CD3 candidate criticized for support from ‘dark money groups’

Albuquerque Journal

by T.S. Last, Albuquerque Journal North Editor

Thursday, May 14, 11:25 p.m.SANTA FE, N.M. — What had been a rather civil Democratic Party primary campaign for the 3rd Congressional District flared up on Thursday when two candidates released statements criticizing another candidate, Teresa Leger Fernandez, for the support she’s receiving from so-called “dark money” groups.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

The statements were released following the taping of a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal that will air on KOAT-TV at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In a news release late Thursday afternoon, John Blair said that during the taping of the forum Leger Fernandez refused to denounce the dark money groups that are supporting her campaign. He called for Leger Fernandez to “demand the removal of ads from multiple dark money groups supporting her campaign.”

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DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.

‘Dark money’ groups back U.S. House candidate in packed primary

Santa Fe New Mexican

by Michael Gerstein

May 14, 2020 Updated May 14, 2020

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Teresa Leger Fernandez’s campaign has poured money into the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary race to run television and digital ads. In addition, two PACs have spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of the Santa Fe attorney.

Candidates in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party primary claim so-called dark money has entered the race after reports two groups together spent more than $300,000 on advertising in support of Teresa Leger Fernandez.

Perise Practical Inc. and Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent the money in support of Leger Fernandez, Politico Pro reported Thursday.

Federal Election Commission records and data from the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics show Avacy Initiatives Inc. spent $250,750 on ads in support of Leger Fernandez. Perise Practical Inc. spent $50,000. The groups’ FEC disclosure documents both list their post office boxes in Arlington, Va., and both were signed by the same individual, David Brett Krone

Dark money, or money spent by groups that do not disclose their donors, is common in politics. But many progressives have decried the influx of untraceable money because it’s often impossible to determine the individuals, groups or interests behind such spending.

In a written statement, Emma Caccamo, Leger Fernandez’s campaign manager, said: ”We’re proud to be running a New Mexico powered campaign, with contributions from all 16 counties in the district and no corporate PAC money. … We don’t know anything about any other groups and saw their ads when everybody else did.”

Leger Fernandez has been endorsed by a variety of groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressive EMILY’s List. On Thursday, she was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, an Albuquerque Democrat who represents the 1st Congressional District.

But three of her opponents in the seven-person Democratic primary race were quick to pounce on ad spending from groups that do not disclose their donors.

Former New Mexico Deputy Secretary of State John Blair’s campaign issued a statement denouncing the spending.

“Secret contributions from shady sources are simply unacceptable,” Blair said. “Dark money has corrupted our entire political system, and it’s the reason we haven’t been able to take on gun manufacturers, rein in pharmaceutical companies or pass a Green New Deal. Teresa must live up to the values of our party and demand those ads come down immediately.”

Michelle Barliant, a campaign staffer for candidate Valerie Plame, said in a telephone interview, “We stand with John that dark money doesn’t have any place in this race.”

Although Plame has raised the most money in the crowded Democratic primary, Barliant said no groups with undisclosed donors have spent money to support the former CIA agent.

Another candidate, Santa Fe-area District Attorney Marco Serna, also decried the spending and said he will be taking a “dark money out of politics pledge” he hopes every candidate, including Leger Fernandez, will sign.

Other Democratic primary candidates in the race include Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya of Rio Rancho, first-term state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde and Taos environmental attorney Kyle Tisdel.

In an interview with The New Mexican, Serna said Leger Fernandez claimed during a KOAT-TV/Albuquerque Journal candidate forum airing Sunday the only out-of-state groups she knows that have spent money in her campaign were EMILY’s List and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ political action committee.

“I find it hard to believe that her campaign was not aware of the ads that have been running both on TV and on social media,” Serna said. “It’s disingenuous, and I echo Blair’s call to ask these PACs to stop running ads in New Mexico because it’s the right thing to do and here in New Mexico this isn’t how we run campaigns.”

The Leger Fernandez and Plame campaigns have poured money into the primary race to run television and digital ads. Blair and Serna also have spent on television ads to a lesser degree.

In December, The New Mexican reported pro-Donald Trump forces had already spent thousands in TV or digital ads either attacking U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small or backing the president.

Torres Small is running for reelection in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the southern part of the state. The race against the survivor of the Republican primary likely will be one of the most competitive U.S. House contests in the country, political experts have said. Torres Small narrowly won the seat in a district that turned out heavily for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Although some candidates pointed out the groups’ spending in support of Leger Fernandez, the 3rd Congressional District campaigns have stayed largely positive, said longtime Albuquerque-based pollster Brian Sanderoff.

That sets it apart from the race in the 2nd Congressional District, where the Yvette Harrell-Claire Chase battle has been increasingly bitter.

“The mood of the two races … are night and day,” Sanderoff said.

Four Republicans are running for the seat in the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary: Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya, Santa Fe engineer Alexis Johnson, Navajo Nation member Karen Bedonie and Angela Gale Morales of Rio Rancho, who is a write-in candidate.

DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.

 

William Barr’s Perversion of Justice

The attorney general is turning the Justice Department into a political weapon for the president.

New York Times

By

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

May 9, 2020
  

“History is written by the winners,” William Barr, the attorney general, said Thursday when asked how he thought future generations would assess his decision to drop all criminal charges against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty twice to breaking the law. “So it largely depends on who’s writing the history.”

In service to Mr. Trump, Mr. Barr is abusing his power not to write, but to erase, some of the most important lessons of American history.

The Watergate scandal, with its revelations of how dangerous a renegade White House could be, led to reforms meant to ensure an independent Justice Department, one faithful to the law rather than to the Oval Office.

The nation had seen firsthand how much harm a president with no respect for the rule of law could do — particularly when he used the Justice Department, under a compliant attorney general, to protect allies, punish adversaries and cover up wrongdoing.

Among the key reforms were stronger transparency and ethics rules, like the creation of independent inspectors general to root out waste, fraud and abuse in the executive branch. (Mr. Trump has been firing inspectors general he thinks are not loyal to him.) There were also new limits on presidential power, like the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. (President Trump broke that law last year, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, when he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.)

To Mr. Barr, these reforms were obstacles to a vision of a virtually unbound executive. For decades, he has pushed to give presidents — Republican presidents, anyway — maximum authority with minimal oversight. In a 2018 memo criticizing the Russia investigation, he argued that the president “alone is the Executive branch,” in whom “the Constitution vests all Federal law enforcement power, and hence prosecutorial discretion.” For the attorney general, that discretion includes cases involving the president’s own conduct.

If you’re having trouble distinguishing Mr. Barr’s vision of the presidency from the rule of a king, you’re not alone. “George III would have loved it,” said Douglas Kmiec, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“Bill Barr’s America is not a place that anyone, including Trump voters, should want to go,” wrote Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under the first President Bush. “It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen.”

Bill Barr’s America is the one we’re now living in. The Justice Department, in the midst of a presidential campaign, has become a political weapon.

Having absorbed the lessons of Watergate, mainstream Republicans once balked at the politicization of the Justice Department — even by Republican presidents. When President George W. Bush’s attorney general Alberto Gonzales fired eight United States attorneys because they were not aggressive enough in prosecuting Democrats, the outrage was bipartisan, and he was forced to resign.

But today’s Republicans, who could be most effective in defending the integrity of American justice, appear either too afraid of Mr. Trump or too eager for short-term partisan advantage to confront the danger to the country.

Mr. Barr’s decision to drop the charges against Mr. Flynn may be his most egregious abandonment of his role as the public’s lawyer, but it’s certainly not the first. Last year, barely a month after he was confirmed to his post, he stood before the American people and misrepresented the contents of the long-awaited report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016.

The report itself, at 448 pages, documented extensive evidence of those ties, as well as multiple instances of lying and obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump and other top government officials. Mr. Barr’s four-page summary claimed the opposite — that Mr. Mueller had found no collusion or obstruction of justice. Mr. Mueller protested, and yet weeks passed before Americans could see the report themselves and discover just how much Mr. Barr had twisted its findings to benefit Mr. Trump.

In March, a federal judge called Mr. Barr’s characterization of the report “distorted” and “misleading,” and said his “lack of candor” called his credibility into doubt.

But Mr. Barr didn’t stop there. He also rejected a report by the Justice Department inspector general finding that there was sufficient evidence to open the Russia investigation. He referred to the investigation as “spying” and ordered a criminal inquiry into its origins. He intervened in the prosecutions of two of Mr. Trump’s top advisers, Mr. Flynn and Roger Stone, for whom he recommended a lighter sentence than his own prosecutors had sought. And he declined to open a criminal investigation into last fall’s whistle-blower complaint against Mr. Trump, saying it did not qualify as an “urgent concern.” The complaint ultimately led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

Last month, Mr. Barr went on Fox News and called the Russia investigation “one of the greatest travesties in American history,” and said, “We’re not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness, there was something far more troubling here; and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

With these remarks, Mr. Barr appears to have violated Justice Department policy against publicly discussing current investigations. His insistent attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the Russia investigation and absolve Mr. Trump of any wrongdoing also appear to violate department policy against taking any actions that could be seen to have a partisan political purpose, especially in an election year.

The damage Mr. Barr is doing extends beyond policy violations. He has weakened the morale of the department by undercutting career prosecutors — men and women who devoted their lives to the rule of law. Four of them quit the case against Mr. Stone, who was convicted of federal crimes including perjury, wire fraud and witness intimidation, when Mr. Barr intervened to ask for a lighter sentence. Another quit the case against Michael Flynn shortly before the department filed its request with the court to drop all charges.

President Trump couldn’t be more pleased. He has shown little sense of the law, other than that whatever it is, he must be above it. He has never given the slightest hint he thinks the Justice Department exists for a reason other than to protect his interests. And no wonder, since he took his cues from President Richard Nixon himself. “I learned a lot from Richard Nixon, don’t fire people,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “I learned a lot. I study history.” One of the most important lessons? “He had tapes all over the place. I wasn’t guilty, I did nothing wrong. And there are no tapes.”

Together, the president and his attorney general appear to be laying the groundwork to use the Justice Department against Mr. Trump’s primary political opponent — Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

A fabulist narrative is taking shape before our eyes, in the shape of multiple investigations Mr. Barr has ordered. He is pursuing the theory that under President Obama and Vice President Biden, a corrupt Justice Department and out-of-control F.B.I. schemed to keep Mr. Trump from winning the White House by opening a sham investigation into his ties to Russia. This is the upside-down version of reality, of course. In fact, even though the F.B.I. had plenty of reason to open the investigation, it refused to acknowledge its existence until after the election.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump have made their intentions clear. “We’re going to get to the bottom of what happened,” Mr. Barr said Thursday.

“These are dirty politicians and dirty cops and some horrible people, and hopefully they’re going to pay a price some day in the not too distant future,” Mr. Trump said in his Fox News interview
Friday.

Democratic self-government is premised on the expectation that the people’s representatives will not wield the immense powers of law enforcement for their own personal ends, without oversight by the other branches. The nation’s founders did not wage a war for independence from a tyrant who considered himself to embody the law so that the republic would tolerate another executive who considers himself above the law.

DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.

Trump intensifies war with Democrats over voting laws

The GOP has doubled its budget to fight Democratic lawsuits to $20 million.

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump’s political operation is expanding its legal effort to stop Democrats from overhauling voting laws in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican National Committee and Trump reelection campaign are doubling their legal budget to $20 million as litigation spreads to an array of battleground states. With the virus likely to complicate in-person balloting in November, Democrats have been pushing to substantially ease remote voting restrictions — something the Trump campaign and RNC are aggressively fighting in the courts

Trump, who has long been fixated on voter fraud, has taken a personal interest in the project. He is expected to discuss the legal maneuvering during a meeting with his political team Thursday.

The battle over voting laws — specifically Democrats’ efforts to make it easier for people to vote remotely during the pandemic — has emerged as a key front in the general election showdown between the parties.

More than two dozen Republican operatives are focusing on the legal battles and have been closely coordinating with party officials at the state and local levels. The Trump campaign and RNC recently intervened in Nevada, where Democrats are pushing for the state to ease restrictions by mailing ballots to all registered voters. Republicans have also been active in New Mexico, where they fought back a similar Democratic-led lawsuit.

The legal skirmishing has also been taking place in such battlegrounds as Pennsylvania and Georgia. While Republicans say they are open to some changes amid the pandemic, they are opposed to many of the farther-reaching reforms Democrats are pursuing.

“We will not stand idly by while Democrats try to sue their way to victory in 2020,” said RNC chief of staff Richard Walters. “Democrats may be using the coronavirus as an excuse to strip away important election safeguards, but the American people continue to support commonsense protections that defend the integrity of our democratic processes.”

The RNC and Trump campaign initially announced in February that they would direct $10 million to legal fights. But the party, Walters said, is prepared to sue Democrats “into oblivion and spend whatever is necessary.”

Democrats have long pushed to ease voting restrictions. Marc Elias, a prominent election law attorney who is leading the party’s effort, said Democrats were currently focused on litigation in more than a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Many of the lawsuits, he said, involve expanding vote-by-mail rules.

He acknowledged, however, that the Republican Party’s massive investment is a hurdle.

“We’re not unrealistic about the fight that is ahead,” Elias said. “There is no question that Donald Trump and the Republican Party have made opposing voting rights a top priority for their campaign.”

Republicans insist public opinion is on their side. Earlier this month, the RNC commissioned a survey finding that nearly two-thirds of voters believed there was fraud in elections and that a majority thought fraud occurs more frequently when ballots are cast by mail.

DISCLAIMER: New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. As such, we work on issues that are nonpartisan on a cross-partisan basis with persons of all political affiliations and ideological perspectives to accomplish its goals. The intent of any reference to a political person or party made by us in this email is to call attention to the statement or action made by such person or party that pertains to one of or more of NMMOP’s goals, not to show favor or disfavor to such person or party. Statements made by other persons or sources reproduced here represent the perspective of the writers or publishers and not necessarily that of NMMOP.