Nel's New Day

August 22, 2018

‘Voter Fraud’: Gerrymandering, Officials Controlling Their Elections

After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) lost the popular vote for his current position, he persuaded many of his followers that over three million undocumented immigrants had illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, coincidentally the number of votes he was short. To prove his point, he set up a special commission to find evidence to prove his claims. Only DDT’s true believers were allowed any information about the commission’s work, and one of its members sued to get documents as simple as times, agendas, and minutes of the meetings held in secret. He said that the documents show “a pre-ordained outcome to this commission to demonstrate widespread voter fraud, without any evidence to back it up.”

The commission became nationally known when it demanded extensive personal information about every voter in the nation. In at least one state, Colorado, people dropped their voter registration in response. Documents indicated that the commission was considering a demand for all information of people excluded from jury duty. The commission’s plan was also to promote the faulty Crosscheck program that promised but failed to identify duplicate registration.

The leader of the task force, also the leader of the voter suppression legislation across the United States, is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Despite the judgments against him in court, including one judge ordering lawyer Kobach to take remedial legal classes, he initially garnered 191 more votes for governor in the GOP primary than opponent in an election with over 300,000 votes for the seven GOP candidates. At least until 100 votes appeared for Kobach’s opponent, gubernatorial incumbent Jeff Colyer, when a county clerk pointed out an error in Kobach’s reporting, making the difference between the two only 121 votes with 8,000-10,000 outstanding provisional ballots. Meanwhile county clerks reported that totals posted by the office of the Secretary of State, Kobach’s office, were missing votes for his opponent. Yet Kobach proceeded with campaigning for the general election, comfortable that he will win. The deadline for the final count was to be August 21, less than two weeks. The debacle continued for several days with other violations.

Public outrage forced Kobach out of any voters’ counts so he appointed his assistant Eric Rucker to certify the final election results. A donor to Kobach’s campaign, Rucker formerly served as top aid to an earlier Kansas AG during the AG’s investigation for misleading judges and a grand jury in the probe into the murder of Dr. George Tiller who performed abortions in Overland Park. The state suspended the AG’s law license for professional misconduct, and Rucker was admonished for not correcting misleading information he provided to the state supreme Court. Last year, a former employee sued Rucker after he told her grandmother that she had been fired because she didn’t go to church. All the ballots submitted after the election pushed the number of votes to Kobach, and Colyer conceded the primary a week ago.

Kansas is a red state, but Sam Brownback, the evangelical Catholic governor until DDT appointed him for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom this year, drove the state into massive debt with his huge tax cuts. GOP voters are concerned about people not turning out for Kobach because they don’t want to return to Brownback’s problems.

Kobach isn’t the only state official controlling his own election by setting policies for people who can vote and then announcing the actual count. Governor of Florida Jeb Bush, when his brother George W. was the subject of controversial votes in the state that gave Bush the presidency with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, promised to “deliver Florida” to his brother. Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State and co-chair of George W.’s state campaign, was more help to Jeb. In George W.’s 2004 run, and Ohio GOP Secretary of State Ken Blackwell co-chaired W.’s state campaign while overseeing the election that gave W. his second term. After Blackwell’s voter suppression activities during that election, he stayed secretary of state while running for governor. Ohio GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted, candidate for lieutenant government, purged over two million people from voter rolls since 2011.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp won the primary to be the GOP gubernatorial candidate in this fall’s general election. His history shows a number of voter violations (aka fraud). After 670 ballots were cast in a county with 276 registered voters, the number of registered voters magically changed to 3,704 after a federal lawsuit. Georgia has no paper record of votes, and the computers were erased the day before watchdogs were authorized to examine them in a legal proceeding. In the past, husband and wife registered at the same address were assigned different polling places and districts, and a voting machine provided a ballot for another congressional district. In one district, a results tape from a computer showed that it had not collected any votes at the close of the election, and in another precinct a race in a congressional district were omitted from a results tape. In response to the investigation of his failing to process registration applications of minority voters, Kemp investigated voter advocacy groups.

Kemp is known for being sloppy as secretary of state: three years ago, he released personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers for six million people to the media, political parties, and other paying subscribers who legally buy voter information from the state. Kemp called it a “clerical error.” He knows that Georgia’s computers are vulnerable to Russian hacking but refuses to accept a paper record for voting. His argument is that it could “subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.” Only five states, including Georgia, cannot be audited because the voting machines have no paper trail. Kemp also uses Exact Match to eliminate voter registrations if a typographical error occurs; twice as many blacks as whites were blocked from the rolls. In a state where population increased, the number of voter registrations decreased.

County officials appear to be helping Kemp with potential fraud: officials in a largely black Georgia county, population 7,000, closed seven of nine polling places with no justification for its claim of inaccessibility to people with disabilities.

Like GOP state officials in other states, especially secretaries of state, Kemp has the ability to commit voter fraud, that Kobach is supposedly fighting, such as easily-hacked computers at polls, purges of voter rolls, failure to register voters until after an election, investigations to intimidate groups registering minorities, etc. For the first time in the state’s history, a black woman is running for governor—against Brian Kemp. And he has control of the voting. The legislature stays white and Republican in a state with fewer than 40 percent white population because of gerrymandering.

In another case reflecting voter fraud through districting to favor Republicans, Democrat Danny O’Connor is fighting to win a special election for the U.S. House in the badly gerrymandered Ohio District 12. GOP Troy Balderson has been ahead since August 7, but some found votes, reminiscent of the magical discovery of 7,500 votes in Wisconsin in 2011 that elected GOP state Supreme Court justices, appeared after reports of election results. As provisional and absentee ballots dribble in, Balderson has maintained enough lead to win but perhaps not to avoid a recount, mandated if he wins by .5 percent or less, about 1,000 votes difference. With about 3,000 ballots left, O’Connor is behind by 1,781. The deadline is August 24. No matter the result, the two candidates will oppose each other in the upcoming general election. (Right, Ohio District 12)

Kobach maintained that voter fraud matters in close contests and asserted immediately after the August 7 election that he didn’t know how many non-citizens voted in his primary. Once Colyer conceded, he said, “It is highly unlikely that voter fraud changed the outcome.” He bragged about the new Kansas law that made the state with “the most secure election laws in the country” although a federal judge struck down the law last June. Until Colyer conceded, Kobach criticized the judge’s ruling as a concern for Kansas voter fraud. Winning seems to have erased any of Kobach’s concerns about voter fraud, especially when he’s in a position to help facilitate it. Now he can campaign for the general election and start worrying about voter fraud again.

July 9, 2018

New SCOTUS Justice Nominee, Continuing Lawsuits

The suspense is over, and the work begins. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, anti-abortion activist, as his choice for a Supreme Court Justice, perhaps because the sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit Court believes that a sitting president should not be indicted. I will write more about him later. In the meantime, U.S. courts keep chewing away at federal injustices:

The U.S. Supreme Court, soon to be reconfigured to the right, delivered a final statement for 2018 on gerrymandering when it kept the redrawn legislative districts by returning the case to a North Carolina court that tried to reduce racial gerrymandering. Democrats are the majority voting bloc in the state, but the GOP controls ten of the 13 seats in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. The Supreme Court could still hear the case again if an appeal from Republicans returns the issue to the higher court. Legislators are also trying to move the court to the right by increasing the number of judges. But they can’t finish this process by the fall election—I hope!

Today DDT lost another round in the separation of children and families when a judge refused long-term detention of migrant families except in cases when parents are detained on criminal charges. Judge Molly M. Gee said the administration’s attempt to change the 1997 Flores agreement requiring the release of children within 20 days was “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts in the wake of “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” In another federal case, 54 migrants under the age of six, scattered from California to New York, will be secretly returned to their parents tomorrow, half the number who were removed from their parents. Tomorrow is the court’s deadline for all the youngest migrants to be returned to their parents. The court has mandated that the remainder of children over five years old, perhaps 2,900, must be reunited by July 27.

The DOJ dropped charges against the last 38 protesters of the 200 arrested at the inauguration of DDT. Prosecutors managed to get one guilty plea to a felony and another 20 to misdemeanors in 18 months after turning the lives of hundreds of people upside down.

A federal judge has ruled against a Tennessee law that suspends or revokes driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines because the law violates constitutional due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling does not affect other states, but it sets a precedent for other similar rulings. Over four million drivers have lost their licenses for failure to pay these charges in only five states—Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit opposing the citizenship question in the 2020 census can go forward amid “strong” evidence DDT acted in bad faith. Also granted was the request for discovery that will bring to light the background for this decision. Judge Barbara Underwood wrote:

“By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”

ICE cannot systematically detain migrants fleeing persecution from their home countries, according to a judge in the Federal District Court of D.C. who pointed out that the U.S. government requires these applicants to be freed when appropriate. Under DDT, parole rates have gone from over 90 percent to “nearly zero.” Judge James Boasberg has ordered individualized reviews for all asylum seekers before denying parole in a case affecting over 1,000 asylum seekers denied parole in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. ICE has held one of the plaintiffs for over 18 months after he fled Haiti and passed his credible fear interview and then a judge granted him asylum in April 2017.

A ballot initiative already passing review for the fall ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals will go to the state’s Supreme Court. A Republican and business-backed group are challenging the initiative to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts with advice of consultants and public hearings. Gerrymandering in Michigan, as in a majority of other states, has caused Republicans to take over state legislatures despite a majority of Democrat voters in some states.

A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because they did not consider whether these would violate the provision of health care to the most vulnerable people. The disagreement comes from whether the requirement furthers the program’s goals. Up to 95,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage within five years with these requirements. Kentucky was the first state to create these work requirements, and three other states—Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire—had received federal approval. Seven other states have submitted proposals.

Gov. Matt Bevin retaliated against people on Medicaid by cutting Medicaid dental and vision benefits to almost 500,000 people, some of them children. In Kentucky, Medicaid covers about 1.4 million people, almost half of them children. Federal funding provides for 80 percent of the $11 billion dollars for the program. Bevins’ order may violate the judge’s ruling about Medicaid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been named as a possible witness in the federal corruption trial of an Alabama coal executive and two politically connected attorneys in Alabama. The case is about an alleged conspiracy to bribe a state legislator to limit the EPA’s cleaning up a Superfund site. The legislator, Oliver Robinson, has already pled guilty to taking bribes from Drummond Coal that were facilitated by the two attorneys at a major Birmingham law firm. Other witnesses include several state legislators as well as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), recently returned from a PR trip to Russia, and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). As a senator, Sessions tried to intervene with the EPA to stop the cleanup at the Superfund site after conferring with the Drummond lawyers; the law firm and coal company were Sessions second- and third-largest contributors to his senate campaign, a great deal after Sessions intervened. The DOJ has been overseeing the case while Sessions is AG.

After a number of losses in court, including being sent to take remedial law classes, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will no longer represent himself in court during his appeal for contempt in court and a ruling of unconstitutional for requiring people to show proof of citizenship in voter registration. Kobach’s office will be lead counsel. Furious because he lost a straw vote to gubernatorial competitor Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach accused his opponent of voter fraud by paying 106 people to vote.

A federal judge issued an injunction against a 2015 Arkansas law that bans abortion pills. Earlier the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear a case against the law. After Planned Parenthood presented new evidence, the judge indicated that it may prevail in the case. A federal judge also blocked Indiana’s new requirement that medical providers report patient information to the state after treating women for complications from abortions.

Last week, people celebrated the separation of the United States from the reign of George III. In another eight years, the U.S.—if it still exists—will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this document. Until then, consider the similarity between the actions of George III and DDT:

  • DDT ignores laws and court decisions he doesn’t like—anti-nepotism, Russia sanctions, emoluments clause, the Affordable Care Act—the list goes on.
  • DDT blocks laws in the Congress, such as ones about immigration, if he disapproves.
  • DDT wants to be a dictator like China’s Xi Jinping, while a majority of Republicans want to postpone the next presidential election.
  • DDT demonizes immigrants with extreme punishment. Consider the Declaration’s complaint about George III: “he has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither….”
  • DDT tries to prevent a legal investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign through attempts to weaken U.S. confidence in the FBI, the intelligence services, and the justice system as a whole.
  • DDT “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
  • DDT has ordered “Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures” by sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • DDT is stopping “Trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” with tariffs and alienation of allies.
  • DDT “has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people” through expanding offshore drilling, risking wildlife and oceans, and destroying economies of states bordering oceans.
  • George III also suffered from a mental illness.

DDT has just nominated a Supreme Court justice while he is being investigated not only for his involvement in Russian election meddling but also for illegal payoffs to women with whom he had affairs, defamation, and his illegal activities with his personal charitable foundation. He might also be charged, both civilly and criminally, with perjury by signing at least four annual federal tax returns swearing that the organization wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes although evidence shows that he lied. Yet DDT thinks he’s above the law, and his new Supreme Court justice may agree with him.

June 28, 2018

Lower Courts May Save Nation

The good news about losing a conservative Supreme Court justice, perhaps replaced by a super-conservative nominee from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), is that the nation’s highest court hears only 1-2 percent of the appeals. Below are some victories from lower courts, despite conservative judges, a few losses, and upcoming cases.

The biggest win for the past week is the mandate that immigration stop separating children and parents and reunite families within the next month—children under six years old in 14 days and all children over five within 30 days. How the government does this is problematic because they have no idea who the parents of the kidnapped children are. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. are also suing the government to reunite the families.

The Supreme Court may have avoided decisions on gerrymandering, but a panel of judges in a district court have ruled that racial discrimination against blacks was the predominant factor in drawing all 11 U.S. House districts in Virginia. The judges ordered the map to be withdrawn by October in time for the November election.

Paul Manafort, DDT’s former campaign manager, is losing in court big time. After, a federal judge sent Paul Manafort to jail after he allegedly tampered with witnesses while on house arrest, he lost his appeal to get his money-laundering charge dropped. The judge refuted his attempts to minimize lobbying for a foreign entity in the U.S. because he just failed to register when she pointed out that the law requires the public to know if someone is advancing “the interests of a foreign government or principal with the United States.”

Despite his doubts about Mueller’s motivation in investigating Manafort, another judge, one appointed by Reagan, ruled that Manafort’s prosecution on bank and tax fraud charges can go forward on July 25. The judge also found that the Manafort investigation is within the realm of potential collusion between DDT officials and Russia and that the deputy attorney general approved the inquiry. Manafort is accused of not paying taxes on illegally hidden millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts before he lied about his income and debt to get millions in new loans on real estate bought with his illegal income.

The National Enquirer’s publisher has been subpoenaed for records about the magazine’s $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal for a story about her affair with DDT that it refused to publish. The subpoena comes from an investigation into DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen for alleged wire fraud, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Cohen is in more trouble because of the evidence that the National Enquirer vetted articles and images about DDT with Cohen before these were published. More than a media ethics question, the issue deals with alleged hush-money payments to DDT’s accusers and witnesses of his scandals, such as a doorman, Dino Sajudin, who spoke about DDT’s illegitimate child in the 1980s.

Resigning as deputy finance chair of the RNC, Cohen said he’s thinking about cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Wolf Blitzer said that Cohen feels “let down” and “isolated” by DDT, and Cohen also blasted DDT’s separation of migrant children from their parents. A Manhattan federal judge has also ruled that Cohen was a client instead of an attorney and that only eight—under 0.003 percent—of the almost 300,000 emails, texts, and documents would be exempted because they deal with a client.

Life got worse for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a gubernatorial candidate, after a U.S. district judge censured him for “repeated and flagrant violations” of court procedures and ordered the former professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to take remedial classes in the form of six hours of continuing law education.

Despite the judicial ruling to stop a Kansas law, Kobach has ordered county clerks to continue demanding documentary proof of citizenship for voter registration. There is no timeline because “the word “‘immediately’ is kind of open to interpretation,” according to Kobach’s spokeswoman. The judge wrote that the law violated both the Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act.

Kobach unsuccessfully sought a governor’s pardon for a corporate campaign donor, Ryan Bader, whose crime, police said, involved threatening a cab driver by putting a gun to his head. Bader wants the pardon so that he can again guy and carry a gun. He claimed that the event was a mistake in his youth (he was 26 years old) and didn’t remember anything about it because he was drunk.

In yet another loss for Kobach, a judge ruled that commission documents must be given to a commissioner who sued over its lack of transparency. The judge commented “that Mr. Kobach’s reputation for candor to the tribunal and compliance with its orders is less than sterling.”

J. Christian Adams, a commissioner on DDT’s defunct voter fraud investigation led by Kobach, appeared before a federal judge to defend his falsehoods about the large number of non-citizens registering and voting in Virginia. The charge in the suit is that Adams defamed the character of registered voters by accusing them of illegal action. Adams’ report “Aliens Invasion,” unsupported by evidence, claims “1046 aliens who registered to vote illegally” and that “Each of the aliens we have discovered to have registered or voted has likely committed a felony.” His “Aliens Invasion II” falsely accuses the DOJ of doing “nothing about the felonies committed by 433 suspected aliens registered in Prince William County alone.”

The suspect accused in killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others in the Charlottesville (VA) white supremacist march last summer by intentionally striking them with a car has been indicted on 30 counts which include hate crimes resulting in death and bodily injury. The indicted man also faces state charges of first-degree murder and other crimes.

White supremacists plan to celebrate their rally when they killed a woman, injured others, and generally beat up people. The National Park Service has approved an initial request for its anniversary “Unite the Right” rally across from the White House on August 11-12. Charlottesville has already denied an application for its city in “Emancipation Park”, but the organizer is suing.  What can go wrong?

Indiana is being sued for restricting women’s access to abortions. The state’s new law also bans telemedicine. Students at the University of Notre Dame are suing the Indiana school and DDT after the university used religious objections to drop coverages for some types of birth control.

After civil rights groups sued Boston Public Schools for giving student information to ICE, its superintendent, Tommy Chang, has resigned with no reason. Federal law bans schools from asking students about their immigration status, but the lawsuit accuses the district of having a “school to deportation pipeline,” stating without evidence that a student was involved in a gang and giving that allegation to law enforcement, including ICE.

A possible lawsuit in waiting occurred after North Carolina’s General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto of a “sore loser” bill that the state Board of Elections plans to enact retroactively. The new law states that candidates who lose in a primary cannot run in a general election with another party’s backing, specifically addressing three state candidates now represented by the conservative Constitution Party. Republicans fear that this candidate will split the conservative vote, helping the Democrat to win in the fall general election. The Constitution party selected its candidates and presented the names to the Board of Elections two days before the successful vote on the law. The U.S. Constitution prohibits ex post facto laws, ones trying to make an act illegal that was legal when committed.

The General Assembly also restructured judicial election districts in four counties, forcing ten candidates already in the races to either withdraw or refile, with the GOP hopes that new judges would support GOP ideology.  The new law requires that ballots post the political affiliations of the candidates beside their names.

One loss for the people came when a judge tossed out a case against Big Oil that would have required them to pay for costs in adapting to climate change. The judge seemed sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ charge that oil companies have done great damage, but he decided for the companies because it would open out a number of other lawsuits that might put fossil fuel producers out of business. The plaintiffs’ lawyer was pleased “that these companies can no longer deny [climate change] is real and valid.”

Supreme Court rulings are coming back to haunt the rights of people. When Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion allowing unlimited donations to superpacs, it was with the provision that they stay separate from candidates’ campaigns. Now the FEC is okaying coordination allowing candidates to guide allied groups toward messaging by selective public statements about their campaign needs. The fake veil has been shredded.

June 18, 2018

Courts Feature DDT’s Problems

Today’s post is about recent legal decisions and lawsuit filings, but I’ll begin with the separation of children from their families at the Mexico border.

  • A letter to the editor complained about Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for not doing his job because he tried to visit to incarceration facilities for these children. This is part of his job.
  • NPR, which now gets large donations from far-right contributors such as the Koch brothers, allowed statements that children are better off being separated from their parents with no one explaining the physical and emotional damage of the separations.
  • Yesterday DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Today she backed down at a White House briefing but supported the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) by blaming Democrats and adding other lies of her own.

People watching nothing but conservative media such as Fox are spared horrific tapes of the cries of abducted children separated from their parents. A six-year-old girl kept repeating her aunt’s telephone number and pleading for someone to call her. When the call was finally made, the aunt in El Salvador could do nothing because she and her daughter cannot get asylum in the U.S. because the DOJ no longer accepts people fleeing from gangs and domestic violence. The six-year-old’s mother will probably be deported without her daughter.

As bad as things are for DDT, the courts are pursuing him. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against DDT, his three oldest children, and the Donald J. Trump foundation because DDT’s charity allegedly engaged in “illegal conduct” by raising over $2.8 million to influence the presidential election in DDT’s campaign. The suit calls for dissolving the foundation, repaying the $2.8 million along with other penalties, a 10-year ban on DDT serving as director of a New York nonprofit, and a one-year ban on his serving on a nonprofit board for each of his children. Prison could also be a possibility. Underwood also sent referral letters to the IRS and FEC, listing potential law violations for more investigation and legal action.

Summer Zervos’ defamation civil suit for DDT accusation that his sexual assault victims are liars can continue, according to New York’s Supreme Court. Zervos’ lawyer said that they look forward to the “discovery process,” which could reveal information that DDT is hiding.

Rudy Giuliani tried to defame Stormy Daniels because of her profession as an adult film star, saying that she cannot be trusted. In return, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted his 500,000+ followers in a search for Giuliani’s porn-watching habits.

An Emoluments Clause lawsuit against DDT for taking gifts from state and foreign governments, a case with no direct precedent, should be decided by the end of July. DDT’s legal team claims that DDT cannot be sued, that his proceeds are not emoluments, and that he has donated his profits to the Treasury. DDT has no evidence for his statement that he made only $151,470. In another emoluments case, 200 congressional Democrats state that DDT has to ask Congress for the right to receive emoluments. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington failed its first round in an emoluments claim for having no standing, but the group is appealing. Any case that manages a requirement of discovery is victorious because DDT has thus far hidden his financial records.

A federal judge in Seattle refused to stay an earlier injunction halting DDT’s transgender military ban while the government is appealing because the government has no new arguments. The judge is one of four issuing preliminary injunctions against Trump’s transgender military ban.

The day after the official end of net neutrality in the United States, an action allowing more profit-making to internet servers, a George W. Bush-appointed judge approved the $85.4 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner with no conditions. The owners of DirecTV, U-verse, AT&T mobile and broadband, Cricket wireless, etc. will now possess HBO, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers Studios, a stake in Hulu, etc. The judge ruled that the merger did not violate antitrust laws because of the consumer welfare standard that examines only consumer costs. Monopolies are now legal; for example, ultra-conservative Sinclair Publishing can move into almost all the local markets across the nation. Comcast entered a bidding war with Disney for Fox TV and movie assets. T-Mobile, which partners with Netflix, has a deal to buy Sprint. Leon’s ruling also leaves Aetna open to join with CVS, and other health corporations can merge.

In another permit for a huge merger earlier this year, the German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer can buy agricultural giant Monsanto, creating the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly.  After the $66 billion purchase, just three megacorporations–Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont, and Syngenta-ChemChina–will control 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production, worrying farmers about prices with no competition. Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds have trapped farmers into dependence and reliance on chemicals.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not decide on two gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. The non-decision gave Wisconsin to the Republicans and Maryland to Democrats. For Wisconsin, the high court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled that challenges must come from each district by voters with standing because the court’s role is only for “individual rights.” The case was sent back to a lower court to determine whether plaintiffs existed in all districts. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wanted to end the Wisconsin case. An unsigned opinion stated that the Maryland case is at a preliminary stage but that the lower court was not wrong in refusing to order the congressional maps redrawn. The next Supreme Court decision about gerrymandering could come from North Carolina where the GOP controls 10 of 13 congressional districts.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly struck down Minnesota’s ban on political apparel in polling places with the 7-2 ruling that the law was too broad. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that a state may prohibit some apparel, but it must have a “reasonable” line. An example is the California law that defines political information.

Last week, a 4-4 split on the Supreme Court after Justice Anthony Kennedy recused himself left in place a lower court decision supporting the salmon rights of 21 Northwest Native American tribes who sued Washington state for the replacement of almost 1,000 culverts. The decision, that the state cannot impede the salmon that tribes have a right to fish, could affect development, construction, and farming practices in the Northwest by engaging tribes in decision-making.  Tribes may also look at other treaty rights outside fishing and hunting, such as the preservation of national parks and opposition to pipelines.

Healthcare specialist Mark Horton’s lawsuit against St. Louis-based Midwest Geriatric Management, now pending in the 8th Circuit Court, comes from the company’s pulling his job offer after it discovered he is gay. Major companies such as Microsoft and Airbnb joined EEOC to support Horton’s case; conservative states oppose it. The 2nd Circuit Court ruled that the Civil Right Act protects LGBTQ workers.

A federal judge in Missouri this week upheld a state law restricting access to medication to induce abortions as the case awaits trial.

A California appeals court reinstated the state’s right-to-die law until a lawsuit goes to court. A lower court had blocked the law on the grounds that the legislature could not pass the law during a special session limited to other issues. Oregon was the first to pass a death-with-dignity law in 1997 before it was joined by Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, and Washington D.C.

Kentucky is suing Walgreens for allegedly aggravating the opioid crisis as both distributor and dispenser in filling huge quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication. This is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit filed by Kentucky. Other states are doing the same—Florida, Delaware, and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Massachusetts is also suing Purdue Pharma and 16 of the OxyContin maker’s executives for misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids. Alabama filed a suit against the company four months ago.

A federal judge blocked Indiana from immediately purging registered voters with personal records elsewhere on the faulty Crosschecks computer program.

A question about citizenship abruptly added to the 2020 census with no vetting has brought lawsuits from over two dozen states and cities in opposition. The subsequent release of 1,320 internal memos, emails, and other documents sheds light on this decision. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the cost of the last-minute addition would be insignificant, but John Abowd, the Census Bureau’s chief scientist, conservatively estimates the expense at $27.5 million. The question came from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, known for his work to disenfranchise progressive voter. He objected to undocumented immigrants being used to determine the number of congressional seats, despite the fact that this constitutional practice has been used since the first census in 1790.

Earlier this year, Kobach was fined $1,000 for misleading the court about documents in a folder he took to a meeting with DDT soon after the presidential election. Kobach said he paid the fee “out of his own pocket,” but he used a state credit card issued to Craig McCullah, deputy assistant secretary of state under Kobach, for the payment. McCullah, in Ukraine deployed with the Oklahoma Army National Guard when the payment was made, was not told about it. Kobach was also found to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans that they were legally registered to vote in 2016. He is running for governor of Kansas.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was suspended from the bench for 32 counts of lying and using his public office for personal gain. Those seem to be actions reserved for the president of the United States.

March 27, 2018

Conservatism on Trial

Lawyers continue to earn salaries from the outrageous edicts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and GOP laws. Some of the ones from just last week:

Decisions:

Women may legally bare their breasts in public, according to a federal ruling on a 2015 Fort Collins (CO) law preventing female bare breasts in public except for breastfeeding and girls under the age of ten. Fort Collins said that male and female breasts are different and the law is to prevent disrupting order. The group Free the Nipple won’t disband because Fort Collins isn’t giving up.

For the second time, the Supreme Court rejected a GOP request to stop a Pennsylvania court mandate for redrawing the state’s congressional map in a way that removes some of the massive GOP gerrymandered advantage. State legislators considered impeaching the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of redrawing the map, but the Chief Justice, a GOP appointee, may have embarrassed them out of the idea.

Two class-action lawsuits over contaminated water in Flint (MI) can go to trial, according to the Supreme Court. Federal Judge John C. O’Meara earlier ruled that the federal Safe Drinking Water keeps the cases out of his jurisdiction, but the 6th Circuit Court reversed O’Meara’s dismissal and allows plaintiffs to seek monetary damages.

A unanimous SCOTUS ruling sent a case back to the 5th Circuit Court after it ruled that indigent prisoners must expect success to get funding for investigating a case. SCOTUS disagreed. In Ayestas v. Davis, the petitioner, sentenced to death for his part in a 1995 murder during a robbery, claimed ineffective trial and post-conviction counsel.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a new law in Mississippi banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the strictest limit in the nation that violates the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R) refused to hold special elections for empty legislative seats in violation of state law after a Democrat upset in a January special election. A circuit court judge appointed by Walker told him that he will hold the elections. Walker had erroneously claimed that he didn’t need to hold elections because they didn’t occur in an election year. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald plans to get GOP legislators to overturn the judge’s ruling and called on the state Supreme Court to discipline the judge for “politicizing” her ruling.

A federal judge slapped down the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—again—for wrongly dismissing a 2012 complaint against the conservative American Action Network (AAN) that failed to register as a political committee and report the millions of dollars it spent for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2010 campaign.

New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter ruled that a sexual harassment defamation lawsuit against DDT by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos can proceed. Schecter used the court precedent in a lawsuit against Bill Clinton—that “a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal courts for unofficial acts”—as the basis for her decision. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal also filed a lawsuit against owner of the National Enquirer, American Media, to be released from her contract to keep quiet about an affair with DDT.

The Supreme Court refused to roll back the ability of federal agencies to interpret their regulations. Under DDT, agencies are pushing abstinence-only regulations affecting women’s reproductive rights, net neutrality, and otherwise burdening people in the U.S. with religious and business-oriented advantages. Even so, ultra-conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch disagreed with the majority.

Ongoing trials:

The “anti-trust trial of the century” has started in the government’s fight against AT&T’s desired $85 billion merger with Time Warner. The merger’s lawyer claimed that they would never charge people more or block any content.

Filings:

Consumer groups are suing DDT for its elimination of standards for treatment of animals if the meat is designated “certified organic.” The Department of Agriculture claims that it lacks the authority and that the regulation would be costly despite the agency’s economic analysis of only minor costs.

Civil rights groups are suing DDT for document about the decision blocking a rule requiring companies with over 100 employees to track wages based on race and gender.

Environmentalist and animal welfare groups are suing DDT on his new stand allowing people to bring elephant trophies into the U.S. after he described big-game trophy hunting as a “horror show.” The new suit is an amendment to an ongoing case against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s lifting the ban last year on lion trophies from Zimbabwe. Zinke’s International Wildlife Conservation Council is composed of “celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers, and well-heeled trophy collectors,” according to AP. One board member, Peter Horn, co-owns a private New York hunting preserve with DDT’s big-game hunting sons, Eric and Donald Jr.

 

 

Pending:

The strangest case comes from a 1990s capital murder case involving two Native Americans that could restore tribal sovereignty to almost half of Oklahoma for the first time in a century. Patrick Murphy, death-row inmate and member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, claimed that the state cannot try him for the murder of another tribal member on land that was part of the Creek Nation’s reservation. In the late 19th century, Congress took courts, governments, and laws from the Creek Nation and forced them to change tribal lands into privately-owned allotments for the tribe’s members before selling surplus land to white settlers.

Last summer, however, a three-judge panel in the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Congress had never specifically abolished the Creek Nation’s reservation which left it intact. The panel ruled that Royal v. Murphy had to be tried in federal court like other major crimes between Native Americans. In effect, the ruling returned the territory to the tribe and opened the door to other Oklahoma tribes, including the other four of the Five Civilized Tribes. They were all moved from southeastern U.S. on the Trail of Tears that killed over 4,000 people and promised the Oklahoma land in perpetuity. The land for just the Creek Nation comprises 4,600 square miles with 750,000 inhabitants including most of Tulsa. The five tribes together would take over 40 percent of Oklahoma.

Changing the land to reservation would restrict state criminal jurisdiction to minor offenses such as traffic violations. Federal and tribal courts would be in control of all other crimes. State taxation would also be impacted, and oil companies are concerned. Murphy has a lot at stake in this case: federal government bans the death penalty for crimes on tribal land.

In Solem v. Bartlett (1984), the Supreme Court ruled that each reservations keeps its original boundaries unless Congress specifically changes the borders or completely abolishes the reservation. The 10th Circuit ruled that this had not happened “and if it never did, that post–Civil War reservation is still intact.” [Above map showing 1866 boundaries of the Creek Nation.] That ruling stays unless the Supreme Court decides to take the case.

During March, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the man determined to disenfranchise every Democratic voter, took up eight days in court to defend his state law that requires prospective voters to prove their citizenship before they can register. He tried to present new information after the deadline, tried to testify to a document that he couldn’t find, and couldn’t phrase questions for cross examination or impeach a witness. Federal Chief District Judge Julie Robinson, a George W. Bush appointee, accused Kobach of engaging in “gamesmanship” and skirting her orders. Calling the 11 illegal voters of 1.8 million on the voter rolls the “tip of the iceberg,” Kobach kept 35,000 people from voting. Kobach stands accused of violating federal law by refusing to register these legitimate voters who signed up to vote through driver’s license offices.

The question of the trial is whether widespread voter fraud is credible, and Kobach had to admit it isn’t. On the first day of his trial, he said that federal databases cannot identify noncitizens—although that was the mission of DDT’s now-disbanded federal commission he headed up to find illegal voters. His witnesses confessed that their research is unreliable because it isn’t subject to peer review and suffers from flawed methodology. The “expert” who testified that noncitizen voting didn’t change the outcome of the popular vote, in opposition to Kobach’s claim about three million noncitizens voting in 2016, and testified that he identified potential noncitizens in Kansas by how “foreign-sounding” a name was. Another “expert” disclosed that his belief in Kansas voter fraud was entirely based on a list of about 30 voters that Kobach’s office gave him and he used incomplete information which could make it appear that more noncitizens tried to vote than those who existed. He, too, could not name any election swayed by noncitizens. Kobach’s legal opponent, Dale Ho (also a “foreign-sounding” name, concluded, “The iceberg, on close inspection your honor, is more of an ice cube.”

Koback’s latest attempt to remove Democratic voters was to tell DDT that the census should ask about everyone’s immigration status. May Kobach be brought down by creatures that he considered much smaller than himself. May he become afraid.

 

March 10, 2018

DDT: More Week 59 – People, Lawsuits

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 10:07 PM
Tags: , , ,

The swamp continues to fill as Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appoints people, several of whom then resign, and faces lawsuits for his unconstitutional policies.

Appointments:

Peter Wright, DDT’s appointee as assistant administrator of  the EPA Office of Land and Emergency Management to oversee chemical spills from Superfund sites, is a top lawyer with Dow Chemical, the company linked to almost ten percent of these 1,340 toxic places. Former appointee, Michael Dourson, withdrew his name because of his many chemical company clients. Last year, EPA secretary Scott Pruitt appointed Albert Kelly, banned for life from the banking industry for violating federal banking laws, as adviser on the Superfund program.  Scott Pruitt also refused to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, produced by Dow’s subsidiary, despite it risk to children and farm workers.

John Gibbs, DDT’s appointee for HUD senior adviser in community planning and development division to spur economic development, had spread the false rumor of Hillary Clinton as a “Satanist” during 2016 when he accused her and campaign chairman John Podesta of consuming bodily fluids. His lies spread into #pizzagate that caused a man to shoot his gun in an innocent pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Matt Baker, a new appointee in the Department of HHS, proposed a registry for strippers when he was a Pennsylvania state representative. It would list name, stage name, address, phone number, date of birth, place of birth, height, weight, hair color, eye color, criminal background information and their photo ID.

Gordon Giampietro, nominated to the Eastern District Court of Wisconsin, failed to reveal “an online post describing the Civil Rights Act as an “intrusion into private business” and diversity as code for “relaxed standards.” DDT’s judicial nominees have received an average of 23 “no” votes during confirmations, compared to the average of six opposing votes for President Obama, two for George W. Bush, and one for Bill Clinton.

John Konkus’ day job is the EPA’s deputy associate administrator for public affairs who vets “the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually.” By night, the Republican is permitted to be consultant for unnamed private-sector clients with secret identities. Patrick Davis, another DDT political appointee, works by day as senior adviser for public engagement in the Denver EPA regional office and by night as sales director for Telephone Town Hall Meeting providing robocalls to political campaigns and advocacy groups.

Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, because she “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election.” Special counsel Henry Kerner assigned DDT the job of “appropriate disciplinary action.”

Resignations:

Gary Cohn, DDT’s economic adviser, abandoned the White House ship after DDT insisted on steel/aluminum tariffs. On his departure, Cohn, a top executive at Goldman Sachs, claims to have accomplished what he wanted, basically enormous cuts for rich people and big corporations. The departures of Rob Porter and Cohn leave no high-ranking White House official to oppose DDT’s beloved tariffs; DDT cancelled a meeting with companies using steel and aluminum. Farmers are especially unhappy with a looming trade war, as this message from the Nebraska Farm Bureau shows. Some of the many people who departed the White House like” ships leaving the rats.”

Tony Tooke resigned as chief of the U.S. Forest Service after reports of sexual misconduct and a culture of racial and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliations in the agency. Tooke was appointed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, cousin of Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) who signed on to a bill that would discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Lawsuits:

The 9th Circuit Court ruled that 21 young people, mostly teenagers, can continue its lawsuit against the government for not addressing climate change despite DDT’s attempt to keep out of court. Without Supreme Court interference, a federal judge must decide which government officials can be questioned, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly CEO of Exxon Mobil and head of a petroleum industry trade group. [Photo from AE Marling]

A federal court ruled that Idaho must allow transgender people to amend their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity, leaving only three states—Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee—that prevent transgender people from updating their birth certificates. A federal appeals court also decided in favor of Aimee Stephens, fired for transitioning to male, after her boss asserted “religious beliefs.” The federal appeals court ruled, “Tolerating Stephens’ understanding of her sex and gender identity is not tantamount to supporting it.”

Kansas cannot remove Medicaid payments for breast exams, birth control, and other non-abortion services from Planned Parenthood. The 10th Circuit Court stated that states cannot terminate providers if “that reason is unrelated to the provider’s competence and the quality of the healthcare it provides.”

Anthony Borges, the Parkland (FL) shooting victim who blocked a classroom door to keep the gunman from entering, is suing the school and county for not keeping him safe to pay for his huge medical bills. DDT also said that he would have run into the school to save the young people, but he can’t even stand up to the NRA that is now suing Florida for a slight restriction in gun laws.

Stormy Daniels, the porn queen paid to conceal her affair with DDT, is suing him with the claim that her nondisclosure agreement is invalid because DDT didn’t sign it. The suit also asserts that the $130,000 that she was paid was intended to influence the election. Two other complaints state that her payment violated election law because it was not reported as in-kind campaign donation after DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohn said he had paid the money himself. Her accusations include that she signed because of “intimidation and coercive tactics.” Cohen paid Daniels through a LLC created for that purpose. DDT is also in the middle of the Stormy Daniels mess after his lawyer complained that DDT had not reimbursed him the $130,000 for the payment to Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) to shut her up.

Not only does the lawsuit give additional information about DDT’s problems with Daniels but it also puts him in a lose-lose situation. He either argues says that he paid hush money to an “adult film” star or backs off so that she can say whatever she wants. In a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended DDT by saying that DDT had “won” its arbitration agreement, ostensibly admitting his involvement in the payment. DDT is furious with his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for telling the truth about the arbitration agreement. Details about Daniels’ statements here.

Although some people think that DDT’s personal life should stay private, he can be blackmailed to keep this information secret. Withholding information from the public violates federal law because voters have the right to knowledge about attempts to influence elections. A payment of $130,000 by DDT’s lawyer is far over the $2,700 campaign contribution cap. Complaints about this payment and another one to hush up another story about DDT’s affairs will be investigated by the FEC only if all four members—two Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent—decide to pursue the issue.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, has removed anti-discrimination language from his agency’s mission statement so that he can keep LGBTQ people and minorities out of low-income housing. The change is “to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.” People for the American Way (PFAW) is suing for the release of HUD and DOJ documents with anti-LGBTQ plans.

DDT’s deadline for the end of DACA came with no legislation to continue it, and Maryland federal Judge Roger Titus ruled that DACA can legally end the program. Two other injunctions against its termination are still in effect with the ruling that DDT must provide legal reasons for this action.

Federal Judge William Alsup ruled that people can sue greenhouse-gas emitters in federal court in Oakland and San Francisco lawsuits against oil companies for climate change, rising sea levels, and waterfront damage. In 2011, the Supreme Court decided that Congress and EPA, not courts, police emissions, but that case concerned a U.S. electric utility, not international corporations.

Several states are suing after FCC chair Ajit Pai overturned net neutrality, and Washington passed a law preventing internet service providers from blocking and slowing down content online or charging more for faster delivery to benefit broadband companies and partner websites. Despite Pai’s ruling that no state can oversee internet services, two dozen other states have introduced similar bills, and other governors have signed executive actions prohibiting internet service providers with state contracts from blocking or slowing data on their lines.

Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State who wants to stop Democrats from voting, went to trial last week protecting his state law requiring people to prove citizenship when they register to vote. Plaintiffs claim that the law violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), allowing registrants at the DMV to ask people for minimum information. One in seven Kansas voters were blocked from voting between 2013 and 2016 until the law was put on hold in 2016. Kobach claims to have found five people who may have broken the law of the state’s 1.8 million registered voters. Kobach is running for governor this year.

During the trial, the judge reprimanded Kobach when he tried to testify to a document that he couldn’t find. She also had to explain to him how to phrase questions in cross examination, present new exhibits, and impeach a witness. On the first day his trial, he said that federal databases cannot identify noncitizens—although that was the mission of DDT’s now-disbanded federal commission he headed up to find illegal voters. More insanity from Kobach’s trial

DDT’s name came off the Trump-branded hotel in Panama City after the majority owner won his lawsuit to dump DDT’s company as its manager. Since Inauguration Day, two other hotels in Toronto and Manhattan’s SoHo have done the same, and other DDT properties are struggling.

July 20, 2017

Voter Suppression Goes National

A distraction from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) yesterday was his threats to the DOJ top personnel and the special investigator in charge of tracking Russian collusion with DDT and his associates. Today’s shocker was the revelation that he’s checking into the possibility of using his “presidential pardon” for his staff, his family, and himself. A vital issue for democracy in the United states, however, is his new voting commission which met in public for the first time yesterday.

An obsession with big numbers led DDT to claim that the Hillary Clinton would not have bested him by almost three million votes if the nation didn’t have three to five million illegal votes cast in the election. In his fits of pique, he supports the Republicans who use voter suppression to win elections, state by state, through draconian laws and voter registration purging. Several days ago, the commission riled up secretaries of state across the country by demanding voter roles, including birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and individual voting records.

Across the nation, those requested to send information have primarily said that they would provide the same information that they would to any request for public information. After one lawsuit, the commission must stop collecting voter information until a court makes a ruling. Another suit addressed privacy concerns, especially because the storage computer lacks security.

Amazed at the backlash to the commission, DDT had an official rollout with its chair, VP Mike Pence, and its mastermind and vice chair, Kris Kobach, presenting its goals in what has been called its first meeting. The real first meeting was done just among the members in private. Kobach is known for creating and disseminating the most unreasonable voter ID laws in the country as well as purging voter registration lists in Kansas where he is secretary of state. In the past, Kobach has been one of the strongest defenders of states’ rights.

One stated reason from the commission is to study voter fraud. It has been studied ad infinitum since states started passing laws to prevent minorities, women, and low-income people from casting votes. Women are easily disenfranchised if they have married because names on current identification don’t match the birth certificate. They are also a larger percentage of the elderly who sometimes have no birth certificates. One comprehensive study of every federal election between 2000 and 2014 found 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of over one billion votes cast. Only four cases of voter fraud were identified in the 135 million votes cast last November.

Wisconsin was one of 14 states last year implementing new voting restrictions for the first time. Voter turnout fell in that state to a 20-year low, especially among poor and black residents. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin.  An analysis of states with and without strict voter ID laws, the number of voters, primarily black and poor, was suppressed in all the states that passed restrictive laws.  This comparison showed that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes. Voter suppression has been confirmed by other studies.

Like officials in 31 other states, Kobach uses Crosscheck to purge voters from registration lists and hopes to use the program with all 50 states. The program is known for huge numbers of false positives, but these people are disenfranchised. The ACLU has sued Kobach four times for voter suppression; he lost all four cases. With great investigative zeal, he found only nine cases of fraudulent voting out of 1.8 million votes. In describing registration and voting by noncitizens as “pervasive,” Kobach could find only one of these cases in Kansas. Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in Kansas has blocked one of seven Kansans since 2013.

Pro-commission people constantly use the term “voter fraud” for registrations for one person in multiple states and for deceased people.  Yet registering in multiple states is legal; it is the act of voting in more than one state that is a felony. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and adviser with high-level security clearance, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. And probably many of DDT’s officials. Gregg Phillips, creator of the app VoteStand to help people report potential voter fraud, is registered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. DDT called Phillips a guru on voter fraud. One study shows 2.75 million people registered to vote in multiple states, usually because of recent moves. In just Clark County (NV), over 150,000 of the county’s 700,000 active registered voters within one year.

The commission claims to be “bipartisan,” but it is run by two seriously partisan Republicans and packed with strong supporters of the voter fraud myth. Another member is Ohio’s former secretary of state Ken Blackwell who ordered county clerks not to accept voter registration on anything less than paper the thickness of a postcard. He also accidentally distributed voter lists with full Social Security numbers for the state’s voters.

House Republicans seem unconcerned about voter fraud. They are attempting to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that exclusively works to make the voting process secure. The move comes after the EAC worked with the FBI to investigate Russian hacking. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also fired its cyberattack expert.

For over a decade, computer experts have issued warnings about the vulnerability of equipment used for voting, especially the direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines. At least five states lack any paper trail for votes, and another 24 use a mixture. Thus only 21 states in the nation have a system for verifying votes. After the Bush/Gore debacle in 2000 when punch cards were unreadable, the Help America Vote Act provided states with $3 billion in 2002 to purchase modern equipment. Most of the states used the money for DRE machines that provided to paper trail.  Russian hackers tried to access election computers in at least 21 states last year, and that may be a conservative estimate.

About states’ reaction to submitting personal information about voters, DDT delivered a line that should have brought laughs: “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the Vice President, I asked the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”

Yes, DDT, if you are hiding your tax returns, your visitor logs, your conversations with an adversarial country, your—it goes on and on—you must have something to hide.

Courts have determined that voter suppression laws, including but far beyond voter IDs, are “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” GOP legislators admit that the purpose of these laws is to reduce the number of Democrats at the polls. But DDT’s new commission claims that it is “fighting voter fraud” and “protecting election integrity.” The commission ignores the fact that ten percent of people eligible to vote lack the identification to satisfy these new GOP laws. DMVs necessary to obtain IDs and early-voting places close in non-white, non-rich, and non-GOP neighborhoods. Commission members claim that no one ever complains about their disenfranchisement. They do, but they have no effect on the process outside the courts.

Republicans need the new voting commission to stay in power. They will divert attention from the democracy of paper trails for computer voting, enfranchising all eligible voters, early voting, and simplified voter registration. Republicans hate mail-in voting popular in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington because voting is made easier. They hate the automatic voter registration because any eligible voter can easily access the process. They hate a paper trail because the votes can be recounted. The sole goal of most GOP legislators is to keep their party in power at any cost to democracy. The United States doesn’t suffer from voter fraud–it suffers from GOP fraud.

June 30, 2017

Federal Commission Wants All the Voting Registration Data

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 10:25 PM
Tags: , , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been furious since his election last November that he missed getting the majority of popular votes by at least three million. He spent the first few months claiming voter fraud by undocumented immigrants, but white supremacist may have given him a solution for punishing people who disagreed with him. On May 11, DDT signed one of his executive orders, examining both voter fraud and suppression. Toward that end, he appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to be vice-chair of DDT’s commission who stated that the commission’s sole objective is to support DDT’s lie that voter fraud was involved in the 2016 election.

DDT has claimed that the commission would be bipartisan, but among Democrats are a West Virginia county clerk and a former Arkansas state legislator who doesn’t know why he was chosen. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner hope to look into Russia’s interference in the election, but that was not part of the commission’s charge.  Nor is the growing number of voter suppression laws across the nation since the Supreme Court gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Kobach has an illustrious history in voter suppression throughout the nation.In 2010, the Kansan started providing states with bills to prevent a nonproblem when he  provided Arizona with its language for demanding citizenship papers, citizenship proof to register to vote, and strict photo ID requirements for voting. The Arizona “show your papers”  law failed in the Supreme Court, but Arizona can still require citizenship proof for state elections. People have to register twice—once for federal candidates and the other for state/local elections.

In 2011, Kobach introduced the Kansas law requiring residents to give proof of citizenship to be registered as a voter. Lawsuits against the law are still in court because the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires only “the minimum amount of information necessary” to verify citizenship. Last April the court demanded documents to prove Kobach’s claims that enough citizens are registering to force higher standards from NVRA.  The ACLU claims that these show that he lobbied DDT to change the law, indicating that he knew his process was inconsistent with current federal law. Last week, a federal judge fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about these documents.

In 2015, Kobach, he created a system suspending tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls but claimed that “nobody’s being disenfranchised.” He is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute people for committing voter fraud. Kobach’s office also compared voter rolls to temporary driver’s licenses for non-citizens and commissioned outside firms to poll non-citizens about voting habits using these driver’s licenses. He also asked the Department of Homeland Security to compare a list of suspected non-citizen voters against a list of naturalized citizens.

In Kansas, Kobach used a database called Crosscheck to look for voters registered in two states and plans a similar process with the data that he collects from the 50 states. It supposedly matches voters’ names and dates of birth to flag people who are double registered. Unfortunately experts have found that it finds 200 false positives for every one legitimate result. Kobach could find almost 1 million false positives. Other states have dropped the program because it flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian Americans, and one in nine African Americans as potential double registrants in the states examined.

This week, Kobach sent letters to all 50 secretaries of state requiring “publicly-available voter roll data” including ten types of sensitive information within two weeks. One of these is the last four digits of the registrants’ Social Security number. There was no indication of how Kobach or the commission chair, Vice President Mike Pence, plans to use the information—or keep it secure. Kobach may be on the way to setting up a national system like the one he developed in Kansas.

The majority response to Kobach’s letter was “no.” He can’t even get Social Security numbers from Kansas because state law prevents it. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a commission member, said that she would provide only voters’ names and their congressional district assignments. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that he will “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that she would be “withholding protected data.” She added:

“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for. This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”

Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann hadn’t gotten the letter when he formulated his response:

“As all of you may remember, I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters’ rights for their privacy and won. In the event I were to receive correspondence from the commission requesting (what the other state received) … My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

In Missouri, however, the secretary of state said that he will cooperate. Jay Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. AG John Ashcroft, Kobach’s mentor at the Justice Department.

In some states, the secretaries of state are not responsible for voter information. For example, the two largest counties in Arizona, not the state, maintain their information.

The letter had also suggested that the data be sent to an insecure email address unprotected by even basic encryption technology, a faulty method for the goal of improving the security and integrity of federal election systems. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the federal government from keeping records of voters’ party affiliation except in rare circumstances. The law was enacted after Watergate and concerns about Richard Nixon collecting personal information on U.S. voters. Still, Kobach hopes that the Justice Department will get the information for him if states would send him the data.

In the original letter, Kobach wrote that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” Later he reversed his position and said that it would be stored on a secure server. Voter data is useful for identity theft. Almost 200 million records for U.S. voters compiled for DDT’s 2016 campaign was available for 12 days until a techie pointed out the problem.  The Center for Democracy and Technology compared the data availability to a leak of toxic waste. Releasing the data to Kobach would mean having faith in him to keep the material secure.

The accusation of widespread voter fraud is fraudulent; the GOP uses it to eliminate votes from women, minorities, and the poor. The type that voter suppression laws intend to control is tremendously rare; they are only a burden to a largely non-existent problem. An examination of DDT’s claims about undocumented immigrants voting in mass during the 2016 presidential election has proved false. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Candidates around the United States are already beginning to incorporate opposition against Kobach’s plan. Kobach is a candidate for Kansas governor in 2018. A question in Kansas is whether Republicans value their privacy.

Imagine if the Democrats tried to collect all the voter data!

September 25, 2014

More Voter Discrimination

Exactly 50 years ago this summer, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality, participated in Freedom Summer, urging Mississippi blacks to register to vote. In 1964, only 6.7 percent of blacks were registered in Mississippi; the county where they spoke had not one registered black person.

On June 21, 1964, the three were arrested, released, and then abducted by the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies were found 44 days later in an earthen dam. The two white men had each been shot once; Cheney, who was black, had been mutilated beyond recognition. Only the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed on August 6, 1965, moved the country toward voting rights for eligible citizens. The law stopped literacy tests and poll taxes used to keep blacks from registering in the South and prevented future voter suppression methods. Now Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state.

One year ago on June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that invalidated the requirement that states and regions have to “preclear” their voting changes with the federal government. Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that the data was outdated and cited the “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty” among states. He did concede that “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that” but that the country didn’t need the “extraordinary measures” of the VRA. Tuesday’s blog shows the need for these “extraordinary measures.”

The 22 states suppressing voting since the 2010 election are using “extraordinary measures” to ensure that only “certain people” could vote: strict photo IDs, elimination of early voting, harsher laws to register people to vote, rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons, etc. Conservative discrimination against low-income people and minorities were obvious in the new laws. Eighteen of the 22 states have GOP legislatures or governors. Seven of the 11 states with the highest black turnout in 2008 have new restrictions. Nine of the 12 states with the biggest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010 have the same new restrictions. Nine of the 15 states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act, almost two-thirds, passed new voting restrictions.

Although most of these states are in the South, other states farther north joined them: Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Two of these have backed down, but Kansas and Wisconsin kept their oppressive anti-voting laws.

In her dissent to overruling the VRA section, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” People in Texas lost the umbrella protecting them from voter restrictions within two hours of the decision’s announcement. North Carolina waited only two months to pass the most stringent set of voting restrictions among all 50 states.

Local governments have also adopted strategies to cut out minorities. Augusta (GA) moved city council elections from November to July when black turnout is traditionally far lower. Pasadena (TX) approved an at-large system for electing council members to reduce the number of successful Hispanic candidates. Beaumont (TX) followed the same process for its school board. The federal government blocked the move, but Beaumont did an end run and succeeded in state court. Decatur (AL) has a new system to rid the city council of its one black member.

After the five conservatives of the Supreme Court eviscerated the VRA, it claimed that Congress could clean up their mess. With the GOP-caused gridlock, this will not happen now or, possibly, in the near future. Rep. Eric Cantor seemed amenable to listening to the voting problems after a trip to Mississippi with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was beaten by state troopers during the civil rights movement, and David Goodman, who is the brother of the slain Andrew Goodman. Cantor said, “This voting issue is not a partisan issue.” He has not been re-elected.

[Thanks to Ari Berman for these thoughts and words.]

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, believes that there is no voting discrimination because current laws don’t allow this to happen. Goodlatte still thinks that Section 2 of the VRA, which remains after the Supreme Court ruling, is sufficient protection. It allows victims of racial discrimination in voting to file suit. Therefore, Goodlatte will not schedule a hearing on the issue.

A broad coalition of civil rights, labor, and progressive leaders launched the VRA for Today Coalition with a petition signed by more than 500,000 Americans who strongly support restoring the Voting Rights Act and protecting all voters from discrimination. Advocates who tried to deliver the names of the petition signers this month found that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had locked his office door during normal business hours.

The voiced argument for voting suppression in 34 states has always been a self-righteous claim that laws are necessary to stop voting fraud. Sworn congressional testimony by Loyola Law Prof. Justin Levitt in September 2011 cited only nine potential cases of in-person impersonation since 2000 out of 400 million votes cast during that time. A non-partisan news consortium in 2012 found one more case. Levitt updated his data recently and found 31 cases out of 1 billion ballots cast in the past 14 years. Some of these 31 cases have not been thoroughly investigated which means that they may be debunked through computer error or confusion of names. This is a fraud rate of 0.00002 percent. Impersonation results in a $10,000 fine and three years of imprisonment—for just one vote. It would also require the name of another person registered at a specific polling place who has not yet voted and does not know the person.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), presidential wannabe, has waffled about photo ID, but this week he again argued that the GOP is causing problems for minority voters. At the Liberty PAC conference, he said:

“So many times, Republicans are seen as this party of, ‘We don’t want black people to vote because they’re voting Democrat, we don’t want Hispanic people to vote because they’re voting Democrat. We wonder why the Republican Party is so small. Why don’t we be the party that’s for people voting, for voting rights?”

As a U.S. senator, Paul has sponsored no legislation to protect voters targeted by the GOP. In July he said that he wanted to bring back a federal role for the Voting Rights Act, but he has failed to sign on to a legislative proposal to do just that. He hasn’t even come up with an alternative.

Update to Kansas: Since my report two days ago about Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s insistence that the Democrats name a candidate for the U.S. Senate on the ballot, a Kansas Democrat, whose son is the regional field director for GOP Gov. Brownback’s re-election campaign, filed a lawsuit intended to force Democrats into selecting a new candidate for the highly contented U.S. Senate race. The Kansas Supreme Court sent the case to a lower court which must consider barriers to mandamus relief. It’s doubtful that the case will be settled there before ballots have been printed for Election Day on November 4. The Kansas Secretary of State polls show that Kris Kobach and his Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf are even in the race.

The residence of the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, incumbent Pat Roberts, is in question. He has signed a mortgage on a Virginia residence that declares Fairfax County as his “principal residence.” In Kansas he owns a duplex in Dodge City and registers to vote at the home of supporters and donors C. Duane and Phyllis Ross. He joked, “I have full access to the recliner.” For this privilege he pays $300 a month. He said in an interview, “Every time I get an opponent — I mean, every time I get a chance — I’m home.” (No, that’s not satire.)

 

June 19, 2013

GOP Protests Immigrants, Filibuster Control

The House GOP passed its ridiculously restrictively anti-abortion bill yesterday, re-alienating women. Now they’re moving on to reject Hispanics with bigoted their stand against immigrants. GOP Congressmen have worked hard to tell anyone that letting minorities into the United States is counterproductive because most of them will vote Democrat, especially those from Latin America.

Tea Party representatives have put House Speaker John Boehner between the proverbial rock and a hard place by demanding that he not allow any immigration reform bill on the House floor unless a majority of Republicans is willing to vote for it—meaning that he must reject all bills that the Tea Party opposes. Unless he doesn’t. When he was asked yesterday if a bill would require majority GOP support to get to the House floor, he said, “We’ll see when we get  there.”

Immediately after the 2012 election, when the GOP was pursuing ideas to move their voting base beyond white men, Boehner said that he and President Obama could find common ground to immigration reform because “a comprehensive approach is long overdue.” Fast forward seven months, and he said that the idea that he is “pushing a comprehensive immigration bill” is “just not true.”

Media have spent a great deal of time trying to determine exactly what Weathervane Boehner means when he says, “I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans.” One side says he’s bluffing; the other side claims that he will join the GOP in killing immigration reform.

The GOP business community wants the reform bill to pass, not only to get cheap labor but also to win the 2016 presidential election. Yet the party base is dead set against immigration reform. Most likely most of the GOP legislators are bad-mouthing the bill in public while demanding in private that it be brought to the floor. Boehner may think that his language gave him wiggle room, but his base won’t agree. The question for Boehner is how much he is willing to endanger his position as Speaker of the House.

Today the far-right members of the House made themselves very clear in their rejection of immigration reform through a day-long press conference, organized by Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Scheduled for the west side of the Capitol, the group was joined by Tea Partiers who were there to protest the IRS. In addition to the usual far-right suspects from Congress, Glenn Beck, who had decided that he should stop trying to divide the country and then developed paralyzed vocal chords, returned with his toxic rhetoric.

Yesterday he used his television show to draw a comparison between the immigration reform advocates peacefully protesting outside the home of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the Ku Klux Klan. “The left is set up on revenge,” Beck said, comparing the demonstrators to Greece’s Golden Dawn party, a neo-Nazi group with ties to anti-immigrant hate crimes. Kobach was not home during the protest, as the Sunflower Community Action knew, but he threatened to shoot them if necessary. One of Kobach’s achievements is writing Arizona SB 1070, an anti-immigrant law that drove thousands of people out of the state in fear.

King’s six-hour anti-immigration reform press conference/rally today opposed “amnesty” for “illegal aliens,” Sharia law, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). A sizeable group of the conservatives booed Rubio’s name and carried anti-Rubio signs including “Marco Early Advocate of Muslim Brotherhood Takeover. Obamas [sic] Idiot.” Once in favor of the immigration reform bill, Weathervane Rubio opposed it and then appeared on ABC’s This Week last Sunday to say that “95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go.”

Rubio is one of the many GOP presidential wannabes of 2016. Meanwhile Allen West, former representative from Florida, has said that he’s considering a run against Rubio, if God sets his feet on that path. In addition to being virulently anti-government, West has shown himself to be sexist, anti-Muslim, pro-corporation—the list continues.

King has compared immigrants to dogs and livestock. For years he has tried to “clarify” the 14th Amendment that provides U.S. citizenship for anyone born in the country. In 2010, he said, “The framers did not consider the babies of illegals when they framed the 14th amendment because we didn’t have immigration law at the time, so they could not have wanted to confer automatic citizenship on the babies of people who were unlawfully in the United States.”

When DREAMers came to his office to advocate for immigration reform after the House voted to deport them, King tweeted:

20 brazen self professed illegal aliens have just invaded my DC office. Obama’s lawless order gives them de facto immunity from U.S. law.

#Gof8 You promise border security. How, when we can’t secure Congress from Obama amnesty? Schumer, McCain, come guard my door.

Here are the fearsome 20. King would never survive a high school classroom.

king aliens

While part of the GOP Congressional caucus stands on the Capitol steps to alienate Hispanics, House Republicans are planning a series of meetings with Hispanic-Americans in the nation’s capital as part of a GOP effort to woo minority voters. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the one woman allowed to be on the House leadership team, is planning four meetup sessions between Hispanic-Americans and GOP lawmakers at the Capitol Building this summer, starting today. Wonder how that went with the anti-immigration talk outside.

The situation in the Senate is growing so dire that even Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is finally considering the so-called “nuclear option,” ending filibusters of administration nominees in the upper chamber, after years of opposing the loss of the filibuster. If this were to happen, judicial nominees and Senate-confirmed administration positions, including the presidential cabinet, could be approved with a simple majority rule. To employ this option, he would need almost unanimous support of the chamber’s Democrats, which he most likely can’t get, starting with the retiring Carl Levin (D-MI).

GOP senators are coming unglued about the possibility of returning Senate procedures to a few decades ago before they mandated 60 percent of the vote on even the simplest action. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has threatened Reid if he were to follow through with his plans. If the GOP were to take over the Senate, Alexander said that the GOP agenda would repeal Obamacare, convert all federal education funding into school vouchers and scholarships, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, and repeal the estate tax.

This threat is the most hollow of any I’ve heard in a long time. The minute that the GOP gets a Senate majority, this is exactly what they will do—and far worse!

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