PAUL RYAN’S GOP OPPONENT IS AN INVENTION
Virginia political operative creates Nehlen campaign
By Mark Belling
July 20, 2016
The Freeman, Waukesha County, Wisconsin
My longtime panelist on my old TV show “Belling and Company” Walter Farrell must have barked every other week: “it’s about the money, Mark. It’s always about the money.” It was hilarious because he was always right. And, Walter’s explanation is the only one that holds water for the weirdest political campaign of the summer – the bizarre challenge in next month’s Republican primary to House Speaker Paul Ryan by an odd duck that nobody has ever heard of and even fewer have ever seen.
The overwhelming evidence is that “candidate” Paul Nehlen’s “campaign” exists almost entirely so a shady operative from Virginia can make money. Let’s follow the money.
Dan Backer, who lists a business address of Arlington, Va., sets up myriad political action committees, or PACs, to support supposedly conservative causes and candidates. By law, these PACs don’t have to disclose where their money is coming from or how they spend most of it. This is different from actual candidate campaigns, which have to spell out everything. Paul Nehlen and his weird campaign against Ryan seem to exist for the sole purpose of allowing Dan Backer to set up a PAC.
PACs can spend money pretty much however they want. Some legitimately pump almost all of their money into supporting specific candidates. But others exist primarily to pay the salaries of the people who set up [the PACs. Dan Backer, by all indications, pays himself a huge pile of money to run all of the PACs he sets up. Fake campaign finance reformer Russ Feingold did the same thing after he was voted out of office six years ago. He set up a PAC and immediately put former staffers on its payroll, essentially paying them to continue to do the political work of Russ Feingold.
The Backer-Nehlen connection gets even slimier. If you look at the sparse federal filings of Paul Nehlen’s campaign, you see a couple of addresses of Alexandria, Va. That’s the same place Dan Backer’s PACs are based. And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice recently reported that Backer is actually the campaign treasurer for Nehlen! So, following the money, Backer sets up a PAC to back Nehlen and then sets himself up as the treasurer of the actual Nehlen campaign. Federal law prohibits coordination between a PAC and a campaign and Backer’s people are quoted in the Journal Sentinel as saying Backer doesn’t know what the PAC he started for Nehlen is doing for Nehlen. OK.
The Journal Sentinel story effectively exposed Virginia’s Dan Backer as the ventriloquist to Paul Nehlen’s dummy. But it doesn’t stop there. Everywhere Dan Backer pops up so do a handful of other figures. Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has endorsed Nehlen and magically seems to show up in support of other Backer-invented candidates. The Breitbart website, which has veered sharply to the weird since the death of its founder, constantly promotes stories attacking the candidates Backer’s PACs are opposing.
Remember Walter Farrell’s manta. “It’s about the money, Mark. It’s always about the money.” Backer has set up a powerful alliance with prominent voices on the right to promote the agenda he is pushing and the candidates his PACs are backing. A website called opensecrets.org has reported that one of the PACs set up to supposedly back Paul Nehlen has spent virtually all of its money paying the PAC’s staff and expenses.
Where does the money come from? Donors. Of course, we don’t know who the donors are because PACs don’t have to spell them out. No doubt much of the money comes from sincere conservatives who respond to flashy fundraising appeals. These folks probably have no idea that much of the money goes to salaries and expenditures of political operatives and that the actual candidates and causes may exist solely for the purpose of inducing people to give money.
But that might not be all. It’s hard not to notice that virtually every politician Backer attacks is a prominent Republican. John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and now Paul Ryan are among Backer’s targets. There’s nothing wrong with going after leaders of the Republican establishment who don’t advance a conservative agenda aggressively enough and I have spent much of my own career doing just that. But the reality is that the people who benefit most from constant demonizing of Republican leaders are liberals. How much of Backer’s money is coming from leftist interests? It’s a legitimate question and one that could win some intrepid reporter a Pulitzer Prize if they actually started digging into who is giving money to self-styled “tea party” and other groups that purport to be conservative but do nothing but attack actual conservatives.
Sincere conservative individuals are donating their money to groups that claim to care about their interests. Some of these groups are above board and do outstanding work. But others, dubbed “scamPACs,” exist to make money for their operators and attack the leaders of the conservative movement. There’s a reason nobody knows anything about Paul Nehlen. He’s essentially a mirage. He’s an invention of a guy who is in it for himself.
(Mark Belling is the host of a daily WISN radio talk show. His column runs Wednesdays in The Freeman.)
Kasich With all that was happening on this Sunday afternoon, it was pretty easy to have missed Governor John Kasich addressing the NAACP Convention in Cincinnati. It’s less than 15 minutes and worth your time, the Governor is pragmatic and thoughtful. Republicans need to do more of this.
The above appeared in the December 26, 2011 issue of Human Events magazine/newspaper. To be clear, Sarah Palin is unserious, and she is not to be taken seriously. She has done great damage to the conservative intellectual brand. However, anyone paying serious attention right now, will understand why this is so interesting.
Moving Forward in 2016 and Beyond
by Steve Parkhurst
Now that the pageantry of the Presidential nomination process is behind us, it is time to focus on the November elections and the future of our movement and our party.
Twenty years ago this August, Jack Kemp accepted the nomination for Vice President at the Republican convention in San Diego. In accepting the 1996 nomination, Kemp said, “The purpose of a truly great party is to provide superior ideas, principled leadership and a compelling cause.” Kemp continued, “Our convention is not just the meeting of a political party; our convention is a celebration of ideas. Our goal is not just to win, but to be worthy of winning.”
A lot has happened in the last twenty years. The global landscape is remarkably different. After another bruising Presidential primary season, one unworthy of our country and our party, it is time to move toward November united and ready to do battle.
The presidential contest is but one race on the ballot come November. Many people will not be happy with the choice at the top of their ballot. Over the next five-plus months, perhaps feelings will change and a vision will be accepted. Up and down ballots across America, citizens will choose members of the United States Senate and Congress, members of state legislatures or assemblies, and many of the leaders of tomorrow.
In the wake of the presidential contest which will leave some people bitter and disappointed, it is important to identify and support the candidates for other offices who offer the “compelling cause” that our party represents. There are many great candidates worthy of your support.
These candidates view economic growth and opportunity as the best path out of poverty. The candidates rebuke the idea that redistributing income and wealth is the way forward. These candidates are adopting the philosophy of Arthur Brooks to “fight for people, not against things.” These candidates see Washington D.C. not as a reasonable partner who can assist people and communities to find local solutions, but instead as the albatross that it has become, one which stifles innovation and advancement with regulations and obstacles.
As we seek, identify and support candidates who want to embrace this vision of localism, it will be important to assure that we have intelligent, innovative thinkers and policy entrepreneurs ready to work as we devolve power back to states, counties and cities, along with other localities. It will also be vital to have neighborhood healers identified and at the ready, these are the people and organizations who can replace functions previously dominated by governments, with tested methods that get results.
This is the heart of what Alexis de Tocqueville observed about America when his observations were published back in 1835: An America where neighbor looked after neighbor and associations and churches handled many of the tasks too burdensome for any one neighbor, with a speed and efficiency that would be foreign to the bureaucracy of today.
This April, Governor John Kasich presented us with an optimistic vision in which “America’s supposed decline becomes its finest hour, because we came together to say ‘no’ to those who would prey on our human weakness and instead chose leadership that serves, helping us look up, not down.”
This is the sort of vision we now need going into November. This is not the time to buy into the doom and gloom scenarios. This is the time to go into communities that are different from ours and really engage people about the American idea. Some of these might be communities where Democrats own the landscape and Republicans never dare enter. When we never show up to present our case, it is that much easier for the Democrats to label us however they choose. We need to start laying the foundations of trust in these communities right now, today.
The challenge before us now is to put our “compelling cause” on full display for the nation to see. This can be done, and it can be done by each one of us, back home, in our own communities and neighborhoods. Speaker Paul Ryan is a model for us to follow. The Speaker is putting forth pragmatic solutions for the America of today, and doing it with a manner consistent with our timeless principles.
If we had met the challenge of 1996 in a manner similar to that presented above, perhaps fewer of us would be disappointed by what happened in the presidential primary this year, and maybe even fewer of us would be as shell-shocked.
A party “worthy of winning” will take up the Jack Kemp challenge twenty years later and finally start to do the work necessary to advance the American idea.
Mort Kondracke has responded to the pitiful hit piece by the New York Times and “writer” Tim Noah. See Peter Robinson’s entire post here for the complete story.
By Peter Robinson for Ricochet
Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes have just published a marvelous book, Jack Kemp, the Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America. Reviewing the book today, the New York Times slams it. Not only did the Kemp-Roth tax cut legislation of 1981 fail to do any good, Tim Noah, the reviewer, insists, but the legislation — the centerpiece, you will recall, of Reagan’s first-term economic reforms — proved “a disaster.”
Although the most genial of men, Mort Kondracke is fighting back. Below, a reply that he sent to a couple of dozen of his friends, asking us to publish it wherever we could. Honored to have been on that list, I hereby comply, and–as you are about to see, Mort’s takedown of Noah’s slovenly work is a thing of beauty — I do so with relish.
By Morton M. Kondracke
I feared that The New York Times would assign a Reagan-hater to review Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America. Mercifully, it didn’t pick Paul Krugman, who would have been savage. Instead, it chose Tim Noah, now of Politico, whose review is polite, just misguided.
First thing, he labels both me and co-author Fred Barnes “right of center,” which Fred definitely is, but I’m not. “Mushy moderate” is Fred’s characterization of me. Moderate Independent is what I call myself. He gets it wrong that Kemp passed his tax bill in 1978; it didn’t happen til 1981. He has Kemp serving as HHS Secretary under Bush 1; it was HUD. And he dismisses Kemp, whose life and political career were devoted to ideas, optimism, growth, civil rights and fighting poverty, as proof that “nice guys finish last.” That’s to throw cold water on the idea that Kemp could be (as we hope) a model for ever-warring contemporary politicians.
But the big policy beef I have with the review is the assertion that Kemp’s signal achievement—the across-the-board supply-side tax cut proposal (“Kemp-Roth”) that became the basis of Reaganomics– “was a disaster.”
According to Noah, “it inaugurated two decades of sky-high budget deficits, accelerated a nascent growth trend in income inequality and did (depending on who you ask) little or nothing to ease the brutal 16-month recession that began around the same time the bill was passed.”
Noah systematically ignores the great economic turn-around in that Reagan achieved in the 1980s, using Kemp-Roth and then the 1986 tax reform partially developed by Kemp. He barely refers to the pre-Reagan 1970s — the era of “stagflation,” the “misery index” (unemployment up to 9 percent and inflation, 13.5 percent) and growth rates averaging 1.6 percent per year (vs. the post-war norm of 3.6 percent.)
Noah is right that the 1981-83 recession was brutal. It was caused by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker’s successful efforts to crush inflation by raising interest rates above 20 percent. Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts, lowering the top rate from 70 percent to 50 and the middle-income rate from 37 percent to 23, did not take full effect until the end of the recession.
Afterwards, there was a boom, not a disaster. The economy grew 7.8 percent in 1983, 5.6 percent in 1984, 4.3 percent in 1985 and averaged 4.5 percent for the rest of Reagan’s presidency and 3.7 percent through 2000. (See for yourself here.) The misery index dropped from a high of 23 in 1980 to 7.7 in 1986 and 9.7 in 1989. (Again, see for yourself.)
Sixteen million jobs were created during the Reagan years, a record exceeded only by Bill Clinton’s 22.9 million. (Clinton raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent in 1993, but reduced the capital gains tax rate from 28 percent to 20 percent, a distinctly supply side action.) In terms of percentage gains in job numbers, Clinton scored 20.8 percent, Reagan 17.7. Barack Obama, as of the end of 2014, had produced only a 4.3 percent increase. But George W. Bush trails all recent presidents with just a one percent increase, raising legitimate questions about the Republican party’s belief that tax cuts are the solution to every problem. Tax reform, lowering rates and eliminating loopholes, is a good idea, though.
Back to Reagan: in 1979, only 13 percent of American adults were satisfied with the way things were going in the country, according to the Gallup poll. [“Satisfaction on Rise in U.S., Gallup Poll Finds” by Michael R. Kagay, New York Times, 25 Dec 1988, p. 18.] That number reached its highest-ever point, 66 percent, in March 1986 and was at 59 percent when Reagan left office.
Noah is correct to say that deficits expanded under Reagan, increasing the gross federal debt from $909 billion in 1980 to $2.9 trillion in 1989, or from 33.4 percent of GDP to 53.1 percent. But falling revenues do not account for the increase, averaging 18.2 percent a year, about the historic average (in spite of the tax rate cuts.) Spending increased dramatically, from 20 percent of GDP during the 1970s to 22.2 percent under Reagan. By comparison, the gross debt increased under Bush 43 from $5.6 trillion (57.3 percent of GDP) to $11.8 trillion (84.2 percent) and has gone from there to $19.3 trillion so far under Obama (to 102.7 percent of GDP). (The figures are all right here.)
Reagan’s increased outlays were mainly for defense — part of the “peace through strength” strategy that eventually toppled the Soviet Union — and for interest on the national debt, which had to be repayed in non-inflated dollars.
As to income inequality, everyone should read Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler’s debunking article, “Elizabeth Warren’s claim that the bottom 90 percent got ‘zero percent’ of wage growth after Reagan.” (October 23). As Kessler wrote: “Families in the top 1 percent saw their after-tax income triple from 1970 to 2011, but other groups saw a sizable improvement in household incomes” when taxes and income transfers like the Earned Income Tax Credit are counted. The Congressional Budget Office calculated that Americans in the bottom fifth of incomes gained 50 percent and those in the middle fifth, 36 percent.
Reagan (and Kemp) actually increased the progressivity of the US tax structure. In 1980, the top marginal income tax rate (paid by those making over $215,000 ) was 70 percent. And those people paid 19 percent of all income taxes. People in the middle bracket (making $30,000 a year) paid at a rate of 37 percent (the Clinton and Obama top rate). After Reagan (with help from Kemp) had passed the 1981 and 1986 tax cuts, those at the top were paying at a rate of 28 percent , but paying 55 percent of income taxes. Those below $30,000 paid a tax of 15 percent, but the personal exemption was raised to $2,000 and the standard deduction to $5,000, reducing their tax burden. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers paid just 5.8 percent of all income taxes. (Yet again, take a look.)
Finally, Noah ignores the fact (see page 45 of our book) that Kemp modeled Kemp-Roth on proposals made by John F. Kennedy in 1962 and enacted after his death, dropping the top income tax rate from 90 percent to 70 percent. Kemp loved to quote Kennedy’s speech to the Economic Club of New York: “It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high and tax revenues are too low. And the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now.” Kennedy’s proposals were hailed by Democrats at the time and opposed by Republicans as budget-busting. Most Democrats and practically every liberal (including Tim Noah) have forgotten that history.
The bottom line for me is that Kemp-Roth and Reaganomics worked — economically, politically, and geopolitically. We’re in trouble again as we were in the 1970s. Incomes are flat. Growth is glacial. Voters are furious. Washington is paralyzed. What we need is ideas, not insults and more division. That — plus the fact that Kemp deserved a biography—is why we wrote the book.