Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

I was wondering whether it might be a good idea to start a support group for progressives (or center-left types) who really believe in reining in the role of money in politics and also really believe that part of the current bill may be bad policy and unconstitutional.

It's no fun believing something on principle and finding yourself standing together with a bunch of wretches who merely believe in protecting the power of organized wealth to beat back popular and necessary reforms. But what are you gonna do?

I'm speaking of course about the part of the soon-to-be-law which places limits on advertising by independent issue advocacy groups in the lead-up to elections. We'll be saying more about this soon and also getting into the reluctant but growing reservations I have about the campaign finance laws we already have.

For the moment though let me touch on another point.

Why is Ken Starr the lead attorney for the legal challenge to McCain-Feingold?

For my part, I believe that Starr's ethical standing and integrity are deeply compromised by a host of things he did while he was Independent Counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Of course I'm not a neutral observer and I have strongly held views on the matter. But let's assume that you don't believe as I do. Still, why is he the lead attorney?

You don't have to believe that Starr did anything wrong as IC to recognize the unavoidable truth that he has become a deeply polarizing figure with a very high partisan profile. Fair or not, it's just a fact.

Doesn't selecting him to head up the legal team saddle the constitutional question with all of Starr's baggage and give the legal battle an even more partisan (in the worst sense of the word) color than it already does and inevitably will?

The decision is even more puzzling when you figure that Starr doesn't even seem particularly well qualified for the job. Starr is, as far as I knew, an appellate lawyer, not a first amendment expert -- as many of the other members of the team are. That doesn't mean his expertise is deficient, per se. But it certainly rules out any thought that his qualifications somehow trump his too-apparent liabilities.

It seems to me that Mitch McConnell has done everyone a great disservice with this pick. Why he's done so, I'm really not sure.

For some reason I hadn't heard of Joe Klein's new book The Natural until now. It's apparently Klein's non-fictional attempt to take stock of, evaluate, and place into historical context the Clinton presidency. I'm going to run out and get it. And from the descriptions I've now read I'd recommend it to you as well.

(I'm not recommending it per se, mind you. Or endorsing what it says. How could I? I haven't even read it yet. But I'm sure it'll be an interesting read.)

I've always had deeply conflicted opinions about Klein, particularly in his middle-1990s anti-Clinton phase. One of the first non-academic articles I ever wrote when I was trying to transition into political writing, circa 96-97, was a critique of Klein and several others I grouped with him. (The piece never even got submitted for publication, let alone appeared in print -- a long story.) But his long interview-based article in the New Yorker in 2000 turned a refreshingly new page on his decade long engagement with Clinton.

According to a post today on Kausfiles, Klein says he wrote this book partly because "it has become too fashionable to flatly reject Clinton as a kind of bad dream."

It pains me to admit the degree to which this is true. But it hasn't made me lose too much sleep or faith. I'm quite confident that the Clinton presidency will stand the test of time, media scrutiny and historical scrutiny. (Most media scrutiny and contemporary pundit-comment is ungrounded and shallow anyway.) And the current presidency, whatever its advocates and opponents may say, seems unlikely to me to efface many of the previous president's accomplishments.

I don't want to flog a dead horse here, of course. Or mercilessly whack an unacknowledged error. But one more point on the Lieberman-Enron-American Prospect micro-scandal.

We've noted that it is quite legitimate to say that contributor X gave money to candidate Y if contributor X gave money to contributor Y's 'leadership PAC.'

And what, again, is a 'leadership PAC'? It's basically a modern, campaign finance law approved, patronage engine. Big pols get money on their own name and then dole it out to other pols -- primarily smaller fry -- to get various chits, gratitutde, and other favors.

Here's an example: Joe Lieberman's leadership PAC, Responsibility Opportunity Community PAC, aka ROC PAC.

I looked at the list of individual and PAC givers to ROC PAC at the the FEC website. And there's no Enron, though the Arthur Andersen PAC did give ROC PAC $5000.

Saying money to ROC PAC is money to Joe Lieberman? Accurate and totally fair.

Saying money to the NDN is money to Joe Lieberman? False and unfair.

I spoke briefly to one of the children of light at the American Prospect today and this person informs me that, notwithstanding yesterday's post, the Prospect still believes it's right in claiming that money given to the New Democrat Network, an organization Joe Lieberman co-founded with two others six years ago, actually counts as money given directly to Joe Lieberman. Apparently the whole "current leader" bit isn't the point. It's that he was a co-founder of the organization.

As we noted yesterday, this logic would be valid if the NDN were a 'leadership PAC' or a PAC run by or on behalf of Joe Lieberman. (An example of this might be John McCain's Straight Talk America PAC). But neither seems to be the case.

My understanding is that NDN is more like a New Dem version of Emily's List, with money going to striving or sad-sack New Dems in the marginal districts they inhabit around the country. Simon Rosenberg is the President of NDN. So perhaps he could tell us whether NDN functions as the equivalent of Lieberman's leadership PAC.

According to TAP, however, this sort of counting is just standard practice is campaign finance reform circles. I don't think that's true, though. I think this is at best a distortion of the normal practice of tabulating campaign contributions.

Or if it is standard procedure, then perhaps Enron economics is more widespread than I thought.

I just noticed this article in National Review Online discussing the question of dual-citizenship, and particularly the unique issue of Mexican-American dual citizenship. This is a complex question, of course, touching on the unique relationship between the US and Mexico, assimilation, the trans-national Southwestern economy, and so forth.

The broader issue, however -- the idea of dual-citizenship -- is one about which I have quite strong views.

I don't think the United States should allow dual-citizenship at all. Not ever. Not with Australia, not with Canada, not with Israel, not with Mexico. Not with anyone.

Children present a unique case, of course. They should be allowed to maintain a dual nationality until they reach adulthood so they can make a mature decision about which country to adhere to. But why should any adult be allowed to be a citizen of two countries at once. And under what theory of citizenship does such a practice make sense?

I'm very pro-globalization, very internationalist in foreign policy and outlook. But citizenship is inherently unitary. It implies not only membership but allegiance to a political community and a state. One can no sooner be a citizen of two countries than a husband to two wives or a wife to two husbands. The very idea is a solecism in civic thought.

To my mind, this isn't a conservative view. It's a liberal one. One of the things that makes us all equal as citizens is the fundamental reality that makes us citizens: membership and allegiance to this political community, this country. That's what allows an immigrant citizen to be just as much an American as the guy whose ancestors came on the Mayflower.

Just what is going on with United States policy in East Asia?

As we've discussed at some length already, the post of chief American envoy to Taiwan has remained vacant for months. James Kelly is the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific. And he -- others certainly too, but he's been the most insistent -- has been holding out for months to give that job to Douglas H. Paal.

(Kelly, you'll remember, accused TPM of being a practitioner of "hack journalism.")

Now there's another odd development brewing.

Until recently Torkel Patterson was the head of Asia policy at the National Security Council -- the official title is "senior director for Asian affairs." He resigned, rather abruptly, in late January of this year.

Now Patterson is telling friends and colleagues around Washington -- and not that discreetly, mind you -- that Kelly will be gone from the State Department in the not-too-distant future and that he -- Torkel Patterson -- will be the new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

(The idea, apparently, is a time-frame of a year or maybe less.)

What exactly is going on isn't completely clear. Certainly not to me, and apparently not to a number of DC Asia hands either. Is Patterson just trying to lay claim to the post after Kelly leaves? Is he trying to muscle Kelly out of his job? Or is he just not that discreet?

It's not clear. But it is raising a lot of eyebrows.

As a general matter, when you're wrong, it's good policy to admit it and move on. The American Prospect (TPM's old stomping grounds -- stomping pages?) seems to be having difficulty with this maxim at the moment.

The February 25th issue of the magazine had a cover featuring pictures of various politicians with the amount of cash they had received from Enron. Joe Lieberman was listed as having received $37,000.

Only he hadn't.

Lieberman received $2000 and the New Democrat Network received $35,000. (TPM said his piece about the NDN et al., part of it at least, here.)

The Prospect's rationale for including this extra thirty-five grand is apparently that the NDN was basically what pols call a "leadership PAC." Essentially another one of Lieberman's coffers, used for his purposes.

Lieberman's communications director, Dan Gerstein, seems to have written in to complain. And here's how the Prospect responded.

As noted, we included money given directly to Lieberman's own campaign committee ($2,000) plus the $35,000 in Enron money given to the New Democrat Network's soft- and hard-money PAC, which Lieberman co-founded in 1996. On NDN's Web site,, a posting dated February 2, 2002, heralds Lieberman as a current leader of the PAC. Enron, expert in filling the many pockets of a politician's coat, found this open flap.

This is either shamelessly dishonest or pitifully ill-informed, though perhaps it's a tour de force combination of both. (The writing style of the last sentence tells the tale. But that's another matter.)

Here's why.

The argument here is that this is Lieberman's organization. He is a "current leader" after all, right? So it makes sense to count it as his money. But when you go to the site and look at the page in question you see that there are a total of ten politicians listed as "current leaders." In others words, Lieberman is just on the organization's advisory panel or board. It's not his organization.

By the Prospect's reasoning, each of these folks got thirty-five grand. (Interestingly enough, one of them is Congresswoman Jane Harman, which tells another tale.) A grand total of $350,000 for the NDN from Enron! What a haul!

The current issue of the Prospect has a special section on Enron economics -- presumably this means over-clever, deceptively structured financial calculations.

Apparently the malady is contagious.

It turns out that Jane Swift's further tarnishing of the Massachusetts governorship was a twofer. Maybe a three-fer. The night before Swift dropped out of the race to succeed herself, she roped former governor William Weld into endorsing her. Her people even convinced former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke (an interesting relic of a bygone political era) to do the same.

In political parlance, getting convinced to go out on a limb and endorse a struggling candidate the night before she pulls the plug on her own campaign is a synonym for getting HOSED!

As Dan Kennedy aptly puts it on his sometime weblog ...

The fact that Swift's people would let Weld -- as well as former senator Ed Brooke -- endorse their woman on the eve of her dropping out of the race is just one more sign that they're too clueless, too arrogant, or both to be trusted with the important positions they hold.


Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is wetting the eyes of Bushies and money-Republicans up and down the East Coast.

Yet another installment in the saga of the political office that can't get no respect: the Massachusetts governorship. Today acting- (one might better say, accidental-) Governor Jane Swift announced that she is getting out of the race to make way for Mitt Romney.

Romney, of course, is the long-time political neophyte who tried and failed to unseat Teddy Kennedy back in 1994. He's also the son of a former Governor of Michigan.

Romney wants the job so bad he's even going leave Utah, where he's lived for the last three years, and move to Massachusetts.

I just notice that a couple days ago Mickey said that the upcoming conventional wisdom will be the Gore rebound. Perhaps so. But this will be more than simple conventional wisdom. It will continue a large measure of truth. The biggest fact -- little discussed or understood -- about the current list of Democratic presidential contenders is that Gore's strengths as a primary candidate are greatly underestimated.