Category Archives: Constitution

Politicizing the Census Bureau for GOP authoritarianism

Steve Benen warns of an ominous development at the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump eyes radical choice for the Census Bureau:

The Census, conducted every 10 years by constitutional mandate, is one of those incredible important tasks that most people probably find rather dull. That’s a shame because getting this right has an enormous impact on everything from federal spending to representation in Congress.

With that in mind, it was disappointing when Census Bureau Director John Thompson, in the midst of a funding fight, decided to resign unexpectedly in May. Making matters worse, we’re just now getting a look at the replacement Donald Trump apparently has in mind. Politico reports:

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Some Trump personal choices are alarming, some are disheartening, and some belong in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding me category.

As Slate explained earlier this year, “The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage.”

It’s against this backdrop that Trump is eyeing someone who has not only played a direct role in helping Republican gerrymandering efforts, but who quite literally wrote a book criticizing competitive elections.

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Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion

Finally, some good news today! The Arizona Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the Court of Appeals in a decision, Biggs v. Betlach Opinion (.pdf), that  Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan is not a tax and is excepted from the two-thirds supermajority vote required by Prop. 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment (aka the GOP’s weapon of mass destruction).

This is a major defeat for the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, which represented the GOP legislators who voted against the Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan.

Boom! goes the Death Star! The Rebellion has won!

The Arizona Capitol Times reports Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid expansion:

The state’s high court this morning upheld the legality of an assessment on hospitals that helps pay for health care for 400,000 Arizonans.

In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected arguments by the attorney for some Republican lawmakers that the levy, approved by the Legislature in 2013, was illegally enacted.

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Secretary of State Michele Reagan is disenfranchising voters

Last month we learned that Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan violated the law when her office failed to mail publicity pamphlets to hundreds of thousands of voters in time for the May 2016 special election, a state-appointed investigator has concluded.

But, the investigator found, there is no provision in state law to punish anyone for not delivering the pamphlets on time and Reagan and her staff did not act criminally.

That’s the outcome of a long-awaited investigative report released Wednesday by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Michael Morrissey, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, led the review as an appointed special investigator.

Reagan responded “mistakes were made and we were responsible,” then tried to pass the buck to vendors and her staff.

Last week the Secretary of State was sued for illegally denying thousands of Arizonans the right to vote in federal elections because they registered using the federal voter registration form. Arizona, lawsuit contends voters are being disenfranchised:

Legal papers filed Tuesday in federal court here acknowledge that state law requires would-be voters to produce certain identification when registering. That requirement has been upheld in prior court rulings.

But attorneys for the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Arizona Students Association point out that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that state law does not — and cannot — prevent people from registering to vote for federal elections using a federally approved registration form. And they contend that those whose state registrations are rejected for lack of citizenship proof are not informed of that option.

“At least 26,000 voters in Maricopa County alone have been disenfranchised by these policies,” the lawsuit states. But the problem is not limited there.

The lawyers say they’ve sampled more than 2,000 state registration forms that were rejected because applicants had failed to provide the required proof of citizenship. Of that group, fewer than 15 percent successfully registered after receiving notice of the rejection.

“Therefore, many eligible voters across Arizona have been disenfranchised by these unnecessary bureaucratic policies,” the lawsuit states.

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Democratic institutions are under assault from Trumpism

Donald Trump is hollowing out the federal government and undermining our democratic institutions with his authoritarianism and the cult of Trumpism.

In the past several days, Trump has repeated this statement about the U.S. intelligence agencies assessment of Russian cyber attacks:

“As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership,” Mr. Trump said  … “I believe in our agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly.”

What Trump is referring to is his appointment for CIA Director, former congressman Mike Pompeo, who is politicizing the intelligence agency on behalf of Trump.  Trump’s CIA director keeps doing controversial — and suspiciously pro-Trump — things:

The Intercept just broke a pretty big story: CIA Director Mike Pompeo reportedly met with the purveyor of a disputed theory about the internal Democratic National Committee emails that were released last year — a theory that runs counter to the intelligence community’s own long-standing conclusions about the matter.

It’s not the first example of Pompeo doing something that has been put under microscope. But there is a common thread running through just about every example: Pompeo doing and saying questionable things involving Russia — and those questionable things tend to lean in a pro-Trump direction.

The most recent example is Pompeo’s meeting with William Binney, a former intelligence official who argues that the DNC hack wasn’t a hack at all, but rather a leak from within.

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Obstruction of justice in plain sight

The Washington Post recently editorialized, Trump pulls another stunt of cynical distraction:

The party in power is demanding the investigation and possible prosecution of its defeated political rival on trumped-up claims of wrongdoing. This is what happens in banana republics, not the world’s greatest democracy. Even if this is just a strategy to divert attention, it is unbecoming of the leaders of a rule-of-law state and a disservice to their oaths.

The authoritarian wannabe autocrat Donald Trump has gone full banana republic in the past few days, pressuring his Attorney General and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute his “defeated political rival on trumped-up claims of wrongdoing” or, once again, he is threatening to fire Jeff Sessions for not using his office to pursue his political rivals. Trump breaches boundaries by saying DOJ should be ‘going after’ Democrats:

President Trump on Friday repeatedly called on the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate his Democratic political opponents, a breach of the traditional executive branch boundaries designed to prevent the criminal justice system from becoming politicized.

Trump urged federal law enforcement to “do what is right and proper” by launching criminal probes of former presidential rival Hillary Clinton and her party — a surprising use of his bully pulpit considering he acknowledged a day earlier that presidents are not supposed to intervene in such decisions.

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Fate of Arizona’s Medicaid expansion now in the hands of the AZ Supreme Court

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday heard oral arguments on Republican lawmakers’ challenge of a hospital assessment that funds the state’s Medicaid expansion. Fate of GOP’s challenge to Medicaid expansion now in hands of the Arizona Supreme Court:

An attorney for three dozen current and former lawmakers argued that the hospital assessment is a tax that requires a two-thirds legislative majority to enact. The assessment was narrowly approved by the Legislature in 2013.

The lawsuit was rejected by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge in 2015, and the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld that decision in March.

The appellate court in its opinion (.pdf) said the law imposed an assessment that is exempt from the requirement that any act by lawmakers increasing state revenues, such a tax hike, must get a two-thirds vote in the Legislature [the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” amendment, Prop. 108 (1992)].

The “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute attorney representing the lawmakers, pressed ahead with an argument before the seven-member Arizona Supreme Court that the assessment is a tax that required the vote of a two-thirds majority of the Legislature under Proposition 108, which was passed by voters in 1992.

“It is clear under Proposition 108, a supermajority is needed for the Legislature to authorize what they did here,” said Christina Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute attorney who represented the lawmakers. “That is what the voters wanted. They wanted the supermajority to apply any time the Legislature acts to raise revenue.”

Timothy Berg, an attorney representing Arizona and the state’s Medicaid program, said the voter-approved initiative included an exception that allows fees and assessments imposed by state agencies.

Berg argued that voters passed Proposition 108 with the intent of limiting the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes with a simple majority, not restrict fee increases that are a routine part of state government.

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