Obama Administration Condemns Hizballah for Burgas Attack

— by David Streeter

The Obama Administration strongly condemned the now-confirmed involvement of Hizballah in the attack on Israelis in Burgas, Bulgaria. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

The United States commends our close friend and NATO ally Bulgaria for its thorough and professional investigation into the July 18, 2012, Burgas terrorist attack.

The finding is clear and unequivocal: Lebanese Hizballah was responsible for this deadly assault on European soil.

More after the jump.

We condemn Hizballah in the strongest terms for an attack which bears striking similarities to other disrupted plots of the last year. The United States is acting decisively and comprehensively to curtail Hizballah’s destabilizing actions in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East, and we are prepared to do all within our power to assist the Government of Bulgaria in bringing those responsible for the Burgas attack to justice.

We strongly urge other governments around the world — and particularly our partners in Europe — to take immediate action to crack down on Hizballah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity.

Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan said:

The United States commends the Government of Bulgaria for its professional and comprehensive investigation into the barbaric July 18, 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas. Today, following a thorough review of the evidence collected to date, Bulgarian authorities announced their judgment that Lebanese Hizballah was responsible for carrying out this act of terrorism, which killed six innocent civilians and injured many others.

Bulgaria’s investigation exposes Hizballah for what it is — a terrorist group that is willing to recklessly attack innocent men, women, and children, and that poses a real and growing threat not only to Europe, but to the rest of the world. We commend Bulgarian authorities for their determination and commitment to ensuring that Hizballah is held to account for this act of terror on European soil. The United States will continue to provide the Bulgarian Government assistance in bringing the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice.

Hizballah’s dangerous and destabilizing activities — from attacking tourists in foreign countries to leader Hassan Nasrallah’s active support of Bashar al-Assad’s violent campaign against the Syrian people — threaten the safety and security of nations and citizens around the world. Bulgaria’s implication of Hizballah underscores the importance of international cooperation in disrupting terrorist threats. We call on our European partners as well as other members of the international community to take proactive action to uncover Hizballah’s infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks in order to prevent future attacks.

The United States is proud to stand with its friend and NATO ally Bulgaria. We deeply value our strong partnership on a wide range of issues including advancing global and regional security in Afghanistan and the Balkans, expanding economic and commercial ties, and promoting cultural and education programs.

Colbert Highlights Super PAC Farce

— by Jonathan Backer

A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both. — James Madison

By exploiting loopholes in campaign finance law, special interests have already succeeded in denying the public of essential information about the sources of money funding political speech. A farcical attempt by one group to keep the public in the dark while also coordinating its message with candidates makes for good political comedy now, but will lead to tragedy if our elected officials begin to feel the full corrupting influence of unlimited, undisclosed, corporate contributions.

In the latest installment of Stephen Colbert’s intrepid quest to expose the absurdities of campaign finance non-regulation in the post-Citizens United era, the comedian recently discussed a new attempt by Super PACs to circumvent the few constraints that remain on their electioneering activities. The Super PAC American Crossroads recently submitted a request to the Federal Election Commission seeking permission for federal candidates to appear in its purportedly “independent” ads. The group acknowledged that ads featuring candidates would be “fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012.” After all, a Super PAC would obviously have to share a script and discuss the contents of an ad with a candidate in order for her to appear in it. Nevertheless, American Crossroads would like the FEC to issue an advisory opinion stating that such ads would not qualify as “coordination.”

More after the jump.
As the Brennan Center argued in a comment to the FEC, this position runs afoul of “[c]onstitutional law, federal statutes, and common sense.” Fortunately, common sense was no barrier to Stephen Colbert, who rose to the challenge and submitted a comment to the FEC in support of American Crossroads’ request. As Colbert wrote, “The candidate would merely be appearing as a paid spokesperson, who, coincidentally, is closely aligned with the candidate that he or she also is.” To illustrate the paper-thin separation between supposedly independent Super PACs and the candidates they support, Colbert offered an illuminating metaphor:

For example, an ad in which the Kool Aid man decries our nation-wide childhood thirst problem would not necessarily be an ad for Kool Aid brand juice drink. That being said, would a tall glass of Kool-Aid solve that thirst problem? To quote one expert: “Oh, yeaaahhhh!”

Colbert’s letter far and away outstrips the competition for funniest public comment to a regulatory agency, but even the comedian’s most ardent fans recognize that the consequences of a ruling in favor of American Crossroads are far from amusing. After Colbert emailed his comment to supporters of Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (Colbert Super PAC), hundreds of individuals emailed the FEC calling for the agency to deny American Crossroads’ request.

As one civically-engaged student, wrote,

As a young citizen of this country, I shudder to think of the ferocity at which campaigns are currently forced to solicit donations-the thought that they will be fighting for an even bigger chunk of shadowy money absolutely terrifies me….I hope we can find ways to avoid exacerbating this problem.

Comedians and middle-school students don’t constitute what one would describe as usual suspects for submitting public comments on advisory opinion requests to the FEC. But the legal gymnastics that groups like American Crossroads are performing to subvert campaign finance regulations touch a nerve with large numbers of Americans. A request as absurd as American Crossroads’ belongs properly in the realm of farce, and the FEC should heed the outpouring of opposition and refuse to further expose our democracy to the tragic consequences of outright corruption in the political process.

Reprinted courtesy of the Brennan Center for Justice.