Big Sky, Dark Money

The Frontline special “Big Sky, Big Money” was pretty amazing. The dark money issue isn’t going away- and the cloudier the issue becomes, the longer it will be with us- and it is getting cloudier. But first, I wanted to share a few things about one of the key figures of last night’s broadcast.

Jim Brown, the lawyer for Western Traditions Partnership intrigued me.

From The Atlantic: 

When asked about the documents found in Colorado, Jim Brown, a lawyer for the group, said he was unfamiliar with them.

After being shown some of the documents by Frontline, Brown, in a follow up email, said his review indicated that they appeared to belong to a company called Direct Mail. Direct Mail and Communications is a print shop in Livingston, Montana, run by a one-time key player in WTP and his wife.

Brown urged Frontline to turn over the documents. “If the documents are purported to be what you say they are, then you may knowingly be in possession of stolen property,” Brown wrote.

The records are in the hands of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, which considers them public and reviewable upon request.

Who is this Jim Brown- the Republican Party’s legal counsel- AND the legal counsel to Western Tradition Partnership? The Commissioner of Political Practices website allows you to track who registered lobbyists are working for. The list of his clientele is VERY interesting…

Go ahead. Draw your own conclusions.
It also looks like Christian LeFer is now saying the documents were stolen- the documents they once denied were theirs. From ProPublica:

On Monday, LeFer also confirmed the documents found in a meth house were stolen from his wife’s car and belonged to him and his wife, Allison. The documents included material from outside groups and candidates, and communications between LeFer and candidates. There were surveys of candidates by outside groups and drafts and final copies of mailers marked as being paid for by the campaigns.

LeFer, described as WTP’s director of strategic programming in memos in 2009, said in an email that the boxes of documents were stolen in Colorado in June 2010.

“These stolen documents appear to be a mix of those from my consulting and volunteer work and from my wife’s independently owned and operated mail and printing shop,” wrote LeFer, whose wife runs a company called Direct Mail and Communications in Livingston, Mont. “Both my wife and I have scrupulously endeavored to avoid any possibility of illegal coordination.

“The stolen documents, which were in the process of being transferred to storage when the theft occurred, have been mingled to infer that the work of two separate people is in fact the work of one person and therefore improper. This is false.” (Here is LeFer’s full response.)

Like I said: cloudier.

Gays, Marriage Polls, Jesus and Sally Kern

From the Washington Post:

As New York gears up for its second weekend of same-sex nuptials, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Americans split 50 to 46 percent over whether the state’s law legalizing such unions is a positive or negative outcome. Reactions to the new legislation — like support for legalizing gay marriage in general — range tremendously across generational, political and religious lines.

Americans have grown increasingly accepting of same-sex marriage over the past decade, according to surveys by The Post and ABC,Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others. The public opposed legalizing gay and lesbian unions by a 58 to 36 percent margin in 2006, but the new Post-ABC poll finds a slight majority — 51 percent — saying such marriages should be legal.

New Yorkers- and Americans in general are increasingly favoring marriage equality.  A majority of Montanans now favor domestic partnerships. It’s becoming more clear that there is no threat from the “Gay Menace”. In fact, Virginia, there is no Gay Menace- and no threat.

It is worth noting, however, that the biggest statistical groups who view marriage equality as “Negative” come from “Conservative Republicans” (71%) and “White Evangelical Protestants” (71%).

Most of the weird, anti-gay vitriol comes from “conservatives” (notable exception: Ruben Diaz). The ignorant and hateful things Montana legislators have said on record have been well-documented here and on other sites (not so much in the Montana newspapers) and, you guessed it- they come from elected Republicans.

I have also noticed an element of religious righteousness when the conversation takes place with many “conservatives” whether in person, on tv or the radio. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. I heard it last night on CNN when some Congressional Representatives had to go “pray about” the debt ceiling vote. Now I’m all for prayer, but they seem to be forgetting Matthew 6.5-6…. The point I’m struggling to make here, is that there is an element here that will not give in– not to science, not to reason, not to compassion, not to anything but radical fundamentalism. For them, that would be abandoning God’s Word- and for a fundamentalist/biblical literalist that means Hell- the ultimate fear meme. It’s that faction that concerns me. And it seems to be safely ensconced in the Republican Party.

A perfect example is Oklahoma Republican legislator Sally Kern, who had this to say about gay persons on July 27th:

To me what is hateful is when those people who say ‘you’re born this way, there’s no hope in change, you’re stuck in this, deal with it,’ that is hate. There’s no hope in that…

We’re losing our freedom of conscience. And if the homosexuals get what they want, and as you said it’s not just homosexuality, its immorality or adultery, all of that, but in my opinion the homosexual movement is the tip of the spear. They’re the ones who right now are beating down the door, have their foot in the door, trying to tear down the moral fiber of America. We have to stand up to that. The reason it’s the tip of the spear- you don’t see ‘Adulterers Victory Fund’ out there trying to promote adultery. God’s people got to stand up to this. (emphasis mine)

Here’s what’s disturbing to me about this: She can say these ignorant, hateful things in public, under the protection of free speech-and feel righteous and supported in doing so. Without serious repercussions from her party or other conservatives. In fact, they’ve been portraying themselves as victims. (seriously, watch this) I would love to hear an elected conservative make an “It Gets Better” video. None have done so. I would love to hear the uproar from thoughtful conservatives against the unreasonable lines of thought and logic. It doesn’t happen. Maybe a few gasping voices- but no uproar. That’s a fact.

I don’t want to bash- it’s not productive, but I do want to ask the question: Where are the reasonable voices for equality in the Republican Party? Why don’t we hear from them as much as Sally Kerns or Ann Coulter?

I have strong feelings about Christian Fundamentalism. I am firmly convinced that the enormous richness of scripture- and the whole Christian Tradition- becomes diluted with simplistic personal interpretations and wanton literalism. The Bible is a complex and varied collection of documents and literature- it is not to be simplistically reduced to quick and glib personal statements. Broad themes can be construed, yes, but not without a great deal of thought and research. And most scripture scholars would agree.

I have spent a great deal of my life studying the words and works of Jesus Christ. I have read the Bible- a lot. I have studied scholarly interpretations of scripture and worked with experts in the field- I have three degrees in theology, in fact- and I have never, not once, found a reason to believe Jesus would ever condone this sort of ignorant, non-loving nonsense. That’s not the Jesus I know and love. That particular Jesus is a creation of very frightened, and perhaps even, unenlightened people.

The real Jesus was interested in showing the love of God. He lived for mercy, justice and peace. He died for compassion and integrity and truth. I believe he’s interested in my truth. Not only interested but invested in it. And my truth is this: I am a man who simply wants to love and be loved according to my created, inborn nature- an inborn nature I spent years questioning, examining and reflecting upon.

That’s all. It’s quite simple really. I’m just asking the world to trust the reality of my experience. Arguably, the people I’m speaking of could say the same thing- but I would argue that they’ve abandoned experience in favor of biblical literalism.

There’s also this difference between us: my worldview doesn’t condemn anyone else to eternal fire and damnation. It doesn’t threaten anyone else at all, really. People like Sally Kern may think they’re being threatened, but I think they’re just scared- too scared to look at the reality of life with open hearts. Their hearts are set in stone- immovable, inflexible, afraid.

That’s not the way I want my heart to be. I want it to be open and accepting and generous and kind. I’m happy to let other people give love and receive love wherever they can. Without limits. Because that’s how I believe it works best.

And the good thing? The American People are starting to think so, too.

Rick Perry + Crazy Christianists = Scary

Since it’s Sunday- and most of us spend some time reflecting spiritually on Sunday- I couldn’t help but share the following article about Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas. It comes from the Texas Observer:

A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.

Oh, it gets stranger.

 

 

The movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation. Believers fashion themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. They have taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot.

 

The movement’s top prophets and apostles believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse. On the other hand, they believe their God-given decrees have ended mad cow disease in Germany and produced rain in drought-stricken Texas.

 

Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some consider Freemasonry a “demonic stronghold” tantamount to witchcraft. The Democratic Party, one prominent member believes, is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They’ve taken biblical literalism to an extreme. In Texas, they engage in elaborate ceremonies involving branding irons, plumb lines and stakes inscribed with biblical passages driven into the earth of every Texas county.

 

If they simply professed unusual beliefs, movement leaders wouldn’t be remarkable. But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government.

In Rick Perry, they may have found their vessel. And the interest appears to be mutual.

I always thought Perry was a loose, secessionist cannon. But now, I just think he’s a loose, crazy christianist secessionist cannon. And the goofy theology driving some of these fringe groups is becoming more and more pervasive. Like I said: scary.

But really, y’all need to read this for y’selves. Full, fascinating story here.