In my exclusive interview on today's BradCast with ANN RAVEL, former Chair of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), we cover quite a bit of ground. From the reasons she has decided to run for office in California, to the apparent violations of federal election laws at the heart of the Trump impeachment inquiry into the quid pro quo with Ukraine, to the absurd campaign finance laws that allowed two now-indicted Rudy Giuliani associates to buy their way into the White House and directly effect U.S. foreign policy, to the Stormy Daniels affair, and to our shamefully broken FEC. [Audio link to show follows below.]
Ravel, who also previous served as Chair of California's Fair Political Practices Commission (or FPPC --- a more functional version of the FEC, but for the state of CA) and as Deputy Asst. Attorney General during the early years of the Obama Administration, is now running for State Senate in CA's 15th District, which includes San Jose in the Northern California Bay Area. After a lifelong career of public service, this is her first actual run for elected office.
We begin today's conversation with a few thoughts on the "local" issues regarding Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)'s preemptive blackouts for hundreds of thousands of customers to avoid their above ground power lines sparking wildfires. The bankrupt for-profit power utility, the state's largest, has been found liable for billions of dollars after several deadly recent fires, thanks to a failure to properly maintain or bury power lines amid increasingly warm and dry climate changed weather. We discuss whether the state should simply take over the company, following Gov. Gavin Newsom's scathing remarks on Thursday citing PG&E's many deadly failures, which he attributed to "dog-eat-dog capitalism and corporate greed meeting climate change."
Then it's on to many issues of national importance --- as highlighted of late by several matters related to Trump's ongoing impeachment inquiry --- regarding our broken FEC, which does not currently even have a quorum of Commissioners to either meet or vote as we head into the most critical election year in the history of our nation!
Ravel, who resigned as FEC Chair "in abrupt and dramatic fashion", according to the Mercury News in February of 2017, "declaring in a public resignation letter that the Federal Election Commission is on a gridlocked road to nowhere," offers her many insights on...
- Campaign finance laws apparently violated by Trump in soliciting a "thing of value" from a foreign entity. That impeachable and criminal violation of law is at the heart of Trump's attempted withholding of military aid and the strong-arming of Ukraine in exchange for dirt on the Biden family and the 2016 election. "There is no question whatsoever that there was a crime at the heart of this," Ravel tells me. "And I'm appalled, having also been at the Department of Justice at the beginning of the Obama Administration, what has become of a Department that is supposed to be doing justice for the people";
- Attorney General Bill Barr and the Dept. of Justices' failure to refer that matter, exposed by a whistleblower complaint, to the FEC for civil charges, as per a longstanding agreement between the two federal agencies. "That was the general understanding that always was the principal we operated by at the FEC";
- The FEC's lack of ability to take immediate action on such a charge, even if it had been referred to them, given the FEC's current lack of a quorum. "Had it been referred as a complaint, that would begin the statute of limitations. And there is a five-year statute. So at some point, assuming there are other Commissioners appointed, ever --- by McConnell, or the Democratic Minority Leader, and assuming that the President makes the nominations --- it could, in the coming five years, actually take some action";
- The obscene lack of campaign finance laws following Citizens United and other woeful "dark money" rulings from SCOTUS in recent years. Those High Court rulings have allowed men like Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to run an influence operation to purchase access to the White House and Republican members of Congress and actually effect U.S. foreign policy in the Ukraine matter in exchange for a few hundred thousands dollars (of unknown origin) given to Trump's SuperPAC, to Giuliani, and to other Republican officials and organizations. While Parnas and Fruman were recently indicted, their charges were based on lying to officials about the source of the money. Had they simply used their own, as we also recently discussed with Brendan Fischer of Campaign Legal Center (which filed the original complaint to the FEC about the pair's donations last year), the influence operation would have been perfectly legal under current law, she confirms. "And that is a whole other problem with our campaign finance system...That will only be fixed if there is a different Supreme Court";
- Why isn't the case of Trump's hush-money payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels a bigger matter, given that Trump is known to have "directed" a campaign finance law felony conspiracy in making the payments, and then failed to report them to the FEC as required by law? To Ravel's consternation, Democrats in Congress, to date, have yet to make the matter a central point in their impeachment inquiry, and the short-handed FEC is otherwise unable to bring civil charges for Trump's willful violation of the law. She notes that fines levied against the Obama Campaign years ago were for far less serious violations of campaign finance law. "I often say, to much laughter, that I consider myself an expert in Stormy Daniels. I think this is scandalous. It is a campaign violation, without question, and it was being done at the behest of the President."
Those are just some of the many topics discussed on today's program with Ravel.
Finally, after some breaking news on a ruling late today by a federal judge ordering the DoJ to turn over unredacted grand jury testimony and other materials from the Robert Mueller probe to House Democrats working on impeachment, we take a quick look at the quickly snowballing fate of Rudy Giuliani, who finds himself in deeper and more embarrassing --- and potentially criminal --- straits by the hour. For now, Trump is standing by his man. But probably not for long. So, for a musical close to to the week, we turn to the inimitable Randy Rainbow, who recently threw Rudy entirely under a bus...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)