Chances are that if you read this blog, you're not some pathetic, over-the-hill shut-in approaching the sunset of your life. (The odds get shorter if you write for this blog, however.) Which means you probably don't watch the local TV news very often.
But if you do tune in, you may have recently noticed a scary advertisement warning about yet another bank bailout. The ad -- a version of which can be seen here -- warns that a $4 trillion "big bank bailout" is currently pending before the U.S. Senate, having already passed the House. There is no voiceover -- just a series of alarming phrases warning of sinister lobbyists, higher taxes, and the prospect of more national indebtedness. In between are images of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Congressional Democrats.
The ad concludes by urging viewers to call Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter. "We won't be fooled again," it asserts.
Indeed. Which is why it's worth examing the spot a little closer.
The ad's final panel identifies the commercial's sponsor as the "Committee for Truth in Politics." With a name like that, you know they must be up to something.
Sure enough, this is the same outfit that in 2008 ran an ad trumping up fears that Barack Obama favored putting sex offenders out on the streets ASAP. (As an Illinois state Senator, Obama had cast a "no" vote on a crime bill by mistake, and quickly corrected it.) And western Pennsylvania is a key hunting ground for the Committee, which targeted the region heavily during the last Presidential election.
This time, the issue in question is HR 4173, a bill which actually strives to rein in abuses of the financial system. The bill does include a $4 trillion figure, but the commercial's use of it is hugely misleading. As FactCheck.org notes, the Federal Reserve previously had unlimited discretion about how much money it could spend on bailouts. Sure, $4 trillion is a lot of money, but it is a ceiling on bailouts. And in any case, the bill certainly doesn't give the Federal Reserve bailout power it didn't already have. What the bill does have is a series of proposed consumer protections, limits on executive pay, regulations on risky "derivative trading," and other changes.
Arguably, the bill (which passed the House with no Republican backing) is too weak. And it will likely get weaker still in the Senate. But somehow, I don't think that's the Committee's problem with the measure.
I can't be sure, though, becuase the Committee for Truth in Politics turns out to be at least as shadowy as the shenanigans it decries. The group has refused to disclose its funders or expenditures, and sued the Federal Election Commission to get out from under financial disclosure laws.
The group's attorney, Jim Bopp, helped launch the Citizens United case, in which a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned much of the nation's campaign finance law. Bopp also reportedly authored a "purity test" to apply to GOP candidates. (It's a test for ideological purity rather than chastity, of course. I mean, how could the Party of Sanford, Hyde, Gingrich and Larry Craig find anyone to run?) He also launched a childish GOP effort to rebrand the Democrats as the "Democrat Socialist Party."
And this is the guy who doesn't want you to be fooled again.