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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 Yorker reported 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 Inquirer reported 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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’

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.

New Report Shows How Americans Pay For Trump’s Trade War

Farmers have been filing for bankruptcy at record rates, economic growth is stalled, and manufacturing is in a recession — all contrary to Donald Trump’s promises that he would return the economy to four percent growth and be the “greatest jobs president God ever created.”

Now a United Nations report released Tuesday “finds implicit evidence that the cost of the tariffs has been generally passed down to United States consumers.”

“US consumers are paying for the tariffs,” said Alessandro Nicita, an economist at the U.N.’s trade agency, “in terms of higher prices.”

The report only analyzed the first six months of 2019 and does not include Trump’s September tariffs. Economists from University College London and the London School of Economics expect the new wave of tariffs to cost middle-income American families almost $500 a year, as electronics like washing machines and televisions — as well as basic foods, like pork, cheese, and beer — all become more expensive.

CNBC reported in May that the cost of Trump’s trade war with countries like China and Canada is “equivalent to one of the largest tax increases in decades.”

Trump first started his trade war with China in April of last year, when he levied tariffs on Chinese products like shoes, airplane parts, and batteries. He also put a tax on foreign steel and aluminum. The Chinese government responded in kind, imposing its own tax on American goods, especially machinery, electronics, and agricultural produce.

Trump has claimed that his trade war would lead to more jobs for Americans and make the U.S. richer at China’s expense, but that hasn’t happened.

And China’s retaliation has hurt American farmers in particular, who have lost billions because of falling Chinese demand.

“Trump is ruining our markets,” Bob Kuylen, a North Dakota farmer, told CNBC in August. “No one is buying our product no more, and we have no markets no more.”

“There’s no incentive to keep farming, except that I’ve invested everything I have in farming, and it’s hard to walk away,” he said.

Factory workers have fared poorly too.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Industries Trump promised in 2016 to revitalize — such as automobiles, steel, coal, and mining — have faced downsizing, bankruptcy, and closure. Manufacturing’s tough times, which now qualify as a recession, are largely due to Trump’s trade war.

Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told NPR that Trump’s trade war is a key contributor to the slowing U.S. economy, which is now growing half as quickly as Trump promised on the campaign trail.

“Businesses don’t know where to place their bets and don’t know where to invest when they don’t know where the next tariffs are going to come from,” she said. “That’s been one of the biggest weights on the U.S. economy.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.

‘Lock Him Up!’: Eric Trump Targets Hunter Biden At Rally

At Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Minnesota Thursday night, Eric Trump led the crowd in a chant of “Lock him up!” against Hunter Biden.

At the event, Trump baselessly accused former Vice President Joe Biden’s son of embezzlement and suggested the infamous chant Trump supporters have used against Hillary Clinton since the 2016 campaign should now be applied to Hunter Biden.

“Maybe ‘Lock her up!’ goes to ‘Lock him up!'” Trump said.

The audience obeyed and picked up the chant.

Trump’s performance at the rally is the latest example of his personal crusade against Hunter Biden. While the rest of the news-cycle has been focused on impeachment, Trump has spent more than a week on a Fox News offensive, complaining that the media is unfairly critical of him and his siblings while letting Hunter Biden off the hook for nonexistent crimes.

In the past week, he’s gone on The Ingraham Angle, The Story,” and Hannity.

On Oct. 7, Trump joined Fox & Friends to argue that the media has unfairly targeted him despite his “scandal-free life.”

“I’ve lived a totally scandal-free life, I’ve lived an incredibly clean life,” he said, “and they go after me, and they go after Don, and Ivanka, and Barron, and Tiffany, and our children. For what?”

He made these same arguments in op-ed he wrote in The Hill earlier this month, accusing the media of “viciously” attacking his family.

“But can you imagine, if they were willing to try and destroy a ‘kid’ who dedicated his life to pediatric cancer and philanthropy, what the media would say if I had secured a $50,000 a month job on the board of a Ukrainian company, with no discernable duties, in an industry I knew nothing about, in a country where I did not even speak the language?” he wrote.

This, he insisted, is a “double standard.”

Trump claimed that in less than a decade he “raised more than $20 million for terminally ill children at Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital.” Despite that charity work, he said he “was viciously chastised by the Democrats and the media who relentlessly tried to manufacture stories about me, my mission, and my intentions with the charity.”

However, Trump has hardly led a “scandal-free life,” and his charity is under investigation.

A 2017 Forbes report found that the Donald J. Trump Foundation gave $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation in order to cover the cost of fundraisers held at Trump properties, a move that turned charitable donations into profit. The Forbes report prompted the New York attorney general to launch an investigation into the Eric Trump Foundation and to expand the already-ongoing investigation into his father’s charity.

In the past Eric Trump had claimed that all money raised for his charity “obviously goes to the children of St. Jude.” The foundation’s website also assured donors that all donations went to supporting St. Jude. But the Daily Beast reported in 2018 that his foundation spent $145,000 of the $1.8 million it raised in 2016 on covering the cost of fundraisers at various Trump properties, including Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, Trump Golf Links Ferry Point, Mar-a-Lago, and the Trump SoHo, now called the Dominick.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation, of which Eric Trump was listed as an officer, along with his siblings Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, dissolved in 2018 under the weight of the New York State’s attorney general’s investigation. Eric Trump’s foundation remains under investigation.

But to Eric Trump, it’s Joe Biden’s son who deserves the media’s scrutiny for debunked conspiracy theories — and now jail time, too.

Published with permission of The American Independent.