Janet Protasiewicz

New Liberal Majority On Wisconsin's Top Court May Mean Big Changes

Judge Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in on Tuesday afternoon as the ninth justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, cementing a five–member liberal majority that could hear major cases on issues such as abortion and gerrymandering, potentially reshaping the legal landscape of the state.

Protasiewicz took the oath of office at the state Capitol rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin. The liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley administered the oath in front of hundreds of observers.

“We all want a Wisconsin where our freedoms are protected; we all want a Wisconsin with a fair and impartial Supreme Court; we all want to live in communities that are safe, and we all want a Wisconsin where everyone is afforded equal justice under the law,” Protasiewicz said. “That’s why I don’t take this responsibility lightly.”

Protasiewicz’s swearing-in marks the end of 15 years of conservative control of the court.

The new majority on the court is predicted to strike down the state’s abortion ban, which was passed in the mid-19th century but was rendered unenforceable for decades by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, and throw out the state’s legislative maps. Critically, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin’s liberal majority will be a bulwark against Republican attempts to limit voting access.

In an election held in April, Protasiewicz, formerly a prosecutor and a Milwaukee County judge, defeated conservative former Justice Daniel Kelly by an 11-point landslide. Protasiewicz’s campaign for the open seat centered on abortion — it said in one of her first campaign ads that she supported “a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion” — and the state’s legislative maps, which she called rigged.

Interest groups and donors were aware of the stakes. During the election, powerful pro- and anti-abortion rights groups broke along ideological lines to support Protasiewicz and Kelly, while labor unions and business groups, political parties, and wealthy in-state and out-of-state donors spent heavily to back their favored candidate. The race between Kelly and Protasiewicz was by far the most expensive state supreme court election in modern history, costing at least $56 million. Even that figure, according to WisPolitics, is likely an undercount.

Voter turnout also broke records. Nearly 2 million Wisconsin residents voted in the election. In the last race for Supreme Court, in 2020, 1.5 million Wisconsinites cast a ballot.

“The election of Janet Protasiewicz changed the balance of power, breaking what has for years been an extreme conservative stranglehold on Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court,” state Rep. Lisa Subeck, a Democrat, said in an email sent to the American Independent Foundation. “This opens the door to a new era of fairness on the court, and this gives us great hope on a number of issues.”

“With a case challenging Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban already filed and expected to make its way to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, flipping the conservative majority on the court was vital to ensuring our case is given fair consideration,” she added. “Protasiewicz’s presence on the court means abortion could again be available in Wisconsin in the not-so-distant future.”

On June 28, 2022, days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s abortion ban in the Dane County Circuit Court. In July of this year, Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper rejected arguments from state Republicans that the case should be thrown out and allowed the lawsuit to continue.

Also in play are Wisconsin’s legislative maps, which determine how voters are grouped into districts. By strategically creating electoral districts, Republican map drawers have divided voters so as to give the GOP an advantage in the state’s elections for the General Assembly and Senate, a strategy called gerrymandering. Under the current maps, Democrats would have to win by landslide margins to have a chance of securing even a narrow majority in the Assembly.

Right now, despite Democrats having won the last statewide election, Republicans in Wisconsin are two Assembly seats from a supermajority in the Legislature that would allow them to impeach elected state officials and override the governor’s veto.

“If the court were to rule our legislative maps — considered by experts to be the most politically gerrymandered in the nation — unconstitutional, voters could finally have their say in choosing their representatives,” Subeck said. “This comes after more than a decade of unfair maps drawn to ensure a large Republican majority and a decade later redrawn to expand and bake in that majority for another ten years, even as the voters of the state elect Democrats in nearly every statewide election.”

A challenge is already in the works. Subeck noted that Law Forward, a progressive nonprofit law firm, has announced that it plans to file a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s legislative maps later this year.

Law Forward declined to comment for this story.

“I think there’s general agreement that the legal action that will be filed will result in a reopening of the redistricting that occurred … in 2021, and a revisiting of the maps,” Jay Heck, the director of the nonpartisan good government group Common Cause Wisconsin, told the American Independent Foundation in an interview.

Originally, during the 2021 redistricting cycle, the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court selected maps drawn by Evers. However, after Republicans in the Legislature filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court, the six-justice conservative majority overturned the state court’s decision. Conservatives on the state Supreme Court then adopted gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a significant advantage.

Heck said that in their dissent, the three progressive justices “said that those maps were too partisan, that they disenfranchised lots of voters who don’t really have the opportunity to be able to have their votes count as much as someone voting for a Republican because of the way some districts were drawn. And so I would assume that that would be the basis of the lawsuit.”

If the maps are ruled unconstitutional the court could take a variety of steps to replace them, as redistricting fights in other states show. For example, in 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out Republican-drawn congressional maps on the grounds that they were gerrymandered and asked the state to provide new, less partisan maps, but then-Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement. The court ultimately imposed maps of its own.

Heck said he doesn’t think that the court would draw its own maps, but that it would instead solicit maps from elected officials and make a selection from among them, as the conservative majority on the court did in 2021.

“Evers did a very good job of submitting maps that were less partisan and less Republican-leaning than the maps that the Republican Legislature gave to the Supreme Court, which they accepted and ultimately chose 4-3,” he said. “I think that would be the leading candidate as an alternative.

“Now they might decide to select other maps that are there,” Heck added. “Here’s the thing: Maps can be drawn relatively quickly by lots of different entities. And they may say, Well, we will, in the next month, look at some other maps. And so you can imagine the scrambling that I’m sure is already happening to do that.”

In the 2021 round of redistricting, Common Cause Wisconsin supported the maps drawn by Evers’ office. Heck said that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the group would do the same if the Republican maps were thrown out.

Looking ahead to 2024, Heck said, “I think the state Supreme Court majority will be more kindly towards voting, as opposed to the conservative majority that was less friendly.”

Heck pointed to two decisions handed down by the court’s conservatives: one last year to end the use of ballot drop-boxes and another barring election clerks from adding minor details, such as an omitted zip code, on ballots that would otherwise not be counted. Heck called the rulings “death by a thousand cuts to voting in Wisconsin.”

“Under 30,000 separat[ed] the winner and the loser in four of the six elections for president in Wisconsin since 2000, and that’s out of 3.5, 3.6 million votes cast. So it’s infinitesimal, the separation. So every vote literally does matter here,” Heck said.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Activists Gave Away Banned Books To Troll Moms For Liberty Conference

Activists Gave Away Banned Books To Troll Moms For Liberty Conference

On Thursday, schoolteachers and their allies held a banned book giveaway in downtown Philadelphia, next to a Marriott hotel that was hosting a far-right political summit organized by Moms for Liberty, an organization that works to censor school curriculums and remove any materials it dislikes.

Interested passersby stopped at two tables spread with books to pick up free copies of books that local chapters of Moms for Liberty have fought to remove from public school libraries and classrooms. These included Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, a graphic novel that tells the story of author Art Spiegelman’s family’s experiences during and after the Holocaust; And Tango Makes Three, a picture book that tells the true story of a penguin chick in the Central Park Zoo who was adopted by two male penguins; and The Poet X, a young adult novel about a high school girl in Harlem who discovers slam poetry.

“I have a friend who works inside the [Marriott] who told me about the free book giveaway, so let’s check it out,” said Maray, who asked that her last name and occupation be withheld. “I’ve honestly never heard of [Moms for Liberty] until now, until all of this controversy started, and I did a quick little search to see what they are about. I find it to be ridiculous.”

“These books are from real people’s perspectives, it’s not lies, so to completely ban it, I think, is actually very harmful to our youth because it’s really important for them to understand what other people go through,” she added. “It’s kind of sad.”

Maray held two books from the giveaway under her arm, which she said she was going to give to her nephew.

“Campaign for Our Shared Future is here in Philly today giving out banned and challenged books for free to families that might need them. We’re obviously here in response to the Moms for Liberty national convening,” said Heather Harding, the group’s executive director. “The books that we’ve selected, that are age-appropriate for K-12 students to read, we see that a vast majority of these titles feature characters of color, LGBTQ families and characters.”

Harding said that Campaign for Our Shared Future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that seeks to defend public schools from “anti-equity attacks.”

Moms for Liberty, which describes itself as a parental rights group, was founded in 2021, born out of conservative rage against pandemic-era school mask mandates and supposed progressive indoctrination in schools. While its founders launched the group in Florida, it quickly spread across the country, fanned by laudatory, excited coverage in conservative media, and now, according to Moms for Liberty, has 275 chapters spread across all but five U.S. states.

The group is putting on its second annual “Joyful Warriors” summit over the July 4 weekend at the Marriott in downtown Philadelphia. Many Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald J. Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are scheduled to speak at the event, as are activists associated with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and PragerU, a right-wing media organization.

Local activists have planned a weekend of counterprotests, and, as attendees trickled in to the event Thursday afternoon, a dozen city police officers stood in small circles in front of the hotel.

Earlier this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Moms for Liberty an extremist group because its leaders and members frequently espouse the conspiracy theory that far-left teachers are at work in schools grooming children for sexual abuse and indoctrinating students to adopt radical left-wing politics, and because of the close ties some of its local chapters have to far-right groups such as the Proud Boys.

Republicans rushed to the group’s defense, alleging that the SPLC has a left-wing bias.

The SPLC, however, didn’t go as far as it could have; it did not designate Moms for Liberty a hate group, a label the legal advocacy group reserves for organizations such as the Proud Boys, as well as militia and neo-Nazi groups.

Part of the SPLC’s designation is based on the group’s tactics; numerous Moms for Liberty chapter members have been accused of harassing parents, including in one case in Northwest Pennsylvania in which a chapter chair was found guilty of harassment and fined after she sent a local parent threatening messages. Electorally, the Moms for Liberty focuses on local school board races and nominating and supporting conservative candidates.

The book ban, however, is Moms for Liberty’s most notorious tactic. Across the country, the group’s chapters fight to pull books out of school libraries, particularly books that discuss issues of sexuality and race. Some Moms for Liberty chapters create lists of books that they check against school libraries’ collections in order to ferret out literature they deem inappropriate.

Polling from early June found that broad swaths of the American public oppose efforts by school boards to ban books, and a 2022 poll from the American Library Association found that only 10 percent of Americans say they have an unfavorable opinion of public and school libraries and librarians.

The ALA reported in March that 2022 set a record for book bans and attempted bans, with 1,269 demands targeting 2,571 titles. According to the group, that’s double the number of challenges made in 2021.

Patricia Jackson, a teacher in York County, told the American Independent Foundation in a phone interview that the school system she works in has been locked in a battle with its local Moms for Liberty chapter over attempts to ban books.

“You don’t have the right to say what another child can or cannot read,” Jackson said. “And that’s what the battle has become about — parental rights, but the parental rights of a few.”

“These folks are after the right to raise your child and the child across the street and the child next door to them, not just their children. And that is not your right,” she added. “They are redefining patriotism and what it means to be an American, and they don’t have that right either, because what it means to be American looks like them, thinks like them, and worships like them. And that is not the America of the 21st century.”

Barbara Stripling, a retired school librarian and a former president of the American Library Association, was at the book giveaway event and told the American Independent Foundation that she had little to say about Moms for Liberty.

“My main focus in being here today is to present a positive side to making diverse books accessible to all kids,” she said. “It seems like it’s an easy fix, but what we are doing when we ban a book is we’re marginalizing kids, we’re marginalizing ideas, and we’re limiting kids’ futures and their concepts of themselves.”

“I don’t have an objection to a parent limiting what his or her child can read. Where I draw the line is, you don’t have any right to tell what other children can read and think and do, and that’s where it gets dangerous for society,” she added.

Near one of the tables, Jane Cramer held two green signs protesting the summit and Moms for Liberty. Cramer, a social worker and a parent in the Pennridge School District in Bucks County, said: “We are under attack by Moms for Liberty. Our board is dominated by Moms for Liberty members.”

Cramer said that the school board had hired Jordan Adams, a speaker at the conference and a newly minted educational consultant with two months of experience, to advise the district. The Moms for Liberty-controlled board, she said, has so far passed a policy barring trans youth from using school bathrooms that match their identity and eliminated the district’s diversity initiatives.

Cramer said she and other district parents have started a letter-writing campaign to catch the attention of elected officials, such as the state’s Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro. But, she said, parents in her school feel like no one is paying attention to them.

“I’m supposed to be at a music festival today, but I came down here because I don’t know what else to do,” she said.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

New Report: Younger Voters Backed Democrats By Historic Margins In 2022

New Report: Younger Voters Backed Democrats By Historic Margins In 2022

Democrats’ strong performances in the 2022 elections were powered by a diverse coalition of young and female voters who turned out in record numbers, especially in swing states, according to a new analysis of the midterm elections by the progressive data firm Catalist.

Especially in heavily contested races, Millennial and Generation Z voters, defined collectively in the report as voters born after 1981, broke decisively for Democrats in even greater numbers than they did in 2018. That year, in what was seen as a rejection of President Donald Trump, the electorate handed Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives by margins the party hadn’t seen in generations. Experts said that younger voters, who are much more progressive than those of their parents’ generations, are motivated by the desire to put their values into action and a fear of conservative political power.

The Harvard Public Opinion Project, the longest-running survey of the political attitudes of Americans between the age of 18 and 29, has found a marked shift in the political preferences of younger voters over the last 10 years toward favoring government intervention in American life to further progressive policies. Majorities of young voters now support state-sponsored health care and increased government spending to end poverty, for example. Other polling has found that Americans aged 18-29 support legalizing abortion more than any other age group.

Gen Z and Millennial voters are very progressive and are likely to largely remain that way, said Morley Winograd, a researcher at Brookings who studies younger voters.

“Young voters are motivated, they’re engaged, they’re anti-MAGA, they’re pro-abortion, they’re pro-Democratic priorities and ideas,” Winograd said in an interview. In the midterm elections, he added: “One of the variables was to what degree abortion was a major issue in the race, either because of the nature of the candidate’s position, or as in Michigan, because there was an actual abortion proposition on the ballot. Wherever that happened, then you got enormous turnouts of young voters.”

Winograd said that young voters were also motivated by economic concerns such as the affordability of health care, if not for themselves yet, then for their parents and grandparents, as well as of education and housing, and concerns about democracy itself. Republicans, Winograd argued, face an increasingly challenging electoral map without improving their party’s performance among young voters.

“The under-45 GOP voters were less likely to vote, and when they did, more likely to vote Democratic than any other age group in the electorate in 2018. And so Republicans have a defection problem with younger voters, which is not surprising given where they stand on the issues,” Winograd said. “If you have a coalition, as Republicans do, made up of older people, mostly white, the older people problem becomes more and more of a problem if you’re not replacing those voters with younger voters, and they’re not.”

Jackie Johnson, a 26-year-old marketing manager living in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, told said that she had voted in most elections since turning 18, a habit in part instilled by her dad. Motivated by her beliefs about women’s bodily autonomy, voting rights, and education, Johnson said that she voted for the Democratic ticket in the midterms in 2022 and for Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the progressive pro-choice candidate, in the state Supreme Court race in April 2023.

“I felt as if this last midterm had high stakes for Wisconsin,” she said in an email. “My participation felt very meaningful.”

Signe Espinoza, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and a Millennial herself, said that abortion was decisive in motivating younger voters in the state, along with related economic concerns.

“I think one of the things when we’re talking about issues, when we’re talking about inflation, we’re talking about the economy, and we’re talking about the implications for our generation, our financial situation, we’re talking about college debt, we’re talking about the fact that our generation is deciding to not have children or making decisions to delay that decision,” she said. “And so when we’re thinking about these issues, I think that Millennials are incredibly aware that when we’re talking about the economy, that is an abortion issue.”

Espinoza said it was frustrating to see abortion and economic issues being pitted against each during the midterms “when they were interconnected.”

In Pennsylvania, one of the battleground swing states that the Catalist report highlighted, the Republican candidate for governor, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, was resoundingly defeated by the Democrat, Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Mastriano, who lost by 15 points, attracted criticism from some Republicans who said he was too extreme to win a general election. He appeared to flirt with a Senate run this year, but announced last month that he would refrain from launching a 2024 campaign.

“We’re talking about a candidate in the gubernatorial race who ran off of no exceptions when it came to rape or incest in abortion care and was really clear on his position with his voting record in the legislature,” Espinoza said.

Mastriano was emblematic of the candidates that Republicans ran for governor and the U.S. Senate in almost every 2022 battleground state: Trump-endorsed election deniers who favored strict abortion laws.

Simon Rosenberg, a longtime liberal political strategist who accurately predicted Democratic victories in the 2022 midterms, said younger voters in those contested battleground states were motivated to vote by what they viewed as an unpalatable, extreme conservative agenda represented by those candidates. Heavily-funded Democratic campaigns with robust grassroots organizing operations, he said, were well-positioned to use their resources to reach out to those voters and encourage them to cast ballots.

“Despite high inflation and low approval ratings for Biden, [Democrats] actually gained ground in most of the major battleground states that determine the outcome of the presidential election,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg noted that, prior to 2006, the youth vote had traditionally swung between Republicans and Democrats. During that year’s midterms, younger voters turned out in record numbers and broke decisively for Democrats, Rosenberg said, motivated by deep dissatisfaction with the Bush administration driven by the Iraq War and the War on Terror.

Those crises, which sent young soldiers overseas to fight foreign wars, burst what Rosenberg calls “the bubble of affluence” and motivated younger voters to engage in politics. “What’s going to pierce the bubble of affluence for young people today? It’s not getting shot at school, it’s climate change, it’s abortion, it’s the disruption of COVID and being able to afford an apartment.”

While the conventional political wisdom is that younger voters turn out to vote at lower rates than older voters, Rosenberg says, that isn’t exactly true: “What we know from research is that registered young people vote at the same rates as registered old people — it’s just they’re registered at a much lower rate.” Rosenberg sees an opportunity for Democrats to take advantage of that and further improve their electoral performance by launching a national voter registration drive aimed at young people.

Blue Future, a progressive political action committee that trains Gen Z volunteers in the fundamentals of political organizing and campaigning, is one organization working to bring members of Gen Z into the political process.

“I think young voters really knew that we had to stop the red wave because our rights were under attack. They know, first and foremost, that they are the ones that are going to have to deal with the impact of these elections for generations,” said Morgan Stahr, the co-president of Blue Future.

“When we’re talking to students, the reason that they say they want to vote, or when they’re talking to people on the phone is like, ‘We’re sick of having to do drills at our school'” she said. “Many of these young people we work with were in seventh or eighth grade when Donald Trump was elected.”

Stahr described the youth she works with as caught between the hope that they can move their communities in a more progressive direction and the fear of extremism, gun violence, and climate change.

In Georgia, Blue Future worked with the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, an Atlanta-based nonprofit run by high school and college students, to fight conservative-led efforts to ban books about race, gender, and sexuality from schools. Stahr said that they were able to defeat every book ban in the state.

“I think, from the beginning of our history, whether you’re looking at the Civil Rights Movement, the founding of the LGBTQ+ movement, and many other movements, and the climate justice movement, of course, young people have always been front and center. And I really do think that will continue, especially as we go into 2024,” Stahr added.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Invited To DeSantis Inaugural Ball: Far-Right Weirdos, Hatemongers And A Felon

Invited To DeSantis Inaugural Ball: Far-Right Weirdos, Hatemongers And A Felon

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' inaugural ball, held on January 5, hosted wealthy donors, Republican Party activists, and local elected officials. According to social media posts reviewed by the American Independent Foundation, attendees at the event also included a fraudster who was convicted of felony wire fraud and conservative media figures who were present at the January 6, 2021, "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, D.C., that preceded the Capitol riot.

Unlike in years previous, reporters were barred from attending DeSantis' inaugural events aside from his swearing-in ceremony, the Tampa Bay Times reported. A reporter from that paper was ordered off the grounds of the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, where the ball was held. However, at least one reporter, from the Daily Mail, was allowed in.

Jonathan Lee Riches, a fraudster who was convicted on felony charges related to identity theft and spent 10 years in federal prison, posted videos and pictures from DeSantis' inaugural ball on Facebook.

Riches, who has developed a following online after filing thousands of baseless lawsuits, including suits against Hurricane Ike and the continent of Africa, was indicted in 2018 for impersonating Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011.

Riches has branded himself a follower of former President Donald Trump and has attended conservative events.

At least two people who marched to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, were in attendance: Yvette Benarroch, a Florida Republican activist, and Chaya Raichik, who runs the Twitter account Libs of TikTok, which, the Southern Poverty Law Center says, is used for "promoting anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theories, directing hostile attention at schoolteachers who allow classroom discussion of gender and sexuality, and highlighting hospitals that provide gender-affirming care." Raichik describes the LGBTQ community as a cult of "evil people" who want to "groom" and sexualize kids. Her posts have prompted harassment campaigns against educators who discuss LGBTQ topics, medical professionals who provide care to transgender people and children, and hospitals.

Neither Benarroch nor Raichik are alleged to have crossed police lines or entered the Capitol building on January 6.

Former NYPD officer John Cardillo, who stoked controversy in 2015 by posting a selfie with a firearm on Twitter in response to anti-police violence protesters, and Sara Gonzales, a BlazeTV anchor who has spread anti-vaccine misinformation and described Pete Buttigieg's husband Chasten Buttigieg using the anti-LGBTQ slur "groomer," posted pictures from the event on social media.

Also in attendance was Caleb Hull, a pro-Trump digital strategist who was revealed by investigative news site Right Wing Watch to have made a series of virulently racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant Twitter posts in 2014. In one thread, Hull juxtaposed an image of a piece of fried chicken hanging from a noose with an image of a Black man looking up. In another, Hull used anti-gay slurs.

DeSantis, who won reelection against Democrat Charlie Christ by a commanding 19-point margin, has attracted considerable attention as a potential 2024 presidential candidate. Some recent polling has found DeSantis leading former President Donald Trump, who has already announced his third campaign for the presidency, by a generous margin among potential GOP primary voters.

DeSantis rode to national fame early in the COVID-19 pandemic by refusing to institute lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus as recommended by a large majority of public health officials and epidemiologists. Since then, the Florida governor has emerged as a favorite on the right for his espousal of anti-vaccine and "anti-woke" rhetoric.

DeSantis' office did not return a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

After Promising To Defund Election Deniers, Corporate PACS Gave Them Millions

After Promising To Defund Election Deniers, Corporate PACS Gave Them Millions

A new report by the nonprofit government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, found many of America's blue-chip corporations have collectively given tens of millions of dollars to congressional Republicans who voted against certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 election win, a group CREW dubbed the "Sedition Caucus."

At least 231 companies announced that they would either entirely suspend, temporarily halt, or meaningfully reassess their political giving in the days after a pro-Trump mob fueled by conspiracy theories about the 2020 election stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

After Congress reconvened later that night, 147 Republicans — 139 in the House and 8 in the Senate — voted against certifying the 2020 election, in some cases citing claims of widespread voter fraud. Numerous national- and state-level recounts, election audits, and independent investigations have found no evidence that the outcome of the 2020 election was affected by fraud.

According to the CREW report, 166 of those companies have resumed donating to political campaigns and leadership PACs run by those election objectors. Several companies that condemned the attack are among that number, including Disney, Amazon, and Allstate.

In a statement, a Disney spokesman called the attack "an appalling siege" and criticized legislators who voted against certifying Biden's victory. Amazon said the insurrection was an "unacceptable attempt to undermine a legitimate democratic process," and a senior vice president at Allstate told CNN that the vote "did not align with the committee's commitment to bipartisanship, collaboration and compromise."

However, according to CREW's report, Amazon has since given $46,500 to election objectors, Disney $4,500, and Allstate $36,000.

An Amazon spokesman told the American Independent Foundation that the company's political action committee gives to Congress members who "share our views on issues that are important to our customers and our business in general." The spokesperson said the suspension of donations was not intended to be permanent.

The three companies are far from alone in doubling back on strong statements; Politico reported last week that Cigna, the multi-billion-dollar health insurance giant, gave more than $200,000 to election objectors ahead of the 2022 midterm elections after promising to cease contributing to "any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered the peaceful transition of power."

"Some issues are so foundational to our core fiber that they transcend all other matters of public policy," read a Cigna internal memo obtained by CNBC. "There is never any justification for violence or destruction of the kind we saw at the U.S. Capitol — the building that [is] such a powerful symbol of the very democracy that makes our nation strong."

Of the top five corporate donors to election objectors since Jan. 6, 2021 — Koch Industries, Boeing, Valero Energy, Home Depot, and AT&T — all but Koch Industries made some kind of promise to cease giving in the wake of the insurrection.

The report also notes corporate contributions to election deniers who won election to Congress in the 2022 midterms, including Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, a Republican who spread false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, and Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), who the Daily Beast reported crossed police lines on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during the insurrection.

Sixty-five of the companies CREW surveyed have remained committed to their public rejection of election objectors, including Meta, BlackRock, Target, and Nike. However, lobbyists working for some of the corporations that publicly pledged to refrain from supporting election objectors, including Microsoft, Meta, Nike, and Dow Chemical Company, have since made personal contributions to some of those lawmakers.

"None of the remaining members who fed lies about the election and voted not to certify have atoned for their actions," CREW research director Robert Maguire told the American Independent Foundation. "What is the point — other than good PR — of making a commitment to not give, if you're just going to start making donations to those same politicians in the same election cycle, only a little later than you normally would have?"

"You can't say you support voting rights or democracy while also making campaign contributions to members of Congress who in many cases tried to disenfranchise voters in entire states and attempted to overturn a free and fair election," Maguire added.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Ultra-Right: The Bizarre And Extraordinary Extremism Of Doug Mastriano

Ultra-Right: The Bizarre And Extraordinary Extremism Of Doug Mastriano

Pennsylvania Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano posed for an Army War College faculty photo wearing a Confederate uniform in 2014, according to images published by Reuters. A few days later, Media Matters' Eric Hananoki posted video from 2020 of Mastriano complimenting a man wearing a Confederate battle flag as a cape in front of a statue of General Robert E. Lee.

The Confederate battle flag is a well-known symbol of modern right-wing extremism and remains a common sight in parts of the country, including as part of the design of some state flags.

But Confederate imagery is only the most obvious and familiar example of Mastriano's deep connection to a vast constellation of far-right groups and ideas: His campaign has employed militia members; he counts a number of self-proclaimed prophets as supporters and staff; he has pushed a legislative agenda based on Christian nationalist policies as a state senator; and he has repeatedly used sometimes violent far-right Christian symbolism in his public life.

Mastriano, who received former President Donald Trump's endorsement during the Republican primary, spent thousands of dollars from his campaign coffers to bus Pennsylvanians to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and was present on the Capitol grounds during the insurrection that day by Trump supporters.

Several of Mastriano's supporters have been convicted of crimes related to their participation in the insurrection, including at least one who rode on a bus chartered by Mastriano. At first, the Republican denied being present on the Capitol grounds after violence broke out, but a radio interview unearthed by the website Pennsylvania Spotlight revealed that he had seen at least two attempts to break into the Capitol building. Footage uncovered by online activists showed Mastriano and his wife, Rebecca, breaching barricades abandoned by police outside of the building.

The House committee investigating the January 6 attack subpoenaed Mastriano in February to ask about his presence at the Capitol that day and his role helping the Trump campaign assemble a slate of fake Republican electors in Pennsylvania, a state that Biden won. After winning the Republican primary, the candidate agreed to a voluntary interview and provided documents to the committee but refused to answer questions during the interview and left after less than 15 minutes.

Mastriano is now suing the committee, alleging that it does not have the proper authority to make witnesses testify.

Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder and leader of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told The American Independent Foundation, "There's no question that Confederate symbols are racist and directly tied to the Confederacy's defense of slavery and Black oppression."

"It may appear that the Confederate flag is a 'soft' representation of white supremacy, but its ubiquitousness in those circles shows white supremacists know exactly what it means. We shouldn't forget that the riots in Charlottesville in 2017 came about because racial extremists wanted to protect a Robert E. Lee statue," Beirich added.

Insurrectionists and militiamen

A member of Mastriano's security team, Scott Nagle, was listed in January as the Lancaster County regional leader for the Oath Keepers, the website LancasterOnline reported last month. The Oath Keepers are a far-right militia group that was extensively involved in the insurrection. Eleven members of the militia, including founder and leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, a U.S. Army veteran, were indicted on charges, including seditious conspiracy, by a federal grand jury at the beginning of the year.

According to prosecutors, several Oath Keepers established a makeshift base of operations in a Comfort Inn outside Washington ahead of Jan. 6, which they stocked with explosives and firearms in preparation for overturning President Joe Biden's victory.

Nagle has reportedly been photographed on several occasions with Mastriano.

Beirich noted that Oath Keepers members are also involved in election races this year: "Self-declared Oath Keepers members are running for office in some states. In a way, the line between the far right of the GOP and these extremist groups has become blurred, and their ideas are finding even more footing in the mainstream."

At the Fourth of July parade in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Mastriano supporters were reported to have marched with a Three Percenter flag, a symbol of a right-wing extremist anti-government ideology within the militia movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Theocracy by any other name

Mastriano is deeply tied to Christian nationalist extremists who say they want to govern America on the basis of religious principles. Many challenge the notion of a separation between church and state; Mastriano himself in April called it a "myth."

In March, Mastriano campaigned with Julie Green, a self-described "prophet" who says that Nancy Pelosi drinks the blood of children — a claim that Media Matters notes is aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory that former President Donald Trump is fighting a Democrat-led "deep state" that runs an international satanic child-trafficking ring.

Mastriano is closely associated with regional leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement of charismatic and Pentecostal preachers who believe that America ought to be governed according to their interpretation of Biblical law. NAR-affiliated leaders are reported to believe that God has bestowed the gift of prophecy on some in the movement and that demonic forces are at work in the world and must be fought by spiritual means.

Abby Abildness, who has worked in the Pennsylvania state Capitol as a lobbyist, is a prominent figure in the New Apostolic Reformation. She has interviewed Mastriano for her podcast and, in one incident, walked the grounds of Gettysburg National Military Park on July 4, 2021, with Mastriano and his wife, praying that God defend the park from antifa amid online rumors that members of that movement planned to deface monuments and burn Americans flags — rumors that were later revealed to be the work of a social media prankster.

Salon's Frederick Clarkson reported in July that Mastriano had sponsored bills based on model legislation distributed originally through the so-called "Project Blitz," produced by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, with which Abildness is affiliated. The bills would have required that the Bible be taught in public schools and allowed adoption agencies to refuse to work with same-sex couples.

An appeal to heaven

Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign and public life are steeped in right-wing Christian nationalist symbolism, including the use of Jewish ritual items that have taken on meaning in Christian nationalist circles, such as the shofar, or ram's horn, blown as a trumpet by Jews on certain holidays and used now by some Christians to declare spiritual warfare. A man wearing a Jewish prayer shawl blew a shofar at the launch of Mastriano's campaign.

The New Yorkerreported in 2021 that Mastriano has hung a flag bearing the phrase "An appeal to heaven" on his office door in Harrisburg. The phrase, taken from 17th century English philosopher John Locke, refers to the right of people to revolt against their leaders when they become tyrants, and the so-called Pine Tree Flag bearing the phrase was first flown by Continental Army warships during the American Revolution.

More recently, the flag has reportedly been adopted by the pro-Trump Christian preacher Dutch Sheets as a symbol of "gathering a network of fellow believers serving Christ in public office to fellowship, encourage, and serve one another in our common mission." It was carried by participants in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Mastriano's campaign has paid Gab, a social media platform that is a haven for antisemites, white supremacists, and Christian nationalists, to promote his campaign. The website's founder, Andrew Torba, publicly espouses a multitude of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism.

Mastriano has been reportedly playing down his more extremist views and associates since winning the Republican primary. Reports note that he rarely talks about abortion on the campaign trail, despite having said during the primary campaign that passing a ban on the procedure is his "number one issue." In July, the Philadelphia Inquirerreported that he had deleted social media posts containing videos about conspiracy theories and his extreme views.

Despite his efforts, more than a dozen prominent Republicans have rejected Mastriano as too extreme and have endorsed his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

However, many state Republican figures have closed ranks around Mastriano.

Jared Holt, senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The American Independent Foundation, "The entity that could course-correct [extremism] most efficiently would be the Republican Party."

Beyond that, Holt stressed the importance of participation in the democratic process and government. "If there are 20 conspiracy theorists showing up at a school board meeting to intimidate members, there's no reason why there shouldn't be at least 20 people there to offer a countermessage," he said.

Shapiro has led Mastriano in every poll of the race taken so far, although some, such as Emerson College's, conducted in late August, have the candidates within the margin of error. And while the campaigns haven't had to release fundraising numbers since June, those reports showed Shapiro with $20 million on hand to Mastriano's $954,000. The next round of campaign finance reports are due in late September.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Oz Floats Bizarre Plan To Force Veterans Into Private Health Insurance

Oz Floats Bizarre Plan To Force Veterans Into Private Health Insurance

Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, gave a confusing response about veterans' health care during an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station last week.

The station 90.5 WESA asked Oz about the PACT Act, which expands health care coverage for veterans exposed to toxins in the course of their service. The interview took place a few hours before recalcitrant Senate Republicans finally agreed to support the legislation.

Oz called for the bill's passage and said he believed that veterans should be enrolled in the same insurance system that members of Congress receive from the Affordable Care Act's private health insurance exchanges.

"I actually think they should get the same insurance I get if I'm serving in the U.S. Senate," Oz said. "They've done everything you could ask an American to do, and they've already paid their fee and they're not getting what's deserved of them — in this case, health care access."

"These folks risked their lives," he added.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration provides health care coverage to U.S. military veterans and provides free treatment for all service-related injuries — a benefit exclusive to veterans' health care.

By contrast, senators receive health care coverage through the private health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

While VA hospitals have come under fire in the past for long wait times, studies have found that the public health care system is superior or equal to privately run hospitals on measures of patient satisfaction and quality of care.

Oz's apparent confusion about how the VA works is particularly glaring because he trained to become a medical doctor at Philadelphia's own VA Medical Center.

And his support for Senate health insurance is particularly odd given the changing stances he's taken on Obamacare, which set up the exchanges that senators use to receive health care.

Although Oz endorsed Obamacare in a 2010 video he appeared in for the health care advocacy group The California Endowment, his campaign recently walked back his support for President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

Brittany Yanick, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign, told CNN that he "does not support a big government takeover of the health insurance industry" and "would not have voted for Obamacare."

In a 2016 interview with Fox Business, Oz called Obamacare "a very brave effort to include more Americans in the health care system" but said that "the problem with it though is that there was compromise required to get it passed, which limited its ability to address the quality of care and more importantly the cost of care."

The Oz campaign did not return a request for comment.

Oz, who moved back to Pennsylvania in 2020 after living in New Jersey for 30 years, has tried to mold his experience as a physician and reality television star into a compelling campaign message. He claims to have "scars" from taking on the pharmaceutical industry, and his campaign website lists health care as one of the core planks of his pitch to voters.

But Oz, whose net worth is north of $100 million, is heavily invested in Big Pharma companies, according to financial disclosure documents. Those companies include Johnson & Johnson, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and PanTheryx, a biotechnology company on whose board he sits.

His campaign also took $5,800 in donations from Nostrum Pharmaceuticals Founder and President Nirmal Mulye, who quadrupled the price of an essential antibiotic — a move which he described as a "moral imperative."

"I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can ... to sell the product for the highest price," Mulye told the Financial Times in 2018.

Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz during the Republican primary, also has a checkered history on veterans' health care. In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which some critics say has led to worse health outcomes and more expensive care for veterans.

Oz is running against Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, for the state's Senate seat left open by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). A recent Fox News poll has Fetterman leading Oz 47% to 36% among registered voters.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

GOP Candidate Mastriano Literally Runs Away From Reporters

GOP Candidate Mastriano Literally Runs Away From Reporters

On June 27, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of the state, ran from journalists as they asked him about his involvement in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and about his views on abortion rights.

After attending a rally he'd promoted at the state Capitol in Harrisburg in support of a bill aimed at punishing drug dealers who supply opioids that result in overdoses, Mastriano reacted to questions from reporters by immediately rushing from the scene. Several reporters posted video and images on social media of Mastriano running from them.

This was the latest instance of the candidate's disdain for the press, which he has by turns avoided and attacked.

During his primary campaign, Mastriano barred media from many of his events, including reporters from national outlets such as the Washington Post and CBS News, and reportedly rarely responds to requests for comment from news outlets.

An example of Mastriano's actions with regard to reporters was posted to a local news website on May 23. After Mastriano won the Republican nomination in May, Lauren Mayk, a reporter for Philadelphia NBC affiliate WCAU, traveled to Harrisburg and attempted to talk to him after receiving no response to previous requests for an interview. In video posted to the station's website, Mastriano reacts with a smile to Mayk's initial congratulations on his primary victory, but offers little but campaign slogans in response to her questions and eventually walks into his office as she continues to ask about how he will convince those who didn't vote for him to do so in the general election and about his endorsement by former President Donald Trump. Someone then closes the office door in Mayk's face.

Both Trump and Mastriano continue to insist, against all evidence, that the 2020 presidential election was marked by fraud and stolen from Trump. Mastriano was on the schedule of speakers at the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the riot by Trump supporters at the Capitol and was caught in video footage at the Capitol as the riot occurred. He has also been deeply involved in dishonest efforts to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.

Mastriano holds far-right positions regarding issues such as abortion and election law. During a primary debate in April he said the state must "work our way towards" a total ban on abortion from conception, including in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the patient's life, and proposed making every Pennsylvanian re-register to vote, a move legal scholars say would violate federal law.

Mastriano has chosen to engage with media outlets that share his views, sitting for hour-long interviews with the online network Real America's Voice, including on Steve Bannon's podcast.

The only newspaper to publish a full-length interview with Mastriano, the Epoch Times, is a hyperpartisan outlet affiliated with Falun Gong, a Chinese anti-Communist religious movement, which has spread conspiracy theories and promoted right-wing populist politicians in Europe and the U.S. In the profile, Mastriano refers to Jan. 6 as the "so-called insurrection," describes the Democratic Party and the mainstream media as a "cabal," and promotes unchallenged lies about the 2020 election.

Mastriano relies on his social media presence and email operations to get his message out. He regularly shares his opinions on platforms where he will not be challenged by reporters, such as Facebook Live.

Mastriano's Facebook Live videos are often deleted after they're posted. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on July 19 that, since winning the Republican gubernatorial primary, Mastriano has removed more than a dozen Facebook Live videos in which he freely discusses issues such as abortion and climate change. In one deleted video reviewed by the Inquirer, Mastriano rejects the idea that humans contribute to global warming, saying, "Heck, the weatherman can't get the weather right 24 hours out."

Mastriano's campaign issued a statement on Twitter describing the Inquirer's reporting as "fake news" because the videos were "automatically deleted by Facebook after 30 days because of a default Facebook setting. The legacy media is waging war on truth because they don't want to talk about the failed policies of their beloved Democrat candidate for governor."

Erin Gallagher, a researcher at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School who has been tracking Mastriano's Facebook presence since it first took shape during anti-COVID lockdown protests, told the American Independent Foundation that his candidacy was "the logical conclusion of the public and the media underestimating far-right influence for way too long."

"Mastriano's stonewalling critical media allows him to broadcast only to specific audiences. So his messaging is intentionally bypassing certain segments of the general public and, as a result, some of the electorate may not be well-informed about his fundamentalist agenda," Gallagher said.

Mastriano's campaign also circulates via email a weekly PDF newsletter called the "Grassroots Gazette," which is styled like a small-town print newspaper. Issues feature pictures from the campaign trail and of supporters, calls for prayer, information about campaign events and personnel, interviews with volunteers, and pages of memes, including Trumpesque insults about the height of his Democratic opponent in the general election, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, calling him "Lil' Josh."

Mike Mikus, a longtime Democratic political consultant, pointed out two main issues with Mastriano dodging the press and relying on social media: "One is he doesn't get to generate positive press. But two, when there are stories about him paying Gab, a notorious white supremacist online website, he has no means of responding, so it goes unanswered."

In early July, Mastriano came under heavy criticism from religious leaders, Democrats, and some Republicans for a payment his campaign made to Gab, a social media network founded by an open antisemite that serves as a hub for white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Gab is owned by Andrew Torba, a self-described "Christian nationalist" who vocally supports Mastriano's campaign. In 2018, a gunman who had posted numerous racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic messages on the platform killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

After more than two weeks of silence, Mastriano's Twitter account posted a statement on July 28 saying, "Andrew Torba doesn't speak for me or my campaign. I reject anti-Semitism in any form. Recent smears by the Democrats and the media are blatant attempts to distract Pennsylvanians from the suffering inflicted by Democrat policies."

The post continues, "While extremist speech is an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society, extremist policies are not — and the only candidate in this election who wants to impose extreme policies on Pennsylvania — inflation, crime, lockdowns, and mandates — is Josh Shapiro."

A few hours before issuing the statement, Mastriano took to Facebook Live to slam

the complete trash and lies with the latest attack from the media. And what's the point of addressing that? You know, it's kind of like, uh, you know, 'Why do you beat your wife?' kind of questions, you know, seriously? And then if you do respond, you breathe new life into their allegations, you know, and they're gonna spin it in some way in these outlets that are hard-bent on getting Josh Shapiro elected. So, you know, I've made a decision for most of these baseless claims and attacks against me not to respond because you give them something else to write the next day. If it's a serious issue, a policy, a question, I'm on it. We respond nine times out of 10.

Peter Hall, a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital Star, responded on Twitter: "I've sent a number of 'serious, issue, policy question[s]' to @dougmastriano's campaign and haven't received a single response. Not even an acknowledgment."

"You have a basic responsibility when you're running for office to explain why you're teaming up with a notorious antisemite," Mikus said.

Mastriano's strategy may have worked to win him the nomination because it allowed him to connect directly with Republican primary voters, who tend to be more ideological, Mikus said. "It's easier to communicate with them via alternative media — whether it's OAN or any of these right-wing publications, you can reach a significant chunk of your base. The problem that a candidate runs into in the general is that the public at large isn't going to these websites."

The most recent poll of Pennsylvania voters from Fox News has Mastriano down 40 percent -- 50 percent against Shapiro.

Political scientists and some Republican political consultants have questioned whether Mastriano can win while avoiding the media. David LaTorre, who worked for one of Mastriano's primary opponents, told the website Lancaster Online that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump derived their popularity in part from challenging journalists and that Mastriano ought to do the same.

Kari Lake, Trump's pick in the Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary and a former cable news anchor, has deployed that strategy extensively in her campaign by aggressively questioning reporters when she sits for interviews with mainstream media. Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat, regularly goes viral for his cutting, well-produced Twitter content assailing Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican in the race, as an out-of-touch plutocrat.

The rise of candidates who eschew and attack the mainstream press comes as a record-high number of Americans say they do not trust the news media. According to Gallup polling conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, only 16 percent say they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers and only 11 percent say the same about television news. The figures are even lower among Republicans.

Meanwhile, a report published by the Brookings Institution in September 2021 found that while social media, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in particular, are not root causes of political polarization, they do tend to exacerbate it.

"I don't believe there's some magical algorithm tweak that social media platforms can do to 'fix' online conversations," Gallagher, the Harvard researcher, said. "I'm not sure companies like Facebook should even be a part of building anything else that affects society at such a massive scale."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Pennsylvania Faith Leaders Hit Mastriano Over Anti-Semitic Campaign

Pennsylvania Faith Leaders Hit Mastriano Over Anti-Semitic Campaign Consultant

The GOP nominee for governor has refused to address his campaign giving $5,000 to the white supremacist website Gab.

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the gubernatorial Republican nominee endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has seen two weeks of heavy criticism over a $5,000 payment his campaign made to Gab, a microblogging website similar to Twitter run by an openly antisemitic, self-described Christian nationalist and frequented by bigots of all stripes.

On Wednesday, a group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith leaders, as well as elected Democrats, assembled at the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza in downtown Philadelphia to condemn Mastriano and call on Republicans to reject his campaign.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Dan Frankel called Gab a "festering cesspool of intolerance" and said that all marginalized Pennsylvanians had been made to feel vulnerable.

"I'll say this to the Republicans out there who are deciding whether to hold their nose and support Doug Mastriano: there is no coming back from this. You cannot do business with these people and claim to represent all Pennsylvanians," Frankel said. "If you embrace antisemites and homophobes and xenophobes, then you are one of them."

Earlier this month, Media Matters reported that Mastriano's campaign paid Gab $5,000 for "campaign consulting" on April 28, 2022, according to campaign finance filings.

In 2018, a gunman who was active on Gab killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood in Frankel's district. The gunman frequently posted racist and antisemitic messages on the social network without pushback from moderators.

"Today, there's not a Jewish person in Pittsburgh who can get through a Shabbat dinner without thinking about what happened on October 27, 2018," Frankel said. "Anyone in my community can tell you that they now carry a seed of fear with them anywhere they go."

Just two hours before the shooting, the gunman wrote a Gab post promoting the white supremacist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, which baselessly claims that elites in Western countries are importing people of color to the United States in order to dilute the political power of white majorities.

"I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered," the gunman wrote. "Screw your optics. I'm going in."

Mass shooters across the globe have invoked the conspiracy theory to justify their actions, and some Republican politicians have used elements of it in their campaigns, including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

Andrew Torba, the owner and founder of the social network, openly entertains antisemitic conspiracy theories ancient and modern, referring to Jewish people as "Christ killers," encouraging users to share "differing opinions" on the Holocaust on his website, and declaring that Jewish conservatives are "not welcome in the movement" unless they embrace Christianity.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democratic rising star and the first openly LGBTQ Black lawmaker elected to the state legislature, called Mastriano "without a doubt the most extreme, most dangerous, most unhinged nominee from a major party for governor in Pennsylvania history."

"Doug Mastriano cannot become governor of Pennsylvania. His antisemitism is disqualifying, his racism is disqualifying, his homophobia is disqualifying," Kenyatta said.

While it's unclear exactly what Mastriano's campaign got in exchange for its $5,000 contribution to Gab, the Huffington Post reported that all new accounts on Gab automatically follow his account on the website.

Other far-right Republicans have accounts on the website. That includes Kari Lake, Trump's pick for Arizona governor, and Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who was censured by her party after speaking at a political conference hosted by a white nationalist. Mastriano endorsed Rogers' reelection bid this week.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for governor, previously subpoenaed the company that hosts Gab's data, Epik.com, for documents detailing the relationship between the two in the wake of the Tree of Life massacre. Shapiro, who would be the second Jewish governor of Pennsylvania, later dropped the civil probe.

While the Republican candidate has not directly addressed the controversy, his Twitter account did retweet a post calling his payment to Gab "100% legit and creative campaigning."

"It is beyond comprehension that Doug Mastriano has avoided the press, has avoided taking responsibility and accountability for this association with Gab and Torba," Frankel said after Wednesday's press conference. "I don't know if you've taken a look at this site, it's just one antisemitic slur after another."

Numerous Jewish groups have called on Mastriano to reject Gab and cease promoting his candidacy on the website.

"Mastriano's politics literally teeter on the edge of the kind of extremism that has never been this close to a statehouse, let alone to any credible elected office," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said earlier this week.

"We strongly urge Doug Mastriano to end his association with Gab, a social network rightly seen by Jewish Americans as a cesspool of bigotry and antisemitism," Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mastriano was seen as too radical to win a general election by many in the Pennsylvania Republican party, elements of which launched a shambolic, last-minute attempt to deny him the nomination. However, some parts of the state establishment that worked to defeat Mastriano in the primary now appear to support him. The Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, a free-market advocacy group that supported one of Mastriano's primary opponents, said earlier this week that they would spend $8.5 million supporting his campaign.

"I'm not a fan of the Commonwealth Partners' politics, but this is really beyond that," Kenyatta said. "This guy is uniquely radical, uniquely extreme."

On Wednesday evening, Republican National Committee member Andy Reilly, a prominent state Republican who was previously involved in the anti-Mastriano effort during the primary, cohosted a barbecue fundraiser for the candidate in the Philadelphia suburbs.

"Doug is for limited government and protecting Pennsylvanians' freedoms," Reilly told the Inquirer. "I do abide, for the record, by the old Ronald Reagan adage: that someone you agree with 80 percent of the time is your friend."

In a Facebook video on Wednesday, Mastriano obliquely addressed the Gab controversy for the first time — while still refusing to distance himself from the white supremacist website.

"I know the attacks have increased, I'm certain hopeful and confident that nobody on this live feed believes the complete trash and lies with the latest attack from the media. What's the point of addressing that? It's kind of like 'Why are you beating your wife?' questions," Mastriano said in the video. "I've made a decision for most of these baseless claims and attacks against me not to respond."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Virginia GOP Official Parrots Anti-Abortion Conspiracies

Virginia GOP Official Parrots Anti-Abortion Conspiracies

Last Friday, the United States Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which guaranteed Americans' constitutional right to have abortions. On Tuesday night, the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia hosted a Zoom event to celebrate the court's decision.

At the event, Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears rejected abortion rights entirely and claimed that after conception, "The baby isn't even [the mother's] body, she's got her own body. The blood running through the veins of the baby don't belong to her, it's not her blood."

This claim is false. Until birth, a fetus' blood is not oxygenated and receives everything necessary for survival from the mother's blood. The fetus is sustained by nutrients and oxygen passed through the placenta, which the mother grows. While in the womb, the fetus' liver and lungs are not fully formed, and the mother's body performs those life-sustaining functions.

Sears also referenced a widely debunked conspiracy theory, saying that "abortuaries sell baby parts" — a relatively common talking point in the anti-abortion movement, which originates in claims from 2015 that Planned Parenthood sells and profits off of the sale of post-abortion fetal tissue. Even Republican-led investigations found no substance to the claim, but the idea persists. A number of Planned Parenthood clinics do donate fetal tissue to medical research institutions, but never for a profit.

"Let's come back to, we're talking about two lives, not just one, because the mother is not having a lizard, she's having a human being who's half part of her. And the baby has its own body and the blood that is running through the baby isn't even her blood, so there's two separate bodies," Sears said.

The Family Foundation of Virginia is a Christian nonprofit that opposes abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Other speakers at the virtual event included Virginia Delegate Nick Freitas, state Sen. Steve Newman, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who called the Court's decision an "amen moment" and reiterated his stance as a "pro-life governor" who believes that "life begins at inception."

A Youngkin spokesman clarified to the Washington Post that the governor meant to say "conception."

At present, Virginia allows abortion until the end of the second trimester, or 26 weeks, and in the third trimester only if three physicians certify that the mother’s health is at serious risk.

Youngkin, who, as previously reported by The American Independent Foundation, was caught on a hidden camera during his campaign saying that he had to hide his anti-abortion views for fear of alienating moderate voters, announced his administration would push for a 15-week abortion ban the day the Court overturned Roe.

While Republicans control the House of Delegates, Democrats have a one-vote majority in the state Senate. However, one member of the Democratic caucus — Sen. Joe Morrissey — could break with his party to pass an abortion ban. Morrissey, a Roman Catholic, has said he would consider a ban on the procedure starting around the 20th week of pregnancy. At that point, Sears, as the lieutenant governor, would cast the tie-breaking vote.

The Jamaican-born Sears, the first Black woman to hold statewide office in the Commonwealth, previously scrubbed her positions from her campaign website, including her view that abortion rights are "wicked" and that "gun control laws DO NOT deter crime." After the May 28 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and three adults dead, Sears rejected the idea that guns were to blame, and argued that the root cause was that "we have emasculated our men."

Abortion rights are still broadly popular in Virginia. Polling conducted in the wake of the leaked draft decision overturning Roe found that 59% of residents did not support the Court's decision.

But Sears was quick to reject popular opinion on Tuesday night. "The fight has only just begun," she said. "I am on the side of right. This is the right thing ... and God is pleased, so it doesn't really matter."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Five Mastriano Supporters Indicted On Capitol Riot Charges

Five Mastriano Supporters Indicted On Capitol Riot Charges

At least five supporters of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, are facing federal charges for their participation in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. At least one of the five traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano.

Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel whose political career began with his election to the Pennsylvania Senate in 2019, is a supporter of Trump's election lies and a Christian nationalist who supports a total ban on abortion. He led the effort in Pennsylvania to award Trump the state's 20 electoral votes in spite of the actual election results, even attending a White House meeting with Trump to strategize about how to retroactively deny Biden victory in the Keystone State.

Mastriano attended and was tentatively scheduled to speak at the "Stop the Steal" rally held just prior to the insurrection at the Capitol, according to permitting documents for the event. In a statement issued by his office on January 6, Mastriano condemned the violence and said, "When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines."

However, footage posted online is reported to show Mastriano crossing abandoned police barricades alongside his wife.

Sandra Weyer of Mechanicsburg, who traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano and who donated $500 to his campaign for the Pennsylvania Senate, was one of the more than 2,000 pro-Trump protestors who invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. She was arrested on a felony charge of obstructing Congress and on four misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing after she allegedly recorded and encouraged an assault on a New York Times photographer.

William Blauser Jr., who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally, entered the Capitol with the mob holding a sign bearing Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign slogan, "Walk as Free People." Blauser was charged with three misdemeanors and entered a guilty plea to the charge of "parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building."

Blauser traveled to the Capitol with Pauline Bauer, a McKean County pizza shop owner who can be heard in body camera footage taken inside the Capitol rotunda saying, "Bring [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi out here now. We want to hang that fucking bitch" and "Bring them out, they’re criminals … they need to hang." A photo included with FBI case documents shows Bauer wearing a Mastriano shirt on January 5.

Bauer, who has been indicted on five counts and whose trial is scheduled for next month, has been jailed since September 17, 2021. Her requests for pretrial release were denied after she claimed she was "not a person" and not subject to federal law and cited the Bible in an argument with the Trump-appointed judge presiding over her case, rhetoric experts say is used among adherents of the so-called sovereign citizen movement, who believe they are not subject to state or federal law, based on a series of conspiracy theories about the U.S. government.

Donald Smith, a Lindenwold UPS worker, is facing up to a year in prison for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Officials said Smith, who was arrested after co-workers reported him to the FBI for boasting about breaking into Pelosi's office and calling the insurrection "the best day of his life," had previously donated $1,000 to Mastriano's state Senate campaign.

Samuel Lazar, who was arrested in July 2021, has posed for photographs with Mastriano at least a half-dozen times, including for several taken after January 6. Lazar, who said of his actions, "I was right at the front, on the tip of the spear, brother. That's where you gotta be," was accused of spraying a chemical irritant at Capitol Police officers and has been charged with assaulting and obstructing law enforcement. Mastriano said he did not know Lazar personally, a claim Lazar's siblings dispute as a politically motivated attempt by Mastriano to create distance from potentially controversial supporters.

"Why would you assume that every politician who takes a picture with someone at an event automatically knows who they are or agree [sic] with what they believe?" Mastriano said in a statement provided to HuffPost.

Mastriano has agreed to testify before the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol over his role in the coordinated Republican effort overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The Pennsylvania general election for governor will be held on November 8. Mastriano will face Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Virginia Attorney General Allows Plea By Pedophile Cop, Then Falsely Denies Deal

Virginia Attorney General Allows Plea By Pedophile Cop, Then Falsely Denies Deal

The Virginia attorney general's office and state Republicans have misled the public about a plea deal offered to a former sheriff's deputy who was convicted of attempting to solicit a minor for sex, according to court documents obtained by The American Independent Foundation.

On December 16, 2021, Loudoun County sheriff's deputy Dustin Amos posted a message to Whisper, an anonymous social media platform, reading, "Keep this cop company at work today!" Hundreds of miles away in Minnesota, an undercover detective who was conducting a sting operation saw the post. The detective struck up a conversation with Amos and posed as a 15-year-old in private messages with the sheriff's deputy. At one point, Amos replied, "15 damn your young but that's hott."

Amos then began asking the undercover detective about her sexual preferences and sent a series of explicit messages, including a photograph of himself in his underwear. Later in their conversation, which continued for several hours, Amos told the detective, who repeatedly identified herself as a 15-year-old high school student, that she should travel from Minnesota to Virginia to meet him.

"Let's meet in person and you can see my name and agency," Amos wrote in a private message.

The sheriff's deputy continued messaging with the detective for five hours, and at one point sent her a video of himself masturbating in his car, Virginia Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Paoletta told a judge during Amos' bond hearing last December.

The detective informed the NOVA-DC Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force the next day, and state police arrested Amos outside the county jail, where he was on duty. He was charged with two felony counts of soliciting a minor using an electronic device and agreed to plead guilty to the first charge if Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares' office dropped the second charge.

On March 24, NBC 4 Washington reported that Amos had accepted a plea deal from the Virginia attorney general's office, and on March 28, the state politics newsletter Virginia Scope covered the story. In response, Victoria LaCivita, Miyares' director of communications, wrote an email to the newsletter's author, Brandon Jarvis with the subject line "Correction Needed" in which she claimed the plea deal story was "completely incorrect."

"There was no 'deal' offered," LaCivita wrote on March 28. "There is a difference between pleading guilty and being offered a 'plea deal' – they are not the same thing. This individual plead[ed] guilty to the charge without a disposition or plea deal. Secondly, the investigation and analysis of this case, as well as the major decisions regarding what charges to bring, were made under former Attorney General Herring."

But according to publicly available court documents, Paoletta signed a plea agreement with Amos and his attorney on March 3 — long after Herring left office.

These details have not stopped Republicans in Virginia from denying that it was Miyares' own office that offered Amos a plea deal in the case.

In response to a Virginia Democratic Party press release that cited NBC4's reporting, Republican Party of Virginia Chair Rich Anderson tweeted that it was "Reckless for Dems to traffic in partisan lies about plea deals w/ zero legal proof."

On March 27, the Virginia GOP's official Twitter account posted a thread "debunking" the claims, which the party called "another complete lie coming from the desperate @vademocrats."

Last November, Republicans swept Virginia's elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. During his campaign, Miyares, a former state delegate, accepted $2.6 million from a Republican group that encouraged supporters to "stop the steal" by attending a rally outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Miyares and Virginia Republicans have also attacked Democrats for being "soft on crime." Miyares in particular has targeted Democratic prosecutors' use of plea deals in criminal cases both as a candidate and as attorney general, which he argues are often excessively lenient.

Loudoun County was the center of one of the most contentious moments of last year's election. Three weeks before Election Day, the Daily Wire, a conservative news site, revealed that a student at Loudoun County Public Schools committed two acts of sexual assault, the second after having been transferred to a new school for committing the first.

The father of one of the students said that school administrators had tried to cover up the assaults because the male offender, who was found guilty, was wearing a skirt and had entered a girls' bathroom to assault his daughter.

During his campaign for Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin seized on the cover-up allegations, promising he would direct Miyares to open an investigation into the school district once elected. Soon after Youngkin and Miyares won their respective races, Miyares announced he would use his post to direct the Virginia attorney general's office to investigate Loudoun County Public Schools.

"We're obviously aware of some pretty horrific cases," Miyares said last November. "If there's anything that I want to bring back to the forefront in this process are the victims."

He added: "When prosecutors are making plea deals on child rape cases, over the objection of the family, I have a serious problem with that."

Miyares' office did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

GOP Rival Accuses Gov. Kemp Of ‘Hiding' 2020 Vote Fraud

GOP Rival Accuses Gov. Kemp Of ‘Hiding' 2020 Vote Fraud

In a March 12 radio interview, former senator David Perdue, who is challenging incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia's Republican gubernatorial primary, suggested that his opponent had orchestrated a "cover-up" of election fraud in the state after former President Donald Trump's 2020 loss.

"You know, I don't have the evidence to prove this, but it smacks of a cover-up this past year," Perdue told WMLB host Beth Beskin in the interview. "The governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, all four have closed ranks around the fact that they're claiming that we had a clean election."

Perdue first hinted that he thought Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger were involved in an election-related conspiracy in January, saying in another radio interview that the two Republicans were "sitting on" proof of voter fraud in Georgia's 2020 election.

Perdue, who received Trump's endorsement the day he announced his campaign, has previously attacked Kemp on local radio, blaming his opponent for Trump's loss in the state. But his latest comments, which accuse not only Raffensperger and Kemp, but state Attorney General Chris Carr and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan of systemically concealing evidence of voter fraud, are the most inflammatory he has made so far about the 2020 election.

The four elected officials Perdue accused in the interview are all Republicans, and all resisted, to varying degrees, Trump's false claim that the election was somehow stolen from him.

On Jan. 2, 2021, Trump called Raffensperger and told him to "find 11,780 votes" to overcome President Joe Biden's margin of victory in the state. The Georgia elections official refused to comply with Trump's request. In his book published last November, Raffensberger wrote that he felt the phone call from the former president — which is now the subject of a criminal investigation — "was a threat." Trump responded by backing Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) in a well-funded primary challenge to Raffensberger.

Both Perdue and Hice have promoted the fiction that Trump lost the 2020 election because of systemic voter fraud. Perdue, for his part, decided to run for the seat only after the former president spent months actively recruiting him to run against Kemp, who refused to overturn the 2020 election for Trump.

In December 2020, Trump called and reportedly "chewed out" Kemp while pressuring him to get Georgia's state legislature to overturn the election results. "Your governor could stop it very easily if he knew what the hell he was doing," Trump later told his supporters at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia. "So far we haven't been able to find the people in Georgia willing to do the right thing."

Kemp has since weathered a barrage of scathing attacks from the former president, who is still viewed favorably by many Georgia Republicans.

One of the clearest examples of the influence Trump still holds over state Republicans came at last year's party convention when the governor was booed during his speech, sometimes loudly enough to nearly drown out his voice, and heckled over his certification of Biden's 2020 victory.

Despite Trump's attempts to unseat Kemp, Kemp has not publicly rejected the former president's election conspiracies theories and offered him praise earlier this year.

Last year, Kemp signed S.B. 202, a restrictive election law that restricted absentee voting and added new voter identification requirements. Biden called the legislation "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

After signing the bill, which Kemp reportedly saw as a way to restore his damaged standing among Trump supporters, the governor gestured in the direction of election-related conspiracies, saying in a statement that "President Biden, the left, and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box."

Even with Trump's endorsement, Perdue trails Kemp by a relatively large margin. In the most recently conducted poll of Republican primary voters, 39% said they would vote for Perdue, while 50% said they would vote for Kemp.

Perdue's fundraising has also lagged his opponent's despite an extensive donor network which allowed him to raise impressive sums during his two campaigns for U.S. Senate.

The Georgia primary is an important test of Trump's influence over the Republican Party. The Republican former president hosted a fundraiser for Perdue on Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. A photo opportunity with the two Republicans reportedly cost attendees $24,200.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

How Republican Attorneys General May Rig The 2024 Election

How Republican Attorneys General May Rig The 2024 Election

As their states' top law enforcement officials, Republican attorneys general could use their broad powers to undermine the results of the 2024 presidential election with false claims of voter fraud, legal experts told the American Independent Foundation.

A Republican attorney general who is determined to undermine election results in their state would have broad authority to open investigations into claims of voter fraud, issue opinions on election law, and could even indict elections officials and poll workers, legal experts said.

Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University, said that while the state officials are not directly involved in the elections process, they could wield the legal authority granted to them by their office to interfere in the electoral process.

Attorneys general "have the broadest lanes of options and the most independence, I would argue, out of any official in state government," Nolette told the American Independent Foundation.

"I don't want to give the impression they can do whatever they want," Nolette said. "But just because they're not election officials doesn't mean that they won't have an impact on the election. And, in fact, I think they could have a substantial impact on election rules, and certainly the morass of litigation which, unfortunately, probably seems inevitable at this point in future election cycles."

Seth Masket, a University of Denver political scientist, said in a hypothetical 2024 presidential contest, a rogue attorney general could target voters and election officials with criminal charges: "If you have a state which votes narrowly Democratic but the state government is largely Republican, and the attorney general is Republican, we could see situations where the attorney general supports challenges to the way the vote was conducted, that they echo and bring forward some local concerns about the security of the vote, that they try and prosecute people for voting illegally, that they go after county clerks."

One example comes from Texas, where, in the aftermath of the 2020 election, state Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to indict two election officials, both Democrats, on criminal charges. Grand juries in both cases declined to charge the officials, but the two cases show the powers a right-wing attorney general could exercise in pursuit of voter fraud.

"Just the attorney general's involvement in this sort of thing could have the effect of intimidating some potential voters," Masket said.

Republicans running for attorney general in states which were close in the 2020 election appear ready to take a harder line against election crimes; many have begun to stoke fears around alleged voter fraud and undermine the legitimacy of state and national elections.

Kalamazoo attorney Matthew DePerno, who is running to be Michigan's next attorney general, spread a conspiracy theory in the aftermath of the 2020 election that voting machines in northern Michigan undercounted Republican votes. Trump has endorsed DePerno in the race.

Michigan Republicans don't hold an electoral primary for the attorney general nomination and instead will meet at their state convention in April to choose a candidate for the position. While another candidate, former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, currently leads in campaign contributions, DePerno could close the gap thanks to Trump's fundraising efforts on his behalf.

Republicans in Arizona and Wisconsin — where President Joe Biden won by 0.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively — have made the attorney general's power to prosecute election crimes a central part of their campaigns.

The front-runner for the Republican nomination in Arizona is Rodney Glassman, an attorney and former Democrat who has made conservative fears around voter fraud a key part of his campaign pitch. "Our elections need real oversight," Glassman said in his campaign announcement video. "If you cheat or commit fraud, you will be prosecuted."

Glassman has promised that, if elected, he will direct Arizona's recently formed Elections Integrity Unit to "investigate and prosecute election fraud." In the last 12 years, the Arizona attorney general's office has prosecuted and obtained convictions in just 34 cases of voter fraud.

These cases have backfired on Republicans in the past. Last September, an audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County that conservative activists had pushed for ended up awarding Biden 360 more votes. The Maricopa County Board voted last August to sue Republicans in the Arizona Senate for $2.8 million in damages to replace hundreds of voting machines and other voting equipment that was damaged in the audit.

Abraham Hamadeh, who is also running for attorney general in Arizona, was recently endorsed by the Koch-affiliated group FreedomWorks. Hamadeh has claimed that the 2020 election was rigged and promises to "prioritize the Election Integrity Unit and increase the number of prosecutors and investigators in order to be prepared and protect the 2024 election."

In Wisconsin, the front-runner in the Republican primary, Eric Toney, hasn't deployed the big lie explicitly. But he has gestured toward conservative anxieties about election security, saying on his campaign website that he "strongly supports improving and defending Wisconsin election laws."

Only one Nevada Republican has launched a campaign to challenge Democratic incumbent Attorney General Aaron Ford. Sigal Chattah, a Las Vegas attorney who became known for her legal opposition to the state's COVID-19 restrictions, hasn't made election integrity a major part of her campaign so far.

In 2020, Chattah donated $250 to Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was alleging that Democrats were prepared to steal the presidential election. In an interview with ABC News, Chattah said that Ford hadn't investigated voter fraud extensively enough. The Chattah campaign did not return a request for comment.

Many Republican attorneys general played an important role in trying to keep Trump in office after he lost the 2020 presidential election. In December 2020, Texas' Paxton filed a lawsuit petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the presidential vote totals in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In all, 17 out of 25 Republican attorneys general signed on to the lawsuit.

Ten GOP attorneys general have thrown their support behind lawsuits filed by the Pennsylvania Republican Party to prevent the state from counting mail-in ballots that arrived within three days after Election Day. Those late ballots would not have swung the election in Trump's favor.

While the Supreme Court quickly rejected the Texas lawsuit, its conservative majority could potentially have the power to decide the results of the next presidential election.

Were a Republican state legislature to overturn its state's elections by recalling electors and appointing an alternative slate — as Trump and his political allies across the country pushed legislatures in Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania to do in 2020 — the determination of such a ploy's constitutionality could fall to the Supreme Court. Nolette noted that attorneys general, many of whom have experience litigating before the court, "could play an important if not decisive role."

Professor James A. Gardner, a constitutional and election law professor at the University of Buffalo, said he's not confident that other state officials could constrain the power of a rogue attorney general.

"In states where there is a Democratic governor, that will make a difference," Gardner told the American Independent Foundation. "Where there is unified Republican control, my confidence is zero."

He added, "What the Republicans have repeatedly shown by their behavior is that law doesn't matter to them at all."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Meet The GOP Extremists Hoping To Unseat Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Meet The GOP Extremists Hoping To Unseat Michigan Gov. Whitmer

The race to unseat Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already attracted at least a dozen Republican candidates and millions of dollars in campaign spending.

Whitmer became a target of conservative ire, both statewide and nationally, for her lockdown orders, and is one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats, according to the Cook Political Report, which considers the Michigan governor's race a toss-up. While her favorability rating was underwater for most of the pandemic, polling from EPIC-MRA released Sunday pegs her at 50 percent favorability despite a negative job performance rating.

In that same poll, Whitmer has opened up a 5-point lead — 45 percent to 41 percent — over Craig after being tied with him for months.

Many of the Republicans aiming to unseat Whitmer have adopted the kind of extremist rhetoric used by former President Donald Trump, both embracing Trump's baseless claims of widespread election fraud in Michigan and calling for the arrest of political and ideological opponents.

At least five of the GOP candidates have said they believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump — including one candidate who was involved in both the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol building and the 2020 storming of the Michigan state Capitol by armed militia members.

While a majority of candidates have not engaged in this kind of "lock her up" rhetoric, a majority of Michigan Republican gubernatorial hopefuls have cast varying degrees of doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

James Craig

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who served from 2013 to 2021, is the frontrunner in the GOP primary race and has already raised $1.4 million. In a July campaign ad announcing his candidacy, Craig touted his police force's crackdown in 2020 on racial justice protesters in a city where 78 percent of residents are Black.

The ad begins, "We know Seattle burned, Portland burned. Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia — burned. Even some cities here in Michigan. But not Detroit."

Detroit police officers have been accused by activists of engaging in disproportionately aggressive responses — using tear gas and rubber bullets against nonviolent crowds, arresting and detaining peaceful protestors, and, in one case, driving an SUV through a crowd of protestors — to what were some of the most peaceful protests in the country that summer.

In 2020, a federal judge temporarily banned the DPD from using shields, gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds, sound cannons, and batons against protesters because of excessive force allegations.

Craig's police department did not use the same harsh crowd-control methods on Trump supporters who tried to illegally enter a Detroit absentee ballot counting center during the aftermath of the 2020 election. Craig said police officers treated the Trump supporters less harshly than Black Lives Matter protesters "because they were peaceful."

Garrett Soldano

Garrett Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor who opposed Whitmer's stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has raised $1 million.

Soldano, who played a decisive role in organizing the resistance to Whitmer's lockdown orders and eventually launched the Unlock Michigan campaign that defeated the lockdown orders, said on Twitter that Dr. Anthony Fauci should serve a life sentence.

Soldano and Craig have both called for an audit of the Michigan vote total while not explicitly endorsing the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Ryan D. Kelley

Ryan Kelley took part in the right-wing insurrection that took place on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. While Kelley has claimed he never entered the building, footage emerged on Twitter in July 2021 showing him advancing on the Capitol building.

"Come on, let's go! This is it!" Kelley can be heard shouting in the video. "This is war, baby!"

Kelley had previously downplayed his participation in the insurrection.

"As far as going through any barricades or doing anything like that, I never took part in any forceful anything," he told MLive in March. "Once things started getting crazy, I left."

Kelley co-founded the American Patriot Council, a Michigan militia whose members violated COVID-19 regulations to enter the state capitol in 2020 while armed with rifles.

Last September, Kelley proposed that President Joe Biden should be tried for treason against the United States — a crime for which death is a possible penalty — while speaking at a candidates' forum hosted by the Oceana County Republican Party. And in November, Kelley called for Whitmer's arrest, accusing her of violating the Constitution of the United States.

Along with Kelley, four other candidates — Articia Bomer, Bob Scott, Evan Space, and Ralph Rebandt — have taken up Trump's false claim that Biden only won Michigan because of widespread voter fraud.

Tudor Dixon

Tudor Dixon, a conservative talk show host from Norton Shores, Michigan, has claimed without evidence that "Democrats took advantage of COVID" in a "premeditated" way to win the 2020 election, and accused Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of conducting the election "in a way that was ripe for fraud."

Despite her numerous claims about the legitimacy of Michigan's 2020 presidential election results — where Biden successfully flipped a state Trump won in 2016 — Dixon has said she honors "the certified results of the election."

The television network Real America's Voice, which hosts Dixon's show "America's Voice Live," also employs Trump's former senior adviser Steve Bannon. Dixon has raised $200,000 in her bid to unseat Whitmer.

Kevin Rinke

Kevin Rinke, a millionaire businessman, has not outright disputed the results of the 2020 election. However, he has alluded to voter fraud conspiracy theories by campaigning on elections that "guarantee integrity."

Who Will Trump Endorse?

Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate in the Michigan governor's race. Last year, Dixon and Craig both traveled to Florida to meet with him.

A Trump endorsement is often a good predictor of victory — at least in Republican primaries. Nearly every Republican candidate Trump endorsed in 2018 and 2020 won their primary contests.

Trump has endorsed two other candidates running for statewide office in Michigan: Kristina Karamo, a part-time adjunct professor at Wayne County Community College who is running for secretary of state, and Matthew DePerno, a Kalamazoo attorney who is running for attorney general.

Both Karamo and DePerno have said they support Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Reprinted with permission from the American Independent

Biden's COVID-19 Relief Bill Created Millions Of Jobs, Report Confirms

Biden's COVID-19 Relief Bill Created Millions Of Jobs, Report Confirms

A new report from the Roosevelt Institute found that the American Rescue Plan — the $1.9 trillion spending bill passed by Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March — blunted some of the worst economic effects of COVID-19.

"There are many achievements to celebrate, from millions more jobs and higher wages to greater economic security and increased worker power," the report's authors, Mike Konczal and Emily DiVito, wrote. "And even better, we avoided the worst-case alternative: the weaker, slower recovery that was projected if the American Rescue Plan (ARP) had not passed, and deeper harm to those who've historically been left behind by past recoveries."

The stimulus package pushed growth beyond government predictions across several categories, including employment, wages, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the report.

Before the stimulus package was passed, the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee predicted a slow, grinding recovery similar to the one that followed the 2008 economic recession. But after the American Rescue Plan went into effect, unemployment rates fell rapidly with the addition of more than 1.3 million jobs. At present, the U.S. economy is rebounding roughly eight times faster than it did after 2008.

The American Rescue Plan has been especially crucial for younger and lower-income workers. Using data from the Atlanta Federal Reserve, the Roosevelt Institute found that workers aged 16 to 24 saw a 9.7 percent wage increase, while the bottom quarter of wage-earners saw a 5.1 percent increase — even when accounting for inflation.

The American Rescue Plan has also benefited American workers more broadly. According to
Arindrajit Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the bottom 70 percent of workers have seen "real wage growth" over the past two years. Given that U.S. wages have remained stagnant for decades, this represents a significant shift in favor of American workers. From 1964 to 2018, the average American hourly wage increased by just two dollars, adjusted for inflation — a paltry 10 percent raise over the course of 54 years.

Other benefits have accrued to the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The Roosevelt Institute's analysis found that, in large part because of the American Rescue Plan, the wealth of the bottom 50 percent of households has grown 63 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Now, the bottom half of Americans collectively own $3 trillion.

Despite these wins for American workers, staggering levels of wealth inequality persist. The wealthiest one percent controls more than $42 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Still, the American Rescue Plan has given economic relief to millions of U.S. households, many of whom were struggling long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. In 2018, 40 percent of Americans said they would struggle to cover an unexpected $400 expense, the Federal Reserve found.

As a result of this newfound economic security, workers are now better positioned to find new and better jobs, according to the Roosevelt Institute's report. The authors point to markers of worker mobility, which are at historic highs. They also argued that workers now have more leverage to fight for better working conditions, with nearly 1,000 strikes and labor actions taking place this year. And data show that workers largely support this resurgent labor movement: fully 68 percent of Americans say they approve of unions, the largest share since 1965.

The report also notes that, according to the International Monetary Fund, the American economy is expected to grow by nearly 8% between 2020 and 2022. This far outpaces the economic growth rates of comparable countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan, and Italy. It even outpaces the IMF's earlier projections for the United States, which had GDP increasing by less than 2% over the same time period.

This sharp uptick in U.S. economic growth is "a direct effect" of the American Rescue Plan, according to the Roosevelt Institute report.

The United States still faces very real challenges, including new coronavirus variants, supply chain issues, and "surprising inflation," the report's authors write. But overall, they argue, the American Rescue Plan's successes "deserve a central place in the story of this recovery. Everything, from rapid job growth on down, was a choice based on prioritizing full employment. That was the right decision."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Attorney General Nominee In Virginia Took $2.6 Million From Promoters Of January 6 ‘Rally’

Attorney General Nominee In Virginia Took $2.6 Million From Promoters Of January 6 ‘Rally’

Virginia Del. Jason Miyares, the Republican nominee for state attorney general, has taken $2.6 million from the Republican Attorneys General Association, making the group Miyares' largest contributor by far.

The Republican Attorneys General Association has promoted the false claim that the presidential election was "stolen" from Donald Trump in 2020. Democrats in Virginia have accused the group of encouraging the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and hundreds injured.

In January 2021, the group's policy wing, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, sent out a robocall encouraging "patriots" to "stop the steal" and "fight to protect the integrity of our elections" by rallying outside the U.S. Capitol.

"At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal," a voice on the pre-recorded phone call said. "We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue to fight to protect the integrity of our elections."

Miyares, a three-term delegate representing Virginia's 82nd district, has said that his three years of experience as a prosecutor in Virginia informed his campaign. He has spent much of his campaign accusing his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, of having a "criminal first, victim last" mindset.

Miyares has also targeted Virginia's parole board for releasing felons convicted of violent crimes. On the campaign trail and in campaign ads, Miyares has attempted to tie Herring with the parole board's controversies. Herring has no authority over the parole board's actions.

"It's a scandal and Attorney General Mark Herring is guilty," Miyares said in one campaign ad.

But Miyares has so far been silent about the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when scores of Trump supporters forced their way into the building and clashed with Capitol Police officers in an attempt to overturn the certification of the 2020 election results.

A majority of Republican attorneys general have tried to push the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the 2020 election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit alleging that the vote tallies in those states "suffered from unconstitutional irregularities" and were invalid.

Seventeen of the country's 26 Republican state attorneys general signed on to the lawsuit.

Over the past week, the American Independent Foundation has reached out to Miyares' campaign multiple times to ask if he would have joined Paxton's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results if he were Virginia's attorney general. The American Independent Foundation also asked if Miyares personally denounced the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and asked him to comment on the Republican Attorneys General Association's robocall.

At press time, Miyares' campaign refused to respond to three separate requests for comment.

The Republican Attorneys General Association has been pouring money into the Virginia race and has given $2.6 million to Miyares' campaign. But the organization has been in disarray since the January robocall incident, which led three senior officials to resign in protest.

Adam Piper, the group's executive director, resigned in January amid widespread criticism of the group's apparent support for the Stop the Steal rally. The group's board of directors replaced Piper with Peter Bisbee, who was the director of the group's Rule of Law Defense Fund and who had personally approved the January 6 robocall.

Bisbee's promotion prompted two senior leaders in the organization to resign in protest, following Piper's lead. On April 16, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr resigned his position as the group's president and chairman of the board. In his resignation letter, Carr cited a "significant difference of opinion" with other members on "the direction this organization should take going forward."

"This fundamental difference of opinion began with vastly opposite views of the significant of the events of January 6 and the resistance by some to accepting the resignation of the executive director," Carr wrote in the letter. "The differences have continued as we have tried to restore RAGA's reputation internally and externally and were reflected once again during the process of choosing our next executive director."

Shortly after Carr's resignation, Ashley Trenzeluk resigned her position as the group's finance director. In her resignation letter, Trenzeluk said the board's decision to install Bisbee as executive director after Piper quit animated her decision to leave the organization.

"As RLDF Executive Director, Pete Bisbee approved the robocall expenditure, and was the only other person accountable for RLDF involvement in the January 6 events," Trenzeluk wrote at the time. "Over the last few months, I have fielded, reassured and assuaged concerns from our core donor base on the future direction of our organization. The result of the executive committee vote to nominate Pete as RAGA's Executive Director is a decision I cannot defend."

The group has maintained it "had no involvement in the planning, sponsoring, or the organization of" the January 6 event.

With less than a week to go before the November 2 election, Herring is narrowly leading Miyares in the polls, 47.6% to 46.6%, according to the Republican polling firm Cygnal.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.