Vanita Gupta, Xavier Becerra. (Photos: Justice Department & Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License 2.0)

Rarely is the question asked: Is our political journalists learning? Maybe they are! In a refreshing look at three rightwing political groups launching an ad campaign against two Biden Cabinet appointees, Politico actually debunks the groups' bad faith claims as the article goes along, rather than simply reporting the claims and then noting that the accusations are "disputed." Nicely done, Politico, that didn't suck at all!

The groups, Americans for Public Trust, Heritage Action for America, and Judicial Crisis Network, seek to undermine support for Vanita Gupta, President Joe Biden's nominee for associate attorney general, and Xavier Becerra, Biden's pick for secretary of Health and Human Services. In addition, they're also running an ad claiming that Biden is a scary tool of evil nasty "dark money" groups, although the groups they point at don't actually hide their donors' identity, which is kind of what the definition of dark moneying is. Here, enjoy the grave narration and you-should-be-worried low notes of that bullshit ad, which looks and sounds like every other political attack ad of the last 20 years (apart from Carly Fiorina's insane Demon Sheep ad, which will always be special to us).



The ad claims, darkly, that "Liberals spent a record amount of dark money to elect Biden, and now they're cashing in," pointing to Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, who was on the board of directors of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Biden's climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund.

Neither group is a dark money outfit, of course. Politico notes that CAP lists its donors on its website, and you can look up NRDC Action Fund's large donors ($200 or more) at OpenSecrets. Both groups are required to disclose their donors; it's freaking public information.

The ad also suggests that the reason Biden hasn't yet ordered public schools to open is due to "dark money" contributions from teachers' unions, which, big surprise, are also required to disclose political spending.

The ad is absurd to anyone who knows anything about Ron Klain, who has worked with Biden since the late 1980s and was Biden's chief of staff when Biden was veep. But the ad isn't aimed at people who know anything, anyway.

Then there are the attacks on Gupta and on Becerra. Politico notes that the Judicial Crisis Network's ad against Gupta, titled "Dangerous Appointee," attempts to link Gupta to the summer's demonstrations and riots against police brutality (cue the BURNING CITIES B-roll) and claims that Gupta

supports defunding the police, led a group that wants to reduce punishments on white supremacists, even terrorists. When our cities burned Gupta could've stood for law and order, for victims. Instead she advocated to let convicts out of jail.

Here too, the fact check is simultaneous. Politico adds, "The article that the ad cites to support the accusation that Gupta favors defunding the police does not actually say she favors defunding the police." Politico could have gone a little further; we'll just add that the laughable "evidence" that Gupta favors "reducing punishments on white supremacists, even terrorists" consists of photos of the Charleston church shooter and the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, over the text of a letter calling for a moratorium on the federal death penalty. Yeah, that appeal to end capital punishment from the group Gupta leads, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, was just full of sympathy for white supremacy and terrorism.

The ad against Becerra, from Heritage Action for America, Politico notes,

says Becerra "supports government run health care," "sued Catholic nuns" as California attorney general, and would "decriminalize illegal immigration." The ad says Becerra "is not a doctor" — former HHS Secretary Alex Azar was not a physician, either — and is the "wrong appointee" in the middle of a pandemic.

See how Politico got that fact check in there? Nicely done! Probably should have pointed out that HHS secretaries don't actually get to make immigration policy, though.

The piece also quotes spokespeople who suggest that Biden is simply following the orders of his extreme liberal dark money overlords, then follows up with this:

A "dark money" organization is a political nonprofit that is not required to disclose their donors. Judicial Crisis Network and Heritage Action for America are, in fact, dark money groups themselves. As 501(c)(4) groups they do not have to reveal their funders.

Neener, good sir. I say again, neener to you!

Politico does go on to note that in 2020, Bloomberg reports, the Biden campaign did indeed benefit from spending by dark money groups, which spent $145 million on his behalf, compared to $28.4 million for Trump. We don't like dark money, and we think democracy would be much better off with serious campaign finance reform, but we'd also note that we know a hell of a lot more about Joe Biden's finances than Donald Trump ever disclosed about his own. We'll go with the guy who's not being investigated for hinky finances, thanks.

[Politico / Becerra photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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