Friday, March 25, 2022

Last Call For Culture Warriors, Con't

Republicans continue to target trans folks in women's sports, with several states adding to the ridiculous pain this week. Utah GOP Gov. Spencer Cox's veto of a ban on trans folk in women's sports was meaningless as Republican bigots were able to override his veto

GOP lawmakers in Utah pushed through a ban on transgender youth athletes playing on girls teams Friday, overriding a veto and joining 11 other states with similar laws amid a nationwide culture war.

A veto letter from Gov. Spencer Cox drew national attention with a poignant argument that such laws target vulnerable transgender kids already at high suicide risk.

Business leaders also sounded the alarm that the ban could have a multimillion-dollar economic impact on Utah, including the possible loss of the NBA All-Star Game next year. The Utah Jazz called the ban “discriminatory legislation” and opposed it.

Before the veto, the ban received support from a majority of Utah lawmakers, but fell short of the two-thirds needed to override it. Its sponsors on Friday flipped 10 Republicans in the House and five in the Senate who had previously voted against the proposal.

Cox was the second GOP governor this week to overrule lawmakers on a sports-participation ban, but the proposal won support from a vocal conservative base that has particular sway in Utah’s state primary season. Even with those contests looming, however, some Republicans stood with Cox to reject the ban.

“I cannot support this bill. I cannot support the veto override and if it costs me my seat so be it. I will do the right thing, as I always do,” said Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher.

With the override of Cox’s veto, a dozen states have some sort of ban on transgender kids in school sports. Utah’s law takes effect July 1.

Not long ago efforts to regulate transgender kids’ participation in sports failed to gain traction in statehouses, but in the past two years groups like the American Principles Project began a well-coordinated effort to promote the legislation throughout the country. Since last year, bans have been introduced in at least 25 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This week, lawmakers in Arizona and Oklahoma passed bans.

“You start these fights and inject them into politics,” said Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project. “You pass them in a few states and it starts to take on a life of its own and becomes organic. We helped start this fight and we’re helping carry it through, but a lot of this is coming from the local level.”

Leaders in the deeply conservative Utah say they need the law to protect women’s sports. The lawmakers argue that more transgender athletes with possible physical advantages could eventually dominate the field and change the nature of women’s sports without legal intervention.

Utah has only one transgender girl playing in K-12 sports who would be affected by the ban. There have been no allegations of any of the four transgender youth athletes in Utah having competitive advantages
Can't wait until the tall Black person ban in school basketball. It puts short white kids at a competitive disadvantage that eventually could lead to tall Black kids dominating the sport.
Oh wait.
Hell, that's probably coming next once the Supreme Court strikes down most equal rights laws.  And then we'll be targeting a new bunch of kids for not being white, straight, and Christian.

Good Ol' Rotten Top, Rotten Top Tennessee

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury as part of an ongoing FBI investigation into Capitol Hill corruption.

Legislative sources had suggested they believed that as many as 10-12 other House Republicans were also served Tuesday with grand jury subpoenas, although NewsChannel 5 Investigates has not been able to confirm that number.

Connie Ridley, director of legislative administration, confirmed Wednesday that she received a subpoena to testify, as did Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport. Hulsey said he had not been able to determine why federal prosecutors might be interested in his testimony.

“We have been fully cooperating with the federal authorities since I became speaker in 2019," Sexton said in a statement, confirming his own grand jury subpoena.

"It is not unexpected that I and other members would be called to appear before a grand jury to provide factual statements as part of this ongoing investigation.”

A spokesperson for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that "no one from the governor's office has been subpoenaed."

This dramatic development follows the recent guilty plea of now-former Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, to federal wire fraud charges relating to a shadowy company that provided mailing services to Republican lawmakers, using both campaign money and taxpayer funding.

As part of her plea, Smith admitted that she and former House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, received kickbacks from that company, Phoenix Solutions, in exchange for using their positions to steer business to that company.

Phoenix Solutions, according to federal prosecutors, was really controlled by former Casada aide Cade Cothren.

Smith's plea bargain required her to assist the FBI as it continues its investigation.

Sources had told NewsChannel 5 that it was expected that individuals who had contact with Smith and/or Casada regarding Phoenix Solutions would be subpoenaed.
Volunteer State Republicans making the case as to why they're the most corrupt GOP state legislature in America, along with Ohio, Florida and Texas.  Ohio Republicans got rid of Larry Householder and then all of them were reelected after the billion-dollar First Energy bribery mess, so it's probably not going to affect much in 2022 in Tennessee.  We'll see.

The GOP Grift Never Stops, Con't

Six months ago I noted that Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry had been caught up in the illegal donation scandal involving Lebanese-Nigerian Billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, and his straw donations to several Republicans in 2020. Fortenberry went to trial this week, and now the hammer has come down on Fortenberry, as a jury took all of two hours to ring him up on all three charges.

History hit Jeff Fortenberry with a devastating blow Thursday.

A federal jury deliberated less than two hours before convicting the nine-term Nebraska congressman on one count of concealing conduit campaign contributions and two counts of lying to federal agents.

Fortenberry, a 61-year-old Republican, is the highest-ranking elected official to be convicted of a felony in Nebraska history.

Fortenberry betrayed little emotion as the verdict was read. After the guilty verdict was read on the concealment charge, Fortenberry closed his eyes and kept them closed for at least a minute.

His youngest daughter dropped her head into her hands and heaved. His oldest daughter doubled over in the courtroom gallery, her boyfriend comforting her.

Celeste Fortenberry, who had testified earlier Thursday, remained mostly stoic. She comforted her daughters, then her husband, cupping his face with her hands and giving her husband of 26 years a kiss.

U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. set sentencing for June 28. The congressman faces up to five years in prison on each count, although he could also receive supervised release.

Ironically, he does not have to give up his congressional seat. Federal law requires members of Congress to give up their seats only for crimes that are tied to treason.

It is unclear whether Fortenberry’s campaign will continue. He faces a Republican challenger in the May primary: State Sen. Mike Flood. Two Democrats, including State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, are also vying for the seat.

Fortenberry’s staff, including his current chief of staff Andy Braner, sat outside a courtroom, stunned. Braner left the courthouse with his hands stuffed in his suit pockets.

Fortenberry exited the courtroom to a gaggle of about seven members of the Nebraska press corps.

“Thank you all for coming out here; this is important to Nebraska,” Fortenberry said. “We always thought it was going to be hard to get a fair process out here. This appeal starts immediately.”

Actually, any appeals typically would have to wait until after the June sentencing, although attorneys can ask for a new trial before then.

Fortenberry — the judge determined he was not a flight risk and allowed him to remain free pending sentencing — said his phone was buzzing off the hook. One of the texts: a note from one of his five daughters.

“She said ‘I love you Daddy, no matter what anyone else accuses you of,’” Fortenberry said. “Just remember so many other people do too.”

Asked if he would continue his campaign, Fortenberry said his family is going to sit down and evaluate next steps.

The jury of four men and eight women convicted the congressman after watching several tapes of him making incriminating statements.

The investigation ramped up when the FBI discovered that a Nigerian billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury, had been funneling cash into the campaigns of four Republican politicians: former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, current California Rep. Darrell Issa, former Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Fortenberry.

It is illegal for U.S. elected officials to accept foreign money
You'd think that would be it, but as the article points out, being convicted of a felony is no guarantee of being expelled or even being voted out of office.  Remember, former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill resigned over a relationship with a staffer that happened before she was in office, and this guy is frankly going to get another term.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday suggested Rep. Jeff Fortenberry should resign from Congress, hours after the Nebraska Republican was convicted of lying to the FBI over illegal campaign contributions.

“I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign, ” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference on the final day of the House GOP retreat.

“I am going to discuss with him today. I think he had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal he can do that as a private citizen,” McCarthy added, noting that he had texted Fortenberry late last night after the conviction.

Minutes after McCarthy’s remarks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a more declarative statement on the matter, calling on Fortenberry to immediately resign.

“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law,” she said.

But that's how Republicans work, Nancy. Laws only apply to Democrats and their voters.

I fully expect Fortenberry to simply walk this off.
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