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The Jeb Bush boomlet that fascinated gullible pundits — and tantalized Republicans —  during the dark days of last winter’s presidential primary is undergoing a swift revival. Less than three weeks after the defeat of Mitt Romney, a candidate who proved repellent to minority voters, Republicans are said to be yearning for Jeb, who speaks fluent Spanish and whose wife is from Mexico.

Perhaps after another four years’ distance, the former Florida governor will somehow overcome the bad memories (and the human, economic, and diplomatic destruction) left by his older brother George W. and restore the damaged family political brand. But according to The New York Times, which reported that Jeb is considering a presidential run, he is also considering whether he can afford the luxury of returning to politics: He “is said by friends to be weighing financial and family considerations — between so many years in office and the recession his wealth took a dip, they said, and he has been working hard to restore it…”

Aside from his need to “restore” his depleted wealth, Jeb’s business dealings may well prove an insurmountable obstacle to a national candidacy, just as Romney’s business career became excess baggage for his presidential campaign. Known today only as another Bush brother, Jeb must be introduced to American voters. And among the first things they are likely to learn about him is the string of borderline business deals that built his original fortune in Florida real estate, which began three decades ago.

While some aspects of the Jeb story may sound uplifting, there are certainly other episodes that will make voters’ hair stand on end.

Consider his gamy relationship with Miguel Recarey, whose International Medical Centers stands accused of one of the largest Medicare swindles of all time. Before Recarey fled the country ahead of several federal indictments, Jeb had placed a call on his behalf to Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler — a Cabinet secretary serving at the pleasure of Jeb’s daddy, President George Herbert Walker Bush. Recarey paid Jeb a sweet $75,000 for that lobbying effort, which forestalled government action to stop Recarey’s skimming of millions in Medicare dollars. Although Jeb has denied that Recarey — a Mafia associate — hired him to importune Heckler, both the fugitive and the former HHS secretary have since confirmed those circumstances.

After Recarey fled Miami, Jeb gradually grew rich through real estate investments, thanks to his connections with the Cuban-American community in South Florida. To show his gratitude, Jeb sought a presidential pardon from his dad for Orlando Bosch, a murderous anti-Castro militant denounced by his father’s own attorney general Richard Thornburgh as “an unreformed terrorist” responsible for the murder of dozens of innocent people. That kind of thing is acceptable among the South Florida Cubans, but may not look so good in the post-9/11 era to the rest of the country.

Then there is Jeb’s career as governor, a saga that includes his vow to sign legislation that would have awarded Florida’s disputed electoral votes to his brother in November 2000, and his attempted intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman whose husband and parents fought over whether to turn off her respirator. Interference in that sad matter by congressional leaders and other right-wing busybodies was gross exploitation of a family tragedy — and the Schiavo affair became a turning point in the 2006 Republican midterm debacle.

So yes —  run, Jeb, run! The fact is that almost any presidential candidate from Florida represents a full-employment program for investigative journalism — and the “smarter” Bush brother is no exception.

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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.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

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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