Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, head of the Democratic reelection effort in the House, is warning his colleagues that if Dems don't start hitting back hard against the GOP on schools, abortion, race and immigration and other "culture war" issues, they are going to get wiped off the map in nine months.


Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

And the party’s House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP’s “alarmingly potent” culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is recommending a new strategy to endangered members and their teams, hoping to blunt the kinds of GOP attacks that nearly erased their majority last election and remain a huge risk ahead of November. In presentations over the past two weeks, party officials and operatives used polling and focus group findings to argue Democrats can’t simply ignore the attacks, particularly when they’re playing at a disadvantage. A generic ballot of swing districts from late January showed Democrats trailing Republicans by 4 points, according to the polling.

It wasn’t all bleak, though: The data showed that Democrats could mostly regain the ground lost to Republicans if they offered a strong rebuttal to the political hits. When faced with a “defund the police” attack, for instance, the presenters encouraged Democrats to reiterate their support for police. And on immigration, they said Democrats should deny support for “open borders or amnesty,” and talk about their efforts to keep the border safe.

If Democrats don’t answer Republican hits, the party operatives warned, the GOP’s lead on the generic ballot balloons to 14 points from 4 points — a dismal prediction for Democrats when the GOP only needs to win five seats to seize back the majority. But when voters heard a Democratic response to that hit, Republicans’ edge narrowed back down to 6 points, giving candidates more of a fighting chance, especially since those numbers don’t factor in Democrats going on the offensive.

Many Democrats, led by DCCC chief Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), have pushed to more forcefully counter the GOP’s attacks since the last election. But that message has picked up new urgency as President Joe Biden’s approval has tanked in recent weeks, stoking more party anxiety.

The internal presentation underscored some of those anxieties: The GOP hits are most effective with center-left voters, independents and Hispanic voters, demographic groups that Democrats have struggled to attract in recent years.

The solution does not lie in policy proposals, the pollsters found, because voters are not generally opposed to Democratic policies. “Rather, Democrats need to demonstrate they fully understand and care about stressors in people’s lives” and focus on the issues “without stoking divisive cultural debates,” one of the slides said.

Summarizing the party’s midterm problems bluntly, the presentation notes that voters think Democrats “are not making good use of their majority.” 

It was time to fight GOP garbage 12 months ago, but Dems effectively gave Republicans a year head start, and it shows. Dems had better demonstrate forecfully why they should be in charge and fast, or they will no longer be in charge.

It's that last bit, "not making good use of their majority" that hurts. We know that Republicans can block everything in the Senate and get away with it, but only because Blue Dogs like Manchin and Sinema let them by refusing to change filibuster rules.

It all goes back to these two in the end, and they are going to end up costing us everything at this rate.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

 Last week, Donald Trump found out the hard way that crossing the National Archives on the Presidential Records Act was nothing but trouble. This week he's in a whole new world of pain as long-time corporate accounting firm Mazars is now disavowing a decade's worth of the Trump Organization's financial documents as the New York Attorney General's office continues to investigate Trump's company for fraud, and that could quickly mean financial disaster for Trump.

Predictably, Donald Trump wants you to think his longtime accounting firm’s decision to ditch the Trump Organization last week is no big deal. In fact, he would like you to not think about it at all.

But that hasn’t stopped members of his inner sanctum from wondering if the highly publicized investigations in New York could actually be what ultimately torches the ex-president’s sprawling family business.

Which is why after accounting firm Mazars USA dropped the Trump Organization, three people close to former President Trump told The Daily Beast they have each urged Trump—or others in his family and brain trust—to take this possibly ruinous development seriously.

“I’ll be honest with you: I have said for years that this whole thing is one big fishing expedition,” one of the sources said. “I’ve expected it to just fizzle at some point, or to turn up ticky tacky shit that can score prosecutors big headlines. The Mazars news was the first time I started thinking, ‘Hey, this might be serious.’ Could Donald Trump [and his business] be screwed? I don’t know, but I’m not as confident as I once was in saying, ‘No.’”

The question now facing the Trump Organization—which is already in hot water after being indicted in Manhattan for criminal tax fraud last summer—is whether the pillars propping up his business empire will now crumble.

The massive bank loans that fund his real estate development projects are the foundation of his empire. Banks that approved lending Trump money for his golf courses and skyscrapers relied on his personal guarantees and “statements of financial condition”—guarantees that are now shaky at best.

None of these sources who spoke to Trump believed he was taking this as seriously as he should. Two of them said the former president told them that his business empire has been doing “great,” no matter what prosecutors are trying to do to it.

But notably, all three predicted that this latest Mazars development would likely strengthen Trump’s resolve to run again for the presidency in 2024.

“Right now, all the voters care about is stopping the decline of the United States and President Trump is the one person who they know who can do it,” claimed John McLaughlin, who served as one of Trump’s top pollsters in 2016 and 2020. “Voters could care less who his accountant might be. As long as Joe Biden fails, President Trump grows stronger.”

After a day of remaining silent on the topic, the ex-president released a lengthy statement Tuesday night insisting that, among many other things, “We have a great company with fantastic assets that are unique, extremely valuable and, in many cases, far more valuable than what was listed in our Financial Statements.”

However, Mazar’s decision on Feb. 9 to disavow every financial condition statement Trump made from 2011 until 2020 does more than cast a shadow of doubt on his riches and his future.

That’s because lending agreements often include provisions that immediately cancel a deal—causing the loan to default—if the underlying documents prove false. According to a widely cited analysis by journalists at Bloomberg, the Trump Organization has had at least $590 million of debt coming due between 2021 and 2025. It’s unclear if Trump’s loan deals included a “material change in condition” clause, but if they did, as most do, the fallout could spell financial ruin.

Steven J. Solomon, an attorney in Miami who leads the bankruptcy practice at the national law firm GrayRobinson, warned about the gravity of the situation for the Trump Organization.

“It’s incredibly significant. And frankly, I’ve never heard of a situation where an accounting firm is going back retroactively 10 years,” he told The Daily Beast. “This would be a trigger point. If your lender doesn’t have confidence in you because it can’t rely on the information, you can’t be friends anymore.”
In other words, if all of Trump's lenders decide to call him out and demand their money back now, Trump goes under.
The bigger issue for Trump is that Mazars is running far, far away from ten years of being Trump's accountant, which means the NYAG office has almost certainly found dirty numbers and that Mazars doesn't want to go down with Trump. If they are now assisting the NYAG with forensic accounting issues, Trump is in real, dire trouble.

Let's remember Trump has gotten money off the books all his adult life. We know he's managed to keep his nose clean so far when it came to his mafia ties in Manhattan starting out, to the Russian mob in the last couple of decades, and to his Saudi friends for his campaign chest. But if this investigation unravels all of that bloody web, Trump's going to face real prison time.

Not to mention, the people he took money from off the books are not too forgiving about being stiffed. I agree with the assessment of the sources in the article that Trump will run in 2024, party from his huge, abyssal ego, but also because he figures winning again is the only way he stays out of prison...and an unfortunate "accident".
Trump just got a lot more desperate this week, and he's far more liable to do something stupid as a result.

Moose Lady Versus The Media Isn't Over

Sarah Palin's libel case against the New York Times ran into twin buzzsaws of reality this week, with the judge dismissing the case for lack of merit, and the jury already in the deliberation stage returned a unanimous verdict of Palin's loss. But as TPM's Bill Kovarik explains, the case is far from over and almost certainly headed for the Roberts Court, where Justices Thomas and Gorsuch lie in wait to dismantle legal protections for media outlets.

As a media historian, I can see the Palin case providing a vehicle to return libel laws back to a time when it was much easier for public figures to sue the press.

Before 1964’s Sullivan standard, the libel landscape in the U.S. consisted of a patchwork of state laws that made it easy for political figures to selectively persecute newspapers and public speakers who espoused opposing or unpopular views.

For example in 1949, John Henry McCray, a Black editor from South Carolina, served two months on a chain gang after being charged with criminal libel for writing a story about a racially charged execution. White publications reporting the same story were not charged.

Similarly, in a 1955 libel case, Dr. Von Mizell, a Black surgeon and NAACP official, was ordered to pay a US$15,000 fine for writing in opposition to a Florida state legislator’s idea of abolishing public schools instead of integrating them.

Then came the Sullivan case. It centered around several tiny mistakes in a civil rights advertisement carried by The New York Times. L.B. Sullivan, a public official not even named in the advertisement, sued for defamation, and the case went from Alabama to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In setting the Sullivan standard in 1964, the Supreme Court said in effect that it ought to be difficult for any official at the federal or the state level to prove that a falsehood was libelous enough – and personally damaging enough – to surmount First Amendment protections.

The court said a public official could not win a libel lawsuit by citing minor mistakes, technical inaccuracies or even outright negligence. Instead, under the Sullivan standard, a public official had to prove that there was “actual malice,” which means that a critic knowingly published something false or was in reckless disregard of the truth.

The court insisted that “debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on public officials.”

Originalists on the current Supreme Court – that is, those justices who believe that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was by those crafting the original document – seemingly disagree.

Justice Thomas, in a 2019 opinion, suggested the Sullivan ruling failed to take into account “the Constitution’s original meaning.” He followed this up in a 2021 opinion that stated the requirement on public figures to establish actual malice bears “no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution.”

Some legal scholars have argued that originalism doesn’t cut much ice when it comes to First Amendment protections. After it passed in 1791, the First Amendment was open to so many state interpretations that there is no agreement on what the accepted interpretation of the day was.

Nonetheless, should Palin appeal against the latest ruling, it is likely that the case could reach a Supreme Court in which at least two justices seem primed to challenge the decades-old Sullivan rule.

Given the Roberts Court track record on dismantling standing precedent in order to push the country into 1850 Federalist hell, don't be surprised if this come back to haunt an America that, by the time SCOTUS gets to destroying Sullivan, will have already lost Roe, the Civil Rights Act, the rest of the Voting Rights Act, affirmative action, and probably the law of gravity.

It'll take some time for this one to work its way up, but I'm sure SCOTUS will hear it in 2023 or 2024.

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