a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Nailing down the new normal: Walmart, Obamacare, and part-time, low wage America

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 7th December 2012

Last week the Huffington Post’s Alice Hines reported,

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.

As several experts contacted for the story noted, the story is of a piece with other corporate actions responding to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with labor cutbacks, such as the Papa John’s, Applebee’s and Olive Garden/Red Lobster announcements (discussed a couple of weeks ago on this blog) that the companies intended to move workers from full-time to part-time status to take advantage of provisions in the ACA.

“Walmart likely thought it didn’t need to offer this part-time coverage anymore with Obamacare,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is another example of a tremendous government subsidy to Walmart via its workers.”  […] 

For Walmart employees, the new system raises the risk that they could lose their health coverage in large part because they have little control over their schedules. Walmart uses an advanced scheduling system to constantly alter workers’ shifts according to store traffic and sales figures.

[…] in recent interviews with The Huffington Post, several workers described their oft-changing schedules as a source of fear that they might earn too little to pay their bills. Many said they have begged managers to assign them additional hours only to see their shifts cut further as new workers were hired.

The new plan detailed in the 2013 “Associate’s Benefits Book” adds another element to that fear: the risk of losing health coverage. According to the plan, part-time workers hired in or after 2011 are now subject to an “Annual Benefits Eligibility Check” each August, during which managers will review the average number of hours per week that workers have logged over the past year.

As Marcy Wheeler (“emptywheel”) pointed out, she had already seen in late 2009 that “incenting s#!t plans” was an advertised feature of the developing health care “reform”, not a bug.  Writing that the proposal was “a Plan to Use Our Taxes to Reward Wal-Mart for Keeping Its Workers in Poverty,” she explained in 2009,

…if Wal-Mart wanted to avoid paying anything for its employees under MaxTax, it could simply make sure that none of them made more than $14,403 a year (they’d have to do this by ensuring their employees worked fewer than 40 hours a week, since this works out to be slightly less than minimum wage). Or, a single mom with two kids could make $24,352–a whopping $11.71 an hour, working full time. That’s more than the average Wal-Mart employee made last year. So long as Wal-Mart made sure its employees applied for Medicaid (something it already does in states where its employees are eligible), it would pay nothing. Nada, zip. Nothing.

The upshot?  Congratulations, America: you’re “subsidizing the gutting of our local economy so that the descendants of Sam [Walton] could continue to get disgustingly rich.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Wal-Mart Strikers Food Fund, Worker Organizer Fund

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 25th November 2012


(photo slideshow via, OURWalMart: JOIN US)

Wal-Mart Strikers Food Fund

Occupy Wall Street is committed to supporting the Walmart worker strikes that will commence on Black Friday (11/23/2012). We are raising money to provide food and sundries to Walmart workers who will lose needed wages as they strike so that they can achieve better work conditions. We ask you to participate by donating, at the very least, what you make in one hour, to provide food and basic items to striking workers.

We are working with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and the Walmart workers to distribute this money to striking workers who are who speaking out for good jobs and stronger communities.

Wal-Mart Worker Organizer Fund

Walmart workers decided in October 2012 to strike on Black Friday after they were targeted for retaliation for speaking out against substandard work conditions and treatment in the first ever walk out in the history of the company. Now we are looking at a world in which the bravest workers of Walmart are being fired so they may be silenced.

We will support the workers participating in organizing efforts and nonviolent demonstrations in support of the fight for economic civil rights of the Walmart worker effort. Money raised will go towards paying stipends and living expenses for workers fired for organizing and participating in acts of peaceful civil disobedience.

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“Black Friday” Wal-Mart action in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd November 2012

I’m in my hometown, Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the Thanksgiving weekend, and today I had the privilege of joining a  Wal-Mart Black Friday event there.  Unlike others you may have read or seen video about, this one wasn’t a big demonstration outside a Wal-Mart, or a “mic check” inside one.  Instead, it was “just” two of us — but with a large, local interfaith community behind us.

My new friend Lance McCold and myself were put in touch by Rev. Jim Sessions of the Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee, a “network of religious leaders and  allies”  united in concern for economic justice.  We met outside Oak Ridge Wal-Mart Supercenter #1194 in blustery late fall weather, then went inside to look for management to whom to hand a letter signed by over 40 local ministers and persons of faith.

Not being sure where to go, we asked a cashier, who called over someone I imagine was floor supervisor.  I had brought my video camera, hoping to film what I could.  The floor supervisor called a manager — and on hanging up, said “no cameras.”

Lance McCold, Knoxville participant in the
Wal-Mart Black Friday
events as a supporter of
Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee

A few minutes later, we were met by a nice enough, if harried young woman, N., who heard Lance and then me explain that we were there to deliver a letter from the local interfaith community, in solidarity with Wal-Mart workers and actions across the United States seeking better treatment and better pay.

N. scanned the letter quickly, tracing every word with her finger to be sure of missing nothing.  She then disappeared for several minutes behind an unmarked door near Customer Service — leaving us to joke nervously that if a SWAT team appeared, we’d each blame the other guy.  But when she reappeared, her main concern was just whether there was anyone else outside, she’d heard something about cameras.  We said there were just the two of us; I said I had a camera along but had put it away on request.

The excellent letter, drafted by Rev. Jim Sessions, is addressed to Mike Duke of the Wal-Mart home office in Bentonville, Arkansas.  It begins,

Dear Mr. Duke,

We are writing you today to let you know that on this Black Friday, we join thousands of people of faith who are gathered at different Walmart stores across the country in support of Walmart associates and Walmart-contracted warehouse workers demanding respect, better wages and safer working conditions.

As we stand outside of East Tennessee area stores on the biggest shopping day of the year, we see an endless stream of customers and thousands of items flying off the shelves. By the end of the day, Walmart will make millions in sales and profits. The hardworking associates and warehouse workers, however, will go home with barely enough to make ends meet. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stand with Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 21st November 2012

Not sure what will be happening in Tennessee, but I’ll see.

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Move to part-time economy was always baked in to Obamacare; single payer will be better

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 19th November 2012

A number of companies — Papa John’s Pizza, Applebee’s, and Olive Garden/Red Lobster to name a few– have been loudly announcing their intentions to move workers from full-time to part-time status (less than 30 hours per week) as a political response to the relevant provisions of “Obamacare”, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA).*

This, in turn, has led to pushback and calls to boycott these businesses, and more power to that, I say.  But any employer based health insurance plan was always going to create an incentive to shed as many covered, full-time jobs as possible, to be measured against the ability to get by with part-time employees instead.  In this connection, the fact that it’s mainly been restaurant chains announcing this move is not surprising; I wonder just what percentage of a Papa John’s workforce was full-time in the first place.

Far more worrisome than a handful of loudmouth CEOs at the tip of the part-time economy iceberg are the many more below who may be quietly going about the same thing.  The weakness of the recovery from the 2008 recession nearly gave us President Romney; part of that weakness has to do with full-time jobs being lost and replaced with part-time ones.

The trend to part-time jobs isn’t new — Wal-Mart has done this for years, mainly to get around the risk of overtime pay once a 40 hour week is exceeded; the degree to which workers can be replaced by automation surely also accounts for some of this trend.

But policy makers assume that the real world responds to incentives, and here was an incentive to respond to.  Indeed, the incentive was all but announced with blinking neon lights; the option to limit coverage to full-time employees was explicitly pointed out by the Obama administration for those companies too dim to figure it out on their own.   As a U.S. Department of Labor document in early 2012 emphasized:

 …nothing in the Affordable Care Act penalizes small employers for choosing not to offer coverage to any employee, or large employers for choosing to limit their offer of coverage to full-time employees, as defined in the employer shared responsibility provisions.

Similar guidances were issued by the IRS and the Health and Human Services Department.

While there were any number of business journal articles from as early as 2010 suggesting cutting full-time jobs might be a consequence of or workaround for “Obamacare,” the issue was also addressed by that abandoned tribe in the health care debates: single-payer, Medicare for all advocates such as Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).   PNHP web site articles noted both the likely business response to Obamacare and the superiority of single-payer in this respect (and others).

So these days, may be single-payer advocates’ best friend.  As the web site puts it:

Obamacare is part of the problem. It doesn’t address costs and does precious little to improve the health care system. It’s a recycled Republican plan. […] In addition to boycotting places like Papa John’s, we need to get businesses out of the health care system. We need single-payer health coverage.

* An admirable graphic about employer responsibility under the ACA was developed by the Kaiser Foundation. Note that penalties are per full-time employee.

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Were recalls the way to go?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th August 2011

As is well known, there have been mammoth efforts to recall six Republican state senators in Wisconsin who, earlier this year, voted to end public employee collective bargaining rights; yesterday, ThinkProgress provided as good a backgrounder as any on the specific races involved.

Now, the results are in, and they’re mixed — which is to say, they’re not good enough: two senators were recalled, but that fell one short of what was needed to wrest control of the state Senate from the GOP.

Before going on, let me emphasize: my hat is absolutely off to the many good volunteers who worked in these campaigns.  What they achieved was remarkable.

Having said that, though, the more I read about these elections after the fact, the more I wonder about the strategic wisdom of the whole thing.  The elections the GOP re-won were all in what were more or less GOP strongholds to begin with.  A whole lot of time, money, and effort later, they pretty much still are.  Under these circumstances, to emphasize how much of an uphill struggle it was always going to be (see, e.g., Howie Klein, digby, or the John Nichols interview on Democracy Now!) is not even cold comfort, it’s cause for concern: were frontal assaults on well held positions like these really the best plan?

Of the losing challengers, Clark came closest (lost 52-48%), but that’s still a pretty definite loss, and no one else came close at all. As far as I can tell, the thinking seemed to be (1) everyone who was really mad in February and March would stay mad for 5 months, (2) the GOP would be asleep on Election Day and not turn out their voters, too, all (3) in GOP-leaning districts.  The strategy amounted to absolutely needing three tough away game wins out of six.  Getting two was great, but the overall result was not a win. So it was a loss.

There was an alternative, discussed at the time both by labor leaders in Wisconsin (both AFL-CIO and IWW) and in the national media: a general strike, i.e., a “a strike involving workers across multiple trades or industries that involves enough workers to cause serious economic disruption.”

Yes, that might have lost some kind of ‘high ground’ among independents, conservatives, and even some “liberals” — but nearly anything runs that risk.  Yes, it’s technically illegal (under the Taft-Hartley Act — passed over Harry Truman’s veto in 1947)  — but technically so are other forms of civil disobedience.  When there’s a full-blown emergency, it’s appropriate to take emergency measures — and do so smartly.  One could imagine calling general strike for two days; then quit; then do it again; then quit again. Etc.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Wisconsin union buster legislators greeted by protesters

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th March 2011

On Wednesday, many of the key GOP legislators who voted to end collective bargaining for public unions in Wisconsin planned on coming to DC for a March 16 fundraiser — essentially sneaking into DC to pick up their checks for their sneak vote against labor.  A lot of different groups — AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Public Campaign — started telling their supporters to show up at the site of the fundraiser: the BGR lobbying firm headquarters, at 601 13th St NW in Washington DC.

I was among those who joined the demonstration.  As ever, I brought along my camera and video camera.

At first we just walked up and down in front of the building, I’d guess maybe five or six hundred people all told.  Then all of a sudden a guy standing at the door starts waving people in, so everybody so inclined crowded inside, chanting, blowing whistles, etc.

What greeted us was an all but perfect stage setting for a confrontation with the ruling class, something out of Bertolt Brecht’s wildest dreams: a marble and glass indoor atrium, lined with palm trees below, stretching up for ten stories above, each floor with balconies at which startled denizens of the building gathered to view the impromptu occupation. A heroic statue* stood at the center of a stairway reaching up several stories; a “Respect Workers Rights” banner was quickly hung on the balustrade in front of it. It developed that three or four hundred people can really raise a pretty deafening ruckus if they are so inclined.

The organizers showed a deft touch with the whole thing in that they did *not* stay in any one place for long.  After a few remarks by an AFL-CIO organizers, a Wisconsin teacher, and a Sheet Metal Worker union official, the word was OK, we’re leaving now, clean up, leave it better than you found it.

At this point many hundred more had gathered outside, and the DC police decided to just cordon off the block and give it over to the protest.  So that’s what happened — but after a few minutes the crowd proceeded away from that as well, heading straight to the White House.  We got there in about ten minutes, stood there doing many of the same chants — “What’s disgusting? Union busting” etc. — and then left *again* along a diagonal path through Lafayette Park, away from the White House.  I had no idea where they were headed and tagged along.  But when they got to H Street they doubled back heading east — towards the US Chamber of Commerce.  And by golly if they didn’t head straight in there too!  So I did as well.

This time the place was smaller, a regular lobby maybe forty feet by forty feet, with several dozen of us inside, one guy banging a drum for all he was worth, everyone else chanting “hey hey ho ho” and “people united will never be defeated” and whatnot.

One security guy was apparently steamed about it all — and decided he’d pull a fast one on us and close and lock the doors with us still on the inside.  I started to leave, but he blocked me — and he was a *big* guy, bound and determined to keep me from leaving and on bottling up everyone else behind me.   At no time did I hear him or anyone else request that we leave, though I may have missed that part, I was maybe the 30th person to go in.

By the time he was trying to shut the doors, there were about three or four dozen of us inside.  One guy ducked under his arm, he tried to stop that (so he wasn’t just trying to block further entrants). A bunch of us started to press out, me in the lead (I didn’t want to get trapped in there).  A bit of a nonviolent scrum ensued, him and one or two security guards on the outside trying to close the doors on us, 4 or 5 of us pushing out, me getting pushed from both sides — kind of the cork in the bottle — thinking hmm, this is the proverbial tight squeeze.  But our push won, the door stayed open.  On the outside, people began chanting “let them out,” and as far as I know everyone did stream out — and dispersed, this time for good.

In just a few minutes my friend Tim and I had left as well.  We headed over to a bar, and celebrated the day with some beers and fish and chips.  I gave away my “We Are One” ATU sign — which someone else had given to me — to some tourists who asked me for it.

I’ll post some videos below.  The first two are fairly raw footage — i.e., sometimes I forgot the camcorder was on and you’ll see the bag or my feet or the world turned upside down.  But in a way, it was, and the topsy turvy videography almost gets across the spirit of the moment as well as anything else.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Other accounts of the protest:

* The statue in the center really was magnificent, it seemed all but designed for the occasion. It turns out it’s called “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves,” by Donald De Lue; perhaps sadly, the original is at the Normandy American military cemetery in France. I like to think this was its happiest day in many a year.

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The leaders of America

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st March 2011

These are the leaders of America, not bought and paid for pols – not Walker, not Boehner. Not Reid or Schumer. Not Gingrich. Not Palin. And not Obama either, so carefully running behind this uprising, at a distance seemingly calibrated to the nearest sixteenth of an inch.

These people are the leaders of America. Tell me I’m wrong. You can not. I will not believe you.

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

WI “Budget Repair Bill” Protest (Feb 20-24?) Pt. 3 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Films by UW media specialist Matt Wisniewski; backstory here and here. Meanwhile, a simple joke is making the rounds on Facebook:

“A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.’”

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On Wisconsin

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th February 2011

Over the weekend, unions and progressive organizations mobilized “Save the American Dream” events across the country to show support for Wisconsin public unions in their fight with Governor Walker.  On Saturday, I joined the rally at Dupont Circle in downtown Washington DC.

Video interviews with rally goers, including Jesse Lovell (DC for Democracy), Johnny
Barnes (ACLU-NCA), Jim Epstein (Pathfinders International) and others.

Plenty has been written about the confrontation in Wisconsin, and I’ll take up some of that below.

But this post is mainly about relaying the solidarity and notably high spirits that I felt among the demonstrators — at least a thousand of them, by my estimate, maybe more — and in myself for that matter.  At a time when it’s tempting for even some working class people say “I’m hurting, so they should hurt too” — and of course all but irresistible for mainstream media to give them a megaphone for that — it was great and important to feel like we were answering a call on Saturday, and to be with others who felt the same way.

Will that have an impact?  I don’t know — but not doing anything certainly would have had the wrong one.

As to the issue: clearly I agree with the labor movement for circling the wagons against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining, or I wouldn’t have gone to the rally.   The problem is well known; the labor movement as a whole is in undeserved disrepute, and the public sector unions are both a last bastion of that movement and — as has been repeated ad nauseam — ones indirectly employed by taxpayers rather than corporations.

For those who decry high public sector pension plans, I say first of all: why exactly? What is it about paying people well, as agreed on in a contract, for the jobs they have done?  Was a gun held to anyone’s head when the agreement was signed?  What is it about contractual obligations you don’t understand? I thought that was an underpinning of capitalism; does it suddenly not count when it’s a mere employee’s union?  Ezra Klein has relayed a study pointing out that “Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11%. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5% for choosing to work in the public sector. […]  The residents of the various states, when all is said and done, will probably have gotten the work at a steep discount. They’ll force a renegotiation of the contracts and blame overprivileged public employees for resisting shared sacrifice. Which gets to the heart of what this is: A form of default.”

Rick Ungar at Forbes Magazine makes the point similarly: “If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions. What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.”

But we lose sight of the forest for the trees and even the weeds by focusing on Wisconsin pension plans.  It’s not about that.  It’s about unionbusting pure and simple.  Walker confirmed that in the hilarious, notorious sting pulled off by the Buffalo Beast’s Ian Murphy (calling in pretending to be billionaire rightwinger David Koch), in emotionally recalling a final planning meeting where he compared himself to Ronald Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers union in 1981.  As Chris Hayes and Naomi Klein pointed out in a memorable MSNBC segment, we’re essentially facing a “Shock Doctrine USA”: a manufactured crisis leading to the looting and crippling of the public sector — as well as the crippling of solidarity with each other, and of a common purpose beyond looking out for number one.

Van Jones speaking to union supporters, Dupont Circle
From Wisconsin Solidarity Rally, Feb 26, 2011

I return to the rally, where former Obama White House official Van Jones made some interesting remarks — about the “Tea Party.”  Responding to widespread boos when he named the group, he held up his hand and said “no, no — they are our brothers and sisters too.  They just don’t know it yet.” And then he went on to say that he respected the Tea Party for one thing: that on the heels of defeat in 2008, they didn’t decide to “come crawling to the center” but instead redoubled their efforts for the principles they believed in.  And just as the crowd saw where he was going with that, he said it: now it’s our turn to do the same thing.  No crawling to the center — stand on principle.

Bucky Badger sez: On Wisconsin unions!

And no throwing fellow progressives under the bus.  A final great thing about the DC rally was that the site and time had actually been registered by a different coalition — one resisting cuts to women’s health and reproductive health funding —  and was generously shared by them.  Likewise, there were environmentalists with Sierra Club posters, and civil liberties advocates like Mary Beth Tinker and Johnny Barnes (ACLU-NCA) on the scene.  People from all facets of the American left are banding together to fight back.   It makes me hopeful that we can win this one, and start winning more.

EDITS, 2/28: Chris Hayes, not Hedges, David Koch, not Richard.

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“If you don’t live here, it’s none of your business”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd August 2010

A closer look at Rand Paul’s campaign contributors

In The Fall and Rise of Rand Paul (Jonathan Miller, Details Magazine), Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul reveals appalling ignorance about the environmental calamity of mountaintop removal mining (MTR):

“I think they should name it something better,” he says. “The top ends up flatter, but we’re not talking about Mount Everest. We’re talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I’ve seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass.” Most people, he continues, “would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it.”

“Let’s let you decide what to do with your land,” he says. “Really, it’s a private-property issue.”

…something between indifference and diffidence about the role corporate wrongdoing played in the Big Branch mine disaster earlier this year:

“Is there a certain amount of accidents and unfortunate things that do happen, no matter what the regulations are?” Paul says at the Harlan Center, in response to a question about the Big Branch disaster. “The bottom line is I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You live here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs. I know that doesn’t sound…” Here he stumbles, trying to parse his words properly but only presaging his campaign misstep. “I want to be compassionate,” he concludes, “and I’m sorry for what happened, but I wonder: Was it just an accident?”

…and some astonishing ignorance about the state he hopes to represent as a Senator:

Rand Paul and I are trying to remember why Harlan, Kentucky might be famous. That’s where Paul is driving me, on a coiling back road through the low green mountains of the state’s southeastern corner, in his big black GMC Yukon festooned with RON PAUL 2008 and RAND PAUL 2010 stickers. Something about Harlan has lodged itself in my brain the way a shard of barbecue gets stuck in one’s teeth, and I’ve asked Paul for help. “I don’t know,” he says in an elusive accent that’s not quite southern and not quite not-southern. The town of Hazard is nearby, he notes: “It’s famous for, like, The Dukes of Hazzard.” (links added)

But it’s the way he summed up his libertarian purism for a meeting in Harlan, Kentucky that I’d like to focus on particularly.  Again, it was in reference to mountaintop removal; here’s how Nola Sizemore of the Harlan Daily Enterprise reported his remarks:

I think some of these people complaining about [mountaintop removal] need to come and take a look at it. I say, if you don’t live here, it’s none of your business. Ask the people who live here about it.

Paul said he can’t see why residents of Louisville and Lexington should have any say in what people do with their land in other areas. He said he hadn’t heard any complaints from people who live here. (emphasis added)

Maybe because the ones who are against MTR know it’s a waste of time showing up at your events, Mr. Paul.  At any rate, they’d be right to suspect he doesn’t think it’s any of their business either, once they got a look at where his campaign contributions are coming from.  As Greg Skilling of the Louisville Independent Examiner puts it,

“Rand Paul believes almost everything should be handled at the state and local level – everything except for campaign fundraising.  A quick look at Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports filed by Rand Paul’s campaign and it becomes immediately clear that Kentuckians are vastly outnumbered on the donor list by people who live outside the Bluegrass State. Like his father Ron, Rand Paul has used the Internet to successfully solicit out-of-state campaign contributions from individuals.

Skilling identifies out-of-state PAC contributions from Sarah Palin’s PAC, Duke Energy, and the like, but left his analysis at “vastly outnumbered.”  So I had a closer look at those FEC reports, and specifically at the breakout of individual vs. committee and in-state versus out-of-state contributions.  The resulting summary sheet can be seen here.*

The upshot: over 76% of all contributions to Rand Paul’s Senate campaign — nearly 75% of individual contributions and nearly 92% of political action committee contributions —  are from out of state.  Those donors don’t live in Kentucky either, but I guess Rand Paul figures it’s their business anyway who should be its next senator.  Or maybe he doesn’t, but takes their silver anyway:

Unamuno’s “San Manuel Bueno, Mártir” is, he says, “a great short story. It’s about a priest who doesn’t really believe in God but feels he needs to protect his parishioners from this disbelief, that it’s too much for them.” This calls to mind another favorite story of Paul’s, Somerset Maugham’s “Rain.” “Once again about a conflicted priest,” he says. Priests in a crisis of faith, I point out, appears to be a theme with him. Lightly, he says, “I went to a Baptist college. I had to have an outlet.”

There’s something especially galling about so-called libertarian candidates who — whodathunkit? — wind up consistently protecting the interests of big business in the guise of protecting local control or individual rights.

Do I have a problem with out of state contributions to a Senate candidate?  Of course not — I do it myself all the time.  But I don’t go around saying “if you don’t live here, it’s none of your business” either.  I know people in other states who have to work in unsafe mines or live downstream from MTR runoff need help from individuals like me, and from the federal government, if they’re to have a chance against well-financed corporations — and their glib spokesmen like Rand Paul.

* I can send the full workbook to readers on request. In a nutshell, the FEC data must be copied in pieces and pasted to an Excel workbook as HTML. Functions of the form “=IF(MID($B21,1,2)=”KY”,$D20,0)” then isolate the two-letter state designation for individual contributions, and tally the contributor or his/her dollar contribution to a new column — “KY” (Kentucky) or “elsewhere”. Addresses were not provided in the initial committee tallies, but there were few enough that I could find the home state of each committee “by hand.”

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