President Trump pointed to the premium hikes a guest of his at the White House Tuesday was facing as his reason to “do something” about the Affordable Care Act — a move that may come in an executive order as soon as this week.
Never mind that the guest Trump cited was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is 94 years old and thus eligible for Medicare. It is unlikely that Kissinger is getting his insurance from Obamacare’s individual market, yet Trump claimed that he did not want to “pay 116 percent increase in his premiums.”
President Donald Trump on Saturday afternoon again asserted that diplomacy will not prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power and appeared to suggest that war with the country is only solution.
Trump made the comments in a series of tweets upon returning to the White House after spending several hours at his golf course in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……
This is far from the first time that Trump has dismissed diplomatic efforts — the President periodically sends tweets threatening North Korea and bashing talks carried out by his own state department.
Last weekend, Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with” North Korea. The tweet came after Tillerson revealed that the state department has direct communications channels with North Korea for diplomatic talks.
In September, Trump warned North Korea that he is prepared to take military action against the country if leader Kim Jong Un continues to test missiles and progress in its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon.
The President also published a tweet in August arguing that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea, prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to follow up and tell reporters that the U.S. is “never out of diplomatic solutions.”
Less than two hours after the Trump administration unveiled its widely expected move to gut Obamacare’s birth control mandate, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Friday that it was filing a lawsuit challenging the regulation change.
The lawsuit is being filed on the behalf of a Notre Dame Law student, Kate Rochat, as well as members of a union, Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West. The ACLU in its press release said they “are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or where they go to school. ”
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) announced her surprise retirement on Friday, opening up one of the nation’s most hotly contested swing districts and creating a possible headache for national Democrats.
“The time has come in my life to pause and decide on a different path,” she said in a statement.
Shea-Porter, a liberal community activist, had been in the middle of some of the toughest House races of the last decade. She first won her seat in 2006, campaigning stridently against the Iraq War, beat former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) in a 2008 rematch, lost it to Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) in 2010, beat him in 2012, lost to him in 2014 and defeated him again in 2016 after Guinta struggled with corruption charges.
She’d never been a favorite of national Democrats due to her unrepentantly liberal views in the centrist district, but her fervent base support had helped keep her in the race and eventually won over some internal party critics.
She won the district last fall even though President Trump narrowly won it by 48 percent to 47 percent after President Obama carried it twice.
Her retirement is likely to create a scramble in New Hampshire politics, with a number of local politicians who may be interested in the seat.
Democrats are already talking up New Hampshire Executive Council member Chris Pappas (D) as a strong possible candidate, though he’s likely to face a primary.
On the GOP side, New Hampshire state Sen. Andy Sanborn (R) is squaring off against former local police chief Eddie Edwards (R) in the primary.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insisted that there “is no doubt that Democrats will hold this seat” in a statement thanking Shea-Porter for her service, while the National Republican Congressional Committee said they “are confident we will turn this district red once again.”
A new report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration sheds a revelatory light on the 2013 controversy that led many to accuse the IRS under the Obama administration of targeting conservative non-profit groups for increased scrutiny.
The IRS singled out progressive groups seeking tax exempt status, too, according to the new report, and did so based on their names or implied political beliefs.
In 2013, an inspector general’s report forced the resignation of IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division for tax exempt groups, over accusations they had targeted conservative groups applying for tax exempt status.
A new report from the same inspector general office, completed on Sept. 28 and released publicly Thursday, found that the IRS flagged phrases associated with both progressive and conservative groups for further review.
The IRS regularly screens organizations seeking tax exempt status to check that they are not primarily engaged in political advocacy.
The 2013 inspector general’s report provided years of fuel for Tea Party groups who claimed the Obama administration had used the IRS as a political bludgeon, tying up applications with bureaucratic red tape. It exposed the use of terms including “Tea Party” and “patriot” as triggers for further review.
The 2017 report found the same was true for terms associated with left-leaning groups, such as “progressive,” “green energy,” “medical marijuana,” and “occupy.”
For example, one 2012 BOLO listing (short for “Be on the Look Out,” which alerted IRS officials to scrutinize applicants further) included in the 2017 report characterized the occupy movement’s “Current Political Issues” as “Political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution, $ocial economic reform/movement.”
“It was included on the BOLO listing after news articles surfaced stating that Occupy organizations were starting to file for I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status,” the report explains.
The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee at the time of the 2013 report, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), said in a statement Thursday that the new inspector general report “validates” his assertions in 2013 “that there was no political motivation in the IRS’s processing of tax-exempt applications.”
“Republicans completely politicized an investigation into this issue,” Levin’s statement continued. “They claimed a May 2013 TIGTA report, which it’s now shown was wholly incomplete, to supported their allegations that the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division, then led by Lois Lerner, targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups for heightened scrutiny based solely on their political views.”
He added: “Republicans used the faulty May 2013 report to demonstrate the so-called BOLO included criteria singling out conservative organizations; this report confirms that, going back to 2004, a large number of liberal groups were also singled out – 61 containing the word ‘progressive’ in their name, 6 containing the word ‘Emerge,’ 5 ‘Occupy’ and 14 ‘Acorn successors.’ This is similar to conservative groups identified in TIGTA’s May 2013 report – 72 containing ‘Tea Party’ in their name, 11 containing ‘9/12,’ and 13 containing ‘Patriots.’”
The Trump administration officially unveiled Friday a long expected regulation change that would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate by significantly expanding the opportunity for employers and other entities to get an exemption from it.
By treating the regulation change as an “interim rule,” the Trump administration is using a fast-track process that avoids the typically months-long public comment period. Interim rules go into effect immediately after they are posted to the Federal Register (though a public comment period will happen while it is in effect.) When the draft version surfaced last spring, legal experts pointed to the process as making the rule more vulnerable to legal challenge, not less.
On the substance, the rule represents a dramatic shift in the federal government’s position on Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. The Obama administration, in the many lawsuits it faced challenging the mandate, argued that the government had a compelling interest in guaranteeing women’s access to contraceptives. The Trump administration is now doing a full reversal on the position in the two interim rules published Friday.
“Although the Departments previously took the position that the application of the Mandate to certain objecting employers was necessary to serve a compelling governmental interest, the Departments have now concluded, after reassessing the relevant interests and for the reasons stated below, that it does not,” the new rules’ preamble said.
The new regulation goes on to grant an exemption to the mandate not just to those with religious objections but entities with “moral convictions” against offering birth control coverage. Under Obama’s HHS, exemption-seekers had to go through a notification process that triggered a third party offering the contraceptives instead — a process that was subject to litigation that was never fully settled. The process still exists under the Trump rule, but employers are now not required to follow it and instead may merely end coverage of birth control once they’ve informed their employees of the change in their coverage plans.
Furthermore, the new rule opens up the exemption to basically anyone who wants it: from a giant, publicly held cooperations to educational institutions to even individuals who object to contraceptives being included in their plans.
The Trump administration quickly downplayed the effects of the regulation change on women seeking contraceptives. The rule document pointed to the government programs that separately offer some access to birth control (programs the administration has sought to cut) and to the fact that there are already some non-compliant Obamacare plans not covering the services that were grandfathered in.
Top women’s health groups were quick to disagree with this assessment of the regulation’s impact.
“The interim final rules released by the Trump administration today are a discriminatory, damaging attack on women’s health and economic security,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement.
The Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general found this week that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not violate any laws with his use of government planes, but it also criticized the agency for the skimpy justification offered for Mnuchin’s travel on government planes.
The inspector general’s office reviewed Mnuchin’s air travel following reports indicating that the treasury secretary may have planned a trip to Kentucky on a government plane around the opportunity to view the solar eclipse. The watchdog found that there was no evidence to suggest Mnuchin planned the trip around the solar eclipse.
Several other Cabinet leaders are also under review by inspectors general for their use of non-commercial planes, and Tom Price recently resigned as health and human services secretary over his extensive use of charter planes.
Mnuchin has used government planes seven times this year, with approved plans to use a government aircraft an eighth time, OIG Counsel Rich Delmar found. Mnuchin requested the use of a government plane a ninth time—for his honeymoon—but withdrew that request, Delmar said. The flights so far have cost taxpayers more than $800,000, the report found.
“I see no violation of law in these requests and uses,” Delmar wrote in a report obtained by several news outlets late Thursday.
However, Delmar warned the Treasury Department to offer a more thorough justification for future requests.
“What is of concern is a disconnect between the standard of proof called for in the Daley memo, and the actual amount of proof provided by Treasury and accepted by the White House in justifying these trip requests,” he wrote. “My summaries show that in almost all cases a single boilerplate statement constituted the whole analysis and justification for designation and use of military aircraft, despite the fact that the memo clearly calls for a more rigorous and complete provision of facts and arguments.”
Delmar was referring to a 2011 memo from William Daley, then the White House chief of staff, laying out the procedures for administration officials to request use of government planes for White House support missions. All of Mnuchin’s requests were classified as White House support missions, for which the President must have directed that the travel to occur. To be designated as a White House support mission, officials must also show that commercial options were not available, that a government plane would be more cost-effective, that a government plane is necessary for national security concerns, or that other “compelling operational considerations” make a government plane necessary.
Delmar added that the Office of Management and Budget last week issued a new memo calling for more rigorous justifications for non-commercial air travel and urged the Treasury Department to “be ready to justify government air in greater detail, especially regarding cost comparisons and needs for security and other special factors.”
Mnuchin used government planes for travel abroad and within the United States. One round-trip journey on a military plane to Miami cost $43,725.50, while commercial air would have cost $688, the inspector general’s report said. For that trip, the Treasury Department said that Mnuchin needed the plane to make a secure phone call, whereas for some of the other trips the department only said that the plane and secure communications were required “given the potential for developments during travel related to a number of issues.”
The election of a hotheaded former reality TV star as commander in chief has ushered in something of a moment for candidates who’d normally be written off.
Enter Michael Grimm. Or rather, re-enter.
After completing a federal prison term for tax fraud, the former Republican congressman, perhaps best known for threatening to throw a reporter off a Capitol Hill balcony and break him “like a boy,” is hoping to ride a wave of anti-establishment “#MAGA” anger to retake his seat representing New York’s 11th District. And he’s already gathering Donald Trump’s allies to his side.
Former Trump 2016 campaign adviser Michael Caputo told TPM he’s “signed on with great enthusiasm” to serve as Grimm’s communications adviser. Caputo believes Grimm’s the ideal candidate to beat incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), who Caputo cast as one of the anti-Trump Republicans holding the President’s agenda “captive.”
“The stage is pretty well set,” echoed Chris Grant, Grimm’s campaign adviser and a former chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the first member of Congress to back Trump’s presidential campaign. “You’ve got pro-Trump Republicans on one side, and pro-DC establishment swamp dwellers on the other. We look forward to that battle.”
As tidy as that narrative may be, it’s unclear how much it reflects reality: Donovan is a popular local figure who has voted with Trump some 89 percent of the time. It’s also unclear how much of a role anti-establishment figures like former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon will play—or how much sway those self-styled kingmakers actually have.
Donovan spokeswoman Jessica Proud told TPM she was “not really concerned” with Grimm’s campaign or message, noting that Donovan supports the President on issues like the travel ban and accompanied Trump on Air Force One during a recent trip to Long Island.
“He’s trying to paint himself as this supporter of Trump and the facts just don’t back that up,” Proud said of Grimm. “He was out of prison during the presidential campaign and never came out and said anything in support of the President.”
Grimm, who was known as inmate No. 83479-053 during the seven months he spent at Pennsylvania’s McKean Federal Correctional Institute, was released to house arrest in early May 2016. Even then, he was hinting at a return to politics. Given that the two-term former congressman beat a Democratic challenger while under federal indictment for tax fraud charges in 2014, he told NY1 he planned to “move on” without worrying that his criminal history would dampen voter enthusiasm.
But the troubles associated with his shuttered restaurant Healthalicious, including hiring undocumented immigrants, filing false tax returns and underreporting wages and sales, weren’t the only stain on Grimm’s record. In his years in public life, the former FBI agent had also drawn attention for allegedly drawing a gun on the floor of a Queens nightclub, and for threatening to break an NY1 reporter in half “like a boy” and throw him over a balcony while the network’s cameras were rolling after former President Obama gave a State of the Union address.
Even against that backdrop, Grimm had a smooth reintroduction to the political arena. He formally kicked off his campaign two weeks ago at a raucous Staten Island rally where he fully embraced his checkered past, telling the crowd, “In Washington, nice guys finish last.” He’s been showered with media attention ever since.
Caputo, Grimm’s communications adviser, insisted the campaign’s research shows that voters in Grimm’s district, which includes Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn, don’t care about his record and like that he’s an “intense guy” who will hoof it to firehouses, senior centers and small businesses to make his case to constituents.
While local GOP insiders told TPM the powerful Staten Island Republican establishment appears to be behind Donovan, Caputo pointed to Grimm’s Wednesday meeting at “Breitbart Embassy,” Bannon’s Washington, D.C. lair, as a sign that his candidate has backers in high places, too. And Donovan has given Grimm an opening on the right with his vote against Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare.
But the hurdles Grimm would have to jump to return to Congress remain high.
It’s unclear exactly how much attention Bannon plans to give to the race since he’s meeting with dozens of candidates, and, even if he goes all in, whether his backing would have a significant impact on the race. Bannon hasn’t yet shown that he’s got big money behind him, and without a serious super-PAC investment it’s unlikely to make much of a different in New York’s 11th Congressional District, one of the costliest media markets in the country.
A source familiar with the conversation between Grimm and Bannon downplayed Wednesday’s pow-wow as just “one meeting” and said Bannon “is supportive” of Grimm, but hadn’t made an official endorsement.
“Steve liked him and that’s pretty much what it is,” the source said.
Bannon’s most potent weapon is his website, Breitbart, which is unlikely to have a major impact in a market where most voters’ news sources are the tabloids and the Staten Island Advance—unless it decides to take a unilateral focus on the race, like it did with the Alabama Senate primary.
There is also the question of Grimm’s own record in Congress. Despite winning in the 2010 Tea Party wave, he left office with a less-than-Trumpian record, having voted in support of a failed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals bill and openly acknowledged that human activity contributes to climate change.
“People want to make this out to be a bit more serious than it is, truthfully,” veteran New York GOP strategist David Catalfamo told TPM of Grimm’s candidacy.
“It’s ironic,” Catalfamo added. “The guy with one of the most liberal records in Congress is going to go primary a guy from the right and go after him for not supporting a President he couldn’t support because he was in jail.”
Gerry O’Brien, another Republican who’s spent 40 years as an activist and consultant for the New York Republican Party, similarly was skeptical that any boost from Trumpworld outsiders could swing the race.
“It’s really going to come down to a clash of personality, a clash of values and a lot of local stuff,” O’Brien said.
Given the heightened rhetoric surrounding the race just two weeks after Grimm’s entrance, those clashes seem all but certain to come.
The above photo illustration was created by Christine Frapech.
Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s top supporter is a hardline Confederate sympathizer with longtime ties to a secessionist group.
Michael Anthony Peroutka (pictured on the right above, with Moore in 2011) has given Moore, his foundation and his campaigns well over a half-million dollars over the past decade-plus. He’s also expressed beliefs that make even Moore’s arguably theocratic anti-gay and anti-Muslim views look mainstream by comparison. Chief among them: He’s argued that the more Christian South needs to secede and form a new Biblical nation.
The close connections raise further questions about the racial and religious views of Moore, the former Alabama supreme court chief justice and the front-runner to become Alabama’s next U.S. senator.
There’s a long history of southern conservative politicians playing footsie with fringe groups that hold controversial views on race. But that’s become more fraught in recent years as the advent of YouTube, camera phones and campaign trackers has made it harder to keep those meetings quiet. It’s also become more controversial to speak to Confederate groups in recent years as parts of the South have changed and in the wake of murderous racist violence in Charleston and Charlottesville. But even by the old standards, Moore’s deep ties to Peroutka — and Peroutka’s views — stand out, as most of those groups weren’t actively calling for the South to secede again.
Peroutka, a 2004 Constitution Party presidential nominee who in 2014 won a seat as a Republican on the county commission in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, spent years on the board of the Alabama-based League of the South, a southern secessionist group which for years has called for a southern nation run by an “Anglo-Celtic” elite. The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the League of the South as a hate group (a designation Peroutka regularly jokes about). That organization, after Peroutka left, was one of the organizers of the Charlottesville protests last summer that ended in bloodshed.
During his 2004 presidential run, Peroutka made it clear to the League of the South which side of the Mason-Dixon Line he stood on.
“I come from Maryland, which by the way is below the Mason-Dixon Line. … We’d have seceded if they hadn’t of locked up 51 members of the legislature. And by the way, I’m still angry about that,” he told the group to applause.
In that speech, Peroutka praised his daughter for refusing to play the Battle Hymn of the Republic in her school band, called a visit to Confederate leader Jefferson Davis’ grave “beautiful,” praised his son for calling the Confederate rebel flag the “American flag” and said he’d wished that those in the room had been there during the Civil War fighting for the South.
“We could have used you, there should have been more of us in 1861,” he said.
And he made it clear that his anti-union views weren’t just in the past.
“Of course the South is this remnant of a Christian understanding of law and government where there is a God and government is God-ordained. That stands right in the way of this pagan understanding that the state, the new world order, is God,'” he continued, warning that secularists were out to destroy the South.
The League of the South broke its tradition against involvement in a federal political system they normally reject and endorsed Peroutka’s campaign.
Moore’s Own Views
Moore himself has addressed some extremist groups and made some racially charged comments — in addition to his inflammatory views that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed in Congress, that Sharia law is already being implemented in parts of the Midwest and that “homosexual conduct should be illegal.”
Moore led the charge against a 2004 state referendum to remove segregationist language from the Alabama state constitution, claiming that the amendment would somehow open up the state to possible education tax increases. The League of the South was also involved in helping to defeat the amendment, which fell by a narrow margin.
As Buzzfeed reported in 2015, back in 1995 Moore gave a keynote address to the Council of Conservative Citizens — a white supremacist group that Charleston mass murderer Dylann Roof would cite as a key influence two decades later.
“I did not consider the Council of Conservative Citizens to be a ‘white supremacist’ group when I spoke to them 20 years ago,” Moore said in 2015, pointing out that other prominent Republicans like former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) had also spoken to the group. “I obviously highly regard the fundamental principle stated in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal.'”
As CNN recently reported, Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law hosted the League of the South’s annual “Secession Day” event in 2009 and 2010.
Rich Hobson, then the Foundation’s head and now Moore’s campaign manager, told the AP in 2010 that he’d been the one to grant the space to the League, not Moore, and said Moore’s foundation “is not involved in the meeting.”
Moore’s office is adorned with a portrait of Jefferson Davis and busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, though he’s claimed that’s because they’re fellow West Point graduates and not because they led the Confederacy.
Even during his current Senate campaign, Moore hasn’t shied away from racial controversy, continuing to question whether President Obama was born in the United States and referring to “reds and yellows” in the same breath that he lamented racial division. And Moore’s Facebook page shared memes claiming Obama was Muslim, as well as ones like this:
The League of the South has also helped to organize pro-Moore protests both times he was being removed from the Alabama supreme court, according to contemporaneous reports. But in spite of that visible support from the League of the South, his foundation hosting them while he was its president, and his deep ties to Peroutka, Moore has denied knowing about Peroutka’s and the group’s views.
When a Montgomery Advertiser reporter confronted him about Peroutka’s big donations to his state supreme court campaign in 2012, Moore denied he supported secession but refused to disavow Peroutka’s views because “I don’t know anything about it to be concerned or not concerned, but I have no idea what was said or what they stood for.”
Those who have closely watched Moore and Peroutka are skeptical.
“The fact that they are so close and Roy Moore promoted Peroutka, took him out of obscurity and helped him become the presidential candidate of the Constitution Party, says a lot,” Frederick Clarkson, an author with the liberal think tank Political Research Associates who has monitored Moore and Peroutka for decades, told TPM.
“League of the South is a violent secessionist group rooted in the theology of Christian Reconstructionism, states’ rights and white supremacy. There’s no question what they’re up to.”
The Maryland Confederate
Peroutka has been explicit about his support of the Confederacy — and his views haven’t exactly softened over the years.
“I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this [national political] regime is beyond reform. I think that’s an obvious fact and I agree with him. However, I do agree that when you secede or however the destruction and the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical worldview and apply it to civil law and government,” he said. “I don’t want the people from the League of the South to for one minute think that I am about reforming the current regime and studying the Constitution is about reforming the regime. I, like many of you and like Patrick Henry, have come to the conclusion that we smelled a rat from the beginning.”
In case there was any confusion about his views, Peroutka closed his speech by asking the crowd to “stand for the national anthem” — and then played “Dixie.”
Video of Peroutka at the 2012 League of the South event courtesy Right Wing Watch.
He’s also argued the Civil War was about “consolidating power into the hands of a few people” like Washington politicians and New York bankers, not slavery.
Peroutka explicitly said he wasn’t a racist during his 2014 run — though in a press conference to prove it he twice dodged questions about his earlier secessionist comments.
Moore’s campaign didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Peroutka told TPM via email that he has “made public statements regarding the issues you describe” and has “nothing further to add at this time.”
Peroutka and Moore share similar Christian Reconstructionist views of government. Both Moore and Peroutka have long questioned the basic right of the federal government to dictate what local officials do, arguing that’s beyond the power God and the Constitution grants to it, though Peroutka has gone much further, openly talking about secession.
They believe that America is a Christian nation, that government is limited to enforcing those rights bestowed by God, and anything else it attempts to do is fundamentally wrong and should be disregarded by the people and officials. That explains Moore’s refusal to follow the rule of law in both occasions he was forced to leave the state supreme court. Both explicitly reject the common interpretation of the separation of church and state, blame America’s woes on an abandonment of their theocratic view, and harken back fondly to a hazy earlier era where devout Christians alone ruled the land.
More than a decade ago, Peroutka found a kindred spirit in Moore, who had become a hero on the religious right by erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments at his courthouse and rejecting higher courts’ rulings to remove it. Moore was suddenly without a job after being kicked off the Alabama supreme court — and Peroutka seemed to have a perfect way to help him fill his days.
Soon, the two were barnstorming the country, with Peroutka giving Moore $120,000 for a speaking tour. The well-known Moore was being courted by members of the fringe Constitution Party as a presidential candidate, and often spoke at the same events as his previously little-known benefactor. When Moore announced he wouldn’t run, Peroutka stepped up — a self-funder who’d helped Moore travel the country and in return got to share his spotlight and boost his profile.
That was the first of many donations, most of them made through the Elizabeth Stroub Peroutka Foundation, a group run by Peroutka and his brother: $60,000 to Moore’s now-defunct Coalition to Restore America, and $249,000 from 2006 through 2014 to Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law.
Peroutka also gave a combined $45,000 to Moore’s two failed gubernatorial runs, and a total of $143,000 for his successful 2012 comeback to the state supreme court, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics, roughly one-tenth of his total money for the race.
The sum total of Peroutka’s donations to Moore, his causes and campaigns: at least $622,000 since 2004.
Screen shot from Moore’s Facebook video of Moore greeting Peroutka backstage on primary election night, Sept. 27, 2017.
Peroutka has also honored Moore on numerous occasions — including in 2007 when he had installed a replica of Moore’s Ten Commandments memorial on his Maryland farm and dubbed the area “Roy S. Moore Field.” Flying at the ceremony: the state flags of Alabama and Maryland, and the Confederate national flag. The stars and stripes were nowhere to be seen, according to coverage and photos from the liberal secular Americans United for Church and State and the liberal blog JewsOnFirst.
The two seem to have remained close. Peroutka maxed out to Moore’s current Senate campaign and appeared onstage at Moore’s primary victory rally in late September. Moore embraced him backstage after shouting an exuberant “This guy, this guy! Michael,” upon spotting him (it can be seen at 33 minutes into the Moore campaign’s Facebook livestream of the event).
As recently as 2015, Moore participated in a promotional video for Peroutka’s “Institute on the Constitution” — an organization set to teach a biblical view of the Constitution — calling Peroutka his “good friend.”
Promotional video from Peroutka’s group, the Institute on the Constitution.
The League of the South’s Dark Record
Peroutka has used his personal wealth to fund a number of right-wing causes over the years, from various anti-abortion and anti-gay groups to money to maintain Confederate monuments and grave sites to $1 million to the Creation Museum for the fossilized skeleton of an Allosaurous dubbed “Ebenezer.”
But his League of the South support has drawn the most ire. It convinced now-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and other local Republicans to disavow Peroutka’s candidacy in 2014.
The group and its leader Michael Hill (the “Dr. Hill” Peroutka was referring to in his 2012 remarks) have become more openly militant in recent years, shortly after Peroutka left the group.
Hill has recently suggested organizing a violent “Southern Defense Force” militia in preparation for “guerrilla war,” predicted “race war,” and attacked “Organized Jewry.” He was a scheduled speaker at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville alongside former KKK head David Duke, and members of his group were caught on camera brawlingduring the violent protests there that ended up with a white nationalist ramming a car into a group of anti-racist protestors. In its aftermath, he wrote a Facebook post titled “Fight or die White man.” The group has had billboards reading “Secede” posted across the South since 2014.
While Peroutka repeatedly praised Hill in speeches as recently as 2012, he left when he was gearing up for a 2014 run for office, claiming he’d just found out top members opposed interracial marriage. He recently denounced as “outrageous” and “inappropriate” Hill’s pledge “to be a white supremacist, a racist, an anti-Semite, a homophobe, a xenophobe, an Islamophobe and any other sort of ‘phobe’ that benefits my people.”
But while the group has grown more extreme, its basic tenets haven’t shifted all that much since Peroutka was first involved. At the same 2012 League conference that Peroutka spoke, Hill made it crystal clear what he and the group stood for. It’s apparent Peroutka was listening, as he referred back to parts of Hill’s speech in his own.
“We want out and we want them out of here,” Hill said about the federal government, calling for a “New southern republic,” speaking out against interracial marriage and for the “Superiority of the Christian West.”
“If you can’t be proud of the fact that God created you as a white southerner and you can’t defend your patrimony then you ain’t much,” he said. “Look around. You all look like me. … You cannot deny when you look around in this room who makes up this movement.”
From the start, the group had long had ties with white supremacists. A founding board member, Jack Kershaw, was an ardent segregationist who’d served as the attorney of Martin Luther King’s assassin, erected statue of early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest in Nashville, and repeatedly argued that slavery had been good for black people.
Longtime observers of the group called laughable Peroutka’s seeming shock about the group’s views.
“It’s pretty transparent bullshit that he couldn’t see racism in the League of the South until he ran for office,” said Miranda Blue, who has long tracked Peroutka and the League for Right Wing Watch and the liberal group People for the American Way.
And much as Peroutka’s claim he didn’t know about the League of the South’s motives is questionable, observers say Moore’s close ties with Peroutka are telling.
“These are the moral and political choices Roy Moore made with his close friend and financial backer, Michael Peroutka,” said Clarkson. “If he didn’t share substantial portions of the vision, why did he do those things?”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Peroutka’s middle name.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) has decided not to finish out his term in Congress, the latest fallout from the exposure of his extramarital affair — in which the ostensibly pro-life congressman asked his mistress to have an abortion.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), in an unusual statement, announced that Murphy is on his way out in two weeks.
“This afternoon I received a letter of resignation from Congressman Tim Murphy, effective October 21. It was Dr. Murphy’s decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it. We thank him for his many years of tireless work on mental health issues here in Congress and his service to the country as a naval reserve officer,” Ryan said.
The news comes one day after Murphy announced he wouldn’t run for another term — and just days after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke the news that Murphy had urged his mistress to have an abortion during a false pregnancy scare.
Murphy had an ardently anti-abortion record in Congress. He’d also been a fairly interesting congressman, crafting and helping push through major bipartisan mental health legislation in recent years.
Murphy’s western Pennsylvania district is fairly solidly Republican — President Trump won it by 58 percent to 39 percent — and it’d be a major but not impossible reach for Democrats to compete for it.