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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: elections

As Cruz Runs For Third Term, He Proposes Two-Term Limit For Senators

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a proposed constitutional amendment on Monday that would institute a lifetime two-term limit for members of the U.S. Senate and a three-term limit for members of the House of Representatives.

Cruz is running for a third six-year Senate term.

In a press release, Cruz said:

Term limits are critical to fixing what's wrong with Washington, D.C. The Founding Fathers envisioned a government of citizen legislators who would serve for a few years and return home, not a government run by a small group of special interests and lifelong, permanently entrenched politicians who prey upon the brokenness of Washington to govern in a manner that is totally unaccountable to the American people. Terms limits [sic] brings about accountability that is long overdue and I urge my colleagues to advance this amendment along to the states so that it may be quickly ratified and become a constitutional amendment.

Cruz announced in November that in 2024 he was "running for reelection in the Senate. I'm focused on the battles in the United States Senate."

His proposed amendment already has 11 co-sponsors, all of them Republicans and most first-term senators. One co-sponsor, Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, served four terms in the House prior to her 2020 election to the Senate.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R–SC) filed an identical House version earlier this month, with Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) and 57 House Republicans as co-sponsors. Norman started his fourth term in Congress this month.

This is not the first time Cruz has backed term limits for members of Congress. In 2012, during his first Senate campaign, the Dallas Morning News reported, he endorsed the idea of a term-limiting constitutional amendment but said he would not promise to cap his own service unless limits were placed on the terms of all members of Congress.

"Although he has no interest in serving decades in Congress, Ted has not pledged to unilaterally disarm, to term limit himself," a Cruz spokesperson said.

Cruz has authored unsuccessful constitutional amendment proposals on term limits in the last three Congresses.

A Cruz spokesperson did not respond to the American Independent Foundation’s questions about why Cruz is seeking a third Senate term and exempting previous and current terms from the limits.

Newsweek reported in November that, according to a spokesperson, while he supports term limits, Cruz believes "the rules should apply equally to everyone" and "has long said he doesn't believe that one side should unilaterally term limit themselves."

If his amendment were to receive the necessary two-thirds supermajority in the House and Senate and be ratified by the required 38 state legislatures, it would not soon bring the renaissance of a "government of citizen legislators" that Cruz claims.

The third section of his proposed amendment contains a loophole: "No term beginning before the date of the ratification of this article shall be taken into account in determining eligibility for election or appointment under this article." According to this clause, Cruz and other incumbent senators could serve up to two more full terms after ratification.

According to a 2018 Brookings Institution blog post by Casey Burgat, the director of the legislative affairs program at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, while the idea of term limits is popular, they would take away from voters the decision on how long is too long for a politician to stay in office; give lawmakers less time to learn and get good at their jobs; and automatically force out even the most effective legislators.

Burgat noted that term limits enacted in the states and in other countries have not been an effective way to curb political corruption. He observed that political scientists' studies on term limits "regularly find that many of the corruptive, 'swampy,' influences advocates contend would be curtailed by instituting term limits are, in fact, exacerbated by their implementation." Less senior lawmakers typically rely more on lobbyists and special interests when making policy decisions, and they tend to defer more to executive branch bureaucrats, he explained.

"Instead," he said, "as constituents, we should rely on the most effective mechanism available to remove unresponsive, ineffectual members of Congress: elections."

Cruz only received 50.9 percent of the vote in Texas in his 2018 reelection victory over Democratic nominee Beto O'Rourke. Texas voters will have another opportunity to decide on whether to keep Cruz next year.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Santos Still Hiding Source Of $625K He Didn't Loan To His Campaign

The big question—the really big question—about Rep. George Santos’ lies has been where he got the $700,000 he lent his campaign. Because there’s no evidence Santos ever had that much money, and if it came from someone else, that person bought themselves a U.S. congressman, which is illegal. Updated finance reports Santos’ campaign filed on Tuesday added a new twist.

In the new filings, the campaign unchecked a single box that had been checked in previous filings. The box in question was originally marked to say that the loan came from “personal funds of the candidate.” Now it’s not saying that money came from Santos’ own money, in two amended reports about $500,000 and $125,000 loans from Santos. But no more explanation is forthcoming.

“I have never been this confused looking at an F.E.C. filing,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and therefore someone who probably looks at a lot of FEC filings, told The New York Times.

“If the candidate’s personal wealth wasn’t the source of the loan, then what was?” one campaign lawyer quoted in the Times asked. “The only other permissible source would be a bank, and they would require collateral for a loan of this size. If a bank wasn’t the source of the funds, then the only alternatives are illegal sources.”

Santos had claimed that he got the money through his company, the Devolder Organization. But the Devolder Organization has no record of clients that would be paying it enough money to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Santos, who made $55,000 a year at his previous job. Even if the Devolder Organization legitimately made that money, with Santos as its owner, taking the money out of the company to go to his campaign could be illegal.

It seems unlikely that “I got the money from my personal company that within the space of a couple years made millions of dollars with no major clients I can disclose” is a true answer, though. One possible answer is that, as the Times reported earlier in the month, large amounts of money were raised for Santos through RedStone Strategies, described in some documents as an “independent expenditure” group but never registered with the FEC. Some of the contributions to RedStone Strategies came shortly before Santos’ $125,00 loan to his campaign. Because there’s no documentation, we can’t say anything for sure about that, but it’s … interesting.

Everything about this guy is sketchy, but the hundreds of thousands of dollars he funneled to his campaign on the claim that it was his own money is one of the things most likely to be criminal. That, and the actual criminal fraud charges in Brazil. And the allegation that he fraudulently raised money for lifesaving surgery for a disabled veteran’s service dog and then refused to pay for the dog’s surgery while claiming that the money would go to other dogs.

So the highly questionable campaign finance arrangements aren’t the only crimes Santos may have committed—but they’d be by far the largest in dollar value and impact in the world. (A dog dying needlessly is awful, but not an enormous story in comparison with a criminal criming his way into Congress.)

As a result of the new disclosures and the general cloud of suspicion surrounding Santos, this is how his days are going:

But note there are still no answers. Voters in his district—and the FEC and Santos’ colleagues in the House—really need to know where that money came from. Republican leaders have stood by Santos so far because they care more about his vote than about what rules or laws he may have broken on the way to Congress. Is there anything that could possibly shift Kevin McCarthy’s risk-benefit analysis on Santos? It seems like we’re going to get a very strong test of that question.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

FBI Arrests Three Active Duty Marines On Capitol Riot Charges

Arrests continue to be made as more information is revealed and investigations continue into the U.S. Capitol riot that occurred on January 6, 2021. Most recently, on Wednesday, three active-duty Marines were arrested for their participation in the insurrection, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. Identified as Micah Coomer, Joshua Abate, and Dodge Dale Hellonen, the three men were arrested on four charges each in relation to their participation in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol two years ago, Military.com reported.

Since Marine Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, who was taken into custody in May 2021 on nine charges, the three men are the first active-duty military members to be arrested in connection with the failed insurrection. Records provided to Military.com indicate that all three work in jobs connected to the intelligence community, have been enlisted for more than four years, and have been awarded good conduct medals in the past.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, FBI agents arrested Coomer and Abate on Tuesday and the other defendant, Hellonen, on Wednesday.

The men were arrested after a search warrant was issued for one of their social media accounts in 2021, as a result of photos taken and posted from inside the Capitol—indicating they had partaken in the riot. One was captioned, "Glad to be apart [sic] of history,” the arrest complaint said.

According to court documents, the trio spent a little under an hour around the Capitol, when they placed "a red MAGA hat on one of the statues to take photos with it."

Court records indicate that after going through their social media, more evidence was found, including Coomer telling an unidentified person, "everything in this country is corrupt. We honestly need a fresh restart. I'm waiting for the boogaloo." When the other person asked what a "boogaloo" was, Coomer replied, "Civil war 2.”

According to Military.com, the term “boogaloo" is slang for a future race war. Experts, like the Anti-Defamation League, have noted though "most boogalooers are not white supremacists, though one can find white supremacists within the movement.”

In another conversation several days after the election, Coomer also said, “I just love how after years of trying to get trump out of office by any means the left all of a sudden is going to have a ‘fair’ election. They’re an absolute joke,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition to finding evidence on social media that the marines attended the riot, court documents say that Abate admitted to being in the Capitol in a June 2022 interview that was part of his work security clearance process.

"During the interview, Abate discussed entering the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, with two 'buddies,'" the documents said. He added that they "walked around and tried not to get hit with tear gas."

"Abate also admitted he heard how the event was being portrayed negatively and decided that he should not tell anybody about going into the U.S. Capitol Building," the court document said.

The three arrests come as a shock because while others enlisted have been arrested, most have been lower rankings than these Marines, Military.com said.

But while their arrests come as a shock, they aren’t the only members of the intelligence community to be arrested for their alleged part in the insurrection. Others include Petty Officer 1st Class Hatchet Speed, a sailor assigned to the Naval Warfare Space Field Activity at the National Reconnaissance Office, was arrested last year.

In total, including the three Marines, about 12 service members—active, reserve, and National Guard—have been arrested for alleged crimes in connection to Jan. 6, 2021. According to the George Washington University's Project on Extremism, out of the 940 defendants charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot, 118 — or 12 percent — have some form of military background.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republican Operatives Knew About Santos Fakery Long Before Election Day

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is currently facing an onslaught of calls for his resignation amid incriminating reports that have uncovered his checkered past.

Although more reports are coming to light now, a new analysis has revealed many well-connected Republicans were aware of Santos' questionable behavior and actions prior to his being elected.

According to a report from New York Times metro desk reporter Nicholas Fandos, multiple individuals with knowledge of the turmoil behind the scenes of his campaign have shed light on the concerns his vendors expressed following the release of a research analysis on him.

In fact, the individuals speaking about the campaign noted that the research findings were so startling that Santos was urged to drop out of the race before the information was made public.

Fandos wrote, "Some of Santos’ own vendors were so alarmed after seeing the study in late November 2021 that they urged him to drop out of the race and warned that he could risk public humiliation by continuing. When Santos disputed key findings and vowed to continue running, members of the campaign team quit, according to three of the four people The New York Times spoke to with knowledge of the study."

The alarming report includes details of "Fraudulent academic degrees. Involvement in a firm accused of a Ponzi scheme. Multiple evictions and a suspended driver’s license" and more.

Fandos continued, "All of it was in the report, which also said that Santos, who is openly gay, had been married to a woman. The report did not offer conclusive details, but some people briefed on the findings wondered whether the marriage was done for immigration purposes."

According to Fandos, these types of reports are so significant because "Campaigns frequently rely on this kind of research, known as vulnerability studies, to identify anything problematic that an opponent might seize on."

While it is unclear exactly what Republicans may have known about Santos, the report suggests that many had caught wind of who he was and how potentially harmful he could be long before he was elected.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Republicans Aim To 'Expunge' Trump Impeachment (And McCarthy May Let Them)

Donald Trump set the record by being impeached in the House of Representatives twice, both times for very good cause. The first of those impeachments came when Trump attempted to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into providing false claims about Joe Biden in exchange for military support. The second after Trump tired of threatening other nations and directly attempted to overturn the results of a U.S. election.

Now Republicans want to get out the Wite-Out and “expunge” at least one of Trump’s impeachments—both would be better—and Kevin McCarthy is there for it.

In laying out all the critical challenges the House faces, McCarthy didn’t seem sure how they would fit this in between investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and pretending to build a wall, but as The Washington Post reports, the modern record-holder in losing votes for the House speakership expressed “sympathy” for the idea of giving Trump a clean slate because of all Trump “went through” during investigations into his connections to Russia.

This might not be the best time to pretend that withholding military assistance from Ukraine had nothing to do with Trump’s ties to Russia, and McCarthy might want to revisit the nation’s most overlooked document, the report produced by a Republican-led Senate committee showing Trump’s numerous, substantial, and dangerous connections to Russia. But hey, none of that really matters because none of this has anything to do with reality.

Even on the surface, McCarthy’s suggestion that Trump get a do-over because people had been mean to him is ridiculous. There are few judges on Earth willing to accept “I was having a bad day” as an excuse for a crime of any size. Trump’s elaborate efforts to secure false statements from Ukraine to help him defeat Joe Biden in the election weren’t a matter of a few statements in one very much not “perfect” phone call. As the investigators showed during his impeachment trial, Trump’s attempts to wring arms in Ukraine extended back over months, and included false stories funneled through Rudy Giuliani that were handily published by The New York Times. The threat posed by this attempt is currently being vividly illustrated just north of Bakhmut.

When it comes to the second impeachment, the evidence for that impeachment is still visible in damage to the building where Congress sits. It’s also still very much on the minds of Americans. As Kerry Eleveld wrote today, Americans remain intensely aware of the damage done to the nation through the Jan. 6 insurrection as well as Trump’s involvement. That connection was not only confirmed in the impeachment investigation, but underlined by the findings of the Jan. 6 select committee. The voting that took place in November can be seen as a verdict on how America feels about the former seditionist-in-chief.

… the Jan. 6 panel's ingenuity in making Trump central to the story and indicting him in the court of public opinion was the key to making his endorsees utterly toxic on the campaign trail.

Neither of Trump’s impeachments was over a trivial matter. They were historic abuses of power that went well beyond the crimes of any recent leader, including Richard Nixon. Neither of those impeachments were partisan, except in the sense that the modern Republican Party would not indict Trump for anything, no matter how terrible.

What did the holder of the limp gavel think about Trump’s actions following Jan. 6? As Rebekah Sager reported in April, McCarthy was a bit less willing to give Trump a pass at the time. In fact, McCarthy and other Republican leaders believed that “Trump was directly responsible for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol” and reportedly told other Republicans in Congress that they would ask Trump to resign. But that was, of course, before McCarthy touched base with his funders, checked in with the most radical faction of his party, or surrendered the House to people who think he’s a dunce.

Now the only real question is … can they? Can House Republicans actually hand Trump a clean record?

Not in any practical sense, of course. What Trump did, the impeachments that it generated, and the way that Mitch McConnell used his control of the Senate to protect Trump from conviction are already a part of the public record. Donald Trump was impeached in the House, twice, and nothing is going to change that.

That doesn’t mean that Republicans can’t still show their infinite loyalty to Trump and once again shove America’s collective nose into the idea that justice has any meaning for those at the top of the pyramid. It just means it would be worse than pointless.

There is no mechanism in the Constitution that allows an impeachment to be expunged. Yes, say Republicans, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment can’t be expunged. So there.

This is true, precisely because the authors of the document likely recognized the boneheaded uselessness of any such expungement. Any impeachment is, by necessity, an expression of the will of the sitting House of Representatives in the current Congress. A new Congress can certainly issue a statement disagreeing with the opinion of a past House, but that new statement in no way invalidates the opinion of the House that issued the impeachment in the first place.

They cannot make it as if this never happened. It happened. It will literally be in the history books … assuming those books are edited by Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott.

The fact that Republicans are even talking about this makes it likely that they’re going to try it. In fact, Republicans put even more pointless bills before the House twice already that would have expunged both impeachments, even though they knew those bills would go nowhere. Because this isn’t about justice. It’s about show.

Letting the Republicans once again show that protecting Donald Trump’s ego is their highest priority? Sure. Let them.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Poll: Republican Party's Favorable Rating Now Lowest Since Insurrection

One week into the House GOP's follies in the majority, the Republican Party favorability rating plunged in Civiqs tracking Sunday to just 26 percent among registered voters—a two-year low point since hitting 25 percent in the weeks following the January 6 insurrection.

The party also notched a 65 percent unfavorable rating—it's highest point in almost six years since the first year of Donald Trump's tenure.

To be fair, the GOP's rapid descent doesn't fall entirely on the shoulders of House Republicans. The party's favorables have steadily declined ever since Republicans' 2022 midterm debacle. The party kicked off November at an already anemic 32 percent, yet things still took a turn for the worse after Election Day.

The drop off has mostly been driven by both Republican and independent men. Among men overall, GOP favorables have dropped nearly double digits since the election, from 38 percent in early November to 29 percent Sunday. That included a 10-point decline among independent men, from 27 percent to 17 percent, in the same timeframe.

But Republican men delivered the real blow, with their favorable feelings toward the GOP taking a 13-point hit since Election Day, from 75 percent to 62 percent over the weekend. As with Trump’s cratering favorability rating, it appears men really don’t like a loser.

The GOP suffered a similar decline in favorables after losing the White House in 2020. The difference for Republicans now is that they will no longer have unified Democratic control of government to serve as a foil for their own incompetence.

The party's lowest Trump-era favorability rating of 18 percent came during the GOP trifecta in September 2017, after Republicans tried and failed twice to repeal the Affordable Care Act—a constant GOP pledge for the better part of a decade.

Let's keep an eye on this space as House Republicans flaunt their true MAGA colors as the majority party in the lower chamber. It promises to be a very educational moment for the country.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Gunfire Hit Homes Of Five New Mexico Democratic Officials Since December

Police officials are investigating after multiple shots were reported at the homes of several Democrats’ in New Mexico over the last month. According to a statement by Albuquerque Police Department (APD) late on Thursday, shots were fired at the state attorney general’s office beginning December 4, as well as the residences and the business of four other Democratic officials. According to Reuters, the attacks came a month after midterm elections, during which Democrats swept all New Mexico U.S. House seats.

The New Mexico Attorney General, two state senators, a current county commissioner, and a former commissioner were affected by the five separate shootings, the Albuquerque Police Department said in a press release.

"We are worried and concerned these are connected and possibly politically motivated," Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, said at a news conference, noting that the politicians may have been "targeted."

According to police officials, the shootings began in early December when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Within the week, more than a dozen shots were fired at the home of former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley.

"In early December, I returned from Christmas shopping to my home being shot up," Barboa said in a statement posted on social media. "It was terrifying. My house had four shots through the front door and windows, where just hours before, my grandbaby and I were playing in the living room."

The attacks continued on into January when, on January 3, at least eight shots were fired at the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez in southwest Albuquerque, police said.

"Myself and my children were awakened by some loud noises. Initially, I thought they were fireworks," Lopez told CNN affiliate KOAT. "It's scary for me and my children," Lopez added, noting that three bullets went through her 10-year-old daughter’s room.

Two days later, on Jan. 5, police received reports "of gunshots heard in the area of a downtown law office" where state Sen. Antonio Moe Maestas works.

"APD's ShotSpotter system registered three shots fired at the same location at 11:41 a.m.," police said. "Officers did not find any damage to the building."

Maestas went onto Twitter to confirm his "family is safe and sound."

Several people have connected the attacks to a rise of crimes against Democrats since election season began, referencing back to an incident in October during which an assailant broke into then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home and used a hammer to attack her husband.

According to the Associated Press, Albuquerque officials say they don’t know what motivated the shootings. No suspect has been identified.

“We don’t want to speculate that these are related. […] The investigation hopefully will determine what’s related and what’s not related,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said at a press conference Thursday. Medina did note that all victims were Democratic elected officials.

Moving forward, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will analyze bullet casings recovered from the scenes to determine whether the same weapon was used in these shootings, or if the gun from any of the five shootings was previously used in other crimes, Phoenix-based ATF Special Agent in Charge Brendan Iber told the AP.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

America's Sorest Loser Mulls Third-Party Run To Sink Republicans In 2024

Former President Donald Trump put his own party on notice Wednesday when he promoted an editorial that castigated the GOP and implored Trump to mount his third presidential run as a third-party candidate if Republicans don’t make him their 2024 presidential nominee.

The editorial, penned for the MAGA-promoting journal American Greatness by Dan Gelernter, argued that by not willingly submitting to subjugation by Trump and the MAGA cult, the Republican Party was courting a downfall as Democrats had in 2016, “when they stole the primary from Bernie Sanders.”

Trump shared the editorial with his followers on Truth Social — ground zero for the Big Lie, QAnon, and other fringe far-right conspiracy theories — just over two weeks after a USA Today and Suffolk University poll found that Republican voters were ready to dump him for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Gelernter, who once branded Trump “the greatest man alive” and pushed Covid-19 vaccine misinformation, suggested in an earlier article that “establishment politicians” feared Trump, whose listless 2024 campaign many experts consider moribund.

Gelernter compared the GOP’s ailing relationship with Trump to the 1912 Republican Party’s treatment of Theodore Roosevelt, whose “personality traits” and appeal Gelernter claim mirrored Trump’s.

“The Republican Party of 1912 decided it would be better off renominating William Howard Taft, even though its voters would have preferred another Roosevelt term,” he wrote.

Roosevelt’s fate — losing the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson after his third-party run severed the GOP — would befall Trump if he went the third-party route, Gelernter conceded.

“Do I think Trump can win as a third-party candidate? No. Would I vote for him as a third-party candidate? Yes. Because I’m not interested in propping up this corrupt gravy-train any longer,” he wrote.

"The RNC can pretend Trump isn’t loved by the base anymore, that he doesn’t have packed rallies everywhere he goes. But I’m not buying it: Talk to Republican voters anywhere outside the Beltway, and it is obvious that he is admired and even loved by those who consider themselves 'ordinary' Americans,” Gelernter added.

“Now, if the Republican Party thinks it’s not big enough for Trump,” he declared, “it’s not going to be big enough for me either.”

In another article, Gelernter said that voting for Ron DeSantis — the preferred candidate of a majority of Republican voters, as a Wall Street Journal survey found in mid-December — was “just playing into the Left’s hands.”

To hammer

Trump’s Truth Social antics came as the GOP grappled with internal squabbles for positions of power, feuds between Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate, and the cascade of criticism and investigations trailing its “embellishing” Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY).

Sharing the link on his Truth Social was not the former president’s first stint threatening a third-party run, according to reporting by the Independent and Business Insider.

In 2021, Trump threatened to exit the GOP in his last days as President because the party had not backed his election-subverting gambit, the Independent’s Andrew Feinberg reported, citing a book by ABC News' chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl.

In a New York Post op-ed last week, former Attorney General William Barr sounded the alarm on how far Trump would go if the GOP didn’t cave in to his demands.

“Unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP,” Barr said. “Trump’s willingness to destroy the party if he does not get his way is not based on principle, but on his own supreme narcissism.”

“His egoism,” Barr noted, “makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself — a cult of personality.”