Thursday, January 14, 2016

Last Call For The Con-Man-Servative

The New York Times is hitting Sen. Ted Cruz on financial disclosure laws, it seems as Cruz is gaining in the polls against Donald Trump, there are new questions about Cruz's loan from Goldman Sachs for his Senate campaign four years ago.

Those reports show that in the critical weeks before the May 2012 Republican primary, Mr. Cruz — currently a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination — put “personal funds” totaling $960,000 into his Senate campaign. Two months later, shortly before a scheduled runoff election, he added more, bringing the total to $1.2 million — “which is all we had saved,” as Mr. Cruz described it in an interview with The New York Times several years ago.

A review of personal financial disclosures that Mr. Cruz filed later with the Senate does not find a liquidation of assets that would have accounted for all the money he spent on his campaign. What it does show, however, is that in the first half of 2012, Ted and Heidi Cruz obtained the low-interest loan from Goldman Sachs, as well as another one from Citibank. The loans totaled as much as $750,000 and eventually increased to a maximum of $1 million before being paid down later that year. There is no explanation of their purpose.

Neither loan appears in reports the Ted Cruz for Senate Committee filed with the Federal Election Commission, in which candidates are required to disclose the source of money they borrow to finance their campaigns. Other campaigns have been investigated and fined for failing to make such disclosures, which are intended to inform voters and prevent candidates from receiving special treatment from lenders. There is no evidence that the Cruzes got a break on their loans.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz’s presidential campaign, Catherine Frazier, acknowledged that the loan from Goldman Sachs, drawn against the value of the Cruzes’ brokerage account, was a source of money for the Senate race. Ms. Frazier added that Mr. Cruz also sold stocks and liquidated savings, but she did not address whether the Citibank loan was used.

The failure to report the Goldman Sachs loan, for as much as $500,000, was “inadvertent,” she said, adding that the campaign would file corrected reports as necessary. Ms. Frazier said there had been no attempt to hide anything.

The Cruz campaign is claiming that the failure to report is an oversight (an oversight that just happened to allow Cruz to get $1.2 million from two of the largest banks in the country that helped to crash the economy in 2008 without admitting it.)

It's not even close to being illegal, but it's just another example of how Cruz can't maintain both his outsider maverick status without taking GOP establishment cash without lying to everyone he can.

Mapping Millennial Mojo

A new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that voters age 18-35 are most likely to support outsider candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Donald Trump easily leads the field among younger Republicans and independents, at 26%, but that is a lower level of support that the billionaire businessman now holds in the overall electorate. He is backed by 34% of GOP voters in the RealClearPolitics average of recent national surveys.

"I'm not really sure where I stand on him right now," says Acs, the student from New Mexico and a Republican. Trump's support nationwide and in key states means "he must be doing something right," she says, "but I don't know if I would vote for him."

No other Republican contender seems to have broken through, at least not yet. Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are bunched within 3 points of one another. Other contenders are in low single digits.

But among Democrats, there's something of a surprise:

On the Democratic side, among the overall electorate in national polls, Clinton now leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by close to 20 percentage points. But Sanders, the oldest candidate running, has captured the allegiance of younger voters. The 73-year-old democratic socialist from the Green Mountain State is leading Clinton, 46%-35%, among millennial Democrats and independents.

"The Bernie Sanders thing has really got me on board," says McGeary, an IT professional from Seattle. "I was pretty cynical at first about the whole movement — I mean, I supported it, but I had no idea it would pick up this kind of steam." He praises Sanders' reliance on small donors and lumps Clinton in with the Republican field as "people who keep protecting corporations instead of people."

Indeed, he says he might leave the country if Sanders isn't elected because of his frustration that the United States isn't doing more to address issues such as social inequality and health care.

There is an age divide within the millennial generation. Among those 18 to 25 years old, Sanders has a big lead. Among those 26 to 34, Clinton has a small edge.

There is a gender gap as well — and not the one that favors Clinton among baby boomer women. Men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. Women back him by almost 20 points. The possibility of breaking new ground by electing the first female president apparently carries less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers' generation.

This isn't the first poll to find that Millennial women are backing Sanders and not Clinton.  Whether or not they show up to vote in primaries or in the general, remains very much to be seen as this remains the age group least likely to cast a vote at all in 2016.

The Supreme Sanction In Florida

The Supreme Court this week made a rare 8-1 decision that the practice of Florida trial judges being the sole arbiter of death penalty punishment without a trial by jury violates the Sixth Amendment and is unconstitutional.

In an 8-1 de­cision, the court said Flor­ida vi­ol­ated the Sixth Amend­ment by al­low­ing judges, rather than jur­ies, to de­term­ine wheth­er cer­tain cri­ter­ia for a death sen­tence had been met.

Timothy Lee Hurst was sen­tenced to death more than a dec­ade ago for the bru­tal murder of a wo­man he worked with at a fast-food res­taur­ant. Un­der Flor­ida law, murder is nor­mally pun­ish­able by life im­pris­on­ment; a death sen­tence can be im­posed only if a judge de­term­ines that “ag­grav­at­ing cir­cum­stances” war­rant the tough­er sen­tence.

But that de­term­in­a­tion ought to be­long to a jury, not a judge, the Su­preme Court ruled.

“The Sixth Amend­ment pro­tects a de­fend­ant’s right to an im­par­tial jury. This right re­quired Flor­ida to base Timothy Hurst’s death sen­tence on a jury’s ver­dict, not a judge’s fact­find­ing,” Justice So­nia So­to­may­or wrote for the ma­jor­ity. “Flor­ida’s sen­ten­cing scheme, which re­quired the judge alone to find the ex­ist­ence of an ag­grav­at­ing cir­cum­stance, is there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.”

Flor­ida’s sys­tem re­quired jur­ies to make an “ad­vis­ory sen­tence,” which judges are sup­posed to take in­to ac­count when they make the fi­nal de­term­in­a­tion about wheth­er to ap­ply the death pen­alty. The state’s law­yers ar­gued that was enough, and Justice Samuel Alito—the only dis­sent­ing vote—agreed.

“Un­der the Flor­ida sys­tem, the jury plays a crit­ic­ally im­port­ant role,” Alito wrote.

In last summer's Glossip v Gross death penalty ruling on the constitutionality of lethal injection, it was Alito that wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority that the method of administering capital punishment had to itself be Constitutional, prompting dissent from Justice Steven Breyer that there was no way to do that.

In the 41 pages that followed, Breyer explained why he believed it was “highly likely” that the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment. “At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.” Two weeks later, in the first capital case after Glossip, David Zink offered them the means to do so. In his last-minute petition to the Court, Zink presented a question that the Court had not heard in over four decades:

Whether the death penalty today violates evolving standards of decency and concepts of human dignity embodied in the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and the Eighth Amendment as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment?

So again, this makes sense, Alito has been the hard-hearted one here on the death penalty.  But the question of the practice amounting to cruel and unusual punishment is looking like an opinion looking for a case, and hopefully such a case will come soon.


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