Thursday, May 24, 2018

President Trump's Efforts to Obstruct Mueller Investigation Continues With "Spygate" Nonsense

President Trump recently took a new angle in his push back against the Muller investigation, namely a claim that the the FBI surreptitiously placed a "spy" in his campaign to gather information on the contacts various Trump campaign officials were having with Russian officials.  According to Trump, "Spygate" was part of the bureau's political agenda to gather information to try to prevent the election of Donald Trump and help Hillary Clinton.

Of course, the truth is something else entirely.

During the campaign, Donald Trump made extensive use of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton
for her handling of emails and her private server, conduct which could have led to the hacking of classified information.   (An ironic side note:  Trump has refused to take security measures to ensure the cell phone he uses for government business is not subject to hacking.  Hypocrisy?)  Opinion polls show a definite drop in support for Hillary Clinton after the FBI reopened that email investigation just days before the election.  Indeed, outside of the candidates themselves, no person in America is more responsible for Hillary Clinton losing and Trump being elected President than FBI Director James Comey. 

So when voters went to the polls, they knew all about the FBI's investigation involving Hillary Clinton. What was not made public by the FBI was that the agency was also conducting a counter intelligence investigation involving Russian interference into the election that had ensnared Trump campaign officials.

To recap, the Trump "Spygate" claim is that the FBI, at the behest of the Obama administration, embeded a "spy" in the Trump campaign to gather information to launch an investigation into Trump campaign involvement with Russian officials.  This, according to the theory, was done for political purposes, namely. to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump.  It does not.   But if Comey and the FBI were conducting this investigation to politically harm the Trump campaign, why was the fact of that investigation kept a secret until after the election?  

One thing though you quickly learn about Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking enablers is that facts simply do not matter when pursuing an agenda.   Indeed when asked about a sit-down Trump interview with Muller, Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said that might not be a good idea because truth is "relative" concept and that Trump's "truth" about what happened might not match up with Muller's.

Of course, the FBI did not embed a "spy" in the Trump campaign  Instead the FBI used a confidential informant to follow up on information it had learned regarding Russian officials contacting members of the Trump campaign team.  Confidential informants are used all the time during investigations and are an essential part of the activities of law enforcement.

Months before the election, both campaigns were specifically warned that the Russian government might try to interfere in the 2016 elections and to let the bureau know if they were contacted as part of this effort.  The Trump campaign then went on to have numerous contacts with Russian officials, including the notorious Trump Tower meeting hosted by the President's son, and said absolutely nothing to the FBI.   The Trump campaign was more than willing to accept help from Russia and other foreign countries to win the election.  Despite the claims of TV lawyer Giuliani, it is most certainly against the law for a candidate in a federal election to accept assistance from a foreign government or even a foreign national not associated with a government.

It looks more and more like Trump campaign officials, if not Trump himself, were involved in substantial criminal activity in an effort to win 2016 campaign.  Trump's "Spygate" nonsense is nothing more than a continued effort on his part to obstruct justice and undermine the legal institutions that would be handing down that justice.  Patriotic Americans who care about the rule of law and its democratic institutions cannot let that happen.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fake Endorsements By the Marion County (Indianapolis) Republican Party

A Republican mailing recently set off one of my pet peeves.  On an oversized post card, Brian Durham, a candidate for Marion County Sheriff. claimed that he had been "endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party."

No, Brian, you were not endorsed by the Marion County Republican Party  You were endorsed by the
Marion County Republican Organization.  Even that claim is doubtful.  About 90% of the people voting at political party slating (endorsement) are not elected representatives of the party, but rather appointees of the county chairman.   And what's more, the people who vote for county chairman are almost all appointees of the county chairman.  

The notion that party endorsement process in Marion County represents the will of Republicans who live in Marion County.  

For the record, Brian, the Marion County Republican Party consists of those voters who show up at today's primary and select a GOP ballot. 

Indiana Senate Race Leaves True Conservatives with No GOP Option

Congressman Todd Rokita
Silly me.  As a Republican, I want to vote for candidates who believe in limited government, lower deficits, and is against wasteful spending measures.  I want to vote for people who will respect the rule of law and who run for office believing their job is not to act as a rubber stamp of other GOP officeholders, but to act with independence and integrity.   This morning, when I go in to vote in my Republican Primary, I want to vote for real Republicans, not Democrats who switch to the GOP to pursue a political opportunity.

Needless to say, I'm left with no choices in the Indiana Republican Senate Primary.

Todd Rokita.  Earlier in his political career, I liked Todd.  Although he was a conservative, he had a reform edge.  I had no problem with him using the bully pulpit of the Secretary of State's Office to push for gerrymandering reform.  But Rokita has proven this election cycle more than willing to give up his political soul and integrity to try to win an election.   He should get an award for working his way the furthest up President Trump's butt in an soul-less attempt to win the election.  It is not like he did not have stiff competition on that front.  In that endeavor, Rokita did not let hypocrisy get in his way.  He chided businessman Mike Braun for being a Democrat until 2012, while enthusiastically supporting another Democrat until 2012, President Donald Trump.

(Former) State Representative Mike Braun
Mike Braun:  I certainly don't have a problem with people making legitimate transitions from the Democrat to the Republican Party.  Indeed one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan, had a well-documented, more than a decade long transition from being a Democrat to a conservative Republican.  But Braun's excuse for his Democratic-party voting history is nonsensical.  He says he voted Democrat
because that gave the most opportunity to influence local races in then Democratic-leaning Dubois County, is nonsense.  (Please don't for a second I assume that would be a legitimate excuse even if true.  Bottom line, if you are a dedicated Republican or Democrat, you pull that party's ballot in the primary. Period.)  There were plenty of competitive general election races on the ballot before 2012 and Jasper residence Braun always chose a Democratic ballot.   Braun had zero history of Republican activity until one day when he woke up and decided to run, successfully, for state representative.  And, Mike, knock it off about you not being a politician.   You served four years in our state legislature as a pretend Republican.

Congressman Luke Messer
Luke Messer:  Messer came across as the most thoughtful and reasonable of the candidates.  Note the past tense - that was before the election.  During the campaign, Messer has decided to jump in the fray, shredding any pretense of independence by fully embracing Trumpism.  Messer, who actually backed Florida Senator Mario Rubio for President, actually had the temerity to criticize Rokita for during the 2016 campaign for describing Trump as "vulgar, if not profane."  To which Rokita responded saying that was before he got to know Trump.  How intellectually dishonest of both of them.  Even Trump supporters admit the President is "vulgar, if not profane" and to get to know Trump simply confirms that fact.  As to Messer, he like Rokita, has little real life experience, working as a lobbyist before being elected to the state legislature.  And, I know you're not supposed to condemn someone for the activities of their spouse, but I can't get past the $240,000 attorney contract Messer's wife, Jennifer has with Fishers, a 26.5 hour a week job she supposedly does remotely while living in suburban Washington, D.C.  As an attorney who have watched many of my attorney friends struggle to make ends meet while working 60 hours a week, I find the claim that Jennifer Messer's part-time work is worth $240,000 is absurd.   Fishers could easily get a local and equally qualified local attorney to work part-time for a fraction of $240,000.  Jennifer Messer has her contract because of who she is married to, and anyone who says otherwise is not being honest.

Rokita, Braun and Messer have all indicated in their commercials that they support this administration's massive increase in debt and plans to waste more taxpayer money on such ridiculous expenditures such as "The Wall."  Neither Rokita, Braun or Messer have earned my vote in this morning's primary.  I can't see myself voting for any of the three in the Fall either.

Predictions?  I think Braun has a solid, albeit less than 50% win, with Rokita second and Messer a distant third.  I do not think any of the three beat Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in the fall, however.  None of the GOP candidates ran with any plan of how to get back to sanity after the primary.  The key for GOP statewide success is doing well in the Indianapolis suburbs.  In the era of Trumpism, that's not good electoral footing for Republican candidates.  Trump's numbers in Hamilton County, the most populous Indianapolis-area county by far, were bad and they are unlikely any better now a year and a half later.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani Opens Mouth, Sticks Foot in During Interview With Fox's Hannity

Donald Trump has always insisted that he's his best attorney.  With the dim-witted attorneys he hires, that might actually be true.  Michael Cohen, Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow...have all managed to do incredibly dumb things as Trump's attorney.  Now add to that ignominious list of barristers the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  

In fairness, Giuliani, who in the 1980s was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, might
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
have been off his legal game.  It has been decades since he has been in a courtroom, after all.  Perhaps his legal reasoning skills have grown dull.

During an "interview" with Sean Hannity, Fox News' fiercest Trump sycophant, Giuliani appeared to veer off script, breaking the news that Donald Trump knew all about the $130,000 payment by his "attorney" Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels, and that Trump, in fact, reimbursed Cohen for the payment.  (Trump had previously denied having sex with Stormy or knowing anything about the payoff.)   A giddy Giuliani, excited to break the news to the Fox audience, then declared to Hannity since campaign funds were not used for the payment, there was no campaign finance violation!

You could tell during the interview that even Hannity knew Giuliani had screwed up.  The Fox News host attempted to throw Giuliani a life line in the form of softball follow-up questions.  Giuliani, nonetheless, managed to swing and miss.  

Contrary to Giuliani's suggestion, nobody had ever suggested campaign funds were used for the Stormy Daniels' payment.  Ironically if campaign funds were used for such a purpose, assuming that was  properly reported, it would have likely been legal.  The problem is not that campaign funds were used for the Stormy payment, it is that campaign funds were not used.  

One would think Giuliani, who ran successfully for two terms as Mayor and ran, briefly, for President would know what an in kind political contribution is.  It was legal for Cohen to make the in-kind contribution as it far exceeded personal contribution limits in federal campaigns.   While it is legal for Trump to make a $130,000 contribution to his own campaign, that contribution still has to be reported.  And the fact Cohen fronted the money to be reimbursed later by Trump, also meant it was a loan that had to be reported.

During the Hannity interview, Giuliani brushed off any concerns about broken laws by saying they were just "FEC violations."  Yes, FEC violations which also happen to be crimes. 

Of course, one could argue that the Stormy Daniels' hush payment had nothing to do with the election.  The problem is that the Trump-Stormy hookup took place in 2006 and it wasn't until 2016, days before the election and just before the porn actress was set to go public with the story, that the hush payment was made.  As far as whether it was a campaign contribution, it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.  

But the election violations may turn out to be the least of Cohen and Trump's legal problems, assuming, of course, Giuliani's assertion of what happened is accurate.  To move $130,000 through our post-9/11 banking system there have to be a number of representations made to banking officials regarding the source and purpose of such a large expenditure. Undoubtedly false representations would have been made along the way.  When the news broke of the payoff, Cohen said he took out a second mortgage to pay off Stormy Daniels.  In doing so, he likely would have had to make a representation to the bank regarding what the money will be used for, and if he lied on those bank forms that is likely a felony.  

But maybe Cohen didn't take out that second mortgage after all.  (It should be recorded and publicly available at the courthouse...not sure why no reporter has bothered to check.)  After all Cohen and his, undoubtedly now "former," client have a tendency to lie, a lot.

A new attorney, Emmett T. Flood, Clinton's impeachment attorney, has been added to the Trump legal team.  While he should raise the average IQ in the room when the Trump legal team gets together, it seems associating with the President causes people, both lawyers and non-lawyers, to do stupid things.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

New Polling Increase Democrats' Optimism of Winning the U.S. Senate

Make no mistake about it, for the Democrats to win control of the Senate, which now stands at 51-49 in favor of the Republicans, is as likely as drawing to an inside straight.  Possible, but highly unlikely.  There are 35 Senate seats up for grabs, 33 regular Senate elections and two special elections.  Democrats are defending 24 of those 35 seats.  If those numbers were not problematic enough, it is where those seats are that is the biggest concern for Democrats.  Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana, all states Donald Trump handily won, have Democratic Senators running for re-election.  Recent polling though suggests Democrats' odds of winning the Senate are increasing, albeit still long.

Senator Joe Donnelly (R-IN)
Yesterday, Gravis released a poll showing Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly trouncing the potential Republican nominees by double figures, i.e. Congressman Todd Rokita by 18 points, and Congressman Luke Messer by 10.  It does not appear that Gravis bothered to poll a general matchup with the third candidate in the GOP race, State Representative and businessman Mike Braun, which was a mistake as Braun polled as being in the lead for the GOP nomination with 26%.  Rokita was second at 16% and Messer trailed the filed at 13% in the primary matchup.

I believe, in the end, the nominee will be Braun or Rokita, but I believe Donnelly will win the general election by a small, but comfortable margin.  Braun and Rokita, and to a lesser degree Messer, are competing to appear the Trumpiest, but I think that designation will be an albatross around the winner's neckl in the general election.  Trump is not popular in the Indianapolis suburbs, particularly in Hamilton County, and those suburbs, which allow the Democratic strongholds of Marion and Lake County to be more than offset, are critical to the fortune of GOP statewide candidates.

Then you have West Virginia.  While the Democrats have a strong candidate in Joe Manchin running for re-election, Trump did win the state by over 42 points and remains popular there.  It was bad enough that Manchin was shown leading a potential GOP rival, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey last November by over 20 points, it appears the Republicans may instead nominate Don Blankenship, a mining executive who was convicted of a felony for skirting regulations that could have prevented a mine explosion that killed 29 of Blankenship's workers.

Meanwhile, as to seats the Republicans are defending, it looks like my prediction that the Democrats have a real shot at winning Texas are being reflected in the polls.  A Quinnipiac poll issued yesterday showed incumbent Senator Ted Cruz clinging to only a 3 point, 47-44, lead over Democratic nominee Congressman Beto O'Rourke.   O'Rourke is also badly swamping Cruz in fundraising.

Then you have Tennessee, a state Trump won by 26 points.  In the Volunteer State, Republicans are defending a seat currently held by Bob Corker, a Trump critic, who has decided to not seek re-election. Trump enthusiast Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has stepped into the void, but the Republican trails by 10 points former Democratic Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Democrats also have a better than 50-50 chance of winning Republican seats in Nevada and Arizona, but will struggle to defend against Republican challengers in Missouri and Florida.

Yes, it is still a longshot for Democrats to gain control of the U.S. Senate, but it is now more plausible.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Seeing Blue Wave Coming, Speaker Ryan Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election

Yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan resigned.  No doubt Trumpers, who have long hated the Wisconsin Republican, are celebrating.  They should not.

While I take him at his word that Ryan is resigning for family reasons, no doubt that is only part of the reason for his decision.  The major factor, which should give Trumpers pause, is that Ryan knows perfectly well he would not be in the Speaker's chair next year.  All signs point to the Democrats retaking the House next year in the mid-term elections.  The only question appears to be how many seats the Democrats win.  Forty seats or more appear attainable by the Democrats.  (24 are needed to flip control).  Given the trend of congressional special elections, it would appear that GOP seats never before seen as competitive are within reach of well-funded Democratic opponents.

Ryan was very popular in his district, winning his race 2016 by 35 points, President Trump only won Ryan's district by 10.3.  The Ryan retirement overshadowed another significant congressional retirement.  Republican Dennis Ross announced he was retiring after eight years.  He won his Tampa-area congressional district by 15 points in 2016, but Trump only won the district by 10.  As a side note, Ryan and Ross' 2016 election results were not an anomaly.   The rarely-mentioned fact is that Republican congressional candidates in most districts ran ahead of the President.

Ryan did not want to be part of the powerless minority in the House.  Even more so, he did not want to lead the fight as minority leader against the inevitable and, quite possibly successful, move by Democrats to impeach Trump in 2019.  Ryan's legacy would have been further tarnished by being put in a position in which he had to vigorously defend the President's conduct outlined in the upcoming Mueller report to Congress.  Ryan is only 48 and has plenty of time to re-enter the political scene.

I am deeply disappointed that Ryan turned out not to be the fiscal hawk he professed to be.  Ryan, after all, played a role in adding over 1.5 trillion dollars to our a time of full employment and 3% growth.  It was not all Ryan's fault though.  He needed a Republican President to succeed in his fiscal goals, but the GOP instead chose to nominate a candidate who brags about his nickname, "The King of Debt," the one Republican presidential candidate who refused to consider taking on the problem of entitlements.  Ryan has long known that entitlement reform is the key to fixing the problem with debts.  Trump not only failed to provide Ryan the executive leadership he needed to succeed as Speaker, in one of the few areas in which Trump held a consistent position - entitlements, the President actively undercut Ryan's mission to get control of this country's debt.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Tea Party Abandons Principles, Values to Follow "The King of Debt"

Tonight, there will be another meeting of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party.  I began going to these monthly meetings a few years ago.  I have always thought the Tea Party had gotten a bad rap in the media.  While there is no comprehensive set of beliefs that people who join local tea parties hold, there is some commonality.  Tea Party people shared (note the use of the past tense) a revulsion to big government, deficits, wasteful spending and corruption in government.  Members of the Indianapolis Northside Tea Party I attended also had a decided (albeit secondary) bent toward criminal justice reform, i.e. an opposition to things like civil forfeiture and the War on Drugs.

I liked that.  My fervent support of those issues (barely) allowed me to sit through cringe-inducing, xenophobic comments from Tea Party members about immigration (both legal and illegal), a lack of tolerance for America’s tradition of religious freedom (how dare Muslims think they have the same right of religious freedom as Christians?), and members’ opposition to free trade agreements and support for protectionist measures like tariffs, protectionist positions that undeniably have proven to greatly hurt the American economy and consumers in particular.  Those secondary political positions were certainly NEVER a part of the conservative agenda I had supported and fought for since I came of political age as a sophomore at Ball State University in 1980.

Returning to the core mission of the Tea Party – an opposition to deficits and wasteful spending – I always greatly appreciated the Tea Party members’ dedication to the cause, even while I believed they often had unrealistic views of how to accomplish those objectives given the limits of our democratic institutions.  But, unfortunately my view that Tea Party members were committed, overly principled fighters for core conservative fiscal positions and good government has proven to be dead wrong.

In 2015, New Yorker Donald J. Trump, a lifelong, liberal Democrat entered the political scene as a newly-minted Republican.  Trump had led his businesses into six bankruptcies and had credit so bad American banks would not lend him money.   But, it was not just banks.  Trump was well well-known as a deadbeat who would not pay his bills, trying at every turn to stiff employees and the small Mom and Pop businesses with whom he contracted.   (So much for the Trumpian claim he is for the little guy.)  Trump embraced the reputation he earned, calling himself "The King of Debt.”

One would think someone sporting the moniker “The King of Debt” would be the last candidate a fiscally-conservative group like the Tea Party would be embrace.  But embrace him they did.  Perhaps Tea Party members simply did not know Trump’s checkered history as a businessman or simply hoped  he would exhibit better fiscal habits as a politician.

But in 15 months, Donald J. Trump as President has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will govern the same way he conducted himself as a businessman, spending taxpayer money recklessly and running up huge, unprecedented deficits.  (This includes a tax cut funded by deficit spending and the President signing a $1.3 trillion budget that increased spending on virtually every budgetary item.   Deficit spending to stimulate the economy while in a recession is arguable strategy, doing so when the economy is at full employment and growing at a 3% rate is insane.

On a personal level, the Trump cabinet and top officials are no more restrained fiscally.  Several have been exposed grossly wasting taxpayer money on lavish and unnecessary expenditures.  Of course, no one is more guilty of that than President Trump, who virtually every weekend has the American taxpayer fly him to Florida and then he sticks those same taxpayers with the bill for the Secret Service to rent carts to follow him around the golf course.  Then, you have the issue of the President, who has refused to put his assets in a blind trust, continually (ab)using his position to enrich himself, including via the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which caters to foreign dignitaries who are more than willing to combine their need for accommodations with a desire to curry favor with the President by stuffing money in his pocket.

Corruption within the Trump administration is easily the worst of any President in my lifetime.  And we have 32 months to go.  So much for the nonsense about Trump “draining the swamp.”

Given the principles on which it was founded, one would think Tea Party members would rebel against a President who has proven to be the biggest deficit spender of any President in history.  One would think they would object strongly to the personal waste of tax dollars by the President and top officials in his administration, new revelations of which are exposed every day.  Nope.  Tea Partiers continue to drink the Trump Kool-Aid, enthusiastically supporting the President despite his running an administration that is completely counter to Tea Party fiscal conservativism.

If those issues were not bad enough, we have a President who has made a mockery of other conservative values.  A key element of the success of the conservative movement has been social issues, primarily “family values.”    It is hard to hold true to those views, critical to evangelicals, when your chief proponent of the concept is a man who is a serial adulterer who brags about sexually assaulting women.   Of course, on this point, the evangelicals have proven to be the Tea Party equivalent when it comes to abandoning principles for political power.

Tea Party members like to call themselves “patriots.”  Yet they, in the next breath, express support for Trump’s attacks on American values like the rule of law, freedom of speech and his support for thuggish dictators over democratically-elected leaders.  The President and the Tea Party members who worship him as some sort of deity have given aid and comfort to the United States No. 1 enemy, Russia, by attacking the legitimacy of an investigation into that country’s meddling into the 2016 election, seeking to blame the American intelligence community and law enforcement instead, despite overwhelming evidence that that that meddling happened.  When I hear the “patriots” reference, I think back to my childhood when Jane Fonda was photographed on a North Vietnamese tank.  Although Vietnam was a huge mistake, Fonda was hardly a “patriot.”  Given their attacks on American values and traditions. neither President Trump or Tea Party members deserve to be call “patriots.”

Imagine for a second if a President named “Obama” or “Hillary Clinton” had done any of the aforementioned things Trump has done since he has taken office. The Tea Party members would be screaming for his/her impeachment.   Perhaps at tonight’s meeting it would be worthwhile to discuss the meaning of “hypocrisy” and how it relates to the Tea Party’s blind and unquestioning support for Present Trump.

Of course, I overgeneralize in this piece.  No doubt that there are several Tea Party members who have refused to abandon their principles to drink the Trump Kool-Aid.  To them I applaud and apologize…profusely. 

Needless to say, I will not be at the Tea Party meeting tonight.   

Thursday, April 5, 2018

State of Indiana Settles Lawsuit Over Treasurer Official's Termination

Earlier this year, the State of Indiana completed the settlement of lawsuit which claimed that former Chief Deputy and General Counsel for the Indiana State Treasurer’s Office Jim Holden had been wrongfully terminated from employment.  On June 2, 2014, Holden had been given a three-year contract by then Treasurer Richard Mourdock to provide legal services for the Indiana Board for Depositories, a body that is overseen by the State Treasurer.  

Jim Holden
Holden had served as manager of Mourdock’s Senate campaign in 2012, which campaign shocked the political world by knocking off incumbent Richard Lugar in the GOP primary only to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly later that Fall.  Almost two years later, Mourdock resigned before the end of his four-year term.  Kelly Mitchell was subsequently elected Treasurer that Fall and took office early, replacing the 
interim Treasurer, on November 18, 2014.

One of Kelly’s first moves as Treasurer was to terminate Holden from his job at the Treasurer’s Office and cancel his three year contract, even though Holden had been called up to active duty and had not yet transferred from his position in the Treasurer’s Office to working for the Board.  Mitchell claimed that the termination was necessary because there was a conflict of interest in the Holden appointment because the Treasurer of the State directed the day-to-day activities of the Indiana Board for Depositories.  

Although Holden was accused of not having received a clearance from the State Ethics Commission or making any of the required ethics disclosure, Holden had, in fact, consulted the Executive Director of the Indiana Ethics Commission and filed a Uniform Conflict of Interest Ethics Disclosure about the employment.  An unemployment insurance state administrative law judge found Holden had “exercised all due diligence to ensure the employment was not a conflict of interest.” 
In her termination decision, Mitchell also accused Holden of committing a felony by violating IC 35-44-1-3, a statute which criminalizes certain conflicts of interest by public officials.  That statute, however, had been repealed.  As part of the settlement, Mitchell issued a statement in which she admitted that the statute her office relied on had been earlier repealed and that Holden had done what was legally required to address any potential conflict of interest.  

Holden filed his lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court in March of 2015.  After spending 2 ½ years mired in pre-trial motions and discovery disputes, the case was preliminarily resolved in the Fall of 2017 via mandatory mediation.  The additional delay, which pushed the matter inti 2018, was a result of the settlement having to be approved by the Governor. 

As part of the resolution of the case, the State agreed to pay Holden $92,500 and to remove him from the “do not rehire” list maintained by the State of Indiana.  Interestingly, in a press release issued in conjunction with the settlement, Holden noted that the “do not rehire” list maintained by the State of Indiana is in violation of state blacklisting laws.

Holden spoke of his experience fighting, successfully, the State on a wrongful termination matter: “Even though I was a 15-year state employee who had served under three State Treasurers, because I worked for Richard Mourdock and supported his Senate candidacy, the Republican establishment and donor-lobbyist class wanted to retaliate against me.  Mitchell was just doing their bidding.”
Holden continued: “Ironically, I had arranged to transfer to the Indiana Board for Depositories so that Kelly Mitchell would be able to appoint her own Chief Deputy Treasurer and not be required to keep the position open for me while I was on active duty as mandated by federal law.  I asked for a contract, because after so many years of working for politicians, I don’t trust politicians to do the right thing.  Kelly Mitchell proved my instincts right.”

Holden’s first quote above relates to his work helping his boss Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeat long-time Indiana Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary.   While many Establishment Republicans still sing Lugar’s praises, the fact is Richard Lugar years earlier had left Indiana far behind, both physically and mentally.  Republicans in the Hoosier political trenches had complained that Lugar would not support GOP candidates with endorsements or fundraising and would not even bother to return to Indiana for Republican Lincoln Day Dinners in the Hoosier.  Lugar even went so far as sending threating letters to Indiana GOP candidates warning that they are not allowed to use pictures of the candidate with Lugar in their campaign ads.

On the rare occasions when Lugar did venture back to Indiana, he would have to stay in hotel rooms because he had no residence in the state.  When I investigated the matter, I found Lugar for decades had been using the address of a home he had sold some 30 years earlier as his declared “residence” to cast votes in Indiana.  The legality of that practice is questionable at best.  This is especially so when, near the same time frame, prosecutors were aggressively pursuing former Secretary of State Charlie White for a violation of the voting fraud statute based on what he declared his residence to be for one election.

I have known Jim Holden from my earliest involvement in Marion County politics in the late 1980s.  Jim is a true believer, someone who not only supports the traditional conservative ideology communicated so eloquently by Ronald Reagan, but someone willing to fight for those beliefs even if it means stepping on some GOP establishment toes.  It is good to see Jim succeed in his lawsuit and to set the record straight regarding his termination.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Indianapolis Star's "Mother" Shot at Mike Pence Misses the Mark

The Indianapolis Star never misses an opportunity to take a shot at Vice President Mike Pence.  Today's attempt though fell missed the mark by a mile.

Star Editors dispatched writer Justin L. Mack to determine whether it was true that Pence calls his wife, Karen, "Mother."   Several people were interviewed during this Star "fact check" session, some of which confirmed the nickname, while others denied it.

Of course, underlying the story is Star's assumption that a husband does not call his wife "Mother," that this is simply not done and that Pence is weird for doing so.   Star's readers, including myself, quickly let Mack and his editor bosses know in the comments section that the Star's assumption underlying the story is flat out wrong.

Growing up I quite often heard men refer to their wives, the mother of their children, as "Mother."  The term uttered by a husband about his wife, is considered  a term of respect and endearment.  Granted most of the men who used that term have died off and the nickname has become outdated over time.  But since when has Pence ever been a person on the cutting edge of trends?  He, after all, still uses an AOL email account.

I am a bit shocked that the Star editors, who are presumably older than Mack, did not know that it is very common for an older man to call his wife "Mother."   Or perhaps the Star editors knew and simply did not care.  Taking a shot at the former Governor now Vice President is so much easier than to concern oneself with facts.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Passing of a Personal Hero, Shirley Justice

So sorry I missed the story last week.  WTHR issued this story last week:

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - A mother and ex-wife shot multiple times outside her child's daycare four years ago has passed away. 
Despite multiple surgeries, doctors had to leave several of the bullets inside her body. Shirley Justice suffered massive internal injuries to several major organs. 
Shirley Justice talked exclusively with Andrea Morehead during her uphill battle to recover after being shot 14 times. 
It would mean several surgeries and a lot of determination.
On February 18, 2014, Justice dropped off her daughter at Kinder Kare Daycare on West 38th Street in Eagle Creek. That's when her estranged husband Christopher Justice surprised her with a gun outside. Shirley was shot more than a dozen times and clung to life. 
Christopher Justice is serving a 24-year sentence for attempted murder after being convicted last year. His trial had several delays because Shirley needed more time to recover so she could testify about the shooting. 
"She would sometimes call me and say another bullet fell out," said Det. [Marcus] Kennedy. "She was a super strong lady, it broke my heart, too, to hear she passed away." 
Kennedy is one of IMPD's veteran homicide detectives assigned to the case. He had to write the final probable cause against Justice with help from Shirley about the gunfire. Kennedy eventually got to talk to her at her hospital bedside and during her years of rehab. 
Eyewitness News has learned despite Shirley Justice not surviving the massive injuries, prosecutors have decided Indiana's jeopardy law doesn't allow them to upgrade his charges to murder.
I never got to personally meet Shirley Justice. But I knew of her courage.  I spoke by phone to Shirley about problems she had when she tried to "lazy judge" a Marion County Superior Court judge who had failed to make a timely ruling in a custody dispute.  The judge had apparently issued a ruling after the lazy judge filing (which judges are not allowed to do), finding against Shirley and for Christopher. (I researched the court file and confirmed what Shirley was claiming.) After the shooting, the case was taken away from the judge by the Indiana Supreme Court. 

Shirley had wanted to get her story out and knew I was not only an attorney but a blogger.  It was shortly after our conversation that she was shot fourteen times by her husband, Christopher Justice outside the day care center.  I went ahead and wrote the story only to find shortly thereafter a grievance filed against me by the Disciplinary Commission contending that I had violated attorney-client privilege, revealing confidential details against Shirley's wishes.  

I think the Commission simply assumed Shirley was going to die soon and would not be around to contradict the allegation the Commission was essentially making on her behalf.  But Shirley did not die.  As she clung to her life, she talked to a Disciplinary Commission investigator (which conversation she recorded) and let him know in no uncertain terms that I did not violate her confidentiality and she had wanted me to write about her case on my blog.  She said she wanted the grievance against me dropped.  The Commission did exactly that, no doubt reluctantly since the Commission had been on a warpath against me following critical blog articles I had written about the Commission and its Executive Secretary G. Michael Witte.

In the years that followed, I lost touch with Shirley.  I did not know that she continued to suffer physical problems from the shooting that would eventually take her life.  I so regret not knowing that and not learning of her passing until this week.  I would have welcomed the opportunity to attend her funeral to tell her family what a wonderful and courageous woman she was.  Shirley Justice is nothing less than a hero to me, someone who did the right thing even when it was not easy to do so.  This world could use a lot more people like Shirley Justice.

Note:  Shirley's family has established a Go Fund Me page to help defray the considerable expenses associated with her passing.  Please consider contributing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pennsylvania Special Election Provides Yet More Evidence Mid-Terms Will Feature Democratic Tidal Wave

Yesterday, Democrat Conor Lamb defeated his Republican opponent Rick Saccone in a Pennsylvania special election to fill the vacancy left when Republican congressman Tim Murphy resigned.  Candidate Donald Trump had won the district, Pennsylvania Congressional District 18, by 20 points in 2016.  The district is so reliably Republican that the Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate against Murphy in 2014 and 2016.   Conor won the razor thin victory by running as a defiantly moderate Democrat, someone whose views were not at all in line with his party's liberalism, but whose views better match the conservative leaning voters of District 18.  Although President Donald Trump came to the district the weekend before the election to fire up the Republican base, his efforts, as they did in
Conor Lamb
Alabama, failed to inspire the GOP faithful.  They weren't buying what Trump was selling.

I can hear the excuses now.  Lamb ran as a Republican-lite.  Saccone was a horrible candidate.  Yeah, so what?  The fact is District 18 is a heavy, heavy Republican district.  When the numbers are that stacked in the GOP's favor, the Democrats cannot win a district simply by running a candidate who talks like a Republican even if the GOP fields a candidate who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Make no mistake about it...what gave Conor Lamb a shot at victory is the unpopularity of Donald Trump.   Trump's presidency has been an unmitigated failure.  For 14 months, the Trump administration has teetered from one crisis to another, with the President taking pains to alienate every demographic group with the exception of under-educated white men.  While Republicans still back Trump by 80% plus, the fact is independents, those people who voted for Trump because they couldn't stand Hillary, have long ago left and they show no sign of coming back.  Trumpers don't get that.  They think Donald Trump won some sweeping victory on November 8, 2016, when in fact Trump only won a narrow victory in the Electoral College because he faced the most spectacularly unpopular candidate the Democrats could find.

For Trumpers, the approaching blue wave due to hit the shores on November 6th (which even they must by now admit is coming) surely must be someone else's fault.  How about George Soros?  Nancy Pelosi?  Chuck Schumer?  Bob Mueller?  Paul Ryan?  Mitch McConnell?  Lord knows the Kool-Aid drinking Trumpers will never actually hold the President responsible for anything.  The ethos of "personal responsibility" does not apply when the leader of your cult is named Donald J. Trump.

But it should.  Trump and his embarrassingly incompetent and scandal-riddled tenure is destroying the party I have believed in and supported since my 18th birthday.  It will take a generation to rebuild the Republican party post-Trump.  The sooner that process begins the better.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

White House Firing Stuns Washington

No, I'm not talking about the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this morning.  That was not unexpected.

Instead, CNBC reports on the unexpected personnel development:
President Donald Trump's personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired Monday for unspecified security reasons and was removed from the White House, according to a Tuesday report from The Wall Street Journal. 
He has now joined Trump's re-election campaign as a senior advisor. Trump 2016 campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson is also joining the 2020 re-election campaign as a senior advisor. 
"Katrina and John will play pivotal roles on our campaign once again as we develop a winning strategy through 2020 to Keep America Great," said Michael Glassner, the campaign's chief operating officer. "They will also contribute tremendously to our national engagement in the mid-term elections this year. We're delighted to have them back on the team." 
McEntee, who served on Trump's winning presidential campaign beginning in 2015, joined the Trump administration after the election. He was escorted off the White House grounds on Monday over an "unspecified security issue," the Journal reported, citing sources. 
A CNN reporter later tweeted, citing a source familiar with the matter, that McEntee was terminated because the Department of Homeland Security is investigating him for "serious financial crimes" that are not related to Trump.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Race for 2020 GOP Presidential Nomination Heats Up

Thus far, most of the focus on Election 2020 has been on the Democratic side as scores of possible candidates appear on the verge of tossing their respective hats into the ring.  What though has gotten loss coverage is the fact that things are heating up on the Republican side as well.  Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is attending a "Politics and Eggs" event in New Hampshire on March 16th where he will give a speech titled "Country Over Party."

The Washington Times reports on Flake's response to speculation he may run for President:
“I don’t rule anything out, but it’s not in my plans,” Flake told ABC News in December. But the Arizona senator said he believes a Trump re-election bid will “leave a huge swatch of voters looking for something else.” 
Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich, a GOP primary finalist in 2016, appears to be prepping for  a 2020 run.   Politico reports:
John Kasich’s inner circle is gearing up for a possible presidential run in 2020 — actively weighing the prospect of a Republican primary challenge to President Donald Trump against the feasibility of a long-shot general election campaign as an independent.
And there’s one consideration driving their thinking perhaps more than any other: what some of his advisers consider the very real, maybe even likely, possibility that Trump doesn’t run again — by choice or not — or that the president becomes so politically hobbled by late next year that the political landscape fundamentally shifts in Kasich’s favor. That’s one reason Kasich has yet to decide whether to pursue an independent bid or a primary challenge.
Nine Republicans in or close with Kasich’s political operation told POLITICO that the departing Ohio governor has been working with a tight clutch of advisers and informally surveying donors and fellow pols about the shape of his next steps. So far, he has solidified his role as a go-to commentator for national news shows while stacking his schedule with trips including an April return to New Hampshire.
Gov. John Kasich (R-OH)
Donald Trump right now has a cult-like grip over 80% of the shrinking GOP electorate.  Falke and Kasich would not have a chance to win if they ran today.  Undoubtedly Flake and Kasich know that and they are betting that Trump won't be as popular with Republican voters on the first day of 2018 as he will be come the Summer of 2019, when the Presidential race heats up in earnest.  That's not a long-shot gamble.  The Mueller investigation appears to be getting closer and closer to President Trump.  That the independent counsel will end up concluding that Trump or, at least, people very close to him, engaged in a  conspiracy with Russians to win the 2016 election, accepted bribes to influence policy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and other criminal activity appear much more likely than they did even a month ago.  

In the end, I think it only 50-50 Donald Trump even completes his term, much less runs for re-election.  Even if Mueller did not spoil the Trump GOP Kool-Aid party, there appears to be a looming disasterous midterm election for Republicans which would flip control of the U.S. House to the Democrats and make 2019 a year of impeachment and other investigations of the Trump Presidency.  I could definitely see Trump choosing to leave in 2019 rather than deal with that.  Better to go out an electoral winner than face that and the distinct possibility of losing in 2020 when the Democrats undoubtedly field a much stronger candidate in a more favorable political climate.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Democrats Flip Two More Republican State Legislative Seats, This Time in New Hampshire, Connecticut

The Hill reports on Tuesday's elections:
Democratic candidates on Tuesday won two special elections for state legislative seats in the Northeast, another indication for the party that a blue wave is forming ahead of November's midterm elections.

In New Hampshire, Laconia voters elected substance abuse counselor Philip Spagnuolo
(D) over Republican Les Cartier, a former state employee, in a district President Trump carried by a 13-point margin in 2016.
In Connecticut, Democrat Philip Young defeated Republican Bill Cabral to win a Stratford-based district that has been in Republican hands for decades, even though Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried a narrow plurality there in 2016.
The wins Tuesday night extend the Democratic advantage in special elections held since Trump was inaugurated last year. In 2018 alone, Democrats have won Republican-held state legislative seats in Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.

The New Hampshire seat is the fifth Democrats have taken from Republicans since Trump's inauguration. 
Tuesday's elections now makes 39 state legislative seats that have flipped from Republican to Democrat since Trump's election.  While the Republicans did hold a Lexington, Kentucky area state house seat on Tuesday by some 34 points, it is a district that Trump won iby 62 points, thus the election represented a 28 point swing in the Democrats' direction.  That is consistent with the average 27 point swing to the Democrats in state legislative races since Trump's election.

It should be noted that in most congressional, state legislative and state-wide races, Donald Trump ran behind other Republicans on the 2016 ticket.  Indiana was one of the few exceptions as Trump proved to be more popular than most GOP candidates in the Hoosier state.

Monday, February 26, 2018

CPAC Pushes Aside Conservative Intellectualism to Embrace Hate and Hypocrisy

Last week, the American Conservative Union hosted the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.  Started by ACU and the Youn Americans for Freedom in 1973, CPAC was an annual event that was about discussing conservative ideas and promoting those ideas, particularly among young people who regularly dominate the conference attendance.  I use past tense "was" instead of the present tense "is" because the event held this weekend was certainly nothing about conservative ideas.  Rather it was about Trumpism,i.e. the blind and unquestioned worship of Donald Trump, a lifelong liberal only recent turned pretend Republican, the ultimate RINO who barely stumbled into the Presidency in 2016 only because the Democrats managed to nominate the worst candidate the party could find.

Mona Charen
I have never been fond the of the description "tribalism" to define Trumpism, but it is growing on me.  Basically the term, especially when used in this context, refers to Trumpers who see anything done by "The Donald" and his supporters as right because, well, Trump is the leader of their team.  Meanwhile, anything done by those outside the Trump orbit is by definition wrong, because they are on the other team.  It does not matter if both sides are guilty of the EXACT same thing.  It is Right when Trump and his allies do it, and it is Wrong when those who oppose Trump do it.  There is nothing more anti-intellectual than that "logic," a hypocrisy that was on full display at this year's CPAC.

During President Trump's speech to the conference, a chant broke out to "lock her up," a reference to the investigation into Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, exposing to hacking classified information because she chose to use a private server to receive that information.  I, for one, think, especially in light of General Petraeus' prosecution for mishandling classified information, that Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted.  But given the revelations of scores of officials without proper security clearances handling classified information in the Trump White House, is this really an issue that the President and Trumpers in the CPAC audience should want to bring this up?  A true intellectual would note the hypocrisy and steer clear of the issue.  But when it comes to tribalism, intellectual honesty matters not one whit.  What matters is what side you are on.

There are so many things that happened at this year's CPAC that speaks to the intellectual rot of those who are trying, wrongly I might add, to claim the mantel of modern-day conservativism.  I could talk about the attack on former GOP chairman Michael Steele by a CPAC spokesman, who it is said only received his position because he is black.  Or I could talk about the President reading a poem that suggested all immigrants, not just the illegal kind, are prone to criminal behavior because they are, well, immigrants.  Or the shear absurdity of giving House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes the "Defender of Freedom" award,  Nunes has done more to undermine the rule of law and obstruct a legitimate investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election than anyone.

But nothing at CPAC demonstrates the rife anti-intellectualism among its participants how they treated conservative icon and syndicated columnist Mona Charen.  USA Today describes what happened:

In the final hours of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, conservative columnist Mona Charen was escorted out Saturday after remarks she made about conservatives supporting politicians despite sexual misconduct allegations against then.
Charen, who was speaking on an all-women panel titled "#UsToo: Left Out by the Left," rebuked conservatives for excusing the behavior of both President Trump and Alabama Republican Roy Moore.
"I'm disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites on sexual harassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women," she said. "And because he happens to have an 'R' after his name, we look the other way, we don't complain."
She also criticized Republicans who endorsed Moore, who was accused of pursuing and assaulting teenagers while he was in his 30s.
"You cannot claim that you stand for women and put up with that," she said.
Shouts of "not true" came from the audience afterward.
Charen later penned a column in the New York Times about what happened.  If readers can get past the pay wall, its worth reading in its entirety.

I’ve been a conservative my entire life. I fell hard for William F. Buckley as a teenager and my first job was as editorial assistant at Buckley’s National Review, followed by stints writing speeches for first lady Nancy Reagan and then working for the Gipper himself. Looking toward the 1988 race, Vice President George H.W. Bush wasn’t conservative enough for me. I went to work as a speechwriter for Representative Jack Kemp in 1986.
So you’d think that the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, would be a natural fit. It once was. But on Saturday, after speaking to this year’s gathering, I had to be escorted from the premises by several guards who seemed genuinely concerned for my safety.
What happened to me at CPAC is the perfect illustration of the collective experience of a whole swath of conservatives since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. We built and organized this party — but now we’re made to feel like interlopers.
While there were reasonable, mainstream Republican speakers at CPAC, the lineup also featured demagogues like Sheriff David Clarke Jr. While he oversaw the Milwaukee County jail, one pregnant prisoner was repeatedly raped, and several prisoners died in the space of just six months. One was a mentally ill man who was denied water for seven days. No matter. The sheriff was cheered by the CPAC crowd.
My panel was about the #MeToo movement, which was a natural for me since my new book coming out in June, “Sex Matters,” grapples with the movement and other aspects of our fraught sexual ecosystem.
After every woman on the panel had a chance to speak and with 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the moderator threw a slow pitch right over the plate. She asked us about feminist hypocrisy. Ask me that at a cocktail party and I will talk your ear off about how the very people who had lectured us about the utter venality of workplace sexual harassment throughout the 1980s became suddenly quiescent when the malefactor was Bill Clinton.

But this time, and particularly in front of this crowd, it felt far more urgent to point out the hypocrisy of our side. How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump? And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?
I watched my fellow panelists’ eyes widen. And then the booing began.
I’d been dreading it for days, but when it came, I almost welcomed it. There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.
I spoke to a hostile audience for the sake of every person who has watched this spectacle of mendacity in disbelief and misery for the past two years. Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal.

For traditional conservatives, the past two years have felt like a Twilight Zone episode. Politicians, activists and intellectuals have succumbed with numbing regularity, betraying every principle they once claimed to uphold. But there remains a vigorous remnant of dissenters. I hear from them. There were even some at CPAC.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Democrats Appear Certain to Pick Up Several Indiana Legislative Seats in Mid-Term Elections

Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Democrats have been scoring electoral successes throughout the country, including in state legislative districts in which the GOP formerly dominated.  This trend has accelerated as we entered 2018.  Earlier this week, a Kentucky Democrat won a state senate race in a district that Trump won by 49 points.  That marks the 37th state legislative district that has flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the Trump era.  Meanwhile, the Republican state legislative gains can be counted on one hand.

Democrats appear to be doing dramatically better not only in suburban areas, but also in rural GOP

But a good political analyst doesn't focus so much on wins and losses, but margin.  Size does matter in politics, at least in predicting future elections  While it is hard to get the data, a recent report indicates
that, since Trump's election, state legislative seats are, on average, swinging 27 points in favor of Democrats.  That means GOP candidates are doing on average 13.5% worse, while Democrats are doing 13.5% better.

If those trends continue, how could they affect the Indiana General Assembly?  Right now the Republicans dominate both chambers, 70-30 in the House and 40-10 in the Senate. Indiana is about a 57-43 GOP state, so those numbers far exceed what one might expect if the maps were not so gerrymandering.  But even gerrymandering has its limits, particularly when faced with what appears to be a wave election coming in 2018.

In my analysis, I looked at the last election results and adjusted them for varying electoral swings.  In the Indiana House, of course, all 100 seats are up for election.  If there is a 20 point swing (which means Democratic candidate gains 10% while the Republican loses 10%), then the House goes from 70-30 to 60-40.  With a 22 point swing, the Indiana House is 57-43 Republican; a 24 point swing makes it 55-43.  It would take a 30 point swing for the House to become a 50-50 body.

My analysis might understate things as I only looked at those districts in which the incumbent had a major party challenger the last race.  What we've found in the recent anti-Trump/anti-GOP trend is that Democrats are running candidates and winning in districts so heavily Republican that the Democratic Party did not even bother to field a candidate in the last election.  So there could be more districts out there that the Democrats could win...assuming the party can find strong candidates.

But what about the 40-10 Senate?  Twenty-five seats are up in 2018, and by my count 22 of those are held by Republicans.  Again, looking at the GOP incumbents who faced challengers last time, there are a lot of opportunities for Democratic gains.  Scores of Senate Republicans up in 2018 are in relatively tight districts.  With just over a 21 point swing, Democrats win 7 seats.  In a 28 swing environment,  Democrats win 10 seats held by Republicans.

While there are numerous Republican seats up this time that Democrats could win, to get to even the Democrats would have to run candidates and win several previously uncontested state senate districts.  Given the numbers and that only half the Senate is up every two years, it would be virtually impossible for the Democrats to win Senate control in one election.

During President Obama's eight years in office, Republicans won control of 1,000 state legislative seats formerly held by Democrats.  That trend appears to be dramatically reversing.  Trump may easily eclipse Obama's dubious record, assuming Trump could actually get re-elected in 2020.

On Election Night 2016, I said that a President Donald Trump will prove to be the greatest thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party.  With virtually every election since, my prediction is getting closer to becoming reality.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Indianapolis Terminates Ballard-Era Electric/Hybrid Car Contract; Will Blue Indy Be Next?

A few years ago, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard entered into a contract to rent scores of electric and alternative fuel cars for city workers  It was sold to the public as a cost savings for taxpayers. That was net even remotely true as my analysis at the time as well as other analyses showed.  The cars also proved to be insufficient for the needs of municipal workers. Thankfully, the administration of Mayor Hogsett is now ending that contract.  The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

The city of Indianapolis is ending a contract for an electric municipal vehicle fleet—a program that at first was hailed by some as a breakthrough for the green economy and then ran into political trouble. 
The administration of Mayor Joe Hogsett has signed an agreement to wind down the deal with California-based Vision Fleet, Fox59 reported Thursday. The 2014 deal was signed by Hogsett's predecessor, Mayor Greg Ballard, who envisioned a 425-vehicle municipal fleet running on electricity or a hybrid-gasoline option. 

Under the deal originally inked in February 2014, the city agreed to pay $32 million over seven years to lease 425 electric-powered cars to replace some of the city's gas-powered vehicles. The cars, including such models as the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, would be used for a variety of city services, but not for police-pursuit purposes. 
Now, the city will return 200 cars this year, keep 12 vehicles and pay $500,000 for 43 charging stations that were built on city-owned property, Fox59 reported. It was not immediately clear on Friday how many of the 425 cars that the city hoped to lease actually were in use by the city.  
The agreement to end the contract that the city signed this week with Indy-Vision Funding I LLC indicates that the cars don't meet Indianapolis' needs.
One can hope that this is a prelude to the City of Indianapolis also ending the Blue Indy electric car contract that is even more a debacle than the Indy-Vision Funding contract.  The Blue Indy cars take up valuable parking spaces, that inconvenience the public and cause local businesses to lose customers.  The late great Gary Welsh wrote a great deal about that Ballard fiasco.  Links to those articles can be found here.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Nunes Memo Attacking the "Deep State Conspiracy" at the FBI Proves to be a Nothing Burger

Hyped for more than a week as the smoking gun which would reveal a "deep state" liberal FBI conspiracy against Donald Trump, the Nunes memo has spectacularly failed to live up to its promotion.    One wonders whether the author, Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca), who admits to not reading the intelligence supposedly undergirding the memo written by his staff,  even bothered to read the 3 1/2 page memo which bears his name.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Released Friday afternoon, I had a chance to begin reading the document shortly after it was published. About 5 minutes later I concluded that perusal  My reaction was utter astonishment.  Not at what information the memo contained, but astonishment that anyone who read the memo could have thought it exposed some scandal at the FBI or in any way undercuts the Russia probe.  Even assuming all the facts contained therein are true, it doesn't advance the "deep state" conspiracy theory one inch.

The memo focuses on FBI wiretaps obtained through several FISA judges of Carter Page, who was identified at one time as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser.  The argument is that the "unverified and salacious" Christopher Steele dossier, was used to obtain the Page wiretaps in order to conduct surveillance the Trump campaign.  A major part of the memo is the suggestion that the FBI failed to disclose that the dossier was funded by Trump's political opponents when it sought the Page wiretap.  It should be noted that today, three days after the memo's release, Nunes admits that claim is false and that the FBI did disclose to the FISA court the political support behind the dossier.

There are numerous problems with these conclusions reached in the memo. First, Page was not working on the Trump campaign when the surveillance of him was sought.  He had left the campaign a month earlier. Second, the references to Page make up only a small portion of the lengthy dossier.  There is no indication that the facts alleged against Page in the dossier were not verified before the document was presented to the FISA court.  (Indeed, many of the claims in the dossier have long again been verified independently.) Third, contrary to the memo's claim, the FISA court was told that the dossier was funded by Trump opponents was made known to the FISA court, a fact that Nunes today (three days after the memo was released), sheepishly admits.   Fourth, there was plenty of other evidence to support surveillance of Carter Page, who since 2013 had been suspected of working as an agent of the Russian government.

Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted this weekend that the memo "vindicates" him against the accusation that his campaign worked with the Russians to win the 2016 election.  Utter absurdity.  Carter Page is only a bit player in the Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Even if all the conclusory, unsupported allegations in the Nunes memo are taken as true, it does not come close to clearing the Trump campaign of what has come to mistakenly be called "collusion."  Not even close.  That the President would make such a claim reveals that instead of spending five minutes to actually read the memo, he preferred to be briefed on its contents by Sean Hannity.  Or, President Trump is simply lying...which he does a lot of.

But what about the fact that people like Christopher Steele were outed in the memo as not wanting Donald Trump to be elected?  Again, a big nothing burger  Steele was a long-time respected British intelligence officer.  His investigation had led him to conclude that Trump had troubling ties with Russian officials, had been compromised and was subject to blackmail.  So, Steele and other intelligence officers who saw the same troubling Trump-Russian connections are not supposed to have opinions?  Any anti-Trump bias was undoubtedly because of what they saw in their intelligence The notion that Steele and the professional intelligence officials at the FBI started with an anti-Trump bias which caused them to shed their professionalism to "get" the President is based on zero facts.

As far as the notion that there is a deep state FBI bias which was working against Trump's election is contrary to the facts we know to be true. There were FBI investigations of both the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's campaigns before the election.  But the FBI only disclosed one of those investigations, the one involving Hillary Clinton.  The Comey letter reopening the Clinton investigation came only 10 days before the election and caused her to sink in the polls.  Given that the election turned on just 78,000 votes in three states, it is not a stretch to guess that the actions of FBI Director James Comey, fired by President Trump, are the reason Trump won the historically close, 2016 election instead of Hillary Clinton.   Oh, and who was the FBI agent urging Comey to re-open the Hillary Clinton investigation based on the newly discovered trove of emails found on Clinton confident Huma Abedin's computer, the same agent who drafted the Comey letter?  None other than Peter Strzok, the same agent caught sending to his lover text messages critical of Donald Trump.  I know it is something not understood in Trump's world, but there are actually professionals out there who do their job, not based on politics, but on what is right or wrong.

Not only does the Nunes memo not support the "deep state" conspiracy narrative, a piece of it completely destroys the conspiracy theory pushed by certain House Republicans that the Trump investigation was launched based on the "unverified" Steele dossier.  The memo, in fact, confirms the New York Times story that the investigation into the Trump campaign was started by the FBI following a tip by an Australian diplomat who had been informed, in a bar by Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous during the Summer of 2016 that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.  

So two foreign nationals, the Australian diplomat and British intelligence officer Steele, reported to the FBI concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 election, while everyone on the Trump campaign team remained silent about the Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.  This includes Donald, Jr. who, after his infamous "adoption" Trump Tower meeting with Russian officials, was briefed by the FBI that the Russians officials might try to contact his campaign as part of an effort to interfere in the 2016 election.  Donald, Jr. said nothing.

Rep. Devin Nunes has gone well beyond just carrying water for Donald Trump in an obvious effort by the President to undermine and even obstruct the Russian investigation.  Nunes, who now indicates he is targeting other departments with more memos to follow, is fulfilling the goals of Vladimar Putin in undermining American democracy.  Nunes certainly has no business being chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.  Speaker Paul Ryan should remove from that role immediately.