Political Fraud About Voter Fraud

October 22, 2016 § 2 Comments

Trump’s Premature Whining About Voter Fraud

It appears we have avoided the disaster of a Trump presidency.  He has declared, as he has always done in the past when his mendacity, dishonesty and childish bullying has proved unsuccessful in some venture:  He will sue everyone who has challenged him and find some public venue where he can continue to vilify the journalists and others who have exposed him to the public.

It is appropriate, therefore, to begin unraveling his claims that his rejection by the voters means that the system allowing them to judge him is “rigged” and riddled with “voter fraud”.

In his raving about this, he adorns his lies with the label of the Pew Research Center, a well respected source of information about many issues, including politics and voting. As usual, however, Trump misstates and skews the statistics he uses to mislead his adoring fans into thinking that Pew Research agrees that millions of voters vote multiple times by having multiple voter registration credentials; that a large number of voters are using credentials of dead people; that millions of voter credentials are inaccurate (implying some nefarious plot to “rig” an election) and on and on and on ad nauseaum.

Summary

I will cite some reliable sources in the remainder of this brief post so that you can read for yourselves accurate information about problems with voting in America.  There are  problems, but one of them is not voter fraud.

Multiple Voter Credentials

It is true that many Americans have multiple voter credentials, but the reason is that many Americans have qualified to vote in one State and then move to another state, where they qualify themselves to vote without canceling the credentials obtained in their previous residence state.  There is no evidence this is motivated by or results in voting more than once in any election.  It is only evidence that few of us see any reason to cancel our voter credentials when we move.

Inaccurate Voter Credentials

It is true that our system for recording and preparing voter credentials is antiquated and should be modernized and simplified.  Addresses, birth dates and other information is often recorded inaccurately and, when the information is copied to official records from the paper forms filled out by the registrars, there are multiple opportunities for errors.  There is no evidence this leads to voter fraud.  It does, however, cause unnecessary expense and often interferes with the voters’ access to a ballot on election day.

Voter Credentials remaining on the Rolls After the Voter Dies

Because of the wide variation in the way voter rolls are maintained, those records often retain records of voters who have died.  This does not, however, result from efforts to vote fraudulently and there is no evidence that it leads to fraudulent voting.

Common Sense is a Strong Reason Why Voter Fraud is Very Rare

Simple cost/benefit reasons argue against the kind of voter fraud focussed on by Republicans and candidates like Trump.  All states have criminal laws against voter fraud as well as against facilitating voter fraud.  So adding a single vote in an election is a foolish risk, given the likelihood of detection and the tiny benefit obtained.

Employer intimidation and control of employee votes is a far more efficient way to exercise control over voters than individual voter fraud.  And, of course, the Republican lawmakers know very well how to limit and discourage voting in precincts well known to contain Democratic Party voters.  They accomplish that by making the process of obtaining voter credentials as difficult as possible; limiting the period of time when early voting is available; stationing armed police near voting locations where the relations between the population and the police is notoriously fraught with suspicion and fear; changing  locations for voting to make it more difficult for voters in known Democratic Party precincts to vote.  These are tried and true methods for  manipulating access to voting  and getting away with it under the guise of “ballot security”

The Truth in a few Documents

The Washington Post has done an extensive investigation into the size of the “voter fraud” problem.  Here is what they discovered:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/vo

The Pew Research Center has produced a report on voter problems in America.  They do not include “voter fraud” in their report because it is not part of the problem.  Here is a summary of their report:

http://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2012/pewupgradingvoterregistrationpdf.pdf

The Brenan Center for Justice has sponsored an extensive study of voter problems in America.  Here is a copy of their report.

http://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/The%20Truth%20About%20Voter%20Fraud.pdf

Conclusion

It seems likely that Trump will lose this election.  I don’t believe, despite his bombastic threats, he will file lawsuits against the women he has abused.  He won’t do so because, if he does, he will be deposed under oath and, when he lies, he will be committing felonies.  And, he will be facing prosecutors in Hillary Clinton’s Department of Justice.

I do believe he will find some TV platform to continue his assault on American justice, the American Constitution, American journalism and the American political system.  A centerpiece of that campaign will involve the kind of lies and deception that the above cited sources address and disapprove.  That is my reason for this post.  Fortunately for all of us, my research did not require more than an hour or two on the internet.  Our technology has armed us with easy access to the truth.  Unfortunately it has also armed with our enemies with megaphones for their lies.

Hillary vs. Trump: Some Random Reactions

September 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

The Difference Between Approval and Advocacy 

A recurring theme of my life as a trial lawyer and a political activist is the separation of my personal beliefs and standards of morality and integrity from those clients and politicians for whom I have worked.   One anomaly of our culture is the general understanding that a doctor’s treatment of a patient is not presumed to imply any support or agreement with the personal habits, morality or beliefs of the patient.  But lawyers and political organizers are often presumed to share those qualities with the politicians and clients they represent.  To me, this is an irrational distinction.

I once was invited to address a college class.  I talked about some of my work.  I invited questions afterward.  One persistent one was:  “How can you defend someone you know to be guilty of a crime?”  “If you don’t belong to any organized religious denomination, does that not leave you with no moral guidance?”

In other words, these young people had successfully completed a public education and some college study without learning anything about the fundamentals of our secular society based on our Constitution.  They apparently knew nothing about the adversarial principles on which our criminal justice system is based.  And, far more important, some of them believed our society consists of those with religious faith and a remainder consisting of libertines.

As I watch and listen to the present political debates I realize this ignorance  deeply affects our political system.

The Bankruptcy Issue

I detest almost everything related to Donald Trump:  his arrogance, his mendacity, his willful ignorance, his encouragement of every aspect of the racism, bigotry and sexism endemic as a disease in our culture.

What I don’t share is the repetitive mention of his multiple bankruptcies as evidence of his recklessness and dishonesty.  I can trace my reaction to some episodes in my past.

When I was trying lawsuits for a living I did not discriminate against wrong doers and clever schemers  who used their  superior knowledge of the law to cause damage to others. I never facilitated their nefarious activities.  I never lied to courts or other lawyers to protect them.  I never knowingly permitted them to perjure themselves on the witness stand or otherwise under oath (e.g. as in depositions).  But, if they obeyed my instructions and made satisfactory arrangements to pay me for my work, I enthusiastically defended them in court.  My only exceptions were murderers and child molesters:  The former because I did not want the responsibility for the life of a client; the latter because I  knew I could not put my feelings aside and do a proper job of defending them.

One Example

When I was hanging out in courthouses, there was a type of  East Texas sharpie who made a handsome living exploiting loopholes in the law.  One was a person who analyzed the descriptions in land titles to find instances where there was a gap between the legal description of a tract of land and the legal description of an adjoining tract.  The result was a piece of land that was not legally conveyed to anyone.  It was called a “variance”.  If the gap was located in the middle of land leased to oil companies where oil was being produced, the schemer would acquire title to the “variance” part and then sue to claim a portion of royalties paid to the other record owners.

One of the first times I went to court was as co-counsel with Ralph Yarborough in a case in which we represented one of these guys.  We lost, but neither of us had any qualms about doing our best to defend him.  Judge Yarborough, as I called him then, based of his short tenure as a district judge, had represented this client in previous legal matters.

Another Example

Several years later, I represented a different type of East Texas character with similar but different ways to exploit the law.  The fellow had a portable drilling rig.   He hauled it to Columbus, Ohio, obtained a lease on some land, and began drilling for oil or gas.  He invited local people to invest in this enterprise by advertising his effort and holding bar-b-ques and other kinds of public events on some land he rented near Columbus.  Many of the local residents, who had never seen anything like the kind of show this guy staged, eagerly invested in his project.  He was charming and his Texas accent and swashbuckling style was a big hit.

The drilling ended with a dry hole and everyone lost their investment.  He loaded up his equipment and hauled it back  to Texas without paying for the drilling costs and material he had obtained on credit.  So, the suppliers who were stiffed brought a fraud suit in federal court in Houston.  I represented the miscreant.

When I went to Columbus and deposed some of the local investors I was surprised to learn they still recalled with relish their adventure with the “Texas oil man”; regaled me with stories of how much fun they had and expressed concern about the suits.  I also deposed some less enthusiastic victims of this failed enterprise.

When the case went to trial before a federal judge in Houston, I established that the corporation to which the subject unpaid-for items had been sold was a separate corporation with no assets.  When that became apparent, the judge interrupted the proceedings and asked the lawyer for the plaintiffs:  “Didn’t your clients consult Dun & Bradstreet or some agency to determine the credit worthiness of this corporation?”  When the lawyer sheepishly admitted the answer was “No.” , the judge terminated the proceedings and dismissed the case.

My client was happy and I, having been paid for my work, was happy.  I did not lose any sleep considering whether it was wrong to represent this client.

So, when I hear Trump accused of dishonesty because he left unpaid workers, suppliers and others unpaid when his casinos in New Jersey went bankrupt, I have no standing to shame him.  I don’t know the details, but I suspect he was not foolish enough to make himself personally liable for those debts.  So far as I know he merely used one of the basic pillars of capitalism:  It’s perfectly all right to cheat people if you are smart enough to utilize corporate limited liability  laws and the bankruptcy laws to do it.  There are plenty of ways to remedy this problem but, until we do, we can’t complain when capitalist pirates  use the system we have.

The Criminal Cases

I did not specialize in criminal law, not because I didn’t like it, but because most of the people I worked with, union workers and staff members, were not criminals.  Their offenses were drunken escapades, strike violence episodes, family violence episodes, and other kinds of misdemeanors and non-lethal felonies.  Most of them were settled with plea bargains.  Some did go to trial and I had a pretty good record.  I don’t recall any innocent defendant I represented but our legal system is designed to permit conviction of a crime only if all constitutional safeguards have been satisfied.

The system is, correctly in  my opinion, based on the principle that guilty persons escaping punishment is preferable to allowing innocent persons to be found guilty based on unpopular conduct or overzealous prosecution.  In recent decades, as a result of some very dangerous Supreme Court decisions, this fundamental principle of criminal justice has been severely weakened.  I am hopeful some future legislation and appointments to the Supreme Court will undo the damage done to the safeguards against lynch law justice.

Conclusion

I suppose some may regard this post as a confession but I offer it as an effort to call attention to efforts to mislead Americans about the Constitutional protection that protects us all.  This is important because the common law of stare decisis as applied to our legal system means that every time the Constitutional safeguards against unwarranted criminal prosecution are weakened,  the loss of those safeguards applies to all of us, not just the individual whose case occasions that loss.

 

 

 

 

European Cuba

July 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

Some Idle Speculation

It appears to me that the EU is not making a good faith effort to guide Greece toward a viable economy.  My suspicion is that, led by Germany and some European financial oligarchs, the EU is really dead set on forcing the Greek people to disavow the results of its recent election of a left-wing government.  If I am right, the EU is becoming a sinister enemy of democracy, not a healthy alliance of European economies.

This smells to me like what the United States tried to do when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara freed Cuba from the oppression of Batista.  We are now, decades too late,  making amends for that effort.  The bad odor of the EU’s treatment of Greece is more pungent because it seems to be driven by Germany.  Some of the virulent rhetoric attacking Greece sounds like an echo from the 1930’s.

Yes, I know it has become verboten to make reference to Germany’s Nazi past, but we, during the past few months, have witnessed how ugly pasts are like crab grass, aggressive and hard to kill.   Half our country, a hundred and fifty years ago,  embraced government protection of an economy based on slavery.  A brutal war was required to end slavery.  But, for the past few months, a significant segment of our citizens have been passionately defending its symbols, referring to them as respected relics of cultural pride.  Today, as South Carolina congratulated itself for lowering the Confederate flag, I heard a TV commentator remark that a recent poll showed that 57% opposed the decision to do so.  Those opposed contend the flag represents a valued “heritage” and should be regarded as homage to their ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

I assume there are many Germans who have similar feelings about WWII and their “heritage” and ancestors.  But, just as Southerners who honor the Confederate flag don’t discuss the horrors of slavery, I suspect the Germans who still recall with pride the glory of the 1930’s, don’t discuss the horrors of the Holocaust.

My suspicion is that, while the rhetoric has changed,  most of those who honor the Stars and Bars have no enthusiasm for ending the continuing prejudice and racism that remains a shame and a plague in our country.  I also suspect that there is a broad overlap between the German minority who feel some bitterness about the outcome of WWII and those who are prominent in Germany’s right wing political faction bitterly opposed to the democratic socialist government of Greece.

If  I’m Right

If I’m right, Germany will not abide by any reasonable effort to save Greece from an economic meltdown.  Unless, of course, its elected leaders resign and call for a new election.  Angela Merkel will have the same reluctance to oppose the extremists in her parliament as has been exhibited by some GOP presidential candidates toward lowering the Confederate flag.   The political right wing in America successfully delayed the recognition of Cuba for fifty years and, even now, Obama’s executive decision to right this wrong has not been supported by the GOP leadership.

If Only

I wish both the Russian  and Chinese governments were not going through an economic crisis.  The timing is terrible.  I think it would be great if either of those governments would send an emissary to Greece with this message:

“It seems you guys are having some trouble getting your so-called friends to lend you money on terms allowing you to stabilize your economy.  Tell you what:  How about we lend you some money with a structured pay-out that will permit you to survive your problems with dignity and compassion for your people.  Of course, part of the deal will be:  We partner with you in deals with African nations and we get to establish military, especially naval,  bases in your country on favorable terms.  See, we Russians have been troubled for centuries with limited access to the Mediterranean  Sea.  And we would like to have a convenient base from which to launch favorable trade deals with Africa.  We think this could be the beginning of a great alliance.  We communists are flirting with privatizing some of our economy and you Greeks have taken some steps toward socializing some of your economy.  If we’re smart, that could be the basis for mutual success.”

I know this ain’t gonna happen.  The Chinese don’t know how to manage a stock market and the Russians have never learned how to manage their economy.  When they have to choose guns or butter, they always choose guns.  [We make the same choice, but we do a better job of marketing our guns.]  Still – it’s fun to speculate what such a deal would do the European bullies who are enjoying pushing Greece around.  It would give Angela something else to think about – might get her mind off the right wingers who are making so much noise about Greek socialism.  Nothing like a nuclear-armed commie neighbor to focus the mind.

Which Side Are You On?

December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

The Scandal

As I write this, the United States Senate is debating a measure that would weaken Dodd-Frank’s regulation of  Wall Street banks, increase the amount of money a single donor can contribute to political parties and enable employers to reduce pension payments of retirees after they retire and have earned their pensions.

These outrages are attached to a budget bill whose passage is required to keep the government operating.  None of these dishonest and unwise amendments have anything to do with the budget.  They were attached to the budget bill by anonymous members of the House of Representatives at the behest of Citigroup.  There was no committee hearing.  There was no opportunity to vote on them separately.

In other words, they were so obviously the result of corruption that their sponsors would not own them.  They could only be adopted as part of a legislative blackmail scheme.

This is not, however, the real scandal.  The real scandal is that this dishonest scheme could only proceed with votes by Democratic Party members.  The bill passed the House by a narrow margin, including aye votes by 57 Democrats.
[I note with some satisfaction that no Texas Democrat voted “aye”.]

No, that is really not the real scandal.  The real scandal is that the only two elected officials who are personally identified with pressuring members of Congress to agree to these outrages are named Barack Obama and Joe Biden .  Yep.  Some things are too dishonest to make it, even given the present sorry state of our politics.  So you have to bring out the Big Guns, the Prez and Vice (pun intended).

How did this happen?  Well, we get the usual explanation.  It was a compromise; the best deal we could get.  If we don’t go along, the President won’t be able to work with Republicans on other matters.

Whoa!  Say what?  When has the President been able to work with Republicans on anything significant?  What makes anyone think this will improve in a few weeks when the GOP majority will become filibuster proof?  Just how stupid and naive are we suppose to be?  Will this be an adequate explanation for the retirees whose pensions will be decimated?   When the power of the Koch Brothers and others like them is used to gain even more control of our political parties, will we view the results and say, “Well, it’s bad, but it was worth it to avoid an ugly argument about the 2014 Budget Bill.”

The Perpetuation of “Too Big To Fail/Jail”

Dodd Frank addressed a problem that confronted us when the Wall Street Banks faced insolvency because of their fraudulent marketing of mortgage based derivatives.  They used depositor money to finance those derivatives.  If they became insolvent, the taxpayers would have to make the depositors whole because of the FDIC insurance program.  That is, the taxpayers would belatedly finance the reckless greed of the Wall Street pirates.

Dodd Frank cured this by requiring that future trading strategies that depend on derivatives and Byzantine schemes involving  sketchy tools like credit-default-swaps, that look like insurance but have no reserves, would have to be conducted by entities separate from FDIC insured deposits, with money other than depositor money.

In other words, the ones who profit from high-risk gambles would have to risk their own money, not FDIC-insured depositor money.

Predictably, this was regarded as a terrible idea by the high-risk gamblers.  They have become addicted to the system of “If I win, I pocket the money.  If I lose, you pay for the loss.”  So, Citigroup, acting for the other pirates,  just wrote a solution to their problem, forwarded it to some elected officials  they owned, who transcribed it into an amendment to the budget bill.  Their solution is part of the bill Obama and Biden have been frantically calling House and Senate members about, begging them to vote “aye”.

Thank God For the Women

Nancy Pelosi was left out of the negotiations that led to this piece of garbage.  She did not join the cheer leaders who whooped it through the House.  But the one who has filled a gaping chasm where the political soul and conscience of the Democratic Party once rested, is Elizabeth Warren.  What a thrill to see a Senator who has not forgotten how to express moral outrage.  And knows how to do it while exhibiting a razor sharp wit and a mind to match.

When she spoke on the floor of the Senate, looked squarely into the camera and addressed Citigroup, the sponsor and author of the Dodd-Frank gut job, and said, “I agree with you.  Dodd-Frank is not perfect.  It failed to break you up into small pieces.”, I just about fell in love again, despite 65 years of marriage.  She is a wonder!

Which Side Are You On?

This episode reminded me of an old union song I taught my daughters to sing when they, and I, were young.  It was written in 1931 by Florence Reese, the wife of a coal miner in Harlan County, Kentucky, during a bitter strike.  The Harlan County Sheriff was J.H. Blair, an enforcer and strike breaker for the mine owners.

One night some of Blair’s thugs stormed into the Reese home, looking for Sam Reese.  He had been tipped off and was not there.   They terrorized his wife Florence and his children but didn’t get Sam.

After they left, Florence, angry and scared, wrote a song on the back of a calendar, expressing her devotion to the union and her contempt for those who failed to support the strike.   Here is a link to Pete Seeger and his banjo, singing Florence’s song:

Whose Side Are you On

While watching CNN and MSNBC about this budget episode, I kept getting madder and madder and I remembered that old song.  So I wrote my own version:

In our US Congress
There are no neutrals there
You either vote your consciences
Or whore for billionaires

[chorus]
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Obama we’re in danger
The wolves are at our door
We don’t need reasoned argument
We need a two-by-four

[chorus]

Barack Hussein Obama
How dumb can you get?
A shepherd cannot safely try
To make a wolf a pet!

[Chorus]

It’s time to rein in Wall Street
Our country’s not for sale
At ballot box and in the streets
We must fight and prevail.

[Chorus]

Thank God for Betsy Warren
She speaks for us out loud
She does not hedge or compromise
To blend in with the crowd

[Chorus]
No go along to get along,
She hews to moral rules
She tells it straight and tells the truth
She has no time for fools

[Chorus]

I don’t yet know how this drama will end, but I’m not optimistic.

Bob

A Sunday Afternoon Comment

November 9, 2014 § 5 Comments

On October 20th I woke up and discovered that my eyesight had malfunctioned and, as a result, everything I looked at was a double image, one atop the other.  When this problem persisted and my effort to ignore it proved to be too taxing, I finally went to a neighborhood hospital center.  After a CTscan, an MRI, an EKG and a thorough series of blood tests,  the message from this premier medical center was: ” Good news!  You don’t have diabetes; you didn’t have a stroke; one of your cranial nerves has malfunctioned; we don’t know why, but it will probably correct itself and your eyes will return to default condition sometime in a few weeks.  Put a patch on one eye and you’ll be fine.  And, if that doesn’t happen, we’ll fit you with a pair of glasses with an embedded prism that will correct the problem.”

So, now I have a clue about how pirates feel, except I don’t have a peg-leg and a parrot.

This mishap has curtailed my reading and my attention to this blog.  But, I do have one comment on last Tuesday’s “Republican Sweep” and the “Top to Bottom Assessment” that the Democratic Party has now launched.

I find myself agreeing with Bruce Bartlett, a conservative writer and former adviser to HW Bush and Ronnie Reagan.  He recently wrote an article in American Conservative magazine entitled, “Obama Is A Republican”.   He supported Obama in 2008, because he was furious at GW Bush because of GW’s fiscal policies.  In his article, he cites chapter and verse to explain his contention that Obama forgot his Saul Alinsky roots and governed like a moderate Republican.  Here is a link:  Bartlett

I commend the article to you.  Bartlett is a right-wing true believer in some economic policy fairy dust, but he has produced a thoughtful reminder of some of Obama’s policies.

I mention this article now because I think it offers a clue about why the Democratic Party voters did not vote last Tuesday.  Maybe it was because they were no longer convinced that Barack Obama’s policies promised the kind of relief and change they needed.  Their wage levels were dwindling.  The jobs they lost were not being replaced with work that enabled them to support a family.  They needed policies that targeted the excessive greed of the rentier class.  They were looking for Elizabeth Warren and what they were offered was a now-fully-disclosed Barack Obama and the future prospect of Hillary Clinton.  They didn’t perceive Obama as an enemy.  What they perceived was indifference, not in his rhetoric, but in his actions.

I don’t think those voters were thrilled by speeches about women’s reproductive rights and gay marriage.  There were three groups of potential supporters for Democratic Party candidates:  Chicanos who want legalization and a path to citizenship; young people who want relief from oppressive debt and prospects for decent jobs; and working class wage earners who wante decently paid jobs.  I didn’t see or hear many campaign speeches talking about those issues.

I hope the post election assessment convinces the Democrats to forget about “reaching across the aisle” and foreswearing “class warfare” and “populism”.  We live in divided country.  There are two sides.  When the Republican side talks about “compromise” and “getting things done”, they mean “agree with us”.  The voters are not sophisticated.  They do not understand how the nuts and bolts of government work.  But they do understand discussions of their fears and their desperation.  If we want to preserve our democracy, we better begin to offer some solutions even if the solutions don’t please the tiny fraction of our population that furnishes most of the money that corrupts our politics.

I have zero confidence that my proposal will even be discussed at the high-level strategy sessions that are probably now occurring.  The hallmark of political expertise in America is recognition that political policies that displease those who furnish the money in political campaigns are “tilting at windmills’ style notions and Sancho Panza is not a viable political mentor.

I have mentioned Dan Carlin before in posts on this blog.  He has a channel called “Common Sense”, in which he discusses various current issues.  In a recent one, he discussed what he perceives as a real threat to our democracy:  Pent up rage and frustration in response to government’s indifference to the economic problems facing working class Americans.  If you would like to hear his reasoning on this subject, here is a link:  Common Sense

This link takes you to the home page of his blog.  Scroll down and click on “The Specter of Dissent”.

Governor Perry: Oops #2

August 24, 2014 § 1 Comment

The Indictment

A Travis County grand jury has charged Governor Rick Perry with having violated two sections of the Texas Penal Code:  39.02 and 36.03.  Those sections are as follows:

§ 39.02. ABUSE OF OFFICIAL CAPACITY. (a) A public servant commits an offense if, with intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly: (1) violates a law relating to the public servant’s office or employment; or (2) misuses government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment.

(b) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor.

(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(2) is: (1) a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is less than $20; (2) a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20 or more but less than $500 ; (3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $500 or more but less than $1,500; (4) a state jail felony if the value of the use of the thing misused is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000; (5) a felony of the third degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000; (6) a felony of the second degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or (7) a felony of the first degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $200,000 or more.

(d) A discount or award given for travel, such as frequent flyer miles, rental car or hotel discounts, or food coupons, are not things of value belonging to the government for purposes of this section due to the administrative difficulty and cost involved in recapturing the discount or award for a governmental entity.

Sec. 36.03. COERCION OF PUBLIC SERVANT OR VOTER. (a) A person commits an offense if by means of coercion he:

(1) influences or attempts to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influences or attempts to influence a public servant to violate the public servant’s known legal duty; or

(2) influences or attempts to influence a voter not to vote or to vote in a particular manner.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor unless the coercion is a threat to commit a felony, in which event it is a felony of the third degree.

(c) It is an exception to the application of Subsection (a)(1) of this section that the person who influences or attempts to influence the public servant is a member of the governing body of a governmental entity, and that the action that influences or attempts to influence the public servant is an official action taken by the member of the governing body. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “official action” includes deliberations by the governing body of a governmental entity.

The Factual Background

The Travis County District Attorney  presides over the Public Integrity Unit, an agency charged with investigating and prosecuting public officials who are found to have misused their authority in some corrupt or criminal manner.   That unit is funded with money appropriated by the Legislature.

In April, 2013, acting on a phone tip from a motorist in Austin, the police arrested Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and charged her with DWI.  A video of her arrest and jailing, later released to the media, showed her behaving in a drunken and embarrassing way.  She plead guilty and served half of a 45 day jail sentence.

DA Lehmberg is a Democrat.  Perry is a Republican.

On June 14, 2013, Governor Perry vetoed the appropriation of funding for the Public Integrity Unit.  Before doing so, he publicly demanded the resignation of DA Lehmberg and stated that, unless she resigned, he would veto the funding.  She refused to resign.  According to press reports, the Governor and members of his staff engaged in negotiations before June 14, offering to appoint a Democrat to replace Lehmberg if she would resign.  Those negotiations were not successful.

At the time the funding was vetoed, the Public Integrity Unit was engaged in an investigation of possible criminality related to the handling of millions of dollars worth of public funding for a cancer research facility.  There were allegations that supporters and large contributors to the political campaigns of the Governor and other GOP officials were wrongfully benefited.

According to press reports, two other Texas District Attorneys were found guilty of DWI in the recent past,  during Perry’s term of office.  One of those DWI charged involved the DA’s collission with another motorist.  The Governor took no notice of those convictions, nor did he question the budgets for the offices of those DA’s.  Both of them were Republicans.

The Facts Surrounding the Indictments

In June, 2013, Texans for Public Justice, a liberal group, filed a criminal complaint against the Governor, charging him with wrongfully using the threat of a veto to force the resignation of DA Lehmberg.

Ms Lehmberg recused herself from any action or decision based on that complaint.

A District Judge in San Antonio, a Republican appointed by then Governor George W. Bush, appointed Mike McCrum to act as special prosecutor to handle the complaint.  McCrum had served as an assistant U.S. Attorney when G.W. Bush was President.  His nomination to become U.S. Attorney was supported by Republican Senators John Cornyn and Key Bailey Hutchinson.

McCrum, according to a report by a San Antonio reporter, interviewed over 40 witnesses in the course of investigating the charges against Perry.  He presented the evidence to the Travis County grand jury which, as stated, handed down a “true bill”, reflecting their opinion that there was cause to believe that Perry had committed crimes,, sufficient to warrant a trial based on those charges.

The Issues and the Non-Issues

Governor Perry has not been charged with wrongfully exercising his right to veto the funding for the Public Integrity Unit.  He has not been charged with publicly calling for DA Lehmberg to resign.  Like any citizen, he was and is free to express his opinion about her or any other public official.  Perry’s indictment does not  have anything to do with whether or not DA Lehmberg should have, or should now, resign and discontinue her duties as District Attorney.  That is a matter for her and the voters of Travis County to decide.

It is a crime, however, for him or any other public official, to use his authority to force, or to try to force, another public official to stop performing his or her duties, or to perform them in some way contrary to his or her oath of office.  That is what Rick Perry is charged with having done.

So, all the high-toned pontificating by the likes of Professor Alan Dershowitz and David Axelrod about the “sketchy” charges and the “criminalization of politics” has more to do with their cherished images of moral rectitude than with their understanding of the facts and the law.

As usual, the Texas Observer has the best balanced account of the controversy I have read.   Here is a link.

 

A Saturday Afternoon Rant

July 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

Today I spent five or six hours at a “Summit Meeting” of activists and organizers working for Wendy Davis’s campaign.  I thoroughly enjoyed it; met some interesting people; learned some digital tricks about  political organizing and listened to some very smart, articulate youngsters present some very smart ideas about how to prepare for and execute an effective get-out-the-vote [GOTV to the cognoscenti] program.

Wendy Davis attended the meeting and made a rousing speech.

The organizers convinced me they have an amazing database of potential supporters, complete with voting histories and other clues to the likelihood that, if they vote, they will or will not probably vote for Wendy Davis.  Those who issued the invitations to this meeting presumably had access to this database.  [I was invited because I have done some phone-banking and hobbled around a neighborhood one Saturday afternoon with a third-year political science major from Harvard who is spending the summer doing some field work with Battleground Texas.]

My problem is:  I looked over the audience, probably about 150 people from Harris, Ft. Bend and Montgomery counties, and saw only four or five Chicanos, none in leadership positions.  When Wendy spoke, she said nothing about the migrant children flooding our Mexican border or the vicious and callous reaction of the Tea Party-dominated Texas Republican Party.  Here is a link with some information that apparently has been overlooked by the Davis campaign.   Chronicle

The irony of the experience, at least for me, was that the meeting was held in the Ironworkers union hall on Dahlia street in the East End of Houston.  The route to that location is along Lawndale, a major street in that part of town, where the signs on the shops and restaurants are in Spanish and the area is obviously a Hispanic neighborhood.

I made my pitch to a couple of the organizing staff and they listened politely.  I, of course, have no credentials to be giving advice to political organizers, but I do so anyway.  I am very tired of living in Texas under the domination of jackasses like Rick Perry, Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick.  And it seems obvious to me that, unless Wendy Davis can interest Chicanos in her campaign and can overcome their notorious failure to vote in off-year elections, she cannot be elected.

__________________________________

Well, enough about that.  My friend, Dave Shapiro, who constantly shops the Cloud for pertinent political commentary and generously emails his finds to his friends, sent me an article in Politico Magazine, written by Doug Sosnik, a political consultant and former adviser to President Bill Clinton.  Here is a link:  Sosnik

In this article, Sosnik  sounds the alarm that the Democratic Party is in danger of being “taken over” by liberals.  He writes that the Blue Dogs are being replaced by “populists” who may even be able to force Hillary to move leftward.  Horrors!  He apparently believes that the days of “triangulation” and the DLC may be gone forever.

Sosnik cites polls showing that Americans have lost faith in their government.  He concludes, based on this evidence, that the “big government” policies of political liberals may be a doomsday prescription for the Democratic Party unless the leftists can “reconcile” their ideology with less government.

I think this reasoning is nonsense.  Working class Americans have every reason to distrust government based on the policies of Sosnik’s old boss and the Bush policies that took over where Clinton left off.   Thomas Pikkety has furnished a boatload of data to show that unregulated or inadequately regulated capitalism leads to steadily increasing degrees of wealth inequality that enriches the few at the expense of the many.  Clinton’s repeal of Glass-Steagall was the exact wrong way to prevent Pikkety’s nightmare scenario.  His reckless facilitation of NAFTA style globalization only added to the destruction of American working class economic health.  Here is a link to an article that catalogs some of that story: Glass-Steagall [I have written about  this at some length in a post entitled “The Bankenstein Fiends”.]

Economic justice in America will not be restored by weakening government.  It will be restored by government policies designed to benefit the ninety-nine percent who don’t have tax loopholes and 15% capital gains rates,  whose taxes are withheld from their wages without benefit of clever accounting tricks and overseas hiding places.  It will be restored by pro-union policies that protect the right to organize and bargain collectively with company ownership.  It will be restored by programs that hire workers to rebuild infrastructure.  That will not happen if economic policy is left in the hands of private corporations and billionaires and politicians beholden to them.

In other words, government will be trusted when it becomes trustworthy.  And that doesn’t equate with  indifference to the plight of ordinary Americans.

 

 

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