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If you're a big fan of Real Time with Bill Maher like I am, you'll appreciate this:
On his weekly HBO talk show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” on Friday night, Mr. Maher and his staff plan to ask viewers to make a case for their individual representatives in the House to be selected as the worst in the country.

After some culling and analysis, one member of Congress will be selected, and the show will follow up through November with examples of what it considers terrible work by that representative. Mr. Maher will make occasional visits to that member’s district to perform stand-up and generally stir up hostile feelings toward the show’s target.

“This year, we are going to be entering into the exciting world of outright meddling with the political process,” Mr. Maher said in an email message.

The project — which the show is calling the “flip the district” campaign — is intended to get real results, said Scott Carter, the show’s executive producer. Among the criteria for selecting a representative, other than some degree of outrageousness in statements or voting record, is that the member be in a truly competitive race. Those running unopposed will not be selected, no matter how egregious the show’s fans may claim them to be.

“We want the chance to win,” Mr. Carter said. The choice may be a Republican or a Democrat, though he acknowledged, “with our viewers voting, I imagine it is much more likely we will pick a Republican.” - New York Times, 1/30/14

The Wire's Philip Bump is skeptical that Maher's plan will work but explains that what Maher is doing is perfectly legal:

The Wire spoke by phone with Richard Briffault, professor of law at Columbia Law School and an expert on election law. "After Citizens United" — the Supreme Court decision that made election spending more clearly covered under free speech rules — "corporations can now engage in direct advocacy," Briffault pointed out, meaning that there's nothing preventing Maher from telling people to vote against whoever he wants.

There are boundaries of course. "Some portion of his time on this show will be treated as electionaeering," Briffault said, "and it will have to report to the FEC what they're spending and where the money is coming from." The show is produced by Bill Maher Productions, Brad Grey Television, and HBO (the station on which it airs); some unlucky accountant will need to sit down with an unlucky lawyer and figure out what percent of the show's spending was used to promote or oppose a candidate and then report those numbers to the government. (Often, this is calculated as a percentage. If an episode costs $1.2 million to make with all costs included, and one-third of it was spent on electioneering, the company might report $400,000 to the FEC.)

There are boundaries when it comes to actual campaign contributions, a line that is crossed if, for example, Maher works with the candidate he hopes wins the race. As long as Maher's expenses on the race aren't coordinated with the person he hopes wins, he can spend what he wants. And, Briffault notes, the line for when Maher is actually coordinating with a candidate is very finely drawn. "If he's urging people to give to a candidate and has him on the show, that's not necessarily coordination, believe it or not," Briffault said. "Things you and I might think are coordination might not seem that way to the FEC." If Maher and the candidate plan on who will say what and when, that's coordination. Otherwise, there's a lot he can get away with. - The Wire, 1/31/13

Bumb mentions Tea Party Congressman Mike Coffman (R. CO-06) and Michael "I'll Break You In Half" Grimm (R. NY-11) as potential targets.  Bumb believes this is a way for Maher to gain more ratings and his plan for Hollywood types to help sway voters in these districts could work depending on the district.  I Think Coffman and Grimm are great targets but I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please post them in the comments and be sure to check out Real Time tonight!

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:22 AM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This has "disaster" written all over it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    While I love the idea what happens if a complete safe Republican seat (say in a R+25 district) "wins" the attention? There is no way Real Time will push enough bigots and rednecks to vote for a Democrat. Hell, there might not even BE a Democrat running in that district. What then? Will the DCCC or some other national group step up, put some money in the game and work to get them elected?

    Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:29:59 AM PST

    •  I disagree (6+ / 0-)
      There is no way Real Time will push enough bigots and rednecks to vote for a Democrat.
      However, Maher will push people to show up and vote who otherwise would not do so.
      •  Your optimism is cute but I'm not seeing it (0+ / 0-)

        Take a district that votes 62/37 for Republicans. Now say that 100,000 people vote in those elections, to get a Democrat to win Maher is going to have to flip some (which I claim will be very small) and possibly encourage new voters. Say he flips 5000 votes, so 62,000 to 37,000 becomes 57,000 to 42,000. He'd have to increase voter turn out by another 15,000 (a 15% jump in voter turn is almost unheard of) and have them all vote Democratic. Another completely unlikely scenario. And that still doesn't even cover the case of there being no candidate or one with a shoe-string budget and no ground game. GOTV doesn't happen from celebrity endorsement, it's boots on the ground efforts. Is he going to man phone banks? Organize people to knock on doors or stand in front of malls? Is the DCCC? Yes, in a close R+2 district he could have an impact and that would be awesome if it happened. But much like Colbert's SuperPAC I think this will only show people how messed up the system is without actually changing anything.

        Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

        by ontheleftcoast on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:55:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Maher has a following (0+ / 0-)
          Is he going to man phone banks? Organize people to knock on doors or stand in front of malls?
          Maher does live performances all over the country. He already has some idea of where his most enthusiastic fans are located, and this should influence his choice of a target district.

          Then, there's a good chance that anybody who was willing to fork over good money to attend a Maher performance could be talked into doing a few hours worth of campaign work. And, the people who might be reluctant to do this will come around after the Repugnikans start calling Maher a pot-smoking atheist.

    •  Sound idea (10+ / 0-)

      The article says clearly that "those running unopposed will not be selected, no matter how egregious the show’s fans may claim them to be".  Well, since Maher has in mind to work against those Republicans in competitive races, it opens the possibility that he may unseat someone, and cut into the Republican majority in the House.  I think that many people doubted Al Franken could actually unseat a Republican Senator in Minnesota.  It is true, he dedicated himself full time and put everything into it, but it was a long shot.  Ideally, my candidate for Maher's effort would be Issa, but I don't know how sure his seat is, and I read that he is one of the richest House members.  In any case, considering the egregious disservice he does to the people of California, his departure would be a relief.

      •  If he limits himself to a competitive race I think (0+ / 0-)

        he could have an impact. And I'd love to see him help unseat Issa. But your point is about Franken is spot on -- it's not just name recognition and dollars it's a ton of work and I don't see that happening. In fact, could it even happen? Could Maher coordinate in any way with a candidate or even the DCCC? Or would that cross some line the FEC?

        Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

        by ontheleftcoast on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:15:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You have the same problem with defeating Issa (0+ / 0-)

        that you do with convicting a mob boss. His designated and trained successor will most likely take over. Issa inherited his position on the House Oversight Committee from his mentor there, the egregious Dan Burton of Indiana, of the Helms-Burton Act. It was designed to punish non-US companies doing business with Cuba. (President Clinton signed it.)

        That is not a reason not to target Issa, who does appear to be vulnerable. Every Republican vote we can take out is worth it. In fact, taking down someone as prominent as Issa would encourage Democrats to take on others next time.

        Just don't expect too much.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:14:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I say (0+ / 0-)

        Run Maher Run.

        Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

        It will never happen for the first time until it does.

        by catilinus on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 02:40:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Says right in there that only truly competetive (3+ / 0-)

      districts will be considered.

    •  I agree. Do we want FOX following ours? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, bobinson

      "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

      by merrywidow on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:33:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even ignoring the FOX copycats I think there is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Darwinian Detrius, TBug, eagleray

        something else here -- Maher is tapping into some pent up emotion about the 2014 race. You can see it in the comments of this diary. I still say he's unfocused energy which I'll claim isn't all that useful but he is energy and we're not seeing that from the DCCC, Obama, or anyone else in the Democratic party. Instead I see endless talk focused on 2016 (which I partially blame on Christie) and seem to be ignoring the 2014 elections altogether. And if Bill Maher can simply energize Democrats to vote anywhere this November it'll be a net positive.

        Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

        by ontheleftcoast on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:53:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's all FOX does (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Darwinian Detrius, merrywidow

        A couple or three points I'll just toss out there:

        1. FOX doesn't have any comedians (Dennis Miller doesn't count as a comedian because he couldn't fill a meeting room at a Holiday Inn Express. Maher fills Carnegie Hall).
        2. Democrats tend not to say outrageous things. Nutty speech is the Republican wheelhouse.
        3. FOX spends the majority of their news coverage manufacturing outrage over minor Democratic utterances. It's what they are there for already.

        i just baptized andrew breitbart into the church of islam, planned parenthood, the girl scouts and three teachers unions. - @blainecapatch

        by bobinson on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:56:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Target Louie Gohmert please, Bill (EOM) (6+ / 0-)


  •  High profile: Cantor or Boehner. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Empower Ink, Vita Brevis, rabel, roberb7

    Because if he went for Patrick McHenry (R/NC-10), for example, who'd care?  No ratings in that.  We'd be overjoyed, but outside of a few counties, who'd notice?

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:42:33 AM PST

  •  Michelle Bachman? (0+ / 0-)

    That might be too easy of a layup for comedy.  

    When I read the diary title, I was thinking Bill was going to run for office.  Well, that's highly unlikely of course.  But I love it when Bill stirs shit up!

  •  easy one - NY-11 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Empower Ink
    •  No Way (0+ / 0-)

      I live in CD-11 and I can tell you Maher coming here may do the opposite of what his intentions are.  There are SO MANY Tea Party members of Congress he can target that CD-11 should be the lowest priority on his list.  Oh, by the way, I love Bill Maher and watch him every Friday night.

      Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011) Voting is a louder voice than a bullhorn but sometimes you need that bullhorn to retain your vote.

      by Rosalie907 on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:44:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll play even though I think this (9+ / 0-)

    won't do anything.

    Fish rots from the head theory:


    Most Impact:

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 10:58:10 AM PST

  •  So many choices! Add a POLL, please! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State

    Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. Friedrich Schiller

    by databob on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:17:16 AM PST

  •  if it's a strong Republican district, (0+ / 0-)

    he's more likely to energize the offending candidate's support.

    He'll likely only 'flip' a seat if it's a voting population that is capable of reassessing, and of actually electing a Democrat.

  •  Relax Bill. (0+ / 0-)

    Even though I don't subscribe to HBO I know you are still out there.

    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

    by itsjim on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:25:06 AM PST

  •  Grimm (0+ / 0-)

    Displaying a picture of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and seven GOP colleagues sitting opposite empty chairs in a conference room, Maddow cracked, “Nobody learned anything from the Republican National Convention last year.”

    by sailmaker on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:28:28 AM PST

  •  NONE. this is a very bad idea. Our elections (0+ / 0-)

    are already a circus, he really needs to not do this

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:33:40 AM PST

  •  This is great the more the better. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's how politics works.

    When we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

    by genethefiend on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:34:46 AM PST

  •  I'd like to see Bill oust the recent GOP (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rabel, Hawaiiexpat, Davidsfr

    "Official" #SOTU Response bobble-head (WA-05) Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

    It would be a perfect choice. fyi, she was the mentor of my own current GOP US Rep, (Wa-03) Jaime Herrera-Beutler.

    Cathy has a challenger:
    Joseph Pakootas, member of the Colville Confederate Tribes of WA State. A #FirstPeoples candidate!

    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:36:42 AM PST

  •  It might be interesting..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darwinian Detrius

    the objection of the Republicans crying unfair. Let the Citizens United decision start rustling some jimmies for them.

    Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive - Pirsig

    by prettygirlxoxoxo on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:36:57 AM PST

  •  Paul Ryan (0+ / 0-)

    Ryan would be the most promising target.

    With enough money his district is very winnable (it's only slightly republican leaning) and Repubs would loose one of their most prominent and most dangerous leaders.

    The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who never viewed the world - Alexander von Humboldt

    by germanliberal on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 11:41:05 AM PST

  •  Good no matter what (0+ / 0-)

    Exposing coin operated moronic politicians in any forum from any party is a great idea. The fact that half the people in this country don't bother with voting at all and the majority of those that do vote are swayed by TV commercials focused on image rather than policy and honest behavior needs to be brought up all the time.

    Wisconsin will probably give Walker another 4 years mostly because of a media blackout of his real behavior and policies. Media in Wisconsin dutifully reads Walker press releases, suppresses the connection to convicted criminals that coincidentally were selected directly by Walker to work for him in offices a few feet from his office and give hours of free air time on several media outlets during campaigns to Walker and his gang of scumbags. That any opposition candidate gets even close is a miracle. So far Walker has over 5 million to spend in addition to the free media.

    I blame the political parties that do not field decent candidates in every election but will pester the hell out of people for money. Many times when I vote the ballot consists of mostly people with an R after their name running unopposed. That is the way it is in this area, headquarters for the John Birch Society and home of Joe McCarthy.

  •  Hope the incumbent chosen (0+ / 0-)

    ..isn't from deepest, darkest Teabagistan and has a viable challenger, or it's an exercise in futility.

    Unfortunately - meeting that criteria would preclude the 10 or 20 dumbest dolts in Congress.

    Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies, We were roaring drunk on petroleum -Kurt Vonnegut

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:03:16 PM PST

  •  Darrell Issa, please. (0+ / 0-)

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam> "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Edna St.V. Millay

    by slouching on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:07:53 PM PST

  •  all of them (0+ / 0-)

    rank order them by level of stupidity: Gohmert, Fox..etc

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 12:28:56 PM PST

  •  Not Coffman (0+ / 0-)

    There's a good chance he will be knocked off anyway and the race doesn't need any more attention.  Dems have a great candidate in former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff who is actually outraising Coffman, and not taking PAC funds.  There'll be plenty of money here and the district is dead even.  Send Maher to somewhere where the Dems actually could have an upset.  I'm fond of Ryan, but don't know the numbers in his district.  Or how about a nutcase that is running against an incumbent Dem in an even district.  Lots of opportunities but not seeing many on this thread.

  •  If he approaches this like Colbert did with (0+ / 0-)

    the superpacs, it will definitely be a positive. Educating the public and energizing the voters.

  •  Paul Ryan (0+ / 0-)

    that district should be blue, Ron needs money.

  •  A bonus from this project (0+ / 0-)

    should be that Maher gets to do weekly profiles of the candidates in contention, who are not the craziest of the crazy, explaining how they are vulnerable.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:49:12 PM PST

  •  Peter Roskam, IL-6, (0+ / 0-)

    One of CREW's 13 Most Corrupt in 2013.  Last year, the House "Ethics" Committee dropped its investigation on Roskam.  

    Could the GOP's chief deputy whip be a worthy nominee for "flip-a-district"?  When I talked to one of Roskam's staffers, the only piece of Roskam-sponsored legislation that the young man was familiar with was (I'm not making this up) Peter's proposal to ban the sale of Playboy near any military bases.

    It's interesting that his bio now lists him as "Protestant", instead of "Anglican Mission in America" (AMiA is described as "a missionary outreach of the Anglican Church of the Province of Rwanda" established in 2000 because all other Christian denominations here are "too liberal"). All of them? Seriously? From the open-minded Peter Roskam who said that 'A Conquering Sort Of Act' By Muslims?  Surely not!

    And from Rwanda, as well.  Maybe we should check Peter's birth certificate.

    "Rwanda doesn't work very well" - Eddie Izzard "Glorious"

    Seriously, I'd have to agree with other commenters that it would be good to see progressives turn Citizens United against the Greed-Oppression-Prejudice incumbents.  Does the IL-6th deserve a good hard look at the demographics for the district, and who the Democrats could run against Roskam?

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