Daily Archives: December 18, 2018

Judge lambasts Michael Flynn and his lawyers, delays sentencing

On Monday, a day before the sentencing hearing for Michale Flynn, his business associates were charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey:

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment Monday charging two business associates of Michael T. Flynn with acting as agents of the Turkish government, describing in remarkable detail how the three attempted to persuade the United States to expel a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Throughout the fall of 2016, while Flynn served publicly as a key surrogate and foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, prosecutors say he and business partner Bijan Kian took hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Turkish government to push for the extradition from the United States of dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen. Their efforts, prosecutors said, were directed by Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with close ties to the country’s leadership.

* * *

By prosecutors’ account, the foreign government found a powerful and enthusiastic ally in Flynn — who was willing on the eve of the presidential election to pen an op-ed pushing for Gulen’s expulsion.

Flynn, who went on to serve as President Trump’s national security adviser, admitted last year to lying about his consulting firm’s business with the Turkish government and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in a deal with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team. That almost certainly helped produce charges against Kian and Alptekin. But the indictment Monday spells out for the first time how intimately Flynn was involved in the effort, which involved weekly conference calls to coordinate with Turkish officials.

Continue reading

The Fight Ahead on Voting Rights

Arizona Democrats won a lot of important victories in November, but perhaps none will prove to be more consequential than Katie Hobbs’ victory for Arizona Secretary of State. Hobbs not only joined new Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman in breaking Republicans’ decade-long hold on statewide executive offices, but she is now in charge of the most important political battleground in Arizona: the voting booths.

Across the country, the 2018 midterms and their aftermath have demonstrated how voter suppression has become central to the strategy of the Republican Party. As Jamelle Bouie writes in Slate, Broad, equitable access to the ballot threatens a GOP whose electoral success depends on a narrow (if large) segment of the voting public. Without draconian voting systems in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas, the GOP may not have survived the midterms with its Senate majority; without racial gerrymandering, Republican legislative majorities in North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin may not have withstood the “blue wave” of energy and activity.”

And now, in Arizona, a Republican stronghold has turned into a purple state that many consider to be in play for the 2020 presidential election. We have our first Democratic senator in a generation. Five of the nine US House seats are held by Democrats. Republicans have their slimmest majority (31-29) in the state House of Representatives in 50 years. And the voting system is about to be turned over to a Democrat who ran on ending the combination of malice and incompetence that Michelle Reagan used to suppress minority voters as Secretary of State. And oh yeah, the voting system of the state’s largest county is still overseen by Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who already has a target on his back from Republicans. Things are going to get real ugly, real fast. Continue reading

GOP Culture of Corruption: Governor Ducey appoints Martha McSally to the Senate as a consolation prize

George Packer had an important piece at The Atlantic last week. The Corruption of the Republican Party (snippet):

Why has the Republican Party become so thoroughly corrupt? The reason is historical—it goes back many decades—and, in a way, philosophical. The party is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.

* * *

The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means.

* * *

The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.

And so it has come to pass that Governor Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, bowed to the demands of the contemptible Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and purposefully disregarded the will of Arizona voters in a democratically held election in November by appointing the election loser, Rep. Martha McSally, to John McCain’s vacated Senate seat as a consolation prize.

Why do we even bother holding elections if our authoritarian GOP masters feel free to do whatever the hell they want to do without any regard for the will of the voters they pretend to represent?

Continue reading

The GOP has weaponized the courts in undermining our democratic institutions

20 GOP attorneys general hand-picked a conservative activist judge known for his political activism from the bench to conspire to overturn the Affordable Care Act. One can fairly say that the process was “rigged” to produce the desired result. Judge Reed O’Connor should be impeached, and the 20 GOP attorneys general held to account for their unethical professional misconduct.

The New York Times reports, In Weaponized Courts, Judge Who Halted Affordable Care Act Is a Conservative Favorite:

In the 11 years Judge Reed O’Connor has been on the federal bench, he has become a favorite of Republican leaders in Texas, reliably tossing out Democratic policies they have challenged.

The state’s Republican attorney general appears to strategically file key lawsuits in Judge O’Connor’s jurisdiction, the Northern District of Texas, so that he will hear them. And on Friday, the judge handed Republicans another victory by striking down the Affordable Care Act, the signature health law of the Obama era.

Judge O’Connor, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, has been at the center of some of the most contentious and partisan cases involving federal power and states’ rights, and has sided with conservative leaders in previous challenges to the health law and against efforts to expand transgender rights.

No one questions his expertise on the law. But his rulings illustrate the ways in which the federal district courts have become politically weaponized, as Republicans and Democrats alike try to handpick judges they see as ideologically friendly to their cases.

Continue reading

New Chair Alison Jones Vows to Bring in Grassroots Groups to Pima Democratic Party

Alison Jones is a career hydrogeologist who has been president of the Arizona Geological Society.

Chair Alison Jones emphasized her #1 campaign goal “to bring in and coordinate with grassroots groups. A lot of credit goes to these groups. We have plenty of opportunities for us to work together.”

Only 50 hours after being elected Pima County Democratic Chair, Alison Jones vowed to embrace community groups that helped elect Democrats, and to hold an outreach summit among the County’s six Legislative District leaders.

“I have a lot of support in the room and I’m charging ahead,” she said at Monday’s meeting of the Democrats of Greater Tucson. “I’m excited about the possibilities.” See In a Surprise Victory, Alison Jones Elected as New Pima Democratic Chair 156 to 151.

One of her first projects is to find a replacement for outgoing Executive Director Heath Butrum. “I want someone with budgeting and personnel skills, who is very organized with logistics. We need someone who will create a welcoming tone at headquarters, and someone who is excited about spreading our message of inclusivity,” Jones said. Butrum’s departure date is flexible.

Coordinate with grassroots groups

She emphasized her #1 campaign goal “to bring in and coordinate with grassroots groups. A lot of credit goes to these groups. We have plenty of opportunities for us to work together.”

She specifically cited the Arizona Ground Game, which “mobilized hundreds of people knocking on doors for Democrats,” and AZBlue2020, which is working on PC development and training. “We are going to need all the help we can get,” she said. “2020 will be on a scale we’ve never seen before. It’ going to be gigantic.”

Jones is a career hydrogeologist who has been president, secretary, and treasurer of the Arizona Geological Society. “All these skills are directly applicable to the chair position,” she said. She has been in Tucson since 2006, arriving from Maine. In her work, she consults for Tucson Water designing wells and assisting mining companies with permits.

Continue reading