We didn't know there was such a thing as a Lapto Plobbyist, let alone that that they would have their own Web site, www.laptoplobbyist.com. (Is that something like "ectoplasm," the residue of ghosts?)
But this ultra-right-wing group came to our attention this morning for their role in provoking a talented young journalist named Rachel Buchman to apparently end her career.
Buchman, a 27-year-old radio reporter at Philadelphia's NPR affiliate, WHYY (90.9 FM), quit because of an (understatment alert) ill-advised telephone voicemail she left for the Lapto Plobbyists. In its entirety, she said:
"Hi, my name is Rachel, and my telephone number is... I wanted to tell you that you're evil, horrible people. You're awful people. You represent horrible ideas. God hates you and he wants to kill your children. You should all burn in hell. Bye."
Hey, at least she was nice enough to say "bye." OK, so maybe you're thinking this is another example of crazy left-wing liberal bias? That's certainly the way that Klein and Smerconish spun the story.
But God only knows what these people did to provoke her. As radio legend Paul Harvey (a conservative, no less) used to say: "Now, the rest of the story."
Simply put, and crafting our words very carefully here, the game that the good wingnuts at laptoplobbyist.com are playing is to whip conservatives into a frenzy over some "moral" issue. The latest -- a campaign against Pa.'s own Sen. Arlen Specter, who "has consistently voted in favor of killing unborn babies."
Then it likes to ask for their money, payable by a major credit card. Usually, $20. For what? To send out an angry fax to a bunch of senators and Congress people. You read that right: $20 to send a fax.
Does Kinko's know about this?
Here's how the Bergen Record (sorry, no link) described it:
Laptoplobbyist.com, a year-old conservative group outside Washington that claims to have 150,000 subscribers to its e-mail list, has built its mission around the "Insta-Fax." For a $20 donation (payable by credit card), Laptoplobbyist.com will send a fax with your name to a group of politicians it has selected.
Executive Director Chris Carmouche says faxes are the best way for ordinary people to get a politician's attention, because members of Congress have adopted computerized methods for ignoring e-mail from the public while giving the impression that those messages are being read.
Although Laptoplobbyist.com prides itself on its members' active participation, it doesn't allow people to customize their letters. "The one thing we want to do is stay on message," Carmouche said.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. As recently as this February, the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party publicly accused laptoplobbyist.com of "blackmail" (his words, not ours) by asking for a $100,000 fee to help win approval for slot machines, or else it would instead help anti-slots Democrats (which it subsequently did.)
What's more, Carter Clews, the longtime GOP, far-right lobbyist who chairs laptoplobbyist.com, recently worked a stint as creative director for (we swear we're not making this up) for Inphomation Communications, the company behind the Psychic Friends Network (of Dionne Warwick fame), which filed for federal bankruptcy owing creditors $26 million.
There's much, much more. Clews, who started out as an anti-labor activist in the late 1970s and worked in a variety of conservative oriented political jobs during the Reagan years, became semi-famous in 1985 when he charged that he'd helped White House allies illegally funnel money to a right-wing party in Spain, when he worked for PR legend Robert Gray. He also was fired and then re-hired by the Federal Trade Commission under Reagan for sending an anti-Michael Dukakis letter to newspapers.
Christopher Carmouche (can you do the fandango?), the executive director of laptoplobbyist.com, is also quoted and appears on TV as a kind of a spokesman for the Christian Coalition. He's railed against things like a negative review in Newsweek of "The Passion of the Christ."
In a 1999 Financial Times article about the coalition, Carmouche expressed frustration with the political process and said, "Frankly, I hate them all."
Heh heh. "Hate." We wonder if his boss knows he said that.