Category Archives: Politics

Nepotism and the 1%

Shorter Alex Pareene (Salon): Nepotism, it’s worse than you think. (Spotted via John Quiggin, Cronyism and the global city (again).)

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money | Leave a comment

The Garcia ‘Phantom Ballot’ Scandal — What We Know and Don’t Know (Updated)

The Herald splashed it as a five-column lead across the front page this morning: Top Garcia aide quits over ballot plot.

Here’s what we know so far:

  1. Cops raided the homes of two Joe Garcia campaign operatives: Giancarlo Sopo, 30, now Joe Garcia’s communications director and John Estes, 26, formerly his campaign manager for the 2012 election. The raids were in search of electronic evidence of fake absentee ballot requests.
  2. The ‘plot’ consisted of someone sending hundreds of electronic requests for absentee ballots for the 2012 Democratic primary, so-called phantom ballot requests. The bulk of the requests were masked by foreign IP addresses. The Miami Herald found that 2,552 fraudulent requests for the Aug. 14 primaries originated from Internet Protocol addresses in Miami, and got the prosecutors to re-open the case, leading to yesterday’s raids. Incidentally, although today’s Herald article calls the automated e-requests a “sophisticated scheme to manipulate the election” an earlier article by the same reporter stated that “no special skills” were needed. Unfortunately, the first article was right — since the ballots would have gone to the voters’ registered postal addresses, it didn’t take much to fill in the online ballot request forms: “any moderately or even marginally skilled programmer could have done this,” as Patricia Mazzei’s first article reported.
  3. Regardless, requesting ballots for others in this manner is illegal: only the voter or a family member can request an absentee ballot.
  4. The Elections Department flagged the requests as suspicious, and didn’t send the ballots, so none of this affected the primary (between Joe Garcia and fraudulent candidate Justin Lamar Sternad), much less the general election.
  5. According to the Miami Herald, Joe Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia (no relation to the Congressman), “took responsibility” (despite not having been the campaign manager for the 2012 campaign) and Joe Garcia asked for his resignation. Thus the headline. Sopo is on administrative leave for now.
  6. There’s no sign that Congressman Joe Garcia himself knew anything about any of this (although the Herald doesn’t report this fact):

    Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press that Congressman Garcia is cooperating with her office, and prosecutors don’t believe he knew anything about the fraud.

  7. Meanwhile, there’s a separate “ongoing investigation targeting multiple individuals involving alleged absentee ballot fraud” (per NBC Miami) — but that investigation does not involve Joe Garcia, either. That, I take it, is about the really serious stuff, where people collected actual ballots from the old and infirm, and filled them out and/or mailed them in batches (both illegal). Indeed, the ‘boletera’ operation has been a staple of the local Republican machine, which worked it hard to defeat Joe Garcia in 2008 and 2010.
  8. None of this has to do with the even zanier investigation into ex-Congressman David Rivera, complete with a key witness hiding out in Nicaragua.

There are some key details we don’t know:

  • Why did the computer-generated ‘phantom ballot requests’ target both registered Democrats and Republicans? Was someone trying to cover tracks? Incompetent? Running a false-flag op? Were the domestic and foreign-origin phantom requests part of the same operation, or different one?
  • Was there actually a ‘plot’? Or is this a one-man show?
  • What is it that Jeff Garcia (Joe Garcia’s chief of staff) actually did, if anything? Is he just resigning because he should have known, or because he did know (before or after the fact), or because he participated in some way? Based on what we know now, the direct participation seems unlikely as the cops apparently didn’t raid him looking for computer evidence.
  • Did the domestic IP numbers lead to either staff member’s home? Both? What, if anything, did the raids find after all this time? Who, if anyone, will be charged?

OBDisclosure: I know all three of the staffers mentioned above. My son volunteered full-time for the Garcia campaign in 2010, although not in 2012 (when this stuff allegedly occurred). He began interning in Garcia’s DC office this week. He knows all three men better than I do and says he was was shocked at the allegation that any of them would be involved.

UPDATE 1: Reports of this morning’s press conference are now online. Biggest new thing I learned from the Herald’s write-up is that Giancarlo Sopo “denied taking part” in the “plot”. As to Jeff Garcia’s role, the Herald, without any quotes, says he was dismissed “for apparently orchestrating a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests.” Apparently? Did he or didn’t he?

UPDATE 2: Here it comes: Local GOP asking, ‘What did Garcia know and when did he know it’?

UPDATE 3: Political Cortadito weighs in with several theories including this one: “The other possibility is that it was a third party vendor who did it. Sure, [Jeff] Garcia has to take responsibility. He was Joe Garcia’s campaign manager. But this is not like him. This doesn’t sound like his baby. This sounds like something that was offered to him by someone else.”

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami, Politics: FL-25/FL-27 | Leave a comment

Kevin Drum Is Shrill

House Republicans Have Completely Melted Down:

Apparently there are now two groups of Republicans in the House. First, there’s a group of firebrand conservatives headed by Eric Cantor, which, as near as I can tell, is mostly dedicated to finding slightly more slippery language to sell its usual right-wing agenda of school vouchers, block granting Medicaid, increased tax credits, and gutting labor laws. Second, there’s a group of insane, frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives who think of Cantor as Nancy Pelosi’s lapdog and are basically uninterested in anything other than repealing Obamacare, slashing taxes even more, ending the welfare state, and making speeches about how Obama is destroying America. It’s quite a little group that John Boehner has up there.

What put him over the edge? Could it be this? No, that was about the Senate.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

In Which I Engage in a Pointless Farce

Today President Obama unleashed the kraken: he emailed everyone on his email list encouraging them to contact their elected representatives to ask them to sign the discharge petition about extending the Bush tax cut earnings less than the top 2%. I decided to make a call, even though I knew, given who my representative is, just how pointless that is.

Here’s the note I got:

Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 11:13:07
From: “Stephanie Cutter, BarackObama.com”
To: A Michael Froomkin < >
Subject: Help the President with just one phone call
Parts/Attachments:
1 OK ~127 lines Text
2 Shown ~218 lines Text
—————————————-

Obama – Biden
A. Michael –

Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who.

Cutting taxes for the middle class shouldn’t be difficult, especially when Republicans claim they agree with the President on the issue. But some Republicans are still holding middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they want to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

Here’s what’s going on right now: President Obama is asking Congress to move forward on a plan that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year. The Senate has passed that bill, and the President is ready to sign it — but the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives won’t even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. House Democrats have filed a petition that would force a vote if it attracts 218 signatures.

If a bill has enough votes to pass, Congress should vote on it and pass it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. And every Member of Congress who hasn’t signed on to keep taxes low for the middle class needs to hear from you.

Call your representative today and ask them to sign the petition in support of a vote. According to our records, here’s who you should call:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931

Not your representative? Call the switchboard operator at 202-224-3121. Not sure who your representative is? Click here to look it up. [my.barackobama.com]

Here’s a suggestion on what to say — feel free to improvise and let your representative’s office know why you’re personally supporting the President’s plan:

“Hi, I’m A. Michael. As a voter from your district, I support the President’s plan to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of American families — $2,000 a year means a lot to me and to middle-class families here in Florida. I urge Representative Ros-Lehtinen to sign the petition forcing the House to vote on the Senate-passed bill, and to vote “yes” if it reaches the floor.”

Once you’ve called your representative’s office, please report back and let us know how it went:

http://my.barackobama.com/Report-Your-Call

Let’s get one thing straight: If your taxes go up, Republicans will have made a conscious choice to let that happen. They’ll have missed the opportunity to prevent it, just to cut taxes for the wealthy.

Republicans need to stop using the middle class as a bargaining chip. If they fail to act, a typical middle-class family of four will see a $2,200 tax hike starting in a few short weeks. Middle-class families could face some tough financial decisions simply because Republicans didn’t want to ask the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share.

That’s not what President Obama and you campaigned on, and that’s not what millions of Americans voted for just one month ago.

We know we can affect change in Washington when we raise our voices together. So pick up the phone and make a call — your representative needs to hear from you.
Here’s who to call, one more time:

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(202) 225-3931

Thanks,

Stephanie

Stephanie Cutter
Deputy Campaign Manager
Obama for America

P.S. — Don’t forget to tell us you made your voice heard. Report back here.

http://my.barackobama.com/Report-Your-Call

As the folks at Daily Kos correctly note, campaigns like this don’t win friends in Congress as they don’t like to be inundated with phone calls … which suggests that the private talks with Speaker Boehner are not going well — hardly a surprise.

So here is how it went. I said my piece, not following the Obama script, and was politely thanked for my views by “Chris”. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about this issue today,” he said.

What, I asked as if I didn’t know, was Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s position on the discharge petition. My feigned ignorance met equal ignorance (also feigned?) on the other side of the line: ‘I don’t know.’

How might I find out when the Congresswoman decides, I asked. ‘When the vote happens I guess,’ Chris answered.

Now, since I was calling about signing a discharge petition that wasn’t a very good answer. So I asked if he knew what a discharge petition was, and Chris claimed not to know. So I explained what a discharge petition is, and asked my question again.

‘I don’t know her position on this, I don’t work on those issues,’ said the dogged and still polite Chris. If he’s just an intern, he’s a real find. Everyone knows Ros-Lehtinen’s position: Hell will suffer from water solidification before she bucks her leadership and signs this discharge petition. But why risk annoying a constituent by telling him that?

In the end he offered me the email address of Ros-Lehtinen’s senior Legislative Aide, who I’m sure would just be delighted to hear from me. I don’t know that I’ll even bother.

Very hard to see what all that achieved. But I have to give props to Chris who, while being clueless or faking it well, was totally polite.

I submitted a very abbreviated version of the above to the Obama response site, and was oddly disheartened to be rewarded with an invitation to send him money.

Posted in 98%, Econ & Money | Leave a comment

Stuff that Doesn’t Exist (and Stuff that Does)

First we learn that 49% of the Republicans polled think ACORN stole the election for Obama and we also learn this great fact:

…most Americans don’t have an opinion about [Bowles/Simpson]. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don’t have a take one way or the other.

The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo…

So both the long-defunct ACORN and the (as yet)non-existent Panetta/Burns plan weigh heavily on the low-information-voter mind.

Meanwhile, in the department of good cheer, BoingBoing points me to a band called Do Not Foresake Me Oh My Darling that has made a shot-for-shot remake of the classic intro to the The Prisoner.

I’m not in love with the music (the Leonard Cohen cover on their page is not a crime, but I never want to hear it again), but I love the concept of “Episode 1 – Arrival”.

I’d also like to hear a copyright scholar tell me if this is a legitimate derivative work, or a potential copyright violation. It’s clearly too much a labor of love to be a parody.

Posted in 2012 Election, Kultcha, Law: Copyright and DMCA | 4 Comments

Nothing is Ever Simple

Naked Capitalism has more about Why Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee Puts Borrowers at Risk. Serious tax stuff. Not only isn’t this simple, but it actually does seem to carry real risks all around.

Previously: Tax Risks in Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee (11/18/12) and OWS to Buy, Forgive Distressed Consumer Debt (11/08/12)

Posted in 99%, Law: Tax | Leave a comment

Tax Risks in Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee

I wrote previously of Occupy Wall Street’s plan to buy and forgive distressed consumer debt. A commentator on that post noted that it created a tax issue, and a colleague agreed it was a risk. A fuller treatment of the problem, and some instant revisionist thinking about the ‘Jubilee’ program in general is over at the excellent Naked Capitalism blog, Occupy Wall Street’s Debt Jubilee: A Gimmick with Tax Risk.

Like most of the things they run, well worth a read.

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money, Law: Tax | Leave a comment