Thursday, July 1, 2021

Last Call For A Supreme Attack On Voting Rights

In a 6-3 Alito decision where all the Supreme Court's conservatives sided with the state of Arizona, the Roberts Court declared that Arizona's GOP had every right to restrict out-of-precinct voting and ballot harvesting, and that of course they weren't violations of the Voting Right Act, no siree.
The court upheld two provisions of the Arizona law. The first provision says in-person ballots cast at the wrong precinct on Election Day must be wholly discarded. Another provision restricts a practice known as "ballot collection," and says only family caregivers, mail carriers and election officials can deliver another person's completed ballot to a polling place. 
"In light of the principles set out above, neither Arizona's out-of-precinct rule nor its ballot-collection law violates §2 of the VRA," Alito wrote. "Arizona's out-of-precinct rule enforces the requirement that voters who choose to vote in person on election day must do so in their assigned precincts. Having to identify one's own polling place and then travel there to vote does not exceed the "usual burdens of voting.'" 
The case comes as several Republican-led states, encouraged by former President Donald Trump's unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, are considering more restrictive laws and Democrats are fighting a frantic battle in courts to combat what President Joe Biden has called an "assault on democracy."

So of course your vote gets tossed out completely if you vote in the wrong precinct. And of course, Arizona Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure that Black and brown voters vote in the wrong precinct. It's the new Jim Crow, whee!
The bottom line is that states are basically free to pass whatever voting restrictions they want to, because this court will never rule that they are obvious suppression efforts of Black voters.
It's open season on your voting rights, and the VRA is officially all but dead from a legal standpoint. We're right back to 1898 and Williams v. Mississippi.

Even worse, the Roberts Court handed down a decision that struck down California's state law requiring donor disclosure to super PACs on the same 6-3 lines, saying that was not only unconstitutional, but that it was clearly political in nature and obviously designed to hurt wealthy donors.

The Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated a California rule that requires charitable organizations to disclose the names of contributors in a case that could impact the future of "dark money" politics.
The opinion was 6-3 along conservative-liberal lines.

"The upshot is that California casts a dragnet for sensitive donor information from tens of thousands of charities each year, even though that information will become relevant in only a small number of cases involving filed complaints," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Campaign finance reform had expressed fear that such a ruling could eventually lead to more anonymous money -- called dark money -- to enter the political sphere.

The case had pitted the interest of charities to maintain the privacy of their donors against the states' interest in policing charitable fraud.

California mandated that non-profit charities that solicit donations in the state identify their substantial donors to the California attorney general. The same information already goes to the IRS -- found on the IRS Form 990. The Schedule B attachment required the organizations to report the names and addresses of their largest contributors. Failure to comply had the potential to lead to late fees and suspicion of their registration as a charitable organization.
Roberts ruled that the fraud policing was a purely political pretext that violated the rights of wealthy people to exercise their cash-based free speech.  Oh no!

Actual votes can be thrown out on a technicality, but heaven forbid we ever have millionaires reveal they gave money to politicians in order to control them. One is perfectly legal, the other is a VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION AND GOD HIMSELF.

But her emails, I guess.

Tales From Bevinstan, Con't

It seems the universe isn't quite done yet with former Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, who is now facing a federal investigation for a possible pay-for-play pardon scheme during his term.

Two years after Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned a convicted killer whose family hosted a political fundraiser for the governor, the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating the executive action.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Reed told a federal judge during a hearing June 22 her office is conducting an "ongoing investigation" of Bevin’s pardon of Patrick Baker, whose family hosted a fundraiser at their home in Corbin that raised $21,500 to retire the debt from Bevin’s 2015 campaign.

Bevin has adamantly denied he pardoned Baker because of the fundraiser hosted by Baker's brother Eric and his wife, but the revelations show the former governor still faces possible criminal liability.

Spokesmen for the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Lexington did not respond to questions about the pending investigation.

At the June 22 hearing, FBI Task Force Officer Mark Mefford testified he and other investigators interviewed Baker’s ex-girlfriend Dawn Turner last Dec. 28 about the fundraiser.

“And was the sole purpose of that interview was to discuss Mr. Baker's pardon and a fundraiser that was conducted for Mr. Baker?" Reed asked him.

“Yes,” Mefford replied.

Reed told U.S. District Judge Claire Horn Boom another prosecutor was heading the investigation.

Mefford testified that that joining him in the interview of Turner were FBI Special Agent Jim Huggins, FBI forensic accountant Chris Darman and Kentucky Attorney General investigator Matt Easter.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Monday that Turner told investigators in December she believed the purpose of the fundraiser was to influence Bevin to give Patrick Baker a pardon and the donor event was “crucial” in getting it.

She also said she thought Baker’s parents wanted her at the fundraiser so Bevin would see her autistic son and it would make him more sympathetic to letting Baker out of prison, according to the Herald Leader story, which also reported she said Baker’s mother gave her $500 to contribute at the event.

Boom ordered a transcript of Turner's interview sealed after the hearing.

A jury in 2017 convicted Baker, now 43, of reckless homicide in the death of a Knox County drug dealer shot in the chest during an attempt to rob him of money and pain pills.

Baker also was convicted of robbery, impersonating a police officer and tampering with physical evidence for allegedly disposing of the homicide weapon.

A judge sentenced him to 19 years in prison in December 2017, but just two years later, Bevin commuted the sentence and pardoned him.

The commutation became among the most controversial of hundreds granted by Bevin as he left office after The Courier-Journal revealed the fundraiser.

Bevin said the evidence against Baker was “sketchy at best,” but the Kentucky Court of Appeals in an opinion called it overwhelming.
There's zero doubt that what Bevin did was immoral and done as a direct favor for a fundraiser in exchange for a pardon. Proving that in federal court, that's another thing. Let's remember that the Roberts Court made it clear with the overturning of the bribery conviction of Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2016 that criminalizing politics was "unconstitutional", and NY state Senate leader Sheldon Silver's corruption conviction in 2017 was overturned by a federal appeals court after the McDonnell ruling for the same reason.

No, even if Bevin's convicted, his conviction will absolutely be overturned.

Just another tale from Bevinstan, you see.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

White Donald Trump won't be charged (most likely ever, as it will ignite political violence around the country and we're nowhere near being ready for that cost and the aftermath as a society) his businesses will be this week as the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg face tax fraud charges from Manhattan DA Cy Vance's three-year investigation.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is expected to charge the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer with tax-related crimes on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said, which would mark the first criminal charges against the former president’s company since prosecutors began investigating it three years ago.

The charges against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, are a blow to former President Donald Trump, who has fended off multiple criminal and civil probes during and after his presidency. Mr. Trump himself isn’t expected to be charged, his lawyer said. Mr. Weisselberg has rejected prosecutors’ attempts at gaining his cooperation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The defendants are expected to appear in court on Thursday afternoon, the people said.

The Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg are expected to face charges related to allegedly evading taxes on fringe benefits, the people said. For months, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and New York state attorney general’s office have been investigating whether Mr. Weisselberg and other employees illegally avoided paying taxes on perks—such as cars, apartments and private-school tuition—that they received from the Trump Organization.

If prosecutors could show the Trump Organization and its executives systematically avoided paying taxes, they could file more serious charges alleging a scheme, lawyers said.

Mr. Weisselberg and his lawyers haven’t commented on the investigation or impending charges.

Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the investigations, conducted by offices led by Democrats, are politically motivated. Earlier this week, he said in a statement that the case is composed of “things that are standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime.”

In recent virtual meetings, lawyers for Mr. Trump and his company tried to persuade prosecutors not to charge the Trump Organization, arguing that charging a company over fringe benefits or employee compensation was unheard of, The Wall Street Journal and others reported this week. Former prosecutors say it is rare to charge an individual or company for failure to pay taxes on employee benefits alone, although such charges are used as part of larger cases.
Again, I'm just some guy on the internet here who has been grouchy for a dozen years online, but even I have to say this looks like Vance is trying to get Weisselberg to flip and turn states' evidence against Trump and/or his kids.
We'll see what happens, but the outrage meter on the right is maybe even going to exceed that of Trump's impeachment, where they knew with 100% certainty that nothing actually consequential was ever going to happen to Trump from any attempt to impeach. This...this is something they cannot fully control.

It only gets bad from this point on, folks.
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