The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has been at war with campaign finance laws for more than a dozen years, stretching at least as far back as its decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010). On Monday, the Court’s six Republican appointees escalated this war.
The Court’s decision in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a boon to wealthy candidates. It strikes down an anti-bribery law that limited the amount of money candidates could raise after an election in order to repay loans they made to their own campaign.
Federal law permits candidates to loan money to their campaigns. In 2001, however, Congress prohibited campaigns from repaying more than $250,000 of these loans using funds raised after the election. They can repay as much as they want from campaign donations received before the election (although a federal regulation required them to do so “within 20 days of the election”).
The idea is that, if already-elected officials can solicit donations to repay what is effectively their own personal debt, lobbyists and others seeking to influence lawmakers can put money directly into the elected official’s pocket — and campaign donations that personally enrich a lawmaker are particularly likely to lead to corrupt bargains. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) manufactured a case to try to overturn that $250,000 limit, and now, the Court has sided with him.
Indeed, now that this limit on loan repayments has been struck down, lawmakers with sufficiently creative accountants may be able to use such loans to give themselves a steady income stream from campaign donors.
According to the Los Angeles Times, for example, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) made a $150,000 loan to her campaign at 18 percent interest in 1998 — before the 2001 law was enacted. Though Napolitano did eventually reduce the interest rate on this loan to 10 percent, the high-interest loan allowed her to make a considerable profit from donors.
As of 2009, Napolitano reportedly raised $221,780 to repay that loan — $158,000 of which was classified as “interest.” Because the 6-3 decision in Ted Cruz neutralizes the 2001 law, lawmakers may now potentially use a similar scheme in order to funnel legal bribes into their personal bank accounts.
Other lawmakers might not be quite as brazen in seeking to line their own pockets. But they still may be inclined to reward donors who help them recoup the cost of personal loans. As Justice Elena Kagan writes in dissent, a candidate who receives money that goes directly into their own pocket is likely to be “more grateful than for ordinary campaign contributions (which do not increase his personal wealth).”
Monday, May 16, 2022
The 18-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday told authorities he was targeting the Black community, according to an official familiar with the investigation.
The alleged gunman made disturbing statements describing his motive and state of mind following his arrest, the official said. The statements were clear and filled with hate toward the Black community. Investigators also uncovered other information from search warrants and other methods indicating the alleged shooter was "studying" previous hate attacks and shootings, the official said.
The revelation comes a day after a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at the Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo. Eleven of the people who were shot were Black, officials said.
The suspect was identified as a rifle-toting 18-year-old from Conklin, New York, who allegedly wrote a White supremacist manifesto online, traveled about 200 miles to the store and livestreamed the attack, authorities said.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said Sunday the attack was a racist hate crime and will be prosecuted as such.
"The evidence that we have uncovered so far makes no mistake that this is an absolute racist hate crime. It will be prosecuted as a hate crime," he said. "This is someone who has hate in their heart, soul and mind."
Investigators believe the suspect acted on his own in the shooting, Gramaglia said. The suspect was in Buffalo a day before the shooting and did some reconnaissance at the Tops Friendly Markets store, the commissioner said.
The victims included a former Buffalo police lieutenant working as a security guard and the 86-year-old mother of Buffalo's retired fire commissioner, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Two people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a spokesman for Erie County Medical Center said Saturday night.
The demographics of the United States are changing, and the share of the population considered white is shrinking. This change is occurring faster than anticipated, thanks to the relative ages of white and nonwhite populations in the country — the nonwhite population trends significantly younger — and all national population growth is being driven by nonwhite groups, according to an analysis by Brookings. This confluence of death, birth, and immigration is in and of itself morally neutral, a matter of the natural ebb and flow of populations over time. But as the era of the white majority nears its end, a revanchist, racist right has treated the facts of demography as an occasion for a sweeping, violent moral panic.
Donald Trump’s ascendance was a key marker of the force of white racial panic; from the moment he launched his candidacy, his overt racism set the party’s agenda, and from the very first, his rhetoric directly provoked racist violence. Far from ebbing as Trump has ceased to be the party’s sole center, however, the tide of white animus has become even more central to a new crop of Congresspeople and candidates.
The Republican Party’s embrace of nativism has been more of a full-on dash than a slow slide, and it has been catalyzed by the vast constellation of right-wing media. Chief among these is the juggernaut that is Fox News. As a New York Times analysis revealed, the network’s flagship prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, has an obsession with replacement theory: In more than 400 shows the newspaper analyzed, Carlson evoked the idea of forced demographic change through immigration and other methods. Carlson is not alone: A Media Matters examination of Fox’s rhetoric throughout 2021 found that the network fulsomely embraced replacement theory, or, as it is more commonly known among extremists, “white genocide.” Such fears have become commonplace campaign talking points among Republican candidates: Ohio senatorial candidate J.D. Vance recently declared that Democrats are “bringing in a large number of new voters to replace those that are already here”; in Arizona, far-right state senator Wendy Rogers responded to an article about migrants with the ominous message, “We are being replaced and invaded.” Just hours after the mass shooting in Buffalo, Senate candidate Blake Masters posted a video appearance in which he declared that Democrats’ electoral strategy involves bringing in “millions” of immigrants to vote for them. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene rode extremism into Congress, long after sharing a video that declared that an “unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists, and Zionist supremacists has schemed to promote immigration and miscegenation, with the deliberate aim of breeding us out of existence in our own homelands.” This clamor — from politicians and pundits, candidates and conspiracy theorists — has become the radioactive center of the right’s policy.
Once you understand an obsession with racial composition and white fertility to be the driving engine of Republican politics, a number of seemingly disparate movements begin to fit together into an ugly whole. Some aspects are obvious: The anti-immigrant movement that has seen U.S. refugee admissions at historic lows and asylum seekers marooned in purgatorial camps in Mexico continues to dominate the right-wing airwaves. Historic levels of gerrymandering are ensuring that a diversifying populace remains beholden to the views of a white minority — alongside openly antidemocratic restrictions on voting and changes in election administration.
Other aspects are more veiled, but no less vitriolic. Years of fearmongering about transgender rights, and in particular their influence on youth, are linked to fears of waning fertility: anti-trans demagogues like Abigail Shrier describe trans bodies as “maimed and sterile,” and, as such, a chief motivation for the legion of anti-trans laws passed by state legislatures is the future fertility of trans children born female. The violent antifeminism of a far-right movement that sees women principally as vessels for breeding a new white generation expresses itself in a fixation on a return to “traditional” gender roles. And the culmination of generations of right-wing activism, which will secure the “domestic supply of infants,” as Justice Samuel Alito memorably put it, is poised to arrive in the form of the dissolution of Roe v. Wade. Payton Gendron, and those like him, are listening: like Brenton Tarrant, the mass shooter at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Gendron opened his manifesto with a screed on the supposedly apocalyptic consequences of “sub-replacement fertility rates” among white women.
In his manifesto, Gendron claims to have acted alone, while in the same breath admitting, “I’ve had many influences from others.” The 180 pages of the document reveal the breadth of those influences: it is largely pastiche, with page upon page of racist and antisemitic memes compiled in repulsive collages; collections of scientific studies of I.Q. differentials between racist groups; screenshots and links to news articles that confirm his prejudices; and segments of other manifestos, including Tarrant’s, bloat a thin line of racist scrawl. He may have, as he claims, become radicalized by over-enthused browsing of the Internet’s sewers, principally 4chan. But his fixations mirror those of the right wing more broadly, from violent transphobia to a loathing of immigration to a preoccupation with the possibility of civil war.
When the rhetoric of an entire movement devolves into Manichaean demonization of their political foes; when demographic shifts are represented as apocalyptic; and when a party can appeal to nothing but the consolidation of white power, it is an inevitability that such rhetoric will leave bodies in its wake. The Republican Party caters chiefly now to those who claim that to be born the wrong color is an act of genocide, and act with appropriate fervor. There has never been a lone wolf when it comes to racist terror in the United States; it suffuses every aspect of our politics and policy, and in latter years the mass howl of fear at change comes from a jaw that drips with blood. As long as we fail to recognize the wellspring of racial animus that animates the right wing in this country, the corpses will continue to accrue.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Monday accused House GOP leadership of enabling white supremacy and antisemitism, which she suggested has inspired people to act upon those threats, leading to dangerous consequences.
"The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them," Cheney said in a tweet.
Support for abortion rights has reached a record high, and nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a new national NBC News poll conducted after the leak of a draft opinion that would strike down the constitutional right to abortion.
What’s more, the survey finds abortion climbing up the list of issues that Americans believe are the most important, and that Democratic interest in the upcoming midterms has increased since earlier this year.
But the poll also found that this Supreme Court draft opinion hasn’t substantially altered the overall political environment heading into November’s elections — with inflation and the economy remaining the public’s top issues, President Joe Biden’s job rating falling below 40 percent and a whopping 75 percent of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.
It’s the fourth straight NBC News poll with the wrong-track number higher than 70 percent, and the fifth time in the poll’s 34-year history when the wrong-track number hit 75 percent or higher.
The other times were in 2008 (during the Great Recession) and 2013 (during a government shutdown).
“It is a flashing red light when you see a number like this,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates.
“Americans are telling us this is as bad as 2008,” McInturff added.
Yet given these numbers, Democrats are still tied with Republicans in the poll’s question of which party should control Congress.
“It is remarkable that preference for control of Congress is even overall, and that the gap in interest in the election has narrowed,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.
Maybe more significantly, Democratic interest in the midterms has increased — from 50 percent of Democrats in March who indicated a high level of interest (either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale) to 61 percent now.
That’s compared to Republicans, who were at 67 percent high interest two months ago, versus 69 percent now.
“How [abortion] plays out in November is to be determined. but for now, it is injecting some much-needed enthusiasm into parts of the Democratic coalition,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.