Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GOP Taking Action on Failing Obamacare

As Senate Republicans work to fix the U.S. healthcare system, the Democrats have made fantastical and wild statements about the affects any change will have to people’s access to medical treatment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today announced that the Senate would not vote on the GOP healthcare bill until after recess, to continue perfecting the policy specifics. We must not forget, however, that the Affordable Care Act has already done considerable damage to our healthcare system.

As pointed to in the RNLA’s Annual Policy Conference on May 5th, the Affordable Care Act is not good for anyone. Dennis Kirk, an RNLA Lifetime member among the audience, asked the panel: “When do you anticipate total failure of Obamacare and can we beat that before it gets there?” Michael Franc, Hoover Institute’s Director of DC Programs, answered Mr. Kirk’s question first:

If the black letter had been adhered to it would have happened already. It’s structurally not sustainable, and the only reason it has been in effect for this long, frankly, is that there has been this serial ignorance, or ignoring the actual language, and finding ways to direct subsidies in that really shouldn’t go there under the way the law is written.

Congressman Keith Rothfus (PA-12), also on the panel, related that Obamacare is already failing:

In many areas it’s already felt. We learned this week 94 out of 99 counties in Iowa will not have a single insurer on their exchange to choose from.

Needless to say, the GOP is taking the initiative to reform another failing government program, while the Democrats have marching orders for obstructionism.

On a side note: Ilya Shapiro, who was the third member of the RNLA panel, is celebrating his birthday today. Happy Birthday, Ilya!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Does the Real Election Interference Involve the Democrats?

In May, RNLA Executive Director Michael Thielen recounted the Obama administration’s long held propensities for election tampering, the latest effort being the DHS’s bid under former Secretary Jeh Johnson to infiltrate numerous state election voter databases during the 2016 election cycle.

Johnson testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, that, even though he did not believe that “votes were altered or suppressed in some way,” his organization did not report on potential Russian hacking for the sake of non-partisanship.

Leaving aside for a minute that Russia ‘hacking’ the 2016 election is a wildly inaccurate portrayal of Russia's digital meddling — which to date are only allegations, nothing proven — there's likely another reason Johnson wasn't quick to cry foul: some of the known, legitimate attempts to hack into state election databases were perpetrated by Johnson's own organization, the Obama-led DHS.

DHS is not alone.  As we detailed Friday, even Democrats are raising questions of interference with the election regarding Obama Administration Attorney General Loretta Lynch. What does all this mean?  As Warrington concludes the continued fixation on Russia:

They are little more than an attempt to protect the previous administration from being exposed as election meddlers, albeit unsuccessful ones. But Hillary Clinton's leaked emails, which showed the Democratic National Committee colluding with her campaign to ensure she won the nomination over Bernie Sanders, have already proven that meddling in democratic processes is a strategy the left employs to win. 

Partisan politics in the end is driving this Russia hacking myth. And as Michael Thielen put it, “the reality is that there’s more evidence linking a US federal agency under Obama to state election hacking than there is linking Russia to the presidential election.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Post-2016 Election Investigation Expands: Former AG Lynch Questioned

Today, news broke that the U.S. Senate is going to turn their post-2016 election investigation towards former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. A bipartisan letter signed by a pair of leading Republican and Democratic Senators requested Ms. Lynch to answer a series of questions related to her Department of Justice investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails and server use.

The Daily Caller reported:

A bipartisan group of Senate Judiciary Committee members, [signed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham, and Ranking Subcommittee Member Sheldon Whitehouse] sent a letter to former Attorney [General] Loretta Lynch Friday seeking to confirm if she attempted to stifle the FBI investigation into the Hillary Clinton email probe.  Members gave Lynch a deadline to answer their questions by July 6.

Citing May 3, 2017 testimony from former FBI Director James Comey — who expressed concern about the Obama Justice Department — and the June 2016 meeting between Lynch and Bill Clinton, the lawmakers asked the former attorney general to answer further questions about her relationship with not only the Clintons but also the Democratic National Committee. 
The Washington Times provided additional context as to why the actions by Ms. Lynch were concerning to the Senate:

In a letter to Ms. Lynch, the committee asks her to detail the depths of her involvement in the FBI’s investigation, including whether she ever assured Clinton confidantes that the probe wouldn’t “push too deeply into the matter.”
Fired FBI Director James B. Comey has said publicly that Ms. Lynch tried to shape the way he talked about the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails, and he also hinted at other behavior “which I cannot talk about yet” that made him worried about Ms. Lynch’s ability to make impartial decisions. . . . Mr. Comey said that was one reason why he took it upon himself to buck Justice Department tradition and reveal his findings about Mrs. Clinton last year. . . . Mr. Comey said the language suggested by Ms. Lynch was troublesome because it closely mirrored what the Clinton campaign was using. Despite his discomfort, Mr. Comey said, he agreed to Ms. Lynch’s language.
Finally, this investigation by Congress might uncover something, instead of harping on some phantom Russian hacking of votes--to date, there has been NO EVIDENCE of any votes being changed by the Russian government or any other hackers. Perhaps now, they might uncover some actual, new findings.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Left’s Crusade Against Honest Elections

In this week’s Daily Caller Op-Ed, Michael Thielen, RNLA Executive Director, highlighted how the extreme left and many Democrats are against verifiably honest elections in America. His piece explains how left-wing ideologues have written "articles"--what tantamount to opinion pieces--and passes them off as news articles. The piece goes on to praise, the too often vilified, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his efforts to ensure more honest elections in Kansas.
Secretary Kobach has been a leader in the effort to clean up voting lists as the head of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, one of two interstate voter registration data sharing programs endorsed by the PCEA [President Obama's Presidential Commission on Election Administration].  Crosscheck “identifies possible duplicate registrations among states, and . . . provides evidence of possible double votes,“ and it is used by such deep blue Democrat states as Massachusetts and New York. . . . 
Clean and accurate voter registration rolls are an important election integrity protection with broad, bipartisan support among the public and election officials, which you would never know by listening to the radical liberals who oppose basic election integrity protections. Secretary Kobach has led an effort by the majority of Secretaries of State across the country to clean up voter rolls and clean voter registration rolls are exactly what terrifies Berman, as he writes that the commission will “make policy recommendations at the federal and state level, which could include support for suppressive policies like . . . voter-rolls purges.”. . .
The left recycles the same talking points, again and again, about how efforts to prohibit non-citizens and illegal aliens from voting is somehow wrong. They are--after all--not American citizens, nor entitled to a vote.
The irony that is lost on [left media, like the NYT's author Ari] Berman is that every illegal alien vote disenfranchises a U.S. citizen voting legally. . . The reality is Berman is attempting the very thing he accuses Kobach of seeking: partisan advantage in voting laws.  The difference is that Kobach seeks to disenfranchise illegal voters, while Berman’s policies allow disenfranchisement of legal voters. . . .  
However, the left perpetuated this point because non-citizens vote Democrat in elections. Reported studies have confirmed this point.

The Democrats are so scared of losing a fallacious talking point to appeal to their liberal base that they don’t even want to allow a study on issues of wide bipartisan support, such a voter registration list accuracy and maintenance, for fear of what other important issues the commission may investigate. . . .The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets are providing a vehicle for the radical liberals now controlling the Democratic Party to disseminate their anti-election integrity message. The sensational rhetoric and fact-free war is unfortunate in what should be a common goal for all Americans: open, fair and honest elections.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity's purpose is to look into systemic problems plaguing the current system. However, preemptively attacking those who a part of the commission is not productive and really is just the left's ongoing saga to attack any effort to improve the system or make an election fair, open, and honest. The fact is the left can do better. The left should do better.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Russian Distraction

Both houses of Congress held hearings today on Russian interference in the 2016 election.  What did we learn?  Not much.  Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  A variety of officials testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  

Indiana Secretary of State, incoming President of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, Connie Lawson, testified to separate fact from fiction in the Russia hysteria (and warn about the problems with the Department of Homeland Security's designation of election systems as critical infrastructure) (emphasis in original):
As Senator Warner noted in a letter sent yesterday (June 20, 2017) to Homeland Security Secretary Kelly, we have not seen any credible evidence that vote casting or counting was subject to manipulation in any state or locality in the 2016 election cycle, or any reason to question the results. While still alarming, there is a big difference between manipulating VOTERS and manipulating VOTES.  
Here is what chief state election officials know about documented foreign targeting of state and local election systems in the 2016 election cycle, as confirmed by DHS: No major cybersecurity issues were reported on Election Day: November 8, 2016. . . . We also learned that foreign-based hackers were able to gain access to voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois last summer, prompting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to warn state election offices to increase their election security measures for the November 2016 election. To our knowledge, no data was deleted or modified as part of the breaches, and these are not systems involved in vote tallying. . . . Of course, in more recent days, we have learned from a top-secret NSA report that the identity of a company providing voter registration support services in several states was compromised, and some 122 local election offices received spear phishing emails as a result. . . .  
While there is clearly a pattern of foreign targeting of election systems in the last cycle, it is also very important to underscore that voting machines are not connected to the Internet or networked in any way. I say this not only for the benefit of this Committee, but for the media as well. We must understand how to label, describe and discuss election infrastructure responsibly and accurately when informing the public about elections, because there has been a great deal of misinformation publicized, including statements from the federal government. . . It is gravely concerning that election officials have only recently learned about the threat referenced in the leaked NSA report, especially – and I emphasize this – given the fact that DHS repeatedly told state election officials no credible threat existed in the fall of 2016. 
The media's and Democrat's continued focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election is distracting the nation from addressing some of the important issues facing it, as even Democrats are starting to realize.  Indeed, it is even distracting election officials from important work to address real cybersecurity concerns, such as the actual penetration of voter registration systems by both Russia and the DHS.  With every new revelation and in every new hearing, the same facts are established: no vote was changed through hacking by Russia or any other person or entity; there is no evidence of Trump campaign or administration collusion with Russia; Russia and DHS did hack or attempt to hack voter registration systems, but no voter records were changed; and Russia has long attempted to influence U.S. elections, just as the U.S. attempts to influence elections in other countries.  

Chillingly, the unswerving focus on Russia means that Russia has won, according to some observers:
Some Russia-watchers believe that the goal of the 2016 Russian campaign shenanigans was not to elect Trump but to damage Clinton before her election. That would make a certain kind of sense: Putin does not want a President Trump or a President Clinton — he wants an American president so hamstrung by political rancor, personal weakness, and petty venality that American leadership around the world is compromised. 
Mission accomplished. 
“Russia” is now shorthand for what will be an open-ended investigation of Trump and everybody around him, one that probably will last throughout his term. That may not have been part of Putin’s plan, but it unquestionably serves Putin’s interests. That is something worth keeping in mind.
We hope that Democrats and the media can put aside this hysteria over Russia to focus on real policy issues and the actual threats to election security that come from places like Russia.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Supreme Court: More Free Speech, Not Less

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down another opinion as it winds down its 2016 Term. The opinion issued today was Matal v. Tam, also known as "The Slants" case. The crux of this case was whether the U.S. Government could withhold trademark protection from words or terms that could offend society, in the opinion of government bureaucrats. Resoundingly, the Court declared, "No!" in an 8-0 decision. Both wings of the Court met at the middle, albeit emphasizing different means to get there.

Justice Alito authored the opinion of the Court, which was joined by the conservatives members of the Court. He stated:

[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.” 
We have said time and again that “the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.” Street v. New York, 394 U. S. 576, 592 (1969). See also Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 414 (1989) (“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable”) [more cases omitted] …
Justice Kennedy authored a separate concurrence, which the liberal members of the Court signed on to as well:

A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an “egregious form of content discrimination,” which is “presumptively unconstitutional.” …  
A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
Here, both wings of the Court arrived at the same end: more free speech is better than less; the "Good" will drown out the "Bad."

However, in the state of play, the left is working to silence multiple viewpoints before they can even be heard. Case in point: the left's disparaging comments about Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity before the commission has even been convened. Allow the commission to do it job and assess the situation--then, there can be a true and free debate about the findings.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Jeff Sessions’ Conduct Has Been Beyond Reproach

This week in the Daily Caller, RNLA Vice President for Election Education David Warrington submitted an op-ed reviewing this week's Senate hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The article praises his testimony and offers a comparison to the former Obama Administration:
[Attorney General] Sessions stood his ground and answered every question asked regardless of how ridiculous the question . . . The only questions he refused to answer were ones pertaining to private conversations he had with the President.  In refusing to detail those conversations, he acted properly. . . Sessions’ refusal to answer on the basis that President Trump may wish to assert executive privilege over the conversation in question, conforms with longstanding practice at the Department of Justice, as well as every other department or agency of the executive branch.  Democrats were aghast at this, and Senator Martin Heinrich (NM) even accused him of obstructing a congressional investigation.  Yet legal privileges, like the attorney-client privilege, marital privilege, and executive privilege, are important protections for the rule of law, not an obstruction of the process. . .
Furthermore, as it is the President who holds the privilege, neither Sessions nor any other executive branch official, has the authority to waive that privilege.  Every President, including Obama, understood this . . . Democrats on the Committee, and their allies, must have forgotten that for eight years during the Obama administration, they championed the independence of the executive branch, executive privilege, the confidentiality of executive branch communications, and the power of the executive branch to resist congressional investigations. . . The Obama administration broadly resisted congressional investigations into serious crimes and misdeeds for which there was actual evidence (unlike the assertion of Trump’s collusion with Russia).
Mr. Warrington went on to point out that President Obama’s DOJ did not turn over emails in the IRS investigation on targeting Tea Party organizations, invoked executive privilege on Operation Fast and Furious, and shielded Executive staff from participating in congressional investigations or blatantly ignored the calls of Congress. The article closed on this note:
Attorney General Sessions’ conduct has been above reproach, and the inquiries about him should be laid to rest, but Democrat Senators and the media continue “resisting” President Trump through false attacks on Sessions and others close to Trump.  This not only damages the public discourse and undermines our system of representative government but, as Sessions pointed out during the hearing, it distracts the DOJ from legitimate problems facing the nation, such as the opioid epidemic and terrorism.  Perhaps that is the Democrats’ true goal: if successful in damaging Sessions, they can prevent DOJ from carrying out its mission and thereby harm President Trump and Republicans in 2018 and 2020. . . The Democrats will continue to trade in detestable lies and secret innuendo in their attempt to effectuate the coup they seek in order to achieve the result they did not get at the ballot box. . . What today’s hearing demonstrated beyond any doubt is that Attorney General Sessions is an ethical man who has served his country honorably for many years.
This article was published as part of the Republican National Lawyers Association's regular weekly Op-Ed with the Daily Caller. To read Mr. Warrington's other article about Attorney General Sessions, please click here. We will bring you a summary of our next article next week.