w/ Brad & Desi
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BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...
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There's a reason I always warn, when reporting election results on The BradCast, that they have only been tallied by computers to date, and that errors in results often do not come to light until days, weeks or even months after elections...if ever. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
BUT FIRST UP TODAY... Some thoughts on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' 'Doomsday Clock' which was, this week, ticked forward from '100 Seconds until Midnight' to just '90 Seconds until Midnight.' The main reason for the move, the first since 2020, as explained by The Bulletin, whose esteemed scientists, diplomats and Nobel Laureates take such decisions quite seriously, is thanks to "Russia's war on Ukraine," its "thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons," and for "violating international protocols and risking widespread release of radioactive materials" in bringing "its war to the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor sites."
In response to the metaphorical clock --- first unveiled at the dawn of the Cold War in 1947 --- being moved closer than ever to a proverbial 'midnight', when humanity destroys itself, a Kremlin spokesperson said Wednesday that the move was "really alarming." (Really? You were "alarmed" by this, Russia? Really?!)
That, on the same day that the U.S. and nearly a dozen European countries finally agreed to send modern battle tanks to Ukraine so the sovereign former Soviet nation can better defend itself from the grotesque, ongoing, hostile invasion by it's empirical neighbor.
We take the opportunity today to explain why --- amid our years of (continuing) anti-war advocacy --- we, nonetheless, support Ukraine's right to defend itself against Russia's war crimes; agree with critical support being supplied by fellow democratic nations against an autocratic invader; and how we see many of those on the supposed Left in the U.S. that are echoing Kremlin propaganda by, among other things, demanding Ukraine declare a ceasefire and negotiate with their invaders, have been unhelpfully (and wildly) misled.
THEN... Yes, we likely drive regular listeners crazy when reporting results after elections and offering the caveat, over and over again, that reported results in the immediate aftermath are wholly unverified and only tallied by computers --- either correctly or incorrectly --- and that there is no way to know for certain either way unless and until results of hand-marked paper ballots are examined by actual human beings.
Last week, more than two months since the November midterm elections, we finally learned that a computer tabulator mistallied some of the results in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The error appears to have resulted in at least one loser being named as the winner in a School Board race in Ocean Township. After a probe into "an unrelated issue" caused the County's Board of Elections to notice potential problems in the tallies, an investigation reportedly found errors in six voting districts across four municipalities.
One candidate named as a loser after November 8 last year appears to have won his race by a single vote after results were correctly re-tallied. But a bunch of races had been mistallied originally thanks to results from at least one precinct being uploaded more than once to the Election Management System's central tabulator from a USB memory stick.
While there is no evidence of nefariousness in the matter, a spokesperson from the County's private election vendor, ES&S (the nation's largest), attempted to downplay what happened as "a human procedural error". But the fact that it is even possible to upload the same results more than once without a system warning is disturbing. Longtime election and voting system experts have expressed horror at the problem, if not surprise, given the woeful state of NJ's post-election audit protocols and the nature of proprietary computerized voting system software.
Since the problem has come to light, one state lawmaker has called for passage of a measure that would mandate Open Source software on all voting and tabulation systems in the Garden State, along with the use of paper ballots at polling places. I explain today why Open Source systems (while a fine idea if we must tally ballots with computers) is no panacea, and why the state Senator's call for "paper ballots" --- as opposed to HAND-MARKED paper ballots --- will likely ensure that 100% unverifiable touchscreen voting systems, still shamefully used across most of the state at the polls on Election Day, will continue to undermine confidence in NJ elections.
FINALLY... Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with a spate of troubling new studies on the deteriorating state of our climate, but also with a number of stories detailing some good news, of late, in response to it!
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Spate of new studies finds climate impacts are escalating; U.S. Forest Service bans logging in Alaskan rainforest --- again; PLUS: Scientists move metaphoric 'Doomsday Clock' closer to catastrophe... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 'No miracles needed': Prof Mark Jacobson on how wind, sun and water can power the world; Atlanta police kill forest defender at protest encampment; Nuclear regulators nix proposal to delay closure of last California nuclear power plant; USDA tightens organic rules amid fraud cases like a $46 million alleged scheme; Why a London-sized iceberg breaking off of Antarctica isn't concerning scientists; PA drillers abandoned thousands of gas wells in 5 years, ignored state law ... PLUS: Retired coal sites to host multi-day iron-air batteries... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast we focus on two different rightwing scammers: The Heritage Foundation and George Santos. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
The Heritage Foundation's decades-long effort to suppress the vote received a multi-million dollar boost following the 2020 election. Also, there is some new news today on what appears to be a fairly huge campaign finance violation by newly-elected Republican pathological liar, Rep. George Santos. But is it possible that Santos' scam is larger than anybody seems to yet appreciate?
We're joined today to discuss both scammers by BRENDAN FISCHER, one of the nation's foremost campaign finance experts who now serves as Deputy Executive Director for Documented, an investigative watchdog and journalism organization.
For some time, Fischer's group has been digging into and exposing the multi-state, multi-million dollar campaign by the rightwing Heritage Foundation's political action offshoot, Heritage Action. The "dark money" group has been pushing new voter suppression bills through swing-state legislatures with copy and paste "model legislation" in the wake of false claims of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. Their work is often disguised --- as Executive Director Jessica Anderson was caught boasting to donors about in a 2021 video tape --- to have that "grassroots, ya know, from the bottom-up type of vibe."
Documented recently unearthed Heritage's four-page "Election Integrity Plan" [PDF] from 2021. It details the effort to push restrictions on voting through state legislatures after "in some cases, we actually draft" the bills for them, as Anderson, a former Trump official, is seen bragging to donors on that tape.
"Iowa's the first state that we got to work in," she explains, "and we did it quickly and we did it quietly. Honestly? Nobody noticed!" Anderson also cites "eight key provisions" the group supposedly was able to get into Georgia's controversial 2021 voter suppression measure, SB202, which was quickly signed into law --- supposedly at Heritage's urging --- by Gov. Brian Kemp.
IA and GA were two of "19 states [that] passed 34 laws restricting access to voting" in 2021, according to the Brennan Center for Justice that year, more than in any year since they began tracking such legislation in 2011.
Earlier this month, in addition to obtaining and publishing Heritage Action's "Election Integrity Plan", Fischer joined with Ed Pilkington at The Guardian to detail the organization's previously-unreported tax filings from 2021 [PDF], detailing more than $5 million in outside lobbying services in at least 24 states. That, after spending $0 on outside lobbying the previous year. The anti-democracy "dark money" outfit also spent more than $6 million on contractors for "marketing and advertising" in 2021, a substantial increase from the year before. The expenditures including more than a million dollars spent in support of GA's bill alone. In all, as Fischer and Pilkington report, Heritage's "Election Integrity Plan" earmarked at least $24 million to push these measures in at least eight swing-states over the past two years.
In addition to efforts to adopt restrictions on voting in the states, Heritage also worked to block legislation that would protect voting rights at the federal level. "The millions of dollars that Heritage Action spent in 2021 included substantial expenditures to pressure [Senators Joe] Manchin and [Kyrsten] Sinema in order to not reform the filibuster and thwart democracy reform legislation," Fischer tells me today.
"In West Virginia, in particular, they also did it with drummed-up fake grassroots activity," he explains. "Heritage Action and other groups organized buses to bus activists from out of state to West Virginia for a rally that was intended to 'save the filibuster' and protest Manchin's potential openness to changing the filibuster rules." It worked. Manchin and Sinema refused to reform the Senate's anti-democratic filibuster rule to pass the landmark Freedom to Vote Act in 2021. That measure would have been the most comprehensive voting rights and campaign finance reform measure since the 1960s. And, yes, as Fischer notes, the bill would have also "ended dark money!"
We've got a lot more to discuss along those lines with Fischer today. But, as long as he was here, there was an unrelated matter I wanted to get his thoughts on.
On Tuesday night, newly elected Republican Congressman and unrepentant liar George Santos amended several of his campaign finance disclosure documents. Santos had previously claimed in FEC disclosures that he had loaned his own campaign some $700,000. That was already suspicious, given that two years earlier, Santos claimed to have been making about $50,000/year. But, as The Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger noticed on Tuesday, his amended forms now claim the funds did not come from him personally --- though they don't explain where the money actually did come from. Any campaign donation that large from someone other than the candidate would be an unlawful contribution.
While the Santos campaign seems to be admitting to what Josh Marshall characterizes as "major crimes" in their new filings, I have a different, completely ridiculous, couldn't-possible-be-true theory to ask Fischer about today: Is it possible that nobody actually gave $700,000 to Santos' campaign? That it was a paper claim only? There was no such loans at all?
Of course, that seems absurd, but this is George Santos we're talking about. More to the point, it should be noted that last year Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) successfully won a case at the corrupt U.S. Supreme Court which held that personal loans made to campaigns by candidates could actually be paid back after the election, in unlimited amounts, by anyone else. Lobbyists, etc. Is it even possible that Santos could have claimed to have made those personal loans to his campaign but that no money was actually ever given to his campaign at all? Allowing him to be "repaid" later by others after the election? It would certainly be a swell way for a wayward conman like Santos to make a cool $700,000, no?
I pose the question about this to Fischer with the full expectation that I'll be told there's no way something like that could have happened without it being discovered by officials long ago. Tune in to hear his response...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
Some tea leaf reading was necessary on today's BradCast, but it's our consensus that the news out of a hearing today at the Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court is encouraging. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
BUT FIRST TODAY, maddeningly, we've got to run through the litany of mass shooting over just the past 24 hours or so, following the horrific massacre over the weekend at a dance hall in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles. Since covering that shooting which resulted in 11 dead and 9 injured on yesterday's program, the massacres --- most apparently carried out with semi-automatic weapons and extended magazines that allow at least 30 rounds to be fired in seconds --- have continued. Two more in California. Another in Iowa. Another in Washington state. Republicans continue to send their thoughts and prayers. Democrats continue to try and actually do something about the epidemic.
AND SPEAKING OF EPIDEMICS, apparently the mishandling of classified documents by former Vice Presidents is a bit of an epidemic. Today, it was Mike Pence's turn to announce that his attorneys found "a small number of documents bearing classified markings" stored at his new palatial home in Indiana. While CNN's report compares the situation to Joe Biden's in paragraph 3, one must read all the way to paragraph 13 before the former President is mentioned.
You may remember him. He's the one who, literally, stole hundreds of classified documents comprising thousands of pages, on purpose, when he left the White House. He then repeatedly refused to return them to federal government officials (to whom he lied) for more than a year, despite the government begging him to return them and being forced to subpoena them, before finally taking them by force via a federal search warrant finding probable cause that multiple crimes were under way by the former President.
Once again, we've got to provide appropriate context to the story today since corporate media continues to fail to do so. In brief, the Pence and Biden cases are ones in which they discovered they had several documents they shouldn't have had in their possession, likely stored there by aides without their knowledge. After discovering them, the former Veeps then notified authorities and returned the documents. That, of course, is nothing like the felony crimes that Donald Trump pulled off and, apparently, continues to pull off even today, with dozens of classified documents still known to be missing.
Our friend Marcy Wheeler, investigative national security journalist, provided a handy chart today to help a few of our failed corporate media friends out when attempting to report on these apparently totally confusing matters...
NEXT, we move to the fascinating --- and encouraging, we think --- hearing at Fulton County Superior Court today. Two weeks ago, a Special Process Grand Jury convened by Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis completed its work and was dissolved. After eight months of investigation and some 75 interviews with subpoenaed witness, the panel completed a report and submitted it to Willis and Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. While Special Process Grand Juries in GA, unlike regular Grand Juries, are not empaneled to issue indictments, they may recommend such indictments in their final report.
The panel has been investigating efforts by Trump and his supporters after the 2020 Presidential election to strong-arm state officials into stealing results on his behalf after he narrowly lost in the Peach State. The probe was kicked off by Willis shortly after the release of Trump's infamous, January 2, 2021 phone call to GA Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to "find" 11,870 votes "one more than we have" to steal the election for Trump and threatening the Secretary with legal action if he failed to do so.
In addition to that, the Special Grand Jury is believed to have been investigating calls made by other Trump allies to state officials; false allegations of election fraud proffered to state legislators; attempts to threaten and pressure poll workers into falsely confessing to fraud; the 16 Georgia Republicans who falsely claimed to be "duly elected and qualified" electors; the abrupt resignation of Trump's U.S. Attorney in Atlanta; and the unlawful breach and duplication of voting system software and data in rural Coffee County (as originally reported in detail on this program.)
Nobody other than Willis and McBurney (and the Special Grand Jurors) know what is in their report, but the panel requested that it be made public. Today's hearing in Atlanta was convened to determine if that would happen in full immediately, in part immediately, or not at all until sometime in the future. Willis and her office argued against immediate public disclosure of report, offering some tasty morsels as to why.
"We think, for future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released," Willis told the Judge. "At this time, in the interest of justice and the rights of, not the state, but others, we are asking that the report not be released because you, having seeing that report... [pause]...decisions are imminent."
What does that mean exactly? We discuss. Along with the counter arguments from an attorney representing media outlets such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, New York Times and Wall Street Journal who argued today for the immediate public disclosure of the Special Grand Jury report. "We believe the report should be released now and in its entirety," argued the media intervenors' attorney, Tom Clyde. The question is difficult, given the rarity of Special Process Grand Juries in GA and the extraordinary circumstances of what they've been investigation. Judge McBurney is now considering his options. Willis is free to move ahead with indictments at any time, no matter what is ultimately decided about the report.
FINALLY TODAY, Desi Doyen has our latest Green News Report, with news on California's recently disastrous string of punishing storms; a new report on whether off-shore wind power is killing whales off the U.S. northeast coast; the high cost of weather disasters in the U.S. in 2022; and some good news for manatees off the coast of Florida...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Damages from California's storms to top $1 billion; No, offshore wind did not kill whales off U.S. northeast coast; Extreme weather disasters displaced 3.3 million Americans in 2022; PLUS: Hand-feeding manatees in Florida appears to be saving the species... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Pakistan blackout: Cash-strapped nation cuts power to save money, then can't turn it back on; Protest in Atlanta over state police killing of environmental activist turns violent; How Texas’ electricity plan could change the grid; EPA takes charge of Alabama landfill fire after finding carcinogens in air samples; 1st small modular nuclear reactor certified for use in US; Depleted under Trump, 'traumatized' EPA struggles with its mission ... PLUS: New solar panels help farmers harness full lights spectrum to improve crop yields... and much, MUCH more! ...
There has been a boatload of news from late on Friday, over the weekend, right on up to airtime before today's BradCast. That seems to happen a lot these days. In any event, we tried to keep up or get caught up with a whole bunch of it today, and to take calls from a diverse range of listeners on almost all of it.
Among the topics and news items we discussed today (along with a number of callers who saw some of these things differently than me...at least when their calls began)...
In fact, this is the "Goofus and Gallant" of document scandals, as fans of Highlights Magazine from the dentist office of your childhood may remember. Goofus (Trump) stole documents and, when caught, lied and refused to return them. Gallant (Biden) discovered he had documents he wasn't supposed to have, promptly notified authorities and returned them. As explained today, if anything, that stark difference should make it more, not less likely that Trump is charged. Or even that both are charged. But to suggest Trump can't be charged now --- as media and some Dems are doing --- is patently ridiculous. We discuss. Including with callers. One of whom tells us she also got in trouble regarding classified documents that were accidentally mishandled by someone who worked with her.
"Everything Donald does is transactional," Mary Trump, a licensed psychologist and niece of the disgraced former President has explained.
A scathing federal court decision late last week, awarding nearly one million dollars in sanctions against Don the Con and his attorney in response to just one of his many recent frivolous lawsuits against perceived political enemies, underscores Mary's point. It also details how, since leaving office, 2020's biggest loser has engaged in and continues to engage in a litigation grift.
The withering 46-page order [PDF] handed down last Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks in Donald J. Trump v. Hillary Clinton, et al. does more than explain why the veteran federal jurist awarded an eye-popping $937,989 in attorney's fee sanctions against the former President and his New Jersey lawyer, Alina Habba. The erudite legal ruling also contained an in-depth discussion of more than a half-dozen other deceptive and frivolous lawsuits that this "predator" and "successful sociopath" filed against those he has long hoped to paint as enemies since leaving office.
In an attempt at reversing his more than 7 million vote loss at the polls, Trump and his allies filed and lost 61 out of 62 post-election lawsuits. The cases were so devoid of merit, so replete with deceptive allegations, that many of the former President's attorneys were later confronted with ethics complaints and sanctions ranging from fines, to censure and even disbarment.
In the aftermath of that debacle, a normal, non-sociopathic person would have slunk off towards oblivion, tail between his/her legs. Not The Donald.
From a "transactional" perspective, those 61 "losing" cases were a smashing success. They provided the failed President an opportunity to rake-in $250 million from his gullible "base".
But, along with imposing nearly $1 million in attorney's fees sanctions --- including almost $172,000 that Trump will now have to pay out to perhaps his greatest perceived personal nemesis, Hillary Clinton --- Judge Middlebrooks expressed the need to remediate the harm caused to the 31 named Defendants, whom he regarded as the victims of an "abusive" and "completely frivolous" complaint. His Honor eviscerated Trump's lawsuit as one "that should never have been filed"; a lawsuit that was drafted only "to advance a political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant." The veteran and very able jurist also expressed a hope that the eye-popping amount of court sanctions might act as a deterrent.
Nonetheless, as long as Trump's litigation fundraising continues to rake-in enormous sums, it's unlikely that anything short of criminal prosecution for some of his many alleged crimes will ultimately accomplish that worthy goal. Maybe...
Today on The BradCast: Naturally. Now they're coming for citizen ballot initiatives too. They really do hate democracy, don't they?
But, first up today... As we await several criminal indictments hopefully headed the way of our failed, twice-impeached former President, an order released by a federal Judge in Florida last night was particularly satisfying.
It came in response to a motion for sanctions by Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and more than a dozen other defendants in a failed lawsuit filed by Donald Trump and his latest foolish attorney/sucker, Alina Habba, last year. In fact, the first version of Trump's suit was so deficient and devoid of facts or even actual charges, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks was kind enough to allow them to refile it before dismissing the second, longer, but no better version with prejudice.
On Thursday night, Judge Middlebrooks, in a blistering (and I mean blistering) 46-page order [PDF], explained why he was granting the defendants' request for sanctions. He began thusly: "This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim. ... Thirty-one individuals and entities were needlessly harmed in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative. A continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Mr. Trump and his lawyers undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans, and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm."
And that's just the first two paragraphs! It gets even more brutally scathing from there, before concluding with an order for Trump and Habba to pay nearly $1 million to the defendants for the "completely frivolous bad faith" suit brought for "an improper purpose" amounting to "abusive litigation tactics." Perhaps most fun: the single biggest award of fees for a single defendant went to Clinton, who Trump must now pay almost $172,000!
Then, in more serious news today... Progressive citizen ballot initiatives did exceptionally well in 2022, on everything from abortion rights to the legalization of marijuana to the expansion of health care. Yes, even in so-called "red" states. As it turns out, progressive ideas seem to be wildly popular among voters of all stripes! And there is likely much more to come in 2023 and 2024, on abortion rights, minimum wage, gun safety, independent redistricting commissions and much more.
Therefore, in a number of states where Republicans have locked themselves into power with gerrymandered legislatures, they are moving toward making such statewide exercises in "direct democracy" more difficult to get onto the ballot in the first place, and hoping to make them harder to adopt by raising the threshold for passage, for example, from 50% to 60% where they can get away with it.
We're joined today by CHRIS MELODY FIELDS FIGUEREDO, Executive Director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center to discuss both progressive successes on statewide ballot measures around the country in 2022 and what the GOP is now doing to try and prevent those successes from happening again.
"That was a huge moment last year in a trend that I know is going to continue as we look at 2023 and '24, where we really see, in many states, that our elected officials are out of touch with the people," Figueredo tells me. "And in most states where they tried to limit the ability of the people to bring forth issues to their community through the ballot measure process, in most cases those were rejected in the states. So there's a lot of opportunity ahead of us."
But, she cautions, "We are seeing a direct backlash to what is happening across the country, of progressive issues winning when they're put before the voters. We're not seeing those changes, which the people say are urgent and important, through our representatives in government, whether it's at city council, whether it's at the state legislative level, and even in the federal government."
We've got a lot to discuss on all of this, including where the direct democracy ballot initiative process has seemingly been captured by corporate interests (in states like California) and about the dozens of states which still don't even allow citizens to place measures on the statewide ballot at all.
I'm also curious how much of the new blowback against such initiatives Figueredo attributes to the number of them in recent years that have instituted independent redistricting commissions in hopes of breaking gerrymandered strangleholds that the GOP still has on many state legislatures. "You have to connect the dots," Figueredo responds. "I think this is ultimately the question that is before us right now in our democracy. Is it of, for and by the people? And who ultimately has the power to make decisions for all of us? That's what's at stake right now."
"It's ultimately this question about power. You can connect the dots. And if we are looking at the ballot initiative process, or the initiatives in general, as a tool for power in our democracy, then yes, if you are an elected official who does not agree with people who may be your constituents and it doesn't fit your agenda, then your next step would be to undermine or weaken the will of the people."
There is much more in our conversation today, including what the U.S. Supreme Court may soon do to gut all such statewide initiatives regarding elections in their upcoming Moore v. Harper decision. Please tune in!...
Is there any amount of blatant corruption that would result in Ohio voters finally turning against Republicans? As we discuss in detail on today's BradCast, state GOP lawmakers seem to really be testing that question at this point. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
But, first up, speaking of testing voters, the Treasury Department made it official today. The U.S. Government has now hit its current, statutory borrowing limit. We are now officially using "extraordinary measures" to continue paying our bills to avoid defaulting on our debts. But that can only go on for so long. At this point, according to Treasury's best guess, the U.S. will see its first-ever default "before early June" unless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his Republicans in Congress cast a simple vote to raise the amount we are allowed to borrow so that we can pay for all the stuff that Congress and Presidents of both parties long ago agreed to pay for.
It's not hard. It's been done about 80 times since the 1960s, mostly without a problem. But now, with a Democrat in the White House and radicalized Republicans in control of the U.S. House, GOP hard-liners seem determined to play a dangerous game that could result in a national or even world-wide recession or depression. They are pretending to care about the national debt, after years of voting to increase spending while reducing revenue with huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Their performative actions now --- as they hold the nation hostage, demanding cuts to Social Security and Medicare --- will only make the national debt worse. Will voters remember, the next time they go to the voting booth, the damage the GOP seems hell-bent on causing?
We can only hope there will be some not totally insane, "moderate" Republicans left in Congress to join with Democrats to end this madness before its too late, because nobody knows how bad the damage will soon be if they don't. They are likely to run this up to the wire. Again. So, buckle up.
Meanwhile, there's Republican-controlled Ohio, with its totally not insane, supposedly "moderate" Republican Governor, Mike DeWine. He just signed legislation, passed by the GOP state legislature, redefining natural gas --- one of the worst causes of global warming --- as "green energy" under state law. Not insane or corrupt at all, right?
As it turns out, DeWine and state Republicans, once again, seem to be participants in another dark money corruption scandal courtesy of the fossil fuel industry. That, as the state's Republican former House Speaker, Larry Householder, begins his $60 million federal bribery trial next week. That, after Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges, three others and a dark money political group controlled by Householder participated in "an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by FirstEnergy, to secure Householder's power, elect his allies, pass legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign," according to prosecutors.
Householder shepherded the 2019 passage of the bill to bailout the nuke plants (and a coal-fired power plant) owned by FirstEnergy, a huge energy and fossil fuel conglomerate based in Akron. The bailout was to have been paid for with an additional fee on the utility bills of Buckeye State rate payers, according to the legislation that was signed be DeWine just hours after passage.
And now, it seems, DeWine has done it again. This time on behalf of the natural gas industry. But, why not? Last November, Ohio voters said they didn't mind all the corruption. DeWine easily won a second term in office and state GOP lawmakers increased their super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
But, just in case the voters get wise, DeWine recently signed a major overhaul of state election laws, implementing a series of new restrictions on voters. One of those restrictions, however, will make it more difficult for active-duty military members overseas to cast their votes without being disenfranchised. Oops. Military families are said to be furious. But do Republicans actually care about that either? Why would they?
Finally, Desi Doyen joins for our latest Green News Report with more details on DeWine's friendly payback to the natural gas industry; the European Union's new plan to try and compete with renewable energy incentives in the U.S. adopted last year by Democrats; and Germany's recent crack down on anti-coal protesters...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: European Union unveils 'Green Deal Industrial Plan' to compete with America's Inflation Reduction Act; Banks still spending billions on new fossil fuel projects despite net zero pledges; German police crack down on anti-coal protests; PLUS: Dark money groups led Ohio Republicans to legally redefine natural gas as 'green energy'... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate misinformation gets 'rocket boosters' on Musk's Twitter; As CA storms end, reckoning with flood insurance begins; 'It's time to start suing': GOP states tee up next WOTUS war; Oil company chief's appointment to lead COP28 climate conference sparks backlash; Greenland warmest it's been in 1,000 years; Oil companies sue Los Angeles over ban on oil and gas drilling; Wyoming lawmakers propose ban on EVs by 2035; VA GOP governor axes new Ford EV battery plant and 2,500 jobs ...PLUS: Republicans' 'Solyndra' search impacts GOP districts... and much, MUCH more! ...
On today's BradCast: With so many referrals of Republican members of Congress to House ethics investigators of late, is it any wonder the GOP and Kevin McCarthy just voted to gut the critical Office of Congressional Ethics (or OCE) as part of their new rules package for taking over the majority in the 118th Congress? [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
At the end of last year, the bipartisan House Select Committee investigating the Trump-incited insurrection on January 6, 2021, recommended Congressional ethics investigations of then-Minority Leader, now-Speaker McCarthy (R-CA); Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) for their failure to respond to lawful Congressional subpoenas. More recently, there have been calls for an ethics investigation of New York's newly seated Republican Rep. and pathological liar, George Santos.
Naturally then, as their first order of business when approving the chambers Rules Package last week, which will now be used to govern for the next two years, Republicans moved to all but kill the only investigative ethics body in the House with actual teeth, the OCE.
We're joined today for insight on all of this by longtime Government Affairs lobbyist on ethics, lobbying and campaign finance rules for good government group Public Citizen, CRAIG HOLMAN. He helps us understand the difference between the House Ethics Committee and the totally separate and independent Office of Congressional Ethics, and explains how Republicans have just implemented a "one-two punch to shut down" the latter and any real ethics investigations along with it.
"The ethics process in Congress, in both the House and the Senate, has historically been run by members of Congress themselves," Holman explains. "So we've got this permanent committee called the House Ethics Committee that is run by members of Congress who are very, very reluctant to be critical of their fellow colleagues. They operate in secret. They will do their investigations, sometimes, but we never really know what they found or what they ended up recommending because they operate in secret. The House Ethics Committee is literally designed to sweep ethics matters under the rug, so that the public doesn't know what's going on."
On the other hand, "In 2008, as part of the huge ethics and lobby reform package that we passed in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, we created an outside, independent Office of Congressional Ethics," he continues, explaining why the OCE is so critical. To be on its eight-member Board, you can't be a lobbyist or Congressional member. You must be a bona fide outsider. "It's staffed by eight board members --- four Republicans, four Democrats --- and it's done a phenomenal job at opening up the whole ethics process."
"Even though OCE doesn't have any actual enforcement authority, it does an actual investigation and then publishes the results of that investigation. And when it becomes public record, that has compelled the House Ethics Committee to actually do something." Holman observes that, since OCE's creation, actual enforcement actions by the House Ethics Committee has literally quadrupled.
Now, however, new rules adopted last week by House Republicans will force almost every Democratic member of the OCE's Board to step down, any replacements for them must be approved by at least four existing Board Members (which would now be 3 Rs and 1 D). Critically, Dems will have just 30 days find and to appoint those new members, hire staff and have it all approved by the Board. That, he explains, will be virtually impossible. "After that 30-day window, there's no staff. There's no investigators. There's no one able to do the work of OCE. It will effectively shut down OCE."
"It's a very strategic one-two punch to close down the ethics process," Holman argues. So, what does all of this mean for ethics investigations under GOP House rule over the next two years? And is there any way to either reverse the newly adopted rules or re-interpret them somehow in the GOP-majority Rules Committee? We discuss. But Holman describes the outlook as "grim" at this point.
Also on today's show...
Seriously, what did you think was eventually going to happen after years of Republicans being lied to that elections were being rigged against them? Lots to discuss on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
The shooting spree for now --- we hope --- has come to an end in Bernalillo County (Albuquerque) New Mexico with the arrest of a Trump fan boy and failed Republican state House candidate who lost his election last November by nearly 50 points. With the help of four others, he's allegedly been shooting at the houses of local and state Democratic elected officials over the past month and a half. He was finally nabbed on Monday night. Luckily, no one was killed in the at least four houses he visited and targeted.
Today, we tell the story and detail how elections work in the state (after their disastrous use of touchscreens back in 2000, they now use hand-marked paper ballots tallied by computer tabulators with results confirmed, theoretically, by hand-counted, post-election audits); how the shooter should have been more of a concern much earlier (even before Republicans nominated this dude who only recently ended a 7-year prison sentence); and the fact that none of what happened over the past coupla months in the state's most populous Dem-leaning County should really have come as a surprise. After more than two years of Donald Trump lying about "rigged" elections --- and the state Republican party lying along with him --- it's almost more surprising that this hasn't happened sooner.
It was, as Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller observed at a news conference on Monday night after the arrest, "what we had all feared and what we had suspected --- that these shootings were indeed politically motivated." He correctly added: "They were dangerous attacks not only to these individuals … but, fundamentally, also to democracy. ... This was about a rightwing radical, an election denier ... And someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence."
And, in another example today of why, when Republicans tell us what they are going to do, we should believe them: the GOP economic terrorists in the U.S. House, as Washington Post reported on Friday, are now making plans for crashing the nation's (and world's) economy by refusing to increase the U.S. debt limit this year.
Hopefully, there will be a large enough handful of not-insane Republicans in the House to work with Dems to raise it in order to pay for what the U.S. (Congress and Presidents of both parties) have already bought, so that we can avoid a first-ever default of U.S. Government debt payments. But, even the dangerous game that the hard-right, radical extremist Republicans are preparing for could send markets --- and the credit rating of the U.S. --- plummeting. As TPM's Josh Marshall smartly headlined a short item on some of these points over the weekend, paraphrasing an infamously ignored Presidential Daily Briefing from August of 2001: "House GOP Determined to Strike US".
Finally, with the seemingly endless storms in California finally ended, for now, we're back to the continuing water woes in the U.S. West. And it's not looking good for Arizona right now. Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report on that and U.S. solar manufacturing seeing a massive boost, thanks to legislation passed by Dems and signed by President Biden last year (and opposed by all Congressional Republicans); and Exxon scientists from the 70s, sadly, are proven to have been exactly right in their warnings about climate change. Unfortunately, Exxon paid millions to make sure you never heard about those warnings...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: As California recovers from epic storms, the fight for water is just beginning in the U.S. West; Massive boost to U.S. solar manufacturing arrives thanks to the Joe Biden and the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act; PLUS: Exxon scientists in the 1970s accurately predicted today's climate warming levels and weather disasters... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Fukushima water to be released into ocean in next few months; Gas and coal plant failures widespread as largest grid operator struggled to manage winter storms; Davos 2023: Big Oil in sights of climate activist protests; Nevada: Feds offer $700M to lithium project at heart of ESA dispute; Death by clear-cut: Canada's unique deep-snow caribou are vanishing; Sweden finds rare earth deposits that could benefit Western consumers; PLUS: Climate gentrification is coming to hurricane-wrecked Florida... and much, MUCH more! ...
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