBT political organizations, (and was probably already slated to seek higher office at some point) because she is openly bisexual, and there are very few out bi politicians in American offices. She is now the nation’s first out bi governor.

Chris Christie’s latest scandal involves EZ Passes

Remember how Christie still believes he’s going to run for president and have a shot? New scandal discovered:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey issued a subpoena to members of the state legislature seeking records related to Baroni’s testimony at a 2013 hearing on the Bridgegate scandal. At that hearing, Baroni disclosed that he possessed E-ZPass customer data showing the traffic histories of constituents of state lawmakers who were interrogating him. Experts tell IBTimes that the disclosure of E-ZPass records appears to have violated state law protecting the privacy of drivers and also raises serious questions about the degree to which government agencies can keep tabs on the comings and goings of citizens.

Do read the full thing. It’s another impressive insight into the constant abuses of power and intimidation that have been hallmarks of the full Christie administration.


Who wants to be … a millionaire Illinois ex-governor?

It’s almost as if some politicians just set out to validate political stereotypes. Just drink in the fact Illinois’s wealthy Republican governor-elect made it one week from the election before the corruption and campaign finance violations came to light.

Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner accepted more than $140,000 worth of campaign donations from executives affiliated with firms in which Illinois pension systems have investments, according to documents reviewed by the International Business Times. The campaign donations flowed to Rauner despite state and federal rules designed to prevent pension investment managers from donating to candidates for public offices that oversee state pension systems. As governor, Rauner will now appoint the trustees who oversee Illinois’ pension investment decisions.

When IBTimes first presented the campaign finance documents to officials at the Illinois State Board of Investment late last week, they said they had never been asked about the donations. Days later, those officials announced they are now conducting a formal review of the system’s private investment managers to see if they complied with campaign finance disclosure requirements.
The SEC’s 2011 “pay-to-play” rule effectively bars executives at firms that earn fees from managing public pension money from donating to candidates for offices that can influence public pension investments. The Illinois governor appoints trustees to the boards overseeing the $40 billion Illinois Teachers Retirement System and the $13 billion Illinois State Board of Investment.

Gov.-elect Rauner is also himself still a partnership stakeholder in a subsidiary of a company he used to run, which also manages public pension money.

I look forward to learning whether Wheaton City Councillor and Lieutenant Governor-elect Evelyn Sanguinetti is cut out to lead a state of 12.9 million people (to Wheaton’s 53,000!) when Gov. Rauner inevitably resigns, is removed by the legislature, or is sent to prison.

I also wonder if, as his hand-picked running mate, she’ll carry through his radical agenda to “reform” Illinois pensions and carve out special anti-union “Right to Work” economic zones, along with other big business goodies disguised as help for small businesses.


New Jersey still no clearer on Charlie Baker’s role in scandal

Weird that the Boston Globe Editorial Board endorsed Charlie Baker for Governor of Massachusetts after the paper’s own coverage back in June about the connections between Baker and the pay-to-play scandals of the Chris Christie Administration in New Jersey:

Baker’s new-found notoriety in the Garden State came to a head when the New Jersey State Investment Council agreed to seek a legal review of the $10,000 donation he made to the New Jersey GOP in May 2011 — just seven months before General Catalyst, the investment firm where he is listed as an “executive in residence” principal, received $15 million from the state’s pension fund.

The council’s decision sparked a series of headlines across the state that has put Baker in the middle of the ongoing media feeding frenzy that is swirling around Christie and his administration.

Just last week, a Washington-based campaign finance watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called on the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New Jersey attorney general, and the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate a possible connection between the donation and the investment.

Here’s a sampling of some of the headlines over the past month: “N.J. pension fund’s investment draws pay-to-play inquiry” is the way the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website,, headlined its story. “Christie administration to investigate pension investment tied to Massachusetts Republican” topped the story in the Newark Star Ledger. The Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record covered the meeting with stories detailing the controversy.

The Inquirer website salted the wounds with a huge photo of Christie on a stage with Baker, then the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee, when the New Jersey governor came to Massachusetts to campaign for him. It also carried a head-shot of Baker farther on in the story, with the phrase “pay-to-play” in the caption. The controversy is also drawing national media. Businessweek ran a piece about the council’s decision, Fortune magazine has weighed in, and CNN’s website has also followed the story.

According to David Sirota, writing in the International Business Times last week, Chris Christie is now actively suppressing information related to the inquiry into Baker’s involvement in the situation in New Jersey.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has helped Charlie Baker with millions of dollars worth of ads supporting his Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign. But that’s not the only way he may be boosting the GOP candidate in the final weeks of a close election: Christie officials are blocking the release of the findings of New Jersey’s pay-to-play investigation into Baker.

The documents being withheld pertain to an investigation of Baker’s $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee. The contributions came just months before Christie officials gave Baker’s company, General Catalyst, a contract to manage New Jersey pension money. New Jersey’s pay-to-play rules prohibit contributions to state parties from “any investment management professional associated” with a firm managing state pension money.

When the campaign donations and subsequent pension contract came to light in May, Democrats criticized Baker, who was then launching his 2014 campaign for governor of Massachusetts. In response, New Jersey launched a formal investigation into Baker’s contributions. The Newark Star-Ledger reported at the time that Christie officials “said the review would take several weeks.”

In a reply to International Business Times’ request for the findings of the audit under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, Christie’s Treasury Department said the request is being denied on the grounds that the documents in question are “consultative and deliberative material.” Despite officials’ assurances in May that the probe would take only weeks, the New Jersey Treasury said in September that the investigation is still “ongoing” — a designation the department says lets it stop the records from being released.

As a reminder: If the governor of Massachusetts has to resign for some reason — which, between scandals and promotions to Federal offices, is pretty common for U.S. governors in general these days — the lieutenant governor becomes Acting Governor of Massachusetts. From New York to Arizona, in the last six years, we’ve seen some pretty terrible lieutenant governors fail to rise to the challenge when suddenly promoted. If Charlie Baker becomes governor, and his term ends unexpectedly early for any reason, his current running mate, anti-gay Karyn Polito, would be the acting governor of Massachusetts.

Confirmed: Ron Paul’s 2012 team bribed a state senator

After a guilty plea this week, we now have confirmation that Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign bribed an elected official $73,000.

A former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty Wednesday to receiving and concealing payments in exchange for switching his support from one presidential candidate to another in the 2012 election, the Justice Department said.

The former lawmaker, Kent Sorenson, resigned from the Iowa Senate last year after an investigation found that he probably violated ethics rules by taking money from presidential campaigns.

Mr. Sorenson, 42, of Milo, Iowa, had been the state chairman for the presidential campaign of Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, but then switched his support to former Representative Ron Paul of Texas just days before the state’s caucus.

In a statement filed with his plea agreement, Mr. Sorensen admitted that he agreed to switch his allegiance in exchange for $73,000 in payments.

Please tell me more about Congressman Paul’s integrity and principles and blah blah blah. Though I suppose that buying elected officials is very free-market and all that.

The fallout began Friday night, as a Paul family insider, Jesse Benton, was forced to resign as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign manager in Kentucky.

Benton has worked in high-ranking positions in Rand Paul’s first Senate bid in 2010 and Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, and he has married into the family, as well. It’s not known whether Benton himself knew about the bribe, but there would be a lot of questions either way, and so he had to go. If he’s cleared, I’m guessing he’ll be back for Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign team, which he had already been slated to join before this scandal broke.

House GOP still valiantly chasing fictional IRS “scandal”

It’s been about a year since the House Republicans made up a scandal from whole cloth, and even less time since it was revealed to have never actually happened (see below). And yet, somehow, this just happened anyway:

The House voted Wednesday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her refusal to testify about the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.

The 231-187 vote attracted just six of the most politically vulnerable Democrats. It was quickly followed by a 250-168 vote calling on Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the Justice Department’s investigation of the Internal Revenue Service scandal.

congress-200At least when they won’t shut up about Benghazi, there’s some room (but not much!) for mystery and debate. In stark contrast, this is a scandal where the precipitating event actually never happened.

I wonder how one goes about covering up something that didn’t happen in the first place?

I’m starting to feel like a broken record just copying & pasting the same post over and over every time news about this comes up:

Did someone forget to tell [insert any Republican here] that it turned out that the supposed IRS “scandal” was made up? Like, not even partially a thing that ever actually happened? Because, you know, the rest of us got that point cleared up quite a while back, last June. As I wrote then:

The so-called IRS scandal just fell apart completely as documents surfaced showing they were also scrutinizing applications for left/liberal/progressive code words, not just tea party code words. In other words, they were doing their jobs, not being partisan.

So why did it take so long for IRS documents showing targeting of progressives to show up after those showing tea party targeting? Oh, no reason, except that House Republicans specifically asked the IRS to audit ONLY its records on tea party groups. So NBD, they just 100% manufactured a fake scandal from thin air.

The IRS doing its job, and applying that equally to both conservative and liberal scofflaws, is not a scandal.