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Monday, December 09, 2019

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

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

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

In a press release, Cruz said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

McCarthy Fills Oversight Panel With Conspiracy Kooks, Bigots And Election Deniers

House Republicans have reportedly selected four of their most extreme members to serve on the Committee on Oversight and Accountability in the new session of Congress. Two of them had been stripped of all committee assignments in the last Congress for inappropriate conduct.

Punchbowl News and the Washington Post are reporting that the new GOP majority will place Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Scott Perry (R-PA) on the panel. The committee's stated mission is "to ensure the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the federal government and all its agencies."

In February 2021, Greene was removed from her committee assignments via resolution "in light of conduct she has exhibited" after she embraced antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist, and QAnon-related conspiracy theories; endorsed the execution of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; and falsely claimed mass school shootings were hoaxes intended to boost support for gun safety laws.

Gosar, who, like Greene, spoke at a March 2022 white nationalist event, lost his committee assignments in November 2021 and was formally censured for posting an animated video on social media that depicted a fictionalized version of himself assassinating his colleague, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and assaulting President Joe Biden.

Most of the Republican caucus opposed both moves, with then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claiming that it was unprecedented and "authoritarian" for the majority party to overrule the minority party from deciding committee assignments for their own party members. He vowed in November 2022 that when his party regained control, he would restore Greene's and Gosar's committee appointments. "They'll have committees," the California Republican told reporters. "They may have better ones."

Boebert has also made antisemitic comments and pushed QAnon conspiracy theories. She has a history of failing to comply with ethics and campaign finance disclosure laws. Both she and Greene were fined by the House Ethics Committee during the last Congress for refusing to comply with mask requirements issued at the direction of the Capitol's attending physician to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In December, the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol issued a report that mentioned Perry's role in a scheme to overturn Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election and urged the Ethics Committee to sanction Perry for failing to comply with a subpoena.

The move to put all four on the powerful Oversight committee comes as the Republican majority seeks to block Democratic appointments to certain committees.

McCarthy has promised not to allow California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff or Eric Swalwell to serve on the Intelligence committee, which Schiff previously chaired, or to let Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar serve on the Foreign Affairs panel.

On January 12, according to Mediaite, McCarthy told reporters: "You will find the fundamental difference of me being a speaker and Nancy Pelosi: The other side will get to name their members on the committee. It won't be handpicked by me and denying the Democrats their voice."

When a reporter reminded McCarthy of his plans to block Democratic appointments, he responded by smearing Swalwell and Schiff with what Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler called "specious attacks" earning "four Pinocchios." He claimed that he heard negative things about Swalwell in a classified FBI briefing and accused Schiff of lying to the public.

On Saturday, Boebert told Fox News that she believes Schiff and Swalwell should be excluded from the Intelligence Committee because they and other Democrats are "conspiracy theorists" and "a bunch of Blue Anons."

On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Ian Sams blasted the GOP appointments, telling Axios: "It appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.

"Chairman [James] Comer once said his goal was to ensure the Committee's work is 'credible,' yet Republicans are handing the keys of oversight to the most extreme MAGA members of the Republican caucus who promote violent rhetoric and dangerous conspiracy theories."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

New House Financial Services Chair Took $8 Million From Banks

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina has been selected to chair the House Financial Services Committee in the newly sworn-in 118th Congress. Rather than focus on oversight of Wall Street banks and other financial institutions, the 10th-term lawmaker plans to use the position to investigate the federal agencies that regulate them.

The committee's jurisdiction includes banks and banking; insurance; international finance; money and credit; housing; urban development; and securities and exchanges.

The North Carolina Republican's campaign website boasts that he "is fighting regulatory constraints that have killed competition, closed community banks, and hurt families in western North Carolina."

In a November interview with Roll Call, McHenry said his first goal should he become chair of the panel would be "appropriate" and "vigorous oversight" of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the two agencies tasked with regulating markets.

McHenry has taken more than $8,000,000 in campaign contributions from the financial sector over the course of his career in Congress.

McHenry was one of 221 Republican representatives who voted on Monday to eliminate 71 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service that was appropriated in 2022 to provide additional agents, improved “investigative technology,” and additional legal support to crack down on wealthy tax cheats.

A McHenry spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The commercial industries the Financial Services Committee oversees have provided millions of dollars in campaign donations to McHenry, according to OpenSecrets. They make up five of his top six career industry contributors: securities and investments (at least $2,626,941), insurance ($1,956,679), commercial banks ($1,621,198), real estate ($1,268,490), and finance and credit card companies ($780,399).

In 2007, McHenry voted against the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, a bipartisan bill that would have improved consumer protection for borrowers, just before the underregulated mortgage system collapsed and fueled the Great Recession.

In 2010, he voted against the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which aimed to crack down on the sort of reckless financial sector behavior that had caused the 2008 economic meltdown.

A year after it passed, he told CNBC, "Dodd-Frank has acted as a wet blanket on our economy and could pose a significant threat to American competitiveness."

Since then he has advocated for rolling back the consumer protections in the law.

He voted for the 2018 Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection law, which aimed to reduce regulation of lenders. Consumer groups blasted the legislation in a letter to representatives for its "destructive policies that roll back or eliminate essential protections put in place by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection (Dodd-Frank) Act after unchecked reckless lending nearly destroyed the US economy."

The 26 organizations said, "Contrary to its stated purpose, the bill would re-expose consumers, investors, and the public to a host of risky and abusive financial practices, including many of the practices that contributed to the last recession and foreclosure crisis."

A year later, McHenry helped organize an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the entire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent agency created under Dodd-Frank to make sure banks, lenders, and financial institutions treat customers fairly. The Supreme Court rejected the brief's argument in its 2020 Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ruling, allowing the bureau to continue operating.

In 2020, McHenry said in a press statement:

It's time to permanently repeal Dodd-Frank’s costly and unnecessary mandatory disclosures, which hurt American businesses. The history of the resource extraction provisions proves the problem with trying to do social policy through public company disclosure requirements. While this rulemaking fulfills a statutory mandate and is an improvement over the two previous iterations, more must be done to ease this unnecessary burden.

He also authored a 2017 bill to protect "rent-a-bank" loans, offered by high-rate lending companies together with small banks to circumvent state caps on interest rates.

In March 2022, McHenry opposed an effort by the Securities and Exchange Commission to require the businesses it regulates to disclose climate-related risks and greenhouse gas emissions as part of their periodic reports.

"The Biden Administration is pushing its climate agenda through financial regulators because they don't have the votes to pass it in Congress," he argued in a press statement. "The SEC's proposal to require disclosure of information related to climate change that is not material for most companies is tone-deaf and misguided."

Accountable.US, a nonprofit that investigates the influence of corporations and special interests in politics, criticized McHenry in December as being "under the influence" of the industries he will oversee as chair of the House Financial Services Committee.

"Patrick McHenry made a career out of obstructing federal crackdowns of predatory lenders and financial scammers that sap billions of dollars from the pockets of average Americans every year," Liz Zelnick, director of the group's economic security and corporate power program, told the American Independent Foundation in an email. "McHenry never met a consumer protection effort he liked and has been rewarded accordingly with millions of dollars from greedy industries he now oversees."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

House Republicans Waste $185 Billion To Protect Wealthy Tax Evaders

House Republicans voted on Monday to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service's efforts to crack down on tax evasion by wealthy individuals and large corporations. An estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the bill would cost the government more than $185 billion in lost revenue over the next decade — all money that the Treasury Department is owed by individual and corporate taxpayers.

The Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act, which passed the House along party lines, 221-210, would cancel $71 billion in funds over 10 years. The funding, already appropriated in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act to modernize and boost enforcement by the IRS, is expected to be more than offset by the additional collected revenue. In total, the CBO estimates the GOP cuts would actually result in the government ending up $114 billion poorer.

The $71 billion is set to allow the cash-strapped agency to replace retiring staff, modernize systems, and improve enforcement of existing tax laws. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen ordered in August that the funds not be used to audit anyone making under $400,000 a year.

But Republican lawmakers unanimously opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, with many falsely claiming that its IRS funding would be used to hire an "army" of 87,000 new agents to "spy on" and target the middle class and small businesses with audits. In reality, much of the money would go to replace the 50,000 IRS employees eligible to retire within five years.

After the GOP won a narrow majority in the midterm elections, incoming Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that his caucus' first priority would be to "repeal the 87,000 IRS agents."

The vote to cut funding to the IRS came just days after McCarthy, as one of his concessions to far-right critics within his own party whose votes he needed to become speaker, agreed to push a 10-year plan to balance the federal budget. Such a plan would require draconian spending cuts, likely including a reduction in spending on safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Enactment of the legislation would make that job even more difficult, requiring another $114 billion in cuts to federal programs to offset the cuts in federal tax revenue. Republicans have pushed to protect defense spending, meaning these cuts would likely have to come from discretionary spending on domestic programs.

The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, a fiscally conservative nonprofit, warned Monday that passage of the bill "would increase deficits by more than $100 billion over the next decade while encouraging tax cheating, expanding the tax gap, and undermining a policy supported by every President since Ronald Reagan, including Donald Trump." The annual tax gap is the difference between what is owed to the IRS and what is actually paid on time.

Chuck Marr, vice president for federal tax policy for the progressive Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, also blasted the bill, calling it "a misleading gambit to protect interests of wealthy tax cheats."

"A key element of a healthy, functioning democracy is a transparent tax system that is fairly enforced so that people and corporations pay what they owe and the well-heeled and powerful cannot flout their responsibility to pay their taxes," Marr wrote. "Efforts to protect wealthy tax cheats and purposely undermine the IRS's ability to enforce tax laws are anti-democratic and should be resoundingly rejected."

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain retweeted media coverage of the CBO's scoring on Monday, observing that the GOP bill was "Good for tax cheats, bad for the economy."

President Joe Biden said he plans to veto the legislation, though it's unlikely to reach his desk with a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Virginia GOP Nominates Christian Nationalist Preacher For Vacant House Seat

Two-time losing candidate Leon Benjamin will again try to win the seat left open by the death of Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin.

Voters in Virginia's 4th Congressional District will choose a U.S. representative to succeed the late Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin in a special election ending Feb. 21.

On Saturday, Republicans in the district nominated Leon Benjamin, a right-wing theocrat who has twice lost decisively in previous races for the seat.

Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, and Attorney General Jason Miyares all endorsed Benjamin in his most recent campaign, leading up to his loss to McEachin on Nov. 8. McEachin died on Nov. 28.

The district includes the city of Richmond, some of its suburbs, and areas to its south. Its population is about 16 points more Democratic-leaning than the median U.S. House district, according to the Cook Political Report.

Benjamin, who holds the positions of chief apostle and presiding prelate of New Life Harvest Churches in Richmond, was an informal religious adviser to former President Donald Trump. Benjamin's campaign website calls him the "right choice for a strong Virginia" and emphasizes his "commitment to protect and restore your God-given and Constitutional rights."

That "commitment" has included opposing equal rights for LGBTQ Americans. In 2010, Benjamin participated in a webcast with anti-LGBTQ hate groups to oppose lifting the military's ban on gay and lesbian people serving openly, RightWingWatch reported.

A Christian nationalist, Benjamin has urged the United States to move toward becoming a theocracy. Benjamin subscribes to the "Seven Mountains Mandate," which holds that the Christian Church is meant, as he put it in a speech, to "rule and reign in the Earth."

In the speech, delivered at a right-wing "ReAwaken America" conspiracy rally in July 2021, Benjamin said:

What happens when the Church is not apostolically uniformed? We don't have the true mission of what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, which was, 'Go ye out into all the world' — go ye into government, go into education, go into economy, go into sports and entertainment, go into media, go into a religion — 'and teach all nations and baptize them.' That means we should be baptizing presidents!

Benjamin has embraced false claims that Trump was the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election and attended Trump's Jan. 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington.

He has also baselessly claimed to have been a victim of election fraud.

"I ran for Congress in 2020, and they did steal my election," Benjamin claimed in the July 2021 speech.

He lost that race to McEachin in a 61.6%-38.2% landslide.

In January, he told another ReAwaken America rally that a Christian leader would not encourage people to wear face masks or get vaccinated to curb the spread of COVID-19:

"You have no more chances unless you repent for telling people to take the virus, to take the shots, to shut your churches down, come on, to wear a mask. You are a false prophet. ... The Devil is a liar! God would never cover the mouth of a true prophet!"

Benjamin has dismissed the threat of climate change and has objected to using taxpayer revenue to address the issue, according to the progressive site Blue Virginia.

"Taxing people and corporations into oblivion does NOTHING to mitigate climate change!" Benjamin tweeted in February. "You cannot tax Mother Nature."

On his campaign site, Benjamin calls for increased oil and gas drilling while claiming the nation can achieve "energy independence" by restarting the Keystone XL pipeline project to import tar sands oil from Canada.

On the issue of education, the site calls for the removal of "all CRT teachings" from public schools, while also saying, "We must also teach our history — the good, bad, and the ugly."

Critical race theory is an approach used principally at the college level to examine the history of race and racism in America. Republicans and other conservatives have applied the term to any racism-related teaching they don't like. CRT is generally not used in elementary and high school curriculums.

The campaign website says that taxpayers should pay to send kids to private schools, fund parochial education, and pay for home-schooling: "Whether a parent chooses homeschooling, private school, charter school, or public school, aid and support should not be diminished. If money follows the child, parents have flexibility to select schools based on what is best for their children, and the quality of education everywhere improves."

According to a report published by the website Chalkbeat in 2020, studies have shown that school privatization efforts like voucher programs are linked with lower state test scores.

A campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Benjamin's positions.

Benjamin helped lead a group of right-wing clergy in supporting unsuccessful Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker in his runoff election this month, even after Walker said he was "accountable" for alleged domestic abuse and found to have routinely lied about his credentials.

Democrats will select their nominee to face Benjamin on Tuesday.

"The path to a stronger fourth district does not pass through Leon Benjamin's mire of election denialism and xenophobia," Democratic Party of Virginia spokesperson Liam Watson said in a press statement on Saturday.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

'Disgusted' GOP Senators Express Concern Over Chaotic House Republicans

Republicans are set to take control of the House of Representatives on January 3, 2023 after winning a narrow majority in the November midterm elections. But substantial divisions within their caucus are preventing them from making basic decisions about how things will operate — so much so that Republican senators are openly questioning whether they will be able to function.

After winning a 222-213 majority, the House Republican caucus voted to nominate current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be speaker in the upcoming Congress. But at least five "Never Kevin" far-right Republicans say they will not vote for him, putting him potentially short of the needed majority to win the position when the full House votes. A group of slightly less right-wing Republicans has formed an "Only Kevin" faction and is reportedly scheming to punish the anti-McCarthy voices by stripping them of committee assignments.

According to a Thursday report in Politico, the result of this disarray has been paralysis for the incoming majority, as it has been unable to move forward on deciding who will lead key House committees, hiring staff, planning hearings, or setting a legislative agenda.

"Without question, delays in selecting chairmen and committee members put a lot of pressure on the agenda," Republican Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, told the outlet.

"It delays the committee process," Rep. James Comer (R-KY) said of the ongoing uncertainty about who will be speaker. "We're behind already."

It has also undermined the House GOP's bargaining position in the current debate on the federal budget for 2023.

McCarthy (R-CA) has urged Senate Republicans to block passage of a year-old omnibus spending bill in the lame duck session this month, suggesting that the party will have more influence come January.

But the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations panels and the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee have ignored this and agreed Tuesday on a framework for a year-long funding bill.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN on Thursday that he would likely back the deal rather than wait for the House Republicans to take power, saying, "They're having enough problems trying to find a speaker — much less pass a bill."

Other Senate Republicans have also spoken out.

North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer toldPolitico on Wednesday that he was "disgusted" with the situation. "My concern is that a new House, very small majority, new leadership, is going to have to take over, and to have to start from behind?" he said. "That concerns me. That could have negative consequences."

Mississippi GOP Sen. Roger Wicker told the publication that it would be "better not to have that major hurdle that the new speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has to negotiate … it's too much to ask."

Since the start of 2021, House Democrats have passed hundreds of piece of legislation, including landmark laws addressing climate change and health care, curbing gun violence, investing in infrastructure, and protecting interracial and same-sex marriage. They did so with a narrow majority.

Throughout that time, Republicans frequently tweeted using the hashtag "#DemsInDisarray," mocking the majority for the occasional delays as they worked to find consensus.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Senate Democrats Will Retain Majority Despite Sinema's Sudden Shift

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday that she changed her affiliation from the Democratic Party to independent. But she indicated that this move would not functionally change the new Senate's 51-49 Democratic majority.

"Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party," Sinema wrote in an Arizona Republicop-ed. "Becoming an independent won't change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same."

While Sinema did not promise to formally caucus with the Democratic majority on Friday, she indicated she plans to continue to get her committee assignments from the Democrats and told Politico, "I don't anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure." She also explicitly told the paper that she will not join the Republican caucus.

If she is counted as a member of a 51-49 Democratic majority or forms her own bloc in a 50-49-1 Democratic majority, control of the Senate will not be impacted and Democrats will still likely hold an outright majority on committees and the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed that Sinema would keep her committee assignments with the Democratic caucus.

"I believe she's a good and effective Senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate," he said in a press statement. "We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes."

Two other current senators — Maine's Angus King and Vermont's Bernie Sanders — identify as independents but caucus with the Democrats and get their committee assignments as Democrats.

In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats held every single Senate seat they controlled and gained an open Republican seat in Pennsylvania. This gave their caucus a 51 seat majority, rather than the current Senate's 50-50 split, where Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties in favor of the Democrats.

Sinema has clashed with most of the Democratic Party in the past on issues such as filibuster reform and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She has voted with President Joe Biden more than 93 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised Sinema as a "key partner on the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months," and observed, "We understand that her decision to register as an independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate, and we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her."

The move could have ramifications for Arizona's 2024 Senate election.

Sinema has not said whether she plans to seek another term. If she had remained a Democrat, she may have faced a primary challenge from Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has frequently criticized her record. As an independent, she can run in the general election without participating in a party primary.

The last Democratic senator to leave the party to become an independent was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, in 2006.

In 2003, the Hartford Courantcovered an anti-Lieberman protest organized by Sinema during his presidential campaign visit to Arizona.

"He's a shame to Democrats," Sinema, then a social worker, told the paper. "I don't even know why he's running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him — what kind of strategy is that?"

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Does Herschel Walker Have Any Idea What He's Talking About?

As Republican nominee Herschel Walker enters the final weeks before the Georgia Senate runoff election, he has not been able to articulate cogent policy positions on virtually any of the major issues of concern to voters.

Walker will face off again against Democratic Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff election ending December 6. Warnock received more votes than Walker in the November 8 general election, but neither candidate reached the 50 percent majority required to win.

Walker, who has frequently boasted of his role as an honorary law enforcement officer, has made fighting crime a major focus of his campaign rhetoric. On October 17, when he was asked during an appearance on NBC News' Meet the Press what crime legislation he would sponsor first if elected, Walker responded, "You know, the first bill you would wanna sponsor, it's gotta be something dealing with, supported our men and women in blue." Pressed for details, he said: "I have no idea what it's gonna look like. … What it's gonna look like, who knows? But we have to, have to get something back where you have law and order. We have to get something back where we have some unity because criminals not afraid of police anymore."

On November 15, Atlanta CBS News affiliate 13WMAZ reported that it had asked Walker's campaign the same question and had received a general response that he would continue making "strong investments" in law enforcement.

The campaign did not immediately respond to an American Independent Foundation request for his detailed policy positions on crime and other top issues.

Walker has spent the Senate campaign seemingly unable to provide coherent answers to policy questions or detailed legislative ideas.

In August, in a story titled "Herschel Walker skips details in bid to oust Raphael Warnock," the AP noted that while Walker blamed Warnock for inflation, he changed the subject to immigration and crime when asked how he himself would reduce it.

A November 16 report by 13WMAZ noted that while Walker has supported increased domestic oil and gas production, he has offered no other anti-inflation policy ideas. Warnock voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and authored key provisions to lower costs for medications and insulin for older Americans.

In an October 14 debate, Walker said he would have opposed the legislation. "I believe in reducing insulin, but at the same time you gotta eat right," he said. "Because he may not know and I know many people that's on insulin, and unless you have eating right, insulin is doing you no good."

After the May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, CNN asked Walker if he would support gun safety legislation. "What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff. I like to see it," he replied, before walking away.

Two days later, on Fox News, Walker suggested, "What about getting a department that can look at young men that's looking at women that's looking at social media. What about doing that, looking into things like that, and we can stop that that way."

In January, Walker scolded a reporter from the right-wing media outlet Daily Caller for asking if he'd have voted for the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, telling him: "Until I see all the facts, you can't answer the question. I think that's what is totally unfair to someone like myself to say, 'What are you going to vote for?'"

Walker has repeatedly fumbled questions about climate change.

"Since we don't control the air, our good air decide to float over to China's bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. And now we got to clean that back up," he said in July.

In August, he said he disliked the Inflation Reduction Act "because a lot of money, it's going to trees. Don't we have enough trees around here?"

"If we was ready for the green agenda, I'd raise my hand right now," Walker said during a campaign event on November 13. "But we're not ready right now. So don't let them fool you like this is a new agenda. This is not a new agenda. We're not prepared. We're not ready right now. What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars, 'cause we got the good emissions under those cars. We're doing the best thing that we can."

Last December, Walker criticized a voting rights bill named for the late Democratic Georgia Rep. John Lewis, referring to Lewis as a senator and falsely claiming: "I think then to throw his name on a bill for voting rights, I think is a shame. First of all, when you look at the bill, it just doesn't fit what John Lewis stood for and I think they know that and I think that is sad for them to do this to him."

Warnock, who has detailed policy positions on the issues, tweeted on November 8 that Walker is "neither fit nor ready for this job."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

McCarthy Vows Congress Will Pursue Conspiracy Theories On Biden, COVID, And The FBI

Republicans will hold a small majority in the House of Representatives next year, media outlets projected on Wednesday. The party's leaders have made clear that they intend to use their new power to launch investigations based on right-wing conspiracy theories and of President Joe Biden.

The last time Republicans controlled Congress with a Democrat in the White House, under President Barack Obama, they launched an array of politicized investigations into what they alleged were issues relating to the administration. The probes turned up little and took up thousands of hours of lawmakers' time.

In an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked by host Sean Hannity about his caucus' plans to investigate the president's son Hunter, the alleged "politicization" and "weaponization" of federal law enforcement, and the true origins of the coronavirus.

"We've already begun," the California Republican said. "We want to know the origins of where COVID began, so we never have that happen again. Who funded it? How did it get there?"

Most scientific studies have suggested that the virus spread from a live animal market, not a virology lab.

McCarthy detailed several other planned investigations into the Biden administration:

We want to know what happened in the last 60 days of Afghanistan. Why didn't the president listen to the military, creating 13 new Gold Star families that never should have taken place? We've got a number of ways. Why did the DOJ go after parents and call them terrorists? How can we have a secretary of homeland [security] calling that this border is secure, when you have more than 2.7 individuals [sic] illegally coming across? Are the number of people on the terrorist watch list coming into America? What do they have planned, who are they talking to, and why are they here? That's just a start.

House Republicans voted 188-31 on Tuesday to nominate McCarthy for House speaker. He will need 218 votes to win the job in January.

Politicoreported Wednesday that Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and James Comer (R-KY) had told Fox News that they are planning investigations into Hunter Biden's business dealings and into whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice are biased against Republicans.

"We are going to make it very clear that this is now an investigation of President Biden," Comer told the network.

Before the election, McCarthy had downplayed his caucus' plans to politicize the oversight process. In a September 29 press conference, he said they would not do to Biden what Democrats had done to twice-impeached former President Donald Trump.

"We just went through four years of watching a political impeachment," he said. "We will uphold the law. We will not play politics with it. But we'll do whatever in the nature that the rules and facts take us to."

But in a secretly recorded video taken by the Undercurrent's Lauren Windsor in October, Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona promised that under a Republican majority, "Jim Jordan, when he chairs the Oversight Committee, will spend 240 days knifing the Biden administration."

In 2015, McCarthy bragged to Hannity that their duplicative investigations into a 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, had achieved their true purpose: hurting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's political prospects.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping," he said. "Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen."

Much of the GOP's midterm election rhetoric was focused on the economy and consumer prices.

And while exit polling indicated that those issues, along with abortion rights, public safety, and gun violence were the most important to voters, House Republicans are making clear that they intend to focus much of their effort on something that was not a priority for any significant segment of voters.

Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, an outside group focused on defending the Biden administration, said in a press release on Thursday that Comer and Jordan had revealed "House Republicans' true intentions – politically motivated investigations into President Biden, his family, and his cabinet. Instead of addressing the issues that affect the American people the most, they are acting like Donald Trump and pushing their radical MAGA Republican agenda."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

As Attorney General, Laxalt Aided Top Clients Of Sister's GOP Lobbying Firm

Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt, who served as the state's attorney general from 2015 to 2019, frequently aided the clients of a lobbying firm, founded by a political adviser, that employed Laxalt's sister.

Laxalt is challenging Democratic Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the midterm election that ends on Nov. 8.

Throughout his political career, Laxalt has relied on Robert Uithoven, a registered lobbyist and Republican strategist, for strategic advice. Uithoven managed Laxalt's successful 2014 campaign for attorney general; served as president of his Morning in Nevada state PAC; and has worked as a consultant to Laxalt's current Senate campaign in his current position with the Republican political consulting firm Axiom Strategies.

Uithoven founded the lobbying firm j3 STRATEGIES and served as its president from 2007 to 2021. During Laxalt's time as attorney general, j3 employed Laxalt's younger sister, Therese Laxalt, known as Tessa. She began as an intern and was later promoted to lobbyist and associate.

According to state lobbying disclosure records, both Uithoven and Tessa Laxalt represented the Las Vegas Sands corporation and its owner, the late billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and his family during Adam Laxalt's time in office.

Adam Laxalt aided Adelson, according to a 2017 report by the Nevada Independent, by asking A.G. Burnett, the chair of Nevada's Gaming Control Board, to have the board intervene on Adelson's behalf in a civil lawsuit in 2016. The board did not intervene.

Adam Laxalt also co-authored a December 2015 letter from eight state attorneys general to congressional committee leaders urging them to enact restrictions on Internet gambling. Adelson, through his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, pushed the bill. He called competition to his casino businesses "a threat to our society — a toxin which all good people ought to resist." The U.S. Senate did not act on the bill.

The National Rifle Association paid Tessa Laxalt, Uithoven, and the j3 team to lobby on its behalf during that time. The NRA put Uithoven in charge of its unsuccessful effort to defeat a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to strengthen background checks of gun purchasers.

Laxalt starred in an ad for the NRA's Nevadans for Freedom campaign against the background checks proposal — the spot was still visible on the j3 Strategies website as of Thursday — and then refused to enforce the new law after voters approved it in August 2017.

Laxalt also aided two fossil fuel industry groups represented by j3.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade association for the coal industry, opposed the 2015 Clean Power Plan regulations promulgated by the EPA under President Barack Obama. In February 2016, Laxalt filed a friend of the court brief in support of a multistate lawsuit challenging the rules as beyond the agency's authority.

The Retail Energy Supplier Association, which represents electricity and natural gas providers, promoted a 2018 Nevada Energy Choice ballot initiative to allow consumers to select from multiple electricity companies. Laxalt publicly endorsed the effort, which was heavily bankrolled by Adelson's Las Vegas Sands, saying, "I hope choice will make our state dynamic and give people more options." Voters rejected their proposal 67%-33%.

A Laxalt campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Asked about his firm's relationship with the former attorney general, Uithoven responded by emailing an emoji of a clown.

Cortez Masto has been endorsed for reelection by the Nevada Conservation League, the Sierra Club, the NRDC Action Fund, and Everytown for Gun Safety.

She has prioritized efforts to address climate change and favors "commonsense measures to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings like the one at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in my hometown of Las Vegas."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Republicans: We'll Force Massive Social Security And Medicare Cuts

Republicans are hoping to use a potential majority in the House of Representatives next year to force massive cuts to the federal budget, especially to safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. To do this, they say they will use must-pass increases to the nation's debt limit as leverage to get what they want, even though similar gambits actually cost the country billions of dollars during President Barack Obama's administration.

The debt limit, the maximum amount the government may legally borrow, is currently at about $31.4 trillion and will likely be reached in 2023. Congress will have to vote to raise, suspend, or eliminate that cap to avoid what economists say would be catastrophic default on obligations.

Aaron Fritschner, communications director and deputy chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, the chair of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, tweeted Tuesday, "House Republicans saying out loud that holding the debt limit hostage to demands for cuts to Social Security and Medicare is a 'top priority.'"

Bloomberg Government reported on Tuesday that Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jason Smith (R-MO), and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), each a potential chair of the House Budget Committee should the Republicans regain control of the lower chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, said that they hoped to force major spending cuts and would use the upcoming debt-limit deadline to force Democrats to go along.

The report quoted Smith, currently the ranking member of the panel, as saying, "The debt limit is clearly one of those tools that Republicans — that a Republican-controlled Congress — will use to make sure that we do everything we can to make this economy strong."

"Our main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary — it's got to be on entitlements," Carter said. Social Security and Medicare are currently entitlement programs.

Arrington agreed: "Republicans have a list of eligibility reforms, and we don't like the tax increases."

Smucker said he wanted to see "some sort of means-testing potentially" for the programs, which provide retirement income and health insurance to older Americans.

Experts say that cuts to safety net programs would harm millions of citizens and that means-testing could make the programs less effective.

"From an effectiveness standpoint, we have a lot of evidence that more universal programs are better for a host of reasons including for helping very low-income people," Shawn Fremstad, senior policy fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, toldVox in October 2021. "It has to do with not being so burdensome, not having so much paperwork to do. There's also a way in which more universal programs are less divisive politically."

Spokespeople for the lawmakers did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

But using the debt limit as a tool fits a recent pattern of Republicans demanding massive budget cuts and railing against rising debt — but only when a Democrat is in the White House.

Since President Joe Biden took office, GOP lawmakers have complained about the national debt — currently about $31 trillion — and blamed Democrats for the entire figure.

But congressional Republicans backed trillions of dollars' worth of new spending under Republican President Donald Trump, along with a large tax cut that was projected to add another roughly $1.9 trillion in debt over a decade.

Increasing the ceiling does not increase spending. As the Treasury Department explains, it merely allows the U.S. government to pay for the "existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past" and to pay the interest on the existing debt.

Under Obama, a group of far-right "tea party" Republicans won House seats on a promise to cut spending. In 2011, they used the threat of a debt default to force Obama and Democrats to accept automatic spending cuts through that year's Budget Control Act.

But even the specter of default rattled credit markets and caused the Standard & Poor's rating agency to downgrade the nation's credit rating.

According to a 2012 report by the nonpartisan General Accountability Office, the impact was costly. It "estimated that delays in raising the debt limit in 2011 led to an increase in Treasury's borrowing costs of about $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2011. However, this does not account for the multiyear effects on increased costs for Treasury securities that will remain outstanding after fiscal year 2011."

In a September 2021 blog post arguing for the abolishment of the debt ceiling, Josh Bivens, research director for the progressive Economic Policy Institute, noted that it "[h]as been used time and time again to enforce misguided austerity policies" without providing a useful measure of the country's financial situation, pointing out:

[People] tend to miss what was by far the greatest damage done by the 2011 debt ceiling episode: the passage of the Budget Control Act (BCA) … The BCA's caps on federal spending explain a large part of why this spending in the aftermath of the Great Recession was the slowest in history following any recession (or at least since the Great Depression). … If this spending had instead followed the normal post-recession path, then a return to pre-recession unemployment rates would've happened 5–6 years before it finally did in 2017.

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow on the progressive Center for American Progress' tax and budget policy team, told the American Independent Foundation on Tuesday that the same thing could happen again in 2023:

MAGA Republicans have proven willing to do just about everything to gain power and advance their extreme agenda. So it is totally foreseeable that they would attempt to take the country's credit standing as a political hostage in order to go after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Those programs are so vital and so popular that leading House Republicans apparently think they'll only succeed in their goal of gutting them by resorting to such an extreme and dangerous gambit.

The ironic part is that if House Republicans instigate a debt limit crisis like they did in 2011, it would not only risk catastrophic economic damage, but it would likely result in higher interest costs for the federal government — in other words, higher deficits.

Under Trump, Republicans in Congress did not force debt limit showdowns, supporting bipartisan increases and a temporary suspension of the cap.

But under Biden, they have reverted to their old strategies. Even after Moody's Analytics warned in September 2021 that "a default would be a catastrophic blow to the nascent economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic" that might cost 6 million jobs, slash household wealth by $15 trillion, and cause lasting damage to the nation's credit rating, House and Senate Republicans almost unanimously opposed a debt limit increase last December.

House and Senate Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August, cutting the federal budget deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. Every Republican in Congress voted no.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

In Midterm Ads, Republicans Push Debunked Lie About '87,000 IRS Agents'

"Liberal Cheri Beasley is coming for you," falsely claims an attack ad released Tuesday by the Republican-affiliated super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, "with higher taxes on almost everyone and an army of new IRS agents. Beasley backs the liberal scheme to spend billions auditing the middle class." The words "...hiring 87,000 new IRS agents" is displayed on the screen.

After Democratic leaders in Congress struck a deal in late July to pass the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, Republicans began repeating variations of the widely debunked lie that the legislation will fund the hiring of 87,000 new IRS agents who will target the middle class.

GOP incumbents, candidates, and campaign operatives have repeated the number again and again in television ads, press conferences, Facebook posts, and tweets, but continually repeating the lie doesn't make it true; fact-checkers at a large array of media outlets have debunked the claims.

IRS Isn't Targeting Middle And Lower Income Americans

An Aug. 11 PolitiFact analysis noted that while a preliminary Treasury Department plan in May 2021 had suggested that the IRS could use $80 billion in funding to hire 86,852 new employees, not all of those positions would be agents or auditors.

Instead, the hiring wave would replace close to 50,000 people expected to retire over the next few years, according to Natasha Sarin, the department's counselor for tax policy and implementation, who was quoted in the report.

Another GOP claim is that the new 87,000 agents would be armed — this is also false. Reuters shot it down, noting that only a small fraction of the agency's staff are authorized to carry guns.

Time magazine noted in its fact check that new auditors would be specifically focused on cracking down on wealthy tax cheats and corporations that evade the law — not on middle-income families or small businesses.

An August. 10 letter from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expressly instructed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to ensure that "any additional resources—including any new personnel or auditors that are hired—shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels."

Debunked, But Disinformation Is Still Being Repeated

Despite the fact checks, the 87,000-agent lie has been ubiquitous.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and members of his caucus posted the lie that there would be so many additional IRS agents that they would not all even fit in large sports arenas.

Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko incorrectly claimed that by backing the energy, climate change, and health care package, Democratic lawmakers had voted to "double the size of the IRS"; Virginia Rep. Bob Good claimed that the bill would fund "87,000 armed IRS agents"; and Ohio Rep. Troy Balderson baselessly said that it would bring "87,000 more IRS agents to spy on you."

Others repeated the falsehood that those mythical 87,000 new agents would go after "the working class," "small businesses," and "middle income families."

It has appeared in ads run by the campaigns of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and North Carolina Republican Senate nominee Rep. Ted Budd; it has been used in Senate Leadership Fund attack ads in Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio; and the right-wing Club for Growth Action and Congressional Leadership Fund have run spots lying about the number of new IRS agents.

The Senate Republican conference's official Twitter account and those of dozens of other House and Senate Republicans have also tweeted the bogus 87,000 number.

Fixing A Broken Agency

In recent years, the IRS has seen massive budget and staff cuts, the result of a concerted campaign by congressional Republicans to demonize and starve the agency, including by cutting the agency's budget by 20% in 2010.

The result? Out-of-date technology, widespread processing delays, and insufficient customer service staff to even answer taxpayers' phone calls. It also meant a huge drop in audit rates for large companies and millionaires.

Rather than back legislation to fix these problems, Republican lawmakers have used the troubles they helped cause to further attack the IRS.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and signed into law by President Biden in August, will provide about $79 billion in additional funding over a decade to address these challenges. Not a single Republican lawmaker voted for the package.

The law did not raise taxes for anyone making under $400,000 a year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Super PAC Ad Spreads Lies About Kelly, Masters, And Abortion Rights

The Arizona Senate ad was sponsored by a group tied to the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

An anti-abortion super PAC released a misleading new ad on Friday, dishonestly claiming that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) supports abortion "right up to the due date, for any reason." The ad also attempted to present Arizona Senate Republican nominee Blake Masters as only wanting a reasonable "compromise," despite his long history of backing total abortion bans.

The 30-second ad is being run by Women Speak Out, a super PAC affiliated with the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America — formerly known as Susan B. Anthony List. In the 2020 campaign, the super PAC reported receiving at least $4 million from right-wing billionaire Richard Uihlein.

After showing images of people celebrating the beginning of a pregnancy, a narrator says, "From that moment, a child should be protected. Blake Masters supports compromise: reasonably regulate late-term abortion, with an exception to protect the mother. But Mark Kelly's position is extreme: abortion even after the sonogram, right up to the due date, for any reason. Kelly is just not reasonable."

Arizona polling has shown that most voters oppose an abortion ban.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is one of the leading anti-abortion groups in the United States. Its website touts "life-saving laws" barring even "early abortion" and tracks the effort to enact "total/near total limits on abortion" in all 50 states.

The ad repeats a debunked claim being pushed by Masters that because Kelly voted for the Women's Health Protection Act — a bill that would have codified the right to choose an abortion as had been guaranteed in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling — that means he backs unrestricted abortion up until the moment of birth.

In reality, the legislation expressly allowed for restrictions "after fetal viability," as long as they included an exception for the rare cases where, "in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health."

Kelly told the Washington Post on Thursday that he is not opposed to "restrictions on abortion late in pregnancy." His campaign site notes that "Mark will always defend and protect the right of Arizona women to make their own healthcare decisions."

And while the ad attempts to paint Masters as a centrist seeking a "compromise" position, he has long advocated for a near-total abortion ban.

Before winning the GOP Senate primary in August, Masters sold himself to voters as "100%" against abortion at any time.

"I'm just unapologetically and unqualifiedly pro-life," he told the Pima County Republican Club in August 2021. "From conception."

That December, he posted a video in which he called legal abortion "a genocide happening in America."

Indeed, up until last month, his website contained language backing "a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed."

Since that time, Masters has scrubbed his anti-abortion positions from his website.

Kelly has been endorsed in the race by both NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

An Arizona Republic poll of likely voters released Tuesday found Kelly leading Masters by a 49%-42% margin.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

As Campaign Falters, GOP Senate Nominee Flip-Flops On Social Security

New Hampshire Senate Republican nominee Don Bolduc is trying soften his pitch to voters while still saying he would privatize Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

On Friday, Bolduc — a far-right candidate and retired Army brigadier general — told New Hampshire Today that he is "not promoting privatization," but he does want to replace Social Security and Medicare with programs that are privately run.

"First of all, our seniors have nothing to worry about with me," Bolduc said on Friday. "I want Granite Staters to know that I will invest in a solid Medicare program that puts them in charge of their health care, not the government, and as far as Social Security goes, we are going to put that money back, we are going to give people the money that they put into it."

At an Aug. 2 town hall event in Pembroke, New Hampshire, Bolduc said he backed the end of the social safety net programs that provide health insurance for millions of older and low-income Americans.

"The privatization is hugely important," Bolduc said at the event, according to Politico. "Getting government out of it, getting government money with strings attached out of it."

This echoed previous comments Bolduc made during his unsuccessful 2020 Senate campaign.

At a May 2020 Hillsboro Republican Party meeting, Bolduc said "experts" at the Heritage Foundation — a right-wing think tank that for decades has pushed for privatizing Social Security — had been helping to inform his fiscal policies.

"I've been spending a lot of time on research, and I've been getting a lot of support from the experts at the Heritage Foundation, and I have developed some ideas, and — to go into a plan that will reduce our spending by $10.8 trillion over the next ten years," Bolduc said at the meeting.

He went on to suggest that the United States could reduce the federal deficit by cutting $2 trillion from Social Security, $1.2 trillion from Medicare, and $4 trillion from Medicaid.

At a Republican primary debate in August, Bolduc said he opposes letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices because "anything that the government's involved in is not good and doesn't work, period."

At another GOP debate in September, he again urged the replacement of Social Security with "a different system" for future generations.

But now, as a recent Emerson College-WHDH poll shows him trailing Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in the November general election race, Bolduc's campaign is claiming he has changed his position on privatization.

"Having served 10 tours of combat in Afghanistan, General Bolduc relies on his health care from the VA," spokesperson Jimmy Thompson told Politico. "He knows first-hand how important its services are to veterans, and he believes that every American who is eligible should be able to rely on the benefits they have paid into it, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security."

Thompson said Bolduc now "will oppose any effort to privatize these programs."

Bolduc's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for this story.

Hassan responded to the Politico story on Thursday by noting that 370,000 people in New Hampshire rely on Medicare for their health insurance. In a press release, she said:

Don Bolduc is so extreme that he would end Medicare as we know it and take away care from hundreds of thousands of Granite State seniors. While I have a record of fighting to lower costs for seniors, Don Bolduc has actually said that he would end Social Security and Medicare as we know it. New Hampshire seniors have spent their lives paying into Social Security and Medicare, and Don Bolduc would create immeasurable harm by taking away these critical programs.”

Since winning the GOP nomination, Bolduc has walked back his position on a federal abortion ban and has abandoned the conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election.

Other prominent Republicans have also been caught in recent months endorsing the end of the popular public entitlement programs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proposed a "Rescue America" plan which calls for a five-year sunset on every single federal program, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

This means that Congress would need to re-pass each of those programs every five years or they would cease to exist.

Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters said at a June 23 forum hosted by the right-wing advocacy group FreedomWorks, "Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."

And on August 2, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told a Wisconsin radio station that Social Security and Medicare should not be mandatory spending.

"What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending, so it's all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken, that are going to be going bankrupt," he said.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Flip Flop! Election Denier Bolduc Now Says Biden Is 'Legitimate President'

Two days after winning the New Hampshire Republican Senate nomination, Don Bolduc has already done a complete flip-flop on whether the 2020 presidential election was stolen: Just weeks after repeating the lie that former President Donald Trump was the real winner, he said Thursday that President Joe Biden is "the legitimate president of this country."

In an appearance on Fox News, the retired Army brigadier general was asked about his earlier insistence that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected, and was shown footage of his comments during a candidates debate on Aug. 14: "I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election and damn it, I stand by my letter."

Bolduc responded by claiming that he had recently become convinced that Trump lost.

"So, you know, we, you know, live and learn, right? And I've done a lot of research on this and I've spent the past couple of weeks talking to Granite Staters all over the state, from, you know, every party. And I've come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: The election was not stolen," he claimed.

Bolduc then baselessly asserted that there had been fraud in the election, then acknowledged, "But elections have consequences, and unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country."

The far-right Bolduc narrowly won Tuesday's primary to face first-term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, despite concerns on the part of state and national Republicans that he would be too extreme to win a general election.

Bolduc had spent the past 16 months repeatedly pushing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and falsely claiming that Biden was not the real winner.

The letter Bolduc signed in May 2021 also said that the Biden administration had "launched a full-blown assault on our Constitutional rights in a dictatorial manner, bypassing the Congress, with more than 50 Executive Orders quickly signed, many reversing the previous Administration's effective policies and regulations asserting that the election had been stolen."

Bolduc repeated the accusations in the days following the publication of the letter, tweeting the next day: "I stand by what is written in the letter. The truth in today's world can make people uncomfortable, but that should not stop anyone from speaking their truth."

"I signed that letter because I thought there was a tremendous amount of fraud," he told the New Yorker a month later. "My initial perspective was from New Hampshire, right? We've had a significant amount of fraud here. Our governor is in denial, in large part because he benefits from it, and so do all the federal Democratic incumbents. They all benefitted from it. Statistically, they won by margins that were mathematically impossible and defied common sense."

Despite Bolduc's claims before the primary and now, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election either in New Hampshire or nationally. Biden won the national popular vote by more than 7 million votes and won the Electoral College 306-232.

In a November 2021 interview published in the New Hampshire Business Review, then-Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who served in the office from 1976 to 2022 with bipartisan backing, said, "I don't have one example to give you where a person won an election in this state who should not have won it."

The same story noted that Bolduc was unable to point to any evidence-based specific examples of fraud in the state. Instead, he speculated, "It's clear to me with same-day voter registration, with college student registration, with the voting machines, that there was fraud."

A Bolduc campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry from the American Independent Foundation for this story.

Fox News host Bill Hemmer pressed Bolduc during the interview on Thursday, telling him, "This appears to be quite a change" and asking whether he had discussed the matter with former Vice President Mike Pence the previous day during a campaign event.

Bolduc said he hadn't, and added: "We all have time to make up for mistakes or for things that we've said that aren't accurate. And that's part of learning, that's part of listening. ... If we continue to reinforce failure, we're never going to move forward. If we can't accept in people fallibility and mistakes, we're never going to be able to move forward. ... That's what I stand for, and that's what Sen. Hassan does not stand for."

In a press release on Thursday, Hassan campaign spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said, "Don Bolduc has spent the entire campaign touting the Big Lie, and he can't hide from that record. He has even said that he supports overturning the results of the 2024 election if it doesn't go his way. A word salad on Fox will not erase his record of election denial."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

New Hampshire GOP Nominates Conspiracy Theorist Bolduc For Senate

Republicans in New Hampshire have nominated Don Bolduc, a far-right politician and former brigadier general of the Army, as their candidate for the state's U.S. Senate seat. Following his narrow victory in the primary on Tuesday, Bolduc will face Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) this November.

Hassan, who was governor of New Hampshire prior to serving in the Senate, is seeking a second term. She has supported abortion rights, LGBTQ equality, and efforts to protect voting rights and democratic elections.

Bolduc, who has voiced support for anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion rights, and anti-democracy policies, previously ran unsuccessfully for his party's Senate nomination in 2020.

This time around, he overcame the opposition of the state's senate president, Chuck Morse, and nine other Republican candidates. Bolduc's candidacy was also challenged by ads funded via a super PAC linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and, although he didn't endorse any candidates, comments by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) that criticized him. Sununu deemed Bolduc "not a serious candidate" and "a conspiracy theorist."

While he has not committed to supporting a federal ban on abortion, Bolduc has repeatedly stated he is against abortion rights. In December 2021, Bolduc privately described himself to the Dover Republican Committee as "unapologetically pro-life," and "I'm not gonna vote contrary to" anti-abortion causes.

In June, Bolduc praised the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision which struck down the judicial precedent for abortion rights set by the court in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years prior. "As a pro-life candidate, I believe the Supreme Court made the right decision," he said in a statement.

Recent polls found that both the Dobbs decision and restriction of abortion rights are unpopular with amongst a majority of New Hampshire voters.

Bolduc has also been sharply critical of federal safety net programs. As a candidate in 2020, he proposed making $2 trillion in cuts and a gradual end to the Social Security program. During his current campaign, at a Sept. 7 primary debate, he again called for replacement of Social Security with "a different system" for future generations.

Bolduc also proposed a $1.2 trillion cut to Medicare. At another debate in August, he explained that he opposed allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices because "anything that the government's involved in is not good and doesn't work, period." He the falsely claimed "Medicare doesn't negotiate anything. They do it with third-party insurance companies."

Bolduc has proposed major cuts to federal government agencies as well. "The whole damn government needs to be audited and needs to be reduced big time," he stated at the August debate, specifically naming the "Energy [Department], the EPA, Homeland Security, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, and the Department of Education." At the debate on Sep. 7, he added the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Defense to his list of agencies he wants to significantly cut.

In addition to supporting conspiracy theories that former President Donald Trump really won the 2020 election, which he called "stolen," Bolduc has vowed to "absolutely" overturn a possible President Joe Biden reelection win in 2024. He also supported a repeal of the 17th Amendment, which guarantees the right of voters to choose their own U.S. senators.

Bolduc previously earned the backing of six lawmakers in New Hampshire who advanced legislation calling for the state to secede from the union and become a "sovereign nation." He also received endorsements from three other state representatives who co-authored a December 2020 letter demanding for "termination of the state" of New Hampshire's government based on "fraud" in the 2020 election.

Bolduc also has a long record of sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks. In November 2019, he told a joke at a local GOP meeting about locking his wife and dog in the trunk of his car. "You close the trunk. Walk away, have a cup of coffee, come back in an hour, open up the trunk," he joked, "and who's going to be happy to see you? Not the wife!"

In March 2020, he used racist language to describe the COVID-19 virus, incorrectly calling it the "China Coronavirus." He defended himself as "not a racist person at all" because he "served 33 years in the military, an institution that was the first to desegregate of any in our society in 1948."

He incorrectly claimed in January 2020 that the Civil War — fought largely over the issue of slavery — was the result of insufficient compromise. "The Civil War was started because the parties, because they couldn't come together," he said. "There were reasons for fighting it. But they couldn't get together to figure it out so we just had a war. Gridlock, blaming, pointing the finger. Not working together, not being a partnered team."

Bolduc also used a homophobic language in an August 2020 campaign ad, telling voters, “I didn’t spend my life defending this country to let a bunch of liberal, socialist pansies squander it away." He previously told voters that he did not believe federal civil rights laws protected LGBTQ people and called himself "a believer in traditional marriage."

“Don Bolduc is the most extreme Senate nominee in modern New Hampshire history. Bolduc is an election denier who would ban abortion nationwide, end Social Security, decimate Medicare, and undermine our democracy," Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In a statement, Hassan wrote:

I have worked across the aisle to get results for New Hampshire and taken on corporate special interests to lower costs. This campaign will be a clear contrast between my record of delivering for the people of New Hampshire and Don Bolduc’s radical, backward-looking agenda. If Don Bolduc had his way in the U.S. Senate, he would work to end Social Security, decimate Medicare, and vote to ban abortion nationwide. Don Bolduc is simply too extreme for New Hampshire, and his agenda is wildly out of touch with Granite Staters.

Now that Bolduc has become the Republican nominee, the Cook Political Report determined that the New Hampshire Senate contest will "lean" in favor of the Democratic nominee.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

GOP Senate Fundraiser Hosted By Donors Who Defended Rape

A pair of wealthy tech industry donors with a history of writing rape apologia are set to host a major fundraiser for Senate Republicans and Senate candidates next week. At least nine current nominees, in addition to Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), are expected to attend the Florida event.

According to the event invitation, first reported by Puck News reporter Teddy Schleifer in late August, the "Take Back the Senate" reception will be held at the Miami home of former PayPal executive vice president Keith Rabois and his husband Jacob Helberg on September 15. Former PayPal chief operating officer David Sacks is also listed as a host of the event, which will cost attendees between $1,000 and $50,000 per-person to attend.

In addition to Scott (R-FL), Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are expected to attend, along with GOP Senate nominees Blake Masters, Joe O'Dea, Adam Laxalt, Ted Budd, J.D. Vance, Mehmet Oz, and Tiffany Smiley as "special guests" for the fundraisier. The invitation pledges that there are "more senators and candidates to be announced."

Rabois and Sacks both have longstanding connections to white nationalist-linked PayPal's founder Peter Thiel, dating back to their time attending Stanford University together in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thiel has already largely bankrolled the campaigns of Vance and Masters, both who formerly worked for the billionaire.

As a Stanford Law School student, Rabois, reportedly got into trouble in 1992 for berating a member of the faculty and calling them "faggot" and yelling, "Hope you die of AIDS." He later claimed he intended "to make a provocative statement."

After Stuart Thomas, a senior year student at Stanford, was charged with statutory rape of another student that same year, Rabois co-authored a column in a special "Rape Issue" of Stanford Review, Thiel's conservative school publication. According to the book The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power, the column "joked" that the dorm building where the attack took place may become "the solution to asexually frustrated freshmen."

Sacks also contributed to the "Rape Issue," writing an article defending the perpetrator and dismissing statutory rape as "a moral directive left on the books by pre-sexual revolution crustaceans."

Sacks and Thiel co-authored a 1995 book together called The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Tolerance on Campus, throughout which they defend Rabois' anti-LGBTQ outburst. They also dismissed date rapes in the book as "seductions that were later regretted." Both have since tried to distance themselves from their writing.

Sacks told Recode in 2016 that the book was “college journalism written over 20 years ago," although it was published after their college careers, and that "it does not represent who I am or what I believe today. I'm embarrassed by some of my former views and regret writing them.”

In 2013, Rabois resigned from his chief operating officer position at Square Inc., after accusations of sexual harassment. Though he denied the allegations, he admitted in an open letter that he had a "physical relationship" with an employee even after he recruited him to join the company staff, which he described as "poor judgment on my part."

Though the event will be at the home of a married same-sex married couple — with donors who have made anti-LGBTQ statements — several of the Republican candidates that will be in attendance have long records of opposing LGBTQ rights and marriage equality.

Even after attending Thiel's 2017 marriage to husband Matt Danzeisen, Masters reportedly said in February that "Marriage is between a man and a woman. ... Marriage is an institution that goes back thousands of years, and it has a point. The point is procreation and creating children."

When the American Independent Foundation asked for comment via email for this story, Rabois wrote back: "No, not for this level of biased stupidity."

Sacks, Senate Republicans, and Republican candidates scheduled to attend the fundraiser did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.