Archives for category: Elections

We have been waiting for Trump to begin attacking DeSantis. Trump released a statement today in which he tore down DeSantis, hitting him from the left and the right.

Trump’s line of attack:

DeSantis is an “average governor,” with no big accomplishments.

DeSantis has proposed “massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare.”

DeSantis was terrible on COVID, including lockdowns. Yet Florida had high rates of COVID and COVID deaths.

On crime, Florida is one of the worst in the nation.

On education, Florida compares poorly to other states.

DeSantis leads the nation in Public Relations.

Mimi Swartz of the Texas Monthly described the federal judge who will decide whether to allow abortion pills to remain legal. He was appointed by Trump, undoubtedly recommended by the Federalist Society, which vetted all of Trump’s judicial picks. This judge was his parting gift to the anti-abortion lobby. Judge Kacsmaryk has the power to declare the abortion pill illegal across the nation; he is taking testimony about whether the drug was wrongly approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2000. Medically-induced drugs account for more than half of the abortions in the U.S.

Much of the public attention now focused on Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Amarillo-based federal judge who is expected to soon outlaw mifepristone, the so-called abortion pill, has focused on the ways in which his political and religious beliefs have shaped his legal career. His fervent opposition to abortion arose as an issue during his confirmation hearings in 2019, as did his staunch opposition to same-sex marriage and his previous statement that transgender Americans were “delusional.” He isn’t a fan of birth control either: in 2015, as deputy general counsel for a Plano-based nonprofit law firm called First Liberty Institute, Kacsmaryk arguedin an amicus brief that pharmacies should be prevented from providing contraception. Kacsmaryk’s time on the bench has only reinforced the view that he is an activist judge who allows his private beliefs to govern his legal opinions—and it seems that the antiabortion activists who venue-shopped to land the mifepristone suit in his courtroom would agree.

The Washington Post wrote:

AMARILLO, Tex. — The federal judge who could upend access to a key abortion medication seemed open on Wednesday to the argument that the drug had not been properly vetted and could be unsafe — claims the Food and Drug Administration and leading health organizations strongly contest.

While the antiabortion group challenging the drug acknowledged there is no precedent for a court to order the suspension of a long-approved medication, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk questioned whether mifepristone has met the rigorous federal standard necessary to be prescribed to patients in the United States.

He asked a lawyer for the group whether the court could unilaterally withdraw FDA approval for a drug, and engaged with attorneys for both sides about whether mailing the pills should be prohibited because of a 19th-century law that bans sending articles “for any indecent or immoral use” through the Postal Service….

During the hearing, lawyers for the antiabortion group argued that the FDA’s decision to allow abortion pills to be distributed by mail violates a 150-year-old law. The Comstock Act, they say, prohibits mailing any drug used “for producing abortion.”

Those arguments appeared to resonate with Kacsmaryk, who asked government lawyers if there was “any dispute” that the law prohibits mailing abortion medication.

The Justice Department argued that the modern-day reading of the law has never prevented the mailing of abortion pills, in part because the medications have other uses and because abortion remains legal in many circumstances.

Garry Rayno writes in InsideNH about the dramatic change in the legislature’s agenda. Instead of dealing with the issues that affect people’s lives, legislators are now grappling with the same fake issues funded in many other states by Dark Money: vouchers, abortion, vaccines, guns, “parental rights.”

Rayno writes:

A quick look at the House and Senate calendars for this week will convince even those with casual political interests that the culture wars have come to New Hampshire.

Lawmakers will spend hours debating the war on public education, parental rights, abortion rights, voting rights, vaccines and medical care, firearms, drugs and governmental power to name about half the debates to grace Representatives Hall and the Senate Chamber.

Not that long ago, these more global issues were not front and center in every session of the General Court.

Instead it was the state’s support for institutions like nursing homes and higher education, reducing the uncompensated care for hospitals, tax credits to attract businesses and yes how the state funds education.

It was not about furries and cat litter boxes, drag shows and grooming, or face masks and lockdowns.

How did the state get from dealing with its own issues to making New Hampshire deal with the same issues as Texas or Florida or any of the other states undergoing the same forced “rehabilitations.” [Emphasis added]

It is easy to blame social media for the universalization of issues and concerns, but it is just the vehicle. What has caused the manipulation of this country’s consciousness is the information or misinformation that has been spread over the electronic infrastructure.

Very sophisticated networks are doing damage to this country that could not have happened in a war or limited military conflict.

During the Vietnam War the conflict was often described as a war for the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people.

And now the war for the hearts and minds has come home 50 years later.

The polarization between red and blue and the resulting cultural wars intended to energize “the base,” has created a country with little use for compromise and that is apparent in the New Hampshire legislature as well.

Much of what has been passed in the last three years is unpopular, some very unpopular with the general public if you read the polls, but lawmakers who push these agendas or proposals that serve a small portion of the state continue to be elected.

In New Hampshire it is easy to see how Republicans gerrymandered the Senate and Executive Council and to some extent the House, to have control of all three although Democratic candidates received more votes than Republican candidates in all three bodies.

The state has an all Democratic Congressional delegation, and until Gov. Chris Sununu won in 2016, controlled the governor’s office for 16 of the previous 18 years.

New Hampshire is truly a purple state but you would not know that looking at the legislation approved and proposed in the last three years by the House and Senate.

The public has not given the lawmakers a mandate to turn New Hampshire into a Libertarian Shangri-La but that is what is happening.

Money is being drained out of the public school system, taxes are cut and some eliminated like the interest and dividends tax which benefits the wealthy not the poor, regulations are eliminated, and personal freedoms are emphasized to the detriment of a safe society.

The one thing that has really not worked out “as planned” for the Libertarians is Gov. Chris Sununu’s power grab of federal money that he used to concentrate power in the executive branch.

And ironically it is the flow of money into politics that has driven what is happening in New Hampshire, and other states like Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Texas, Florida and in the Midwest.

Extreme school voucher programs, attacks on reproductive rights and the gay and transgender communities, all similar if not identical in legislation that is intended to reduce the power of government, its reach and return to a time that never was in our lifetimes, but did exist before the Civil War or at least before Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 struck down restrictions on corporate contributions saying they violated First Amendment rights.

It not only gave corporations the same rights as citizens it opened the floodgates for corporate money into campaigns and allowed them to influence elections like they never had before.

It also allowed that corporate money to operate in the dark money universe where super PACs do not disclose where the money comes from.

The decision essentially took government out of the hands of voters and put it into the hands of the mega donors.

And it trickled down to New Hampshire as well.

In each of the last two elections about $1 million was spent on House seats alone, while the Senate PACs received about an equal amount with spending on a senate seat often over $100,000 and some over $200,000.

That is a lot of money for a position that pays $100 a year and you know whoever gave big money will expect a return.

Please open the link and finish reading this important and perceptive article. It is an incisive analysis of the rightwing attack on local democracy.

Arizona has a Democratic Governor, Katie Hobbs, who beat election denier Kari Lake, by a small margin. Each house of the legislature has a small Republican majority, by one vote only. Yet the Republicans have decided to copy the zany extremist initiatives of Ron DeSantis of Florida. Some Republicans think it’s a risky bet.

From criminalizing drag shows to legalizing guns on college campuses, Republican lawmakers at the Arizona Capitol are proceeding like it’s a normal year for them, pushing forward with proposals that appeal to the furthest-right voters in the state.

They’re advancing election bills based on conspiracy theories and pushing back at critics, even silencing speakers for using the phrase “conspiracy theory.” Some proposed laws that were rejected in past years due to Republican opposition have made it further this year, even as they have less chance of becoming law.

Republicans expect Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs to veto what they believe are good bills, hoping their commitment to far-right conservative values will help them in next year’s election.

It’s a risky strategy if they want to avoid seeing the Legislature flip to Democrats next year, according to some observers on both sides of the aisle.

“The party right now is tone-deaf,” said former Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican from Glendale who served in the Legislature for five terms but didn’t run for reelection last year after some constituents and GOP peers pilloried him for failing to embrace election denialism. “They haven’t figured out that if they keep this up, we’re going to get massacred.”

Maurice Cunningham is a retired professor of political science in Massachusetts. He is an expert on Dark Money in education issues. His revelations about the money behind a state referendum to expand the number of charters indefinitely in Massachusetts in 2016 helped to defeat the referendum. I wrote about his role in my book Slaying Goliath.

What Happened to Election Day at National Parents Union?

There I was on the edge of my seat in front of the television waiting for Steve Kornacki to break down the numbers in the election for the hotly contested highest offices in the National Parents Union. Could Keri Rodrigues be re-elected to another three year term? Might Alma Marquez, elected secretary-treasurer three years ago before mysteriously disappearinglaunch a comeback bid? Would the networks call a winner before my bedtime?

But no, nothing. No network call. No Steve Kornacki. No election at all.

That was a huge disappointment because on January 27, 2020, Beth Hawkins of The74 reported “Founders Keri Rodrigues and Alma Marquez were voted into three-year terms as inaugural president and secretary-treasurer, respectively.”

So I waited three years for the next election. If you can’t get reliable information about a Walton Family Foundation franchise like NPU from a Walton Family Foundation publication like The74, where can you look?

I’m kidding. I knew there would be no election, just like I knew the Hawkins piece was corporate puffery, and just as I knew there was no real election in 2020 where Rodrigues and Marquez “launch[ed] the National Parents Union on Jan. 16, when they … [held] an inaugural summit in New Orleans with 125 delegates from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.” For one thing, Rodrigues signed NPU’s incorporation papers on April 4, 2019 as president. Then on the 2020 annual report Rodrigues signed as president with a term ending December 31, 2025. Tim Langan (later to marry Rodrigues, in 2022) replaced Marquez as treasurer. There has never been any accounting of what happened to the duly elected treasurer and apparently zero curiosity about her from the “125 delegates from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico” who presumably left New Orleans thinking they had elected her to a three year term.

Still, an election for a part-time job that pays $232,000 for twenty hours per week would seem attractive enough to draw some opposition. (Source: National Parents Union Form 990 tax return for 2021)

The $180,000 is from a related organization, the Walton Family Foundation franchise Massachusetts Parents Union, also a 20 hour per week gig. (Source: Massachusetts Parents United Form 990 tax return for 2021)

Reading over The74 article I’m struck by how important it was for the Waltons to portray NPU as something like a real union. But it isn’t. For one thing unions elect their leadership democratically. Rodrigues promised Fox News that NPU would “be creating a national parent council and a board of advisers. We will assemble delegates, agree on by-laws, vote on ratification, and form our union.” The parent council has never materialized, no by-laws have been made public, and ratificationwas about as valid as the treasurer’s vote. But they did appoint delegates! Then NPU killed off all the delegates. They were replaced with a 7 person parent “advisory council.” Keep your bags packed, councilors.

Who would vote if NPU did hold an election? Rodrigues recently tweeted “Just held our last @NationalParents Union leadership meeting where @TafshierCosby announced we have now grown to almost 1,000 affiliated organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.”

There are no parent organization affiliates. The only verifiable affiliated organizations are those, as I wrote in Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization, that are in the charter school industry or related privatization fronts. Cosby is identified at the NPU website Senior Director of the NPU Center for Organizing and Partnerships and “also the CEO of Parent Impact.” Parent Impact is apparently part of the KIPP charter school business. Itwas recognized by the IRS as a tax exempt organization only on September 10, 2020. IRS placed Parent Impact on the auto-revocation list for not filing tax returns on May 15, 2021.

I didn’t let the popcorn go to waste on election night but I sure did miss Steve Kornacki.

Maurice T. Cunningham is author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization. As a (now retired) educator in the UMass system, he is a union member.

Since he lost in 2020, former President Trump has repeatedly and falsely alleged that the election was rigged, stolen from him. Millions of his adherents believe him. Sowing disbelief in the fundamental fairness of the nation’s voting system may be Trump’s greatest crime, for which he will never be prosecuted. It is a clear violation of his oath of office, in which he solemnly swore that he would “”to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

But the Washington Post obtained a secret study commissioned by Trump to determine the scope of any election fraud. The study did not confirm the claims Trump made in public. The voter fraud discovered by his team could not verify his wild claims.

When Donald Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in a now-infamous bid to overturn the 2020 election, he alleged that thousands of dead people had voted in the state.
“So dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number, and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters,” he said, without citing his study.

But a report commissioned by his own campaign dated one day prior told a different story: Researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” of only nine dead voters in Fulton County, defined as ballots that may have been cast by someone else in the name of a deceased person. They believed there was a “potential statewide exposure” of 23 such votes across the Peach State — or 4,977 fewer than the “minimum” Trump claimed.In a separate failed bid to overturn the results in Nevada, Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that 1,506 ballots were cast in the names of dead people and 42,284 voted twice. Trump lost the Silver State by about 33,000 votes.

The researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” that 12 ballots were cast in the names of deceased people in Clark County, Nev., and believed the “high end potential exposure” was 20 voters statewide — some 1,486 fewer than Trump’s lawyers said.

According to their research, the “low end potential exposure” of double voters was 45, while the “high end potential exposure” was 9,063. The judge tossed the Nevada case even as Trump continued to claim he won the state.

Are there penalties for lying?

Are there consequences for undermining public confidence in the democratic process of selecting those who govern us?

How do we hold accountable a president who violates his oath of office?

David Frum, formerly a Republican speechwriter but now a Never Trumper, writes in the Atlantic that Ron DeSantis has figured out how to woo the Republican base but not how to win a national election.

DeSantis spoke out on the Tucker Carlson show against support for Ukraine because the conflict is nothing more than “a territorial dispute” that does not concern us.

Never mind that the US, NATO, and the UN have a vital stake in protecting a rules-based international order where one sovereign nation does not invade another in order to extinguish its national identity.

Never mind, as Frum wrote, that DeSantis “was on record, in 2014 and 2015, urging the Obama administration to send both “defensive and offensive” weapons to Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea.”

DeSantis is courting the base by imposing a nearly-complete ban on abortion, limiting it to the first six weeks of pregnancy, before women know they are pregnant. But a majority of voters in Florida oppose the ban: “That bill is opposed by 57 percent of those surveyed even inside Florida. Another poll found that 75 percent of Floridians oppose the ban. It also showed that 77 percent oppose permitless concealed carry, which DeSantis supports, and that 61 percent disapprove of his call to ban the teaching of critical race theory as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion policies on college campuses.”

How will DeSantis’s hard-right views play outside Florida?

More dangerous than the unpopular positions DeSantis holds are the popular positions he does not hold. What is DeSantis’s view on health care? He doesn’t seem to have one. President Joe Biden has delivered cheap insulin to U.S. users. Good idea or not? Silence from DeSantis. There’s no DeSantis jobs policy; he hardly speaks about inflation. Homelessness? The environment? Nothing. Even on crime, DeSantis must avoid specifics, because specifics might remind his audience that Florida’s homicide numbers are worse than New York’s or California’s.

Frum believes that DeSantis could win the GOP nomination but has no realistic path to winning the presidency.

I hope he is right. DeSantis has no respect for the very idea of a two-party system. He wants a one-party state, led by an all-powerful autocrat. As he bragged in Nevada, no member of the Democratic Party won any statewide races. His preference is to have no opposition, no criticism, no free press. He is dangerous. He has a fascist instinct.

I had a conversation with Tim Slekar on his program, “Busted Pencils,” about the Rightwing attack on teaching history honestly and accurately.

We had fun, and you might enjoy listening:

#BustEDPencils Pod.
It’s not an attack on history. It’s an attack on #democracy.

Guest: Diane Ravitch.

Listen here:

ProPublica wrote recently about a powerful organization of far-right conservatives that carefully avoids public scrutiny. They are wealthy, powerful, and networked, thanks to the Federalist Society and its mastermind Leonard Leo. Leo is the guy who picked judges for Trump and engineered the selection of Brett Kanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Please read this article about Teneo, an organization with long tentacles and a goal of crushing liberal ideas, ideas that are central to our democracy.

A few tidbits:

ProPublica and Documented have obtained more than 50 hours of internal Teneo videos and hundreds of pages of documents that reveal the organization’s ambitious agenda, influential membership and burgeoning clout. We have also interviewed Teneo members and people familiar with the group’s activities. The videos, documents and interviews provide an unfiltered look at the lens through which the group views the power of the left — and how it plans to combat it.

In response to questions for this story, Leo said in a statement: “Teneo’s young membership proves that the conservative movement is poised to be even more talented, driven, and successful in the future. This is a group that knows how to build winning teams.”

The records show Teneo’s members have included a host of prominent names from the conservative vanguard, including such elected officials as U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, a co-founder of the group. Other members have included Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, now the fourth-ranking House Republican, as well as Nebraska’s attorney general and Virginia’s solicitor general. Three senior aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, are members. Another is the federal judge who struck down a Biden administration mask mandate. The heads of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican State Leadership Committee and Turning Point USA — all key cogs in the world of national conservative politics — have been listed as Teneo members…

Teneo co-founder Evan Baehr, a tech entrepreneur and veteran of conservative activism, said in a 2019 video for new members that Teneo had “many, many, many dozens” of members working in the Trump administration, including in the White House, State Department, Justice Department and Pentagon. “They’re everywhere….”

Soon after Leo took an interest in Teneo, the group’s finances soared. Annual revenue reached$2.3 million in 2020 and nearly $5 million in 2021, according to tax records. In 2021, the bulk of Teneo’s income — more than $3 million — came from one source: DonorsTrust, a clearinghouse for conservative, libertarian and other charitable gifts that masks the original source of the money. In 2020, the Leo-run group that received the Chicago business owner’s $1.6 billion donation gave $41 million to DonorsTrust, which had $1.5 billion in assets as of 2021.

Teneo’s other funders have included marquee conservative donors: hedge fund investor Paul Singer, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the DeVos family, according to Baehr.

As the group’s finances improved, its videos became much more professionally produced, and its website underwent a dramatic upgrade from previous iterations. All of this was part of what Baehr called “Teneo 2.0,” a major leap forward for the group, driven in part by Leo’s guidance and involvement….

Many of the connections happen at Teneo’s annual retreat, which brings together hundreds of members and their spouses, plus allies including politicians like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and DeSantis as well as business leaders and prominent academics. Speakers at past Teneo retreats have included luminaries spanning politics, culture, business and the law: New York Times columnist David Brooks, federal judge Trevor McFadden, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, “Woke, Inc.” author and 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump cabinet official and 2024 presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, ultrawealthy donors and activists Dick and Betsy DeVos, and Chick-fil-A board chair Dan Cathy.

These are the only posts today. Read them. Think about it. What did you learn? What should we do? None of us is a billionaire. How can we save our democracy?

Organize. Be informed. Vote.

Jeff Yass is the richest man in Pennsylvania.

Jeff Yass is a billionaire. The Bloomberg Billionaire Index says he has $33 billion.

Jeff Yass created a Wall Street firm with partners called the Susquehanna International Group.

Jeff Yass is a huge supporter of charter schools. He created the annual Yass Prize, which is administered by the anti-public school organization called “The Center for Education Reform.” CER supports every kind of choice (charters, vouchers, online charters, for-profit charters, homeschooling) while vehemently denouncing public schools. CER is opposed to any regulation or accountability of “choice” schools. CER distributes millions in prizes to charter schools, thanks to the Yass family.

ProPublica says there’s something else you don’t know about Jeff Yass.

He funds Republican candidates and election deniers.

He opposes abortion.

He funds candidates who oppose critical race theory.

His top priority is to defund public schools.

According to ProPublica:

The firm he and his friends founded, Susquehanna International Group, is a sprawling global company that makes billions of dollars. Yass and his team used their numerical expertise to make rapid-fire computer-driven trades in options and other securities, eventually becoming a giant middleman in the markets for stocks and other securities. If you have bought stock or options on an app like Robinhood or E-Trade, there’s a good chance you traded with Susquehanna without knowing it. Today, Yass, 63, is one of the richest and most powerful financiers in the country.

But one crucial aspect of his ascent to stratospheric wealth has transpired out of public view. Using the same prowess that he’s applied to race tracks and options markets, Yass has taken aim at another target: his tax bill.

There, too, the winnings have been immense: at least $1 billion in tax savings over six recent years, according to ProPublica’s analysis of a trove of IRS data. During that time, Yass paid an average federal income tax rate of just 19%, far below that of comparable Wall Street traders.

Yass has devised trading strategies that reduce his tax burden but push legal boundaries. He has repeatedly drawn IRS audits, yet has continued to test the limits. Susquehanna has often gone to court to fight the government, with one multiyear audit battle ending in a costly defeat. The firm has maintained in court filings that it complied with the law.

Yass’ low rate is particularly notable because Susquehanna, by its own description, specializes in short-term trading. Money made from such rapid trades is typically taxed at rates around 40%.

In recent years, however, Yass’ annual income has, with uncanny consistency, been made up almost entirely of income taxed at the roughly 20% rate reserved for longer-term investments.

Congress long ago tried to stamp out widely used techniques that seek to transform profits taxed at the high rate into profits taxed at the low rate. But Yass and his colleagues have managed to avoid higher taxes anyway.

The tax savings have contributed to an explosion in wealth for Yass, who has increasingly poured that fortune into candidates and causes on the political right. He has spent more than $100 million on election campaigns in recent years. The money has gone to everything from anti-tax advocacy and charter schools to campaigns against so-called critical race theory and for candidates who falsely say the 2020 election was stolen and seek to ban abortion.

Grassroots groups, led by the Working Families Party, held a protest in front of his offices to protest his funding of groups that undermine democracy.

The LittleSis Project, which tracks the connections among rightwing funders and organizations, has more information about Yass. He is the money man behind Pennsylvania’s rightwing political machine. His top priority is school privatization. He wants to dismantle public schools. Read the article.

Yass’s influence over state politics doesn’t stop after elections are over. His money gets distributed throughout the right-wing network in the state and influences legislation and the conservative agenda year round. The right-wing organizations that spend Yass’s money consistently and successfully lobby to cut corporate taxes, bust unions, block climate solutions, ban abortion, target trans youth, and prevent what the right calls “critical race theory” from being taught in schools.

The Pennsylvania Capital Star worries about what Yass is doing to our democracy.

Yass is a threat to democracy in Pennsylvania. Our organizations were in the trenches during the 2020 election organizing on the frontline against MAGA Republicans, white nationalists, and conspiracy-riddled extremists. Yass was funding them. Despite Yass trying to back away from those associations publicly and in the press, this year he quietly continued to fund those same organizations like the Club for Growth – a right-wing front group that backed nearly 50 election deniers across the country.

What a guy. Does Senator Corey Booker know? Does Senator Michael Bennett know? Does Representative Hakeem Jeffries know? Does the Center for American Progress know?

Jeff Yass’s enthusiastic support of charter schools is another reason why charter schools should not get federal funding. Why should the US Department of Education spend $440 million a year to open new charter schools (half of which never open), when Jeff Yass and his partners could easily foot the bill, along with other billionaires like the Waltons, Michael Bloomberg, Charles Koch, and Betsy DeVos?

For billionaires like Yass, that amount is pocket change. Or, as the saying goes, chump change.