Saturday, May 19, 2012
by Kim Barker
ProPublica, May 18, 2012, 12:18 p.m.
ProPublica, May 18, 2012, 12:18 p.m.
When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor's campaign committee, Nellis said.
Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5.
Though the amount of money was small, ProPublica decided Nellis' complaint was worth following up. There have been other reports recently about insecure campaign-donation websites and the potential for fraud. Earlier this month, The Washington Times reported that Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney, was using a collection system that made online donors' credit card information accessible to even amateur snoopers.
At ProPublica's request, Nellis called Capital One and asked a representative about the $5 charge to Friends of Scott Walker.
"She told me that they watch for fraudulent merchants who will put through a bunch of charges that are not legitimate," Nellis said. "I said, 'The fraudulent merchant here was Friends of Scott Walker, right?' And she said, 'Yes.' They had a little flag on any Scott Walker activity."
As an experiment, a ProPublica employee also made a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker on her Capital One card on May 10. Almost immediately, Walker's campaign sent an email thanking her. Less than a minute after that, Capital One emailed a fraud protection alert, saying the company "noticed potentially suspicious activity" on her account and asking her to call fraud protection as soon as possible.
When she inquired, a Capital One representative said the donation wasn't in line with her spending pattern and "our fraud department had some potential fraud concerns on the account."
Another $5 donation, made to Walker's opponent on the Capital One card, was not flagged as potentially fraudulent. Neither was a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker made on an American Express card. (The employee is seeking refunds of all three donations.)
We called Friends of Scott Walker and eZcontribution, the Wisconsin company that runs the website handling donations for Walker's campaign, for an explanation, but no one would answer our questions.
Walker's campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, emailed ProPublica on May 10 under the subject line of "follow up."
"I received a message about the story you are doing," she wrote. "The campaign does not comment on internal matters."
"How about allegations of credit-card fraud?" we wrote back. "That's hardly internal, it's external."
Matthews did not reply.
Ultimately, all we can say at this point is that Capital One appears to be flagging donations to Friends of Scott Walker as potentially fraudulent.
If anyone out there has had similar issues with online donations to Walker or other political campaigns, please let us know via email or by commenting below.
for posting pictures of her baby son who lived for just eight hours after being born with rare birth defectBy Rachel Quigley
PUBLISHED: 16:57 EST, 18 May 2012 | UPDATED: 23:27 EST, 19 May 2012
A furious mother is demanding answers from Facebook as to why they took down photographs she posted on the site of her son, who was born with a rare birth defect, and then later banned her from the site altogether.
Grayson James Walker, from Memphis, Tennessee, was born on February 15, 2012 with Anencephaly, a rare neural tube birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
His parents Heather and Patrick Walker knew 16 weeks into the pregnancy their son would not live very long due to his birth defect.
Scroll down for video
Precious moments: Heather and Patrick Walker say goodbye to their newborn son Grayson who only lived for eight hours after being born with a rare defect
Love and care: Patrick and his two other children cradle Grayson before he passes away
'They of course gave us the option to terminate,' said Heather. But they chose to carry their baby full term and turned to God for strength.
'My husband and I, we started prayer and we knew that God knew since the beginning of time that he had us for this,' she said.
The couple were fully prepared to have to say goodbye to him on the same day they welcomed him into the world.
So, with the help of non-profit organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, they had a professional photographer to take photos of their newborn, just the same way as they did with their other two children and what most parents around the world do.
Magic moments: With the help of non-profit organization Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, they had a professional photographer to take photos of their newborn, just the same way as they did with their other two children
Memories: The family wanted to remember baby Grayson's brief time in the world and had a photographer come and capture the first and last moments of his life
Family: Facebook fans are rallying around a mother who feels Facebook is discriminating against photos she posted on the social media network of her son
He only lived for eight hours but the Walkers wanted to capture his short life so his memory could live on forever.
Heather explained to Fox News that she uploaded the pictures on to her Facebook page so she could share them with family and friends.
WHAT IS ANENCEPHALY?Anencephaly is a disorder that results from a neural tube defect that occurs when the head end of the neural tube fails to close, usually between the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.
The remaining brain tissue is often exposed — not covered by bone or skin. Most babies with this genetic disorder do not survive birth, however there have been notable exceptions.
Heather explained: 'Not long after, Facebook deleted them because of the content. They allow people to post almost nude pictures of themselves, profanity, and so many other things but I'm not allowed to share a picture of God's beautiful creation.'
After repeatedly putting the removed picture on her profile, her account was temporarily disabled.
According to Facebook's community standards page, there are nine types of content that may be deemed offensive and removed: Violence and Threats, Self-Harm, Bullying and Harassment, Hate Speech, Graphic Violence, Nudity and Pornography, Identity and Privacy, Intellectual Property and Phishing and Spam
Heather said she has no idea which category the picture of her child without the hat falls under but has now launched a protest - posting the picture several times and getting her friends and family to contact Facebook.
Patrick Walker said of his son: 'You know, my son lived almost eight hours, and he's already done in eight hours what I could never do in a hundred lifetimes, and that's awesome.'
As of today, Heather's Facebook page is active again and the picture of Grayson which was deemed 'graphic' has not been removed.
A spokesman for Facebook denied that Heather was ever banned from the site, and said in a statement: 'On rare occasions, a photo reported to us may be too graphic too be permitted on the site. In these cases, the person who posted the photo is contacted, and the photos are removed.
'We strive to fit the needs of a diverse community while respecting everyone's interest in sharing content that is important to them.
'It is important to note that any photos that are removed – whether inappropriately or in accordance with our policies – are only done so after being brought to our attention by other Facebook users who report them as violations, and when such reports are subsequently reviewed by Facebook.'
May 16, 2012 7:34 PM
(CBS News) Responding to attacks by the Obama campaign about his work at the helm of Bain Capital, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney defended his record in an interview today, saying he "was no longer" at the company when it closed a steel factory.
"That's hardly something that was done on my watch," Romney said on Wednesday in an interview with the conservative website Hot Air. "They said, 'Oh, gosh, Gov. Romney at Bain Capital closed down a steel factory.' But the problem, of course, is that the steel factory closed down two years after I left Bain Capital. I was no longer there."
The Obama campaign launched an aggressive attack earlier this week on Romney's leadership of the private equity firm, using a two-minute advertisement profiling a steelworker with GST Steel whose job and pension were cut. The company was acquired by Bain in 1993 and filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
The Obama campaign on Wednesday expanded their effort to characterize Romney as an executive concerned about the bottom line and not American jobs. In a conference call with reporters, two workers - Cindy Hewitt, former Dade Behring employee and Randy Johnson, a former employee at SCM Office Supplies - told their story of losing jobs after a Bain acquisition.
"He fired me, he fired my coworkers," said Randy Johnson, who worked at SCM Office Supplies when it was acquired by Bain-owned Ampad in 1994. Johnson also appeared at a campaign event with Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio on Wednesday.
Romney often points to his business experience as proof that he understands that the private sector fuels job creation, not government.
"And of course they don't mention a couple of other things. One is that we were able to help create over 100,000 jobs," Romney told Hot Air Host Ed Morrissey on Wednesday. His campaign pointed to his website that says that Bain helped to create 120,000 jobs while he lead the private equity firm.
However, a Washington Post fact check gave the claim "three Pinocchios," saying that it "does not pass the laugh test" because the focus of Bain was to make companies profitable for investors, not to create jobs. In addition, The Washington Post notes that it is "unclear" that Romney had a direct role in creating jobs at Bain-invested companies.
Despite claims by both campaigns, the battle over Bain continues. Romney on Wednesday also charged the president with profiting from the industry he is attacking: "Oh, and by the way, he has no problem going out and doing fundraisers with Bain Capital and private equity people."
However, President Obama is walking a fine line. His campaign's attacks on Bain might impact his support of the industry. According BuzzFeed, one of his campaign's bundlers, who has raised more than $100,000 for the president, is disheartened by the president's "vilification" of private equity.
Deputy Campaign Director Stephanie Cutter insists that the campaign is not attacking the private equity industry, but Romney's "values" as a "buyout specialist."
"No one is questing the private equity industry," Cutter told reporters on Wednesday, but they are questioning "Romney economics" of "creating wealth for investors."
MITT'S HITS! Music for the 1% by Mitt Romney and Gordon Gekko
On the Money Trail
Posted by Romney-Gekko Staff on May 17, 2012
In light of recent attacks on our friend and patron, conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts, the Romney-Gekko campaign is calling on our friend and supporters to move whatever money you don’t have secreted away in the Cayman Islands or Swiss bank accounts over to his new SuperPAC.
Ricketts deserves our support not only because he is among the fellow filthy rich, and we’ve all got to stick together, but because he is a living example of what can be: sponsoring a racially-polarizing campaign that could tear a divided nation even further apart is the kind of “we’ll stop at nothing” approach Gordon Gekko and Mitt Romney personify.
We are also proud of his attempt to show, as the liberal rag the New York Times put it, “how a single individual can create his own movement and spend unlimited sums to have major influence on a presidential election.”
Of course it was only a piddling $10 million so it’s not like he was all in or anything. And he did sort of wimp out in the end and pretend he didn’t have anything to do with it after selling of his TD Ameritrade stock for the exact amount of the proposed ad buy. We still say: You go Joe! America needs rich guys in the White House.
The story only says that Harvard Law School had played up Warren’s minority status in the 1990s to demonstrate its commitment to diversity. Nothing mentioned that she got into school using affirmative action. If she did not use affirmative action, the point is mute. Brown has nothing to use. And the idea that Warren used it in Association of American Law Schools directory, to meet 'others' like her, we all do that to be certain point. To establish ourselves, to make friends, to meet other native Americans, to me no harm no foul. Brown being a Republican, wants to use it to discredit her. Hopefully, all blue collar democrats, will see right through it. What she is trying to do with the health care bill, I do not know if that will wash. Yes he voted against the bill, but he is not the only congressperson taking advantage of keeping his daughter on his insurance plan. Shall we make a list and make them public. Stick to what is important to the state of Massachusetts. There is way too much negativity in our elections, and way too much time used for elections.
The specter of affirmative action plays into the caricature that her opponents are trying to create
They also took aim at the influence of super PACs, pointing to the Republican-leaning Crossroads GPS, the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action and the Tea Party's FreedomWorks.
In late December, the Montana Supreme Court had upheld the state's Corrupt Practices Act, which says that a "corporation may not make ... an expenditure in connection with a candidate or a political party that supports or opposes a candidate or a political party." The court found, by a 5-2 vote, that Montana's history of political corruption at the hands of corporate interests -- namely its Gilded Age-era "Copper Kings" -- justified the ban, which was passed by referendum in 1912 by voters who had lost faith in the state's political process.
The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit are led by American Tradition Partnership, a conservative interest group dedicated to fighting "the radical environmentalist agenda." They have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state decision, arguing that it conflicts with the Citizens United ruling's declaration that corporations' independent political expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption and therefore are fully protected speech under the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Montana decision in February and requested formal briefing to give the case a fuller airing.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for herself and Justice Stephen Breyer, issued a statement accompanying that February order welcoming this sequel to Citizens United. "Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court's decision in Citizens United ... make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,'" Ginsburg wrote. A full Supreme Court hearing "will give the court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway."
In its formal petition to the Supreme Court, American Tradition Partnership dismissed Montana's fact-bound decision and Ginsburg's nod to the country's post-Citizens United experience.
"The facts are irrelevant," the petition argued. "The core holding of Citizens United ... is that the independence of independent expenditures means that they pose no cognizable quid-pro-quo-corruption risk and no other cognizable governmental interest justifies banning corporate independent expenditures."
McCain and Whitehouse strongly disagree in their brief. Siding with Montana and agreeing with Ginsburg and Breyer, the senators ask the Supreme Court "to confirm that Congress and state legislators may, upon an appropriate record demonstrating the potential for corruption or perceived corruption created by independent expenditures, enact legislation in response to that real and significant threat." McCain, a notable supporter of Mitt Romney in the Republican primary race, has not been shy during this campaign season about emphasizing the differences between himself and the presumptive GOP nominee on Citizens United and super PACs.
Represented by former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, now in private practice and a professor at Georgetown Law, the senators suggest that the justices simply deny American Tradition Partnership's petition, which would leave the Montana Supreme Court's decision upholding the state law in place. If they grant the petition, the senators urge the justices to conduct full briefing and oral argument -- rather than issue a summary reversal -- to "confirm lawmakers' continuing authority to respond when the evidence shows 'that a problem exists,'" to quote from Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United.
"And a problem does exist," the brief continues. "Evidence from the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles has demonstrated that so-
called independent expenditures create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof. The news confirms, daily, that existing campaign finance rules purporting to provide for 'independence' and 'disclosure' in fact provide neither. Regulatory filings show that much of the funding for independent expenditures comes from shell companies, pass-through entities, and non-profit organizations that conceal the true source of the individuals and companies supporting them."
The justices may soon have an opportunity to speak specifically to that last consideration. In a separate case, a federal appeals court on Monday refused to block an April decision by a district court judge closing the loophole that had allowed certain nonprofits, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, to spend unlimited sums without disclosing their donors.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a longtime foe of campaign finance restrictions, submitted a brief in late April supporting American Tradition Partnership and contesting the claim that unlimited corporate money has played any outsized role since Citizens United. "A review of FEC records for independent expenditure-only committees -- i.e. the so-called Super PACs -- supporting the eight leading Republican Presidential candidates has evidenced minimal corporate involvement in the 2012 election cycle," he wrote.
McCain and Whitehouse's argument takes aim at the broader message of Citizens United, as interpreted by American Tradition Partnership and the Montana Supreme Court's dissenters -- that unlimited independent expenditures, whether from a corporation or an individual, have no corrupting effect on politicians and the political system. It "cannot be so," they argue, that this is a blanket ruling of law impervious to facts showing otherwise. As evidence, the senators cite candidate-specific super PACs that have staff and consultants closely connected to the campaigns (a footnote mentions that the main pro-Obama super PAC is run by the president's former deputy press secretary while the leading pro-Romney super PAC was founded by the general counsel of Romney's 2008 presidential campaign) as well as "coordinated" fundraising and advertising activities. The senators argue that such groups engage in "identity-laundering" thanks to deficient disclosure rules.
In the end, the senators say, the appearance of corruption is in the eyes of the people, not the justices, and polls find opposition to Citizens United and diminished faith in the electoral process. Although "[p]oll results should not direct Court decisions ... these results show that the Court’s assessment of perceived corruption was at odds with the perception held by most Americans," the brief states.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock's brief opposing American Tradition Partnership's petition is expected to be filed by the end of Friday. The justices will likely discuss whether to take the case in a private conference later this summer.
By CARL CAMPANILE
Last Updated: 5:33 AM, May 18, 2012
Posted: 2:32 AM, May 18, 2012
Bill Clinton is abandoning his old ally Charles Rangel, who is fighting for his political life as he seeks re-election to a 22nd term, The Post has learned.
Harlem Rep. Rangel won’t be getting an endorsement from the former president, who will sit out the primary, a Clinton source said.
Clinton strongly backed Rangel’s re-election in 2010 when the incumbent was under fire for House ethics-rules violations that later led to a congressional censure.
Clinton even personally taped a message that was phoned in to voters on behalf of Rangel, who has been a loyal Clinton backer for decades.
Rangel also supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president over Barack Obama, who didn’t endorse Rangel last time and is staying neutral in this year’s primary.
But the Clinton source said the former president has a personal conflict this time around. One of Rangel’s rivals, Clyde Williams, was a top aide at the Clinton Foundation and worked in the Clinton administration.
“He is grateful for Clyde’s work with the foundation. Because he has personal relationships with several of the candidates in the race, he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to weigh in on the race,” a Clinton official said.
Rangel could always resurrect some of Clinton’s testimonials.
“He is a unique public servant whose leadership was critical to many of my administration’s successes,” Clinton said in a plug for Rangel’s 2006 autobiography.
Meanwhile, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carríon yesterday endorsed another Rangel opponent, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. Carríon, who is considering a run for mayor and has praised Rangel’s tenure, said it’s time for a change.
Additional reporting by David Seifman