If the Trump administration and Republican Party get their way, many voters will be forced to put their health at risk by voting in-person in November before a vaccine or a reliable treatment for the coronavirus is available.
Donald Shaw reports, Here Are the Billionaires Funding Trump’s Voter Suppression Lawsuits:
For the past several months, national Republican have been at war in the courts over state policies—advanced mainly by Democrats, but also by Republicans in some states—designed to make it easier for people to safely vote. In more than a dozen states, including battlegrounds like Wisconsin and Michigan, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has initiated or joined lawsuits to block states from expanding vote-by-mail systems or to oppose Democratic lawsuits in states that have resisted putting universal vote-by-mail systems in place. The lawsuits are financed by a $20 million litigation budget that the Republicans have amassed for fighting Democrats on voting issues.
Trump and Republicans have repeatedly said that mail ballots are more susceptible to electoral fraud, though nonpartisan groups like Brennan Center for Justice say there is “no evidence” that voting by mail results in significant levels of fraud. Trump has said that he believes high levels of voting hurts Republicans.
“My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump told Politico in June. “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think—I think it puts the election at risk.”
In Pennsylvania, a key swing state, the RNC has sued to stop state officials from making remote drop boxes available for voters to submit their ballots and from counting ballots that are mailed without being sealed in internal secrecy envelopes. In Iowa, another swing state, the RNC joined a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Democratic groups that seeks to overturn a law barring election officials from using voter rolls to look up information missing on mailed ballots. In California, the RNC filed a lawsuit in partnership with other Republican groups to prevent state election officials from following an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to mail absentee ballots to all voters, but recently conceded after the legislature passed a legislative version of the order.
In a tweet on Thursday, now pinned to his profile, Trump said, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” adding, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” Election experts like Rick Hasen, Professor of Law and Political Science at UC Irvine, interpret Trump’s tweet as encouraging the continued slowdown of the U.S. Postal Service and withholding of needed funding from state boards of election to prepare vote-by-mail systems.
Trump recently selected former RNC convention finance chair Louis DeJoy to the position of postmaster general. Besides helping to raise money for the RNC, DeJoy has donated $114,500 to the RNC legal fund.
The RNC legal proceedings account has raised more than $23 million so far in the 2019-20 election cycle, including transfers from a Trump joint fundraising committee and large donations from more than two dozen billionaires, according to Sludge’s review of Federal Election Commission records.
[T]he billionaires backing these lawsuits would almost certainly fare better under another four years of Trump. Biden, for example, has said he would try to end Trump’s signature 2017 tax law, which has disproportionately benefited the wealthy. According to research from University of California, Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, Trump’s tax bill reduced tax rates for the country’s 400 richest households below the level that any other income group pays.
Below is a table of the billionaires, per Forbes latest list, who have donated to the RNC legal proceedings account so far this election cycle, including donations from spouses of billionaires. The donations listed below comprise about 15% of the total amount that the RNC legal proceedings account has received from individuals this cycle.
At least 17 of the 24 billionaire donors to the RNC legal fund are among the top 400 wealthiest American households as ranked by Forbes magazine, including the following: Kelcy Warren, CEO of natural gas and propane pipeline giant Energy Transfer Partners, net worth $4.3 billion; Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of The Blackstone Group private equity firm, net worth $17.7 billion; and Charles Schwab, net worth $7.7 billion. Two more top donor families, those of Fertitta brothers Lorenzo and Frank III, fall just outside the top 400 richest Americans, with net worth around $1.6 billion apiece.
Dark Money Assistance
Also siding with the RNC on the lawsuits is a network of conservative “dark money” nonprofits tied through personnel and funding to groups that have worked to build support for the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and to elect conservative judges to state supreme courts.
One such group that recently emerged, the Honest Election Project, is a rebrand of the shadowy Judicial Education Project, according to OpenSecrets and The Guardian. The Judicial Education Project is established as a charity, allowing it to keep the sources of its millions of dollars in annual revenue hidden. In addition to its election lawsuit work as the Honest Elections Project, it makes grants to conservative groups including SpeechNow, which helped establish the legal basis for super PACs through a 2010 case against the FEC. The Honest Election Project also funds Private Citizen, a First Amendment legal expense fund, and the George Mason University Foundation, a law school that established conservative ideological law centers and hired multiple Federalist Society-linked academics after receiving millions in donations from the Charles Koch Foundation.
The Honest Elections Project, which shares a law firm with the RNC, Viriginia-based Consovoy McCarthy PPLC, has filed multiple briefs in states and federal courts defending states against lawsuits from Democrat-aligned groups that seek to expand mail voting or ease requirements on ballot signatures. It also worked to force states to clean up voter registration rolls, a process that critics have labeled “purging.” The group recently spent $250,000 to run ads on cable news channels claiming that Democrats have sought to expand mail voting for partisan advantage and advocating for limited or no changes to voting laws to accommodate voters during the pandemic.
According to OpenSecrets and The Guardian, Judicial Education Project (the Honest Elections Project’s alias) has been funded almost entirely by DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund sponsor that specializes in helping conservative donors anonymously fund “sensitive or controversial issues” while also securing special tax advantages. DonorsTrust has been a major funder of groups in the Koch network, including Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the State Policy Network, and in 2018 it provided 99% of Judicial Education Project’s funding.
In other words, all of the usual suspects.
Trump’s toady Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is slowing down the mail. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “Neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region are experiencing significant delays in receiving their mail, with some residents going upwards of three weeks without packages and letters, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills.”
And the evil plot to slow down mail-in ballots is already occurring. Michigan ballots tangled in mail delays in advance of Tuesday primary: “Mail problems marred the delivery of absentee ballots in Michigan in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary in the state, testing election administrators and ramping up fears of political pressure on the U.S. Postal Service just three months before Nov. 3.”
(I have not seen any reporting of mail problems with early mail-in ballots in Arizona; that does not mean it is not happening).
The House Oversight Committee has invited the new postmaster general to appear at a September hearing to examine operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service that are causing delays in mail deliveries across the country. House panel calls new postal chief to explain mail delays. The Sept. 17 hearing will focus on “the need for on-time mail delivery during the ongoing pandemic and upcoming election,” which is expected to include a major expansion of mail-in ballots.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is also calling for an investigation and hearings amid concerns about mail-in ballot “voter suppression tactics” by the Trump administration through the United States Postal Service. Watchdog Calls For Probe Amid Fears Of ‘Voter Suppression Tactics’ Through Postal Service:
“Recent actions” taken by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed to the position in May, “will delay prioritizing mail delivery,” which threatens voting by mail, warned a letter Thursday from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Johnson is the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee [and not sympathetic to this complaint].
The number of Americans voting by mail is expected to surge across the nation as voters seek to avoid the risk of catching COVID-19 at the polls. Yet DeJoy is slashing overtime for mail carriers and prohibiting employees from making late delivery trips, which will slow the mail, he revealed in an internal memo. DeJoy, who has no experience in the agency, is a prominent Trump donor and the former lead fundraiser for the Republican National Convention.
“We have an underfunded state and local election system and a deliberate slowdown in the Postal Service,” Wendy Fields, the executive director of the Democracy Initiative, told The New York Times. Trump is “deliberately orchestrating suppression and using the Post Office as a tool to do it,” she said.
After significant delays by the USPS in delivering absentee ballots to voters in Wisconsin’s April primary, a probe by the USPS Office of Inspector General determined that the agency needed to “strengthen adherence to procedures” and “improve communication and coordination” with election offices.
CREW’s letter, which was also signed by Common Cause Wisconsin, calls on Johnson’s Senate committee to determine whether USPS is proactively addressing the “increased national demand for voting by mail” this November. The committee must also determine how cutting back on overtime and extended deliveries by the USPS will impact voting by mail, the letter states.
America’s Plutocrats believe, by virtue of their great wealth, that they are entitled to lord over us all. And they will not be denied by democratic elections in which the “rabble” can decide for themselves how they wish to be governed. They are fundamentally anti-democratic and un-American. These Plutocrats are imposing a system of neo-feudalism. How America is reverting back to the feudal age. “Reversing our path away from a new feudalism will require, among other things, a rediscovery of belief in our basic values and what it means to be an American.”
“To reverse neo-feudalism, the Third Estate — the [working] class most threatened by the ascendency of the oligarchs and the clerisy — needs to reinvigorate its political will, just as it did during the American Revolution and in the various struggles that followed.”