Friday, August 27, 2021

Trump Attorneys Sanctioned by Michigan Federal Judge for Filing Frivolous Election Lawsuit

Over the past four years plus, I have watched Trump and his attorneys repeatedly abuse the legal process. They ignore subpoenas, make baseless arguments, then make baseless appeals of those losing arguments.  The goal is often not success in court, but DELAY.   Too often judges have assisted Trump and his attorneys in accomplishing that goal.  

Probably the worst area has been with regard to congressional subpoenas.  I have criticized Congress for not exercising the option of enforcing their own subpoenas.  Instead congressional leaders go to court for an order that will come months down the road, which order will inevitably be further delayed by appeals.

Contrary to what lay people think, and the media report, courts can act with alacrity.  What it takes is a commitment by judges to expediate matters, especially when one party is clearly using the legal process to "win" by delaying enforcement.  Too often, justice delayed is justice denied.

Judge Linda Parker

On Wednesday, A Michigan federal judge handed down some "justice" to Trump attorneys on Wednesday.  In her 110 page opinion sanctioning the attorneys for filing a frivolous lawsuit to decertify the election results in Michigan, a state Biden won by 150,000 votes, Judge Linda Parker addressed each and every argument for fraud offered by attorneys in a bid to overturn the election results.  It turns out the "evidence" cited by the attorneys was merely speculation and conjecture.  No tangible evidence of election fraud was ever offered by the attorneys. Go figure.

Of course, the lawsuit was not filed with the expectation of success in court.  Rather, the lawsuit was filed to help advance a false public narrative of a "stolen election."  Judge Parker, rightfully, thought courts should not be used as pawns in a disinformation campaign.

Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote about the decision for Microsoft News:

These lawyers most certainly were aware they lacked the evidence to win this lawsuit. And yet they filed it anyway because it advanced an affirmative disinformation campaign designed to convince the public that the election had been stolen. As Parker wrote, “This case was never about fraud—it was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so.”

Filing a lawsuit without any factual basis sounds a lot like the strategy that a book by two Washington Post reporters said another Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, articulated on election night in November: “Just say we won.”


Similarly, Powell and her colleagues did not need to win their lawsuits in Michigan and elsewhere; they just needed to file them to give Trump and his allies the talking points they needed to perpetuate the big lie. Parker wrote, “Many people have latched on to this narrative, citing as proof counsel’s submissions in this case.”

In imposing sanctions, Parker called out the lawyers who are willing to kill truth to advance a political agenda. Sanctions, she wrote, were necessary in this case to deter “future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted.”

OOP's short takes:

  • In other legal developments, seven U.S. Capitol police officers have sued former President Donald Trump, his longtime adviser Roger Stone, and members of far-right extremist groups over the January 6th insurrection which resulted in hundreds of police officers injured, including several deaths.  While I certainly side with the U.S. Capitol police officers filing the lawsuit, I also realize these types of cases are difficult to win.  Unfortunately, if the case gets dismissed, Trump and his extremist allies will consider it a victory.
  • Speaking of the Capitol Police, the officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt finally spoke out in public after being cleared of wrong doing.   There were 60-80 House members and staffers barricaded in the House chambers awaiting rescue.  The insurrectionists had broken out a window and were intent on getting those people still in the chamber.  The officer warned the insurrectionists with a raised gun to stop their efforts to enter the House chamber, but he was ignored.  Babbitt was the first person who climbed through the window and the officer reacted by shooting her in the shoulder. She later died of the gunshot.  
  • The shooting stopped the intrusion giving the people inside the House chamber time to get out.  The officer no doubt saved countless lives.  He is a hero. Babbitt might have been a hero during her previous service to the country, but on January 6th she was engaged in a violent act that endangered lives.  For some Trumpers to treat her as some martyr is laughable.  On January 6th, Ashli Babbitt was playing the role of a violent thug and her being shot was 100% justified.
  • An interesting side note, Trump's often attorney former New York City Mayor and former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani was spotted shaving while eating a meal at an airport restaurant.  I kid you not.   I'm not laughing though.  I have long suspected Giuliani might have a form of dementia that affects one's judgment and decision-making.  I have that type of dementia in my family and know that shaving while one is eating in a public restaurant is the type of behavior you see from people suffering from that affliction. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Odds (Slightly) Favor Democrats Gaining Seats in the Senate in 2022

While Republicans are likely to win back the House in 2022, thanks to redistricting and historical trends, the Democrats' chances in the U.S. Senate are substantially better.  Let's look at the most competitive races.

Pennsylvania:  The incumbent Republican Pat Toomey is retiring.  The state tilts to the Democrats, but is still highly competitive.  Democrats have two strong candidates, moderate Rep. Conor Lamb and the more progressive and more charismatic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.  The Republican candidates, including Jeff Barttos, Sean Parnell (who lost a congressional seat to Lamb) and former congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, are much lower profile.  Assuming Lamb and Fetterman don't kill each other in the primary, the Democrat nominated will probably win the general election.  Democratic Pickup.

Wisconsin:  Much hinges on whether Republican Senator Ron Johnson announces he is running for re-election.  But unlike in most races, the incumbent choosing to run for re-election would be a major negative for the party holding the seat.  Senator Johnson has become of the leading conspiracists in the Senate, a person on the outer fringe of respectability.  He has zero appeal to Democrats or independents.  Running strictly on the GOP base in Wisconsin is not enough to win a general election.  Democratic Pickup

Arizona:  Astronaut Mark Kelly is running for a full-six year term after defeating Republican Martha McSally.  While Kelly's election in 2020 was much closer than observers expected, I doubt Republicans will be able to muster a credible candidate against Kelly who has fashioned himself as a moderate.  You see, the Arizona GOP has gone full tin-foil hate crazy.  Any Republican candidate winning the nomination would have to embrace the Arizona GOP lunacy which would doom him or her for the fall.  Democratic Hold.

Georgia:  Like Kelly, Senator Raphael Warnock is looking for a full six year term after being first elected in a special election.  While the Georgia GOP is not as crazy as the Arizona Republican Party, it has its share of crazies.  These include Georgia members of Congress Marjorie Taylor Green, Jody Hice and Andrew Clyde, who infamously said the insurrection of the Capitol was a "normal tourist visit."  Unfortunately for the Republicans, crazy may be required to win the Senate nomination.  Right now the leader for the GOP nomination is former football star Herschel Walker who has a troubled background, including being diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (not sure if he will claim his 12 different personalities each get a vote in the Senate), having been accused of violence against his ex-wife, and his playing Russian Roulette with visitors.  With the lower turnout of a midterm, Republicans should have been able to pick up this seat but are unlikely to do so.  Democratic Hold.

North Carolina:  Republican Senator Richard Burr is retiring.  But North Carolina is still a Republican state, even more so in a lower turnout mid-term election.  Trump has weighed in behind congressman Ted Budd's effort to win the GOP nomination.  He's facing off against Trump apologist Pat McCrory, a former Governor.  Former Rep. Mark Walker is also running.  The Democratic candidates are much lower profile.  Unless the Democrats can find a bigger name moderate to nominate, you have to put this one in the GOP column.  Republican Hold.

Ohio:  Republican Senator Rob Portman is retiring.  Republicans should win this, but they have a problem.  The GOP nomination has become a contest to see who can be the most extreme. "Hillbilly Elegy" author JD Vance and former state treasurer Josh Mandel right now are leading the pack when it comes to crazy.  Former state Republican chairwoman Jane Tinken though has been leading the polls.  If Timkin wins the nomination, the Republicans should be favored to win.  But if Vance or Mandel wins, you have to think to think the Democrat Tim Ryan, a moderate in the mold of the other state's senator, Democratic Sherrod Brown, might be favored.  While Tinken is desperately  trying to head off a Trump endorsement of Vance or Mandel, I don't think she will be successful.   Democratic Pickup.

Missouri:    The incumbent Roy Blunt, a Republicans with a temperament similar to Portman's, has decided to call it quits.  Missouri though is even a more Republican and Trumpy state than Ohio.  The GOP would have to completely blow the nominating process to lose a Missouri Senate seat to the Democrats. The Republican Party though is working on that.  Leading in the polls is former Governor Eric Greitens who resigned from office following allegations of sexual and campaign misconduct which were so bad that the Republican-dominated legislature was ready to impeach him.  The problem for Republicans is compounded by the fact that there may be so many other Republicans in the race that Greitens wins the nomination with a small plurality of the vote.  Democrats meanwhile are struggling to find a strong candidate to take advantage of the GOP nominating mess.  Former Governor Jay Nixon and Rep. Ann Wagner though took a pass.  Republican Hold.

Democrats did very well on candidate recruitment in the Sunshine State.  Rep. Val Demmings, who raised nearly $4.7 million last quarter, is a strong contender..  Some months ago, Demmings decided to pass on taking on popular Governor Ron DeSantis to instead focus on beating Senator Marco Rubio.  That now looks like a mistake.  While Rubio's numbers have held, DeSantis' poll numbers have fallen dramatically.   I have to give the edge to Rubio.  Republican Hold.

Nevada:  Republicans spun the candidate roulette wheel and won.  Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced he will take on Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro.  While Mastro has considerable money in the bank, she is a lower profile Senator who is not as flashy as some of her Senate colleagues.  Nevada is also one of the few states which has become more Republican during the Trump era.  I think in a good Republican year, Laxalt wins this race.  Republican Pickup.

New Hampshire:  Republicans desperately want Governor Chris Sununu to take on the incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.  If he doesn't, former Senator Kelly Ayotte, who barely lost to Hassan in 2016 might toss her hat into the ring.  While New Hampshire is a Democratic state, it is still competitive and an independent-minded Republican could win the state.  I reserve the right to change this prediction, but right now I have to give it to Hassan. Democratic Hold.

To sum, right now I would guess the Democrats have a 52-48 majority after the midterms. 


OOP's short takes:

  • A funny thing happened on the way to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination...he lost his 2022 re-election bid.  That could very well happen.  DeSantis has tried so hard to placate the Trump base that he forgot that Florida is a competitive state and that, to win re-election, he needs the votes of some independents and maybe even a few Democrats. 
  • DeSantis' poll numbers have fallen dramatically.  A recent Political Matrix/The Listener Group poll has Charlie Crist, a former Republican Governor who became a former Democratic congressman, leading DeSantis 57% to 43%.  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the highest elected Democrat in Florida, leads DeSantis 54% to 46% in the same poll.    In the middle of June, this same polling outfit had DeSantis with a 9 point lead on Crist and a 22 point lead on Fried.  So in two months DeSantis' numbers have slid 23 points against Crist and 30 points against Fried.  Someone pull the fire alarm in DeSantis' re-election headquarters.  These polls are in line with others conducted in the state.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Republicans Should Retake the House in 2022, But Gains Will Likely Be Small

Most political analysts believe the GOP will retake the House in 2022.  I concur.  Republicans control redistricting in significantly more states than do the Democrats.  By redrawing the districts to disadvantage Democratic incumbents, the GOP could easily pick up the handful seats needed to retake a majority in the U.S.  House.  As I noted on these pages, I think the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly will eliminate the Democratic leaning nature of Congressman Frank Mrvan's northwest Indiana district.  That would make Indiana's congressional district 8-1 instead of 7-2.

Then you have the heavy weight of history.  In midterm elections, the party not winning the White House tends to pick up a significant number seats in the House.

Three things though counterbalance, somewhat, those Republican advantages.  2020 was not a typical year for a party winning the White House.   While Democrats won the Presidency, Republicans picked up seats in the House, winning virtually every race that was deemed as close. So, in other words, many, if not most, of the competitive districts have already been won by Republicans.  Much of the historical mid-term gains for the party opposing the President has involved flipping back districts the President's party won during the presidential election.

The second factor weighing against Republican gains in the House are the rural voters which increasingly make up the GOP's base.  Recently released census figures shows a significant migration of people from rural to suburban areas.  Because of the requirement that districts be equal in population, mapmakers are going to have to include more suburban voters into districts than they would like.  Suburban voters, often wealthy and well-educated, are increasingly voting for Democrats.

The third factor is the uncertainty of those rural voters.  Turnout among rural voters spiked whenever Donald Trump was on the ballot.  In trying to making districts favorable, Republicans drawing the maps may include in their calculation rural voters who may return to their previous habits of not voting, or worse, voting for Democrats.

Nonetheless, I think the odds strongly favor Republicans to retake the House.  (I would say 85% chance, maybe 90%.) They are 9 seats short of a majority in the U.S. House, which only requires the GOP pick up 5 seats for a majority.  At this point, I would predict the Republicans flip 12-15 seats, which seems like a lot but is actually significantly less than is usual for the party out of power.

Next up:   As GOP senatorial candidates push to become more Trumpy, the odds decrease that Republicans will retake the Senate.

OOP's short takes:

  • While other Democrats were losing in 2020, Joe Biden won the Presidency because he presented the voters with a contrast to the highly-unpopular President Donald Trump.  Biden seemed to be a competent leader, someone who would take responsibility for things that happened, wasn't afraid to apologize when he made a mistake, and displayed a great deal of empathy.  Trump had none of those traits.
  • Both Trump and Biden both wanted to end the Afghanistan war ASAP.  Given his previous bungling of military initiatives, it is doubtful that Afghanistan would have turned out any different if President Trump were in the White House, including especially the bungled evacuation of American personnel and our Afghan allies.  But that is exactly the problem.  Biden wasn't supposed to be Trump 2.0.   All those positive traits on which he was judged favorably against Trump have gone out the window.
  • It appears the United States has righted the ship somewhat when it comes to the evacuations.   But Biden has not yet righted judgment on how he has handled them.  He still refuses to accept blame or to admit that things did not go as planned.  In other words, Biden has taken a Trumpy approach to governing.  Again, not a good look.
  • A man named Floyd Ray Roseberry showed up at the U.S. Capitol yesterday announcing he had a bomb in his truck that he intended to detonate.  Roseberry live-streamed what he was doing (until it was taken down).  Roseberry announced he was frustrated that Trump's election victory had been stolen and said he was there to kill Democrats if they didn't resign.  He called himself a "patriot" and said he was in Washington, D.C. to help return the country to what it used to be.  
  • Rep. Mo Brooks, a candidate for Senate in Alabama, tweeted support for Roseberry's convictions.  “Although this terrorist’s motivation is not yet publicly known, and generally speaking, I understand citizenry anger directed at dictatorial Socialism and its threat to liberty, freedom and the very fabric of American society,  The way to stop Socialism’s march is for patriotic Americans to fight back in the 2022 and 2024 election.”    Ugh.  Can we stop pretending political violence is not a very real possibility?
  • Newly announced Jeopardy host Mike Richards announced he was stepping down before the first taping.  As producer on The Price is Right, Richards, as had been previously accused of sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination by a litany of former employees, allegations that were included in at least two lawsuits. Turns out that's not a deal breaker, however.  What killed Richards' Jeopardy hosting gig is someone dug up an old podcast of his in which he made derogatory remarks about little people, Jews, people receiving unemployment benefits and women.  Apparently saying bad things is worse than doing bad things.
  • Not sure where Richards lives, but I expect that he will soon announce that he is a Republican candidate for Congress.
  • Recently I wrote about the lawsuit legendary song writer Bob Dylan faces based on his supposed sexual assault of a 12 year old girl in 1965.  The incidents were alleged to have taken place during April and May of 1965.  Turns out that Dylan may have been on a prolonged European concert tour during that time.  Alibi city.
  • Immediately people accused the now 68 year old plaintiff of lying.  To which I raise my hand.  First, aren't we supposed to always believe a woman's accusation of sexual assault is true?  Second, couldn't it just be that she was simply mistaken on the dates?  It was 56 freaking years ago, after all.  I can't remember where I parked my car at Costco's, much less remember what I was doing more than half a century ago.  Third, did I mention it was 56 freaking years ago?  Shouldn't we be blaming the idiots in the New York legislature who effectively repealed the statute of limitations on sexual assault allegations and thus opened the door to these types of ridiculous lawsuits?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Legendary Singer-Songwriter Bob Dylan Sued for Alleged Assaulting a 12 Year Old in 1965

Recently, several states have increased their statutes of limitations for filing sexual assault lawsuits, or in some cases eliminated them completely.  This sounds like a positive development.   After all, victims of sexual assault are often, understandably, reluctant to come forward. When the victim is a child it is necessary to give that person some time into adulthood to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the sexual assault.

But extending or eliminating statutes of limitations can also put those accused at a distinct disadvantage.  One thing though you learn from practicing law is that as time passes memories fade, witnesses die, evidence gets lost, destroyed or simply buried by history.  Statutes of limitations exist to ensure that claims are litigated while the evidence is relatively fresh and the evidence proving, or disproving, the claim can be obtained.

Take as an example, the case J.C. v. Robert Alan Zimmerman, a lawsuit filed on Friday.   Zimmerman is also known as Bob Dylan the legendary singer-songwriter.  The lawsuit was filed under the New York Child Victims Act which expanded by decades the statute of limitations for child victims to bring civil lawsuits.  The lawsuit was filed just before the statute, intended to provide temporary relief, expired.  Ironically, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is about to resign due to sexual assault allegations, albeit involving adults, signed the bill into law.

"J.C." is allowed to pursue the litigation in anonymity because she was an alleged child victim.  But J.C. is far, far from a child. The plaintiff is now a 68 year old woman.  In the lawsuit, J.C. indicates a stipulation will be sought to allow her identity to be protected from public disclosure.  The litigation rules protecting minors from having their identity revealed to the public is about protecting MINORS not 68 year olds.  If allowed to proceed as if she were a minor, J.C. would allow her to pursue her litigation against Dylan outside of the public eye.  Regarding non-minors, the courts, and their records, are considered open to the public because of the enormous public interest in the operation of our legal system.

The incident involving Dylan supposedly happened in 1965.  That year, Lyndon Johnson was President, man had not yet stepped on the moon (1969), and seat belts were not yet required in cars (1968).  Ironically, Bob Dylan's performing with the Byrds scored a number one hit in 1965 with "Mr. Tambourine Man."

The complaint alleges that Dylan assaulted, battered, falsely imprisoned J.C., who was then 12 years old.  A final cause of action is that Dylan intentionally inflicted emotional distress on his victim.  

Here are some of the factual allegations in the complaint:
11. That between April and May of 1965 the defendant, Dylan, exploited his status as a musician by grooming J.C. to gain her trust and to obtain control over her as part of his plan to sexually molest and abuse J.C."

12.  That the defendant, Dylan, exploited his status as a musician to provide J.C. with alcohol and drugs and sexually abuse her multiple times."

13.  That at certain times the sexual abuse of J.C. by the defendant, Dylan, occurred in his apartment at the Hotel Chelsea.

14.  That by reason of the wrongful acts of the defendant, Dylan, as set forth above, J.C. sustained physical and psychological injuries, including but not limited to, severe emotional and psychological distress, humiliation, fright, disassociation, anger, depression, anxiety, personal turmoil and loss of faith, a severe shock to her nervous system, physical pain and mental anguish, and emotional and psychological damage, and, upon information belief, some or all of these injuries are of a permanent and lasting nature, and J.C. has and/or will become obligated to expend sums of money for treatment."
The lawsuit later alleges that Dylan acts included a "series of harmful and offensive contacts to [J.C.'s] person which were done without her consent.  The complaint though is remarkably short on detail regarding the nature of those contacts.  My guess is that, because this complaint is public, J.C.'s attorney chose to use vague generalizations.  Once the lawsuit is deemed confidential, and outside the public purview, J.C.'s attorney may well amend the lawsuit to include more salacious detail.  

If I were Dylan's lawyer, I'd fight tooth and nail to insist that J.C. be required to litigate the matter in public.  Recently a similar lawsuit filed against actor Kevin Spacey based on his supposed sexual assault of a 14 year old in the 1980s was dismissed when the alleged victim, now a middle-aged adult, refused to allow his identity to be made public.  Like the Dylan case, the Spacey lawsuit was also made possible because of the increase in the statute of limitations made possible by the New York Child Victim's Act.

Let's say you are the lawyer defending Dylan. Dylan tells you J.C. never came to his apartment at the Chelsea.  Maybe you could subpoena the doorman to Dylan's apartment?  The doorman is probably dead, and if he or she is not, what is the likelihood of that person remembering who Dylan was with when he held the door open 56 years ago?  But what about the Chelsea's records?  I checked - the Chelsea Hotel still exists - but what are the odds the hotel has retained written or video record from 1965 of those people entering the building?  Pretty much zero.  J.C. is also claiming she incurred treatment and medical bills from the alleged assaults.  Being able to get 56 year old medical records is difficult enough, but even if you could, most of the doctors and other medical personnel who authored the records would be dead or unable to remember specifics.

Statutes of limitations exist to ensure fundamental fairness in our legal system.  We should not be so quick to throw them out.

Monday, August 16, 2021

American Foreign Policy Hits Rock Bottom in Afghanistan

A disaster is playing out in Afghanistan as I write this.  Upon assuming the presidency, Joe Biden carried through with the President Trump policy of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan.  Much to the shock of America's foreign policy experts, the large, well-equipped Afghanistan military folded within days as the much smaller Taliban force seized control of the country and the government. 

While Presidents Trump and Biden had different approaches to Afghanistan, they both had the same goal - the end to America's longest war.   President Trump's approach was to befriend the terrorist-supporting Taliban and trust them to be partners in peace.  President Biden's approach was more Vietnamesesque... train the locals to take over the fighting and then leave.  Unfortunately for Biden, the strategy worked as well as it did in Vietnam.  It took only days for North Vietnam to route South Vietnam when the United States left its ally behind.  Same with the Taliban and Afghanistan.

In the last few years, the hopes of stamping out the Taliban were shelved as the American military was reduced to a small security force.   While the smaller force was remarkably successful in keeping the Taliban and its support for terrorism contained, the United States was far less successful when it came to nation building.  While the United States rebuilt roads and bridges and schools in Afghanistan, the seeds of democracy and freedom never took root.  

One might say that the withdraw from Afghanistan was a mistake.  But the almost immediate collapse of the Afghan government and surrender to the Taliban suggests that our 20 year approach to Afghanistan was the real mistake.  Nation building does not work.  Freedom and democracy have to grow organically. Planting those seeds ourselves and hoping they grow never works.  The United States never seems to learn these lessons.

The United States went into Afghanistan to go after the Al-Qaeda terrorists who were behind the 9/11 attack on the United States.  The Taliban, located chiefly in Afghanistan, had given aid and support to the Al-Qaeda terrorists.  The United States did a remarkably good job in going after those terrorists and extracting a heavy price for so many Americans killed on that September day.

It was when America's mission went from targeting terrorists to nation building that success in Afghanistan turned to failure.

Here's what I don't get about Afghanistan.  Why isn't the United States doing everything possible to get those Afghans who helped America, people such as translators, out of the country?  Leaving them behind is to doom them to death.  Further, it almost ensures no locals will want to help the United States ever again.

Sadly, this is just the most recent example of the United States turning its back on friends who helped America.  I think back about the Kurds who helped the United States in Syria only to see President Trump leave them behind to die.

The U.S. military has made a sacred commitment to leave no one behind on the battlefield.   That is a commitment we need to extend to those friends of America who risked their lives to help out the United States in its missions.  To leave those Afghans behind is unconscionable, a disgraceful chapter in America's history books.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Sen. Todd Young Puts Fear of Trump Over Principle, Votes Against Infrastructure Package

For weeks, Indiana Senator Todd Young has been part of a bipartisan group that finally reached a compromise on the infrastructure bill.  But then when it came time to vote he suddenly changed his mind, issuing this statement to explain his sudden opposition to the measure.
“For the last several months, I’ve been working diligently with my colleagues toward a bipartisan infrastructure bill to provide crucial funding for our crumbling roads and bridges
Senator Todd Young

and to make targeted investments that yield positive long-term results in areas like broadband, ports, and airports.

“As I’ve said many times, while I’m eager for a bill that makes these investments, I’m also committed to doing so in a fiscally responsible way. Having reviewed the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimated fiscal impact of this legislation as currently constructed, and frankly still not being comfortable with a number of the Democratic priorities contained in this version, I will vote ‘no.’ 

 “As many of you know, I have concerns with the way CBO scores legislation and, even in this case, I don’t agree exactly with their scoring analysis. Nonetheless, I’m not yet comfortable with the current pay-fors in this legislation nor am I comfortable with Speaker Pelosi’s continued insistence o tying passage of this bill to the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reckless tax-and-spend budget proposal. Whether it is infrastructure or the Democrats’ reckless budget, we can’t afford to continue to grow the national debt at this pace, particularly as our economy recovers from the pandemic. 

“Once this legislation passes the Senate, it will move next to the House of Representatives, where changes are all but certain. I intend to do what Hoosiers expect me to do, which is to continue working with my colleagues to improve this bill in hopes that the final product will be one I can support, because I sincerely believe we must address our nation’s infrastructure needs.”
Unfortunately, Senator Young's statement lacks candor.  What happened was that former President Trump announced he would not endorse for re-election any Republican Senator who supports the package.  Senator Young is up in 2022.   Young was no doubt fearful that he might face a Trumper challenger in the primary and switched his vote to head off that possibility.  Young undoubtedly knew that there were more than enough Republican votes for the measure and that his vote would not be needed.

What is disappointing though is that Senator Young put fealty to former President Trump ahead of doing what he knows is right.    In the past, Young has shown a degree independence and integrity.  But when push came to shove on the infrastructure bill, Senator Young sold out.  

Nonetheless, I will still hold out some hope for Senator Young.  Fortunately for Young, the other Senator from Indiana, Mike Braun, is positively awful, an unabashed Trumper who holds zero principles.  Young can't help but look good in comparison.

OOP's short takes:
  • While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's sexual misdeeds are certainly deserving of attention and sanction, unfortunately they are crowding out some of the other scandals which merited more attention than they received.  Early in the pandemic, Gov. Cuomo sent Covid-positive patients into nursing homes for 46 days, then covered up the resulting deaths.  Years before that Cuomo had set up the Moreland Commission to root out corruption in New York state politics but then undermined the Commission's operations when the Commission began to focus on ethical problems in his office.  Gov. Cuomo had wanted to use the Commission to go after political enemies, not clean up state government.
  • Gov. Cuomo has been on a power trip for a long time.   It's unfortunate that there needs to be something sexy like a sex scandal before the public will hold a politician accountable for his or her misconduct.
  • Another big company, this time Accenture, has been hit by ransomware.  I've said this before...these big companies are eventually going to beef up their software security systems.  When they do these ransomware criminals are going to move on to softer targets, like individuals and small companies.  
  • I don't get how a Governor Ron DeSantis can issue an edict banning local school districts from requiring masks.  Certainly the Florida legislature could pass such a law, but not sure how a Governor could do something like that via executive order.   Apparently at least two courts share my skepticism as that granted a temporary injunction against enforcement of the DeSantis order.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Meaning of Tuesday's Primary Elections in Ohio

On Tuesday, I was watching The Beat with Ari Melber discuss that day's primary elections in Ohio for two open congressional seats, one heavily Republican the other heavily Democrat..  As a legal analyst, Melber, who is an attorney, is top notch.  As a political analyst... not so much.

Melber's program focused on Trump's supposed waning influence in the GOP.  Guests eagerly advanced that narrative.  As proof, Melber continually referred to the recent Texas GOP "primary" for an open congressional seat, an election in which the Trump endorsed candidate, Susan Wright, lost to another Republican, state representative Jake Ellzey.

The problem with Melber's "proof" of Trump's declining influence in the GOP is that the Texas race was NOT a primary.  It was a runoff general election which featured two Republicans.  In the preceding "jungle primary," the leading Democratic candidate finished third and didn't make the run-off.

Ellzey prevailed in the runoff with 53% of the vote.  (Some analysts suggest that's a blowout - a 6 point margin is most certainly a close election.)  There is no mystery why Ellzey prevailed.  While he garnered a significant percentage of the Republican vote, no doubt what gave him his  majority were Democrats who voted in the run-off for the least Trumpy GOP candidate.'

The Texas race didn't prove anything about Trump's waning influence in the GOP.  It did confirm though something we've known since 2018.  Democrats and to a lesser degree, independents, do not like Trump and will jump at a chance to vote against anyone seen as associated with him.   That's not a nothing burger.   Trump, outside the GOP base, has almost no support.

In Ohio, the Trump endorsed candidate, coal lobbyist Mike Carey, won the GOP special election congressional primary on Tuesday.   Cable news talking heads trumpeted this as sign of Trump's continued hold over GOP voters.  But is that really accurate?  First of all, Trump's endorsement didn't clear the field  Carey ended up running against 10 other Republican candidates, many of whom had high level endorsements.  Despite having Trump's enthusiastic support and Trump's PAC putting at least $400,000 into Carey's campaign, Carey only received 37% of the Republican vote.  Nearly 2 out of every 3 Republican voters in that Ohio congressional district knew Trump had endorsed Carey, yet chose to vote for another candidate.  While the lack of a Trump endorsement didn't help those candidates not named Carey, what really killed their chances was the splintered nature of the vote.  

The real message out of Ohio on Tuesday was the special election Democratic primary in Congressional District 10.  In that district, Nina Turner, a former state senator and well-known Bernie Sanders campaign activist, lost to Shontel Brown, a member of the Cuyahoga (Cleveland) County Council.  Brown was seen as the more moderate, establishment candidate.  Turner was viewed as a bomb thrower, someone who was so far left she would not sign on to the Biden agenda.

The moderates are continuing to win most of the primary fights within the Democratic Party.  So much for the GOP narrative that the crazies are taking over the Democratic Party.  Thus far that has not been happening.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Former President Trump Fleeces $100 Million from Gullible Followers

A Trump supporter and reader of this blog emailed me a few days eek about a story of how former President Trump's fundraising PAC's hauled in more than $100 million last year.  He was giddy...he believed, and still believes Trump, is going to take that money and use it in primaries to boost Trumpers running against Republicans who chose to put American democracy and he Constitution ahead of loyalty to Dear Leader.

I just laughed. To Trump,  the money his PACs raise is HIS money.   Oh, and by "his money" I mean his personal money.  Trump sees no distinction between money raised for political purposes and money given to him personally.  It is nothing for Trump to take a pile of political cash and make "expenditure" payments to companies that enrich himself, his family and friends.  He did this so much during the 2020 presidential election cycle that the Trump campaign was nearly broke in the weeks leading up to the election.

Of the $102 million raised by Trump PACs during the first six months, $90 million of it was raised by the Save America leadership PACs.  (Actually $82 million because $8 million was a transfer from 2020.)  None of the money from the Save America PAC has gone to congressional candidates in 2021.  CNN reports:

Save America is the former President's primary fundraising and public relations vehicle, and he uses it to issue statements endorsing his favored candidates and denouncing those he opposes. But the PAC had not contributed to any congressional candidates during the first six months of the year, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission. Miller told CNN that checks began going out to endorsed candidates in July, after the period covered by the new filings.

Leadership PACs such as Save America have a cap on donations, but federal rules impose few restrictions on how their contributions can be spent. And during the first six months of the year, the PAC spent about $68,000 for lodging and meals at the Trump Hotel Collection, according to records.

Again, this Trump Super PAC has spent ZERO on other Republicans.  The article continues.

Trump has another super PAC, Make America Great Again Action.  It has raised a little more than $5 million as of June 30th.  Its donors include Don Ahern, a Nevada businessman who contributed $1 million, former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler at $250,000 and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell at $100,000.  This PAC has given $100,000 to Texas Republican in an unsuccessful effort to win a special run-off election against another, less-Trumpy Republican, Jake Elzey.  This PAC has contributed more than $400,000 to promote coal lobbyist Mike Carey, in a Columbus-area primary preceding a special election to fill an open congressional seat.

A little math calculation indicates that Trump has spent .4% of the money his PACs have raised on donations to political candidates.  That's .4% not 4%.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Of course, to get that money in the door, Trump is not above engaging in a little lot of fraud.  In asking for contributions to the Save American PAC, Trump told donors the money would be used for "election defense," an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.  Trump has spent zero on that cause.  When that scam ran out, he filed bogus First Amendment class-action lawsuits against Facebook, Google and Twitter, which lawsuits were solely for the purpose of engaging in more fundraising for the PAC.  

The Guardian sums it up:

“Donald Trump is a one-man scam Pac,” said Paul S Ryan, vice-president of policy and litigation with Common Cause. (Note: This is not THE Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the House.) “Bait-and-switch is among his favorite fundraising tactics,” Ryan stressed, noting that Trump’s Save America Pac told “supporters he needed money to challenge the result of an election he clearly lost”, and then wound up not spending any on litigation last year.

“Now he’s at it again, with frivolous lawsuits filed [in July] against Facebook, Twitter and Google, accompanied by fundraising appeals,” Ryan added. “This time he’s got the unlimited dark money group America First Policy Institute in on the racket.”

Other experts voice strong concerns about Trump’s tactics with Save America

“The president deceived his donors. He asked them to give money so he could contest the election results, but then he spent their contributions to pay off unrelated debts,” said Adav Noti, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now chief of staff at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Noti added: “ That’s dangerously close to fraud. If a regular charity – or an individual who didn’t happen to be president of the United States – had raised tens of millions of dollars through that sort of deception, they would face a serious risk of prosecution.”

I have a lot of sympathy for people who fall prey to a scam.  But when a con man continually shows the public who he is and fools (i.e. "marks") give him money anyway, my sympathy goes out the window.  

Remember Trump University?  Remember the Trump Foundation?  Donald Trump's entire career has been running one con after another.  Trump's post-election loss fundraising ventures are only his latest scams.  At some point the Trumpers continually opening their wallets for a two bit con man need to stop being stupid.  

OOP's short takes:

  • I've been thinking of a way to define what the Republican Party has become under Donald Trump's leadership.  Some call the GOP the "stupid" party or the "anti-science" party.  Critics say the Republican Party isn't "conservative" anymore.  While all those descriptions have merit, they also fall short.  After all, there are still smart Republicans who believe in science and are also conservative.  
  • But there is one trait that virtually every prominent Republican displays ad nauseum these days:  assholery.  Every Republican in the public eye today seems to think the way to get ahead in politics is to be the biggest asshole possible.
  • The online urban dictionary defines "assholery" as:  "An institution that produces a large amount of assholes in a manner that resembles the systematic and high output of industrial factories."  That is, sadly, the most accurate description of what my Republican Party has become.