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Hillary Clinton, in a speech Thursday on voting rights, called out four Republican presidential hopefuls — Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie — for infringing the voting rights of Americans.

All four are present or former governors whose states, in a national partisan pattern, have curtailed voting rights — or in Republican terms, sought to “decrease voter fraud” — over the past several years.

In Texas, Perry signed into law a voter ID bill, enacted in 2011 and upheld last year, that requires prospective voters to show a photo ID. That includes a Texas driver’s license, a military ID, a passport, or even a gun license, but not a student ID — which Clinton noted in her reference to Perry.

Perry responded on Fox and Friends with an argument that may resonate with many Americans: We already have to have ID for so many things today, so why is voting any different?

“I think it makes sense to have a photo ID to be able to vote,” he said on Friday morning. “When I got on the airline to come up here yesterday, I had to show my photo ID.”

Ted Cruz, the Republican Texas senator running for president, has made similar statements. A national ID, rather than a state one, would be one solution, but civil liberties groups are against it, saying it could lead to further surveillance of citizens. In the wake of the debate over renewal of the PATRIOT Act, that is a salient question.

Allegations of vote fraud historically have played across ideological lines. Low-income, young, and minority voters are often those most disenfranchised by strict voter ID laws, but they are also the most likely to vote Democratic. Some of the rebuttals suggest that Clinton’s remarks urging broader registration and more early voting merely represent an effort to garner more votes for herself.

Responding directly to Clinton with characteristic bombast, Christie said, “She just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud,” adding that he “was not worried about her opinion.”

Clinton had criticized Christie for vetoing an in-person early voting bill in New Jersey, which would have opened polls daily for15 days leading up to an election. Such a law would be too costly to implement, said Christie, and anyway New Jersey already allows early absentee ballot in-person voting.

Clinton also called for an opt-in system of voting, or universal registration, under which all citizens would be registered to vote automatically when they turn 18.

Her proposals are quite bold, but they follow guidelines set forth by the president’s bipartisan commission on voting, which also include updated and streamlined technology.

Democrats aligned with Clinton have sued several states, including Ohio and Walker’s Wisconsin, with additional challenges expected in Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Some Democratic strategists believe that even if the suits are unsuccessful they can still fire up minority voters, who are overwhelmingly likely to vote Democratic.

Jeb Bush’s home state, Florida, has long been under scrutiny for its obsession with weeding out supposed voter fraud — despite only three arrests made between 2008 and 2011. The Sunshine State — notorious for voting flubs and ballot-counting shenanigans in the 2000 election — has tampered with voting rights and regulations so much that nonpartisan civic groups like the League of Women Voters have come out against these machinations, and the Justice Department has intervened.

But Florida is not the only state where the Justice Department has sought to impose remedies. In Wisconsin, Walker championed a 2011 law that required voters to use one of eight forms of ID — but disallowed any from University of Wisconsin campuses. Although the law was challenged in court several times, the Supreme Court ultimately upheld it.

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, signed legislation that cut the state’s early voting period and ended initiatives where citizens could register and vote on the same day, as well as mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters — a method almost 1.3 million residents used in 2012.

Kasich, who was not named by Clinton and has not officially announced he is running for president, denounced her comments on Fox News, calling them “ridiculous” and “silly” — and pointed out that New York, the state that elected Clinton as a senator, does not have early voting while Ohio does.

New York does indeed have strict guidelines, but as senator, Clinton supported many versions of the Count Every Vote Act, which would mandate early voting in every state. Thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia allow some form of early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

Early voting remains extremely popular, although debate persists about its effect on voter participation.

Screenshot: Hillary Clinton called out Chris Christie, among other Republicans, for laws restricting constituents’ rights to vote. (C-SPAN via YouTube)

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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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