Category Archives: Elections

Save Clean Elections: Let Your Voice Be Heard (video)

Clean ElectionsProgressives, we have a situation…

If you want to get big money out of politics and you like Arizona’s Clean Elections system, it’s time to speak up to save it. Irregularities in the 2016 election prompted proposed rule changes by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. (There are three versions of R2-20-702 and a new rule R2-20-703.01 – here. You can send your comments to ccec@azcleanelections.gov before the commission votes at its next meeting on June 22.)

Below is the back story and a detailed explanation of the proposed rule changes.

After collecting the requisite number of petition signatures and $5 qualifying donations from people who can vote for them, Clean Elections candidates (like me) receive lump sums of $16,000 for the primary and $24,000 for the general election– in exchange for vowing not to take big money donations. With seed money and family money, the total for a Clean Elections candidate is roughly $45,000 for a Legislative campaign. All unspent CE funds must be returned to the CE commission, and all unspent seed money or seed money overage must be returned to the individual donors.

During the 2016 election, two Democratic Party Clean Elections candidates turned over all or most of their CE funds in a lump sum to the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) to run their campaigns, provide paid staff, and purchase/design/mail their printed materials. ADLCC provides these services to many traditionally funded candidates and offered them to CE candidates as well in 2016. A problem arose with at least two CE candidates because the party didn’t provide individual invoices for specific services rendered.

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‘Follow the (Russian) money’ – it’s always about the money

There were two key paragraphs in the Washington Post’s report from last Friday. Russia probe reaches current White House official, people familiar with the case say:

Although the case began quietly last July as an effort to determine whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian operatives to meddle in the presidential election campaign, the investigative work now being done by the FBI also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president. The people familiar with the matter said the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take, the people said.

And:

While there has been a loud public debate in recent days over the question of whether the president might have attempted to obstruct justice in his private dealings with Comey, whom Trump fired last week, people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes.

As I said, “This would explain passing references to the Treasury Department in recent reporting. This likely involves the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.”

The Treasury Department and FinCEN are now in the news this week. CNN reports, Warner: Treasury has not fully responded to Senate Intel requests:

Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Tuesday that the Treasury Department has not fully complied with his committee’s requests for documents relevant to its probe into Russian meddling in the US election.

Likewise, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter on Tuesday to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting records of Trump businesses and any connections to Russia by June 2.

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Questions for Martha McSally re: health care

Below is some recent reporting on health care to help you formulate your questions for Rep. Martha McSally for her “chicken bunker” tele-town hall tonight.

The largest health insurance companies in the United States reaped historically large profits in the first quarter of this year, despite all the noise you hear surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplaces. Profits are booming at health insurance companies:

Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth Group — the big five for-profit insurers — cumulatively collected $4.5 billion in net earnings in the first three months of 2017. That was by far the biggest first-quarter haul for the group since the ACA exchanges went live in 2014. Other major insurers, such as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield company Health Care Service Corp., also are improving their ACA operations.

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Aetna lost money only because it had to pay Humana a $1 billion break-up fee after their merger failed; otherwise it would have been in the black. Some other things to keep in mind:

  • The ACA exchanges represent a small amount of the insurance market, and most of the for-profit carriers have bailed on those plans.
  • Employer-based coverage is a profit center, but insurers continue to invest more in Medicare Advantage and Medicaid.
  • Congress suspended the ACA’s health insurance industry fee for 2017, which is creating a temporary windfall.
  • The first quarter of the year is usually good for health insurers. Deductibles are reset, leaving people on the hook for a lot of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. The fourth quarter usually is the worst, since people often reach their deductibles by the end of the year.

Uncertainty over the future of health care for millions of Americans grew deeper Monday after the administration and House Republicans asked an appeals court for a 90-day extension in a case that involves federal payments to reduce deductibles and copayments for people with modest incomes who buy their own policies. Insurers seek stability as Trump delays health care decision:

The fate of $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” remains under a cloud as insurers finalize their premium requests for next year.

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Rep. Martha McSally ‘chicken bunker’ tele-town hall tonight (Updated)

UPDATE:  Rep. Martha McSally on Wednesday morning announced she has canceled a telephone town hall later today that was set to give constituents a chance to talk to her directly about health-care legislation. Rep. Martha McSally cancels today’s phone-in town hall due to emergency trip:

In a brief statement, McSally’s office said the congresswoman was traveling to Tucson because a man described as a father figure is gravely ill.

“The man who has been a father figure in Rep. McSally’s life for the last twenty (years) took a turn for the worse this morning in his battle against cancer and his health is rapidly deteriorating,” read the statement from her spokeswoman, Kelly Schibi.

“Rep. McSally has to urgently fly back to Tucson this afternoon. She regretfully will have to reschedule the health care telephone town hall for the next available date. Due to this emergency, the Congresswoman will also miss votes on Wednesday and Thursday. Rep. McSally has already informed the Speaker of this unfortunate circumstance. She appreciates her constituents’ understanding during this difficult time.”

The Arizona Daily Star reports, McSally to hold phone-in town hall Wednesday evening:

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally announced she will hold a telephone town hall at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, giving constituents a chance to talk to her directly about health-care legislation.

To participate in the call, dial 877-229-8493 and enter the code 114341.

Our “cowardly lion“ congresswoman Martha McSally is too afraid to meet her constituents face-to-face to explain her votes in a public forum.

The tele-town hall comes nearly three weeks after McSally rallied the GOP troops to “Let’s get this fucking thing done!” in voting in favor of the “Zombie Trumpcare” American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed on a party-line vote.

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According to FiveThirtyEight’s Congressional Tracker (last updated May 18), Rep. McSally stands by her man Donald Trump 100% of the time.

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Former C.I.A. director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee

Former C.I.A. director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee today and refuted the Trump campaign/administration push-back about their contacts with the Russians. Former C.I.A. Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia:

As Russian hackers and propagandists tried to manipulate the American election last year, the C.I.A. noticed a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and associates of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, said Tuesday.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan described a nerve-fraying few months as American authorities realized that the election was under attack and worried that Mr. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight. His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.

“I know what the Russians try to do. They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly,” Mr. Brennan said. When he left office in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”

Mr. Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives and said the contacts might be benign. But his confirmation of those contacts was the latest revelation to undermine Mr. Trump’s changing account of his campaign’s links to Russia.

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The cumulative evidence for a charge of obstruction of justice keeps piling up

The cumulative evidence for a charge of obstruction of justice keeps piling up against our Dear Leader, Donald Trump. And this is only what we know from what has been revealed in the media, and by Trump himself in his public statements and his insane Tweets. Investigators have acccess to documents, communications and witness statements that have not yet been made public.

The Washington Post reports, Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

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