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Ultra-Right Mega-Donors Are Financing Election Denial Operations

In an article published on November 3, the Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger reported that “nearly 80 percent” of the $1.7 million that right-wing shipping magnates Dick and Elizabeth Uihlein donated to Republican candidates “between January 7, 2021 and August 31, 2022” went to “campaigns or committees tied to the 147 Republicans who voted, on January 6, (2021), to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.” But their fondness for MAGA election denialists, according to Sollenberger, goes beyond donations.

Now Sollenberger, writing for the Beast in an article published on November 28, reports that in 2021, Arizona Republican Party Vice Chair Gina Swoboda was hired as executive director for “the Uihlein-backed dark money nonprofit Restoration Action Inc.” Her salary was $108,750 per year.

“Swoboda, a former Trump campaign official and the vice chair of the Arizona Republican Party, is now leading a misguided charge against the ballot count in that state on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake,” Sollenberger explains. “Swoboda currently serves as ‘election integrity’ coordinator for Lake, whose repeated false claims of voter fraud have ingratiated her to former President Donald Trump and who still refuses to acknowledge her election loss to (Democratic Arizona Secretary of State) Katie Hobbs.”

The Beast reporter continues, “After the election, Lake promoted Swoboda’s appearance on a right-wing podcast. In addition to hiring Swoboda, the filing shows Restoration Action’s accounts swelling for the second year in a row. According to the filing, in the 12 months following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Restoration Action’s revenue topped $20.5 million — double what the group raised in 2020, and light years beyond its $64,000 haul in 2019.”

Sollenberger notes that Restoration Action is “tied to the larger Restoration of America network, funded almost exclusively by the Uihleins.”

Brendan Fischer, who serves as deputy executive director of the watchdog group Documented, told the Beast, “Restoration Action is a hub for election denial, including funding some of the key players pushing election falsehoods in Arizona at the moment. This is a reminder that there’s big money behind the push to undermine democracy. Through Restoration Action and other entities, an array of groups pushing election conspiracy theories are backed by literally tens of millions of dollars from just one billionaire couple.”

Restoration America, according to Sollenberger, “also threw $600,000 to the super PAC affiliated with January 6 rally organizer Tea Party Patriots” and “another $1.5 million…. to the Lawyers Democracy Fund, a conservative dark money group that advocates for changes in election law.”

“The group sent another half a million to Fight Voter Fraud, which has also pushed baseless claims of election malfeasance, including in 2021,” Sollenberger reports. “Another recipient, the Liberty Initiative Fund, donated $675,000 to a group fighting for more restrictive voter ID requirements in Michigan. That Michigan group raised $2.2 million total, with $1.5 million coming from Uihlein himself.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Horrified Evangelical Pastor Fights Back Against Trump's 'Christian' Nationalism

Although former President Donald Trump is by no means universally loved within Christianity and has his share of critics among Catholics and Mainline Protestants, he has been incredibly popular within a certain area of Christianity: far-right White fundamentalist evangelicals. That movement, which has been called the Christian Right or the Religious Right, has had a firm grip on the Republican Party since the early 1980s. And although Trump himself was raised Presbyterian, not evangelical, and is not known for being very religious, he was made a point of courting evangelicals.

One pastor who is critical of the relationship between Trump and the Christian Right is Caleb Campbell of the Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix, Arizona. According to a report from the Globe & Mail’s Nathan VanderKlippe, Campbell is trying to counter the Trump/MAGA influence on evangelicals.

“You can think of Donald Trump’s most faithful adherents as bigots or patriots, constitutional standard-bearers or deluded masses,” VanderKlippe writes in an article published on November 25. “Caleb Campbell likes to think of them as sheep that have gone astray. He has made it his work to lead them back…. Mr. Campbell’s introduction to the congregation of Trump came in a church, after fellow Christians suggested he attend what was described as a revival event organized by Turning Point.”

Turning Point is the pro-Trump group led by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk. Campbell told the Globe & Mail that when he first heard Kirk speaking at a MAGA/evangelical event, he was “absolutely terrified and horrified.”

“Mr. Kirk established Turning Point USA and, in 2021, TPUSA Faith, which organized some of the events Mr. Campbell attended,” VanderKlippe explains. “Mr. Kirk calls the separation of church and state a lie, saying ‘the church founded this country’ and, today, ‘has to rise up in every capacity.’ TPUSA Faith’s ambition is to gather and organize religious leaders, providing them with resources ‘to activate their congregations to fight for free people, free markets, free speech and limited government.’ Listening to that message left Mr. Campbell unsettled.”

Campbell describes Christian nationalism as “a mean-spirited, vulgar grab for power with violent rhetoric.”

“Mr. Campbell’s initial efforts to push back were not popular with his White, evangelical and suburban parishioners,” VanderKlippe notes. “His congregation shrank from 800 people to 300. He began to write a book about engaging the ‘mission field’ of new religious conservatism — and started to attract new congregants, whom he describes as ‘disheartened, if not disgusted, by the amalgamation of nationalism and Christianity.’”

VanderKlippe adds, “(Campbell) has fashioned a tool kit for winning back the souls from the Trump church. He begins by establishing personal trust, without which people tend to resist questioning their own beliefs. He encourages people to fast from media for two weeks. And he invites them to sit at a table with others who hold different views to discuss hot-button issues such as immigration.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Herschel Walker Took 'Primary Residence' Tax Break -- In Texas

Although MAGA Republican Herschel Walker is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia and is registered to vote in Atlanta, the former football star owns a house in the Dallas area. According to CNN, Walker is getting a “homestead tax exemption” on that house. But in Texas, such an exemption, CNN notes, is strictly for one’s primary residence.

Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, reporting for CNN’s KFile on November 23, explain, “Publicly available tax records reviewed by CNN’s KFile show Walker is listed to get a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1500 and potentially running afoul of both Texas tax rules and some Georgia rules on establishing residency for the purpose of voting or running for office. Walker registered to vote in Atlanta, Georgia in 2021 after living in Texas for two decades and voting infrequently. In Texas, homeowner regulations say you can only take the exemption on your ‘principal residence.’”

Someone who lives and works in Georgia has every right to own a home in Texas. But a homestead tax break on a property in Texas, Kaczynski and Steck note, is strictly for someone who primarily lives there — not someone who primarily lives in a different state, such as Georgia.

According to the CNN reporters, “Walker took the tax break in 2021 and 2022 for his Texas home even after launching a bid for Senate in Georgia, an official in the Tarrant County tax assessor office told CNN’s KFile…. Politicians in the past in Texas have landed in hot water over improperly taking the exemption, including then-Gov. Rick Perry, and have typically agreed to pay back taxes. Questions have swirled around Walker’s residency since he actively began exploring the possibility of a Senate run in Georgia last year, and Democrats and Republicans alike hit Walker over the issue.”

Kaczynski and Steck also point out that in order to “run for office and vote in Georgia, 15 rules, not all of which need to be met, are considered for establishing residency.” One of them is “where the resident takes their homestead tax exemption and where they intend to live permanently.”

“The U.S. Constitution only requires a potential senator to be an inhabitant of their state when elected,” the reporters add.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Accused Colorado Springs Killer Is Grandson Of MAGA Republican Politician

On Saturday, November 19, a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado left five people dead and more than two dozen people injured. The man arrested in connection with the attack, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, is facing five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of a "bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury,” according to court filings. And CBS 8 San Diego is reporting that Aldrich is the grandson of California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel.

CBS 8 San Diego’s Steve Price reports that Voepel “once drew harsh criticism from several of his colleagues in Sacramento for comparing the January 6 attack on the Capitol to the American Revolutionary War.”

A far-right Republican, the 72-year-old Voepel has been an avid supporter of the Tea Party. After a mob of Donald Trump supporters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, Voepel declared, “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny. Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear-in on January 20.”

Law enforcement officials have not gone into specifics about the alleged shooter’s possible motivations or political views in the attack on Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. But the court filings indicate that they are considering it a politically motivated hate crime.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Watch This Hilarious Supercut Of Fox Pundits Predicting Midterm 'Red Wave'

The 2022 midterms may be remembered as the worst humiliation that Fox News has suffered since 2012, when pundits at the right-wing cable news channel spent weeks insisting that then-President Barack Obama would be voted out of office — only for Obama to win a decisive reelection victory. GOP strategist Karl Rove, during an Election Night 2012 appearance on Fox News, was described by critics as looking like a deer caught in the headlights when then-Fox host Megyn Kelly informed him that Obama had won Ohio and been reelected — and now, Fox News is being mocked unmercifully for getting the 2022 midterms so wrong.

A video released after the midterms shows one Fox News pundit after another predicting that 2022 would bring a massive “red wave,” but that red wave didn’t materialize. Although control of Congress was still up in the air as of Friday morning, November 11, Democrats performed much better than expected — flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania and winning gubernatorial races not only in Pennsylvania, but also, in Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, and many other states.

The video shows everyone at Fox News from Laura Ingraham to Greg Gutfeld to Maria Bartiromo to Sean Hannity stridently predicting that a major “red wave” would strike on November 8. Especially embarrassing for Fox News is a clip of Marc Thiessen saying, “It is going to be a red wave? Is it going to be red tsunami? I think it’s going to be a red hurricane” — the same Marc Thiessen who, after a lot of election results came in, acknowledged how badly the GOP had underperformed and called for serious “introspection” for his party. Thiessen even called the election results an “absolute disaster” for the GOP.

There was also talk of a “red wave” on MSNBC and CNN before November 8, but they were much more cautious, nuanced and analytical — noting how close many of the polls were and stressing that turnout would be key. MSNBC and CNN offered a lot of detailed analysis; Fox News and Fox Business offered a lot of Republican National Committee (RNC) talking points and cheer-leading for the GOP.

Watch the video below or at this link:

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Twitter Counsel Fears Musk Actions Risk 'Billions' In Federal Penalties

Twitter employees have been subjected to a variety of chaos and stress since late October, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired the social media giant and immediately began firing and laying off employees. Musk has fired Twitter’s entire board of directors and some of its top executives in addition to making major cuts to its content moderation staff.

On top of all that, a company attorney is, according to The Verge, warning that Musk is putting Twitter at risk of facing billions of dollars in fines from the federal government.

In an article published on November 10, The Verge’s Alex Heath reports, “Twitter’s privacy and security teams are in turmoil after Elon Musk’s changes to the service bypassed its standard data governance processes. Now, a company lawyer is encouraging employees to seek whistleblower protection ‘if you feel uncomfortable about anything you’re being asked to do.’ The company’s chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, chief information security officer Lea Kissner, and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty have all resigned, according to two employees and an internal message seen by The Verge.”

Kissner, according to Heath, “confirmed their departure in a tweet on Thursday,” November 10.

In a biting note posted on Twitter’s Slack page and visible to other employees, Heath reports, a Twitter attorney — whose identity The Verge didn’t want to reveal — wrote, “Elon has shown that his only priority with Twitter users is how to monetize them. I do not believe he cares about the human rights activists. the dissidents, our users in un-monetizable regions, and all the other users who have made Twitter the global town square you have all spent so long building, and we all love.”

Heath notes that in May 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “reached a settlement with Twitter” after the company had been “caught using personal user info to target ads.”

Heath reports, “If Twitter doesn’t comply with that agreement, the FTC can issue fines reaching into the billions of dollars, according to the lawyer’s note to employees…. The note goes on to say that its author, who The Verge knows the identity of but is choosing not to disclose, has ‘heard Alex Spiro (current head of Legal) say that Elon is willing to take on a huge amount of risk in relation to this company and its users, because ‘Elon puts rockets into space, he’s not afraid of the FTC.’”

Another change Musk is instituting at Twitter, according to Business Insider, is an end to letting employees work remotely.

On November 10, according to Business Insider reporters Kate Duffy and Kali Hays, Musk made the announcement in an e-mail. Hw told employees — the ones who, so far, haven’t been fired or laid off — “The road ahead is arduous and will require intense work to succeed.”

Duffy and Hays report that Musk opened the e-mail by saying that there was “no way to sugarcoat the message” about how the economic climate would affect Twitter.

“Days after Musk finalized his deal with Twitter, employees noticed the company's ‘days of rest,’ implemented by the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, had been removed from their calendars, people familiar with the matter told Insider,” Duffy and Hays note. “While Dorsey encouraged staff to avoid burnout, employees of Musk's other companies, such as SpaceX and Tesla, are known to work long hours. The change in pace at Twitter became apparent after a photo was posted on the social media platform showing a manager sleeping on the floor at its San Francisco headquarters last week.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Wisconsin GOP Nominee 'Says The Quiet Part Out Loud' About Killing Democracy

In the 2022 midterms, MAGA election deniers haven’t necessarily been as overt as Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake or her Pennsylvania counterpart Doug Mastriano. Some have never acknowledged that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election but avoid discussing the Big Lie. In Wisconsin, however, Democrats are slamming Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels for saying “the quiet part out loud” and essentially promising that if he defeats Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers on November 8, he would simply throw out any election results that he doesn’t like.

Evers and the liberal group American Bridge 21st Century have tweeted a recording of Michels, during an event in Jefferson County, Wisconsin on Halloween, telling the crowd, “Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I'm elected governor.”

The liberal group American Bridge 21st Century, in response, tweeted, “GOP #WIGov nominee Tim @MichelsForGov said the quiet part out loud: ‘Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I'm elected governor.’ Democracy is on the line in Wisconsin. Michels must be stopped.”

In response to Michels’ promise to throw out election results he doesn’t like, Evers tweeted, “Folks, we’ve known this for a while – Tim Michels is a danger to our democracy. When you head to the polls on Election Day, remember that we’re fighting to protect our democracy, voting rights, and free, fair, and secure elections.”

Democratic strategists and organizers have grown worried over what they’ve been seeing in polls of statewide races in Wisconsin. Incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson has had single-digit leads over Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes in a long list of recent polls, and the governor’s race is tight. Fox News and Data for Progress polls released during the second half of October found Michels leading Evers by 1 percent.

Michels, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is a far-right MAGA candidate who has trafficked in conspiracy theories and promoted the Big Lie. And Evers isn’t shy about calling Michels “a danger to our democracy.”

Business Insider’s Hannah Getahun, in an article published on November 1, reports, “Michels, a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has questioned the results of the 2020 election and has declined to answer questions as to whether or not he would certify presidential election results as governor should a Democrat win the state in a national election. Michels also suggested that he could pursue an unconstitutional effort to decertify (President Joe) Biden's 2020 win in Wisconsin once he became governor, telling local station WKOW that he would ‘need to see the details.’”

Evers spokesperson Sam Roecker told Business Insider, “Democracy is on the ballot in this election. Tim Michels has made it clear he will do anything in his power to make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote and could even overturn the fair results of our elections if he doesn't like the outcome.”

A variety of political voices, from election law expert Rich Hasen to “Real Time” host Bill Maher to Never Trump conservative and former GOP strategist Tim Miller, have been sounding the alarm about how perilous things could become in the United States in 2024 if enough “Stop the Steal” Republicans and MAGA election deniers win gubernatorial and secretary of state races in 2022. The fear is that if a Democratic presidential nominee wins the popular vote in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and/or Michigan in 2024’s presidential election, Republicans could refuse to certify the election results and try to give the electoral votes to the Republican candidate — thus setting off a major constitutional crisis and widespread unrest. Maher has commented that post-election, late 2024/early 2025 might be a good time to be away from the United States.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Ex-GOP Official Who Ran 'Fire Pelosi' Ads Is Warning Against Violence

From Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake to Donald Trump Jr., it isn’t hard to find far-right MAGA Republicans who are willing to joke about the violent assault on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi — who, on Friday, October 28, was attacked with a hammer by a man who broke into their San Francisco home. Countless Republicans have been unwilling to call them out, obviously fearing that doing so might offend former President Donald Trump. But one Republican who is speaking out is Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee (RNC).

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on Halloween Day, Heye argues that the “ugly tweets and jokes from some Republicans about the attack on Pelosi’s husband, Paul” have gone way too far. And this is coming from someone who was part of the “Fire Pelosi” campaign during the 2010 midterms, which found Republicans enjoying a major red wave and retaking the U.S. House of Representatives — a political event that then-President Barack Obama famously described as a “shellacking.”

“More and more in our politics, the loudest, angriest, most divisive voices get the most attention and money,” Heye observes. “Real solutions, and the politicians who put their heads down to do hard work, get short shrift. Collectively, we have to lower the temperature. People keep getting hurt. We’re very lucky no one has been killed — and I worry I need to emphasize ‘yet.’”

Heye goes on to cite some examples of political violence that have plagued the United States, from the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011 to the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise in 2017 to a plot to assassinate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this year. Giffords (who is married to Sen. Mark Kelly) and Scalise suffered serious injuries but survived.

“Just as warming waters create the conditions for more frequent and destructive hurricanes, toxic rhetoric can manifest into actions,” Heye writes. “Our political emotions are running hotter than ever. We’ve been relatively lucky so far. Consider the attacks on Giffords and Scalise, the threats against Kavanaugh, the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), and the January 6 chants of ‘Hang Mike Pence’ and threats against Nancy Pelosi — had any of them gone further, our country would be even closer to unraveling.”

Heye continues, “Politics is a business of tough talk on tough issues. Some challenges, such as inflation, are at their worst state in generations. Some, such as the rapid speed of disinformation and hate, are newer. If we can’t tame the latter, our other problems will become small in comparison.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Studies Show Red States Suffer Far More Violent Crime Than Blue States

In the 2022 midterms, countless Republican candidates — hoping to distract voters from the abortion issue — have been focusing heavily on violent crime and blaming Democrats for the crime rates in major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Crime was one of the subjects that Democratic nominee Joy Hofmeister and incumbent Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt debated on Wednesday, October 19, when Hofmeister reminded him how high the murder rates are in some red states.

Hofmeister told Stitt, “The fact is, the rates of violent crime are higher in Oklahoma, under your watch, than in New York and California. That’s a fact.”

Stitt disagreed, not surprisingly. But when podcast host Brian Tyler Cohen tweeted video of that part of the debate, he illustrated her point by also tweeting a study released in March 2022 by the centrist Democratic think tank The Third Way — which found that “8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century.”

The Third Way reported that “some ‘blue cities, like Chicago, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, have seen real and persistent increases in homicides.” But looking at states, The Third Way reported that “murder rates are far higher in Trump-voting red states than Biden-voting blue states.”

According to The Third Way, “We found that murder rates are, on average, 40 percent higher in the 25 states Donald Trump won in the last presidential election compared to those that voted for Joe Biden. In addition, murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. And finally, many of the states with the worst murder rates — like Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas — are ones that few would describe as urban. Only 2 of America’s top 100 cities in population are located in these high murder rate states.”

TheStandard Journal, on October 19, published an article attacking The Third Way’s study. But journalist Ronald Brownstein, in an article published by The Atlantic the following day, points to a new study by the Center for American Progress (CAP) that, Brownstein writes, “reinforces” what The Third Way had to say back in March.

Brownstein reports, “Countering conventional wisdom, the study found that homicides over recent years increased less rapidly in cities with progressive prosecutors than in those with more traditional district attorneys. It also found no meaningful differences between cities with progressive or traditional DAs in the trends for larceny and robbery…. The data, from CAP, a liberal think tank and advocacy organization, reinforces the message from a study released earlier this year by Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. That report found that per capita murder rates in 2020 were 40 percent higher in states that voted for Donald Trump than in those that voted for President Joe Biden.”

According to Brownstein, “The CAP study represents probably the most comprehensive attempt yet to quantify the progressive prosecutors’ effect on crime rates. Looking at the period from 2015 to 2019, for instance, the study found that murder rates increased in a smaller share of cities with progressive prosecutors, 56 percent, than in those with traditional prosecutors, 68 percent, or prosecutors who fell in the middle, 62 percent. The study used a classification system for local DAs developed by a former federal prosecutor who is a critic of the progressive movement.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Oath Keeper Threatened Pence's Life Before January 6 Riot

When far-right supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, they were not only angry with Democrats, but also with Republicans they believed had betrayed Trump — including then-Vice President Mike Pence. Crowds of Trump supporters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence” that day, and some of them even set up a gallows outside the Capitol.

But the danger that Pence faced did not start on January 6. Journalist Pilar Melendez, in an article published by the Daily Beast on October 14, reports that a pro-Trump member of the Oath Keepers was threatening violence against Pence even before that.

Evidence presented in a courtroom on October 14, according to Melendez, revealed that Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell threatened Pence with violence in a text message dated January 1, 2021. Caldwell said of the then-vice president, “If he hopes to live till Friday, he better stand tall.”

As members of the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the Proud Boys and other far-right groups saw it, Pence let Trump down when he said he did not have the authority to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

In a December 2020 message, according to Melendez, Caldwell said, “It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 in Washington DC when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on Capitol Hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Report: Trump Gave Free Pass To Biggest Corporate PPP Fraudsters

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was part of the CARES Act of 2020, was launched under former President Donald Trump in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and continued into the Joe Biden era. Some PPP loans were investigated by federal officials and flagged for potential fraud. But according to a Project on Government Oversight (POGO) report released on Thursday, October 6, the Trump Administration eliminated an abundance of flags during its final weeks in office.

Truthout’s Sharon Zhang reports that according to POGO’s report, Small Business Administration (SBA) officials “eliminated 2.7 million flags between December 2020 and January 2021, as the Administration was in its lame duck period.”

In an article published on October 6, Zhang notes, “Special preference was given to the largest loans, which often also went to the largest corporations. On January 16, 2021, four days before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump’s SBA wiped 99 percent of special review flags — which were given out to every loan above $2 million for separate investigatory purposes.”

Zhang notes that according to POGO, the Trump Administration “appeared to have favored the very largest loan recipients.”

“Trump continually gave huge financial favors to large corporations during his time in office — and though most large corporations were exempt from receiving PPP loans, some large corporations managed to skirt the rules and receive loans anyway,” Zhang observes. “Out of the $800 billion given out in the program, flagged loans accounted for at least $189 billion. Because the vast majority of PPP loans — 95 percent — have been forgiven, it’s likely that many of these loans that had previously been flagged have been forgiven entirely.”

Zhang points out that a National Bureau of Economic Research study released in January 2022 “estimated that only between about a quarter and a third of PPP loans went to saving workers’ jobs.”

“The rest — about 66 to 77 percent — went to business owners and people like shareholders,” Zhang reports. “Many loans went directly to the rich. Several billionaires or companies owned by billionaires received loans, like Republican fundraiser Joe Farrell or Kanye West’s apparel company, valued at $3 billion. One loan, POGO found, went to a hotel owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who is the richest man in the state and a former billionaire.”

Zhang adds, “The loan was worth $8.9 million and appeared to have been flagged eight times by the SBA. Another loan with nine flags, worth over $5 million, appears to belong to a Kentucky hospitality corporation whose annual revenue of $850 million would likely make it too large to receive a PPP loan.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump Wanted To Play 'Superman' On Release From Hospital

This Tuesday, October 4 is the official release date for New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman’s new book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. Excerpts from the book have been widely reported, and one of the anecdotes being reported by Axios involves Trump’s desire to display the Superman logo when he was discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland in October 2020.

During his 2020 campaign, Trump downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic — as he feared it would hurt his chances of being reelected. But in October 2020, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized at Reed.

In “Confidence Man,” Haberman describes Trump’s idea, reporting, “(He) would be wheeled out of Walter Reed in a chair and, once outdoors, he would dramatically stand up, then open his button-down dress shirt to reveal (a) Superman logo beneath it. Trump was so serious about it that he called the campaign headquarters to instruct an aide, Max Miller, to procure the Superman shirts; Miller was sent to a Virginia big-box store.”

According to Haberman, Trump’s idea was inspired by the King of Soul, James Brown, as well as professional wrestling. But Trump ended up abandoning the idea.

After being discharged from Reed, Trump returned to the White House.

COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China in late 2019. According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the pandemic has since killed more than 6.5 million people worldwide — including over 1 million in the United States.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Abortion Issue Moves Swing Voters Toward Democrats — But How Much?

Seven or eight months ago, many Democratic strategists feared that the 2022 midterms would bring a massive red wave like the red waves that plagued President Bill Clinton in 1994 and President Barack Obama in 2010. But that was before the U.S. Supreme Court’s radical-right majority handed down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and overturned Roe v. Wade after 49 years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still believes that Republicans are likely to “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives, but he considers the U.S. Senate a toss-up.

In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark, Rich Thau (president of the research firm Engagious and a moderator for the Swing Voter Project) and Susie Pieper (an Engagious intern and student at Haverford College in the Philadelphia suburbs) examine the effect that the abortion issue could have with swing voters in the 2022 midterms. The Dobbs decision, according to Thau and Pieper, definitely helps Democrats among swing voters. But the burning question is: How much?

“An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, which overturned Roe v. Wade,” Thau and Pieper explain. “Concurrently, an overwhelming majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some cases. But how will these views translate to voting behavior among swing voters? This month, as part of our Swing Voter Project, we asked focus groups of Trump-to-Biden voters across North Carolina what’s changed for them when it comes to their likely voting behavior in the wake of the Dobbs decision.”

Abortion rights, according to Thau and Pieper, are a high priority for the swing voters that the Swing Voter Project spoke to in North Carolina. But they have other priorities as well.

“Among eleven North Carolinian swing voters, nine said that Dobbs would be a top-three issue for them in the midterms, which seems significant,” Thau and Pieper report. “Except that issue matrixes are often complicated: Earlier in the same focus groups, we asked which one issue in the news concerns them the most — and only one said abortion. We have seen similar results in recent months, where abortion is a leading issue, but it competes with various others — such as inflation and gun violence — for the top concern.”

Alana, a 26-year-old swing voter from Dover, North Carolina, told researchers, “I was registered as a Republican. I still am right now, but I’ll be switching completely to Democrat. As I say, most Republicans are the reason why this happened, and I just can’t stand by and agree with something that has affected myself, my family, and friends so much. It’s just something that has upset me greatly.”

Abortion is clearly a major issue for Kayla, a 34-year-old swing voter from Mocksville, North Carolina who told researchers, “I was registered unaffiliated. I didn’t see myself as a Republican or a Democrat, but I would vote for a Republican if I thought that candidate had my views for the economy. But nah, I’m leaning left completely. And this is personal for me. So, I’m probably going to end up registering as a Democrat from here on out.”

The Swing Voter Project found that some of the swing voters were leaning towards pro-choice Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in North Carolina’s 2022 U.S. Senate race. A Civitas/Cygnal poll released in late September found Beasley and Ted Budd, the Donald Trump-backed Republican nominee, in a virtual dead heat. However, Beasley trailed Budd by 3 percent in an Emerson College/The Hill poll released on September 20.

“We won’t know the electoral impact of Dobbs until the votes are counted,” Pieper and Pieper observe. “But this month’s focus group suggests that with swing voters, the issue salience is high and helpful to Democrats.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

GOP Megadonors Lack Confidence In Trump’s Senate Candidates

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), was deeply offended when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — during an event in Kentucky in August — told a crowd that he considers control of the U.S. Senate a toss-up in the 2024 midterms and cited “candidate quality” as a factor. McConnell expressed confidence that Republicans will “flip” the U.S. House of Representatives, but wasn’t nearly as bullish on the Senate. And his “candidate quality” comment was taken as a criticism of the MAGA candidates Trump has pushed.

McConnell, however, isn’t the only Republican who is concerned about the quality of U.S. Senate candidates who former President Donald Trump has been pushing. In an article published by CNBC’s website on September 30, reporter Brian Schwartz takes a look at Republican donors who are reluctant to get out their wallets for Trump-backed Senate hopefuls who have been underperforming in polls.

“Republican megadonors want the GOP to take back the Senate, but they don’t have confidence that some of former President Donald Trump’s top picks can catapult their party to a victory in November,” Schwartz explains. “Billionaire financiers Paul Singer, Dan Loeb and Larry Ellison have so far avoided donating directly to some or all of Trump’s staunchest allies running for Senate in the midterms: J.D. Vance in Ohio, Blake Masters in Arizona, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Adam Laxalt in Nevada and Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, according to Federal Election Commission records and people familiar with the billionaires’ donations.”

The CNBC reporter adds, “All of those candidates have been endorsed by Trump. And many of them have previously sided with the former president on the false claims that the 2020 presidential election had widespread voter fraud — an accusation that’s been debunked by Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, federal courts and several other top Republicans who served in Trump’s administration.”

A Republican strategist, quoted anonymously, told CNBC that those megadonors would “would be lighting their money on fire if they got totally swayed by these candidates.” And that strategist is advising donors to give their money to the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee run by McConnell’s former chief of staff Steven Law. That strategist said of the Senate Leadership Fund, “They have the best polls, and they won’t sink money into races they know they can’t win.”

Schwartz notes, “The campaign poll tracking website FiveThirtyEight shows Masters trailing (incumbent Sen. Mark) Kelly by more than seven percentage points…. FiveThirtyEight shows Oz trailing his Democratic rival John Fetterman by more than six percentage points and Walker trailing his competitor, (Sen. Raphael) Warnock, by more than two percentage points. Vance and Laxalt are both in statistical dead heats with their Democratic rivals; both GOP candidates are down by an average of less than a percentage point.”

Schwartz points out that megadonor and real estate mogul Stephen Ross “hasn’t given a penny yet to Vance, Walker, Masters, Laxalt or Oz, according to FEC filings.”

“Ross was criticized for hosting a fundraiser for Trump and the Republican National Committee at his Hamptons home in 2019, but has distanced himself from some of Trump’s favorite candidates this election cycle,” Schwartz observes. “He’s donated over $685,000 to a mix of Republicans, Democrats and their affiliated outside groups this cycle. His biggest checks so far have gone to GOP organizations tied to Republican leadership, such as House GOP campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee and a joint fundraising committee called Take Back the House 2022, federal election records show.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

GOP ‘Cowardly Candidates’ Flee Their Own Record On Trump And Abortion

President Richard Nixon famously complained that Republican candidates were expected to show how conservative they were in GOP primaries only to feel obligated to make a dramatic run for the center in the general election. The irony is that in 2022, GOP primaries are way to the right of where they were in Nixon’s day; Republicans who were considered arch-conservative during the 1960s and 1970s would be too far to the left for today’s far-right MAGA movement.

Nonetheless, one does see, in 2022, a similar pivot among some Republicans in swing states and swing districts; now that they’re in the general election, they are trying to downplay how pro-Donald Trump and anti-abortion they were in their primaries. And according to the Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey, it’s no coincidence that pro-MAGA and anti-abortion messages have disappeared from their websites.

Brodey cites some specific examples in an article published by the Beast on September 28. One of them is Bo Hines, a former college football player who is running for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.

“Right after Bo Hines won a crowded primary for Congress in North Carolina, a visitor to the Republican hopeful’s campaign website would immediately find his declaration that he was ‘100 percent Pro-Life’ and ‘100 percent Pro-Trump,’” Brodey explains. “Just a click away was a section focused on ‘life and family’ issues, which professed Hines’ position that ‘life begins at conception’ and his commitment to ‘protect the rights of the unborn.’ Naturally, the first thing greeting any visitor to the site was the grinning face of Donald Trump — and his endorsement of Hines’ campaign. Today, all of that is gone.”

Brodey continues, “As Hines faces stiff competition from a Democratic rival in a swing suburban district, all but one of the images and invocations of Trump previously on his site have been removed, as have all references to abortion. Trump only appears in a photoshopped image with Hines in his site’s section on border security.”

According to the Beast reporter, the familiar tactic of “pivoting to the general” is “being pushed to its limits for Republicans running in 2022.”

“Trump remains as popular as ever among the GOP base and is as unpopular as ever outside of it,” Brodey observes. “The Supreme Court’s move in June to overturn abortion rights is a dream come true in the GOP base — but a nightmare to many more outside it. Stuck between their past posturing and their current campaigning, a growing cohort of Republican candidates have turned to a simple solution for reconciling it all: just delete it.”

Brodey continues, “According to a review of archived internet pages by The Daily Beast, at least five House GOP candidates in battleground districts wiped mentions of Trump or the 2020 election from their websites or social media after winning their primaries. And at least seven removed or significantly modified language about abortion on their web sites over the summer.”

Brodey cites Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters in Arizona and Tiffany Smiley in Washington State as three examples of Republican U.S. Senate nominees who “have scrubbed their online pages of Trump or 2020.” And Adam Laxalt, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Nevada, and Masters, according to Brodey, have done “the same for abortion.”

Ken Spain, a GOP strategist, believes it is “kind of silly at this stage” for Republican nominees to be scrubbing their websites of their own positions.

Spain told the Beast, “Unfortunately for all candidates, the internet lives forever. At this point, it’s too late to run away from who you are.”

Tommy Garcia, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesperson, believes it is disingenuous for Republicans to downplay their positions.

Garcia told the Beast, “MAGA Republicans have made their extreme positions clear — there is no going back just because they have all of a sudden realized that they are out of touch with voters. Voters know exactly who these cowardly candidates are.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Threats Against Texas Sheriff Who Launched Probe Of DeSantis Trafficking Stunt

Far-right Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been drawing a great deal of criticism from Democrats — as well as some Never Trump conservatives — for sending two planes of migrants, many of them from Venezuela, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. DeSantis critics have been saying that it wasn’t hard to figure out why he chose Martha’s Vineyard for his political stunt: Massachusetts, home of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is a deep blue state — and DeSantis, during an election year, wanted to show off his ability to “own the liberals.”

On Monday, September 19 in Bexar County, Texas — where the flight of migrants originated before going to Florida and later, Martha’s Vineyard — Sheriff Javier Salazar announced that he would be opening a criminal investigation of DeSantis. And since then, according to Vice’s Paul Blest, Salazar’s office has been inundated with “threats.”

Salazar, at a press conference, told reporters he believes the migrants were “lured” to Martha’s Vineyard under “false pretenses” in violation of both county and federal law. In a brochure that Popular Information posted on September 19, migrants were promised “eight months cash assistance” as well as “food,” “housing” and “job placements.”

On September 20, the day after Salazar’s announcement, a spokesperson for his office told Vice, “There have been numerous threats, an influx of calls to our dispatch and administrative offices, along with hateful e-mails received…. Additionally, as in any instance when our office receives threats, precautionary measures will be made for safety of all personnel.”

One of the Massachusetts Democrats who has been calling DeSantis out is State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who described DeSantis’ actions as “f****** depraved.” On September 18, Fernandes — whose district includes the Martha’s Vineyard area — tweeted, “We are requesting that the Department of Justice open an investigation to hold DeSantis & others accountable for these inhumane acts. Not only is it morally criminal, there are legal implications around fraud, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty, and human trafficking.”

DeSantis has been an incredibly polarizing figure in Florida and U.S. politics. Although Democrats as well as some moderate Republicans hold him in very low regard, DeSantis is wildly popular with the MAGA base — and polls indicate that he appears to be headed for reelection in Florida’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Polls have shown DeSantis with single-digit leads over the Democratic nominee, Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican and ex-governor of Florida.

Blest notes, “DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year, has become one of the most popular figures in the Republican Party due to his relentless hostility towards his perceived political enemies and the media, and has been rumored as a potential candidate in 2024. DeSantis’ campaign and PAC have raised a combined $178 million this year, a gubernatorial fundraising record, according to OpenSecrets.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Hostility Erupts Among Top Senate Republicans Over Abortion, Trump

No one in the Republican Party has done more to push the U.S. Supreme Court to the radical right than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who infamously blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016 before doing everything he could to ram all three of Donald Trump’s nominees through the U.S. Senate: Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. Thanks largely to McConnell, the High Court is way to right of where it was during the 1990s and 2000s.

But with the Court having overturned Roe v. Wade with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, countless Democrats are using the abortion issue to bash Republican candidates — a fact of which McConnell is well aware. And McConnell finds himself butting heads with two prominent members of his caucus: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. Journalists Alayna Treene and Andrew Solender describe some of those tensions in an article published by Axios.

McConnell has voiced his displeasure with an anti-abortion bill Graham has proposed, and he has made it clear that he isn’t happy with some of the far-right MAGA candidates Scott has been pushing as chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee (NSCC).

On September 13, Graham unveiled a bill that would ban abortion nationwide not long after a pregnancy’s first trimester. McConnell is anti-abortion, and he supports the Dobbs ruling. But he objected to Graham’s bill, saying that the legality or illegality of abortion should be left up to individual states. Pro-choice Washington Post opinion columnist Jennifer Rubin, who has voted Republican in many presidential elections but is a scathing critic of Trump and the MAGA movement, has described Graham’s bill as a “gift to Democrats” and urged them to use it to bash the Republican Party in the 2022 midterms.

“Two of the highest-profile Republicans in the Senate are publicly defying Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) on high-stakes issues vital to the GOP's chances of retaking the majority next year,” Treene and Solender report. “The big picture: In interviews with Axios, GOP senators and party strategists declined to blame McConnell for the antics of Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). They see the ‘freelancing’ — as one source close to the leader described it — as a sign of the Senate as an institution breaking down under modern incentive structures.”

According to Treene and Solender, “Graham admitted to Axios that he did not get permission from McConnell to release the proposal. McConnell, like many GOP senators, has said the abortion question should be left to the states.”

In August, McConnell told a crowd in Kentucky that while he still believes that Republicans will “flip” the House of Representatives in November, he considers the Senate a toss-up. And he criticized the “quality” of some GOP Senate candidates, much to Scott’s chagrin. McConnell has also been critical of Scott’s “Rescue America” plan for the Senate, especially a proposal to raise taxes on lower income earners — a proposal that Democrats have been vehemently campaigning against.

McConnell also parts company with Graham and Scott when it comes to Trump. Although McConnell avoids talking about Trump, there is clearly bad blood between McConnell and the former president — who McConnell blames for the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Graham and Scott, however, continue to be strident Trump defenders.

A source described by Treene and Solender as a “Senate GOP leadership aide” and interviewed on condition of anonymity, believes that Graham and Scott’s antics are hurting the Republican Party in the midterms.

That aide told Axios, “Rick Scott’s plan and Graham’s announcement yesterday have sent candidates running for cover and distancing themselves from these proposals — exactly the opposite of what we want right now.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota believes that the environment among Senate Republicans is much different from what it was when the late Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas was serving as Senate majority leader.

Cramer told Axios, “I just think in today's multimedia/24-hour cycle world, it's just different. It's hard to know whether a guy like Bob Dole could have been able to keep everyone in line today."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.