Billionaire Justice Aims To Self-Fund In WV Governor Race

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — Three decades after Republicans dared Jay Rockefeller to “spend it all” in a campaign for governor, billionaire businessman Jim Justice will help bankroll his own Democratic run for the state’s top executive job.

In the 1980 election, Republican Arch Moore slapped “Make him spend it all, Arch” bumper stickers across the state to chide Rockefeller, a wealthy Democratic governor from a famed American family.

Moore, who served three terms as one of the state’s most popular GOP governors, still couldn’t overcome Rockefeller and the $12 million he personally put toward that election.

West Virginia is no stranger to self-funded campaigns. But banking on your own cash doesn’t always equal success in politics, either in the Mountain State or across the country.

Justice’s wealth easily trumps Rockefeller’s. The 64-year-old built a $1.7 billion fortune in coal and agriculture, and has painted himself a job creator who bought and restored The Greenbrier historic resort.

Justice hasn’t said how much he will personally spend on his campaign. He has said he doesn’t want to use his cash “on an unbelievable scale” so he can keep supporters feeling invested in his candidacy.

“I want to contribute because I think it would be selfish and inconsistent to say Jim Justice is going to ask everybody in the world to bring him all the money to take care of his campaign,“ Justice told reporters this week.

In addition to Rockefeller’s win, Democrat Gaston Caperton also beat Moore in 1988 for governor after using $3.2 million of his own money, according to media reports. Current Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey spent $1.4 million of his money in a 2012 win.

Still, many more hopefuls burned through millions of dollars only to lose.

Republican contender John Raese lost after spending $2.4 million in 2010 and $1 million in 2012 against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. He also loaned himself $2.3 million for a failed campaign against the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd in 2006.

Democrat Jim Humphreys funneled $6.1 million in 2000 and another $7.7 million in 2002 into losing U.S. House races against Republican Shelley Moore Capito, now a senator.

Nationally, Justice would join a list of wealthy political neophytes who put their money on the line for office. One of the most prominent recent examples is Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. The former hospital chain executive spent $75 million of his own cash to get elected in 2010.

Republican Meg Whitman didn’t fare as well. The Hewlett-Packard executive dumped a whopping $175 million into a failed 2010 run for governor in California.

The price of politics in West Virginia is a fraction of those two states. In 2012, Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin won re-election after raising and spending $3.4 million.

The stats don’t necessarily work in self-funders’ favor. From 2002 to 2009, Only 668 of 6,171— or 11 percent — of self-funded candidates for state office won, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

“The amount of money that (Justice) could bring to the table certainly is noteworthy,“ said West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas. “However, you can only spend so much without diminishing marginal returns. Voters across America have a history of rejecting self-funded candidates, with some exceptions.“

While running for governor, Rockefeller spun his self-funding into a positive, arguing he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests, said West Virginia Wesleyan College political science professor Robert Rupp.

Rockefeller and Caperton also climbed the political ladder more traditionally. Rockefeller worked his way up through elected slots as a Democrat, while Caperton was involved in Democratic Party politics, Rupp said.

Justice has changed his party affiliation multiple times, and was recently a Republican. He said he is still hashing out his policy views and wants to bridge the partisan divide with fresh ideas.

His candidacy has yielded criticisms from Democratic state Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, the only other mainstream candidate officially in the race.

“The hardworking men and women of West Virginia will decide if big ideas and hard work will beat big money,“ Kessler said.

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Jim Justice Enters Politics, Announces 2016 Run for Governor

The Gilmer Free Press

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV — The owner of the famed Greenbrier Resort is running for governor. Jim Justice made the announcement Monday afternoon in front of dozens of supporters gathered at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center in Greenbrier County.

The 2016 race will be the first try at politics for Justice, 64, a Raleigh County native and member of Forbes Magazine’s billionaire’s list.

Justice’s estimated wealth is more than $1.6 billion. He’s made his money in coal, corn and other products. In recent years, he’s best known for purchasing The Greenbrier out of near-bankruptcy. Since the 2009 purchase he’s added jobs and events including the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic. He also convinced the New Orleans Saints to hold part of their summer training camp at the resort for at least three years.

Neither Justice nor any other candidate for governor next year can yet file for office. That doesn’t happen until next January. Candidates can file pre-candidacy papers. Justice plans to do that at the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office Tuesday.

The criticism of a Justice campaign preceded Monday afternoon’s announcement. The West Virginia Republican Party published “five things you should know about Jim Justice.”  The list criticizes Justice’s political contributions, coal mining environmental record, dealings with small businesses and his Old White Charities.

Justice is the first major candidate to run for governor from Greenbrier County since Republican Cleve Benedict in 1992. If elected, Justice would be the first governor from Greenbrier County since Homer Holt who served one term from 1937-1941.

No ‘Justice Effect’ On Kessler Who Calls Himself Only ‘Real Democrat’ In Governor Race

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV — Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02) says he’s not afraid to run against Jim Justice, the owner of The Greenbrier Resort who was expected to announce his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016 on Monday.

“The bad news (is) I guess I’ll now be running against a billionaire. I guess the good news is I’m still the only real Democrat in the race,” said Kessler who was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” prior to the announcement from Justice, 64.

In March, Kessler filed pre-candidacy papers to launch his campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

“While I welcome Jim to the Democrat congregation, I’m just not prepared after a three-week political conversion to coronate him as our minister, certainly not our party leader,” Kessler said.

Forbes estimated Justice’s net worth, as of earlier this month, was $1.69 billion. He made his fortune in coal, timber and farming. Justice purchased The Greenbrier in 2009, saving the historic site from bankruptcy.

Justice has never before run for a statewide political office.

Kessler previously ran for governor in 2011 during a special election to replace U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) when he left the Governor’s Office to fill the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd’s (D-WV) seat in the U.S. Senate.

An attorney from Glen Dale, Kessler was appointed to the state Senate to fill a vacancy in 1997. He was first elected to the Senate in 1998 and reelected for every term since then.

During his time at the State Capitol, he’s served as Senate President, Acting Senate President and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair.

In the past, Justice has been a registered Republican. He is now a registered Democrat, but Kessler questioned his political credentials.

“While I recognize that we have taken a bath over the last couple of election cycles, trying to be ‘Republican-lite,’ I hope we haven’t resorted to the fact that the only way we think we can win is to go out and get one,” Kessler said of Democrats.

“The fact that you’ve got a bunch of money in the bank doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the party leader.”

Kessler said he represents “the average Joe on the street.”

“I’ve been in the trenches, sticking up for Democrat values and ideals for the last three decades, not three weeks. I look forward to pointing out the contrasts between the two of us and what’s the best path for the Democrat Party,” he said.

Primary Election Day in West Virginia is May 10, 2016.

How Record Spending Will Play Out In 2016 Election

The Gilmer Free Press

The role of money and politics in the 2016 presidential election is a conundrum. Humongous sums will be spent; the effect on the outcome could be minimal, but in time the flood of cash may produce Watergate-level money scandals.

Spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals may approach $10 billion. Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if they receive their parties’ nominations, each could spend more than $2 billion, about twice as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each forked out in 2012.

With several Supreme Court decisions lifting restrictions – on the misguided premise that money doesn’t buy political influence – the way is open for an orgy of spending by well-heeled interest groups and super-rich individuals on both political sides. Even beneficiaries, including Clinton and several top Republican aspirants, say the system is rotten.

Yet, unlike in the past, the money advantage may not be decisive. Among Democrats, Clinton would dominate even without her overwhelming financial advantage; she’d certainly be at least competitive as a general election candidate.

Among Republicans, Bush may lap the field, but at least four other contenders – Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – are likely to build $50 million war chests, counting their so-called super-PACs, before next February’s first four contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The big money stuff then hits in the first few weeks of March. On March 15, states can hold winner-take-all primaries, raising the stakes. But if a couple of the candidates who aren’t named Bush score well in the early contests, they’ll have enough resources to compete in this stage.

All of the top contenders have sugar daddies, billionaires who seem willing to spend unprecedented sums on their campaigns, principally via the super-PACs, which have no contribution limits; these entities are supposed to be independent of the campaign, a fiction that no one believes.

There will be vast amounts of independent expenditures on both sides; the network of the right-wing multibillionaire Koch brothers is planning to spend almost $900 million.

The Supreme Court, in a series of rulings that have created this Wild West of campaign spending, argued that major money “does not give rise to quid-pro-quo corruption,“ or give big donors special access.

The justices might want to take a look at the recent indictment of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. Whatever the legal merit of the charges, the facts are indisputable: A Florida ophthalmologist earmarked sizable donations to a super-PAC to go to the Democratic lawmaker, who went to bat with the federal government for the doctor’s dubious Medicare disputes and other interests.

As for the oft-cited contention that these rich givers are driven only by principle or ideology, look at the South Carolina congressional seat held by Bob Inglis until 2010. He was a conservative, free-market Republican supported by business interests, including the Koch brothers. After delving into the issue, he changed his position on climate change and concluded that it was a serious threat. In 2010, some of these interests, including the Koch brothers, abandoned him, and in a rare primary loss, he was defeated by challenger Trey Gowdy, who did get money from the Kochs’ political action committee.

Then there’s the dark money, which derives from sham entities known as social welfare organizations, that both sides establish and that can make major politically intended expenditures without having to reveal the identity of donors. There was $300 million in dark money spent in the last presidential race; there may be twice as much for 2016. These donors often are looking for special favors or access, which wouldn’t be as easy to do if the spending were reported openly.

If U.S. political history is any guide, this staggering amount of money in the political system, much of it from vested interests, will result in scandals. Whether it’s through lawsuits, or leaks or an industrious news media, that seems inevitable.

~~  Albert R. Hunt - A Bloomberg columnist ~~

The Most Strident and Sanctimonious Moralists in the U.S. Turn Out To Be Total Hypocrites

Ten Obnoxious Right-Wing Moralists Who Were Caught With Their Pants Down
The Gilmer Free Press

Time and time again, the most strident and sanctimonious moralists in the U.S. turn out to be total hypocrites. Far-right television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart screamed about the evils of adultery and fornication while he was cheating on his wife with prostitutes in the late 1980s; evangelist/cult leader Tony Alamo had spent decades preaching fire-and-brimstone fundamentalism when, in 2009, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison for a long list of sexual abuse charges involving underage girls. And while there are countless priests, nuns, ministers and rabbis who quietly practice what they preach, it is often the pompous moralists who get caught up in sex scandals.

Here are 10 self-appointed guardians of morality who turned out to be major hypocrites.

1. Christian patriarchy promoter Bill Gothard

Bill Gothard, the 80-year-old Christian fundamentalist who founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles back in 1973, is considered extreme even among the Christian Right. Not only is he anti-gay and anti-abortion, but he considers all rock music demonic (including Christian rock), opposes all forms of contraception (even the Catholic rhythm method) and believes that wives should be totally submissive to their husbands and never work outside the home. Gothard has been one of the top proponents of homeschooling and an influential figure in the Quiverfull, or “Christian patriarchy” movement. But in 2014, Gothard resigned as president of IBLP after a major sex scandal: more than 30 women alleged that he sexually harassed them, and one alleged that he molested her when she was only 16.

2. The Rev. George Alan Rekers

Far-right Christian fundamentalist George Alan Rekers has a long history of anti-gay activism. He was part of the Family Research Council when the Rev. James Dobson founded that group in 1983, and he spent many years as a so-called “scientific advisor” for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH, an organization specializing in bogus “restorative therapy” or “conversion therapy” for gay men. Rekers testified in court many times about how “destructive” and immoral he considered the “gay lifestyle” to be and claimed to offer scientific evidence that gay men could be converted to heterosexuality. But in 2010, Rekers (who was married with children) showed his hypocrisy when he used, a gay website specializing in male escorts, to find a male companion for a 10-day visit to Europe. The escort told the Miami New Timesthat he had sex with Rekers during the trip, and Rekers resigned from NARTH because of the scandal.

3. Doug W. Phillips, founder of Vision Forum Ministries

One of the Christian fundamentalists Gothard influenced was Doug W. Phillips, who became quite influential himself after founding the San Antonio, Texas-based Vision Forum Ministries in 1998. Phillips has been one of the leading proponents of Quiverfull/Christian patriarchy ideology, teaching that all birth control is sinful and that wives must obey their husbands at all times. In 2013, Phillips resigned from Vision Forum after admitting he had cheated on his wife. But according to a Texas woman named Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, who he employed as a live-in nanny, Phillips was more than an adulterer; in a civil lawsuit filed in 2014, Torres-Manteufel alleged that Phillips sexually harassed and coerced her repeatedly, despite her pleas for him to stop.

4. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich is a shining example of the old saying, there are none so pure as those who have sinned. When Gingrich was serving as speaker of the House of Representatives in 1998, he hounded President Bill Clinton with a vengeance because of his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Problem: Gingrich himself had a long history of adultery. He had cheated on his first wife, Jackie Battley, in the early 1980s, and when he was demanding Clinton’s impeachment, Gingrich was cheating on his second wife, Marianne Ginther. But despite all that blatant hypocrisy, Gingrich has maintained a friendly relationship with the Christian Right and had no problem seeking the evangelical vote when he ran for president in the GOP primary in 2012.

Steve Wiles, a.k.a. Miss Mona Sinclair

When Steve Wiles ran in the Republican primary for a seat in the North Carolina State Senate in 2014, he campaigned passionately against gay marriage in that state. But it turned out that Wiles had been a drag performer in a North Carolina gay bar, where he went by the stage name Miss Mona Sinclair. On top of that, Wiles had been a promoter in the Miss Gay America drag pageant. But that was before he decided to pursue the anti-gay vote in North Carolina. Wiles’ hypocrisy didn’t endear him to primary voters, and he lost to incumbent Joyce R. Krawiec, who went on to defeat Democrat John Motsinger Sr. in the general election.

6. Former Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister

During his 2013 campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister was fond of the phrase, “faith, family and country.” McAllister was elected on an anti-gay marriage/anti-abortion platform. But McAllister’s commitment to “traditional marriage” was called into question when, in 2014, a video from a security camera showed he was cheating on his wife. In the video, McAllister was passionately kissing his scheduler, Melissa Hixon Peacock, who was married to long-time friend and campaign donor Heath Peacock and had a son with him. McAllister issued an official statement saying he had “fallen short” and was “asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids,” but Heath Peacock told CNN that McAllister’s man-of-faith routine was merely an act and that he was “about the most non-religious person I know.”

7. Former Tennessee State Sen. Paul Stanley

Republican Paul Stanley was not shy about pandering to the Christian Right during his years in Tennessee politics. Stanley was stridently anti-gay, once sponsoring a bill that would have banned same-sex couples from adopting children in the state (the bill was defeated). Stanley opposed funding for Planned Parenthood not only because he was anti-abortion, but also because he believed Planned Parenthood promoted sinful premarital sex. Stanley also opposed adultery—or so he said. In 2009, it was revealed that Stanley (who was 47 years old and married with two children) was having an affair with a 22-year-old intern named McKensie Morrison. When Morrison’s boyfriend, Joel Watts, tried to blackmail Stanley with some sexually explicit pictures documenting the affair, Stanley went public and resigned from the Tennessee State Senate (Watts pled guilty to blackmail and was sentenced to one year of probation). But that wasn’t the end of Stanley’s involvement in “family values” politics; he went on to become political editor of the Christian Post.

Author/radio host Laura Schlessinger

During her long career in talk radio, Dr. Laura has been a strident, in-your-face moralist. The Brooklyn native has been consistently anti-gay (she infamously claimed that “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys”) and has spent many years preaching against abortion, porn, sex education and any type of sex outside of marriage. Schlessinger opposes interfaith marriages (which she calls “interfaithless”), and has argued that married couples that opt not to have children are selfish and hedonistic. But an examination of Schlessinger’s own history demonstrates that she hasn’t always practiced what she preaches. In the mid-1970s, Schlessinger posed for some nude and topless photos taken by the late shock jock Bill Ballance, and in the late 1990s, the photos appeared on the Internet after Balance sold them to an adult website. 

9. North Dakota State Rep. Randy Boehning

Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal in most parts of the U.S., many Republicans still use homophobia to rally their fundamentalist base. In North Dakota, one such Republican is State Rep. Randy Boehning, who has been a strong supporter of that state’s ban on same-sex marriage and has opposed laws that forbid discrimination against gays. But Boehning’s hypocrisy came to light in April, when the North Dakota Forum reported that he had sent a sexually explicit photo of himself to a Bismarck man, Dustin Smith, via the gay dating smartphone app Grindr. Smith went to the Forum after learning about Boehning’s anti-gay voting record and Boehning came out as bisexual. 

10. Talk-r
adio host Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has spent much of his career painting himself as a paragon of virtue and morality. He was a strong supporter of the war on drugs in the 1990s, arguing that Americans with substance abuse problems were reprobates who deserved long prison sentences, In 2003, however, it was revealed that he had a severe addiction to OxyContin and would be going to rehab. But then, Limbaugh has always been full of contradictions. He applauds the Christian Right and condemned Clinton for committing adultery, yet he has been through two divorces, often uses off-color humor and sexual innuendos on his show, and was detained at a Florida airport in 2006 for having a bottle of Viagra that was not in his name. Then there was Limbaugh’s hateful attack on law student Sandra Fluke in 2012: When Fluke said that health insurance plans should cover female contraception, Limbaugh calld her a “prostitute” and a “slut” and argued that if taxpayers were going to pay Fluke to have sex, she should film the act and make an adult video for his viewing pleasure. Leave it to Limbaugh to exploit sex while pandering to the Christian Right’s hatred and fear of it.

~~  Alex Henderson - L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly ~~

Mike Huckabee Looks To 2016 Bid

The Gilmer Free Press

Republican Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor and unabashed culture warrior, enters the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday facing competition for the support of social conservatives who backed him in 2008.

The ex-governor of Arkansas, 59, became a national figure by staging an upset win in Iowa’s kickoff nominating contest during his 2008 presidential bid.

This time around other Republicans with national recognition have emerged as rivals for the role of leading crusader on social issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage.

Polls show Huckabee’s support among Republican voters is only in the single digits.

“I do think that this time he is going to have a lot more competition for the votes. I think that Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum are both really jockeying for that hardcore evangelical vote,“ said Sam Clovis, a social conservative activist in Iowa.

Cruz, a senator from Texas, declared his candidacy in March. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won Iowa in 2012.

Huckabee says he has some experience that his rivals lack: How to fight Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton. He encountered the remnants of the Democratic Clinton political machine during a decade as Arkansas governor, a job that Bill Clinton had held before moving to the White House in 1993.

“I hear some people say we’re going to have to have someone who knows how to fight. I’ll tell you what, if you battled the political machine that I battled, you know how to fight,“ Huckabee told Republican activists in New Hampshire last month.

Huckabee will make his announcement in Hope, Arkansas, which both he and Bill Clinton call their hometown.

Huckabee is perhaps the Republican presidential hopeful who speaks most clearly about the economy to working Americans.

“I put America and its workers first. Too many in the political class put Wall Street and Washington elites first. They aren’t fighting for American workers,“ Huckabee wrote in an op-ed in Iowa’s Des Moines Register in March.

He is at his most strident when combating what he sees as immorality.

He attacked one of the entertainment world’s most famous couples, Beyonce and Jay Z, in his new book “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.“

In the book, Huckabee asked whether rapper Jay Z was “arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?“ He also wrote sarcastically that bisexuals should be able to have more than one spouse.

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