“Hush-Money Probe Gathered Evidence From Trump’s Inner Circle”


The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office has gathered more evidence than previously known in its criminal investigation of hush payments to two women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump, including from members of the president’s inner circle.

Prosecutors interviewed Hope Hicks, a former close aide to Mr. Trump and White House communications director, last spring as part of their campaign-finance probe, which ultimately implicated the president in federal crimes.

They also spoke to Keith Schiller, Mr. Trump’s former security chief. Investigators learned of calls between Mr. Schiller and David Pecker, chief executive of the National Enquirer’s publisher, which has admitted it paid $150,000 to a former Playboy model on Mr. Trump’s behalf to keep her story under wraps.

In addition, investigators possess a recorded phone conversation between Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and a lawyer who represented the two women.

The prosecutors’ campaign-finance investigation is based on the theory that the secret payments to keep women quiet were illegal contributions, because they were intended to influence the election. New details of the investigation—gleaned from interviews with 20 people familiar with the probe and from nearly 1,000 pages of court documents—show prosecutors had gathered information about Mr. Trump’s alleged involvement in the payments weeks before Mr. Cohen asserted it in open court….

What federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York might do with the information they’ve gathered on Mr. Trump couldn’t be determined. The office has proceeded in adherence to a Justice Department policy that sitting presidents can’t be indicted. Prosecutors have given no indication they would seek to charge Mr. Trump after he leaves office.


Douglas: Vote for US – The Reforms

The following is the second of three guest posts by University of Kentucky Law Professor Josh Douglas about his new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting:

Yesterday I highlighted some of the amazing individuals I profile in my new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting. These inspiring people are promoting positive voting rights reforms in their local and state communities. Today I’ll say a little bit about some of the reforms themselves.

Most of these election ideas are probably well known to most readers of this blog – but I learned a lot of details and nuances during my research, bringing the reforms to life.

For instance, I discuss the origins of automatic voter registration, started statewide in Oregon largely thanks to some innovative thinking by Steve Trout, the elections director, and Kate Brown, then the secretary of state who became governor. That reform is now spreading throughout the country. I devote a chapter to disabled voters and the use of a voting machine that all voters can use, which can reduce the stigma of having a disability. I talk about the adoption of ranked choice voting in numerous local elections and then Maine’s statewide implementation last year, highlighting both the reformers who made it happen and the reasons why the system can improve our elections. I go in-depth about Michigan’s constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission and also highlight similar local measures, such as in Sacramento. There’s a discussion of incorporating “action civics” into our classrooms and why local journalism is so important to our democracy.

The book purposefully highlights local reforms. Justice Louis Brandeis once said that states are laboratories of democracy: “a state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” If states are laboratories of democracy, then I like to think of cities and localities as “test tubes of democracy” that can try out reforms on an even smaller scale. The best ideas will then spread to other localities and eventually to states. That’s the case for many of these election reforms.

Importantly, the book focuses on reforms actually working in state and local elections already. The book is less concerned about major changes to our constitutional structure, like abolishing the Electoral College. Those ideas are important, of course, and I discuss some of them in the Epilogue, but the point of this book is to highlight and promote electoral changes that are already in force – with positive results – in states and localities all over.

Moreover, while pushing back against voter suppression is vitally important, it can’t be our only strategy to improve our democracy. That’s the message of the final chapter, “The Perils of Only Playing Defense.” We also need to focus on positive voting rights reforms. The goal is much higher turnout and an election process that is more inclusive and convenient for all voters.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss a few of the local organizations dedicated to these efforts and the resource I provide in the Appendix to find them, no matter your location.


“Organizers pull the plug on proposal ditching electoral college in Ohio”

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Organizers have aborted their attempt to change Ohio’s constitution to award the state’s presidential electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who wins Ohio.

J. Corey Colombo, a Columbus elections attorney working for the organizers behind the proposal, wrote a brief letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Tuesday saying the group is withdrawing its petitions. The letter (click here for a PDF) did not offer an explanation, but Colombo’s law firm later issued a statement citing time constraints and the large number of signatures required to get the issue on the ballot.


Today’s Must-Read: John Myers’ “Hackers attacked California DMV voter registration system marred by bugs, glitches”

LA Times:

California has launched few government projects with higher stakes than its ambitious 2018 program for registering millions of new voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles, an effort with the potential to shape elections for years to come.

Yet six days before the scheduled launch of the DMV’s new “motor voter” system last April, state computer security officials noticed something ominous: The department’s computer network was trying to connect to internet servers in Croatia.

“This is pretty typical of a compromised device phoning home,” a California Department of Technology official wrote in an April 10, 2018, email obtained by The Times. “My Latin is a bit rusty, but I think Croatia translates to Hacker Heaven.”

Although the email described the incident as the DMV system attempting “communication with foreign nations,” a department spokesperson later insisted voter information wasn’t at risk.

The apparent hacking incident was the most glaring of several unexpected problems — never disclosed to the public — in rolling out a project that cost taxpayers close to $15 million.

The Times conducted a four-month review of nearly 1,300 pages of documents and interviewed state employees and other individuals who worked on the project — most of whom declined to be identified for fear of reprisal. Neither the emails nor the interviews made clear who was ultimately responsible for the botched rollout, though an independent audit is expected to be released in the coming days.
The emails present a picture of a project bogged down by personnel clashes, technological hurdles and a persistent belief among those involved that top officials were demanding they make the “motor voter” program operational before the June 5 primary, so that it could boost the number of ballots cast.


“Bibi Goes Full GOP, Sends Activists to Polling Stations to Monitor Arab Precincts”

Josh Marshall:

In recent years we’ve witnessed the increasing ideological marriage of the Israeli Likud and the American GOP. Nor is it just ideological and cultural. There is increasingly transnational cooperation, with longtime Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently intervening in US politics on Republicans’ behalf. But Likud took a big step today adopting more or less wholesale GOP ‘voter fraud’ tactics to suppress minority voters.

Today is election day in Israel, an election the right again seems likely to win by a narrow but decisive margin. But the big story of the day in the Israeli press is Likud sending party activists to Arab majority precincts with hidden cameras to monitor “voter fraud.” The party reportedly distributed 1200 hidden cameras to activists.

The action appears to be clearly against the law and an official at the election authority has ordered Likud to remove the equipment. Police appear to have confiscated at least some of the cameras that were installed by right-wing activists by right-wing activists in polling stations in Arab communities. What’s less clear is whether any of the activists will be charged with a crime. Other reports suggest there has been no determination that the activists committed a criminal act.


“‘We can’t confirm him,’ Pat Roberts warns of potential Kobach nomination for DHS”

KC Star:

One of the GOP senators from Kris Kobach’s home state said Tuesday that the Senate would not be able to confirm the Kansas Republican if President Donald Trump tapped him for a cabinet post.

Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for an array of immigration-related positions since President Donald Trump pulled his nominee for the director of Immigration Customs Enforcement and announced the departure of Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

But Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said he doesn’t believe the Republican-controlled Senate could confirm his fellow Kansan, who has gained national notoriety for championing stronger restrictions on immigration.
“Don’t go there. We can’t confirm him,” Roberts whispered to The Kansas City Star when asked about Kobach Tuesday on his way into a Senate vote.

“I never said that to you,” Roberts added, despite the fact that another reporter was present and The Star had not agreed to an off record conversation.

A former Trump adviser told The Star last week that Trump “knows that keeping the Senate is vital to passing his agenda next term or stopping the Dem agenda.” Making Kobach an adviser on immigration would help Trump keep the Senate in GOP hands and also help the president pursue his immigration agenda, the adviser said.
Such a sub-cabinet post, if it were run out of the White House, would not be subject to confirmation.
“It’s a win win.”


“Devin Nunes Sues McClatchy Newspaper Chain, Alleging ‘Character Assassination’”


Less than a month after suing Twitter for allowing its users to insult him, Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, said he was suing the McClatchy Company, a newspaper chain, over what he called “character assassination.”

The defamation lawsuit seeks $150 million and the deletion of an article in The Fresno Bee, a McClatchy newspaper, about Alpha Omega Winery, a company that Mr. Nunes partially owns. The article, published last May, described a lawsuit by a server who was aboard a San Francisco Bay cruise in 2015 attended by some of the winery’s top investors, which she said included drugs and prostitution.

The article said it was “unclear” whether Mr. Nunes “was aware of the lawsuit or was affiliated with the fund-raiser” at which the cruise was auctioned.

The lawsuit filed by Mr. Nunes, a loyal ally of President Trump and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says he was not involved in the incident on the yacht and that he considers the article part of a politically motivated scheme to “destroy his reputation” and derail the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.


Douglas: Vote for US – The People

The following is the first of three guest posts by University of Kentucky Law Professor Josh Douglas about his new book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting:

Thanks to Rick for allowing me to guest blog this week about my new book, out today, on positive voting rights reforms.

The book is called Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting. It tells some truly inspiring stories of everyday Americans who are working in communities all over the country to fix our election system. In the process, the book advocates for various reforms to our democracy that are already seeing success in numerous local and state elections. And it highlights lot of amazing organizations that are taking on these efforts.

Today I’ll focus on a few of the people I profile in the book – the Democracy Champions in communities all over who are at the forefront of improvements to state and local democracy.

Some of these people are election officials or regular policy advocates – readers of this blog who many of you know well. But more exciting, I think, are the people I interviewed who are doing this work quietly, during nights and weekends, and without much fanfare.

For example, I open the book with the story of West Powell of Covington, Kentucky. West was 18 years old when he stole a car radio from an auto salvage yard. He was convicted of a felony, served his time, and lost his right to vote for life. Over twenty-five years later, the Kentucky legislature was considering a bill to allow some low-level felons to seek an expungement of their records. West went to testify, telling his story about how he had cleaned up his life, married, became a father to five kids, and opened his own computer repair shop.

Republican Whitney Westerfield listened to West Powell’s testimony. Westerfield was initially opposed to the felony expungement bill and told me that he thought nothing would change his mind. But something about West’s story altered his views. He immediately became a champion for the expungement bill, which eventually passed with bipartisan support.

West Powell regained his right to vote and now never misses an election.

There are tons of individual Democracy Champions just like West Powell who are working in their local communities to improve the election process, making it more inclusive and convenient. Joshua Cardenas of San Francisco, then 16 years old, advocated to lower the voting age to 16 for local elections, which came very close to passing in 2016 and likely will win enough support in the near future. Scott Doyle, a baseball loving Republican county clerk in Larimer County, Colorado, found a way to make the voting process more convenient through countywide Vote Centers. Alison Smith of Maine became a public champion for public financing. Jenifer Hitchcock, a social studies teacher in Virginia, has crafted innovative ways to engage her students in civics education.

Ultimately, this is a book of stories about inspiring Americans who are working to promote positive changes to our democracy. Fighting voter suppression is important, of course, but it can’t be the only strategy to fix our electoral system. We also must promote positive voting rights reforms. That’s what the Democracy Champions I profile in the book are all about.

Tomorrow I’ll highlight in some more detail the reforms that these inspiring individuals are championing.

By the way, I’ll be speaking about the book all over the country this spring and summer. I hope to see ELB readers at these events!


“Deal reached on lawsuit over Mich. ballot selfie ban”

Detroit News:

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has agreed to settle a lawsuit over a ban on so-called ballot selfies.
Joel Crookston, a voter in the Kalamazoo area, sued in 2016 to try to stop Michigan’s ban on taking photos of marked ballots or publicly exposing them.
Lawyers won’t talk about the deal until details are filed in federal court on May 8. But a court filing last week suggests there will be an easing of the ban. The state said it wanted to avoid “any confusion” in polling places and wait until after local elections are held on May 7.


The Trump/McGahn 30-40 Year Plan on the Judiciary


McGahn said a big part of his job as White House counsel was to deregulate and rein in the “administrative state.”
He said he did that by writing deregulatory executive orders and picking judicial nominees who wanted to limit the power of federal agencies.
He talked about Trump nominating judges who agree that the courts have given too much flexibility to federal agencies to interpret laws and enforce regulations.
McGahn said they looked for potential judges who wanted to reconsider the “Chevron deference,” which requires the courts to defer to federal agencies’ “reasonable” interpretations of ambiguous laws.
McGahn said Trump’s judges will spend 30–40 years unwinding the power of executive agencies.


“House Democratic Campaign Arm Nears War With Liberals Over Primary Fights”


The House Democratic campaign arm is nearing open warfare with the party’s rising liberal wing as political operatives close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to shut down primary challenges before what is likely to be a hard-fought campaign next year to preserve the party’s shaky majority.

Progressive Democrats were infuriated last month when Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the chairwoman of the campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, moved to protect centrist incumbents by formally breaking committee business ties with political consultants and pollsters who go to work for primary challengers.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who owes her seat to a successful primary challenge, went so far as to encourage her 3.8 million Twitter followers to “pause” their donations to the campaign committee in protest. She also started a fund-raising push on her official Twitter account for Representatives Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Katie Hill of California and Mike Levin of California. That initiative, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, raised $30,000 in roughly two hours. She also helped raise money for Representatives Katie Porter of California and Lauren Underwood of Illinois.


“Is civic duty the solution to the paradox of voting?”

Abel François and Olivier Gergaud in Public Choice:

Although sense of civic duty is seen by many scholars as the most obvious solution to the paradox of voting, very few empirical studies provide clear evidence on that motive. We use blood donation to build proxies, focusing only on intrinsic motivations, and then introduce such measures into electoral turnout regressions. Our results show that civic duty has a strong influence on voter turnout rates, confirming that the satisfaction voters receive from voting matters regardless of election outcomes. The results are even stronger when we incorporate the number of plasma and platelet donations, which take more time and require stronger commitments from donors.


More on Who Is Behind Effort to Put a Popular Vote Measure for Electoral College on Ohio Ballot

Cincinnati Enquirer:

Columbus attorney Don McTigue, who submitted the proposed amendment, referred The Enquirer to Reed Hundt, CEO of Making Every Vote Count, a nonprofit that advocates electing the president through a national popular vote. Hundt, reached by phone Monday, said his group offered legal advice to the petitioners but he would not say who they were or answer any questions about the effort.

But emails obtained by The Enquirer through a public records request show five petitioners have been named to the amendment committee: James J. Bishop, Carole A. DePaola, Karen Sue Foley, and Daniel J. McKay of Columbus; and David P. Little of Cincinnati.

McKay is the Franklin County Democratic Party executive director. DePaola is the secretary of the Ohio Democratic Party Women’s Caucus and was a 2016 elector for Hillary Clinton.

Little, a longtime Southwest Ohio political consultant, declined to comment when asked by The Enquirer who was organizing or paying for the effort.


Shenanigans Going on with Ohio Ballot Measure Purportedly Aimed at Getting State to Assign Electoral College Votes to the Popular Vote Winner

John Koza, the force behind the National Popular Vote initiative writes:

Ohio news organizations have been trying to identify the mysterious backers of an initiative petition proposing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution requiring the Ohio legislature to guarantee the presidency to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide.

After making public records requests attempting to identify the backers, The Cincinnati Enquirer concluded, “It’s not clear who’s pushing the initiative in Ohio.” The Columbus Dispatch said, “It is unclear who is behind the Ohio initiative.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, “It’s not clear which group is behind the proposal.” An Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman denied the party was behind it.  

What is definitely clear is who isn’t behind it – namely the National Popular Vote organization which wrote the National Popular Vote interstate compact in 2006 and has won enactment of the compact by 14 states possessing 184 electoral votes (just 86 short of the 270 needed to put the legislation into effect). Moreover, state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, the sponsor in Ohio of the actual National Popular Vote compact, has said he does not know who is behind the petition.  

Not only is the National Popular Vote organization not behind this mystery petition, there are three reasons why it is clear that this petition is not a bona fide effort to enact the compact, but, instead, an effort to use the compact’s widespread public support to facilitate passage in the legislature of something entirely different.  


“Courts Have No Say When FEC Wants To Ignore Alleged Wrongdoing”

Ken Doyle:

A decision by two federal judges is making it impossible to challenge the way the Federal Election Commission enforces campaign laws.

When the FEC deadlocks along party lines, that’s now the end of the line — no court can second-guess letting an accused wrongdoer off the hook.
In a decision handed down in March, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said he was foreclosed from reviewing the FEC’s dismissal of a complaint against a nonprofit that refused to disclose where it got the money to give more than $3 million to super political action committees during the 2012 election.

That group, New Models, spent more on political donations than anything else that year, according to a complaint by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The judge agreed with FEC staff lawyers who had written that the Republican commissioners who voted to drop the New Models case have “prosecutorial discretion,” and their wishes are “judicially unreviewable.”

Judicial review was eliminated last June, in a 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Critics of that ruling have waited for the better part of year to find out if they’ll be allowed to argue before the full court on reversing that precedent.


“The Cybersecurity 202: States spent just a fraction of $380 million in election security money before midterms”


Congress scrambled in early 2018 to deliver a surge in election security money before the midterms. But it turns out that states only spent about 8 percent of the $380 million Congress approved by the time the elections rolled around.

That’s the bad news in a spending report released Thursday by the Election Assistance Commission, which is responsible for disbursing the money.

The good news is that states are on track to spend the majority of the money before the 2020 elections — which intelligence officials say are far likelier than the midterms to be a hacking target for Russia and other U.S. adversaries.

The report highlights the lengthy process of investigations and reviews that are necessary before states can make major upgrades to specialized election equipment. Given the tight time frame — Congress approved the money in March and the EAC began disbursing it to states in June — EAC Chairwoman Christy McCormick told me that 8 percent is a reasonable amount to have spent and about what the commission expected.


“Very few Americans are satisfied with campaign finance laws, but most don’t know a lot about them”


As major presidential hopefuls release their fundraising numbers from the first quarter this week, recent polling finds just 1 in 5 Americans say they are satisfied with the nation’s campaign finance laws.

The January Gallup poll found that exactly 20% of Americans were OK with how the US handles campaign finance. That’s tied with its poll in 2016 for the lowest who have said so since it started tracking in 2001. Democrats tended to be less satisfied than Republicans — 26% of Republicans said campaign finances laws are OK and 15% of Democrats agreed….

But the way to solve that dissatisfaction is unclear, especially since a lot of people in the US aren’t too knowledgeable about the guidelines.

In a late 2015 survey conducted by AP-NORC, 53% of Americans said they know only a little or nothing at all about the rules governing the financing of campaigns and only 13% said they know a great deal or quite a bit.


“Fixing Gerrymandered Maps Tougher than Gorsuch, Kavanaugh Think”

Bloomberg Law:

The Supreme Court’s newest justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, highlighted independent redistricting commissions as a solution to state legislatures maximizing seats for the party in power while drawing voting districts.

But legal experts say these commissions can’t solve the problem alone. The justices’ comments came during argument last week in a pair of partisan gerrymandering challenges out of Maryland and North Carolina, which allege politicians drew voting districts to disadvantage the other political party.


“Blockchain Voting: Unwelcome Disruption or Senseless Distraction?”

U.S. Vote Foundation:

It really gets old being a guinea pig. Not because of the cagey confines, but for the insistence of those who try their ideas out on you. Overseas and military voters continue to be the guinea pigs for unvetted online voting ideas, the new one being “blockchain voting”. We have been here before.

Overseas and military voters do need continued meaningful reforms across all states, and it is good when people truly care enough to examine and invest in solutions. What we do not need is a distraction that introduces new threats to overseas and military ballot integrity. The cliché “disruption model” doesn’t belong in our elections. Particularly in light of Russia’s cyber-interference in elections in Ukraine in 2014 and the US in 2016, we should consider with extra caution the idea of putting the entire voting process online. Russia itself is pushing to use this same technology for voting. Maybe it is worth a deeper look at it before we rush to its implementation? Perhaps investment in a threat detection system, which most state election offices cannot yet afford, would, at minimum, be a wise first course of action.

Typically election systems must undergo formal testing and certification. Public access and examination is crucial. With a fully online system, that requirement is far more serious. Internet voting is not the same sort of simple transaction as is online banking; it is far more complex due to the fact that there must be a separation of the transaction from the identity of the person executing it. Just because there is a “blockchain” for the transaction doesn’t make the total voting system secure.

The bottom line: it should not be possible to implement these systems in real elections without full and complete public examination. It is not sufficient to declare a technology as “tested” when it is used only in private elections and by outside companies hired to do “security audits”.
Hence the dismay at the most recent efforts by Bradley Tusk and his chosen vendor, Voatz, to influence the injection  of uncertified blockchain technology into overseas and military voting. We know how hard it is to resist the promotion that this is a panacea for voter turnout and access. There are real problems that need real attention. So when an attractive, wealthy individual  arrives in an under-resourced election community with a shiny new “disruptive technology” (cue the keywords) and a sleek PR machine, who can blame anyone for not opening the door at least a crack. But maybe, we should try to resist flinging that door wide open for the few, to the detriment of the many. 


Horwitz on The Troubling Phenomenon of Supreme Court Justices as Celebrities

Paul Horwitz:

Usefully, Hasen emphasizes “the role of the ‘Celebrity Justice,’ a phenomenon which Devins and Baum acknowledge near the end of the book. Scalia, and later Ruth Bader Ginsburg, became rock star Justices, drawing adoring crowds who celebrate these lawyers as though they were teenagers meeting Beyoncé. If we are thinking about the psychological effects on Justices getting affirmation that they are on the right path, cult-like worship can only make the assured even surer in their convictions. This seems especially dangerous during polarized times.”

I could not agree more on this point. The Notorious RBG phenomenon (or Scalia worship) and the cult of personality and celebrity it represents, however understandable (I’m speaking here not of politics, but of Justice Ginsburg and the value of having previously under-represented role models), is bad for our already oversized view of the courts, bad for our politics, bad for the justices themselves, who hardly need further encouragement in thinking well of themselves and taking confirmation of their views from the like-minded (and who risk an increasing willingness to profit from these cults, whether personally or, as the line of Ginsburg products seems to have become, in creating a family business), and for us. I feel the same about the black-tie dinner appearances and selfie opportunities at FedSoc conferences, which may seem harmless and trivial enough to those who attend and participate in this adulatory culture but is not. While the connection between the celebrity justice phenomenon and political polarization may be clear, its connection to the idea of elite culture is perhaps less so. At a minimum, though, I might suggest that I would feel less worried about elites if they considered a fundamental characteristic and requirement of their position to be a quality of independence and maturity of mind, skepticism toward bromides and hero worship, and resistance toward consumer culture and its colonization of politics and governance. The celebrity justice phenomenon hardly contributes to those qualities; and without them, there is good reason to doubt that our “elites” will act in a way fully worthy of the positions of trust and privilege they occupy.    


Stacey Abrams Reiterates Language of Georgia Governor’s Election Being “Stolen”

From her speech via Axios:

So on November 6, I said at the podium we were not going to declare anything till every vote was counted. And on November 16, I decided to acknowledge the states of the election but I refused to concede. Because here’s the thing, concession means to say something is right and true and proper. I am a good lawyer, and I understand that the law of the land said that Brian Kemp became the governor that day. And I acknowledge that, but you can’t trick me into saying it was right. And you can’t shame me into saying what happened should’ve happened because in the state of Georgia black people faced hours long lines of up to four hours waiting to cast their ballots. 53,000 people were held hostage by a system that a federal judge said was racially discriminatory. 53,000 people. 90% of whom were people of color and 70% of whom were black. I live in a state where 1.5 million people got purged including 600,000 right before my opponent threw his name into the ring. They closed 214 polling places. They rejected absentee ballots at an unheard of rate. They said if your signature didn’t match then your vote doesn’t count. Well my signature doesn’t match from Kroger to CVS, but my citizenship doesn’t change. And so in response to what I believe was a stolen election, and I’m not saying they stole it from me. They stole it from the voters of Georgia. I cannot prove empirically that I would’ve won, but we will never know. And so what I demanded on November 16 was a fair fight because you see voter suppression is as old as America. It is baked into our DNA, but so is our ability to fight back. That is also who we are. We are a nation constructed of people who understand our rights have to be fought for every generation and sometimes when we fight we think we won. We just got a pause, and we’ve got to come back efforts redoubled because those that who want us to be silenced won’t stop till we shut so we have to shout louder and longer and stronger than they’ve ever expected. 

(my emphasis)

In another recent speech, Abrams said: “I did win my election, I just didn’t get to have the job.”’

Earlier from me: Why Democrats Should Not Call the Georgia Governor’s Race ‘Stolen’Slate, Nov. 18, 2018


“Republicans trigger ‘nuclear option’ to speed Trump nominees”


Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option” Wednesday to unilaterally reduce debate time on most presidential nominees, the latest in a series of changes to the fabric of the Senate to dilute the power of the minority.

The move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately paves the way to expedite confirmations of President Donald Trump’s judicial and executive branch picks and comes amid deep GOP frustration with Democrats’ delays. Future presidents will benefit, too, though McConnell and Trump stand to gain inordinately as they seek to fill 130 District Court vacancies during the 18 months before the 2020 elections.

The nuclear option — a change of the Senate rules by a simple majority — gained its name because it was seen as an explosive maneuver that would leave political fallout for some time to come. But it’s now been deployed three times in just six years amid continuous partisan warfare over nominations.


“Another GOP Voter Fraud Claim Falls Apart, and Democrats See an Opening”

Eliza Newlin Carney:

The latest overblown Republican claims of voter fraud have been thoroughly debunked, now that a federal judge has blocked a massive voter purge in Texas, and accused GOP election officials there of creating a “mess” that intimidated vulnerable voters.

But instead of eating crow, Republicans are doubling down. In Texas, even as a federal judge intervened, Republican state senators were advancing a bill that would erect fresh barriers to registration and voting. And President Donald Trump, having tweeted in January that the supposed illegal voting in Texas was “the tip of the iceberg” told GOP officials this week that they needed to be “careful” in upcoming elections, “because I don’t like the way the votes are being tallied.”

Nevertheless, GOP voter fraud claims and voter restriction efforts could come back to haunt Republicans in 2020. In Texas, the debacle that began when GOP Acting Secretary of State David Whitley announced erroneously in January that 95,000 noncitizens had registered in Texas, and 58,000 had voted, removed more than a dozen eligible voters from the rolls. (They were later reinstated.) Latino voting rights advocates, who successfully sued to block the Texas purge, predict a voter backlash.


“For independent voters, California lawmakers seek to end ballot confusion”

John Myers for the LAT:

In the days leading up to California’s primary three years ago, the complaints from unaffiliated independent voters started pouring in. They were promised they could vote in the closely watched Democratic race for the White House, but were handed a ballot without any presidential candidates.

That shouldn’t happen again next year, if a new proposal making its way through the Legislature has its intended effect.


“House Panel Seeks to Interview Top Organizer of Trump Inauguration”


The House Intelligence Committee is seeking an interview with and documents from a top organizer on President Trump’s inaugural committee, according to people familiar with the request, signaling that Congress is expanding its probe of how the fund raised and spent more than $100 million.

The March 19 request from the House Intelligence Committee was disclosed in a letter sent to a lawyer for the inaugural committee this week by an attorney for Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to first lady Melania Trump who served as a producer and a vendor for the inauguration. The inaugural fund hasn’t been contacted by the House panel, according to one of the people familiar with the matter….

The House Intelligence Committee sought from Ms. Wolkoff an array of materials, including matters related to contacts between the inaugural fund and foreign entities, specifically in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the person familiar with the matter said.

The committee also requested information on efforts by foreign entities to provide gifts or things of value to Mr. Trump, as well as his son-in-law and daughter, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and their affiliated businesses, the people said. It also sought records related to the inaugural committee’s donors and contractors, guest lists for inaugural events, and information on any payments made directly from donors to vendors, the people said.


“You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead.”

USA Today:

Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks.

Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them. 

A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic  and the Center for Public Integrity reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation.

USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law. 
The investigation examined nearly 1 million bills in all 50 states and Congress using a computer algorithm developed to detect similarities in language. That search – powered by the equivalent of 150 computers that ran nonstop for months – compared known model legislation with bills introduced by lawmakers. 

The phenomenon of copycat legislation is far larger. In a separate analysis, the Center for Public Integrity identified tens of thousands of bills with identical phrases, then traced the origins of that language in dozens of those bills across the country.

Model bills passed into law have made it harder for injured consumers to sue corporations. They’ve called for taxes on sugar-laden drinks. They’ve limited access to abortion and restricted the rights of protesters. 
In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy. 

The investigation reveals that fill-in-the-blank bills have in some states supplanted the traditional approach of writing legislation from scratch. They have become so intertwined with the lawmaking process that the nation’s top sponsor of copycat legislation, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, claimed to have signed on to 72 such bills without knowing or questioning their origin.

For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.

For special interests seeking to stay under the radar, model legislation also offers distinct advantages. Copycat bills don’t appear on expense reports, or campaign finance forms. They don’t require someone to register as a lobbyist or sign in at committee hearings. But once injected into the lawmaking process, they can go viral, spreading state to state, executing an agenda to the letter. 


One of the Citizenship Question Census Endgames: Exclude Non-Citizens from Redistricting

Tierney Sneed:


“Civil Rights Groups Prevail in Lawsuit to Require Secretary of State to Improve Voter Registration Opportunities”

Press release via email:

On Friday, civil rights groups prevailed in their lawsuit against Secretary of State Alex Padilla to expand voter registration at agencies in the state that serve people on public assistance and individuals with disabilities. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman ruled Padilla must require voter registration at additional agencies and contractors serving Californians throughout the state. More than 1.8 million Californians will benefit from the ruling.  

 The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California (ACLU) and Disability Rights California (DRC) filed suit against Secretary Padilla because of his failure to designate state and local offices that provide public assistance or are state funded offices primarily serving people with disabilities, known as “Voter Registration Agencies” (VRAs).  Secretary Padilla is required to identify offices that meet these definitions and notify them that they are required to provide voter registration opportunities under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and California’s Election code.

According to the decision, the following offices must now offer voter registration opportunities:

-County offices administering General Assistance or General Relief Programs, which receive close to 300,000 applications each year;
-Financial aid programs administered by the California Student Aid Commission, which received over 1.5 million applications last year;
-Private entities providing services under contract on behalf of VRAs.


“Black leaders blast Dem war on super PACs”


Top black donors and operatives are calling on fellow Democrats to abandon their push against super PACs, arguing that one of Democrats’ most popular 2020 talking points will ultimately cut off much-needed resources for candidates of color.

In a letter obtained by POLITICO, The Collective PAC — which helps elect black candidates to office — asked major liberal groups like Indivisible and Democracy for America to stop calling for Democratic presidential contenders to distance themselves from single-candidatesuper PACs. Such groups play an important role in electing candidates of color, they argued, especially in primaries, when the Democratic establishment has often overlooked black contenders and left it to outside donors to bolster their campaigns.


“How FDR’s Court-Packing Plan Set Progressive Policies Back by 25 Years”

Over at the Balkinization blog, I have a post with historical perspective on emerging debates among some Democrats over whether, if they have the political power to do so after 2020, they ought to increase the size of the Supreme Court. Here are some excerpts:

The circumstances favoring FDR’s Court-packing plan would seem to be about as favorable as might be imagined, yet FDR not only lost the Court-packing battle, that loss was politically devastating for the New Deal overall.  
          First, let’s recall just how breathtaking and profound the Court’s conflict was in that era with FDR’s and Congress’ policies.  The major highlights are widely known and still taught in law schools – the Court’s invalidation of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) or the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).   
          But here is a sense of the range of national and state legislation and presidential action the Court held unconstitutional in one 17-month period starting in January, 1935: the NIRA, both its Codes of Fair Competition and the president’s power to control the flow of contraband oil across state lines; the Railroad Retirement Act; the Frazier-Lemke Farm Mortgage Moratorium Act; the effort of the president to get the administrative agencies to reflect his political vision (Humphrey’s Executor); the Home Owners’ Loan Act; a federal tax on liquor dealers; the AAA; efforts of the new SEC’s attempt to subpoena records to enforce the securities laws; the Bituminous Coal Conservation  Act; the Municipal Bankruptcy Act, which Congress passed to enable local governments to use the bankruptcy process; and, perhaps most dramatically, in Morehead v. Tipaldo, minimum-wage laws on the books in a third of the states, in some cases, for decades.  Some of these decisions have withstood the test of time, but most, of course, have not.   . . .

Second, FDR was in as strong a political position as any President has ever been in the modern era.  He had just won 60.8% of the popular vote, the largest popular majority ever at the time.  In the electoral college, he had won 98.5% of the electoral votes (all but the eight votes of ME and VT).  The Court-packing bill was the first piece of legislation FDR put forward after this massive 1936 electoral triumph.  And the 1936 elections were a sweep for the Democrats in the House and Senate, too.  In the Senate, the Democrats held 76 Senate seats, Republicans just 16 (sorry AK and HW, you weren’t states yet).  In the House, Democrats had a 334-88 advantage. . . .

Yet despite FDR’s popularity and the Court’s actions, almost as soon as he announced the Court-packing bill, two-thirds of the newspapers that had endorsed FDR came out vociferously against the plan.  This response was geographically widespread, bipartisan, and intense.  The most common charge was that FDR was seeking “dictatorial powers,” a particularly resonant charge in that era.  . . .

Why was FDR’s decision to engage Court-packing so destructive politically for him and the rest of his domestic agenda?  The simple answer is that, even for the most popular President in modern political history –at the zenith of his popularity — changing the size of the Court for political reasons was widely viewed as a dangerous form of political over-reaching. 
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when FDR lost the Court-packing fight, he didn’t just lose that one battle:  that battle was politically catastrophic for much of the rest of his domestic political agenda.  Indeed, the fight over Court packing largely killed the progressive legislative agenda until the 1960s.  As FDR’s second vice president, Henry Wallace, observed in looking back at these events: “The whole New Deal really went up in smoke as a result of the Supreme Court fight.”  The next major item on FDR’s agenda had been national health-care; after the Court-packing fight, FDR felt forced to drop the issue.  As a Fortune magazine poll in July 1937 put it: “The Supreme Court struggle had cut into the President’s popularity as no other issue ever had.”  The Republican Party had been declared virtually dead in the wake of the 1936 elections.  But in the 1938 mid-terms, the Democratic Party lost 71 House seats, 6 Senate seats, and 12 governorships; nationwide, the two parties divided the congressional vote almost evenly (all the more remarkable because the Democratic Party had a near monopoly in the South). . . .

But if debates about Court-packing move from campaign rhetoric to potential legislation, it is worth being aware that when the most popular president in history, with a Congress his party controlled overwhelmingly, clashed with the Court that was the most aggressive in American history in pervasively challenging national political power, FDR not only failed to get Court-packing legislation enacted, the effort generated a political firestorm that cost FDR the rest of his domestic agenda. 


“At the Federal Election Commission, No Watchdog for the Watchdog”

Dave Levinthal:

When Beverly Davis began disqualifying numerous applicants for the Federal Election Commission’s vacant inspector general job — including a long-time staff attorney for Commissioner Matthew Petersen — agency superiors protested. 

Accusations and allegations flew. A turf war ensued. 

Davis said she was “attacked, retaliated against and bullied” into reassessing the qualifications of applicants she deemed subpar. After being overruled, Davis closed the job opening for the position — the agency’s internal watchdog — and resigned from her job as a senior human resources specialist, forcing the FEC to restart its search. The position has now been open for more than two years.

The May 2018 fracas, described in interviews and a series of internal emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, is but one of several stumbles that have helped render the FEC’s inspector general office effectively nonfunctional since November, when the lone deputy inspector general quit.

This matters because the inspector general office investigates waste, fraud and abuse at the FEC, including accusations against commissioners. The bipartisan FEC is itself responsible for enforcing and regulating national campaign finance laws but has long been hamstrung by ideological divisions, low staff morale and other long-standing vacancies, including two of six FEC commissioner slots.

So the lack of an inspector general means no one is watching the election watchdog — at a time when few feel the FEC is functioning effectively, even as its missions are evermore important. The FEC’s struggles are set against the backdrop of an accelerating chase for presidential campaign cash and prominent political money scandals — alleged porn actress hush-money payments and foreign infiltration among them. 


“With little fallout from nuclear option, Senate’s legislative filibuster is in jeopardy”


The fallout from the Senate’s so-called nuclear option has largely dissipated.

And without much fallout, the fate of the once-revered process known as the legislative filibuster faces its greatest peril in more than a century.
Senate Republicans are using a complex parliamentary move this week to unilaterally change the rules to make it easier to confirm lower-level nominees to the federal courts and agencies.

It will mark the third time in less than six years that the majority party pulled the trigger on this controversial procedure, breaking long-standing customs requiring a two-thirds majority to alter Senate rules and procedures.

Democrats went first, in fall 2013, followed by Republicans in April 2017 and now the GOP again. What was once considered so unthinkable that Senate elders warned of a “nuclear winter” to follow has turned into an almost biennial move designed to thwart minority-party rights.


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