Thursday, December 22, 2022

Last Call For Fantasma Santos, Con't

On Monday, I asked how Democrats could have possibly missed the fact that NY-3 GOP Rep. George Santos was a pathological liar and given the House seat away to this clown.

So he lied about his work at Goldman Sachs, he lied about his Baruch College degree, he lied about his family business, and oh yeah he's wanted for bad checks back in Brazil.
That Democrats in the state left Tom Suozzi's seat open for this clown to win it over Robert Zimmerman, figuring Zimmerman would win by osmosis or something, should serve as a critical lesson to the state's cancerous Democratic state party.

The fact that this level of scrutiny was not given to Santos until after her won with the rank lies and fabrications is a failure of the NY Times itself. This white supremacist clown should have been exposed months ago.

But the NY Democratic Party should have had this oppo research ready to go. Even an afternoon of work would have cost Santos the race, and they just didn't care to do basic due diligence.
Let’s go through the opposition research process. A junior researcher is tasked to write a “book” — a comprehensive report laying out a buffet of opposition research attacks on a given opponent. Then a senior researcher oversees and edits the book. As the Democratic candidate was not chosen until Aug. 23 in a district Democrats won comfortably in 2020, this process probably started late and was rushed.

Think back to that animal-rescue nonprofit, which reportedly was not registered as a charity. How did Mr. Santos get away with that unnoticed? He didn’t, exactly. We have a copy of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s research book on Mr. Santos, polished for public consumption and posted online in August. Sure enough, we see that Mr. Santos’s charity is documented as unfindable in an I.R.S. database.

Documented, too, are evictions during the 2010s and instances of undisclosed personal finances that appear in the Times story. They’re in small sections interspersed through a nearly 90-page document, yet they’re there. Maybe given more time, the researchers could have gone further to confirm the nonprofit’s lack of state filings or could have contacted his former landlords.

What about Mr. Santos’s apparently lying about his employers and education? The Times reported that Baruch College could not confirm that he graduated in the year he claimed, and companies he has listed, such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, found no record of his employment. Often, opposition research is the dark art of searching databases and copying and pasting information so you can write prompts for reporters. You’d be shocked to know what a 20-something given enough time and direction can find out about a person. But oppo researchers are not private investigators, and it’s helpful to consider their sources. During their work, a researcher may notice there’s not a single piece of evidence outside of the candidate’s own claims about his or her history.

So how do you verify? There are sources like yearbooks and services used by employers for education checks, or you can always try asking politely. Employers and universities are under no requirement to share this information with anyone who calls — including a random person asking for the sake of political research. (Though I stress: The odds are better than you think if you ask.) An alternative solution is to bug newspaper reporters to ask those questions and hope their paper’s reputation compels an answer.

Reporters asking questions is what happened to Mr. Santos, as employers and schools spoke with The New York Times. Whether anyone else tried to this extent before, we don’t know. Certainly this story shows why researchers — and reporters — should kick the tires on even small claims by a candidate.

Let’s return to the research process: After a book is completed, communications staff members, campaign officials and consultants are briefed on the best hits the researchers could find for pitching to reporters and for advertising purposes. We can see one outcome of those briefings in a research-packed news release from the D.C.C.C. that blasted Mr. Santos as a “shady Wall Street bro.” Specifically, it highlights the absence of the nonprofit in the I.R.S. database and his previously undisclosed personal finances. It’s not the exact story, but months ago, a Democratic operative had the thought to call him “untrustworthy.”

Then what happened? The D.C.C.C. research department probably moved on to the next project. This year, as they do every two years, Democrats competed in hundreds of House races. The junior staff member may even be moved to a position at a technically distinct division and be legally unable to communicate with his or her former co-workers. That’s how some lines of inquiries never progress beyond PDF files.

Gently, however, I would suggest that the rest of the prepared Democratic research is quite compelling. Mr. Santos claimed he was at the Ellipse at the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, claimed in a video captured by trackers to have assisted with legal fees for Capitol rioters and said he supported a national abortion ban. Heavy stuff! That’s along with your standard politically toxic Republican agenda of cutting taxes for the rich while pursuing some form of partial privatization for Social Security.

We’re waiting for the final data, but Republicans probably carried this New York district for governor and senator. And that’s despite Senator Chuck Schumer’s spending $41 million to his opponent’s $545,000 statewide. Perhaps a stronger attack on Mr. Santos as a possible fraud would have allowed his Democratic opponent to escape such gravity.

And while NY Democrats absolutely dropped the ball on following up on Santos's fraudulence, I don't expect NY AG Tish James to be anywhere near as lenient.
The New York Attorney General’s Office said it is “looking into a number of issues" surrounding Congressman-elect George Santos, who was the subject of a bombshell New York Times investigation that questions whether the incoming Republican lawmaker fabricated much of his biography, including his education, work history and financial dealings.

The office, however, did not confirm whether it had opened an official investigation into Santos and declined to comment further on the matter.

A lawyer for Santos, Joe Murray, told NBC News in an email Thursday afternoon that he had "not been contacted by anyone" from the New York Attorney General's Office.

"I have nothing further to add at this time," he said.
I'd wish this jackass a Happy Hanukkah, but he lied about being Jewish too.

Weed, Feed, And Need

Turns out that even recreational marijuana is a secondary expense in states where weed is taxed, because unlike murderously addictive nicotine products, when inflation is high and people have to tighten their belts, getting baked takes a back seat to getting baked goods.

Marijuana tax collections dropped in several states this year as the cannabis industry struggles with low prices and a drop in demand.

California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington all collected less marijuana tax money in fiscal 2022 than the year before, according to a report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a joint venture between two Washington, D.C. think tanks. Most states end their fiscal years on June 30.

That means those states had millions less this past fiscal year to pay for school buildings, drug treatment programs, law enforcement and other services partly funded by taxing pot sales.

Tax revenue may fall even further this fiscal year. Some analysts say the downturn is a reminder that cannabis is an agricultural crop, not a guaranteed moneymaker.

The potential tax revenue “was always oversold as sort of a panacea to state budgets,” said Adam Koh, editorial director of Cannabis Benchmarks, a company that tracks wholesale cannabis prices.

Colorado collected about $370 million in marijuana taxes in fiscal 2022, about 13% less than fiscal 2021.

“We’re anticipating another pretty sizable decline for [fiscal 2023] as well, close to 16%,” said Jeff Stupak, a senior economist with the Legislative Council Staff, a nonpartisan team that advises the Colorado legislature.
So like cigs, lotteries, and vaping, vice taxes only work when people have the money to pay for vices.  And when you tie education, library, and other public good funding to vices, well, they get underfunded when the appetite for it goes down.

It's a trap, but here we are.

Sinema Verite', Con't

Normally I'd say going after a woman Democratic senator with charges that she expects her staffers to treat her like a rock star with a concert venue rider for all green M&M's in her contract was insulting and bordering on misogyny. But the Senator in question is Kyrsten Sinema, who has made a habit if not a political career out of outlandish grandstanding, up to and including quitting the Democratic party this month. The criticism is very much deserved.
Always have a “room temperature” bottle of water on hand for her at all times. Make sure you get her groceries. And book her a weekly, hour-long massage.

These are just a few of the tasks, framed in a dizzying array of do’s and don’ts, that have fallen to the staffers for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), according to an internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast.

The 37-page memo is intended as a guide for aides who set the schedule for and personally staff Sinema during her workdays in Washington and Arizona. And while the document is mostly just revealing of Sinema’s exceptionally strong preferences about things like air travel—preferably not on Southwest Airlines, never book her a seat near a bathroom, and absolutely never a middle seat—Sinema’s standards appear to go right up to the line of what Senate ethics rules allow, if not over.

One section of the staffer guide explains that the senator’s executive assistant must contact Sinema at the beginning of the work week in Washington to “ask if she needs groceries,” and copy both the scheduler and chief of staff on the message to “make sure this is accomplished.” It specifies Sinema will reimburse the assistant through CashApp. The memo also dictates that if the internet in Sinema’s private apartment fails, the executive assistant “should call Verizon to schedule a repair” and ensure a staffer is present to let a technician inside the property.

The Senate ethics handbook states that “staff are compensated for the purpose of assisting Senators in their official legislative and representational duties, and not for the purpose of performing personal or other non-official activities for themselves or on behalf of others.”

Craig Holman, a congressional ethics expert with the nonprofit group Public Citizen, said Sinema’s apparent demands that staffers conduct personal tasks amount to a clear violation of Senate ethics rules, and would typically warrant a formal reprimand by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley told The Daily Beast that “the alleged information—sourced from anonymous quotes and a purported document I can’t verify—is not in line with official guidance from Sen. Sinema’s office and does not represent official policies of Sen. Sinema’s office.”

Hurley added that Sinema’s office “does not require staff to perform personal errands.”

The Daily Beast did not share the document itself with Sinema’s office, and is not printing it in its entirety over concerns that doing so may reveal who shared the memo. However, The Daily Beast was able to independently corroborate the veracity of the document, which is at least a couple of years old but could still reflect current policies.

The Daily Beast sent Sinema’s office a detailed list of claims and quotes sourced from the memo and intended for publication.

While the memo may not represent the most up-to-date scheduling practices for Sinema, the document reflects long-running guidelines as well as commitments of the senator’s that have remained consistent. Moreover, the memo is clear that, even if Sinema and her chief of staff never signed off on the document itself, both were to be alerted when the senator’s executive assistant had procured her groceries—or completed a number of other tasks.

Sinema rarely does interviews or comments publicly about how she approaches the day-to-day work of being a senator. The scheduling memo offers a rare glimpse into how one of the Senate’s most inscrutable—and most scrutinized—members approaches her job and runs her office.
This is not "Oh Kamala Harris is so difficult" or "Amy Klobuchar is mean to her staff" or any other "imperious Hillary Clinton" nonsense, this is a straight up violation of Senate ethics standards if true. It's also yet another example of Sinema's attention-grabbing narcissism that has dropped her popularity in Arizona to negatives among every single voting group.
 A chart showing Kyrsten Sinema's approval rating among many demographics, in which every disapproval rating is between 50 and 60 percent.
These latest ethics allegations aren't exactly going to help her make new friends, I suspect. Nor should they.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

One of the big takeaways from the release of Donald Trump's taxes (besides the fact the man is clearly a tax cheat) is the fact that the IRS never actually audited Trump's tax returns until after Democrats took over the House in 2019, which was required by Watergate-era law.
The House Ways and Means Committee in its own report said it found that only one audit was started while Trump was in office and no audits were completed.

This is in violation of standing IRS policy.

"The Committee expected that these mandatory audits were being conducted promptly and in accordance with IRS policies," Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a statement. "However, our review found that under the prior administration, the program was dormant. We know now, the first mandatory audit was opened two years into his presidency. On the same day this Committee requested his returns."
In a vote split along party lines, the Democrats on the panel voted in support of the release while Republicans voted against the measure.

Whether or not to release the former president's tax records has become a point of contention, with Republicans arguing that doing so would set a dangerous precedent.

Democrats on the panel had argued that the president's tax returns were necessary for the panel to evaluate the IRS's presidential audit program. In response, Trump filed an emergency application on Oct. 31 to block the release. But the the Supreme Court denied Trump's request to block the committee's request, clearing the way for the records to be released.

"We anticipated the IRS would expand the mandatory audit program to account for the complex nature of the former president's financial situation yet found no evidence of that," Neal said. "This is a major failure of the IRS under the prior administration, and certainly not what we had hope to find."

In the committee's separate report, it made recommendations for the future of the IRS presidential audit program and stated: "Congress should codify the mandatory audit program to require the IRS to conduct mandatory audits while a President is in office and publicly disclose related returns and return information."

This is, because, in the words of the Democrat-led panel, "Americans must have confidence that no taxpayer is able to operate above the law. This, of course, extends to the President of the United States, who is the single most powerful public official in the country."

Democrats' fight for Trump's tax returns on a legal front have been ongoing for more than three years, beginning in 2019.

Neal had requested the IRS turn over then-President Trump's tax returns spanning 2013 to 2018, but was denied by the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS. The department said the request was not supported by a legitimate legislative purpose, NPR previously reported, and was "pretextual."
In other words, the audit itself was skipped for Trump's first two years, and he never would have been audited if Democrats hadn't won the House back in 2018. The audit then became the excuse to block the release of Trump's fishy-ass tax returns, because the audit was then never completed.
Trump ordered this done 100%.
Hopefully the Senate will take up the challenge, which they can finally do in a 51-49 scenario which would give committee chairs subpoena power with a simple majority. 

It however remains true that if Democrats hadn't won the House in 2018, we would have never known that the required audits of Trump's taxes were not being done.

And yes, it means Trump lied to everyone about his audits. Yet more possible criminality to explore, as at every turn, Trump wanted the actual trail of his illegal proceedings removed and eliminated. Recall that Presidents Obama and Biden have gotten audited for every year of their terms and there were no issues.

Trump hid everything. He cannot be allowed to hold office again.
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