Thursday, February 23, 2017

FEC Commissioner Weintraub: Hypocrite on Speech Seeks Control Over All Aspects of Federal Elections

Check out yesterday's post for the background to this post: a request for an ethics investigation into whether FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub misused FEC resources in criticizing President Trump's claims about vote fraud swinging the close 2016 New Hampshire senatorial election.

Commissioner Weintraub responded that she would "not be silenced," inventing a justification for her earlier statement by claiming that any fraud would involve spending money and implicate campaign finance rules, while also adopting an expansive view of her "official duties as a federal election official" that involves commenting on "any aspect of the integrity of federal elections in the United States."

There are two primary problems with Commissioner Weintraub's response.  First, her claims unilaterally and massively expanded the power and jurisdiction of the FEC to anything having to do with federal elections.  Not only does this contravene the law, which gives the FEC jurisdiction to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, but it contradicts the FEC's own guidance, which maintains that many issues related to federal elections are outside the FEC's jurisdiction (it is worth noting that this document was originally issued when Commissioner Weintraub was already on the FEC).  So not only does Commissioner Weintraub want to ignore the law with regard to the applicability and enforcement of campaign finance rules to advance the policy goals favored by her but she also wants to disregard the statutory grant of authority to the FEC to interpret its jurisdiction as she sees fit.

Second, her free speech claim would be amusingly ironic if it were not so incorrect.  As an individual citizen, Ellen Weintraub has the same speech rights as any other citizens, fully protected by the First Amendment.  But as a government employee and official, her speech is limited by many laws and rules when she is using official time and resources. She has free speech but not on FEC letterhead to feign imprimatur of the agency.  Her attack on President Trump's statement had nothing to do with a legitimate investigation or action by the agency.   More to the point, she claims free speech to use government resources to carry on her personal propaganda against the President.  But she consistently votes and advocates to regulate average Americans, even major news organizations like Fox News, to prevent them from exercising their rights to free speech. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Those in the election, non-profit, and political communities rightly fear an unlawful FEC, if it operated as Commissioner Weintraub would direct.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

FEC Commissioner Weintraub: Using FEC Resources to Engage in Partisan Activity

Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel's ally at the FEC, Ellen Weintraub, has also been active in demonstrating the Democrat FEC commissioners' political bias.  After President Trump's call for an investigation of voter fraud last month and his statements about fraud contributing to the defeat of Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Commissioner Weintraub issued an official statement from her office as Commissioner questioning the statement and calling upon President Trump to share evidence of the claim.

The problem is that the FEC does not have jurisdiction over vote fraud, election administration, or federal elections broadly.  The FEC's jurisdiction is campaign finance, yet Commissioner Weintraub used official FEC resources to question the President's statements on fraud.  In a complaint filed yesterday with the FEC's Inspector General, Cause of Action called for an investigation (internal citations omitted):
CoA Institute requests that you open an investigation to determine whether Ellen Weintraub, a Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”), violated applicable ethics regulations when she used government property and official time to call on President Trump to provide evidence of his claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire and then continued to promote her statement after it was issued. We also urge you to determine whether it is appropriate for the FEC website to continue to host Commissioner Weintraub’s statement. . . . 
When subsequently asked her about her statement, Commissioner Weintraub answered that “[a]s a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, I fight every day to build the faith of the American people in our elections. . . . It’s absolutely my right to raise public questions about another public official’s statements about the integrity of our elections.” In October 2016, however, Commissioner Weintraub took the exact opposite stance, stating through her Twitter account that matters of voter fraud were beyond FEC jurisdiction. Specifically, in response to the question “What is the FEC doing abt [sic] recent reports of voter fraud?” Commissioner Weintraub replied, “That’s outside the @FEC’s jurisdiction. We do campaign finance *only*. The elections themselves are handled by the states.”
OGE regulations regarding the use of government property provide that “[a]n employee has a duty to protect and conserve Government property and shall not use such property, or allow its use, for other than authorized purposes.” . . . Pursuant to these rules, Commissioner Weintraub may only use FEC property and act in her official capacity for purposes that advance the FEC mission as authorized by law. . . . In compliance with its authorizing statute, the FEC website describes its jurisdiction as being limited to “the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. . . .” As evidenced by her tweet in October 2016, Commissioner Weintraub was and is aware of the boundaries of the FEC’s authority.
Despite her knowledge of the FEC’s limited jurisdiction, the two subjects discussed in Commissioner Weintraub’s February 2017 statement — investigating alleged voter fraud and New Hampshire felony criminal violations — go beyond that jurisdiction. In addition, the statement was issued on FEC letterhead and remains, as of the time of this letter, posted on the FEC website. Commissioner Weintraub also used her official time and status to prepare the statement, direct her staff to format and publish the statement, and promote the statement on CNN and NPR. For these reasons, Commissioner Weintraub’s use of government property to issue the statement and the time she took to defend that statement in national media outlets are violations of the ethics regulations to which she is subject.
Though Commissioner Ravel has left the FEC, Commissioner Weintraub has shown no interest in leaving.  This is unfortunate, as her recent actions further de-legitimize and politicize the agency.  Check out tomorrow's post for information on Commissioner Weintraub's response.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Left Reveals View of FEC as Tool to Oppose Republicans

Over the long weekend, Democrat FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel resigned from the FEC.  We've catalogued Commissioner Ravel's partisanship, passion for regulating internet speech, questioning of citizens' loyalty based on their employer, charges of dysfunction aimed at Republican commissioners following the law, inconsistent application of the law, and many other questionable statements and actions during her tenure at the FEC.  

Of course, in her letter of resignation to President Trump and a 24-page exit report on "Dysfunction and Deadlock," she repeated the same trite campaign finance "reform" rhetoric perpetuated by the left despite being disproved by recent history:
Ravel’s resignation letter is filled with the same sort of tired Democratic rhetoric on campaign finance, demanding the overturning of Citizens United, pushing for expanded public (i.e., taxpayer) financing of political campaigns, and decrying the evils of “dark money.”  
Yet President Trump showed the complete intellectual bankruptcy of the campaign-finance “reform” movement in his stunning presidential-election victory. According to the FEC’s own data, among large donors ($2,000+), Hillary Clinton out-raised Trump $175 million to $27 million, a ratio of 6.5 to 1. Despite this, and the almost unanimous support she enjoyed from our media and cultural elites, Clinton couldn’t defeat Trump. Furthermore, Bernie Sanders, an eccentric and aging socialist with no establishment backing, came close to beating Hillary in the Democratic primary despite being outspent among those same $2,000+ donors by a ratio of more than 50 to 1. . . . 
The 2016 election was, for anyone who had eyes to see it, the most dramatic repudiation possible of the false notion that big donors determine the fate of our candidates or our politics. Given such facts, Ravel’s cri de coeur is more unintentional comedy than serious political analysis. But the media refuse to report it that way because to do so would be to repudiate their Democratic party allies, while casting a favorable light on the candidacy of Donald Trump, whom they loathe.​ 
But to keep the anti-Trump "reformers" from being too distraught about Ravel's departure, Ravel and her allies at the FEC have the strongly partisan, "resistance" altFEC Twitter feed, which, according to Ravel's friends at the Center for Public Integrity, "offers decidedly Ravel-esque, and often anti-Trump, critiques of the agency."  Recent tweets have been illuminating and have confirmed what many in the conservative community have long known and feared: that Democrats see "effective" speech regulation as a tool to oppose and hurt Republicans.

Even with the exit of Commissioner Ravel, no Republican or conservative speaker, especially those who must wade through the bureaucratic nightmare of an FEC complaint, can trust the FEC to act impartially while Democratic commissioners and "reform"-minded FEC staff sponsor explicitly anti-Republican messages and use campaign finance regulation as a tool to disadvantage Republicans.  Look for a post tomorrow on Ann Ravel's friend and ally at the FEC, Commissioner Ellen Weintraub.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The New York Times Shows Its Agenda on Vote Fraud

After years of ignoring vote fraud within New York City and state, The New York Times finally wrote a story on it, in Texas.  Of course, the story was incredibly biased and instead was, again, only written to make it harder for vote fraud to be prosecuted.

From a journalistic standpoint, the story is flawed.  Keep in mind a jury, who, unlike The New York Times, was there for the entire trial, convicted Rosa Ortega.  Yet the Times story features a picture of her family and lawyer and focuses on her side of the case: "She said in court that she had not known she was ineligible to vote and was confused by registration forms and explanations by election officials."

A side the jury did not find persuasive.  As was reported elsewhere: “The jury took a few hours to find her guilty on both counts.

While the Times focuses on Oretega's alleged confusion, the jury clearly put more weight on other matters.  For example (emphasis ours):
The Tarrant County indictment stated that she voted in the November 2012 General Election and the May 2014 Primary Run-off, knowing she was not eligible to vote because she is not a U.S. citizen. Ortega had previously applied to vote, but Tarrant County officials rejected her application because she admitted on the form to non-citizen status when asked. She filled out an application five months later and alleged she was a citizen.
Obviously the jury did not feel this was a confused person but rather a person who knew what she was doing and was trying to get around the law.  She was a person who changed her citizenship answer after she was rejected and told she was ineligible. 

The Times briefly quotes the Assistant AG in the case:
Jonathan White, an assistant attorney general who helped prosecute the Ortega case with Tarrant County officials, said the evidence of fraud was unambiguous. “She told the elections office she was a citizen,” he said. “She told everyone else she wasn’t,” including a recorded statement to prosecutors in which she said she was a citizen of Mexico.
The jury obviously believed the prosecutors. 

Regardless, the national focus the Times gives this story is in stark contrast to its stance on vote fraud locally.  The New York Times has ignored vote fraud in its own neighborhood for years.  It has become comical how it ignores vote fraud.  Here are just a few examples:
ICMYI: NY Ballot Box Stuff Scheme Now Importing People from Israel
More on NY Vote Fraud Scandal, Apartment Manager Vote Fraud?
Hard to Tell Where the Incompetence Ends and the Fraud Begins
Police Prove How Easy it is to Impersonate Voters in Hometown of Vote Fraud Deniers
Brazen Voting Fraud Alleged Among Ultra-Orthodox In Williamsburg
We could even list the vote fraud in New York by famous New Yorkers such as Al Sharpton and Geraldine Ferraro if we went back further.  Vote fraud is rampant in New York and instead of covering it, they present a biased view of one case in Texas. 

Fake News?  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New York Times Shows Its Political Bias in Ignoring Actual Voter Intimidation

Over the weekend, the New York Times editorialized the following:

Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general, is hardly likely to be as proactive as the Obama administration was in investigating complaints of voter suppression by the states. 

This claim is laughable if it were not a serious matter.  President Obama’s Department of Justice did little or nothing on actual voter intimidation while acting as partisans.  We will limit ourselves to two examples at the beginning and end of President Obama’s term.  

In 2009, the new Obama Department of Justice was handed a “slam dunk” case of violations of Voting Rights Act as the result of the intimidation in the infamous “New Black Panther Party” video outside a polling place.  Yet, Obama political appointees at the Department of Justice overruled career staff in a partisan decision and the case was largely dismissed.  (Jerry Jackson, one of the two in the video, was later rewarded with election to a seat on the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee.)

Late in 2016, Presidential Electors in the state of Michigan received death threats before they cast their ballots for President Thump in the Electoral College.  These crystal clear efforts at intimidation or worse did not merit a peep out of the Obama Justice Department. 

There are other examples.  However, the Obama Administration Department of Justice seemly ignored voter intimidation and many other voting matters and did their job on a partisan basis.  The New York Times' proclamations that the Trump Department of Justice will behave worse when Attorney General Sessions has been on the job only a few days, shows the Times’ political basis.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Far Left Is Running, and Ruining, the Democrat Party

For years, newspapers have written about the “Tea Party” running and ruining the Republican Party.  While those stories were completely overblown, there seems to be some truth to the far left ruining the Democrat Party by demanding nonsensical things against the wishes of the majority of Democrats.

Let’s take as one example: potential obstruction of President Trump’s qualified and popular Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch.  On the far left there are people like Al Sharpton demanding obstruction indefinitely.

 “They can stall as long as they want till their man gets in the White House,” Sharpton continued.

On the other side, you have the number two Democrat in the Senate Dick Durbin stating:

 “The base wants me to reject him out of hand,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the body’s No. 2 Democrat, who will meet with Judge Gorsuch on Tuesday. “I don’t think that serves the country well.”

So individual senators are stuck between doing what is right for their country and their constituents versus appeasing their far-left base.  A great example is Senator Sheehan of New Hampshire

Last week, Shaheen said, "Everybody I've talked to agrees he should get a hearing and an up-or-down vote."

As the ninth Democrat committed to bringing Gorsuch's nomination to a vote, Shaheen would have guaranteed that Democrats would not be able to sustain a filibuster. White House press secretary Sean Spicer welcomed her decision and hopes more Democrats would join her.

So Shaheen flip-flopped. She tweeted to Spicer that she only meant a cloture vote.
. . .
That's just not true. An "up-or-down vote" in the Senate means a vote to confirm the nominee, not a procedural vote to close debate. Shaheen knows better. She just hopes the rest of us don't.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri did a similar tweet and now she is using a more extreme tactic in an effort to get the base off her back

“I’m not talking about the Supreme Court nominee at all, in any way,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

If the Senators ignore their constituencies and cave to the extremists in their party, Republicans have a strong case to end the 60-vote filibuster.  As the Fix’s Aaron Blake writes in the Washington Post:

And as I've written, an unprecedented Supreme Court filibuster against a clearly 

qualified and likable nominee would just give Republicans a good excuse to do away more of the filibuster. 

Whether the Democrats have given into liberal extremists or will they listen to their constituents is up in the air but, as Roll Call writes, one thing is for sure:
If Democrats have a cohesive strategy, they’re hiding it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Anniversary of Scalia's Death, Gorsuch Is His True Successor

On this day last year, Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, devastating the legal world and presenting a vacant Supreme Court seat as an issue in the 2016 presidential election.  When President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to Justice Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court, he kept his campaign promise of nominating someone in the mold of Justice Scalia:
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch, 49, will represent the first generation of Supreme Court justices to have been influenced by Scalia's rulings, writings and teachings while still in law school. He was chosen by President Trump in part because he is in the mold of Scalia, as lawyers who served as law clerks to both judges attest. 
"Though the critics are loud and the temptations to join them may be many, mark me down ... as a believer that the traditional account of the judicial role Justice Scalia defended will endure," Gorsuch said in a speech last year at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, delivered shortly after the justice's death at 79. . . . 
Having clerked for both, [Matthew] Owens says Gorsuch will "remind everyone of Justice Scalia for a long time to come" because of his determination to call cases as he sees them, regardless of his personal views. 
But despite their similarities, he says of Gorsuch, "I hope that he'll be seen as a successor, and not just a copy." 
Three former Gorsuch and Scalia clerks wrote today of how Judge Gorsuch is the "perfect replacement" for Justice Scalia and shares his overall judicial philosophy:
Although no one can replace the Justice, we can think of no one more worthy of his seat than Judge Gorsuch. He is a brilliant thinker, a fair and independent judge and a clear and effective communicator of important ideas. . . . 
Judge Gorsuch's opinions reflect the principle Justice Scalia spent his career defending: that in a democracy, the people's elected representatives, not judges, get to decide what laws we should have. In a lecture last year, Judge Gorsuch paid tribute to that "great project of Justice Scalia's career," reminding us of "the differences between judges and legislators" and of judges' duty "to apply the law as it is . . . not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best." Justice Scalia couldn't have said it better himself. . . . 
It is no surprise, then, that Judge Gorsuch has gained a wide reputation as a principled and deep-thinking judge. On occasion that has even led him to disagree with the late justice. For example, Justice Scalia was a longtime defender of Supreme Court precedents that require courts to defer to federal agencies about the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. Judge Gorsuch, however, recently called for a rethinking of those cases – for a reason Justice Scalia would have found familiar. Judge Gorsuch objected that judicial deference to executive agencies is "more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers' design" because it effectively allows executive bureaucracies to "swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power," which are supposed to be located in separate branches of government.  
Justice Scalia was a remarkable man, legal thinker, and justice, and he can never truly be replaced.  But in nominating Judge Gorsuch, President Trump has come as close as possible to nominating someone who shares Justice Scalia's understanding of the rule of law, the role of the courts, and the importance of the text in the interpretation of the Constitution and statutes.