Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Big Money from Small Donors is Driving Republican Extremism

One of my first things I do in the morning is read Prof. Sheila Suess Kennedy's blog.   In addition to being a fellow attorney, Sheila, according to the bio on her blog, is "Emerita Professor of Law and Public Policy at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Until her retirement in December of 2020, she was a Faculty Fellow with both the Center for Religion and American Culture and the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, an adjunct professor of political science and founder of the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI."

Having taught political science as an adjunct instructor at IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis for some 25 years, I concur with Sheila's frequent articles emphasizing the importance of civil education.  So many problems today are exacerbated by people who don't have a grasp of how politics, government, and the world in general, works.

I would not want to go back into a college classroom today to teach politics.  It's a brand new game, and I'm still struggling figure it out.  One thing that has changed dramatically is fundraising. 

That brings me to today's column.  Sheila pens an article talking about the Republican Party and corporate fundraising.  Sheila's readers often chime in with their own take on the article.  The readers today seem to sound the same theme - that GOP criticism of corporations is not sincere, that the Republican Party will continue to pursue the big corporate contributions that dictate what Republicans do in office.

For the record, I think it is fair to say that, while Sheila's readers are quite thoughtful and erudite, they tend to be older and more liberal than average.  Being older myself, I find it difficult to adjust to the changing political landscape, to understanding the new rules of politics.  One thing I've gained an understanding of, however, is the new way in which politicians raise money.

Sheila and her readers have it wrong.  The big money for Republican officials today is in small donor donations, not corporate contributions.  Republican elected officials like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Senators Ted Cruz and and Josh Hawley are examples of GOP elected officials who raise huge sums of money off of small, individual contributions.

If you would have told me that there would come a day in politics in which elected members of Congress could eschew hosting big fundraising events attended mostly by corporate donors in favor of raising small donations from individuals, mostly online, I would have applauded the change.  The lack of corporate contributions means these elected officials can now act in a way that is in the people's best interests rather than the interests of their big corporate donors.

Or so I thought.  That supposed "good government" change to fundraising practices has turned ugly. For elected officials to get a plethora of small donations, they have to draw attention to themselves.  The best way to do that is to act as crazy as possible, say outrageous stuff, and get as much time on Fox News, NewsMax and other conservative media outfits as possible.  

Sheila's readers bemoan Republicans getting corporate contributions and think they should be cut off.  But it turns out that the reliance on corporate contributions actually forced those GOP candidates receiving the money to moderate their policies and behavior.  Now, untethered by corporate contributions, Republicans aspiring for office have no incentive to appear rational and reasonable.  Indeed, pursuing the most extreme policies while saying outrageous things is what brings in the small dollar donations.

The fundraising game has changed.

Oh, and that Citizen's United decision that allows corporations and outside groups to spend an unlimited amount on election activities (albeit not direct contributions to candidates)?  The day is rapidly coming when Democrats benefit from the decision more than Republicans.  Let's see if they still want the decision overturned then.  My guess is it will be like gerrymandering.  Democrats oppose gerrymandering until the minute they are in power and get to draw the maps.  



Friday, April 9, 2021

"Christian" Crowdfunding Website Raises Money for Violent Insurrectionists and White Supremacists

GiveSendGo purports to be a "site [where] crowds of Christians [can] come together and support other Christians in their endeavors."  Apparently those "endeavors" include supporting those who attempt the violent overthrow of the United States government, engage in physically assaults on police officers, and embrace white supremacy. 

The GiveSendGo site has become the place to go if you are one of the January 6th insurrectionists charged with a crime and need some cash to pay your attorney or other bills.  Let's sample some of those campaigns currently appearing on the GiveSendGo's website.

Freddie Klein Legal Defense Fund

Freddie Klein

This campaign, created by Freddie's mother, Cecelia, remarks that Freddie, a "devout Catholic and Iraq war veteran is facing serious legal charges stemming from his alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021 'Capitol riot'."  Although the brief campaign is short in specifics, it has raised $43,164.

Klein is one of the more interesting insurrectionists.  A Trump political appointee to the State Department, Federico "Freddie" Klein had a top-secret security clearance that was renewed in 2019.  Yet, Klein had a fairly lengthy rap sheet which included underage drinking, driving while intoxicated and marijuana possession.  While those charges were about two decades old, Klein was charged in 2013 with public drunkenness, and more significantly, second-degree assault, robbery and theft relating to an altercation he had with a woman he had met at a pro-life rally.

During the January 6th insurrection, Klein was, allegedly, caught on film using a police shield to repeatedly hit police officers while instructing other rioters to continue assaulting the police.  Klein only ended his attacks on law enforcement officers when he was physically subdued by pepper spray.  Klein has been charged with several felonies, including assault on police officers, interfering with police during civil disorder, and obstruction of an official proceeding.'

Fight for Freedom (Chris Kuehne)

The campaign, written by Chris Kuehne's wife, Annette, points out that Chris was a Marine who was awarded the Purple Heart and other medals and awards during a 20-year military career.  As a Marine, Chris was injured by an exploding IED while serving in Olathe.  The campaign details his arrest by an FBI SWAT team and suggests the stress of that event caused Annette to miscarry.  The lengthy campaign says Chris was just in Washington, DC on the 6th to "support President Trump and protect civilians from Antifa."  

Annette has raised $52,645 off of this appeal.

Chris Kuehne, who lives in Olathe, Kansas, is identified as a member of the Kansas City-area Proud Boys.  Chris is charged with conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted buildings or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds.  The affidavit charging Chris Kuehne suggests he had an organizing role on the day of the insurrection.

Help Rachel Powell

Not all of the insurrectionists on January 6th were men.  There were a significant number of women involved in the assault.  One of them was Rachel Powell, a divorced mother of eight living in Western Pennsylvania.  The campaign for her legal fees, which thus far has raised only $5,100 of the $50,000 goal, notes that "Rachel attended the Capitol protest and got caught caught up in the moment.  Anyone who knows her knows that she is a good person and mother.  We want her to have a chance to be able to see her children grow up."

Rachel Powell

The story of how Powell became radicalized by the pandemic, Trump's rhetoric and various conspiracy theories she read on the internet is both sad and fascinating.  The New Yorker devoted a lengthy piece to her story.  The Pittsburg CBS affiliate reported on what Powell was alleged to have done on January 6th:

According to the indictment, Powell is accused of storming into a restricted section of the U.S. Capitol carrying an axe and a large wooden pole. She allegedly showed up to disrupt Congress and destroyed a window in her path, costing more than $1,000 in damage. She’s become known as the lady with the bullhorn, and seemed to have knowledge of the Capitol building’s floor plan, instructing insurrectionists where to go. Moments before, she can be seen in position with a battering ram breaking the glass window, forcefully leading the pack onward.

The FBI says Powell was with a group inside the Capitol and provided detailed instructions on the building’s layout, telling rioters that “they should ‘coordinate together if you are going to take this building.’”

...

Powell had all her guns taken by the feds. When they raided her home, they also found bags loaded with duct tape, rope, cell phones, throwing stars and other weapons.

A D.C. grand jury indicted Powell on charges including act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property; and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.    

Powell and her supporters have pushed back against the suggestion she had a role coordinating the rioters' actions on January 6th.  No doubt, a conspiracy charge would significantly increase any prison sentence Powell might receive.

Retired Army Sgt Harrelson Kenneth and family

This campaign, created by Angel Harrison, discusses Kenneth Harrelson's service in the military, which is said to have ended with a medical discharge.  The campaign discusses his continued medical issues, the family's teenage children and the desperate need for money to pay for an attorney, pay bills and buy groceries.  As far as what Kenneth is alleged to have done on January 6th, the campaign only says that "[h]e didn't do any of those things they say."

The Campaign has raised $181,230.

Kenneth Harrelson, who is from Titusville, Florida, is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far right paramilitary group.  Harrelson is charged with having committed felony conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding and tampering with documents or proceedings.  He also faces a misdemeanor charge of entering a restricted building.  The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint suggests Harrelson was coordinating efforts that day with other members of the Oath Keepers.

Lt. Col Larry Brock Jr. Legal Defense

The campaign describes what happened that day:

January 6th of this year, Larry attended a rally in Washington DC to protest what he believed to be a fraudulent election and to show support for President Donald Trump.  Larry attended the President's speech, but left a little early to find a restroom with plans to continue on to the Capitol building, knowing that is where the peaceful protest would take place.  He arrived at the Capitol building towards the beginning of the group and noticed that the barricades were opened and uniformed police were waving everyone through - closer to the Capitol building.  Larry continued to follow the crowd and found himself at a main entrance to the building.  He stopped at the door and decided to enter as a policman (sic) held the door open.  No violent entry and no intent to commit violence of any kind.  Larry can be seen on many videos on the Senate floor, not being violent, but in fact being a peackeeper (sic).  He can be heard asking people to behave and respect "the people's house." Larry decided it was time to leave as things got more crowded and sought out a uniformed policeman to escort him out.

According to the Air Force Times, Brock was photographed on the Senate floor wearing a helmet and a heavy vest, and carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs. The initial charges against the retired Air Force officer and Grapevine, Texas resident is that he knowingly entered or remained in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.  In court, the Assistant U.S. Attorney said Brock "means to take hostages. he means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government."  Brock posted on social media during the riot:  "Patriots on the Capitol.  Patriots storming.  Men with guns need to shoot their way in."

Thus far, the Brock campaign has raised $1,430, well short of the $20,000 goal.  The GiveSendGo website doesn't seem to identify the date campaigns are started, but from the comments included with the donation, the campaign has been up for more than two months.

This is only a small sampling of the numerous campaigns for January 6th insurrectionists appearing on the GiveSendGo fundraising website (the more popular GoFundMe website kicked them off). Some have done poorly in fundraising, while others spectacularly well.  Many lean heavily on claims the insurrectionists are "patriots" (clearly their actions say otherwise), God-fearing, family men and women. 

It should be noted that GiveSendGo's crowdfunding website says that it takes nothing from these fundraising campaigns, that it survives entirely on donations.  GiveSendGo also claims to kick back 10% of the donations it receives to the campaigns on its website.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Daring to Criticize the Amber Alert Program

It is not often that blogger/podcast host/attorney Mark Small hits a home run on a public policy issue, but he nails it today with his criticism of Indiana's Amber Alert program.

The other night, I was awakened from a deep sleep when my phone suddenly began emitting a loud wailing alarm.  I knew right away it wasn't the regular alarm I had set.  Far too early.   Was my or my neighbor's house on fire?  Was a tornado about to hit my neighborhood?  Had a murderer escaped and was roaming the northwest side of Indy?

None of the above.  It was an Amber Alert...a child supposedly had been abducted in, as I recall, South Bend, Indiana, which is 2 1/2 hours north of Indianapolis.  The alert gave a description of the child and the name of the supposed abductor, and the car the alleged abductor was thought to be driving.  Not sure why they decided to wake up Indianapolis residents in the middle of the night to alert them to this information.  At least, South Bend though is in Indiana.  I have gotten Amber Alerts from Lexington, Kentucky.

Fortunately, I don't have any problem sleeping.  But I know many people who struggle to get and stay asleep and, for them, an early morning alert means the end of their slumber.

According to the Indiana State Police, this is the Amber Alert criteria:

1. The child must be under 18 years of age.
2. The child must be believed to be abducted, AND in danger of serious bodily harm or death.
3. There must be enough descriptive information to believe the broadcast will help.
4. Request must be recommended by the law enforcement agency of jurisdiction.

Here is Mark's article:

Few things are scarier than a self-righteous mob bent on saving lives and keeping people safe, facts be damned. In the middle of the night my cell phone went off. I looked at the screen. An AMBER alert had been issued. Another went off a few minutes later.

Little kids should not be in jeopardy. However, despite news items of individual successes or articles published by those who advocate for the system itself, a peer-review study suggests the alerts are not so effective.

Timothy Griffin is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Nevada-Reno, He led a 2015 study, published in 39 Journal of Crime and Justice No. 4 (2016). In a “sample of 448 child abduction cases in which [an AMBER] Alert was issued ...

We reached conclusions consistent with the scant available prior research on AMBER Alert: although over 25% of the Alerts facilitated the recovery of abducted child(ren) and are thus arguably ‘successful’ by that standard alone, ...

there was little evidence AMBER Alerts ‘save lives.’ In fact, AMBER Alert success cases are in almost every measurable way identical to AMBER Alert cases in which the child(ren) were returned unharmed but the Alert had no direct role in that outcome:...

they typically involve abduction by family members & other (apparently) non-life-threatening abductors, and the vast majority of recovery times are over 3 h....”

To put everyone on a fictional “high alert” makes some self-righteous people feel good and a few kids might be saved. But more kids might be saved, and some not even placed in danger, if we devote resources in other ways.

AMBER alerts going off on cell phones in the middle of the night are unlikely to reach people who can do anything at all. The self-righteous can react to this and sneer about inconvenience of disturbed sleep. I more concerned about kids’ safety and our limited resources.

I might be more concerned about people losing sleep than Mark.  But I'm more worried about the "Chicken Little" effect of constant Amber Alerts that desensitize the public to child abduction.


It is very politically incorrect, however, to criticize the Amber Alert program, so kudos (is there such a thing as a "kudo," singular?) to Mark for taking on the issue.  As I noted in my comments to his article, his taking on the Amber Alert issue is like pointing out that the law mandates too many handicapped parking spaces for businesses (it does), or my pet peeve, the gross exaggeration of the problem of human trafficking.  Regarding the latter, local law enforcement officials are quick to suggest human trafficking to the media because that gets the headlines and lots of federal grant money.  But at the end of the day, the facts rarely support the human trafficking charges.   Almost always it is not human trafficking, but rather good old-fashioned prostitution, adults freely deciding to trade sex for money.


Yes, let's rethink the Amber Alert program.  If you disagree and want to lambast someone for daring to criticize the program, I will be happy to give you Mark's number.


OOP's short takes:

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz just released a statement ostensibly written by the women in his congressional office in which they said:  "Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader. At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness."   Trouble is the statement is not actually signed by any women in his office.  It is more than a little hypocritical that Gaetz complains that the accusations of his wrongdoing are coming from anonymous sources, then he uses anonymous sources to defend himself against those accusations.  Gaetz though is a Trumper.  I have found Trumpers do not grasp the concept of hypocrisy.  
  • I have lambasted the gross misrepresentation by Democrats and the media of the Georgia election law.  It is refreshing though to see Kentucky take a bipartisan approach toward voting reform, proving theere is considerable middle ground when it comes to how elections are run.  But as long as Republicans are lying about voter fraud and Democrats are lying about voter suppression, meaningful and needed election reforms will be impossible.
  • President Trump is trying to persuade Ron Johnson to run for re-election in Wisconsin.  Finally, Democrats have something for which they will enthusiastically support Trump.  There is nothing more the Democrats want than a shot to oust the unpopular Trumpian Senator who has embraced the most extreme conspiracy theories during his tenure.  If the Wisconsin GOP nominates someone else, that person likely will be favored to win in what should be a favorable Republican year.  If Johnson is the nominee, the Democrats are likely to pick up the seat. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

MLB Hypocrisy on its Decision to Pull All-Star Game Out of Georgia; My Lifelong Boycott of the "Midsummer Classic"

Although former President Trump has requested it, I am not going to boycott major league baseball this year.  This is especially true since the Reds are currently in first place...okay they are only four games into the 162 game season and tied with the Cubs.  But it still counts.

I am, however, going to boycott the All-Star game that MLB has announced it is moving out of Atlanta due to non-existent new restrictions on voting passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature.

Okay, let me be perfectly honest. Although a lifelong baseball fan, I have never been a fan of the All-Star Game.  It was a lame contest when I was young and with the expansion of the all-star roster over the years it has become even more lame.  Players are constantly shuffled in and out of lineups.   Keeping track of who is playing and out of the game is next to impossible.   It is not a true baseball game in any sense.   An inning is about as much of the game that I can take.  I surveyed my friends who are big baseball fans.  None of them care about watching the All-Star game, which MLB wishfully calls the "Midsummer Classic."

I used to play in an amateur baseball league in my early 30s.  One year, after the conclusion of the season, I was asked to play in the league's all-star game.  I am pretty sure it was a lack of players wanting to participate in that post-season, early fall exhibition that spawned the invitation and not my playing skills. But it still counts.

The one thing MLB has going for it is that, while its all-star game is a pointless, insipid contest, the other professional leagues such as the NBA and NFL have even worse all-star games.  Never seen the NHL all-star game, but I'm sure it is also awful.

When MLB announced its decision to move the all-star game out of Atlanta (which game will now be played in Denver), the league avoided the specifics of the Georgia law it found to be objectionable.  It looks like the decision was driven more by politically active players who got caught up in the zeal to condemn the law.  MLB officials know that players have never been keen on playing in the meaningless exhibition game anyway (they prefer the four days off in the middle of the long season to spend with their family) and would jump at a reason to boycott the game.

During a recent press conference, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp denounced the move of the MLB All-Star game from the Peach State and did a point-by-point comparison of voting in Georgia versus voting in New York.  As Kemp pointed out, New York has less early voting than Georgia, unlike Georgia does not have no excuse absentee voting, and, like Georgia, it is a crime in New York to give food and water to people in line.  Yet apparently MLB has no problem having its headquarters in New York.

CNN viewers though would never hear Governor Kemp make the case.  Early into the Kemp press conference, CNN cut away for an interview with Democrat Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in which the Mayor continued the false narrative, without evidence, that the new Georgia law imposes sweeping new restrictions on voting.  While former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams initially was reluctant to criticize the new Georgia law (compared to her early criticism of the restrictive proposals that were not included in the final bill), she soon came around to embracing the false narrative and now refers to the new Georgia election law as Jim Crow 2.0.

The Jim Crow comparison is more than over-the-top, misleading rhetoric.  It insults the legacy of civil rights leaders some who risked their lives to oppose Jim Crow laws in southern states, laws that restricted where African-Americans could live, eat, go to school, and which laws placed substantial and real obstacles on the right of blacks to vote.

There are a couple major problems with the Georgia bill - the legislature stripping power from the Secretary of State and giving itself the authority to take over county election boards the legislature believes is underperforming.  Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was one of the few Republican elected officials who were willing to publicly refute Trump's big lie about election fraud and refused to help the former President steal the election in Georgia.  Still these "inside baseball" changes to the Georgia election law do not directly impact voting and do not seem to be enough for the faux outrage against the bill.

One of the ironies is that the MLB controversy has given Kemp an opportunity to shore up support with Republicans, including most importantly the Trump wing that was ready to take him out in the primary.  

Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and presumed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams do run the risk of overplaying their hand on the Georgia election law.  To win in Georgia in 2022, a midterm election which should be favorable to Republicans, they need to appear moderate and reasonable.  Suburban voters might get turned off by Warnock and Abrams' false characterization of a bill, which in many respects makes it easier to vote.

In short, the odds of Brian Kemp being re-elected governor in Georgia in 2022 has gone way up.

Friday, April 2, 2021

OOP's Short Takes: Amazon Union Effort, Labor Law Changes, Politicology Podcast and Rep. Matt Gaetz

OOP's short takes on this Good Friday 2021: 

  • Amazon Union Vote - On Monday, the voting on unionizing an Amazon "fulfillment center" in Bessemer, Alabama ended.  We should know the results in a few days.  I'm not a big union supporter, but if there was ever a company's employees who need union representation it's Amazon's.  As I have preached to leftists, it is not pay or benefits at Amazon that is the problem (Amazon actually pays above market for warehouse workers). It's the horrific working conditions.  It is maddening though seeing Amazon promote their increasing lower end pay at their facilities to $15 an hour when the company at the same time eliminated much more lucrative employee attendance and performance bonuses.  Amazon's $15 an hour minimum announcement was nothing more than a PR stunt.  Unfortunately a lot of liberals like Bernie Sanders were duped.  By the way, can we stop pretending Bezos is some sort of liberal?  Liberal business owners don't impose sweatshop working conditions and engage in underhanded efforts to stop unionization.  Even conservative employers who care about their employees don't do that.
  • Overtime Exempt Rules - If Democrats want some low hanging fruit to help workers, they might consider increasing the overtime eligible threshold for salaried employees.  Right now salaried employees are not eligible for time and a half overtime if they make more than $36,000 a year.  So companies pay workers, (generally low level manager types) above that level, then demand they work ten, fifteen or more hours a week in uncompensated overtime.  One of those companies is Amazon.  I had a friend who worked at Amazon as an associate for seven years before being promoted to manager, receiving a substantial raise with the promotion.  Or so he thought.  In exchange for the salaried position, Amazon demanded he work so much uncompensated overtime that he was back making per hour what he made as an associate. He quit after a few months.
  • Student Loans - Another low hanging fruit idea.  Instead of trying to forgive student loan debt, Democrats (and thoughtful Republicans) would be wise to change bankruptcy law so student loan debt is treated the same as any other unsecured debt.   Right now, while student loans are technically dischargeable in bankruptcy, different rules apply.  As a result, student loans are rarely discharged even if those debts are included (and they often are not) in the bankruptcy petition.  Because there is little risk, lenders are eager to lend to students wanting to pursue post-secondary education. While that sounds good, the ability of adults to go deeply in debt for education has spawned a number of shady, for profit education institutions who are more than willing to take that money, leaving the borrower poorly educated and deeply in debt.
  • Politicology - I may have to cut the Politicology podcast out of my rotation.  On a recent episode host Ron Steslow asked guests about Stacey Abrams' complaints about voter suppression compared to Trump's complaints about voter fraud.  All three guests criticized Abrams stolen election claim and said it hurt democracy.  So on the next show, Steslow brings another election law expert on and coaxes him into explaining why what Abrams did was okay and Trump did was wrong.  While the expert mostly dodged the question, Steslow got his "clarification."  If Steslow is not going to be even-handed and honest in his political discussions, I will find other political podcasts to listen to.
  • Stacey Abrams - Let's be clear what Stacey Abrams did.  In 2018, Abrams complained that  Secretary of State Brian Kemp and gubernatorial candidate engaged in "voter suppression" by removing from the rolls 600,000 people who had not voted in numerous elections.  Kemp was obligated by federal law to perform this cleanup of the voter registration list, a statutory duty which had been delayed for years (which is why the numbers of voters purged was so large) by an NAACP lawsuit.  Despite Abrams' voter suppression claims, the 2018 Georgia midterm featured near record turnout and record turnout for African-American voters.  Abrams lost the election by 55,000 votes, FIVE TIMES more than what Trump lost the state by.  Abrams could only produce a handful of voters supposedly disenfranchised by the purge, yet to this day continues to claim the election was "stolen" by "voter suppression" and refuses to concede.  What Abrams did  has undermined Georgians' faith in election results maybe as much as what Trump did.
  • Georgia Election Law - I saw where President Biden said Georgia's election day hours had been shortened to 5 pm by the new law.  That is not correct. Georgia election day voting hours will be the same as they were before the new law passed - 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Early voting though was previously limited to "business hours." The new law simply clarifies that "business hours" for early voting means 9 am to 5 pm, which is exactly how the phrase had been interpreted.  The new law actually provides that Georgia counties can extend early voting to 7 pm.   Thus far, Biden's honesty has been a refreshing change from Trump's pathological and daily lies, but the President needs to stop spouting falsehoods about the Georgia election law.
  • Matt Gaetz - One thing that is incredible about the Rep. Gaetz story is the amount of the extortion demand - $25 million.  Does anyone believe that Gaetz's reputation, and protecting potential harm to his career, is worth $25 million?  The last thing an extortionist wants to do is to set the demand for money so high that the target has no choice but to go the authorities.  Gaetz's claim would have more validity if the extortionist had asked for $250,000.  I would add that, even if Gaetz is correct about the extortion effort, that doesn't mean he did not do anything wrong.  Reportedly he did a lot wrong.