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Right-Wing Poll Shows Democrat Winning Virginia Governor’s Race

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A right-wing group's latest Virginia poll found that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Glenn Youngkin. After the pollster tried to sway voters with a series of fearmongering attacks on McAuliffe, voters still backed the Democrat.

The American Principles Project, a dark-money group led by organizers of the failed anti-marriage equality movement, released a survey on Friday of 600 Virginia voters it deemed likely to participate in this November's election. It found former Gov. McAuliffe leading former investment firm executive Youngkin 46.4 percent -- 41.3 percent.

"Many political observers are already carefully watching Virginia as a bellwether for next year's midterms, and judging from this poll, Republicans should be cautiously excited," the group's president, Terry Schilling, claimed in a press release. "Despite Democrats' recent dominance in the state, Glenn Youngkin looks to be very competitive, thanks to widespread disapproval with the radical left-wing agenda being pushed by President Biden on down."

No Republican has won statewide in Virginia since 2009.

Schilling urged Youngkin and Republicans to put anti-LGBTQ attacks, criticism of the state's public schools, and fearmongering about anti-racism education "front and center" in the campaign.

But the poll's findings undermine much of his argument.

Among those surveyed, Virginians widely approve of President Joe Biden's job performance, 53.9 percent -- 45.2 percent. That number is almost identical to Biden's 54 percent -- 44 percent victory in the state last November.

It also found voters prefer Democratic candidates for the state House of Delegates by a margin of 45.4 percent -- 41.1 percent. Democrats hold a 55-seat majority in that 100-member body.

Though none of the people surveyed said they work for "the Virginia school system," 50.39 percent said they approve of the state's K-12 public schools, while just 35.5 percent disapprove.

When pressed about school reopening during the pandemic, just 44.4 percent said they want schools "fully open without mask mandates for students" for the 2022 school year. The majority (54.9 percent) said either that schools should reopen fully with mask mandates or that schools should keep the option of virtual learning. Youngkin has been pushing for a total return to in-person learning, regardless of COVID-19 safety considerations, since March, well before even most adults in the state were fully vaccinated.

The pollster asked several questions, trying to play up Youngkin's support for public funding for private and parochial schools and his support for a ban on teaching about "Critical Race Theory." But a minority of voters said either issue would make them more likely to support the Republican.

After hearing the group's attacks on McAuliffe, voters were again asked who they'd back. McAuliffe still was ahead 45.8 percent -- 42.9 percent.

In a radio interview on Friday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — who is unable to seek reelection under Virginia's one-term-in-a-row limit — called attacks on anti-racism education a "dog whistle" being used "to scare people in an election year."

"Critical race theory," he told WAMU, is "a graduate level academic subject that is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum in Virginia. I'll repeat that. It is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum. And what I'm interested in and what our administration is interested in is teaching an accurate version of our history."

This is not the first time the American Principles Project has tried to inject far-right social issues into political campaigns.

Last year, it spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats over their support for LGBTQ equality.

"Biden and his fellow Democrats have pledged to use the power of the federal government to destroy women's sports and push young children into highly experimental and dangerous sex-change procedures," Schilling claimed in September. "In the coming weeks, we will be making sure voters in Michigan and nationwide know the extreme agenda Joe Biden and Democrats want to impose on the country."

The group devoted half of its $4 million investment in anti-transgender attacks to trying to defeat Biden and Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan. Both won anyway.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

VIDEO: Virginia Republican Nominee Admits Hiding His Extreme Views To Win

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Virginia's Republican nominee for governor reportedly told supporters at a fundraising event in June that he couldn't reveal his true position on abortion rights until after he's elected.

His reasoning: He needs the independent vote to ensure his victory in November.

Glenn Youngkin, the venture capitalist running as a Republican in Virginia's gubernatorial race against former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, made the comments to Lauren Windsor, who runs The Undercurrent, a self-described "grassroots political web-show" funded by the liberal advocacy group American Family Voices.

The American Independent obtained the video footage from Windsor, who also shared it with MSNBC.

In the video, Windsor begins speaking with Youngkin about her feigned support for things like "getting a fetal heartbeat bill here like they did in Texas, or defunding Planned Parenthood."

A man who identifies himself only as "Pete" also appears in the video, though his full identity is not immediately clear.

Youngkin responds by telling Windsor that she's "on the right path," adding that he initially wants to work on abortion issues he says a "majority of Virginians" support, including to "stop using taxpayer money for abortions" and banning "abortions all the way up until the last week before birth." (Taxpayer money is not used to fund abortions.)

When Windsor pushes him more, Youngkin says that he's unable to speak much on the issue for fear of losing the independent voters he says he needs to win Virginia's gubernatorial contest in November.

"I'm gonna be really honest with you, the short answer is, in this campaign, I can't," Youngkin says after "Pete" asks him whether he plans to "take it to the abortionists."

"When I'm governor, and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense," he continues. "But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won't win my independent votes that I have to get. So you'll never hear me support Planned Parenthood, what you'll hear me talk about is actually taking back the radical abortion policies that Virginians don't want."

In a separate video from The Undercurrent, shared with the American Independent, Youngkin again talks about his need to appeal to independent voters in order to win the gubernatorial race.

"We're going after those middle 1 million voters who are, sadly, gonna decide this — have decided elections for the last 10 to 12 years in Virginia, and they've moved a bit away from us," Youngkin tells a room of supporters. "We're going to get them. We just got back a whole bunch of data today, and we're winning this group. This is the group that we have to go get."

He continues, "What's most interesting in the dataset that comes back is the decisions, the issues, and the emotions of this group are nearly 100 percent aligned with Republicans. That's because the issues that are gonna decide this race are, first and foremost, the economy and jobs — 25 percent of these targeted folks say that that's their most important issue. Second issue: public safety. Third issue: schools. These are the issues that swing voters, these are the issues that Republicans are most focused on."

Both videos appear to have been taken at a June 17 fundraising event with the Loudoun County Republican Women's Club.

In a statement to the American Independent, a Youngkin spokesperson denied that the Virginia Republican was hiding his positions.

"This deceptively recorded audio demonstrates that Glenn Youngkin says the same thing no matter who he is talking to, and that Terry McAuliffe's allegations about him are false," the spokesperson said, referring to an original transcript of the video, in which Windsor appears to identify herself to Youngkin only as a "Michelle," which Windsor later said was her middle name.

Abortion rights advocate and former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who is currently serving as co-chair of the left-leaning opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century, meanwhile, accused Youngkin of "tricking Virginians into thinking he's reasonable — when it's clear that he stands with Donald Trump and the extremists of the Republican Party." (The American Independent is funded in part by American Bridge.)

"This should terrify women who care about making their own health care decisions and doing what is best for their families," Richards said.

Republicans, for their part, have not won a gubernatorial contest in Virginia since 2009, and have lost every presidential contest in the state since 2008.

In 2020, President Joe Biden beat then-President Donald Trump in Virginia by 10 points, nearly doubling Hillary Clinton's 5.4-point win over Trump in 2016.

Youngkin has tried to pivot to a more moderate message in order to change his party's fortunes. However, his ties to Trump — who is unpopular in Virginia — may complicate things.

Shortly after Youngkin won the GOP nomination, Trump gave Youngkin a glowing endorsement, saying "Glenn is pro-Business, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Veterans, pro-America, he knows how to make Virginia's economy rip-roaring, and he has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"

Still, Youngkin cannot afford to lose Republican base voters in the state by moving too far to the middle.

The push and pull between appealing to both moderates and the GOP base is is the exact conundrum 2017 GOP nominee Ed Gillespie — once hailed for his more moderate Republican profile — had in the state.

Rather than court independent voters, Gillespie chose to go after the Trump-supporting base, running racist ads that voiced support for Trump's anti-immigrant platform. Gillespie went on to lose to now-Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam by 9 points.

Republicans are heavily targeting Virginia's gubernatorial election, hoping a win here could start a narrative that Republicans are on track to win majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

"This is going to be a test about whether or not a candidate can appeal to a Trump base in a nominating battle then pivot and win suburban voters. [Republicans] nominated someone who looks like he might have the capacity to do that," Virginia-based political analyst Bob Holsworth told the Los Angeles Times in May.

Youngkin is set to face off with McAuliffe, who is seeking a second, non-consecutive term, in November. In Virginia, governors can only serve four years in a row, and cannot run for another consecutive four years.

A poll from mid-June found McAuliffe with a 4-point lead over Youngkin.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race a Lean Democratic contest.

Massive Democratic Turnout In Virginia Primary Bodes Ill For GOP

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

In Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe won the nomination for his old job with at least 301,811 votes. A month ago, Republican Glenn Youngkin won his party's nomination with just 10,318.

McAuliffe got about 62 percent of the more than 485,000 votes cast in the primary. The turnout was not far below the record 2017 Democratic total of 542,858 votes fueled by an anti-Donald Trump wave in the state.

"With some more votes to count, VA Dem turnout last night is edging closer to 500k, which would only be down about 10 percent from the extraordinary turnout we saw in 2017 (and way up from 2005, 2009, 2013, etc.)," observed Lowell Feld, a Democratic strategist and founder of the Blue Virginia blog, on the blog's Twitter account. "That bodes VERY well for Dems this November!"

"You can put those 'questions about Dem enthusiasm' takes to bed," agreedAaron Fritschner, communications director for Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

The high Democratic turnout for McAuliffe and the Democrats is a stark contrast to last month's Republican nomination process. Rather than hold a primary, the state GOP opted to hold 40 unassembled caucuses across the state on May 8. Though more than 50,000 self-identified GOP voters registered to participate in that process, just 30,524 actually bothered to show up.

"The Republicans used a closed process relying on party insiders to choose their nominee at an in-person convention rather than having voting in a primary, and almost half of the people who registered as delegates for the convention didn't, uh, go," said Fritschner.

Youngkin, a wealthy businessman, was nominated with just 10,318 first-choice votes in the complicated voting process.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, tweeted Tuesday night that Democratic results were not what the Republicans had hoped for.

"GOP wanted (1) @TerryMcAuliffe embarrassed with under 50%. In fact he's topping 60%. (2) A low-turnout primary. No exact % yet but turnout is clearly NOT low," he observed.

Youngkin will face an uphill battle against McAuliffe in the Democratic-trending state. Donald Trump lost Virginia to Joe Biden by more than 10 points last November.

After Trump endorsed him last month, Youngkin said he was "honored" to have his backing.

Sabato has predicted that Trump's endorsement will be the kiss of death in the November general election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Excerpt From ‘Beyond Charlottesville’: A 2019 Call To Action

In Beyond Charlottesville: Taking A Stand Against White Nationalism, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe brings readers inside the tragic events of August 2017, which shattered America’s confidence in racial progress, exposed the raw aggression of white supremacy, and proved that the current president of the United States is on the wrong side. McAuliffe provides a fascinating minute-by-minute account of a government confronted by sinister violence — and in the epilogue that follows, he challenges every decent American with a call to action that we can ignore only at grave peril to our nation’s future.

 

Two years after Charlottesville, the blunt reality is we find ourselves in danger of not living up to the legacy of that tragic weekend in August 2017. Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, made the point at her daughter’s memorial service that the Nazi James Fields tried to silence her daughter with his act of terrorism, weaponizing his car against that crowd of peaceful protesters. “Well, guess what,” she said. “You just magnified her.” Susan urged everyone inspired by Heather’s death, whether they live in Charlottesville or another part of Virginia or anywhere around the world, to use it as an inspiration to get out there and work for change. “You make it happen,” she said. “You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.”

Susan Bro handled the loss of her daughter with great dignity and grace. Since Heather’s death she has followed her own advice and gone to work, traveling the country to give talks urging people to get involved and actively work for change and social justice. Saying the right things isn’t enough. Action counts. As Robert F. Kennedy put it, “Progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.”

When I talked recently to Susan Bro, looking back on Charlottesville after almost two years, she said she’d like to see more of a sense of urgency from more people. “Heather helped to open my eyes to a lot of things I’d been putting my head in the sand about,” Susan told me. “If after Charlottesville we just talk about ‘Love one another’ and have a kumbaya moment here, then we accomplish nothing, then we’re back to square one.”

Racism has been deeply ingrained in the fabric of our country throughout our history, and people have tried to shove it under the rug, again and again, citing progress. In Virginia, even with racist symbols all around, and some Virginia license plates still being issued with Confederate flags until I banned the practice, a jolt was needed to move us beyond the genteel sense of complacency. Charlottesville provided more than a jolt. It was a lightning bolt. Charlottesville lit up the scourge of racism and hatred of others as it really is, in the here and now. That spotlight offered an opportunity, but we have only a limited window to use that opportunity to leverage real change.

“If we don’t do it now, then we definitely wasted an opportunity—and wasted a life, frankly,” Susan told me. “That’s what I go around the country telling people.”

Then we wasted three lives, I’d say, including my friends Jay Cullen and Berke Bates. But this is larger than three lives and all the lives they touched. This is about all of us, who we are, how we live, and what we tolerate and don’t tolerate. This is about what we demand and don’t demand, of ourselves and others.

“The focus on Heather has tended to put a white savior complex yet again on black issues,” Susan told me. “I’ve had to be very adamant about pulling back on that and saying, ‘No, Heather is just a small part of the story.’ This was an awakening for a lot of white people, but black people were already quite well aware of the hateful agendas of some of the hate groups.”

That’s a point I heard from every African American I talked to about Charlottesville.

“White people are now getting the opportunity to see that we are not a post-racial society, just because President Obama was elected, and this is not just about Trump,” Charlottesville City Council member Wes Bellamy told me. “There are a lot of people who practice both covert and overt racism. So what do we do? Do we change policies? Do white people lend their voice as well as their privilege to be able to help out those who are disenfranchised? I think we can do that. . . . A lot of people could take a cue from Governor McAuliffe. He hired the first black secretary of the commonwealth. He restored voting rights. He took action and worked for equality. That’s how you use your privilege. That’s what you do.”

Levar Stoney thinks that after Charlottesville, there is no going back on issues of race. “You know from the history of Virginia that we’ve been very genteel in our treatment of racism,” he said. “We’re very passive about it. Like: We’re not as bad as Alabama, we’re not as bad as Georgia, we’re not as bad as Mississippi. But it’s baked into our way of life. After Charlottesville, there’s an attitude that we’re not going to be genteel, we’re not going to be passive. We need to be active, not just in dismantling the symbols of racism, but in how we remove inequality from our institutions like education and housing to build a more just and equitable society.”

I was frustrated during my time as governor at how much time gets wasted by people who should be working for real change. People love to play small ball. They get caught up in things that just don’t matter. I used to sit in my office with Jennie O’Holleran and my policy team, saying, “Honestly, are you serious? Why am I having to spend my time vetoing ridiculous bills passed by the Republican legislature that would allow guns into emergency shelters, or prevent a baker from selling a cake to a gay couple?” That shocked me. I think back now on all the time that was wasted, and all the work we have to do, but we can never make real progress until a full sense of urgency kicks in.

“White people don’t get it,” Larry Sabato says. “We don’t feel the sting of racism and don’t have the history of insult and hurt that African Americans have. Until whites do get it, progress is going to be limited. We’ll never make lasting progress if we pre-tend race isn’t still central to many of the problems that bedevil us. Maybe Charlottesville was the shock to the system we all needed to jumpstart real dialogue. Charlottesville ended the myth, or the dream, that racial reconciliation had mainly happened. Race is still a sore subject even in liberal communities like Charlottesville. In America as a whole, racism is woven into the very fabric of our institutions and our economy.”

Really, in the end it doesn’t matter who was surprised to see such raw racism and hatred on proud display in the streets of Charlottesville that weekend, it matters what we do. Virginia has made progress, but we have a long way to go. Why does Virginia have 378 monuments to the Civil War? Quit worrying about the cost. The cost to society of not removing them is much greater. We’re bold and brave enough to get it done. It’s time to take action. We have to start by giving local authorities decision-making power over what to do with their monuments and clear the way for action. The bottom line is: Those monuments are just offensive, and there is plenty of room to put them in museums and cemeteries.

“I think that what happened in Charlottesville has really been a catalyst in ways,” A. C. Thompson told me. “It was a catalyst for the white supremacist movement to collapse on itself, and a catalyst for Americans to realize they need to be aware of these issues.

A lot of folks knew there were aggressive racists in their community and they didn’t say anything about it or do anything about it. Afterward they did speak up, sometimes against people in their family. It activated people in the workplace. It activated people on the campuses. It activated people in politics. It activated law enforcement. I think there are a lot of actions that have sprung from the awful tragedy in Charlottesville.”

In some ways Donald Trump has served as an excuse. Having so unfit a figure in the White House has tied us all up in knots, fixated on his latest antics or tweets, his latest self-serving insults or distractions, his latest failure to see beyond his narrow self-interest or that of his family. Everyone gets so riled up all the time talking Trump this, and Trump that; it can be paralyzing for many. Trump is only a part of the bigger problem. Having him out of the White House will be a start—but only a start.

As Congressman John Lewis told me, “It’s not enough, but it will be a down payment on moving toward enough. I just think that he’s made the country so much worse off when it comes to the issue of building a community, of building a nation that is free. I thought we were on our way down that road, but every now and then there’s some force that comes along and arrests that progress.” Visiting John Lewis to talk about Charlottesville, two years later, was a very special moment. His wisdom moved me and I’m very thankful to him for the powerful foreword he wrote to this book.

Talking to John Lewis is like walking through living history—and that was especially true that day. By chance Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stopped by for a picture; he insisted on a photo with the three of us, and it was amazing to step into Congressman Lewis’s office. The walls were covered with incredible pictures cataloguing a remarkable life, but there was only one bust in that room: a bust of Robert F. Kennedy, attorney general in his brother Jack Kennedy’s administration, fierce fighter for civil rights, father of the man standing next to me. Bobby Kennedy stood for eloquence backed up by action.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Bobby Kennedy was a fighter. John Lewis is a fighter. I’m a fighter. You have to be a fighter and also work for social change. I’m proud of the work we all did in Virginia, starting with restoring the voting rights of all those individuals who had served their time and paid their debt to society and deserved to feel like full citizens again. I’m proud of moving the commonwealth of Virginia for- ward, socially and economically, of sending the signal to the world that Virginia is for lovers, we’re an open and welcoming state with a twenty-first-century economy and a vision of the future.

Our work during my time as governor was a start, but only a start—and we’ve all been reminded since then how fleeting progress can be. African Americans find blackface to be disgusting and insulting, and they’re right. It was a painful episode when the Virginia governor and attorney general were both embroiled in blackface scandals, especially after we’d spent four years moving Virginia forward. “It makes me sad,” John Lewis told me. “I know some people say, ‘Well, it was another time, another period, another day, they were much younger.’ But we cannot continue. We’re in a different world.” Every day we were focused on blackface in Virginia, we were distracted from the work at hand. As John Lewis says, progress was arrested. We have too much work to do to let ourselves be slowed down. We have too many challenges that demand immediate action, from improving the educational opportunities of every young person in this country to generating the good-paying jobs that are the ultimate answer to economic inequality; from helping displaced workers retrain for the twenty-first-century economy to expanding Medicaid and continuing in the decades-long struggle to improve health care in this country. We need fresh energy, not distractions, which is why I’m so excited to see so much engagement among the young and so many smart, dynamic, qualified younger people getting into politics and nonprofit work in a variety of roles.

To bring more people into politics, we have to reach out to them, especially in less affluent communities. The young can’t be inspired, and inspire us in turn, if no one gives them a chance. As Lamont Bagby told me: “Those individuals need resources. They need to be able to come down and see the Virginia House of Delegates in action. They need to go to Washington, DC, and see people in action. They just need to be inspired. They inspire us; we need to make sure that they know the opportunities that are before them.”

Until every American and every elected official gets out of bed every single day fighting for social justice and equal opportunity, we are failing as a society. Until we get there, it’s all just talk. We have to do a better job at home and in our schools, teaching respect and valuing differences and not sugar-coating the past as heritage rather than inherited racism. We have to take away the barriers to success that affect so many in our communities of color. We have to tackle lack of access to quality health care, mass incarceration, disproportionate prison sentencing and mandatory minimums, and the “lock ’em up” mentality. We’ve got too many African American students going to dilapidated schools with the roofs falling apart. The issues that Barbara Johns fought for in 1951 are still all too prevalent. Infant mortality rates in African American communities, like Milwaukee, are a scandal. We have to get out of the past and move to the future.

“We have to fix the systems that cause the divide,” Susan Bro told me. “We have to fix the inequities, or we’re going to end up right back in the same place. In education, housing, business loans, we have to undo the wrongs of the past. Somebody might say they want to undo all that, but are they willing to put their kids in a public school? Or are they only willing to say they want to be a part of the process, but only from the outside?”

The truth was revealed in Charlottesville. We are a divided nation today, stuck in the past, racism still rampant. “As bad as it might have been, it was under wraps until Donald Trump got elected,” Virginia state senator Louise Lucas, who represents Portsmouth, told me. “He tore the lid off of the reservations people had about being open about it.”

Lucas, who was born in 1944, also said, “I have not seen so much hate and vitriol in my adult life. I haven’t seen so much since the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Young people were the key to change then and they can be the key now, she believes.

“We have to stay in the trenches with them, making them feel they are part of the process,” she said. “We have to make sure that their active minds have something to think about and their busy hands have something to do. We have to keep them engaged to let them know there is hope, everybody working together, Generation X and Millennials and all generations.

If you were offended, disgusted, and outraged by what happened in Charlottesville, good! Then it’s your responsibility to do something about it. Up until Trump, and up until Charlottesville, race was something that, too often, people didn’t want to talk about. There was a notion kicking around that we’d corrected the problem. That was false. People felt too comfortable in their insular little worlds.

My message to everybody is: Stop being comfortable. Stop believing we’ve come so far. As Charlottesville has proven, we haven’t. I’d like to thank all the peaceful protesters who came out in Charlottesville to oppose hate. That wasn’t comfortable. You won’t feel comfortable when you’re out there working for change.

You won’t feel comfortable taking on hatred and bigotry. Forget reconciliation commissions. Words, words, words. It’s a bunch of white people sitting around together trying to feel comfortable to talk a problem to death, but it doesn’t bring change. Action brings change. Do something. Do it now.

From Beyond Charlottesville: Taking A Stand Against White Nationalism by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Copyright (c) 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press.

 

Virginia Governor Vetoes Bill Defunding Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have blocked funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and other health services.

The bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature would have barred the state from providing funds to clinics that perform abortions not covered by Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, said the measure would harm thousands of Virginians who relied on Planned Parenthood healthcare services and programs. He vetoed a similar measure last year.

“Attempts to restrict women’s access to health care will impede the goal of making Virginia the best place to live, work, and run a business,” he said in a statement.

Advocates for the law had said it would underpin organizations that provide the widest range of services.

Planned Parenthood draws the ire of many Republicans because it provides abortions. Republican President Donald Trump has pledged to defund the organization.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by James Dalgleish)

IMAGE: Democratic nominee for Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe stands onstage during a campaign rally in Dale City, Virginia, October 27, 2013.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Right-Wing Media Fail In Effort To ‘Scandalize’ McAuliffe PAC Donation

After initially failing to scandalize a Wall Street Journal story about political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) political action committee (PAC) to the wife of an FBI official, conservative media are trying to revive the story. Now they’re trying to hype flawed, speculative allegations of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the fundraising for McAuliffe’s PAC in hopes of undermining the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

In an October 23 article titled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,” the Journal reported, “The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.” The piece implied that the McAuliffe PAC’s donation may have influenced FBI official Andrew McCabe, who is married to the donation’s recipient, Jill McCabe, in his later investigation of Clinton’s email use.

Not only did journalists deride the piece’s flimsy, “embarrassing” claim, but the Journal’s own reporting also failed to support the idea that there was any impropriety by McAuliffe or McCabe. Indeed, other media outlets noted that “there’s literally nothing” to the story, both because “the timing is complicated if you’re trying to prove a Clinton email connection” and because “McAuliffe’s support of Jill McCabe was part of a much broader effort at the time to try to win back a Democratic majority in the state Senate.”

That didn’t stop right-wing media figures from hyping the “appearance of impropriety” and claiming that McAuliffe “acted as a bag man to pay off people sniffing around Hillary’s emails.”

After briefly piercing into the mainstream media current, the toothless story seemed to fade away, until theDaily Mail reported on October 28 that “Clinton headlined a major fundraiser” for McAuliffe’s PAC “before the group steered nearly $500,000 to” Jill McCabe. The paper suggested that Clinton’s involvement in the fundraiser again “raise[s] questions about the impartiality of the FBI’s investigation.”

But just as the initial Journal story fell apart under scrutiny of the timeline — Andrew McCabe didn’t become involved in the FBI investigation until several months after McAuliffe’s donation to Jill McCabe — so too does the Daily Mail’s bizarre and complicated suggestion that Clinton headlined a fundraiser because she was able to foresee that resulting donations would months later go to the wife of a man who would later be promoted twice to play a lead role in an investigation that did not yet exist.

After organizing a timeline of the fundraiser, donation, and investigation — and lightly suggesting the optics don’t look good (a common media technique employed when investigating many of Clinton’s nonscandals) — Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote:

What hasn’t been proven is that Hillary Clinton did anything improper. Clinton would have had to be a pretty advanced political chessmaster to do a June 2015 fundraiser with the knowledge that, in October 2015, it would benefit the wife of an FBI official who would be promoted to an oversight position into her email investigation the next February. And McAuliffe would have to be an even savvier operator to have recruited Jill McCabe to run for office in March 2015 in the hopes that, sometime down the line, her husband would get promoted to the point of overseeing an investigation that didn’t yet exist. There’s also no evidence Andrew McCabe actually influenced the email investigation in a way that benefited Clinton. For all we know, he could’ve been pushing for her prosecution only to be overruled by Comey.

Indeed, perhaps a much simpler explanation for Clinton’s fundraising appearance and the McAuliffe PAC’s donation is that a leading Democrat raised money for the Virginia state party and the governor’s PAC to try to swing the legislature to benefit the Democratic governor — who is also an old friend — during one of the few major off-year elections in the country.

Yet, even though almost nothing about the story has changed, right-wing media are now hyping the Daily Mail’s “exclusive” to suggest impropriety by Clinton and McAuliffe and a compromised FBI investigation. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said the situation was “sleazy,” and the pro-Trump Breitbart News suggested the donations are “unusual” and raise questions, despite the continued lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

Photo: mdfriendofhillary/Flickr

U.S. Judge Orders Virginia To Extend Voter Registration

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered Virginia to reopen its voter registration window and allow residents to continue to sign up through midnight Friday, after its online registration portal was unavailable to many users earlier this week.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton’s order came in response to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by the activist New Virginia Education Fund, which complained that the state’s online voter registration portal had worked erratically in the days leading up to the state’s initial Monday deadline to register.

The lawsuit argued that the problems risked illegally denying thousands of people the right to vote in the Nov. 8 election.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe this year restored the right to vote to thousands of ex-felons, a move seen as potentially tipping what had been a traditional Republican stronghold in Democrats’ favor.

“I am pleased that the court has agreed with the request to extend Virginia’s voter registration period after unprecedented web traffic prevented many people from completing their registrations online before the original deadline,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday.

“The Commonwealth will fully comply with the court’s order and extend our registration process online, in person and through the mail.”

State law gives the power to extend voting registration to the legislature, so McAuliffe had been unable to act until the judge’s ruling, noted Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. The Republican-controlled legislature had declined to take any action following the flurry of complaints on Monday.

“The real question is if this leaves enough time to get the word out to people who had been blocked from registering and may not know that the issue has been resolved,” Tobias added.

Shortly after the judge’s decision was handed down in an Alexandria courtroom, the state’s Department of Elections updated its Web site to show the new deadline.

Representatives of the New Virginia fund did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Recent polls show Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton leading Republican New York real estate developer Donald Trump in the state.

The decision comes the week after a judge in North Carolina gave residents in counties hard hit by Hurricane Matthew additional time to register to vote. Similar steps were also taken in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida following the storm.

Photo: An elections official demonstrates a touch-screen voting machine at the Fairfax County Governmental Center in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. on October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Restoring Voting Rights To Felons Is The Right Thing To Do

Of all the consequences of the nation’s decades-long infatuation with building more and more prisons and locking up more and more citizens, perhaps the most curious is this: More than 4 million Americans who have been released from prison have lost their right to vote, according to the non-profit Sentencing Project.

Even after men and women have served their time — after they have paid their debt to society, as the cliche goes — most states restrict their franchise. It’s an odd idea: Those men and women are harmless enough to release onto the streets, but they can’t be trusted to vote. They have finished serving their sentences, but they are barred from full citizenship.

A disproportionate number of those second-class citizens are black. Because black Americans, particularly men, are locked up at a higher rate than their white peers, this peculiar practice falls heavily on them. Nationwide, one in every 13 black adults cannot vote as the result of a felony conviction, as opposed to one in 56 non-black voters, according to the Sentencing Project, which advocates for alternatives to mass incarceration.

It’s undemocratic, it’s unfair and it’s un-American. While ancient Greek and Roman codes withdrew the franchise from those who had committed serious crimes, most Western countries now see those codes as outdated.

Recognizing that, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, used his executive power earlier this month to sweep away his state’s laws limiting the franchise for felons. With that action, about 200,000 convicted felons who have completed their prison time and finished parole or probation are now eligible to vote.

McAuliffe noted that Virginia’s law — one of the nation’s harshest and embedded in a Civil War-era state constitution — didn’t hobble the voting rights of black citizens through mere coincidence. That was its purpose. McAuliffe’s staff came across a 1906 report in which a then-state senator gloated about several voting restrictions, including a poll tax and literacy tests, that, he said, would “eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this state in less than five years,” according to The New York Times.

You’d think that McAuliffe’s fellow Virginia politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, would celebrate his decision. Eliminating barriers to the franchise — especially those with obviously racist roots — can only polish the state’s image and strengthen the civic fabric.

But GOP leaders have objected, accusing McAuliffe of “political opportunism” and a “transparent effort to win votes.” Well, OK. Let’s stipulate that politicians are usually in the business of trying to win votes.

Having conceded that, though, isn’t restoring the voting rights of men and women who have served their time a good idea? If a crime renders a man beyond the boundaries of civilized society, he should be imprisoned for the rest of his life. Otherwise, his crime shouldn’t place him in an inferior caste, without the privileges of full citizenship.

Curiously, though, many conservatives seem to disagree. After Democrat Steve Beshear, then Kentucky’s governor, issued an executive order last year similar to McAuliffe’s, his Republican successor, Matt Bevin, overturned it. Bevin signed a law allowing felons to petition judges to vacate their convictions — a bureaucratic hurdle not easily overcome. Maryland’s GOP governor, Larry Hogan, vetoed a bill to restore voting rights to felons, but the Democratically controlled legislature overrode him.

Those Republican governors are simply following the party’s script, which has focused for the last several years on ways to block the ballot, starting with harsh voter ID laws. While advocates of such laws claim they are meant to protect against voting fraud, the sort of in-person fraud they would prevent hardly exists.

The real motivation for GOP lawmakers is to restrict the franchise from people unlikely to vote for them — especially people of color and millennials. Rather than campaign on a platform that attracts support, they rely on barriers to voting.

That’s wrong. The strength of American democracy depends on persuading more citizens that their votes count; carelessly — or intentionally — disenfranchising those with whom you disagree rends the civic fabric, distorts the political process and stokes the flames of discontent.

We surely don’t need more of that in this political season.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

Photo: Peer 1 client James J. looks at the federal prison during a blind faith trust exercise in Englewood, Colorado September 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking