Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Last Call For Gillium Gets Gotten

As if somehow things couldn't possibly get worse for the semi-torpid corpse of the Florida Democratic Party, the last guy they tried to run against Ron DeSantis is now facing 21 counts of federal fraud charges.

Andrew Gillum, the once-rising Florida Democratic star who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race to Ron DeSantis, was hit with a 21-count federal indictment Wednesday for wire fraud, related conspiracy charges and making false statements.

Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor, was charged along with his mentor, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, for fraudulently fundraising from "various entities" between 2016 to 2019, according to a Department of Justice press release. The Justice Department said the two allegedly diverted some of the money to a company controlled by Lettman-Hicks, who fraudulently disguised the funds as payroll payments to Gillum.

In a written statement, Gillum and his lawyers proclaimed his innocence. Lettman-Hicks — a candidate for a state House seat — has not returned texts or calls from NBC News requesting comment.

“I have spent the last 20 years of my life in public service and continue to fight for the people,” Gillum said. “Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal, it is political. Throughout my career I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Marc Elias, a leading Democratic lawyer, and top criminal defense attorney David Oscar Markus also issued a joint statement said they’ll fight to clear his name.

“The government got it wrong today. The evidence in this case is clear and will show that Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges. We look forward to putting this case to rest and giving Andrew and his family peace of mind once and for all,” the lawyers said.

The indictment marks a new low for Gillum, a married father of three who withdrew from public life as a political leader and a paid CNN commentator after a March 2020 sex scandal involving a suspected male overdose victim in a South Beach hotel.

At the time, Gillum said he was abusing alcohol as he coped with his loss to DeSantis, but campaign finance records and a leaked criminal subpoena in 2019 showed that Gillum also faced the pressure of an FBI investigation.
Now that investigation has resulted in a boatload of indictments, which if Gillum was governor, would be grounds for impeachment, removal, and, well, someone like DeSantis being elected governor, so. 

Yaaaaaay Florida Dems.


We Don't Need No Education, Con't

The Roberts Court issued a ruling on funding religious schools with taxpayer dollars that could most generaously be described as creating a path for forcing states and the federal government to fully fund private relgious schools with taxpayer money, and more accurately as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern writes, a path to ending public education in America period

The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority effectively declared on Tuesday that the separation of church and state—a principle enshrined in the Constitution—is, itself, unconstitutional. Its 6–3 decision in Carson v. Makin requires Maine to give public money to private religious schools, steamrolling decades of precedent in a race to compel state funding of religion. Carson is radical enough on its own, but the implications of the ruling are even more frightening: As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in dissent, it has the potential to dismantle secular public education in the United States.

Carson challenges Maine’s effort to provide quality civic education to every child in the state. The government created a tuition assistance program to help families who live in remote, sparsely populated regions without any public schools. Under the program, parents can send their kids to certain private schools, and the state covers the cost of tuition. To qualify, these schools must give students a secular education. They may be affiliated with, or even run by, a religious organization. But their actual curricula must align with secular state standards.

Two families challenged this limitation, arguing that it violated the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. Just two decades ago, this claim would’ve been laughed out of court: SCOTUS only permitted states to subsidize religious schools in 2002; at the time, it would’ve been absurd to say that states have a constitutional obligation to subsidize them. Beginning in 2017, the court began to assert that states may not exclude religious schools from public benefits that are available to their secular counterparts. And in 2020, the conservative justices forced states to subsidize religious schools once they began subsidizing secular private education.

Tuesday’s decision in Carson takes this radical theory to a new extreme, ordering Maine to extend public education funds to religious indoctrination.

The upshot of Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the court is that states have no compelling interest in providing public, secular education to children. Indeed, Roberts suggests that the very concept of secular schooling is a smokescreen for “discrimination against religion”—a pretext for unconstitutional animus toward pious Americans. His opinion reaches far beyond Maine. About 37 states have amendments to their constitutions that bar government funding of religious institutions, including schools. Carson essentially invalidates those laws while undermining the broader constitutional basis for the nation’s public school system.

Roberts reached this astonishing result by overruling broad swaths of precedent respecting states’ authority to separate church and state more strictly than the U.S. Constitution requires. The court previously upheld states’ interest in avoiding the “establishment” of religion by refusing to underwrite the indoctrination of students into a particular faith. No longer. Roberts condemned Maine’s efforts to guard against religious establishment as nothing more than “discrimination against religion”—an effort to “exclude some members of the community” from public benefits “because of their religious exercise.” He also overruled a line of cases that let the government withhold funding on the basis of religious use (like indoctrination) but not religious status (like affiliation with a church). That distinction, he wrote, “lacks a meaningful application not only in theory, but in practice as well,” tossing it in the precedential dumpster.

The chief justice maintained that Carson’s rule only kicks in once a state starts sending taxpayer dollars to private schools through vouchers, tax credits, or scholarships. So, in theory, a state can send all its money to public schools and avoid constitutional concerns. Even if that’s true, the consequences are sweeping: Most states offer at least one of these programs, so Carson gives millions of families an opportunity to bail out of the public school system and demand public money for parochial education.

But can this distinction hold? Roberts’ bright line dims under scrutiny: Maine, after all, wanted private schools to replace public education for some students, not supplement it. And yet the court found no good reason for the state to insist that these substitute schools adhere to secular standards. Indeed, the chief justice’s rhetoric depicts education not as a state-sponsored benefit for all, but rather as a personal matter best left up to parents. There is, he claimed, no “historic and substantial state interest” in preserving secular education. If that’s true, how can any state refuse to fund religious schooling?

Breyer raised these questions in dissent. Does Carson, he asked, “mean that a school district that pays for public schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to send their children to religious schools?” In other words, must every state begin cutting checks to parents who want to give their kids a Christian education? Does Carson mean “school districts that give vouchers for use at charter schools must pay equivalent funds to parents who wish to give their children a religious education?” Can states even mandate secular curricula at charter schools any more? Who knows? In the end, the only limit on Carson is whatever five justices want it to be.
The issues Justice Breyer raises are the ones that will be determined in future cases, because I guarantee you those lawsuits are being readied in light of Chief Justice Roberts's bonkers interpretation of Carson. The next step is almost certainly demanding that anything less than equal funding for religious schools as public secular ones is religious discrimination, and that the standards that secular schools are held to when getting that state and federal money will be changed to meet religious school dogma.

In other words, the end of secular schooling, period.

This is as dangerous a ruling as it gets to the future of America.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

The Senate "Bipartisan Deal" on gun safety in the wake of lethal mass shootings in Buffalo NY and Uvalde, Texas has resulted in a toothless federal bill that shifts the burdens of adopting red flag and background check laws to states, and rewards state that refuse to implement either with more federal money for "crisis prevention"
A bipartisan group of senators overcame some last-minute hurdles and released legislative text Tuesday on a narrow set of provisions to combat gun violence, including state funding to implement “red flag” laws and enhanced background checks.

“Today, we finalized bipartisan, commonsense legislation to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country," Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a joint statement along with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

"Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American’s Second Amendment rights. We look forward to earning broad, bipartisan support and passing our commonsense legislation into law,” they added.

Cornyn said earlier Tuesday that the senators agreed to address the so-called boyfriend loophole by limiting gun rights for non-spouse dating partners who are convicted of domestic abuse.

“Unless someone is convicted of domestic abuse under their state laws, their gun rights will not be impacted," he said on the Senate floor. "Those who are convicted of non-spousal misdemeanor domestic abuse—not felony, but misdemeanor domestic violence—will have an opportunity after five years to have their Second Amendment rights restored. But they have to have a clean record."

The legislation will offer red flag grants to every state, including those that do not adopt red flag laws, which can be used on other crisis prevention programs designed to prevent individuals in crisis from resorting to violence, said Cornyn, the chief GOP negotiator.

The boyfriend loophole and red flag provisions were the last two major sticking points between the core senators: Murphy, Cornyn, Sinema and Tillis.

"We are closing the boyfriend loophole," Murphy said. "This provision alone is going to save the lives of so many women who unfortunately die at the hands of a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend who hunts them down with a firearm."

Murphy said the bill enhances background checks for people between the ages of 18 and 21, allowing up to three days to conduct checks, and an extra 10 days if there are signs of concern. He said it will contain tougher penalties for gun trafficking and "clarify" which sellers must register as a federal firearm licensee, which would force them to conduct background checks. And he said the bill expands money for mental health and school-based health.

The National Rifle Association quickly announced its opposition to the bill, arguing in a statement that the legislation “does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.”

The evenly split Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the legislation as early as Tuesday night, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., saying he hopes to pass the bill this week. The initial vote would only require a simple majority to begin processing the legislation.

It remains to be seen whether there will be 60 votes to ultimately break a filibuster and end debate on the bill later in the voting process.
We'll see if the bill survives or not, but even if it does, in the era of the Roberts Court, states have to opt in individually and still get the money if they don't. 

Quite literally this is the best we're going to get on federal firearms legislation, and even then, it's an entirely optional law.

If it even becomes law, which is still very much in doubt.


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