The efforts to discipline attorneys who aided former President Donald Trump’s legal gambits to undermine the 2020 election take a major step forward Monday with the start of key disciplinary proceedings in Washington, DC, that will look into whether Rudy Giuliani violated attorney ethics rules.
A hearing committee for the Board on Professional Responsibility will hear testimony from witnesses – including from Giuliani himself – as it weighs whether the lawsuit the former New York City mayor brought on behalf of Trump’s 2020 campaign put him in violation of attorney ethics rules.
Have we become immune to how radical and dangerous this all is?
In a blistering 30-page opinion, a federal judge ordered sanctions against the attorneys of Kari Lake and Mark Finchem in their lawsuit against voting machines, hoping to deter “similarly baseless suits in the future.”
Lake and Finchem, Trump-endorsed Republicans who failed in their bids for governor and secretary of state, filed suit in April in an attempt to block Maricopa and Pima counties from using any electronic device to cast or count votes. They asked the court to order the counties to require paper ballots and conduct a hand count of all the ballots cast.
U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi dismissed the suit in August, calling it full of “conjectural allegations of potential injuries.”
Before the dismissal, the five members of the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — the defendants in the case — had asked for sanctions for the “numerous false allegations about Arizona elections” the candidates and their attorneys made in their federal complaint.
Roger Sollenberger for The Daily Beast:
Right-wing megadonor Dick Uihlein has been funneling tens of millions of dollars to election deniers, but a previously unreported IRS filing shows he has also teamed up with one.
According to its 2021 annual IRS filing, the Uihlein-backed dark money nonprofit Restoration Action Inc. hired Arizona Republican Gina Swoboda as an executive director last year, paying her $108,750 in salary.
Swoboda, a former Trump campaign official and the vice chair of the Arizona Republican Party, is now leading a misguided charge against the ballot count in that state on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
Swoboda currently serves as “election integrity” coordinator for Lake, whose repeated false claims of voter fraud have ingratiated her to former President Donald Trump and who still refuses to acknowledge her election loss to Katie Hobbs. After the election, Lake promoted Swoboda’s appearance on a right-wing podcast.
In addition to hiring Swoboda, the filing shows Restoration Action’s accounts swelling for the second year in a row.
According to the filing, in the 12 months following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Restoration Action’s revenue topped $20.5 million—double what the group raised in 2020, and light years beyond its $64,000 haul in 2019.
As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Restoration Action doesn’t have to disclose the names of its donors, though it is tied to the larger Restoration of America network, funded almost exclusively by the Uihleins. And the document shows that in 2021, one anonymous donor accounted for $19,860,445 of Restoration Action’s total revenue.
More notable than the influx of cash, however, is the spike in spending. The nonprofit not only doubled its income from 2020 to 2021, it also began handing out more money. In the year after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Restoration Action gave more than $9.6 million to conservative causes, most of them laser-focused on so-called “election integrity” projects. The year before, that number was a little shy of $1.4 million.
Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of good government group Documented, which shared the filing with The Daily Beast, said the disclosure shows that anti-democratic forces have deep pockets.
“Restoration Action is a hub for election denial, including funding some of the key players pushing election falsehoods in Arizona at the moment,” Fischer said. “This is a reminder that there’s big money behind the push to undermine democracy. Through Restoration Action and other entities, an array of groups pushing election conspiracy theories are backed by literally tens of millions of dollars from just one billionaire couple.”
That billionaire couple—Dick and Elizabeth Uihlein—constitute the biggest Republican donors overall for the 2022 midterms. And the overwhelming majority of their contributions—about 80 percent—have gone to candidates who have denied or questioned the 2020 election results, The Daily Beast previously reported….
State-level law enforcement units created after the 2020 presidential election to investigate voter fraud are looking into scattered complaints more than two weeks after the midterms but have provided no indication of systemic problems.
That’s just what election experts had expected and led critics to suggest that the new units were more about politics than rooting out widespread abuses. Most election-related fraud cases already are investigated and prosecuted at the local level.
Florida, Georgia and Virginia created special state-level units after the 2020 election, all pushed by Republican governors, attorneys general or legislatures.
“I am not aware of any significant detection of fraud on Election Day, but that’s not surprising,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of the Campaign Legal Center. “The whole concept of voter impersonation fraud is such a horribly exaggerated problem. It doesn’t change the outcome of the election, it’s a felony, you risk getting put in jail and you have a high possibility of getting caught. It’s a rare phenomena.”
House Speaker Jason Wentworth has shot down an effort by fellow Michigan Republicans to investigate the 2022 election, calling it “a shameless and half-baked political stunt.”
In a letter first reported by The Detroit News, Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, asked Wentworth to give a commission the subpoena power needed to investigate the election.
“Mr. Speaker, we have a choice to make: either we accept the alleged outcome and move on, or we investigate why the majority of Americans, according to a November 14, 2022, Rasmussen poll, have lost faith in our elections to some degree,” Carra wrote in his letter….
Wentworth wrote in a Friday email responding to Carra that the Legislature cannot use “subpoenas to conduct a general fishing expedition,” The Detroit News reported.
“They need to be targeted,” the email says. “Given that, what are the details of every 2022 election-fraud incident you and these members are aware of?”
Additionally, Wentworth told Carra lawmakers should not be “in the business of authorizing pop psychology opinion surveys.”
“Suppose over half of Michiganders surveyed said they distrusted your motives in sending your Nov. 17 letter — that is, they believed this is a shameless and half-baked political stunt performed on state time and solely calculated to inflame an already troubled section of our party,” he said in the response.
“Do you think that would justify the Legislature subpoenaing you? Don’t you think it’s bad practice to justify legislative subpoenas based on opinion surveys?”
About 200 people gathered near the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center in Phoenix on Saturday to protest the voting tabulation process while holding signs that decried voter fraud.
Other signs called Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for Arizona governor, “corrupt,” and another sign said, “FBI honor your oath, arrest all traitors.”
In a tweet on Friday, state Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, called for patriots to “rise up to rally” and “pray for the Light to shine in the darkness and for His truth to be revealed.”
Demonstrators circled the barricaded Election Center building seven times, to reenact the Battle of Jericho. As described in the biblical Book of Joshua, the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city walls once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day.
“We’re very concerned, our country being turned upside down. The fact of the matter is, is that there’s a lot of reason for us to be concerned,” said state Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, who was in attendance.
About an hour after the rally kicked off, Rogers issued another tweet, urging people to stay away from the Maricopa County offices so they could finish counting the votes.
“The last thing anyone wants is a reason to stop the counting,” Rogers said….
Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake stoked fears of mail-in ballots. Now she’s taunting officials for not counting them fast enough after a record number of people held onto their mail-in ballots until Election Day.
Lake accused election workers of deliberately slowing counts and holding back results, commenting in social media posts and in interviews on conservative news sites.
Her campaign, Kari Lake War Room, said in a tweet Friday that the Maricopa County Elections Department was creating a host of new election deniers, leaning into her refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“This process is an untransparent joke,” the campaign said. “Our elections shouldn’t be like this. When @KariLake is Governor, they won’t be.”
Lake took it further, describing the counting process in interviews as “embarrassing” and compared the handling of ballots in the county to a banana republic.
“It’s simple. Stop dragging your feet & get Election Day ballot numbers out,” she tweeted Thursday.
About 290,000 mail-in ballots were dropped off at county vote centers on Election Day, surpassing the record for drop-off ballots by 70% percent.
Bill Gates, the Board of Supervisors chair, pushed back at Lake’s claims on Friday, saying staffers are putting in 18-hour days and are counting as many as 80,000 ballots per day.
“I am going to stand up for my state. We’re doing things the right way,” Gates said. “We’re not doing anything wrong at all.”
Lake’s rhetoric was amplified by other hard-line Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, who took shots at election officials’ changing timeline for completing the ballot count.
“Arizona even said ‘by the end of the week.’ — they want more time to cheat,” Trump said in a social media post Friday. “Kari Lake MUST win!”
On a Republican conference call Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), went so far as to suggest fraud in Nevada if Laxalt isn’t declared the winner. The midday call was hosted by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
“There is no mathematical way Laxalt loses,” Graham said on the call. “If he does, then it’s a lie.”
No evidence of election fraud has emerged and independent analysts have been expecting Cortez Masto to take the lead for days based on the number of outstanding mail votes in the most Democratic part of the state.
So those who thought that Graham would be responsible in claims when Trump was not involved would be wrong.
Technical glitches on Tuesday disrupted operations at about a quarter of the voting centers in Maricopa County, Ariz., the most populous county in a state with multiple competitive races.
While the problems were later solved, it set off a firestorm online, with right-wing influencers suggesting that the problems were a sign of election fraud, according to the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of online information researchers that tracked tweets and retweets from users who had more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.
The narrative continued to spread on Wednesday as several close races in Arizona were still not called. Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, said in a speech Tuesday night that the issues bolstered her doubts about election integrity.
Here is how that narrative took off….
Former President Donald Trump posted on social media on Tuesday to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the midterm election in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania. “Here we go again!” he wrote. “Rigged Election!”
Trump’s supposed evidence? An article on a right-wing news site that demonstrated no rigging. Rather, the article baselessly raised suspicion about absentee-ballot data the article did not clearly explain.
In 2020, Trump and his allies made a prolonged effort to discredit the presidential election results in advance, spending months laying the groundwork for their false post-election claims that the election was stolen. Now, in the weeks leading up to Election Day in 2022, some Republicans have been deploying similar – and similarly dishonest – rhetoric.
Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate seeking to oversee Arizona’s election system as that state’s secretary of state, made a last-minute fundraising pitch on Wednesday using one of his favorite talking points: the looming threat of voter fraud.
Finchem falsely argued on Facebook and Twitter that his Democratic opponent, Adrian Fontes, is a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a “Cartel criminal” who has “rigged elections before.”
It wasn’t the first time Finchem spread unfounded election-rigging conspiracy theories on social media. In September, Finchem misleadingly posted that Fontes was being “bankrolled” by billionaire George Soros and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and they want to “RIG our elections & our voter rolls.”
For years, Facebook and Twitter have pledged to fight falsehoods that could confuse users about America’s electoral system by tagging questionable posts with accurate information about voting and removing rule-breaking misinformation. But this electoral cycle, at least 26 candidates have posted inaccurate election claims since April, but the platforms have done virtually nothing to refute them, according to a Washington Post review of the companies’ misinformation labeling practices.
That’s in contrast to the 2020 election cycle, when Facebook and Twitter collectively added labels to scores of election-related posts from Donald Trump that pointed readers to authoritative information about the electoral process or alerted readers that the information was misleading. Facebook labeled at least 506 Trump posts between Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 6, 2021, according to a study from the left-leaning Media Matters for America, and Twitter alsoadded labels to Trump’s tweets questioning the validity of the election or voting process.
But such labels have been nonexistent this election cycle, the Post review showed, when hundreds of congressional seats as well as thousands of state and local positions are being decided.
In some states, election deniers motivated by false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election are engaging in their own, deeply flawed investigations to substantiate myths of widespread voter fraud. They have organized to engage in practices like amateur data matching with voter rolls, door-to-door canvassing to compare residents’ statements with voter records, and surveillance of mail ballot drop boxes. These error-ridden practices can disenfranchise eligible voters and strain election official resources.
Driven by well-funded organizations like the Conservative Partnership Institute, new networks have spun once-fringe grassroots groups into an interconnected web awash in misinformation. They burden election workers who must respond to the conspiracy-laden claims that result, and they risk intimidating voters and propelling mass challenges that could disenfranchise rightful voters.
These groups’ efforts might also produce material that they can use to concoct false claims to challenge the 2022 election results and further undermine confidence in American elections. Similar attempts have existed in recent election cycles, but this year’s efforts follow a two-year disinformation campaign to cast doubt on President Biden’s victory. The groups seek to exploit members of the public who have been falsely told the 2020 election was “stolen” and that these types of efforts can prevent it from happening again. The methods used by the groups behind these initiatives have reached worrisome levels of coordination and commonality in 2022.
This resource aims to preempt any effort to use deceptive, dangerous, and deeply flawed methods to challenge election results or cast doubt on the security of American elections after November 8. And it proposes ways to curb the risks that these practices pose to election administration….
Wild story from VoteBeat.