Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Last Call For Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is making it clear this that he considers the media is his enemy, and that in a DeSantis America, anything resembling a free press will be destroyed
Gov. Ron DeSantis raised the possibility Tuesday of passing legislation that could lower the bar for prominent people to successfully sue news outlets for defamation.

In a roundtable discussion that featured complaints about the unfair “narrative” of the news media, DeSantis sat behind a desk similar to one of a news anchor with the backdrop of the word “Truth” on a screen. DeSantis spoke with six panelists including attorneys who litigate libel cases, libertarian journalist Michael Moynihan and Nicholas Sandmann, a conservative activist who has spoken extensively about his mistreatment by mainstream media outlets.
Hey look, it's our old friend Nick Sandmann, the pride of CovCath!
While the governor and the panelists weighed various policy options, the event concluded without DeSantis announcing any specific bill or action to be taken, only telling viewers to “stay tuned.”

Since he first ran for governor in 2018, DeSantis has kept traditional news outlets at a distance, preferring instead to grant interviews to conservative broadcasters while framing the general media as a political opponent. His reelection team included clips in campaign ads of him sparring with reporters at news conferences. More recently, DeSantis’ lawyers have argued in court that he possesses executive privilege, similar to a U.S. president, that allows him to shield records of his choosing from the public.

On Tuesday, DeSantis mentioned a 2021 60 Minutes story that focused on Publix’s campaign donations to the governor ahead of the grocery chain getting the right to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in Palm Beach County. DeSantis has previously railed against that report, saying clips were selectively edited and the story was inaccurate. At the time, he held an official event at the Capitol to refute it.

DeSantis said Tuesday that any potential legislation would not be for his benefit. Instead, he and other panelists implied that private citizens are often the victims of inaccurate reporting.

“They come after me — and they do do a lot of slander — but I fight back. I have a platform to fight back … I got thick skin,” he said during Tuesday’s Hialeah Gardens event. “But you have some of these other folks who are just run-of-the-mill citizens, their only possible way of recourse would be to be able to bring an action (in court).”
Although the governor did not offer legislative details, it’s not the first time his office has considered a challenge to the current legal understanding of the First Amendment. Before the 2022 legislative session, his office shared a draft of a bill with a lawmaker that would have, among other things, required the courts to presume statements by anonymous sources are false in a defamation claim.
Pay attention to this. DeSantis wants the ability to have "private citizens" sue news outlets for damages to the point they're all tied up in courts and don't have any resources left to report on DeSantis and his friends being corrupt.  That's the major blow, any news story that mentions somebody who's not covered by public figure laws would then be able to sue the pants of the news outlet for reporting the truth.
DeSantis also wants to bury whistleblowers against his administration, making anonymous sources into targets who can be retaliated against by both civil and criminal actions.
It's Fascism 101 here.
Will anyone from the news industry stick up for themselves against him?

PAC Man Adventures, or, The Mandela Effect

Wisconsin Democrat Mandela Barnes almost toppled GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in November, but his complaints were that the DNC and Michigan Dem Sen. Gary Peters and the DSCC abandoned him just short of the finish line. No more excuses, Barnes says, as he's creating a Super PAC to step in where the national Dems are leaving Black candidates like himself high and dry.


The backdrop: The Long Run PAC hopes to support women, people of color, LGBTQ, and working-class candidates across the country, Barnes told Axios, as they're most likely to face negative "assumptions" about their candidacy because they don't "fit the mold" that Democrats think can win in statewide, competitive races.The Long Run PAC is launching Tuesday and will announce an initial slate of candidates it will support later this summer.
"Too often, fairly or unfairly, the questions of ‘Can this person win?’ and ‘Does this person have what it takes?’ come up,” Barnes said in a phone interview.
“Sometimes those questions aren’t always asked in good faith,” he added.

Between the lines: Barnes refused to take donations from corporate PACs during his 2022 race, and after raising over $40 million from grassroots supporters, he said he wants to take the same approach with The Long Run PAC.“Our campaign was built by grassroots support and we’re going to lean on those supporters” and build “a people-powered national fundraising operation,” Barnes said.
He also plans to host events with and fundraisers for the candidates backed the PAC, and help campaigns with hiring and training.

Don't forget: Barnes' Wisconsin Senate race in 2022 was always going to be a challenge for Democrats, but the party and outside groups failed to invest in his campaign after Labor Day at the same rate as Republicans.Republicans outspent Democrats by $1.6 million in mid-September, with crime a main focus.
Exit polling found 49% of Wisconsin voters viewed Sen. Ron Johnson as too extreme, but nearly as many (46%) viewed Barnes the same way. Barnes ended up losing by a single percentage point.

Yes, but: The November election results showed that a historic barrier to Black representation in Congress — namely white voters refusing to support African-American candidates — is rapidly declining, Axios' Josh Kraushaar reports.
Of the 60 Black lawmakers elected to Congress this year, 30 now represent states or districts with a plurality of white voters, according to an Axios analysis. In 2014, only eight (of 43) elected Black lawmakers were from plurality-white states or districts.



This is a good idea, and the $40 million Barnes raised for his own race proved he can fundraise for a project this big. The concept is sound and badly needed. There were Black/LGBTQ+/Latino candidates that the Dems left out in the cold in 2022, namely Barnes, Cheri Beasley in NC, and Charles Booker in KY.

Money doesn't always help. Beasley outraised now GOP Sen. Ted Budd by 2.5 times and she still lost handily. On the other hand, Rand Paul raised $27 million to Charles Booker's $7 million and was crushed. Would money have helped? Probably not.  Barnes himself outraised Ron Johnson $41 to $36 million and still lost.

Dems don't always lose on race of the candidate issues, as Josh Kraushaar is actually right for once. Remember here in KY. Amy McGrath outraised Mitch McConnell in 2020 $94 million to $71 million and she got stomped by a nearly identical 14-point margin then as Booker did in 2022. Money, being a white woman, and being an Air Force veteran pilot didn't help her one bit.
Having said all that, I absolutely want to see Barnes succeed here, because there are races where money could have helped, especially at the House level.

We'll see.

The Great Carolina Vote Robbery

North Carolina Republican are about to quite possibly:

  • ...invalidate their own SCOTUS case against the NC Supreme Court 
  • ...over a ruling blocking a state law 
  • ...that would give the GOP-controlled legislature final say over electors in presidential elections
  • ... rather than voters 
  • ...just so they can have the now Republican-controlled state Supreme Court 
  • ...overrule itself
  • ...just in case SCOTUS rules against them.

It's bizarre, strange, legally ridiculous, and dangerous as hell. And if NC Republicans actually pull it off, it won't matter who you vote for in 2024 for president in The Old North State because the electors will be awarded to the Republican candidate. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern explain:

Republican legislators in North Carolina who attacked the state Supreme Court ruling took that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the state Supreme Court had violated the U.S. Constitution. Under the legislators’ radical “independent state legislature” theory, only state legislatures, and not state courts, would have any power to regulate congressional elections. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court in Rucho expressly pointed to state supreme courts applying state constitutions as a proper means of policing gerrymandering.

This ISL theory is a dangerous one, as many of us have long said. It would push power to state legislatures to engage in even more egregious gerrymandering, unchecked by state constitutions. It would, as Nat Bach and I argued in an amicus brief and at Slate, lead to a flood of election litigation in federal courts, giving unhappy litigants a second bite at the apple, undermining the legitimacy of both the political process and the courts. And it would leave the Supreme Court in the driver’s seat, ultimately in a position to second-guess any state Supreme Court interpretation of a state constitution that it believes goes too far.

Now, after a ton of briefing and a lengthy oral argument, the whole dispute could be moot. Republicans took control of the North Carolina Supreme Court after November’s elections, and as soon as that happened I immediately wondered if the state’s Republican legislators would try to get the partisan gerrymandering issue back before the state Supreme Court in a new case.

But the legislators did one better. Rather than filing a new case for the next round of elections, they filed a petition for rehearing in the state Supreme Court in the original case while the U.S. Supreme Court case is pending, arguing explicitly that the new justices should overturn the partisan gerrymandering standard under the state constitution.

This past Friday, on a 5-2 party line vote, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and rejected Common Cause’s petition to dismiss the rehearing request. Justice Anita Earls, an elected Democrat and former election law litigator, dissented: “Not only does today’s display of raw partisanship call into question the impartiality of the courts, but it erodes the notion that the judicial branch has the institutional capacity to be a principled check on legislation that violates constitutional and human rights.” She called the decision “an affront to the jurisprudence of this State and to the citizens it has sworn an oath to serve ‘impartially,’ ‘without favoritism to anyone or to the State.’ ”

The decision to seek rehearing is a curious one, and indicates some doubts on the part of Republicans that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore would be a favorable one. After all, if you think there is a chance of getting a good ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, why moot your case? And if you lose in the Supreme Court, you could always go back to the state Supreme Court in a new case to get the state court to reverse course.

Likely the calculation was that the legal arguments raised by the legislators in Moore are so weak that it would not lead to a decision guaranteeing the kind of legislative supremacy that they seek. Maybe kill this case, the argument could be, and hope that a better version of the arguments could be made next time.

Common Cause, too, may have reasons to argue for the case’s mootness. After all, a bad decision in North Carolina rejecting a partisan gerrymandering claim under the state constitution would only affect that state. In contrast, an embrace of the independent state legislature doctrine by the U.S. Supreme Court would have negative effects around the country.

But there is a cost here of throwing out the Moore case at this stage, and it is not just all of the lost effort on the part of lawyers, justices, and clerks. The ISL theory is not going away. It has come up in numerous cases over the last few years, and it is going to keep arising until the Supreme Court resolves it. Given the weaknesses of the legislators’ arguments in Moore, it seems like a pretty good case in which to get some clarity.

Moreover, it is far better for this ISL theory to be resolved when it is not in the context of a disputed presidential election. It is far worse when the Supreme Court’s involvement in election cases is outcome determinative, casting new doubts on the legitimacy of the courts and the electoral process. In this case, there is no individual outcome being threatened, but rather a group of future maps. And better to have rules set and understood in advance than figured out after the fact.

People may give a cheer if this new power grab by the state supreme court deprives the U.S. Supreme Court of its own possible power grab in Moore v. Harper. But postponing the inevitable will not necessarily lead to better results down the line.

In other words, the nightmare scenario isn't "SCOTUS buys the ridiculous ISL theory in June 2023", it's "SCOTUS buys the ridiculous ISL theory in June 2024 and throws the presidential election into a complete tailspin." If it does happen in June, we'd at least have 17 months to do something about it. But if that becomes five months, in the middle of the campaign, it's complete chaos.

Worse, there's a real chance that if the presidential electors are determined solely by state legislatures, Republicans would have enough of those state legislatures under control to win the White House regardless of the actual vote.

Imagine the 2020 contest, only electors Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire all went to Trump because that's what the GOP-controlled state legislatures decided, regardless of the actual vote in those states. It would have cracked the country in half. and Trump would have had enough electors to win despite losing the election and the Electoral College.

Now imagine SCOTUS rules in June 2024 that state legislatures can overrule the voters, and the Republicans in enough state legislatures declare they will award more than 270 electors to vote for the Republican months before the actual vote in November.

The country wouldn't survive.

Yeah, this is 100% worst-case scenario, but it's not totally out of the question when it should be. With the stakes this high, this SCOTUS should have tossed the case immediately.

But it didn't.

Remember that.

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