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GOP Fundraisers Mimic Trump’s Deceptive Tactics To Swindle Donors

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although former President Donald Trump has been gone from the White House since January 20, he continues to aggressively raise funds for his political operation. According to Never Trump conservative pundit Tim Miller, Trump's fundraising tactics are still as sleazy as they were when he was in the White House — and recent fundraising from the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Miller, is just as bad.

In an article published by the website The Bulwark this week, Miller describes the NRCC's offers to join Trump's "new social media site" — which, Miller stresses, has yet to be created. The anti-Trump conservative notes that on Tuesday, he received a text message from the NRCC that read, "Friend request expiring in 10 minutes! Trump needs to know if you're joining his new social media site, Timothy. We won't ask again."

Miller explains, "For starters, Donald Trump has not started a new social media site yet, he's just talked about it…. But even if Trump Social does come into existence, the NRCC — which is a Republican Party committee not affiliated with Donald Trump — would have no operating control or ability to sign people up for this private enterprise. Which creates an ontological conundrum: Can an offer that doesn't exist expire in 10 minutes? "

The Never Trumper notes that he received these NRCC texts only a few days after the New York Times published a "bombshell" article by journalist Shane Goldmacher, who reported that Trump's campaign was repeatedly billing supporters who had only agreed to single contributions.

Miller observes, "The crux of the grift was the Trump campaign's deceptive e-mail practices which, among other things, chose to make recurring donations the default setting for supporters who were lured in by the campaign's hyperbolic and conspiratorial fundraising pitches. As a result, elderly Trump supporters on fixed incomes had their bank accounts depleted, causing their rent and utilities checks to bounce. Altogether the Trump campaign had to refund $122 million in online donations from their own supporters who had been duped."

In his Bulwark article, Miller also describes an NRCC text in which Trump supporters are insulted as "defectors" if they uncheck a box for recurring donations. That box reads, "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you're a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems…. Make this a monthly recurring donation."

The checkbox itself isn't even next to the phrase "recurring donation," leaving the effect of the checked box potentially unclear to many donors, some of whom may not be that familiar with computers. The Times report found that these types of tactics led to many more Trump donors seeking refunds and unintentionally giving more money — sometimes much more than they could possibly afford — than is common in political fundraising.

"I'm sure there's some formal legal difference between the NRCC tricking someone into signing up for a nonexistent social media site — and then having a default box opting them in to both double their pledged amount and make it recurring—and the criminal advance-fee scams made famous by the imaginary Nigerian princes," Miller writes. "But as a moral matter, the difference is awfully hard to suss out."

The NRCC has come under fire for opting people into making multiple donations, which many experts argue is manipulative and can border on fraud. The organization pushed back on some of the reporting, pointing out to Forbes that Democrats, too, have used in opt-out mechanisms to push donors into greater contributions. However, the examples provided appeared to show a much clearer choice between recurring donations and one-time donations and did not include the manipulative language calling one-time donors "defectors:

As Georgia Stifles Black Voters, Virginia Expands Voting Rights

As a mass shooting, possible tornadoes and school closures drew Georgians' attention on St. Patrick's Day, Republicans in its GOP-majority legislature in Atlanta raced to push a massive rewrite of an election bill to "drastically change" the state's voting laws toward passage.

"HAPPENING NOW: Georgia House Republicans led by Rep. Barry Fleming are rushing out a 93-page substitute to SB 202 right before a key committee meeting to try and ram through their anti-voting agenda as part of their unconstitutional attacks on Georgians' voting rights," tweeted Fair Fight, an Atlanta-based voting rights group, on March 17.

"There are nearly 80 voting-related bills about voting+elections in Georgia. Most won't go anywhere. Others keep changing faster than you can read them," tweeted Stephen Fowler, Georgia Public Broadcasting's reporter, echoing the alert.

Such hardball tactics are not unique to Georgia's legislature. Following 2020's election loss, ex-President Trump's supporters are using their power as lawmakers to try to change the rules of voting to their perceived benefit. In Georgia, currently the nation's foremost swing state, the legislative melee also reflects fierce responses from voting rights advocates.

"They got more pushback than they expected," said Andrea Miller, who runs the Center for Common Ground, which advocates for Black voters in the South and coordinated 3,700 phone calls from their districts to the Republican legislators sponsoring the rollbacks, and helped to shepherd 40,000 emails opposing the legislation.

Other groups have also pressed Georgia's biggest employers to oppose the bills—and gained some traction. Some of the most draconian proposals, such as ending no-excuse absentee balloting, automatic voter registration and restricting early voting on Sunday—favored by Black clergy and congregations—are being withdrawn. Rep. Fleming was fired as Randolph County attorney for sponsoring suppressive legislation. But bills regulating voting keep hurtling forward.

"It's such a moving target," Miller said, speaking of the GOP's tactics. "We are seeing every legislative trick in the book. A bill comes over from the Senate. You totally rewrite it in the morning and then have the hearing, the committee vote, that afternoon."

Georgia's voting war is one front line in the national battle over the options to get and cast a ballot. While many Georgia Republicans are reviving old fears about empowering their critics to vote, hold office and possibly make decisions affecting their lives, another key Southern state, Virginia, has taken the opposite course. Since 2020, Virginia Democrats have vastly expanded voting options and rights, embracing the state's growing diversity and setting a different example.

"Virginia's work in 2021 is a model of voting rights expansion for states," said Jorge Vasquez, power and democracy director for Advancement Project, a civil rights group. "Governor Ralph Northam's [March 16] announcement[restoring voting rights to 69,000 ex-felons] is the capstone of a successful legislative session in which advocates successfully passed the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, the most expansive piece of voting rights legislation in the South."

There may be no wider contrast between the politics and polarities surrounding voting rights at the start of the post-Trump era than between Georgia Republicans' efforts to restrict voting and Virginia Democrats' recent efforts to expand the franchise. Since the November 2019 statewide elections in Virginia—which returned a Democratic state legislative majority for the first time in 20 years—the state had adopted several waves of inclusionary reforms.

"Virginia is the gateway," said Miller. "Virginia is the former capital of the Confederacy. So which direction does the South go? Does it follow Virginia? Or does it follow Georgia?"

Virginia's 2020 legislative session, which ended in February before the pandemic struck, passed a catalog of reforms. A longer no-excuse absentee voting period beginning 45 days before Election Day was instituted. The list of documents that would be accepted as voter ID was expanded. Election Day became a holiday. Automatic voter registration would be done at state motor vehicle offices unless residents opted out. A bipartisan redistricting commission was created for 2021. Same-day voter registration would begin in July 2022. It passed the federal Equal Rights Amendment.

In August 2020, a special session to address the pandemic further expanded voting options in Virginia. Registrars were required to contact voters to fix any mistakes they had made when filling out their ballot-return envelopes. A witness signature requirement for returned absentee ballot envelopes was suspended. Those envelopes had prepaid return postage. Drop boxes also were put into use to collect ballots.

"2020 was an incredible year where there were huge changes," said Deb Wake, League of Women Voters of Virginia president. "Before the changes in voting laws, Virginia was… [ranked 49th in the list of states based on how easy it was to vote there]. After the 2020 legislative sessions, we moved to the 12th [easiest state in which to vote]."

In Virginia's 2021 legislative session, which ended in February, most of the emergency responses to the pandemic were made permanent—except for suspending a witness signature on ballot return envelopes. Legislators also passed a state constitutional amendment to re-enfranchise ex-felons—a process that takes several years to enact. (It also abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana and allowed state health plans to cover abortions.) Gov. Northam is expected to sign all of these measures into law, advocates said.

A state Voting Rights Act was also passed. It bars the "denial or abridgment of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on his race or color or membership in a language minority group." It notably also creates a process where any change in voting rules can be contested—and reversed—if it rolls back prior voting options. This preclearance is akin to what the U.S. Supreme Court removed from the federal Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision—which led numerous Southern states to quickly enact new barriers for voters.

"With the preclearance requirement of federal law eliminated by the U.S. Supreme Court, Virginia replaced that rule with its own preclearance requirement," wrote Janet Boyd in a March 1 legislative summary for the League of Women Voters of Virginia. "The preclearance rule provides two pathways for a locality to clear changes, either through a process of providing public notice and receiving comments or through approval by the Office of the Attorney General."

"The legislature did flip from Republican to Democratic control in 2019, and that did allow for many of these voting/election laws to pass," said Wake. "One of the things leading to the flip was the redrawing of racially gerrymandered [legislative districts]. … We now have our own VRA [Voting Rights Act], and we have a bipartisan, citizen-led redistricting commission. It's not independent, but it's a huge step forward."

What Happened In Virginia?

Despite the inclusive voting rights legislation, Wake was "not prepared" to call Virginia a blue state. "I can attest that more people are engaged than were before 2016. I also note that the election/voting meetings since the November [2020] election have been full of new faces concerned about voter fraud—and all of their questions and objections fall on the incorrect assertion that there is massive voter fraud. Many people do not understand the system, and many people live in a partisan echo chamber. The challenge is to inform voters in a way that they hear, and [to] accept truths and processes that prevent the thing they fear."

Wake's prescription of informed engagement is precisely what led Virginia's progressives—arguably more than its centrist Democrats—to start focusing on local politics after the 2016 defeat of Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries, and the defeat of its U.S. senator and 2016 vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, in that year's general election.

Miller, who lives near Richmond, said Virginia's political landscape was similar to Georgia's. "People tend to look at Georgia and look at their legislature and say, 'Oh, there's no point in trying to do anything in that state.' Virginia looked exactly like Georgia five years ago."

Virginia is among a handful of states with statewide elections in odd-numbered years. In 2015, the year before the presidential campaign that elected Trump, 61 out of 100 seats in its House of Delegates, its lower chamber, were uncontested. After Sanders' and Hillary Clinton's loss, many progressives, including men and women of color who never held elective office, decided to continue their activism by running for delegate or supporting candidates, said Josh Stanfield, who created a widely signed pledge not to take donations from the state's biggest utility companies.

In November 2017, many candidates—including men and women of color who in 2021 are now running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general—were elected without the initial support of Virginia's Democratic Party, Miller said. Many of the national groups that were active in 2016 refocused on the state's legislative races in 2017, Stanfield said, which helped boost voter turnout.

"The majority of the increase in voter turnout was anti-Trump backlash," Stanfield said, "but what do we mean by anti-Trump backlash? It could include people who were fed up with xenophobia. It was not necessarily Trump-specific… There was so much more mobilization and organization on the ground. Among the grassroots activists, so many more people were involved."

After the November 2017 election, partisan control of the 100-seat House of Delegates came down to a tie in one contest. On January 4, 2018, a Republican was declared the winner of that race—giving the GOP a 51-49 majority—after the state election board's chair drew a slip of paper out of a bowl.

One year later, federal judges approved a court-ordered redrawing of 26 House of Delegate districts before Virginia's 2019 elections, after a federal judge found that the Republican majority had used race-based considerations when drawing the districts' boundaries after the 2010 census. In November 2019, 70 House of Delegate seats were contested. Democrats won a 55-45 seat majority. Democrats also won a 21-18 seat majority in the state's Senate. (One seat is vacant.)

"One of the things leading to the flip in the legislature in 2019 was the redrawing of racially gerrymandered maps," said Wake. "Besides the party flip—and more importantly—we see increased representation of minorities in Virginia. More women and more Black people are serving as legislators. Some legislators have served time. One is transgender. Some are Muslim. This means better representation, and we see this in the laws being passed."

Virginia's expansion of voting options and redrawing 26 lower legislative districts to be more representative have also led to the most diverse pool of Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governorand attorney general in upcoming party primaries and nominating conventions. There are more women, people of color, and religiously diverse candidates than in any prior election.

"The state's Democratic gubernatorial primary, taking place in June, features the most diverse set of candidates in Virginia's history," noted Jewish Insider. "There's Jennifer Carroll Foy, one of the first Black women to graduate from the esteemed Virginia Military Institute; Jennifer McClellan, a corporate attorney and vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus; Justin Fairfax, the current lieutenant governor and just the second Black politician ever elected to statewide office; Lee Carter, a 33-year-old self-proclaimed socialist in the House of Delegates; and Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor once before and has been a Democratic Party fixture since the Clinton administration."

"Virginia has four Black candidates running for governor in 2021. Who saw that coming in 2015?" Miller said. "Maybe the people of Georgia can look at Virginia and say, 'Oh my. Maybe there's hope for us. Virginia did it. Why can't we?' And Georgia has a bigger community of color population than Virginia—much bigger."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Why Republicans Declared Open Season On American Voters

As a general rule, I don't agree with Republican lawmakers, since they're generally wrong. But after looking into one of their main issues, I have to agree with them: Our elections are being rigged.

Anyone who takes an honest look can see that the electoral process all across the country is being stolen in broad daylight — by Republican lawmakers. In state after state, GOP governors and legislators are on a rampage to rig the system so you can't vote. By "you" I mean African Americans, Latinx voters, Asian Americans, indigenous peoples and practically all other nonwhite citizens. And seniors, union members, poor people, students, immigrant families and others with a tendency to vote for Democrats. By fraudulently shouting that "you people" are engaged in massive, orchestrated campaigns to vote illegally, GOP officials insist that they must steal your democratic right to vote in order to protect the "sanctity" of the vote!

Bizarrely, they are actually confessing their own embarrassing weakness and political ineptitude. In short, they are practically shouting, "We can't win!" Their lineup of squirrelly, increasingly kooky candidates — and their anti-people, corporate-serving agenda — have no ability to draw majority support. So, their only hope to be elected is to jerry-rig America's democratic process with a slew of barriers, locks, red tape, bans and other gimmicks and shut millions of citizens out of their polling places.

It's both pathetic and disgraceful, but their 7 million-vote defeat in last year's presidential race has spooked the Republican majority into a stampede of voter-suppression initiatives this year, pushing new proposals in Congress, the courts and state legislatures. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that at least 235 bills have been introduced in 43 states to further obstruct Americans from casting ballots.

The new schemes are aggressively repressive, aimed at preventing absentee voting, cutting early voting, eliminating mail-in voting, restricting the number and convenience of polling locations, and otherwise making it hard for people to exercise their most basic right of citizenship. Some proposals target specific groups, such as disallowing voting booths on college campuses and preventing early voting on Sundays (when many Black churches provide rides to the polls following services). And some are flagrantly autocratic, such as an Arizona bill allowing legislators to toss the voters' choice in presidential candidate and declare another candidate the victor.

In February, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was roundly denounced for running off to a sunny luxury resort in Cancun, Mexico, during the deep freeze that devastated millions of his constituents. But I wasn't mad that Ted fled; I was mad that the government let him back into our country.

Cruz is, after all, the two-legged, maniacal, self-aggrandizing ego who arrogantly tried to discard the ballots of millions of voters in the presidential election. Then, in January, he amplified claims of voter fraud along with then-President Donald Trump, who duped a crowd of Trumpeteers into storming our nation's Capitol in an attempt to seize control of our government by force. Now, having failed to pull off his coup of clowns, the extremist wannabe autocrat is asking the Supreme Court to suppress the people's democratic will.

In particular, he has teamed up with the sour old corporate plutocrat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to insert themselves into an Arizona case involving discrimination, specifically meant to disenfranchise Latinx, indigenous Americans, and Black voters. Cruz and McConnell demand that the court's six Republican justices kill America's landmark Voting Rights Act by excising Section 2. It prohibits states from altering election rules to give minority voters less opportunity than Anglos to participate in the political process.

In 2016, Arizona's Republican lawmakers passed a nasty provision declaring that any ballot cast in the wrong precinct, no matter how valid the ballot, must be tossed in the trash, rather than merely being allocated to the voter's correct precinct. This almost entirely affects people of color, for GOP election officials play partisan games with them by frequently moving their voting places, often at the last minute with little notice. Ted and Mitch, however, see nothing nefarious in this sneaky cheat. Indeed, they want the court to nullify Section 2, allowing states to change the time, place, and manner of voting whenever they want, even if the changes hurt minority voters.

The theft of our democracy doesn't happen in a violent coup but in a thousand legalistic cuts by crooks like Ted Cruz. He's just one example of the gross, repugnant thievery by political thugs who're not just stealing people's birthright but stealing from America itself. To help reject their depravity — and see what they are doing in your state — go to CommonCause.org.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Why Trump Finally Made Me Smile

Donald Trump was never forever. The former president is 74, obese and the subject of serious criminal investigations. Resurfacing after disgracefully inciting a rampage on the Capitol, he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference. The delivery was tired and the grievances now boring.

The big difference is he's no longer in power. Thanks to Trump, Democrats now hold the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. That the authoritarian clown show no longer threatens America makes it considerably more entertaining.

The speech was predictably heavy on attacks against the man who beat him. "Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history," Trump said. Biden, whose approval rating is 56 percent, as opposed to Trump's 34 percent, is ignoring him.

The question is whether there are enough sane people left in the Republican Party to fix it. Could the party, to borrow a phrase, build back better? That would be hard with the smart conservatives — Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney, Lisa Murkowski, Adam Kinzinger — now marooned on RINO Island.

Tom Nichols, a prominent never-Trumper, thinks it's over for the GOP. The party, he writes, is now "controlled as a personality cult by a failing old man."

What happens when the old man leaves the scene? Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and other would-be Trumps might want his voters, but they don't have his skills. They lack the Vegas-comic patter and tough New Yorker persona and silly antics. In sum, they're not entertaining.

Same goes for the Trump children, hard as they might try on impersonation. (However, if Ivanka were to knock out the gutless Marco Rubio in a Florida primary, that would be OK.)

It's true that despite Trump's loss in November, Republicans took back several seats in the House. That, of course, was before Trump's cop-beating mob threatened to hang Mike Pence. (The former vice president, understandably, sent his regrets to the CPAC organizers.) And it happened after a campaign in which COVID-concerned Democrats failed to go door to door while Republicans did.

When the congressional midterms take place in 2022, things will be a lot different. COVID should be over. There could well be two years of nontraumatic governance and an economy fat with new jobs. At the same time, the voter bloc that still calls itself Republican is shrinking. And it's not good news that only 37 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Republican Party, whereas 48 percent have a positive view of Democrats, according to Gallup.

Should we worry that there may not be a Republican Party able to counter Democratic excesses? Another anti-Trump conservative, Jennifer Rubin, says no. She notes that many parts of the country are already basically one-party locales — say, Democratic New York City or Republican Mississippi. But their crowded primaries provide voters with a diversity of views.

Meanwhile, with Biden at the top, the Democratic Party has built up moderate appeal. The party's lefties are finding, much to their dismay, that their every wish is not Biden's command. By the way, Congress now has the highest job approval in almost 12 years, and it's run by Democrats.

When Republicans complained that Biden didn't spend much time negotiating with them on his COVID relief bill, the question was: Negotiate with whom? With the Republicans who wouldn't admit he really won the election? They happened to represent a majority of the House Republican caucus.

The happy news is that Trump doesn't even get me mad anymore. So what if he still insists he won the election? Crazy people on street corners claim to be president. Trump finally made me smile, because he no longer matters.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com