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It looks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may be violating the Hatch Act.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the Office of Special Counsel to look into whether Pompeo’s repeated trips to Kansas violate the act.

The Hatch Act bars executive branch employees from using government resources for partisan purposes, such as campaigning while on the clock. But it appears Pompeo may be doing just that.

Since March of this year, Pompeo has made three trips to his home state of Kansas. That might not be unusual, but these were framed as official trips, not Pompeo just visiting. Combine this with the fact that Pompeo may very well be considering a Senate run back home — he’s already got the backing of prominent Republicans like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell — and it looks a lot like those trips home are to promote Mike Pompeo, not the interests of the United States.

Menendez’s letter to the OSC shows Pompeo’s most recent trip looked an awful lot like a campaign stop, or at least like someone exploring a run for office. He participated in a workforce development roundtable, met with students at Wichita State, and visited a private aerospace company.

Menendez’s letter also reminded the OSC of its own opinion that specifically found that “any action that can reasonably be construed as evidence that an individual is seeking support for or undertaking an initial ‘campaign’ to secure a nomination or election to office” counts as a candidacy under the Hatch Act. In other words, even if this is just Pompeo exploring his options, doing it on taxpayers’ dime, and time, likely runs afoul of the law.

As secretary of state, Pompeo’s duties are focused outside the United States, not within it. He should be racking up international miles. Hillary Clinton flew nearly a million miles and visited 112 countries during her tenure as secretary of atate, as did John Kerry during his. Instead, he seems to be exploring a Senate run at the behest of Republicans who don’t want former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to run, as it looks like Kobach would almost certainly lose.

Though this time Pompeo’s travel is for his own political benefit, it’s not the first time that his domestic travel has been scrutinized. In March of this year, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for an investigation into Pompeo’s frequent trips to 2020 battleground states such as Iowa, Kansas, and Texas. CREW said Pompeo’s insistence he wasn’t traveling to those states to bolster Trump’s reelection prospects rang hollow.

If Pompeo did indeed violate the Hatch Act, he’s got a lot of company in this administration. Just look at counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, who has violated the Hatch Act at least 50 times on Twitter alone. Or HUD official Lynne Patton, who used her official government Twitter account for political tweets. Given that neither Conway or Patton have suffered any real consequences for their behavior, don’t expect Pompeo to be scared by the idea he might be guilty of violating the law.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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