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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

You won’t find Ed Gillespie, the likely Republican nominee to challenge Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) this fall, on the official list of lobbyists maintained by the Secretary of the Senate’s database. That’s because Gillespie isn’t registered. But not being registered doesn’t mean he doesn’t help big corporations and lobbying firms advance their interests in Washington.

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, Gillespie’s recently filed ethics forms show that he made $2,958,800 over the last year from his consulting firm, aptly named Ed Gillespie Strategies.

Though Gillespie was for many years a registered lobbyist, through his previous firm Quinn Gillespie, he dropped off the rolls when he departed to pursue other ventures. Indeed, veteran lobbyists have deregistered en masse in recent years. In a recent investigation for The Nation, I reported on this latest trend against transparency, with thousands of lobbyists dropping their registrations — owing to a lax enforcement regime and the growing realization in Washington that the current lobbying registration law is largely a joke.

Because of his non-registered status, however, most voters probably have little idea what Gillespie has been up to. Using bankruptcy filings, I found one recent client paying Ed Gillespie Strategies several years ago: Washington Mutual, the bank that failed in 2008.

The ethics forms filed this month provide a new window into Gillespie’s business, which represents not only some of the largest corporations in America, but also works with several of the largest lobbying entities inside the Beltway: American Petroleum Institute, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, AT&T, Bank of America, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Broadband for America, DCI Group, Facebook, Microsoft, RATE Coalition, The Brunswick Group, U.S. Telecom, Univision, and Walgreens.

Notably, the DCI Group is itself a lobbying firm, while the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance are trade associations that lobby heavily on their respective issues (API, which represents ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other oil majors, lobbies on fossil fuel subsidies, the Keystone XL, and expanded drilling access; ANGA , which represents the largest hydraulic fracturing companies in America, lobbies on fracking regulations, natural gas exports, and other liquefied natural gas regulations). Other Gillespie clients are essentially lobbying groups. The RATE Coalition, for example, is a coalition of firms such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin seeking lower corporate tax rates.

For Gillespie, formerly a White House Communications Director for George W. Bush, the revolving door has swung many times — and with each swing, his clout and wealth have climbed. If he wins election this year, his stock among the Beltway bandits on K Street is sure to rise for any future venture in the private sector.

The new disclosure of Gillespie’s clients also provides a new focus on the candidate’s issue platform. Gillespie opposes the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory mandates, and has made the effort to repeal the law a central part of his campaign. How much of that opposition, one must wonder, may relate to his work for insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield? On energy, Gillespie has attacked efforts to address climate change. In light of this new client list, voters may be scratching their head when they try to distinguish Gillespie’s policy platform from the goals of his Big Oil benefactors at the American Petroleum Institute.

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]