I am not a PAC (some people have to be told)

I find it impossible to write about the life issues without also writing about politics, politicians, and public policy. I am not registered with either the Federal Elections Commission or the New Hampshire Secretary of State as a political action committee. I don’t see a problem there. A fellow blogger is discovering that in his case, there IS a problem. He is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to straighten things out.

Noted with alarm: this item from the Wall Street Journal weekend edition of September 7.  To summarize briefly, an Ohio man named Ed Corsi started a political web site in 2008. He blogged. He sponsored meetings. He made flyers and distributed them. He spent money to maintain his site, hold the meetings, and print those flyers. That’s what nailed him, apparently. A local GOP official who was also a member of the board of elections accused Corsi of not printing disclaimers on his flyers as required by law for PACs. Corsi was spending money to influence elections, said the accuser.

Not coincidentally, the GOP official in question had been the subject of criticism from Corsi. Until his own ox was gored, the official apparently was not moved to apply the PAC law to a blog.

This blog isn’t “registered” with anyone aside from WordPress, the blog platform I use. It certainly isn’t a money-making operation yet. It is, however, frankly political. Politics, culture, and the right to life are inextricably linked. I didn’t link them myself.

Does that make me a “political action committee”? Somehow, I doubt that the first advocates of campaign finance reform had writers in mind – even opinionated writers. Imagine the writers of the Federalist Papers, anonymous (“Publius”) even though their identities are now known to history, being hauled into court for not having disclaimers on their appeals for ratification of the Constitution. Granted, they were promoting ballot questions rather than candidates. The principle is the same: writers supporting one side or another in a political question should not have to register with the government.

So I’m not registering. I’m writing. And I’m keeping an eye on the Corsi case.

Among “disruptive Republicans”: blogging from Red State, day 1

How do “pro-life” and “conservative” fit together? They’re not quite synonymous. Here at Red State Gathering 2013, I am definitely in a conservative group. We’re hearing from some elected officials (Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, Bobby Jindal), as well as from some challengers who hope to take out less-conservative Republicans in upcoming elections. I came here to New Orleans to hear for myself where the right to life figures into these speeches. So far, it doesn’t. Fair enough; this isn’t a pro-life convention. It’s interesting nonetheless to note what these folks choose to talk about.

(Do any of my readers wonder why I haven’t spent time lately at gatherings of Democrats? Simple: if there’s any division among Democrats over Roe, abortion funding, and abortion regulation, I haven’t seen it.)

Before I ask a candidate anything, I like to listen to his or her stump speech. What does he mention without prompting? What’s left out? That’s as enlightening as anything that comes out in Q & A. Today, among eleven speakers, two themes shared top emphasis: how to get rid of Obamacare, and how to control an overreaching IRS. Good speakers, polished deliveries – and no one mentioned abortion, the HHS mandate, or wars on women. Well, one exception – the chaplain who said the opening prayer was blunt about calling to account all religious leaders who have been silent about abortion out of fear of losing tax-exempt status.

Fine, as far as that goes. As I said, this isn’t a pro-life convention. Still, I wonder how many of these “disruptive Republicans” (in the phrase of Red State’s organizer, Erick Erickson) are prepared to address these matters effectively once Dems go on the attack. Obamacare, IRS abuses, and immigration reform are flashy right now, and every candidate seems to have a position paper ready on those topics. The right to life? Not so much.

A few observations from the day:

  • Senator Ted Cruz was the star of the show, if the size of the press contingent that followed him around is any indication. Cruz was an underdog when he ran for Senate, and he likes to talk about that by way of encouraging fellow conservatives to stick to their guns, figuratively speaking. He wants to de-fund Obamacare, but he acknowledged bluntly that the votes aren’t there in the Senate to make that happen. Not yet, anyway. He exhorted the grassroots to put pressure on Senators.
  • Matt Bevin wants to take on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Tall order, and he knows it. He wants no more debt ceiling increases (a popular stand here) and no amnesty for immigrants arriving illegally (ditto). He mentioned he was brought up in northern New Hampshire, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him in which town.
  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina was asked how he, an African-American, got so many votes from white voters: “I said please.”
  • Obamacare was rhetorically slapped around for eight solid hours today. I’m OK with that. The First Amendment violation inherent in the law is reason enough to ditch it, but I will gladly work alongside anyone who wants to repeal it for any reason.
  • There was exactly one mention of a re-definition of marriage. Candidate Larry Rhoden, who wants to be elected to the U.S. Senate from South Dakota, called re-definition “unacceptable.” One sentence, and then on to the next topic.
  • Two of the most impassioned speakers were people who aren’t running for anything. Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots and Kevin Kookogey of Linchpins of Liberty had personal stories about IRS treatment of their respective groups. Scary stuff.
  • Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was the day’s closing speaker, talking about educational choice. He has irritated some activists with his support for Common Core. When he was questioned sharply about that during Q & A, he stood firm. Rightly or wrongly, he thinks Common Core is fine as long as it’s accepted by a local school board and not imposed from Washington. (Not going there …) In his capacity as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he made a good pitch for Virginia candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

The conference continues for one more day. I’ll post afterward, and I’ll tweet @leaven4theloaf during the day.



Eat your heart out, Fox News: follow me to CPAC for pro-life coverage

I’ll be taking Leaven slightly-outside the Beltway later this week, as I head to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland from Thursday through Saturday, March 14-15-16. There will be hundreds of reporters and bloggers there to follow every word from the rock stars at the main podium. I’m less interested in the rock stars, fascinating though they may be, than I am in the pro-lifers at the event. I am also interested in how politicians who spent all last year calling social issues a “distraction” talk about the pro-life movement now.

Why am I heading down there when I’m not getting paid? Because I honestly believe pro-lifers need to keep an ear to the ground and do their own reporting when politicians have a gathering like this. With all due respect to legacy media and conservative bloggers, news and commentary of interest to pro-life voters often gets lost in the shuffle. What I’ll be watching and listening for:

  • Who mentions social issues in a speech, and who doesn’t? Who writes off or scolds pro-lifers, or uses that dreaded d-word (“Distraction”)?
  • Do any of these potential candidates and policy wonks understand the religious liberty threat posed by Obamacare? Will any of them attack the HHS mandate, which by the way would be a winning issue for any candidate with the gumption to use it?
  • What’s the buzz about New Hampshire’s First-In-The-Nation primary? Many of these speakers will be making the rounds of our Old Home Days in a couple of years, if not earlier. Do they appreciate our state’s role in the process? [Post-CPAC note: this wasn’t addressed at the sessions I attended.]
  • There are three tiers of speakers and presentations at CPAC going on simultaneously, and some of the most interesting events are the less-heralded ones. That’s where the life-issue presentations are hidden, for the most part. I want to shine a light on them.
  • What’s in the exhibit hall, away from the cameras and mics?

And so forth. While I’ll be working from a schedule, I expect to improvise. Major media will cover the A-list speakers, so if I miss Donald Trump in favor of a panel on Obamacare, I won’t worry.

Pro-life, conservative, and Republican are not the same thing, although there is significant overlap. I have a stake in each camp, as a pro-life independent (and recovering Republican) who is conservative in many but not all respects. That’s the perspective I’m bringing to the party this weekend. CPAC is sponsored by the American Conservative Union, its main speakers are high-profile Republicans, and once-and-future candidates for high office will strut their stuff in front of thousands of activists, pitching for votes. I expect to be in blogger heaven.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte is one of the featured speakers Friday morning. [An earlier version of this post mentioned state Rep. Marilinda Garcia as one of the emcees; an updated schedule does not show her name.]

My apologies in advance to my email subscribers; I don’t mean to spam you. I will liveblog each day, and I hope not every update will trigger a message to your inbox. In addition, I’ll have special-feature posts as coverage demands.

Please leave me a comment in the weekend’s posts if you have any questions. You can also contact me via Twitter, @nhflatlander. You can follow Leaven by clicking the button on the blog’s home page, or “like” the Leaven for the Loaf page on Facebook. Tell your friends, too.

O’Keefe: “I’m here to tell you how to do it”

James O’Keefe is a muckraker, prankster, or crusading journalist, depending on  your point of view.  He and his Project Veritas  came to New Hampshire & found that getting a presidential primary ballot was so easy in some towns that even a deceased voter could do it. Governor Lynch and Attorney General Delaney are not fans of O’Keefe & his work. O’Keefe posted on Facebook yesterday that Delaney has “attempted to serve a criminal subpoena” on him.

Lynch & Delaney ought to be thanking O’Keefe. Even if New Hampshire’s election laws are sound, O’Keefe has at the very least shown that the implementation of those laws can be careless. I’d hate to see the state go after O’Keefe without going after the irregularities he highlighted.

I heard O’Keefe speak at SNHU a few months ago. He looked tired. He must have been on a lecture circuit that had kept him on the road for awhile. The hall was full of Tea Partiers who were enthusiastic fans of what O’Keefe had accomplished with his ACORN videos. He took questions after his speech, and someone called out, “What’s your next project?” O’Keefe, the tired kid, replied a bit impatiently, “I’m not here to tell you what I’m doing next. I’m here to tell you how to do it.” He went on to say that he borrowed $2000 on his credit card to get the equipment to make his first video. He didn’t need anyone’s permission. He just acquired the equipment and went to work.

I was impressed. The last thing he wanted was for all of us to tell him how great he was. He wanted us to get busy.

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