Saturday, October 29, 2016

Electoral College Could Save Americans From Terrible Choices for President

Much of the discussion of the Electoral College this election cycle has to do with what happens if a candidate for President falls short of 270 electoral votes.  Should that happen, our constitution provides that the U.S. House of Representatives will elect the President with each state delegation casting one vote.  The top three finishers are eligible for consideration.  Meanwhile the U.S. Senate (assuming the VP candidates also fall short of 270) pick the winner among the top two candidates.

So the only candidates who could be elected President at this point are Trump, Clinton or a third party/independent candidate assuming that person received some electoral votes?    If you answer
Alexander Hamilton
"yes," you'd be wrong.

When we cast a ballot, we're not actually voting directly for President.  We are voting for a slate of electors who has pledged to vote for a particular candidate. The number of electors people in each state elect is equal to the number of (federal) representatives and senators that state has.  In most states, the candidate who wins the popular vote statewide, gets their entire slate elected, i.e. they are electors for that state.  In December, the elected electors gather in the capitol in all 50 states and cast their vote for President.

I get a kick out of those people (mostly conservatives) who argue that the Electoral College is operating today exactly as the Founding Fathers intended.  That could not be further from the truth. The Electoral College was expressly designed to be a deliberative body made up smart men (no women electors back then) who could better judge than the average person the qualities that a President needs. In Federalist Paper #68, Alexander Hamilton explained the reason for including the Electoral College in the Constitution:
It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture. 
 It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. 
 It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. 
Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention....
As a side note, that last paragraph in which Hamilton argues that the Electoral College will protect against a foreign powers getting involved in an American election to get one of their supporters elected President seems eerily applicable this year.

The Electoral College, has never in fact operated as the deliberative body that Hamilton and other Founding Fathers intended. It quickly became a rubber stamp of each state's popular vote.  In fact, 26 states have adopted laws that purport to prohibit electors from making picking someone other than that state's winner of the popular vote.  (This is the so-called "faithless elector.")   I say "purport" because I highly doubt that such laws would survive a constitutional challenge. They appear to be an attempt by states to alter a constitutional provision and would likely suffer the same fate - a declaration of unconstitutionality - as state laws that attempt to impose term limits on their members of Congress.

If there was ever a need for a deliberative Electoral College, and a choice of someone other than the two major parties' nominee, it is this year. The Republican nominee has proven time and time again that he is imminently unqualified and lacking the temperament to be President. Meanwhile the always ethically-challenged Democrat nominee is the subject of a criminal probe and may be under indictment in a few months.  The Republicans and Democrats had so many better candidates. But the public chose poorly in the primary stage and as a result these are the voters' only two choices realistically having a chance of winning.   But while we voters are stuck with Trump or Clinton, are those the only choices the electors have?  The Founding Fathers would resoundingly say "no."

Hamilton in Federalist Paper #68 offers a closing pitch for a deliberative Electoral College, words that seem to make a strong case for electors rescuing the nation from the awful inevitability that Trump or Clinton will be President on January 20, 2017:
The process of election (that Electors and not the people choose) affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.... .  

Friday, October 28, 2016

FBI Reopens Hillary Clinton Email Investigation Just Eleven Days Before Election

I don't think today's bombshell news will change the winner of the election (though possibly decrease the margin of Hillary Clinton's victory), but it increases the odds that we could have an indicted President-elect before Inauguration Day.   CNN reports:
After recommending earlier this year that the Department of Justice not press charges against the former secretary of state, Comey said in a letter to eight congressional committee chairmen that investigators are examining newly discovered emails that "appear to be pertinent" to the email probe.  
"In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear pertinent to the investigation," Comey wrote the chairmen. "I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation." 
Comey said he was not sure how long the additional review would take and said the FBI "cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant." 
The Department of Justice, which followed Comey's recommendation not to charge Clinton, declined to comment Friday. Law enforcement sources say the newly discovered emails are not related to WikiLeaks or the Clinton Foundation. 
According to a FoxNews report the new emails came to surface during an investigation relating to former Congressman Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal.  Weiner's estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top aide to Hillary Clinton.

Trump: Worst Presidential Candidate or Worst Campaign Ever?

Fareed Zakaria of the Washington Post pens a column examines the Donald Trump campaign and concludes that is the worst presidential campaign in modern political history.  This is the concluding paragraph:
One important test for the White House is the ability to run a modern presidential campaign, a 50-state start-up that requires hundreds of millions of dollars, a clear strategy, great talent and consistent, high-quality execution — all while being scrutinized daily by hundreds of reporters. By now it is indisputable that Trump has run the most poorly resourced, undisciplined, chaotic campaign in modern political history. He has embodied the quality that he regards as the worst failing for a leader: all talk and no action.
Remember when Trump was talking about how he was much more competent than the other GOP
candidates? That he would hire the "best people" who would propel his campaign to an "easy" victory in the general election?   Unlike "loser" Mitt Romney who dropped the 2012 election, Trump proclaimed he would "win" in 2016 because, well, he is a "winner."

Eleven days out, Trump is not only is polling behind in virtually every state Romney lost in 2012, he has also put formerly red states such as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Utah into play.   He will sink in the worst electoral defeat for Republicans maybe since 1996.  He quite likely will be a major factor in handing the Democrats control of the U.S. Senate as well.

Trump losing the election is quite an accomplishment.  He is running in a year when the country is clamoring for a change.  The tone deaf Democrats instead nominated the ultimate status quo candidate, a nominee who is the second most unpopular presidential candidate in American history.  (Trump, of course, is No. 1 in that category)   Issues relating to Clinton's use of a private email server and the family foundation have exposed, again, the Clintons' secretive and corrupt nature.

The Trumpkins (I have settled on this term to describe those who blindly and unquestionably worship all things Donald J. Trump) keep shouting about how dishonest Hillary Clinton is and how she believes she is above the law.  Yet they vigorously backed Trump, a man who is every bit as dishonest as Hillary and who also believes he is above the law that mere mortals have to follow.

But even if Trump were a paragon of virtue, which he clearly is not, Republicans can't win an election, even against a "crook,"  with nothing and Donald Trump is much less than nothing. Even overlooking as possibly disqualifying his obvious sexism and allegedly sexual predatory behavior (is he really any different on that score than Bill Clinton?), the man has zero interest in and understanding of public policy.  Combine that with the maturity and temperament of a petulant six year old child, and you have a man who is completely unfit for the Office of the Presidency.  Don't think Americans haven't noticed. They have.  

Trump is at his heart a con man.  By putting his name on buildings, he convinced many Americans that he is a "great businessman."  Six bankruptcies, numerous failed businesses, and a lack of cash assets at 70 years old speak otherwise.  Trump jumped into the GOP nomination contest, pretending to be a conservative, to run another con, this time on Republican voters.  People inside the campaign during its early days say Trump never expected to actually win the nomination.  Rather he ran to regain the spotlight as his TV show, the Apprentice, (one of his few ventures that was making money) was fading in popularity.  Trump never expected to win and, thus, be thrust into the position of having to run a modern American presidential political campaign.  Handed the challenge, Trump has failed...miserably.

Come November 9th, will Donald Trump be known as the worst presidential candidate of all time or someone who ran the worst presidential campaign of all time?  My guess is both.  Nonetheless, it is clear that Donald Trump will have one label he can't escape from:  Loser.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Evan Bayh Failed to Stay at His Indiana "Home" During Last Year in Office

The Associated Press reports:

Evan Bayh says that his Indianapolis condominium has long been his home, and that he has spent “lots and lots” of time there since deciding to run for his old Senate seat. But a copy of his schedule shows Bayh did not stay overnight there once during his last year in office in 2010.
The schedule provided to The Associated Press shows the Democrat spent taxpayer money,
Former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh
campaign funds or let other people pay for him to stay in Indianapolis hotels on the relatively rare occasions he returned from Washington, D.C.
...
Since unexpectedly entering the race in July, Bayh, whose primary residence is in Washington, has struggled to explain whether Indiana is home. During an interview with WLFI-TV in August he tried to put the issue to rest, but gave the wrong address for his condo, which is listed on his drivers’ license and voter registration.
“I’ll always be a Hoosier,” Bayh said last week. “We own our condominium. Period. From time to time I would stay someplace else, but our condo has always been our home.”
Bayh stayed at Indianapolis hotels roughly a dozen times in 2010, though taxpayers paid only a few hundred dollars because campaign funds or other people helped pick up the tab.
When asked last month how often he has stayed at his condo during the campaign, Bayh said: “I haven’t kept track, but lots and lots and lots.” He also accused his opponent, Republican Rep. Todd Young, of “using this as a distraction.”
The Associated Press article also details how Bayh appears to have used taxpayer money to help fund his job hunting trips he took while planning to leave the Senate in 2010.

Of course, if the Indianapolis condo is not Bayh's residence, which does not  appear to be the case, he is committing a felony every time he uses that address from which to vote.   This has been a practice by many Indiana politicians, of both parties.  Republican Senator Richard Lugar voted using the address of a house he sold decades earlier.  (Lugar also stayed in Indianapolis hotels when he would come back to the Hoosier state.)  To this day, both Bayh, Lugar and their families continue to vote using Indianapolis addresses where they clearly do not reside, despite the fact they both left the Senate years ago.

It is reprehensible that Bayh and Lugar, and other politicians, routinely get a pass on the issue, while former Secretary of State Charlie White was prosecuted as part of a bipartisan witch hunt for on one occasion allegedly voting someplace other than his residence.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sen. Rubio: Republicans Need to Stop Using Russian Hacked Emails Against Democrats

American intelligence has confirmed that the hacker source of the Democrat emails published via Wikileaks is none other than Russia.  That should not be surprising.  Russian President Vladimir Putin desperately wants his buddy, Donald Trump, to win the election.  While Republicans are almost universal in condemning Russian interference with an American election, most in the GOP do not hesitate to use what is contained in the hacked emails for political purposes.

But shouldn't they hesitate?  Shouldn't Republicans be concerned that using the often embarrassing and revealing emails actually is aiding Russia in its efforts to influence an American election? And shouldn't Republicans be concerned that next time it might be their emails which are hacked and then
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl)
used in an election?

Apparently at least one Republican thinks so.   ABC News reports:
"As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it,” [Florida Senator Marco] Rubio tells ABC news. "Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks. Today it is the Democrats, Tomorrow it could be us/
Rubio's stand puts him directly at odds with Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, which have been relentlessly hammering Hillary Clinton and her campaign over the contents of the hacked emails.
"Wikileaks has provided things that are unbelievable," he said at a rally in Colorado Tuesday, accusing the media of ignoring the ongoing leaks. "The media you have to remember is an extension of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It's an extension. And without that she would be nowhere.
But while Trump regularly taunts the news media for not paying enough attention to the stolen emails, Rubio argues that making an issue out of the Wikileaks disclosures plays into the hands of the Russian government.
Marco Rubio is exactly right. He should be applauded for showing leadership on the issue.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Indiana Nears Battleground Status As Polls Show Hoosier State 10th Most Competitive

Once a state is deemed to be a "battleground," a state might be close on Election Day, that status ensures numerous visits from presidential candidates and their surrogates.   Indiana hasn't been in that category for decades, despite Barack Obama's upset win in the state (predicted by yours truly) in 2008. It appears though that Indiana may have a close presidential election once again.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows the Trump lead in the Indiana as being only 4.5%. Compared to the polling averages in other states, Indiana is the 10th most competitive state. Here is the top 10 list and which candidate leads in that state:

1. Ohio  .7 (Trump lead)
2. Arizona 1 (Trump lead)
3.  Nevada 2.5 (Clinton lead)
4.  North Carolina 2.7 (Clinton lead)
5.  Alaska 3 (Trump lead)
6.  New Hampshire 3.6 (Clinton lead)
6.  Florida 3.6 (Clinton lead)
8.  Iowa 3.7 (Trump lead)
9.  Minnesota 4.3 (Clinton lead)
10. Indiana 4.5 (Trump lead)

I should note that polling in Alaska has been very limited.

Ohio and Iowa are two states that, although President Obama won them in 2012, Trump leads. Clinton though appears to be offsetting that by leading in North Carolina, a state Romney won in 2012.  Clinton has also taken out of contention several near battleground states that Trump had vowed he could win:

15. Wisconsin 6.7 (Clinton lead)
16. Pennsylvania 6.8 (Clinton lead)
21. Colorado 8 (Clinton lead)
23. Virginia 8.7 (Clinton lead)
27. Michigan 10.7 (Clinton lead)

Is "battleground" status on the Hoosier horizon?

Update:  An alert reader caught that I flipped Minnesota.  Clinton leads in that state, not Trump.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The "Bradley Effect" and Why Polls Measuring Trump Support May Actually Overstate His Election Performance

Much has been written about the well-known, at least to political scientists, "Bradley Effect" and the role that a similar phenomenon could play in this election. Ballotpedia explains:
The Bradley effect, sometimes called the Wilder effect, is a concept that attempts to explain discrepancies between voter opinion polls and outcomes in elections where white candidates campaign against minority candidates. Adherents of the Bradley effect believe that some voters will tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a minority candidate but will vote against the minority candidate on Election Day. It was named for [former Los Angeles Mayor]Tom Bradley, an African-American candidate who lost the 1982 California gubernatorial race despite having a lead in the polls going into the election.
Of course, this presidential election doesn't involve a black candidate versus a white one. But could
Former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley
something similar be going on, namely that people are lying to pollsters as to which candidate they will support on Election Day?  Breitbart reported on the theory back in August, including a quote from an Emerson College Professor Gregory Payne:

“I think with Trump .... [m]any people are saying to maybe their friends while they’re having a sip of Chardonnay in Washington or Boston, ‘Oh, I would never vote for him, he’s so – not politically correct,’ or whatever, but then they’re going to go and vote for him. Because he’s saying things that they would like to say, but they’re not politically courageous enough to say it and I think that’s the real question in this election.”
Prof. Payne is right to consider the theory, but he offers no evidence to back up his analysis.  Certainly we have had numerous examples of polls v. election results during the nomination phase of this presidential election.  If the secret Trump support were a real thing, wouldn't Trump have outperformed his polls consistently in those state GOP contests?  Not only did that not occur the exact opposite happened, i.e. Trump consistently underperformed the polls in the primaries.  I wrote about that phenomenon back in March:
Twenty state contests had a Real Clear Politics poll average before the election, or if no RCP average, a recent poll that RCP deemed credible enough to publish the result.  I looked at Trump's margin of victory compared to those poll results, or if he lost the state, the margin between Trump and the winner,   I found that when it came to the margin, Trump underperformed his poll numbers in 15 of 20 elections, by an average of -7.84%.  It has also increased over time. In the fourteen contests March 1st or earlier, Trump's underperformance was -4.47%.  In the 6 contests since then, the underperformance was -15.7%
Only in the late primaries did Trump's performance at the polls finally begin to match or exceed his poll numbers.

In addition to that primary history of Trump underperforming the polls, I would also point to general election polling which consistently show people view Trump as unqualified to be president.  In the latest Fox News poll, 56% of respondents viewed Trump as unqualified.  A September Quinnipiac poll pegged that number at 62%, while 61% thought Hillary Clinton was qualified to be President.

Obviously many people who are telling pollsters that Trump is unqualified to be President are also expressing support for him over Hillary Clinton.  But could it be that those anti-Clinton people are, in fact, lying to pollsters, using the opportunity to vent their extreme displeasure regarding the Democratic nominee to pollsters without the real life consequences of casting a ballot?  When those same poll respondents enter the voting booth, are they going to vote for someone they see as unfit for office over someone they might view as qualified but who they for, good reason, do not like?

I am guessing that many of them will not.  On Election Day, I believe Trump will considerably underperform the polls, especially the state polls.  My crystal ball says Trump will fall short of 200 electoral votes and it will be the worst GOP presidential election loss since 1996 when former GOP Kansas Senator Bob Dole only received 159 electoral votes. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Monmouth Poll Shows Indiana Republican Candidates Trailing in Statewide Races

The Evansville Courier Press reports:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg has a double-digit lead over Republican Eric Holcomb in the race for Indiana governor, according to a new poll released Friday by Monmouth University.
John Gregg
The same poll shows GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Indiana is down to four points.
The poll was conducted on Oct. 10-13, surveying more than 400 likely Hoosier voters. The margin of error is 4.9 percentage points. A similar poll conducted by Monmouth University in August showed the governor's race as a virtual tie, with Holcomb actually enjoying a one-point lead. Now, just a month later, Gregg is up 12 points, 50 to 38. Libertarian Rex Bell was favored by 5 percent of the respondents. Seven percent were undecided.
...

The news doesn't get much better for Hoosier Republicans in the other two, big ticket races either. In August, Monmouth showed Trump with an 11-point lead in the presidential race. That margin is now down to four points, inside the margin of error, with Trump leading 45 to 41.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Democrat Evan Bayh holds a six-point lead over Republican Todd Young, 48 to 42. That lead remains virtually unchanged from August's poll which had Bayh up 48 to 41.
What is most significant though is movement from the first Monmouth poll to the most recent one. Trump's support in the state declined by 7% while Holcomb's fell by 13%.  Young, whose support against former Governor Bayh actually increased by 1%, appears to be running an outstanding campaign but may be the victim of bad timing - being on the ballot during a Democratic year.

Trump Protests Media Bias While Overlooking Their Role in Elevating Him to the Nomination

Trump and his blindly loyal followers, the Trumpkins, have declared war on the mainstream media. They claim the media has a liberal bias.  That is not exactly a shocker.  Surveys of journalists for decades have shown that they overwhelmingly prefer Democrats when it comes to Presidential elections.   It is not a reach to conclude that many want Trump to fail and that desire, even if only subconsciously, affects their coverage.

But philosophical bias is not the only bias media has.  The media has a bias for action, for conflict, for good stories that will entice their audience.  At the end, they are a for profit enterprise. They want to sell newspapers, to reel in viewers.

Trump rode these other media biases to the nomination. Even when Trump was far down in the polls and hadn't raised much money, the evening news were filled with extensive live coverage of his rallies. Other candidates were never able to get the same (free) media coverage of their campaigns, leaving their candidacies dead in the water.

Back in June, the Washington Post reported  on a Harvard study on the news media coverage Trump received during the primary stage:
[A]new study by Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University ... documents not only the outsized coverage Trump received — from TV and digital media — in the early days of his campaign but also how overwhelmingly positive that coverage was.

First, it notes that Trump received considerable media coverage during 2015 despite the fact that he was neither a leader in polls or in the fundraising chase — two indicators of uneven media coverage of candidates in past races, according to the Shorenstein study. As the study reports:   
"When his news coverage began to shoot up, [Trump] was not high in the trial-heat polls and had raised almost no money. Upon entering the race, he stood much taller in the news than he stood in the polls. By the end of the invisible primary, he was high enough in the polls to get the coverage expected of a frontrunner. But he was lifted to that height by an unprecedented amount of free media. "
The study then goes on to place a price on that free media Trump received. Of course, Trump and his merry band of followers will insist that much of that primary coverage was negative. But in fact it wasn't.  Trump received an inordinate amount of positive coverage during the primary stage:



Now though the tables are reversed. Weeks away from the general election the news is filled with negative Trump stories detailing the candidate's character flaws and disqualifying history. Those were stories that could have easily been investigated and reported on during the primary stage. If that happened the Republicans might have nominated a candidate who is actually qualified to be President, someone who would be 10 points ahead of Hillary Clinton instead of nearly 10 points behind.

Of course, the media is liberal. Of course, most reporters do not want a Republican in the White House, even a faux conservative like Trump.  The question that should be asked is why the media give Trump so much free coverage leading up to his nomination? Why did the media sat on their collective hands, failing to report the negative stories about Trump when there was time for the GOP to get a new nominee? Was there a coordinated effort by liberal reporters to ensure the GOP was stuck with an unelectable nominee who would embarrass the party and rip it apart?  While I don't buy that the media coordinated their efforts to obtain that result, that is in fact the result of the media elevating Trump to the GOP nomination.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Look for Democrats to Switch Focus to Red States, Down Ballot Races

Recent statewide polls show that the door is quickly closing on the possibility that Donald Trump can get to 270 electoral votes in order to win the election next month.  Blue collar states that Trump had bragged he could flip - Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin - appear to have slipped away.  Polling averages in those states show Trump trailing 8.6%, 10.7% and 6.7%.

Virginia was also a state Trump thought he could flip to the Republican column.  He trails in that state by 7.5%.  In all the aforementioned states, save Wisconsin, Trump is actually running worse that Republican Mitt Romney finished in 2012.  Even in Wisconsin, Trump is only running .24% ahead of Romney and, given polling trends, will soon be underwater in that state as well.

Trump has also fallen behind in the critical states of Florida (-2.7%) and Ohio (-.5%).

The notion that Trump was going to hold Romney red states while flipping blue states to the Republican column appears to be gone.  In only Iowa (6 electoral votes) is Trump winning a previous blue state.

Instead Trump is in danger of losing traditional Republican states.  He leads narrowly in Arizona and Georgia, and is losing North Carolina, which Romney won in 2012.  A very recent poll showed Trump tied in Utah, a state Romney won by 48%.  Slipping under the radar thus far is Republican Alaska, where Trump leads by only 3 points.   Even states like Texas (6.7%) and Indiana (8% average, but only 5% Trump lead in the last poll) are slipping into the competitive column.

Trump's chances to win the election are all but gone.  The Democrats are shifting their focus to a new target, control of Congress. Thus far though, polling shows Republican Senate candidates running outstanding campaigns.  In virtually every state the GOP Senate candidate is running well ahead of Trump. But given the race for President is what generally drives turnout, one must conclude at some point a landslide electoral loss by Trump will cost Republicans control of the Senate and quite possibly the House as well.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

American Senior Community Execs Arrested in Alleged Medicare Fraud Scheme

The late, great Gary Welsh wrote tirelessly about what he (and I) believed to be a fraudulent scheme by American Senior Communities, working with the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation, to obtain excessive Medicaid repayments from the government.  That scheme helped fund the building of the new Wishard (now named Eskanazi) hospital without a tax increase.  The feds though appear to deny that today's arrests are related to that scheme, instead focusing on Medicare not Medicaid fraud. The Indianapolis Star reports:

Four former American Senior Communities executives were taken into custody early
James G. Burkhart
Wednesday following a year-long federal investigation.
The four, including former CEO James G. Burkhart, face several federal charges including Medicare fraud, Fox59 reports.
In September 2015, federal agents raided Burkhart's Carmel home and the the Southside headquarters of American Senior Communities at 6900 Gray Road.
..
While the government has yet to comment on why FBI agents searched Burkhart's home, an internal ASC review concluded that the federal investigation "does not touch upon the operation of any nursing home serviced by ASC," according to statement issued at the time of the September raid.
American Senior Communities manages nearly 100 senior care facilities and is one of the largest nursing home management companies in Indiana. Among those are 60 sites, including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities throughout the state, that the company manages under a contract with Marion County’s public health agency.

Monday, October 10, 2016

No, Trump Did Not Win the Second Debate

Some thoughts on Trump v. Clinton II, a t featuring the two major party's candidates in a town hall type debate.

Donald Trump was better than he was in Trump v. Clinton I, but he was still awful.  Hillary Clinton clearly looked more presidential, had a better command of the facts, and connected with the audience (both at home and the event) better than did Trump.  Clinton certainly had her weak moments.  When given a chance to talk about the Supreme Court, she made a critical mistake of citing as its importance
protecting Roe v.  Wade. That comment gets her not a single additional vote, but it reminds many evangelical and other pro-life voters who might be inclined to turn against Trump after the release of the video, why they should cast a vote for the New York businessman instead of Clinton.  (Not that I for a second believe Donald "I Support Partial Birth Abortion" Trump has had a real conversion to the pro-life cause. 

Clinton also dropped the ball on the final question.  When asked to say something nice about Trump, she started out great talking about Trump's family. But then she quickly veered off into self-serving comments about herself.   She should have stopped after praising Trump for her family, leaving viewers with a positive view of her..  On the other hand, Trump stopped on the positive note praising Clinton for her tenacity and determination.

On the issues, I believe the only place Trump bested Clinton was in discussion of energy policy.   It is one of the few subjects on which Trump appears to have actual knowledge.  Trump could have done even better with the subject by talking about Clinton's (new) opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and how not building the pipeline costs American jobs.  

On the other side of the coin, Trump's first 20 minutes or so, when he had to answer questions about the newly released Billy Bush video, was borderline disastrous.  Instead of sincerely apologizing for his comments, he reverted back to the nonsense that it was just "locker room" banter, as if we mentalk about non-consensual sexual assault of women when we get together.  Uh, no we don't.

Stylistically neither candidate came across as likable.  Hillary Clinton's smile often came across as more of a smirk. Trump never smiled.  Both candidates seem completely incapable of connecting with real people when they talk...or even understanding that they need to do that as candidates.  Hillary Clinton is clearly not Bill Clinton when it comes to the ability to connect with an audience.

I actually found the post-debate comments to be the most telling...and troubling.  Trumpkins are absolutely convinced their guy won.  They seem to think throwing out one liners about Clinton "lying" that "she should be in jail" is a substitute for actually prosecuting a case against her. (Since when is it acceptable for candidates to campaign on putting their opponents in jail as Trump suggested he would do with Hillary?)  It's not.  Hillary Clinton has no credible answer for deleting those personal emails and ordering the servers be scrubbed.  That her aides took the 5th and the FBI allowed the destruction of evidence, is damning proof of the GOP case against her.  

FYI, a new (scientific) CNN poll shows Clinton won the second debate, 57-34.   That is down from a 62-27 victory in the first debate.  But it is still a solid win.  No, Trumpkins, the Donald lost the debatet badly.

Unfortunately, the Republicans simply don't have a candidate who is capable of making the intellectual case against Hillary Clinton.  Add to that the fact that these debates further demonstrate that Donald Trump lacks the depth, intelligence and temperament to be President.  Republicans are represented by the only candidate who could is so bad that he could lose to the worst presidential candidate the Democrats have fielded in at least half a century, if not longer.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Will Pence Leave the Trump Ticket?

In the aftermath of the Access Hollywood video in which Donald Trump talks about his regularly sexually assaulting women in pursuit of sex, and his attempt, newly married, to commit adultery speculation abounds whether Trump will step down as the Presidential nominee.  In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump responded that there was "zero chance" he would leave the ticket.

Probably a better question though is whether the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, Mike Pence
will remain on the ticket.  Pence, a devout Christian, has been placed in many difficult situations defending Trump during the campaign.  He, by virtually all accounts, has done extremely well presenting the traditional conservative Republican message while at the same time not straying too far from the Trump message of change.  But now, with the Access Hollywood video, Pence is being asked to defend the indefensible.  The Hill reports:
Mike Pence and his wife were reportedly floored on Friday when they heard about the lewd remarks about women Donald Trump made in 2005 in a leaked recording.  
Trump’s running mate said he was “beside himself” and his wife Karen was "furious" when he found out about audio tape, a source told the Associated Press
More videos showing Trump to be the reprehensible human being he is are coming.  Things are not going to get better.

If Pence stays on the ticket, he risks being tarnished with those videos.  If he exits now, he will be a front-runner candidate in 2020.   He will be seen as a man who stood up for principle.

Alas, I am not the only one engaging in the Pence speculation.  But I am one of the first.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

2016 Trump v. Clinton: Top 14 Competitive States

As of present, there are 14 states in which the presidential candidates are less than 7 points of each other, states that can plausibly be considered as competitive.  Here they are starting with the most competitive, using the Real Clear Politics polling averages:

1.  North Carolina (15 electoral votes)

Hillary Clinton currently enjoys a narrow 1.3% lead in the Tar Heel State.  In 2012, Romney won the state by 2.04% in 2012..  This would be a huge victory for the Democrats, causing Donald Trump to try to make up ground elsewhere

1.  Arizona (11 electoral votes)

Romney won Arizona in 2012 by 9.06%, but this year Democrat Clinton is polling much closer to her Republican rival, only trailing by 1.3%.   The state is being overlooked right now by the campaigns, undoubtedly because it is assumed to be leaning strongly Republican. But polls show it is tied for being the most competitive state.

3.  Nevada (6 electoral votes)

Trump is doing surprisingly well in the state, leading in several recent polls.  President Obama
defeated Romney by 6.68% last year, but now Clinton leads by only 1.4%.

4.  Colorado (9 electoral votes)

Colorado is another western state in which Trump is exceeding expectations.  Recent polls though show momentum in the state swinging back to Clinton. She leads by 1.8%.  Obama won the state in 2012 by 5.36% of the vote.

5.  Ohio (18 electoral votes)

Ohio went to President Obama in 2012 by 2.98%. The RCP poll average shows Trump ahead in the Buckeye State by 2.4%

5.  Florida (29 electoral votes)

Florida ties with Ohio in closeness at 2.4%.  But in this state, very important for Trump's chances, Hillary Clinton leads. Obama narrowly won the Sunshine State in 2012 by .88%.

7.  Minnesota (10 electoral votes)

There is nearly a 2 point gap between the top 6 competitive states and those below.  Although Obama won the state by a whopping 17.69% in 2012, Democrat Clinton only leads by 4.3% in Minnesota Unlike neighboring Wisconsin, Minnesota is not yet on the candidates' radar, but perhaps it should be.

8.  Georgia (16 electoral votes)  

Georgia checks in as the next most competitive state, with Trump having a lead of only 4.4% in a state that went to Romney in 2012 by 7.72%.

9.  Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)

Returning to the Midwest, Wisconsin polls as the 9th most competitive state with a margin of 5% in favor of Hillary Clinton.  Obama won the state in 2012 by a 6.94% margin.

9.  Iowa (6 electoral votes)

Staying in the Midwest, Iowa ties Wisconsin as the 9th most competitive state.  Although Obama won the state by 5.81% in 2012, Trump leads in the Badger State by 5%.

9.  New Hampshire (16 electoral votes)

Obama won New Hampshire in 2012 by 5.58%.  The Granite State is proving to be equally competitive this time around with Hillary Clinton leading by 5%.

12.  Maine (Statewide) (2 electoral votes)

Maine is one of two states which awards an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district in the state.  Trump is solidly ahead in the more rural Maine CD #2  while Clinton has a large margin in the more populous Maine CD #1.  Statewide though the situation is more competitive, with Clinton leading by 5.5%.  In 2012, Obama won the state by 15.29% of the vote.    Nonetheless, there are not enough electoral votes in Maine to make it a high priority for the campaigns.

13.  Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

In contrast, the campaigns have put in an inordinate amount of effort to win Pennsylvania.  But polling shows Trump trailing by 6%, and, thus, actually doing worse in the Keystone State than Romney did in 2012 when the former Massachusetts Governor lost the state by 5.38%.

14.  Texas (38 electoral votes)

A state which enjoyed some initial attention for being surprisingly close, continues to poll as being marginally competitive. Trump has a lead of 6.7% in Texas.    By contrast, Romney won the Lone Star State in 2012 by 15.79%.  While Trump will likely keep Texas in the Republican column, the declining GOP fortunes in the state have to worry Republicans as they ponder the electoral college map in 2020 and beyond.

Surprisingly Not Competitive:  Virginia (13 electoral votes) and Michigan (16 electoral votes) fail to make the sub 7% cut for competitiveness.  Both states show Clinton with a 7% lead.  Obama won the states by 3.88% and 9.5% respectively in 2012.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Former President Bill Clinton Speaks the Truth About Obamacare

CNN reports:
Bill Clinton criticized President Barack Obama's signature policy reform Monday while on the stump for his wife, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, calling Obamacare "the craziest thing in the world." ...
Speaking at a Democratic rally in Flint, Michigan, the former president ripped into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for flooding the health care insurance market and causing premiums to rise for middle-class Americans who do not qualify for subsidies.  
"So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health
care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world," Clinton said.  
... 
"But there is a group of people -- mostly small business owners and employees -- who make just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid expansion or for the tax incentives who can't get affordable health insurance premiums in a lot of places. And the reason is they're not in big pools," Clinton said. 
"So they have no bargaining power." 
Yesterday, Clinton tried to temper his criticism with comments yesterday focusing on what he said were the good parts of the law. 
Donald Trump immediately seized on the former President's comments. The trouble, once again, is that Trump is the wrong messenger.  While Trump touts on the stump he wants to "repeal and replace" the ACA, aka Obamacare, the fact is Trump is on record saying he favors a program (universal health care paid for by "the government") that would be an expansion of the ACA.

Clinton tempered his criticism of the ACA yesterday, pointing to what he believes are the positive aspect of the laws.  Nonetheless, kudos to President Bill Clinton for having the guts to point out the failures of the ACA.  Clinton appears to understand that rising premiums and cuts in coverage are a result of forcing people to get coverage in an environment in which insurance companies do not have to compete for customers.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2016

    Indiana State Police Raid Offices of Liberal Organization in Voter Fraud Investigation

    This Indianapolis Star is reporting today that the Indianapolis State Police have raided the offices of voter registration organization that officials have accused of fraud:

    Indiana State Police investigators on Tuesday searched a north side voter registration agency as they look into a voter fraud case that spans nine counties:
    According to a news release, the investigation began in late August when police learned of the filing of fraudulent voter registration forms in Marion and Hendricks counties. 
    "Information has expanded from the original involved counties of Hendricks and Marion to also include the counties of Allen, Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Lake and Madison," said a statement from the Indiana State Police.
    As part of the expanded investigation, state police detectives served a search warrant for
    the business offices of the Indiana Voter Registration Project in the 2400 block of North Meridian Street.
    ... 
    Officials said a representative sample of voter registration applications received by county voter registration offices suspected of being fraudulent have been copied and provided to investigators. The original applications are maintained by the appropriate voter registration office. 
    The growing number of involved counties leads investigators to believe that the number of fraudulent records may be in the hundreds, police said. 
    The possible fraudulent information is a combination of fake names, addresses and dates of birth with real information.
    A mid-September Indianapolis Star story gives a few more details about the voter fraud investigation.  But even that story leaves important questions unanswered, including most importantly who was behind the voter registration effort.  A critical piece in the New Republic though answers many of those questions, albeit with a nefarious spin that questions the actions of Indiana officials:
    On September 15, elections officials across Indiana received an alarming note from Connie Lawson, the state’s Republican secretary of state. “Unfortunately, it has recently come to my attention that nefarious actors are operating here in Indiana,” warned Lawson’s letter, which was sent to election administrators in each of the state’s 92 counties. “A group by the name of the Indiana Voter Registration Project has forged voter registrations. ... If you receive one of these applications, please contact the Indiana State Police Special Investigations.”


    For weeks, the state had been quietly pursuing an investigation into the Indiana Voter Registration Project, a get-out-the-vote group backed by the liberal-leaning Patriot Majority. Its mission is to resuscitate voter participation in Indiana from a record low in 2014. In cooperation with Secretary Lawson’s office, state police placed six detectives on the case, interrogated members of the voting group, and performed forensics on registration documents. After determining that a handful of the group’s registration applications were forged, the state notified numerous officials, as well as local news media, that a shady organization was undermining democratic elections across Indiana. 
    The Patriot Majority expresses bewilderment at Lawson’s allegations and counters that the state’s investigative tactics—and Lawson’s public portrayal of the group as villainous—amount to a partisan effort to suppress voter registration in the state. The group points to the small number of flawed applications: Although the IVRP has submitted tens of thousands of voter registration forms in the Hoosier state this year, the state had only identified ten applications that were allegedly forged. (A news report released Thursday said that state police removed 250 suspicious IVRP registrations this week from a county elections office in central Indiana.)
    ...
    I've written numerous times countering the very false assertion repeated in the New Republic article, that Indiana has a low voter participation rate.  What is going on is that voter registration rates in Indiana have spiked since the adoption of the National Voter Registration Act (commonly referred to as the Motor Voter Law) in 1993 that makes automatic purging of non-voters illegal.  Indiana is one of the worst states in using the more complex and expensive process mandated by the federal government to clean up the voters rolls.  (In fact, Indiana has been sued for failing to clean up its voter registration rolls.)  As a result, many Hoosier voters who have died are still listed on the rolls as are voters who have moved and are registered in multiple counties.

    Because of the failure to clean up the rolls, voter registration in Indiana has soared from 69% before Motor Voter to nearly 93% today.  Some counties, including Marion County, have at times had voter registration of over 100%.  Voter turnout is compared to these voter registration numbers.  Thus, when voter registration rolls are inflated with deceased voters and those who have moved, voter turnout in Indiana appears to be worse than it actually is.  When you compare voter turnout to the adult age population, turnout is not down in most elections.  Further, as I've also written about before, the voter ID requirement Indiana later adopted has made no difference in turnout in Indiana.

    Democrats are wrong to fight every effort at providing ballot security and are wrong in claiming that requiring photo ID at the polls is a huge burden to voting. We can discuss what photo ID should be acceptable, and the possible need for an affidavit type system for those who fail to bring an ID to the polls, but the Democrats' assertion by implication that Indiana should return to a system in which people could just sign their name to vote is beyond absurdity.

    See also:

    Saturday, August 29, 2015, Bloated Voter Rolls Propel Indiana to Third Highest Registration Rate in the Country


    Monday, June 8, 2015, Hillary Clinton Proposes Worthless Voting Measures to Appease Democratic Partisans

    Monday, February 23, 2015, Analysis Shows Indiana's Declining Voter Turnout Due Not to Restrictions But To Inflated Voter Registration Rolls 

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Indiana's Restrictions on Voters Worse than 1965 Alabama? It's Not Even Close

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012, Turnout Figures Since Indiana Adopted Photo ID Requirement Does Not Show "Voter Suppression" as Claimed by Democrats 

    Saturday, June 2, 2012, 90% of Hoosier Adults are Registered to Vote

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008, Vote Early & Often? -- 105% of Indianapolis Residents Now Registered to Vote



    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard's Budget Requests Nearly 40% Increase in Pay

    At a time when families are struggling and local politicians are continually asking for higher taxes on those families, it is appalling to see politicians raising their own pay.  The Current in Carmel reports:
    Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has submitted his budget for 2017, along with a salary ordinance that includes a $50,000 pay raise for himself, which is a 40 percent increase. 
    The mayor’s salary is proposed to increase from $127,946 a year to $179,344 a year. It
    Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard
    will be introduced at the City Council meeting on Oct. 3 but will likely not be passed on first reading to allow the public time to comment.
     
    Prior to the ordinance being released, Brainard told Current in Carmel that his salary was going up, “around $35,000 or $40,000 or something.” 
    “City manager salaries can be way above that,” he said. “In some cities they make $200,000 or $300,000.” 
    Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett makes $99,000 a year. When asked about the discrepancy, Brainard said, “They don’t have money to get their roads paved.” 
    “It’s a ridiculously low salary for someone representing a city of that size,” he said. “It’s a billion-dollar business.” 
    If passed, the salary increase would make Brainard the highest paid mayor in the state. 
    Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is currently the state’s highest paid mayor at $142,096. 
    “We don’t really look at Indiana when we do salary comparisons,” Brainard said.The mayor said the salary increase is necessary. 
    “It’s important to attract qualified people to run for office,” he said. “Many of the mayors we look at (for comparison) can make seven or eight times that in the private sector.”
    ,,,
    Then leave office Mayor Brainard.  Contrary to your claim, there would be quality people lining up the door to take your place when you leave.  I get so sick of that ridiculous argument.  I hear it all the time from judges wanting to be paid more.  Like there is a shortage of excellent attorneys out there who who wouldn't jump at the chance to be a judge.