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Furthermore …

A crowd listens as Fred Phelps speaks during a gay rights debate at IPFW in March 2005.

GOPís intraparty fight shows up in spending

The Center for Public Integrity reports that conservative funding organizations are spending more to fight Republican candidates this year than they are to fight Democrats.

“One in five dollars spent by all super PACs, nonprofit groups and the like on election advocacy came from identifiably conservative groups attacking Republican congressional candidates,” an analysis by the center revealed.

“Liberal political groups, in contrast, didn’t spend a dime roughing up Democrats during this time,” the center said in a release.

In fact, Federal Elections Commission records from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 show that tea party-style right-wing groups spent $2.3 million on ads attacking GOP candidates and just $2.1 million on anti-Democrat ads. Their targets include House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Beyond the irony of conservatives working against members of what was once considered their home political party is the gigantic increase in political funding overall that has been enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows unions, corporations and some nonprofits to pour unlimited money into the political arena.

In January and February 2010, outside groups spent just $1.92 million on political races – and much of that, the center said, was focused on the special election in Massachusetts that sent Scott Brown to the Senate.

“This year, groups have spent about six times that amount – about $11.6 million,” the center reported.

Hate-filled philosophy is fading

On March 12, 2005, Fred Phelps brought his sideshow to Fort Wayne, and for about half an hour he and his colleagues from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas picketed Fort Wayne Newspapers, presumably because of The Journal Gazette’s stand on gay rights.

Phelps himself was here. He left the speaking to someone else – some relative probably – and just stood there, not moving, ghostly pale, staring at us behind dark glasses, holding a picket.

Now that Phelps is dead, who knows what will happen to his church? The congregation is made up almost entirely of members of Phelps’ extended family. It may wither and die. It may moderate its position and stop protesting at the funerals of American servicemen killed overseas with signs like “God Hates Fags” and that way pick up a few members.

Phelps once even had members of his church picket a memorial service in Pittsburgh for the late Fred Rogers, the gentle host of a popular and long-running TV show for children.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the time (as quoted in the New Yorker), Rogers was apparently too syrupy for Phelps and “gave aid and comfort to homosexuals.”

The way Phelps looked that overcast day in March outside FWN, you could almost see that the positions for which he and his church stood (as well as the way the positions were stated) were dying off. He was also proof that devoting your life to churchly matters is no guarantee of godliness.

Coats high on Putinís Ďbadí list

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats says he is honored to be on the list of nine American officials banned from traveling in Russia.

The revelation last week that Vladimir Putin’s government has compiled such a list of Americans non grata brought to mind another “enemies list” that most were proud to be included on. In 1971, Richard Nixon’s administration began compiling a list of dozens of political enemies that focused on business and academic leaders and the media.

A few elected officials were on that list, too – including then-Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh and longtime Hoosier congressman John Brademas.

The late “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson was one of many who expressed disappointment at not being put on Nixon’s list, writing, “I would almost have preferred a vindictive tax audit to that kind of crippling exclusion.”

The Russian no-travel list is far more exclusive, though, and it truly is a badge of distinction for Coats to be included.

Putin should bear in mind, these lists always backfire. Look at what happened to Nixon.