Why Puerto Rican House Members Are Divided Over Puerto Rican Statehood

Given the intense politics within Puerto Rico over statehood v. commonwealth status, it is rare to find journalistic stories that capture well the positions in this debate. This long essay from Ben Jacobs at the DC Examiner is one of the best efforts to do so I’ve read recently. A strength of the piece is the way it links the political dynamics within Puerto Rico to the surprising politics within the mainland political parties, particularly the Democratic Party.

Here’s a couple small excerpts, but those interested in the issue should read the full piece;

So, what’s the holdup? Some of the most ardent opposition to Puerto Rican statehood comes from the Left.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the debate over Puerto Rico’s status has become a primarily intra-Democratic fight, one that doesn’t fall along neat ideological lines and divides the four Democrats of Puerto Rican heritage within the caucus. Darren Soto of Florida and Ritchie Torres of New York support it, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez, both of New York, oppose the proposals….

Instead, the battlefield shifted to two competing bills on Capitol Hill. The first would grant Puerto Rico statehood after one final, binding referendum, along the same model through which Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union in the 1950s. The second is more amorphous. It is entitled the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act and would create a “semi-permanent” status convention to which Puerto Ricans would elect delegates in order to negotiate with a congressional commission on the island’s future. The results would be subject to a ranked-choice referendum in which every option except the status quo would be on the ballot and would purportedly bind Congress to the result….

However, opponents of the statehood bill see the vote as illegitimate, a ploy by statehood supporters that did not offer the full range of options to vote. In an April hearing on the topic held by the House Committee on Natural Resources, Velazquez argued, “This should be about a process that respects the will of the people, not try to stack the deck or use millions of dollars to skew the outcome.”…

A convention process, in contrast, would allow a broad, free-ranging discussion about a variety of status options ranging from statehood to independence. “Self-determination in Puerto Rico shouldn’t come down to a simple ballot referendum,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez on May 5, calling it “a process that states use to resolve questions like dog racing or cannabis & are easily challenged. Determination of status, citizenship, and decolonization merit a constitutional convention.” The problem is that there really are not a lot of options available.


“Republicans continue their nationwide campaign to restrict voting”

Fredreka Schouten for CNN:

Republicans in key states intensified their push to roll back access to the ballot this week — with the GOP-led Texas House passing new voting limits Friday, a day after Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an array of new restrictions in his state.

Republicans in the Texas House pushed past objections from corporate giants such as American Airlines and Microsoft, and fierce protests from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates.The vote came after an often-heated debate on the floor of the Texas House with Democratic lawmakers pressing the bill’s author, GOP Rep. Briscoe Cain, to cite examples of the election fraud the bill sought to prevent.”We don’t need to wait for bad things to happen” to take action, Cain responded at one point/

The vote moves Texas closer to joining a host of other states racing to change the ground rules for future elections, following former President Donald Trump’s repeated and unfounded claims that voter fraud contributed to his loss last November. Around the country, Republicans have cast their effort as needed to restore voter confidence in the integrity of elections. But critics say the nationwide push aims to retain GOP power in key battlegrounds by making it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their ballots.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.


“Texas GOP’s voting restrictions bill could be rewritten behind closed doors after key House vote”

Alexa Ura for Texas Tribune:

As opposition to Texas Republicans’ proposed voting restrictions continues to intensify, state lawmakers’ deliberations over the GOP priority legislation could soon go behind closed doors.

The House early Friday voted 81-64 to advance a pared down version of Senate Bill 7, leaving out various far-reaching voting restrictions that have prompted widespread outcry from voting rights advocates, advocates for people with disabilities, and local officials in the state’s biggest counties. The legislation still contains some provisions opposed by those groups — including a prohibition on counties sending unsolicited applications to vote by mail.

Facing more than 130 proposed amendments from Democrats late Thursday — and a procedural challenge that could have delayed the entire bill’s consideration — lawmakers huddled off the chamber’s floor throughout the night to cut a deal and rework SB 7 through a flurry of amendments passed without objection from either party.

But the final contours of the bill remain uncertain.

The bill will need a second House vote, expected later Friday, before it can head back to the Senate. It will then likely go to a conference committee made up of members of both chambers who will be able to pull from both iterations of the legislation in crafting the final version largely outside public view.

SB 7 has emerged as the main legislative vehicle for changing the state’s voting rules, though the versions passed in each chamber differ significantly.

As passed in the Senate, the legislation restricted early voting rules and schedules to do away with extended hours and ban drive-thru voting. It also required large counties to redistribute polling places under a formula that could move sites away from areas with more Hispanic and Black residents.

Those and other provisions fell off when it was reconstituted in the House Elections Committee, with little notice and without a public hearing, to match the House’s priorities contained in House Bill 6.


Sounds Like Joe Manchin, in Negotiating on Voting Rights Bill, Wants Preclearance Expanded to All 50 States

Interesting report:

A former two-term governor of West Virginia and a former secretary of state, the chief elections officer in West Virginia, Manchin said he sees the need for some changes. However, he also believes the authority for managing elections needs to remain at the state and local level.

Manchin said any election reform effort needs to focus on three key areas.

“The main thing is, being a former governor and a former secretary of state, we should have accessibility at the polling place, you should have fairness in the voting process, and it should be secured,” Manchin said. “Those three things have to be done.”

One part of For the People Manchin likes is the restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013 in a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Manchin and others have tried to restore the Voting Rights Act through the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named for the late civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis. The most recent version of the bill passed the House in 2019, but the Senate version of the bill died in committee in 2020.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore the original Voting Rights Act to ensure any changes to state election laws do not violate the civil rights of minorities and people of color. Many states have started making changes to voting laws in the wake of the November 2020 elections, believing without evidence that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump. Election rights advocated believe those changes could make it more difficult for people to register and vote.

“We already have the John L. Lewis (Voting Rights Act),” Manchin said. “We should basically expand the John L. Lewis Voting Act to all 50 states, not just to those that we designate, and protect the voters. Those are the main things that we should be doing.”


“Florida and Texas Join the March as Republicans Press Voting Limits”


Hours after Florida installed a rash of new voting restrictions, the Republican-led Legislature in Texas pressed ahead on Thursday with its own far-reaching bill that would make it one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to cast a ballot.

The Texas bill would, among other restrictions, greatly empower partisan poll watchers, prohibit election officials from mailing out absentee ballot applications and impose strict punishments for those who provide assistance outside the lines of what is permissible.

After a lengthy debate that lasted into the early morning hours on Friday, the State House of Representatives passed the measure in a 81-64 vote, largely along party lines, at about 3 a.m., following a flurry of amendments that had been spurred by Democratic protests and a Democratic procedural move known as a point of order.

The new amendments softened some of the initial new penalties proposed for those who run afoul of the rules and added that the police could be called to remove unruly partisan poll watchers. Other amendments added by Democrats sought to expand ballot access, including with changes to ballot layout and with voter registration at high schools. But those amendments could be knocked off by a potential conference committee.


“GOP eyes voter fraud conspiracy theorist to replace Liz Cheney”


Republicans have offered a pretty curious rationale for excommunicating Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her No. 3 leadership role. Amid her continued criticisms of former president Donald Trump, they’ve argued not that her claims are wrong (because they aren’t), but rather that her commentary is unhelpful to the party’s efforts to win back the majority and that they’d rather focus on the future. To perhaps oversimplify things a bit: They’d just rather not talk about it.

The argument is particularly strange given how much the man they assure remains their party’s leader — Trump — is very much fixated on the past, still spouting election conspiracy theories six months after he lost.

But it’s also strange given that the emerging choice to replace Cheney offered some of the same conspiratorial claims. That will only reinforce how much Trump’s “big lie” has infected his party.

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane on Wednesday profiled Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who appears to be the prohibitive favorite to succeed Cheney. Stefanik’s story is one of the most significant metamorphoses of the Trump era. At just 36, she was a former GOP aide and entered Congress as an acolyte of former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but has since become a Trumpian firebrand.

That includes spouting his baseless and false fraud claims in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. She did so significantly more than many in her party and certainly more than the leaders whose ranks she could soon join. (They would often merely cite states allegedly not following their election laws, rather than massive fraud.)

Stefanik’s most extreme claim came in a statement published shortly before the Capitol riot, in which she explained why she would object to counting certain state’s electors.

She cited the same things as other prominent Republicans about state election laws supposedly not being followed. But she also made a particularly remarkable claim about Georgia: that “more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone.”

There is zero evidence for this. As CNN’s Daniel Dale notes, similar claims were fact-checked and debunked in the previous weeks. What’s more, there were only about 524,000 total voters in Atlanta-based Fulton County in the 2020 election. Stefanik was therefore claiming more than 1 in 4 votes in a single county were fraudulent — a ridiculous number given that Fulton County’s relative turnout was in line with history. It’s even more ridiculous given that all the court cases and months of review have produced no evidence of anything like it.


“Inside Mitch McConnell’s personal push to defeat Democrats’ voting reforms”


Every week, a group of nearly 100 conservative leaders convene for a 30-minute strategy call on a single issue: How to combat Democrats’ sweeping legislation to change the way federal elections are conducted.

Two weeks ago, the keynote briefer was Sen. Mitch McConnell, who made it crystal clear that defeating the “For the People Act” is his top priority of this two-year legislative session.

McConnell has conveyed his vehement opposition to the bill repeatedly in public. What’s different, conservatives say, is his personal level of commitment behind-the-scenes to educate activists on just how damaging the legislation would be to the future electoral prospects of Republicans. To those involved, they’ve noticed a level of engagement from the GOP leader they haven’t seen before.


Must-Read: “Arizona audit ignores federal law on election records”

Veteran election hand Christopher Thomas oped in the Arizona Mirror:

Arizona’s faux audit of 2020 ballots fails to comply with the federal election records retention law, further undermining the integrity of the exercise with the possibility of illegality.

This law, which has been on the books since May 4, 1960, requires election officials to “retain and preserve for a period of 22 months” all election records, including ballots in any election for federal office, including the offices of president and vice president, presidential electors, and member of the U.S. Senate. (52 USC 20701, formerly 42 USC 1974). It seems no election official or counsel informed the Maricopa County Superior Court of the strict federal ballot retention requirements, and the judge’s opinion that the county had to turn over its ballots to the Senate offers no analysis of the federal law.

Retaining and preserving documents, described as maintaining the chain of custody of critical records, including ballots, is a required legal precursor to any federal or state law enforcement investigation. These include allegations about the conduct of an election, violations of federal election laws such as the Voting Rights Act, or voters’ constitutional rights. If documents are not securely maintained by election officials within a valid chain of custody, there is no basis to establish the genuineness of the records in question necessary for prosecution.

The U.S. Department of Justice details this requirement over seven pages in its Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses, noting that the “requirements of this federal law place the retention and safekeeping duties squarely on the shoulders of election officers.”

This chain of custody has now been broken in Maricopa County. The state Senate and its consultants have physical possession of nearly 2.1 million November election ballots, meaning that Arizona election officials are no longer “retaining and preserving” election ballots. After the Senate completes its work and the ballots have been handled by an untold number of individuals employed by the state Senate or its consultant, it will be impossible for anyone to confirm or refute the results.

Once the chain of custody is broken, the ballots are no longer genuine according to federal election law. Would it have been possible to conduct an audit as envisioned by the Arizona Senate and at the same time comply with federal records retention law? Yes, it is possible. Rather than breaking the official chain of custody, the Arizona election officials should have either made paper copies of the ballots or scanned the ballots for viewing electronically. …


Election Law Journal Special Issue on Foreign Election Interference: A Global Response (Edited by Lori Ringhand and Yasmin Dawood)

Looks like a great issue to dive into with some free access:

Foreign Election Interference: Comparative Approaches to a Global Challenge
Combatting Foreign Election Interference: Canada’s Electoral Ecosystem Approach to Disinformation and Cyber Threats
Constitutional Formalities, Power Realities, and Comparative Anglophone Responses to Foreign Campaign Meddling

Keeping Our Feet Dry: Impediments to Foreign Interference in Elections in the Netherlands

The Brexit Referendum in Northern Ireland: Political Duplicity and Legal Loopholes

Islands in the Storm? Responses to Foreign Electoral Interference in Australia and New Zealand

The French Legislation Against Digital Information Manipulation in Electoral Campaigns: A Scope Limited by Freedom of Expression


“Republicans want to expand the Arizona audit — but DOJ may shut it down”

Steven Rosenfeld:

On Wednesday, May 5, the Senate’s liaison to the audit, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican, confirmed that the GOP-led Senate is negotiating with a California nonprofit to conduct a new and separate audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 fall election votes.

The nonprofit, Citizens Oversight, would conduct an audit based on analyzing the digital images of every paper ballot that is created at the start of the vote-counting process, when election system software reads hand- or machine-marked paper ballots and tallies the vote counts. The nonprofit has been developing its Audit Engine tool for several years and has tested it in a handful of counties in California and Florida and is now using it in Georgia

“I know our election procedures and overall processes are good enough to prove to somebody if they really lost an election by more than one percent or more, but not by one-third of one percent,” Bennett said. “But that’s not good enough because that’s not precise enough.”


“After All-Night Session, Texas House Approves GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions Bill”


Texas legislators approved new, more restrictive state election rules aftera session that lasted from Thursday night into the early morning hours of Friday. The GOP-backed state Senate bill passed the House at 3 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) after hours of debate over Democratic-proposed amendments.

The House version of the bill, which differs significantly from what passed the state Senate, will now go to a conference committee to resolve the differences.

The bill would make it a felony to provide a voter with an application to vote by mail if they hadn’t requested one, or to use any public funds to facilitate the third-party distribution of mail-in voting applications.

The ability for polling place “watchers” to be present throughout the election day is also expanded under the bill. It sets a high bar for when such observers can be taken out of the polling place. The bill states they can be removed “only if the watcher engages in activity that would constitute an offense related to the conduct of the election.”


“F.E.C. Drops Case Reviewing Trump Hush-Money Payments to Women”


The Federal Election Commission said on Thursday that it had formally dropped a case looking into whether former President Donald J. Trump violated election law with a payment of $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election to a pornographic-film actress by his personal lawyer at the time, Michael D. Cohen.

The payment was never reported on Mr. Trump’s campaign filings. Mr. Cohen would go on to say that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 race, and would apologize for his involvement in a hush-money scandal. Mr. Cohen was sentenced to prison for breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress.

“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Mr. Cohen said of Mr. Trump in court in 2018.

While Mr. Cohen has served time in prison, Mr. Trump has not faced legal consequences for the payment….

In December 2020, the F.E.C. issued an internal report from its Office of General Counsel on how to proceed in its review. The office said it had found “reason to believe” violations of campaign finance law were made “knowingly and willfully” by the Trump campaign.

But the election commission — split evenly between three Republicans and three Democratic-aligned commissioners — declined to proceed in a closed-door meeting in February. Two Republican commissioners voted to dismiss the case while two Democratic commissioners voted to move forward. There was one absence and one Republican recusal.


New Nate Persily: “Yes, Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld Trump’s suspension. But here’s the bigger issue.”

Nate Persily at The Monkey Cage:

The most important aspect of the board’s adjudication of the Trump takedown was its reliance on international human rights law to guide its decision. The board’s earlier decisions also referred to applicable United Nations Conventions and treaties,as does the charter that established the board in the first place. In many respects, the Oversight Board is a first step toward realizing human rights’ defenders long-standing dream of a world court with transnational jurisdiction.

However, it’s hard for Facebook to implement human rights principles that were designed to bind governments, rather than to guide a private company trying to moderate content. Facebook is not a government; its news feed, which uses algorithms to deliver personalized content to billions of people, is not the public square. Facebook is in the business of what constitutional lawyers call “prior restraints” — that is, filtering speech before it reaches its audience. Its rules on hate speech, obscenity, self-harm and disinformation, to name a few, would all be unconstitutional under the First Amendment if passed by the U.S. government.


“The modern primary system makes a loser of reason”

That’s an arresting line from this Matt Bai piece on the Republican Party. I consider changing the structure of primaries one of the more important political reform agenda items. See this good report from Unite America on the topic also.

From the Bai piece:

When you hear a Romney or a Cheney calling out Trump’s lies and condemning his anti-American rhetoric, it’s like you’re seeing the collapse of a star in the night sky — an event that seems to be happening in the here and now, but that’s actually just an afterimage of something dying long ago.

I will admit: I didn’t think that’s how it would turn out after Trump left the scene. I still believe that most Americans live in a center-right space on the political spectrum, and I expected that Republican Washington, having writhed its way through the Trumpian plague, would set about reclaiming them.

But the modern primary system makes a loser of reason, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it would take a new movement, most likely independent, to revive anything like traditional conservatism in the years ahead.


The 2022 Liz Cheney Primary And National Small Donors

From the Washington Post:

The contest is quickly becoming a free-for-all. Following Cheney’s impeachment vote, the state party censured her, and several Wyoming politicians filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to challenge her. The most credible among them so far appears to be Anthony Bouchard, a state senator and gun-rights activist with an abrasive style that proved highly successful in his most recent campaign. Bouchard’s national social media campaign generated $400,000 in small donations from all 50 states in its first 10 weeks.


“Participation” in the Disinformation Age

This story caught my eye: “NY AG finds nearly 82% of net neutrality comments to the FCC were fake”:

“The OAG found that millions of fake comments were submitted through a secret campaign, funded by the country’s largest broadband companies, to manufacture support for the repeal of existing net neutrality rules using lead generators,” the report says. “And millions more were submitted by a 19- year old college student using made-up identities.”

On the one hand, an organized effort from the biggest players in the industry. At the same time, millions (7.7 million, to be exact) from one student. Welcome to the wonders of modern technology.

The story does not say whether the FCC had any idea these were manipulated comments.


“‘You can’t make a change … by sitting on the sidelines’: Recruitment of ballot counters raises concerns”

Arizona Republic:

The effort to recruit people to count ballots for the ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s presidential election results appears targeted in part at traditionally conservative groups — and some of the recruiters themselves appear to have far-right political leanings.

One recruiter is a retired police officer who works as an investigator for an extremist right-wing group that warns of “the growing threat of the Marxist and the Islamic movement in America.”

Another person involved in recruitment used her brief stint as the county Republican Party chairwoman to try to “get Trump back in office” by protesting the results of one of the county’s prior audits.

Their efforts targetretired police officers, veterans and Republican groups, according to three recruiting pitches obtained by The Arizona Republic.

The politically charged messaging of one recruiting email left a group of retired law enforcement officers defending itself against claims of partisanship after some members complained.


“F.E.C. Asks Congress to Ban Prechecked Recurring Donation Boxes”


The Federal Election Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that Congress ban political campaigns from guiding donors by default into recurring contributions through prechecked boxes, a month after a New York Times investigation showed that former President Donald J. Trump’s political operation had steered huge numbers of unwitting supporters into repeated donations through that tactic.

The bipartisan commission, which serves as the nation’s top election watchdog agency, is divided evenly between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans, a composition that often leads to stalemate. But commissioners of both parties, including three Republicans appointed by Mr. Trump, came together on Thursday to ask Congress to strengthen campaign finance law to protect online donors.


“Despite GOP rhetoric, there have been fewer than two dozen charged cases of voter fraud since the election; One person has faced charges for every 10 million votes cast”


Those incidents:

  • Thurman, above.
  • A man and woman from Austin who allegedly tried to vote in Illinois by claiming residence in that state. It’s not clear whether they obtained ballots.
  • A man in Lisle, Ill., who allegedly signed a ballot certification with someone else’s name.
  • A man in Carol Stream, Ill., who allegedly filled out an online ballot application for someone who shared his last name. It’s not clear whether the ballot was provided.
  • A woman in Naperville, Ill., who allegedly signed a ballot certification with someone else’s name.
  • A woman in Buckingham, Pa., who allegedly signed a ballot declaration for her dead mother.
  • A woman in Quakertown, Pa., who claims to have accidentally mailed a ballot for her mother after she died.
  • A woman from Milford, Maine, who reported herself for voting twice, once by absentee at home and once in person at college.
  • A woman from Bowdoinham, Maine, who allegedly voted with an absentee ballot for a former roommate.
  • A woman in Cedarburg, Wis., who allegedly submitted a ballot for a dead person.
  • A man in Stockton, N.J., who allegedly submitted a ballot for a dead person.
  • A man in Carteret, N.J., who allegedly voted twice with different names.
  • A man in Woodbridge, N.J., who allegedly registered at his business instead of his home.
  • A man from Media, Pa., who admitted to casting a ballot for his dead mother.
  • A man from Canton, Mich., who admitted to filling out his daughter’s ballot when she was at college.

That’s it. That’s the total.

You’ll notice that none of these incidents hints at some deeper conspiracy. There’s no allegation that any of these people cast hundreds of ballots for their preferred candidates; in most cases, the allegation centers on casting a ballot for someone known to the person facing charges. It’s not even the case that all of these ballots were necessarily cast for Joe Biden. The man from Media, Pa., voted for Trump. In most cases, it’s not clear for whom the vote was intended.

The inevitable response to this from die-hard advocates of the idea that rampant fraud exists will be some sort of insistence that these are only the cases we know about, that this is the visible part of the iceberg. It’s the sort of claim that sustains the Loch Ness tourist industry or that prompted politicians in Russia to stage fake yeti sightings. The lure of the undetectable is part of the exercise.


Florida: “DeSantis shuts out reporters as he signs voting restrictions into Florida law”


Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that will make it more difficult for people to vote by mail and use popular ballot drop boxes, a move similar to other states controlled by Republicans that have limited access to the ballot after former President Donald J. Trump falsely claimed that the 2020 election he lost was stolen.

The law will add more identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots and require them to request those ballots for each election, rather than sign up to receive them automatically.

Mr. DeSantis enacted the legislation even after he had promoted Florida’s handling of the November elections. Mr. Trump won the state by three percentage points.

The governor gave Fox News, his preferred cable news outlet, an exclusive to broadcast the bill signing ceremony from West Palm Beach on Thursday morning. Supporters of Mr. DeSantis gathered inside a Hilton near the airport, donning DeSantis and Trump campaign gear. Before they entered, some people waved Trump-DeSantis and DeSantis 2024 banners, according to photos on social media shared by journalists locked outside the doors.


“Arizona’s Republican-Run Election Audit Is Now Looking for Bamboo-Laced ‘China Ballots'”

Jeremy Stahl for Slate:

On Wednesday, a member of the Arizona election audit team that has been heavily touted by former President Donald Trump revealed that its examination of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County will include a “forensic” analysis of ballots to determine if the paper is made of bamboo—in order to determine whether or not China delivered tens of thousands of fraudulent ballots to tip the state to Joe Biden.

If that sounds much too crazy for an audit that was initiated by the Republican-led Arizona legislature and whose communications are being spearheaded by Republican former secretary of state, Ken Bennett, it very much is not.

On Wednesday, audit liaison John Brakey told a reporter from the local CBS affiliate in Phoenix that the audit team was checking to see if 40,000 Biden ballots were smuggled into Arizona from Asia by checking the paper’s fiber to try to detect bamboo..

“There’s accusations that 40,000 ballots were flown in and stuffed into the box and it came from the Southeast part of the world, Asia. And what they’re doing is to find out if there’s bamboo in the paper,” Brakey told Dennis Welch of CBS5 News.

Welch asked Brakey a series of follow-ups, such as “Why do you check for bamboo?” and “This is part of what you’re looking for?” and he answered that others were searching for the bamboo ballots because “people in Southeast Asia…use bamboo in their paper processing” and “this is part of the mystery that we want to un-gaslight people about.”

As Slate put it, this is literal pulp fiction.


“US Justice Department worried about Arizona Senate recount”


 The U.S. Department of Justice expressed concern Wednesday about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots from the state’s most populous county to a contractor may run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials for 22 months.

And Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan said that the Senate contractor’s plans to directly contact voters could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

“Past experience with similar investigative efforts around the country has raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act,” Karlan wrote. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”


“In Turning on Liz Cheney, G.O.P. Bows to Trump’s Election Lies”


While she began as one of the more moderate members of the Republican Conference — her voting record is far less conservative than Ms. Cheney’s, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation — Ms. Stefanik became one of Mr. Trump’s most strident loyalists. That role has buoyed her rapid ascension and brought in millions of dollars in campaign donations.

In a lengthy, error-riddled statement published on Jan. 6 explaining why she would vote to invalidate the election, Ms. Stefanik repeated a number of Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of widespread improprieties, including incorrectly claiming that “more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased and otherwise unauthorized voters” in one county in Georgia alone.

Her metamorphosis mirrored that of her upstate New York district, where voters had supported a string of Democratic presidential candidates — including Barack Obama twice — before throwing their backing to Mr. Trump in 2016.


“Facebook Ducks the Big Issue”

David Leonhardt NYT newsletter:

Facebook’s suspension of Donald Trump will continue for now, the company announced yesterday. But it still has not resolved the central problem that Trump has created for social media platforms and, by extension, American democracy.

The problem is that Trump lies almost constantly. Unlike many other politicians — including other recent presidents, from both parties — he continues to make false statements even after other people have documented their falseness. This behavior undermines the healthy functioning of American democracy, particularly because Trump has such a large following.

His lies about the 2020 election are the clearest example. They have led tens of millions of people to believe a made-up story about how Joe Biden won. They have become a loyalty test within the Republican Party.

In Congress, Republicans are moving to oust Liz Cheney as one of their leaders after she said that people who repeated Trump’s “big lie” were “turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” In several states, Republican legislators are using Trump’s made-up story to justify new laws that make voting more difficult, especially in heavily Democratic areas. There is a direct connection between Trump’s lies about the election and the weakening of voting rights….

The issue here isn’t the enduring philosophical question of what constitutes truth; it’s whether Facebook is willing to tolerate obvious and influential lies. So far, the company has decided that it is. It has drawn a line somewhere between blatant untruths and incitement to violence.

“Facebook’s approach to Trump’s attempts to undermine confidence in the integrity of the election was weak and ineffective,” Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, told me. When Trump last year falsely described mail-in voting as corrupt, for example, Facebook left up the post and instead added a link to a website where people could find general election information, as Hasen describes in his forthcoming book, “Cheap Speech.” Twitter, he notes, has taken a more aggressive position.

Yesterday’s decision officially came from a Facebook-appointed panel of speech experts that the company calls its Oversight Board. The board has no actual power to regulate the company, but it may have some influence on Facebook executives. In their statement, board members criticized Facebook for levying an indefinite suspension on Trump and said it should choose in the next six months between a permanent ban and a time-limited one: “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the board wrote.


Create More Competitive Districts II: A Response to Lee Drutman

In my recent Real Clear Politics essay, I argued that putting more weight on competitive districts in the redistricting process would be one means of mitigating the forces of political extremism. As I said when I first put forward a general program of political reforms to mitigate extremism, I knew that were would be counter-arguments to some of my proposals.

The excellent political scientist, Lee Drutman, did indeed tweet out that members from safe seats are no more extreme than those from competitive seats, a view shared among some or many political scientists. Since my reasons for disagreeing with that view take more than 280 characters to explain (and I’m not on twitter, in any event), I waited until I had an opportunity for a fuller explanation (excerpt below).

I think this issue is a complex and important one. As you’ll see, there are competing views even within political science, though I’m not sure these different views have been put into direct dialogue before. And legislators, as well as journalists, believe members from safe seats tend to behave differently from those who come from competitive districts. I’m sure there is much more to be said about this issue. Here’s what I said about it in that RCP essay:

Some academics, however, dissent from the view that competitive districts marginalize ideological extremism and foster moderation in Congress. This disagreement exposes a remarkable disjuncture between these political scientists and journalists who actually cover Congress. Stories with headlines such as “House Democrats in Swing Districts Are Torn Over Impeachment” are common. Beyond the headlines, stories covering Congress and state legislatures routinely describe the more moderate positions of members from swing districts compared to those in other seats. That there is often a difference between the ideological views of members from swing districts and others is a simple matter of fact among those who cover Congress most closely. Indeed, legislators themselves strongly believe this, as John Boehner’s recent memoir describes in detail.

Yet the view among this dissenting group of political scientists in recent years is exactly the opposite: that it does not matter whether members are elected from competitive seats or safe seats, because all members of each party vote similarly, regardless of the type of district from which they are elected (see here and here for two important studies). How can there be such a disconnect between those who cover Congress up close and certain social scientists who survey Congress from a greater distance?

One possible answer: These political scientists define the ideology of members of Congress or state legislatures by aggregating all (and only) the roll-call votes taken on bills. This is the easiest data point to measure, but as with quantification in general, basing analysis on the dimensions easiest to quantify can distort reality. For many years now, most legislation has not been put together at the committee level but in leadership-led centralized processes. Behind-the-scenes negotiations among party members take place at this level, when party leaders broker a package that best accommodates the distinct interests within the party. This centralized process also enables party leaders to logroll across bills, giving resistant members on one bill what they want in another bill, thus bringing them along to support both measures. By the time a bill is put on the floor for a vote, the party has largely united behind that package. And if party leaders can’t get sufficient party consensus on a bill, they never put it to a floor vote.

Counting up only the final roll-call votes obscures the differences in policy preferences between centrists and the wings of the party. As congressional scholars Frances Lee and James Curry put it, “the roll-call vote is censored”; the reality is that the parties “contend with much more intraparty conflict than one might expect from roll-call votes.”

In addition, much of roll-call voting in the modern Congress is designed as party messaging. These are votes taken to sharpen and highlight major party differences, rather than to support bills that have a realistic prospect of being enacted. As Lee documents, “Very little actual legislation becomes law by narrow or partisan majorities, but the Congress nevertheless takes many roll call votes that pit one party against the other.” Not surprisingly, these messaging roll-call votes display a high degree of party unity – that is part of their point, after all. Yet when political scientists combine all roll-call votes into a single number – without distinguishing bills on minor versus major issues or bills that are purely messaging legislation – they inevitably obscure genuine differences within the parties on significant legislation.

Indeed, sophisticated new work in political science is already starting to undercut the view of those analysts who doubt that safe seats foster extremism. Rather than treat roll-call voting on all issues as the same, Professors Brandice Canes-Wrone and Kenneth Miller focus on only the most significant bills a given Congress votes on, which in their study range from two to six bills a year. On these bills, they find that members in safe seats respond far more to their most polarized donors than do members in competitive districts. This is true for a broad set of issues, including capital gains taxes, partial-birth abortion, the Affordable Care Act, or other highly salient issues.

More specifically, Canes-Wrone and Miller find, first, that national donors are much more polarized than donors from within a member’s district. They then find that when seats are competitive, representatives respond much more to the preferences of their constituents, but that when seats are safe, representatives are more responsive to the preferences of this highly polarized national donor class. In other words, in safe seats, members can defect more from their district’s preferences and endorse the more extreme positions of their national donors. This is not surprising: If you’re going to win a safe seat with 75% of the vote, you have a lot of slack to satisfy your national donors with positions that your constituents don’t support, even if your victory margin winds up dropping by 10 points next time. But if your district is competitive, you can’t afford to stray much from the preferences of your constituents. This is why I have also argued that to reduce extremism, a public financing system that provides $6 for every $1 a candidate raises from small donors – another aspect of H.R. 1 – should limit those matching funds to small donors from within a member’s district.

In sum, those who cover Congress most closely, congressional members themselves, and some cutting-edge work in political science all confirm that members from safe seats tend to be more extreme than those elected from competitive districts. One way to counter political extremism, as new districts for Congress and state legislatures get drawn across the country, is to insist on the importance of creating competitive districts.


“Arizona’s audit of fall presidential election could drag into summer. Will taxpayers get stuck with the bill?”


Senate President Karen Fann rented the coliseum through May 14 for a recount and examination of 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots. 

Fann, a Prescott Republican, also signed an agreement allowing the county to retrieve its subpoenaed ballots and ballot-tabulating machines by May 14. 

Ken Bennett – the Senate audit liaison, a former secretary of state, and a longtime Prescott friend of Fann’s – said an estimated 175,000 ballots, perhaps 200,000, ballots had been counted. 

At a best-case rate of 20,000 ballots counted per day, given current resources, the count would take about 100 more days.

Last week, Bennett had told reporters the hand count would be done by May 14.

Now, he has a different outlook.

“Accuracy is much more important than speed,” he told 12 News.

Bennett said the temp workforce of about 60 people would allow the audit team to add a third shift.

“They’ve got 46 stations ready instead of the 20,” he said. “As soon as the personnel can fill them we will.”

The May 14 deadline was significant because two-dozen Phoenix high schools will hold their graduations at the coliseum the following week.

“The facility has told us that if we had to stand aside for five days for the graduation, we could come right back in and have as much time as we need,” Bennett said.


“Constitutional Challenges Loom Over Proposed Voting Bill”

Adam Liptak deep dive:

 If the sweeping voting rights bill that the House passed in March overcomes substantial hurdles in the Senate to become law, it would reshape American elections and represent a triumph for Democrats eager to combat the wave of election restrictions moving through Republican-controlled state legislatures.

But passage of the bill, known as H.R. 1, would end a legislative fight and start a legal war that could dwarf the court challenges aimed at the Affordable Care Act over the past decade.

“I have no doubt that if H.R. 1 passes, we’re going to have a dozen major Supreme Court cases on different pieces of it,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard.

The potential for the bill to set off a sprawling constitutional battle is largely a function of its ambitions. It would end felon disenfranchisement, require independent commissions to draw congressional districts, establish public financing for congressional candidates, order presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns, address dark money in political advertising and restructure the Federal Election Commission.

The bill’s opponents say that it is, in the words of an editorial in The National Review, “a frontal assault on the Constitution” and “the most comprehensively unconstitutional bill in modern American history.”

More measured critics take issue with specific provisions even as they acknowledge that the very nature of the bill — a grab bag of largely unrelated measures — would make it difficult to attack in a systematic way. In that respect, the anticipated challenges differ from those aimed at the Affordable Care Act, some of which sought to destroy the entire law.


“Opinion: How GOP rage at Liz Cheney makes a future stolen election more likely”

Important Greg Sargent in WaPo:

Rep. Liz Cheney’s fate appears sealed: Republicans are set to oust the Wyoming Republican as the No. 3 in the House GOP leadership, and will most likely replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, whose loyalty to Donald Trump remains unquestioned.

This is being widely depicted as a battle over the past, and over Trump. Most accounts portray it as a sign that in today’s GOP, fealty to the former president is a bedrock requirement, denouncing his lies about 2020 has become unacceptable, and telling the truth about the Jan. 6 insurrection is disqualifying.

All that is true, but the forward-looking dimension to this story is getting lost. What also seems unavoidably at stake is that the GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications….

This combination is toxic: Republicans are untethering themselves from any obligation to recognize future legitimate election outcomes, which will provide the rationale to overturn them, a freedom they are also effectively in process of appropriating. Cheney is insisting on a GOP future premised on a full repudiation of these tendencies, and getting punished for it.

Guess what: These same House Republicans might control the lower chamber when Congress is counting electors after the 2024 presidential election.

“We should start to very much worry about what Jan. 6, 2025, looks like,” Edward Foley, a renowned election law scholar and a Post contributing columnist, told me.

Imagine a 2024 election decided in one state, where a GOP-controlled legislature sends electors for the GOP candidate in defiance of a close popular vote. The same House Republicans who punished Cheney — many of whom already voted against President Biden’s electors, but now control the House and have continued radicalizing — could vote to certify that slate.

There are many possible scenarios here — a lot would turn on whether the governor in that state was a Democrat, on what the Senate did, and on how the Supreme Court sorted out the mess.

But as Foley told me, it’s plausible that “you could have an outcome that is inconsistent with what the voters themselves wanted.” However it turned out, Foley added, the dispute itself “would be a major crisis.”

This places burdens on Democrats. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg told me that this obliges Democrats to level with voters about the threat Republicans pose to democratic stability.

“If Cheney is ousted, Democrats will have to make the radicalization of the GOP a major part of the 2022 conversation,” Rosenberg said.

And as elections scholar Rick Hasen told me, Democrats should try to get patriotic Republicans to support revisions to the Electoral Count Act, to make it “harder for a legislature to send a separate slate when there was no problem with how the election was run.”

Cheney’s ouster should prompt this, along with a much greater public and media focus on the brute reality of the GOP’s fundamental turn away from democracy.

“The core component of the democratic process is that we count the votes as cast,” Foley told me. The punishing of Cheney, Foley concluded, suggests that the Republican Party might be institutionally “abandoning the very essence of democracy.”


“Trump attorney, other allies launch voter fraud organization”

Politico reports.

John Kruzel:


Analysis: Facebook Oversight Board’s Decision Upholding Trump Suspension But Requiring Facebook to Reconsider “Indefinite” Suspension Is Good, But Doesn’t Go Far Enough in Requiring Trump to Abandon Claims of Stolen Election for Platform Restoration

Facebook’s Oversight Board has issued its long-anticipated decision on whether Facebook was correct in removing Trump from the platform given his statements supporting the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. The Board determined that Facebook was correct: “In maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.” But the Board also found that Facebook’s “indefinite” suspension of Trump was not supported by Facebook’s own rules. It requires Facebook within 6 months to explain what it rules are for indefinite suspension and apply them to Trump. It also suggests more broadly a set of criteria that will protect both freedom of expression and require the platform to take action against threats of political violence by political leaders.

The approach that the Oversight Board took is broadly consistent with the approach I and a group of scholars advocated in this letter we submitted to the Board in the case. The Board properly recognizes that Trump’s statements increased the danger of violence and democratic instability which overcomes the usual heavy thumb on the scale in favor of the rights of free expression on political issues. And, although not addressed in the letter, the Board is surely right that Facebook needs to have transparent and consistently applied standards for when content from influential leaders is to be removed. And it should apply that standard to Trump.

Where the Board fell short is in opining on what those standards should be and when someone suspended from the platform for “creating an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” should be reinstated. The majority refused to opine on such a standard, but a minority of the Board did. “Facebook should, for example, be satisfied that Mr. Trump has ceased making unfounded claims about election fraud in the manner that justified suspension on January 6.” From the summary of the decision: “A minority of the Board emphasized that Facebook should take steps to prevent the repetition of adverse human rights impacts and ensure that users who seek reinstatement after suspension recognize their wrongdoing and commit to observing the rules in the future.”

This, at a minimum, should be the standard that Facebook applies in the future. Facebook is a private company that can include or exclude content as it sees fit. As a responsible corporate citizen, Facebook, like Twitter, can decide it does not need to give a platform to someone who encouraged violence and who continues to insist, against all reliable evidence, that the election was stolen. Until Trump backs off such claims (and he never will), he should not be reinstated. As we explained in the letter to the Oversight Board:

Under these standards, President Trump’s statements and course of conduct culminating on January 6, 2021 justified his deplatforming from social media. Before January 6 the President had made over 400 comments falsely calling the election into question. He encouraged his supporters to come to the Capitol on January 6 for “wild” protests. He gave a speech shared on social media that encouraged his supporters to march to the Capitol and interfere with the vote counting, and in the post that led to his deplatforming, he praised those engaged in insurrection with “love” and repeated false claims of a “fraudulent” and “stolen” election as the violence in the Capitol was ongoing.

Anyone who doubts the risks of such speech need only look at the events of January 6, 2021 in the U.S. Capitol. Not only did such speech lead to the deaths of five people and injuries to countless others, including police officers guarding the Vice President of the United States and Members of Congress; those political leaders came within moments of being kidnapped or killed but for the bravery of law enforcement. Without social media spreading Trump’s statements, it seems extremely unlikely these events would have occurred. The eventual deplatforming of Trump’s accounts helped defuse a dangerous and antidemocratic situation.

There no doubt will be close calls under a policy that allows the deplatforming of political leaders in extreme circumstances. This was not one of them.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: if the Board required Trump’s reinstatement, he’d be writing TODAY about how the fake Arizona “audit” will prove the election was stolen, further undermining confidence in the American electoral process. (Indeed, here’s what Trump just released; it would be on Facebook if allowed.)


“Does Public Campaign Funding Crowd Out Private Donation Activity? Evidence from Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program”

New analysis from Alan Griffith and Thomas Noonen. Abstract:

During each election cycle, the city of Seattle distributes four $25 vouchers to every registered voter, which may be donated to and redeemed by campaigns for city office. Through a difference-in-differences research design, we study the causal effect of Seattle’s program on various outcomes in city council elections in the first two cycles after implementation, with two comparison groups drawn from other cities in Washington and California. We find that the program led to an approximately 62-100% increase in total contributions and a 400% increase in number of unique donors. The effects on dollars and donors are entirely driven by small donors, defined as those who contribute less than $200 to a campaign. We find statistically insignificant evidence of decreases in private donations, although our point estimates suggest moderate-to-substantial crowd-out ratios. We further show that the program led to a 76-86% increase in candidates for city council. These results provide some of the first causal evidence on the effect of decentralized public campaign finance schemes, while also speaking to broader questions measuring the effects of money in politics, campaign regulation, and the effects of public funds on private giving.


“Cheney slams Trump’s attempt to brand 2020 election ‘the Big Lie,’ sparking new calls for her to leave GOP leadership”


Rep. Liz Cheney made clear Monday that she will continue to publicly denounce former president Donald Trump over his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, imperiling her position in House Republican leadership as GOP members continue to rally around Trump.

House Republican leaders as well as some rank-and-file members have said that Cheney’s statements in recent weeks about Trump are a distraction and that she should focus on issues that unite the party.

But Cheney (R-Wyo.) brushed aside those warnings Monday after Trump issued a statement attempting to commandeer the term “Big Lie,” commonly used to refer to the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, by asserting that the term should now refer to President Biden’s election victory.

Cheney quickly condemned Trump’s comment as well as anyone who supports his statements about the election.

“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney tweeted. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Hours later, Trump released another statement, this time attacking Cheney by calling her a “big-shot warmonger” and claiming that people in Wyoming “never liked her much.”

Cheney has said challenging Trump’s false statements about the election is an issue of principle, but she has increasingly angered her GOP colleagues and faced renewed calls to step down from the No. 3 leadership post in the conference….

On Monday, Cheney told a closed-door conference hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute at Sea Island, Ga., that the party cannot accept the “poison” that the election was stolen, according to CNN.

“We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie,” she said while being interviewed at the conference by former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), according to the network. “It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”


“Business Coalitions to Speak Out Against Voting Restrictions in Texas”


Two broad coalitions of companies and executives plan to release letters on Tuesday calling for expanded voting access in Texas, wading into the contentious debate over Republican legislators’ proposed new restrictions on balloting after weeks of relative silence from the business community in the state.

One letter comes from a group of large corporations, including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Unilever, Salesforce, Patagonia and Sodexo, as well as local companies and chambers of commerce, and represents the first major coordinated effort among businesses in Texas to take action against the voting proposals.

The letter, under the banner of a new group called Fair Elections Texas, stops short of criticizing the two voting bills that are now advancing through the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, but opposes “any changes that would restrict eligible voters’ access to the ballot.”

A separate letter, also expected to be released on Tuesday and signed by more than 100 Houston executives, goes further. It directly criticizes the proposed legislation and equates the efforts with “voter suppression.”

hat letter was organized by a breakaway faction of the Greater Houston Partnership, the equivalent of a citywide chamber of commerce in the country’s fourth-largest city, and came after a month of intense debate within the organization over how to respond to the voting proposals.

Together, the letters signify a sudden shift in how the business community approaches the voting bills in Texas. Until now, American Airlines and Dell Technologies were the only major corporations to publicly speak out about the Texas legislation, and after doing so they quickly found themselves threatened by Republicans in Austin, the state capital.

But with a varied coalition that numbers well into the dozens, companies are hoping a collective voice willing to apply pressure at the state level could break through and sway the thinking of some Republican legislators who may be wavering on the bills.


“Changes to Kansas election rules become law despite Governor Laura Kelly’s veto”

KC Star:

Changes to Kansas election laws that limit the power of the executive and judicial branch and tighten rules around advance voting are now law despite Gov. Laura Kelly’s objections.

The Kansas Legislature voted Monday to override Kelly’s vetoes on two elections related measures.

Kelly rejected the Kansas bills last month, calling them “designed to disenfranchise Kansans.”

But lawmakers exceeded the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass the bills without her approval.


FEC Republican Commissioners Pave Way for More Foreign Corporate Influence in U.S. Campaigns

Free Speech for People:

The Federal Election Commission divided 3-3 on Free Speech For People’s 2017 complaint against the oil company Citgo, its Venezuelan state-owned parent company, and President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee. The FEC’s general counsel agreed with Free Speech For People that the companies and the inaugural committee violated a federal ban on donations to inaugural committees by foreign entities. However, the FEC divided along party lines and the case was closed. …

The First General Counsel’s Report noted that all evidence suggested that Citgo’s leadership was selected by PDVSA, and in at least one case, by the president of Venezuela himself:

CITGO’s Response does not … rebut the Complaint’s allegation that CITGO’s Board of Directors at the time of the donation consisted entirely of foreign nationals. According to publicly available information, much of which comes from CITGO itself, CITGO’s Board of Directors at the time of the $500,000 donation consisted of … nationals of Venezuela…. Additionally, at least some of the CITGO board members at the time of the donation apparently held concurrent positions within PDVSA, the foreign parent that the Venezuelan government owns. … Although CITGO Holding, Inc., and the CITGO Board of Directors were purportedly responsible for appointing CITGO’s board members and executive officers, respectively, the Venezuelan government apparently had considerable influence over key personnel decisions at CITGO. For example, Venezuela’s President on November 22, 2017, reportedly named Asdrúbal Chávez, a cousin of former President Hugo Chávez, as the new president of CITGO in an event broadcast on state television.

The professional staff also noted that, since 1978, the FEC had long interpreted foreign-national ban language nearly identical to that in the inaugural committee regulation as prohibiting foreign national participation in the decision-making process. 

Since the unrefuted facts indicates that the entire board of CEO consisted of Venezuelan appointees and Citgo management was closely intertwined with the Venezuelan government, the staff concluded:

These circumstances, coupled with the considerable control that the Venezuelan government apparently had in CITGO operations and in the absence of any explanation by Respondents, raise a sufficient inference that foreign nationals on CITGO’s board and in its holding companies may have indirectly made the donation to the Inaugural Committee, which the regulation prohibits. Accordingly, we recommend that the Commission find reason to believe that Petroléos de Venezuela, S.A, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, and CITGO Holding, Inc., violated 11 C.F.R. § 110.20(j) by making a foreign national donation….

Commissioners Broussard, Walther, and Weintraub voted in favor of finding reason to believe that Citgo and PDVSA had made an illegal foreign donation, as the FEC’s nonpolitical career staff had recommended. Commissioners Cooksey, Dickerson, and Trainor voted against. The 3-3 deadlock prevented the action from moving forward. (The decision was not lightly received; after the action was blocked, two commissioners dissented from closing the file.) 

Commissioners Cooksey, Dickerson, and Trainor provided a written statement explaining their vote against enforcement. These commissioners argued that the FEC’s professional career staff misunderstood the law. Rather, they argued that, as long as PDVSA didn’t provide or reimburse the funds used for the donation, then the donation came from Citgo, a legally distinct entity. Furthermore, they opined that even if the Venezuelan PDVSA-appointed directors of Citgo participated in Citgo’s decision to make the donation, it would not constitute a foreign national “indirectly” making a donation within the meaning of the FEC regulation. 

While the other three commissioners disagreed with this analysis, the Commission can only enforce by majority vote, so a 3-3 split vote means that enforcement is blocked.


“How three major news organizations all got a story about Rudy Giuliani wrong”


Incorrect information from government sources apparently led three separate news organizations to publish the same erroneous claim about Rudolph W. Giuliani last week that all three later corrected.

The Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News all reported Thursday that the FBI had briefed the lawyer to President Donald Trump that he was a target of a Russian disinformation campaign during his efforts to dig up unflattering information about then-candidate Joe Biden in 2019.

In fact, the news organizations later said in corrections appended to their stories Saturday that Giuliani had not been briefed by the FBI.

The original stories were published after Wednesday’s FBI raid of Giuliani’s office and home, part of a criminal investigation of his activities in Ukraine. In the corrected versions of their stories, both The Post and NBC reported that the FBI was aware that Giuliani was a target of a Russian operation — and that it planned to warn him about this but ultimately did not.


Stanford Event Thursday on Facebook Oversight Board’s Trump Decision (Expected Wednesday)

This looks to be a very important event (registration required):

The Facebook Oversight Board will release its decision concerning the takedown of President Donald Trump’s account this Wednesday. On Thursday, May 6, from 2:00 to 3:15 PM Pacific, members of the Oversight Board will be joined by the leaders of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center to discuss the Board’s decision. Two members of the Oversight Board, Michael McConnell and Julie Owono, will be joined by Nate Persily, Renee DiResta, Daphne Keller, Marietje Schaake and Alex Stamos to discuss the decision and its implications for Facebook’s handling of similar controversies around the world.


“Senate Dems agonize over voting rights strategy”


Senate Democrats made a major commitment to muscle through Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ethics and voting reform bill. Yet many say they have no idea how to pass it and wonder what exactly the end game is for a signature Democratic priority.

Democrats are preparing to kick off a sensitive internal debate over the issue this month as the Senate Rules Committee takesup the sprawling House package. But no Republicans support it, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t signed on and at least a half-dozen Democrats have issues with the bill, according to senators and aides. That’s not to mention the constraints of the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate.

Though the bill has 49 co-sponsors, a Democratic source said a handful of Democrats still have some reservations. Not signing on, however, would risk public blowback from the left. And Manchin, the most-reluctant Democrat, wants to reimagine the bill’s focus.

He said “there’s a lot of good stuff” in the larger bill but said the party should concentrate on the voting rights standalone bill, named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

The Congressional Black Caucus is considering such a strategy and Manchin advised Democrats to come up with “one piece of legislation that really basically has accessibility, security and fairness in it. And I think we can.” Warnock is making his own entreaties to Manchin and said his colleague knows “how urgent this is.”

Democratic leaders have continued heaping attention on the wider voting rights bill even as its prospects dim. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has repeatedly said “failure is not an option” on the package and wants to put the bill on the floor by August to give states time to implement it.

See my earlier WaPo opinion piece, H.R. 1 can’t pass the Senate. But here are some voting reforms that could.


WaPo Retracts Claim FBI Warned OAN, Giuliani About Russian Influence

I’ve just removed an earlier ELB blog post that linked to a story that now begins with this correction:

Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation. That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.