The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

17 July 2007

Al Franken Campaign, Hollywood, Out Of State Contributions


Just In Time For His Senate Run, An Old Friend Returns

For entertainment industry liberals jumping into political causes, support from the mainstream media is generally a given.

For Al Franken, however, it's been elevated well beyond that, to a level we call "Frankenfluff". Yes, no matter how badly Stuart might appear to those who scrutinize his ongoing antics, the press is there to lend a helping hand.

Otherwise, wouldn't it have been hard to escape scorn for his involvement in Air America Radio while it was under investigation? Just imagine Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity or anyone else collecting a fat salary from a radio outfit that was taking money from an inner- city charity. Think we'd ever hear the end of it?

Frankenfluff has already worked wonders on the campaign trail, as well. So far, we've seen slanted coverage (picked up without scrutiny by Drudge) showing Al's fundraising ahead of his opponents. However, they've drawn little attention to the fact that he's already spent much of it, while rivals hang on to their money.

In addition, the press has accepted this silly piece of campaign spin:

(AP) "We're very proud of our 21,000 contributors for the cycle, of which over 75 percent come from Minnesota," said Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan. "We welcome the support of those organizations, and the members of their PACs, that believe in the senator's vision for a strong, prosperous America."

Doesn't that mean that a full 25% of Franken's money is coming from outside of Minnesota? It's a great deal of out- of- state influence, with much of it coming from Hollywood:

In an April episode of ABC's "The View," Bill Maher and Rosie O'Donnell professed their support for Al Franken's 2008 Minnesota Senate candidacy, with O'Donnell saying she was "maxing out" to the comedian-turned-candidate.

O'Donnell kept to her word, contributing $2,300 to his campaign, the maximum donation for the primary, while Maher chipped in $1,000. They were among the more than 50 contributions that Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" star, received from actors, writers, producers and others in the last reporting period, his campaign finance report shows.


Some entertainers did even better than O'Donnell, contributing $4,600, with $2,300 earmarked for the general election, should Franken get that far. Those included Dan Aykroyd, Robin Williams and Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner.

Among other notable contributors were actor Ed Norton, director Harold Ramis, actress Meg Ryan, cartoonist Garry Trudeau, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and Karenna Gore Schiff, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore.

That followed a first-quarter performance that included $4,600 contributions from actors Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jason Alexander and Larry David.

At some point, however, Franken's GOP opponent (Senator Norm Coleman, R-MN) will probably decide to fight a lot harder. It may be the only way to win.

And potentially worse for Stuart, Frankenfluff will soon drive his Democrat primary opponents batty, forcing them to confront Al in a way he's never experienced. How will our friend hold up to the first real political scrutiny he's ever faced?

IMAGES: David A Lunde, Pete at IHillary

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  • Now for the real news, from Christian science monitor, UNREAL STORY, where is the MSM on this???? American soldiers now counting on former al queda to fight Al queda? amazing!

    Risky US alliances in Iraq

    By Sam DagherTue Jul 17, 4:00 AM ET

    In the pursuit of an elusive enemy the US loosely labels AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq), US Green Berets and soldiers in this remote corner of Iraq have enlisted the help of a new ally that they have christened LRF, the "Legitimate Resistance Force."

    It includes ex-insurgents, police dropouts with checkered backgrounds, and former Al Qaeda-linked fighters – all united by a desire to rid Diyala Province of the network's influence, say US officers.

    "A lot of them are former Al Qaeda operatives ... but when they saw the stealing, murder, and terrorism, they realized it was not the way forward for Iraq," says Maj. John Woodward of San Antonio.

    But the risks of such a temporary solution are high, say critics, and the plan could foster new, powerful militias outside the control of the Iraqi Army. It's a strategy that also threatens to further fuel sectarian battles as LRFs are largely Sunni, posing a major threat to Shiite militias.

    So far, however, it is too early to judge the effectiveness of this new group, but its creation clearly demonstrates a desire by the US to look for grass-roots solutions amid increasing frustration with the combat readiness – and even loyalty – of Iraqi forces.

    It also seems to indicate that the Americans are willing to take a short-term gamble on the LRFs in order to show some successes in the fight against AQI before September, when a highly anticipated progress report on Iraq is due to Congress.

    The idea for LRFs was born out of the links US troops have sought to foster with Iraqi tribal leaders in Diyala Province as part of the US-led offensive "Arrowhead Ripper," which has been under way here for about a month.

    But the LRF initiative has little in common with the high-profile tribal Anbar Salvation Council, which was formally endorsed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and helped reduce violence there. Mr. Maliki has backed a Diyala version of that group called the Isnad (support) Council, but it has had much less impact due to the more fragmented nature of Diyala's tribal, ethnic, and sectarian makeup.

    Maliki warned US forces last month against creating new militias in their fight against Al Qaeda-linked operatives. He insisted that all collaboration with local groups must be done through his government.

    "What the Americans are doing is very risky and unwise. They are planting the seeds for future wars," warned Sami al-Askari, a parliamentarian close to Maliki, commenting on groups like the LRF.

    After a raid, holding the groundEarly last week, the US bombed suspected AQI hideouts and several bridges over the Diyala River that were said to be used by the militants in the farmlands of Sherween, about 35 miles northeast of Baquba. On the ground, about 200 Iraqi and US soldiers along with members of the LRF clashed with militants in Rabie Najem, a Sherween-area village.

    The US military said it killed 20 "Al Qaeda terrorists" and detained 20 in the operation, which it qualified as a success.

    "It's very important that we go back and take control of our area. After [the US military] helped us, we need to hold the terrain. I have 40 of my guys waiting for me," says Najem Abdullah, one of the LRF members, in an interview at the US base Normandy the day after the bombing raid.

    Mr. Abdullah and three of his comrades, all Sunnis from the Jubour tribe, were brought back to the base after the operation to talk to a US special forces team, which is charged with vetting them and supplying them with ammunition, according to officers in the 6th Squadron of the US Army's 9th Cavalry Regiment stationed at Normandy.

    Mr. Abdullah is a former policeman and said he once collaborated with insurgent groups like the 1920 Revolution Brigades, one of the earliest Sunni Arab insurgent groups that fought US presence after the invasion. His friend Mazen Hamid is also a former Iraqi police officer and said that several of his relatives have joined the ranks of the Al Qaeda-linked militants and that they were being paid about $300 per operation.

    "This is a lot of money for people in our villages who are groveling from poverty," says Raad Abed, another member of the group.

    They described how the Al Qaeda-linked fighters, many of them masked and clad in black and wearing headbands bearing the words "Islamic State in Iraq," raided several villages in Sherween 10 days ago, blowing up homes and killing anyone associated with the government.

    The militants extorted about $3,000 from one wealthy local sheikh and took over mosques broadcasting over loud speakers: "Long live the Islamic State in Iraq," according to Mr. Hamid.

    Most of them were indigenous fighters with a few Arab nationals among them, says Hamid. This matched the assessment of several US Army officers in the area.

    Hamid said that out of an original population of about 400 only 40 men from Rabie Najem are left. His own wife fled farther north, and he might join her soon if the campaign to reclaim their village fails.

    Last week, neither he nor his 40 LRF comrades were able to return to their village. It is now in the grips of AQI militants, who even rebuilt, within hours, all the footbridges destroyed by the US aerial bombardment just two days before, according to Col. Mahmoud Tayeh, the police chief in the Sherween area's main town, Dalli Abbas.

    Fear of the militants has also crept up to Dalli Abbas itself. Nearly 100 of the 180 policemen in town quit after the mutilated body of one of their colleagues was found outside the station. Attached to it was a succinct handwritten message: "Quit or you're next."

    Colonel Tayeh says that the fleeing policemen took with them AK-47s and pistols, and added that "some of them were coerced to join the terrorists."

    The remaining policemen slept at the station. When they ventured out to the town's potholed and garbage-littered streets, they wore black ski masks for fear of being identified by militants. And, in a further twist, some of these same holdouts are suspected of being on the payroll of Al Qaeda militants, says Tayeh.

    Temporary friendsThese ever-shifting allegiances and the fine line between friend and foe provide a hint of the dangers associated with this new US strategy despite its short-term viability.

    "The long-term problem is that you are working with fractured social forces," says Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Queen Mary, University of London.

    "The danger is that once they run Al Qaeda out, they may turn on you, the Iraqi government, or both."

    Lt. Col. Keith Gogas, who commands the Diyala-based 6-9 Army unit, agrees with the concept of the LRF, but says he thinks the term itself may be problematic. He's working to cement local ties in other creative ways.

    Last Friday, he reunited a local tribal sheikh with his nephew, whom he helped get released from a US-run prison after the man had been detained for nearly 10 months on suspicion of being a member of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia and committing crimes against Sunnis in Diyala.

    "You see how loyal and truthful the Americans are," says Sheikh Saad al-Siriwati to his kinsmen as he puts his arm around Colonel Gogas. "My tribe and I are eternally indebted to Gogas."

    Abu Saida, the predominantly Shiite town of Shiekh Saad, has come a long way from being one of the most violent in Diyala to the most cooperative with US forces in the fight against extremists.

    But just as the line between friend and foe is murky so, too, is the division between war and peace.

    As Gogas and his men returned to their base, they encountered Iraqi policemen on the road who reported an attack on the mixed village of Harbitla in which 12 Shiites were killed. Separately, the commander of the Iraqi Army battalion who the Americans had been working with was killed by a roadside bomb.

    former al Queda working with the Us Military, ASTONISHING! if a Dem was president, the impeachment would be happening right now.

    By Blogger Jared, at 17 July, 2007 16:47  

  • Jared's sophomoric and off-topic diatribe reminds me of the devastating Frank Church Committee results back in 1975. Senator Frank Church (D-ID) and his findings have been criticized extensively, particularly after the September 11th attacks, for leading to legislation reducing the ability of the CIA to gather human intelligence.

    He condemned the intelligence agency for dealing with unscrupulous characters.

    And now we are repeating ourselves.

    So in a time of war, the intelligence department has to behave as though they are attending Sunday School.

    The damage done to the CIA by this congressional oversight regime was very extensive. The committees increased the number of CIA officials subject to Senate confirmation, condemned the agency for its contacts with unscrupulous characters, prohibited any further contact with these bad characters, insisted that the United States not engage or assist in any coup which may harm a foreign leader, and overwhelmed the agency with interminable requests for briefings (some 600 alone in 1996). The committees exercised line by line authority over the CIA’s budget and established an Inspector General’s office within the agency, requiring this official to share his information with them, causing the agency to refrain from operations with the slightest potential for controversy. The CIA was also a victim of the renowned congressional practice of pork barrel politics. The intelligence committees forced the agency to accept high priced technology that just happened to be manufactured in a committee member’s district.

    On some occasions, members of Congress threatened to leak information in order to derail covert operations they found personally repugnant. Leaks are a recurring problem, as some member of Congress, or some staff member, demonstrated in the aftermath of the September 11th attack. President Bush’s criticism of members of Congress was fully justified, despite the protests from Capitol Hill. Leaks have occurred repeatedly since the mid-1970s, and in very few cases has the offending party been disciplined. One of the Founding Fathers of the new oversight regime, former Representative Leo Ryan, held that leaks were an important tool in checking the “secret government.”

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 17 July, 2007 17:52  

  • Brian,

    I think you misinterpreted the data:

    If over 75% of the CONTRIBUTORS are from Minnesota, that does not necessarily mean that over 75% of the DOLLARS contributed are from Minnesota.

    For example, if the Hollywood crowd contributes big bucks and the Minnesotans contribute $5-%$10 amounts, the Hollywood share could actually be larger than the 25% you cite. --Or smaller, since we cannot tell with this limited data.

    By Blogger Missouri Show Me, at 17 July, 2007 18:18  

  • The Benson Report:

    We are not in a time of war. We are in a time of conducting a military occupation.

    A few facts:
    1) US military forces are not fighting armed uniformed forces of a duly constituted government, either in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

    2)There are no battlefield manuevers. Most attacks are defined as either urban guerilla warfare, or isolated terrorist attacks. Some do not even involve any enemy forces at all, such IEDs left on the side of the road. Many involve solitary suicide bombers or car bombs detonated by remote control.

    3)On the home front, there is no Draft.

    4)On the home front, there is no rationing or sacrifices by the citizenry for any "war effort" because there is no war.

    I'm sure you're laughing at me by now, so I'll stop. But I am serious.

    By Blogger Scott, at 17 July, 2007 23:25  

  • MOP this has to do with AL how.

    By Blogger pf1, at 18 July, 2007 00:13  

  • Benson,

    You force me to smack you down again. Not over blatant spelling errors or your suppressive commenting policy, but this time something much worse - plagiarism.

    This is not an isolated event with you but a practice that I have seen repeated multiple times on your blog. You are a disgrace to the blogging community, even when compared to the low standards of the copy and paste kid (Maloney).

    Do you know what attribution means?
    This is an example of attribution as well as this.

    Contrast that with the screen capture of Benson's site here. Raymond S. Kraft's name does not appear anywhere on his blog post.

    Google should shut your neocon ass down Benson.

    P.S. If any of you righties are running Internet Explorer in lieu of the Firefox browser, be sure to check out my updated profile.

    By Blogger elmonica, at 18 July, 2007 02:55  

  • Brian quoted:

    (AP) "We're very proud of our 21,000 contributors for the cycle, of which over 75 percent come from Minnesota," said Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan. "We welcome the support of those organizations, and the members of their PACs, that believe in the senator's vision for a strong, prosperous America."

    and he wrote:

    "Doesn't that mean that a full 25% of Franken's money is coming from outside of Minnesota? It's a great deal of out- of- state influence, with much of it coming from Hollywood:"


    It means that about 25% of COLEMAN'S contributors are NOT from Minnesota.
    It doesn't say anything about Franken. ( the quote was from Coleman's campaign manager.

    By Blogger Ezsuds, at 18 July, 2007 05:27  

  • EZSuds:

    Good catch!

    If I could, I would withdraw my comment, since it is moot if the data is about the Coleman campaign.


    By Blogger Missouri Show Me, at 18 July, 2007 09:33  

  • Brian,
    When are you going to correct this post? As has already been pointed out, it was COLEMAN's campaign manager that said 25% of their money came from outside Minnesota. Not Franken's. I don't think it matters one way or the other for either campaign, but since you felt it was so important...
    I know you rarely admit mistakes -- of which you have scores -- but this is just so obvious...

    By Blogger Justin, at 19 July, 2007 07:07  

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