Jamelle Bouie for NYT Opinion.
Newly obtained tax records shed additional light on the web of “dark money” organizations tied to President Donald Trump’s top judicial adviser that were used to funnel millions to organizations that boosted the Supreme Court nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The Freedom and Opportunity Fund is helmed by Leonard Leo, a Trump confidante and longtime executive vice president at the Federalist Society, a national conservative and libertarian lawyers network based in Washington, D.C.
Between its inception in 2016 and 2017, the fund donated $4 million to the Independent Women’s Voice (IWV), a D.C.-based dark money organization, according to tax filings obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics and MapLight. IWV was vociferous in its defense of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a Stanford professor who knew the justice while he was in prep school. IWV’s president, Tammy Bruce, said on Fox News last year that Kavanaugh was “effectively being used as a stand-in for all perpetrators.”…
A central player in Leo’s network is a consulting and public relations firm called Creative Response Concepts (CRC), which gained notoriety for helping create Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s Vietnam war record.
CRC has received payments from many of the organizations in Leo’s web. The firm was paid $400,000 by BH Fund and $100,000 by America Engaged in 2017. JCN has regularly paid CRC, as has the Wellspring Committee, which has been JCN’s primary funder for many years. CRC has also worked with the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a dark money-funded nonprofit that was previously run by Trump’s former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.
The call sounds like it is coming from President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
It even uses a recording of the President’s voice: “I’m Donald Trump. Tonight I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border, out of love and devotion to our country.” A deep-voiced narrator then comes on asking the listener to “be one of the hundreds thousands of patriots that helped President Trump finally build a the wall by making a one-time urgently needed donation to the campaign.”
Calls like this one, said to number more than 200,000, have helped raise more than $100,000 in January alone, but that money isn’t going to the Trump campaign, whose spokesperson told CNN they were not affiliated with the calls. Instead, the calls are coming from a political action committee that isn’t affiliated with Trump’s re-election effort and hasn’t spent any money so far in this or last election cycle, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.
A CNN KFile investigation into the group behind the calls, Support American Leaders PAC, reveals it is run by 32-year-old Matthew Tunstall, who has a history of managing shadowy groups that target people with politically charged calls in order to raise money while doing very little — if anything at all — to put that money toward a political purpose. Tunstall made more than $300,000 through these groups in the 2016 presidential cycle, FEC records show.
Deep dive by David Smiley in the Miami Herald.
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Dennis Richardson, the Oregon secretary of state and first Republican elected to the position in three decades, died of brain cancer Tuesday night at age 69.
Richardson was a respected and well-liked statesman, although at times a divisive figure in Oregon politics, who rose through the ranks to become his party’s most successful standard-bearer in more than a generation with his election as secretary of state in 2016. The victory snapped a 16-year losing streak that had kept Republicans from statewide office….
The Oregon Constitution directs the governor to appoint Richardson’s successor. Brown’s statement said she will review candidates “in the coming weeks” and only appoint a Republican who will promise not to run for secretary of state in 2020.
Condolences to Secretary Richardson’s family and friends.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman’s decision to seek indictments almost immediately after the close of those hearings sent a “clear signal,” she said, “that we take seriously the public’s confidence in the electoral process and that we intend to pursue this case vigorously and see that justice is done.”
More charges are likely, Freeman said. She said her office’s “very large-scope” investigation will examine “who was aware of and helped finance these fraudulent absentee ballot activities” — a sign of potential legal peril for Harris, who hired Dowless. She also plans to determine whether anyone else besides Dowless allegedly tried to obstruct either the criminal or state board investigations.
Speaking to the hosts of the WVOM morning show this week, former Governor Paul LePage lambasted a bill being considered by Maine’s legislature to join with other states to essentially bypass the Electoral College and ensure that the President is elected by the national popular vote.
“Actually what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say. It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida,” said LePage.
The former governor, calling into the show from his home in Florida, also labeled the proposal “an insane process” and warned that “we’re gonna be forgotten people.”
The proposal would actually, if adopted by a sufficient number of states, ensure that every voter, regardless of race, has the same say in electing the president.
Paul Ryan USA Today oped:
On Wednesday, in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen for the first time provided details to the American people of precisely how Trump directed and coordinated these hush payments in violation of federal law. Cohen also identified a witness to Trump’s seemingly illegal actions.
Cohen testified, for example, that after each of his conversations with Stormy Daniels’ lawyer at the time before the hush payment, he went “straight into Mr. Trump’s office” to “discuss the issue with him.” Cohen explained that when it was ultimately determined “days before the election that Mr. Trump was going to pay the $130,000″ to Daniels, with Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg in the room, Trump directed Cohen and Weisselberg to “figure out how to do it.”
Cohen also offered important details about the electoral purpose of the payment to Daniels — this is what makes the payment a campaign finance crime. Cohen was asked whether he was concerned that the Daniels story might be in the news right after the “Access Hollywood” story, in terms of impact on the election. Cohen replied, “I was concerned about it, but more importantly, Mr. Trump was concerned about it.” Specifically, Trump was concerned about the effect the Daniels story would have on how women were seeing him.
Kim Bellware for NYT Opinion.
Important Eliza Newlin Carney column.
In a nutshell, we found that Kagan was right. A party disadvantaged by gerrymandering fails to contest more districts. The candidates it does nominate have weaker credentials. Donors give less money to these candidates. And voters are less inclined to support them. Moreover, these effects are statistically significant at both the congressional and statehouse levels and hold no matter how gerrymandering is measured. The effects are substantively quite large too. A 1 standard deviation rise in gerrymandering, for example, is linked to about a 5 percentage point drop in the targeted party’s share of campaign contributions. It’s also tied to roughly a 9 point decline in relative candidate quality, as measured by incumbency or having previously won another office.
By the end of the month, hearings were held on Capitol Hill. One of the witnesses before the House Judiciary Committee hearings was Hans von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member who is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Von Spakovsky used high-minded and principled language to oppose the bill. In his prepared testimony, he wrote that H.R.1 is “clearly unconstitutional,” complaining that its provisions “come at the expense of federalism.”
Just two weeks later, however, as von Spakovsky addressed a private gathering of conservatives, he was considerably more candid about his reason for opposing the bill: It would be bad for Republicans.
That’s the message this scholar delivered when he traveled to Orlando, Florida, to brief a Council for National Policy-sponsored meeting of Republican donors and Christian right leaders on the bill. Sitting in the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Ballroom, von Spakovsky explained that expanded voting rights and nonpartisan redistricting could imperil GOP political power.