May 22, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Backs Tiffany Cabán in Pivotal Queens DA Rac...

A criminal justice reformer running a bare-bones, grassroots campaign is building momentum to transform the Queens District Attorney’s office for the first time in close to 30 years. As Tiffany Cabán beefs up her push with help from the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has jumped in to back the queer, Latina public defender running an anti-establishment campaign many have likened to Ocasio-Cortez’s own.

After the DSA backed Cabán earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez — one of the group’s first federally elected officials — announced Wednesday that she, too, would be getting in behind the 31-year-old Queens native. The Democratic primary is set for June 25 — a day before the one-year anniversary of Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory over Joe Crowley. With no Republican in the running, the top candidate will effectively win the DA’s seat.

“We deserve a district attorney that understands that to make our community safer we help people prosper.”

“Our criminal justice system needs to change. New Yorkers deserve a seat at the table, and a champion who will fight to realign our priorities towards equal treatment under the law,” said Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “If Tiffany Cabán wins, things are going to change. Instead of criminalizing poverty, we’re going to dedicate resources towards prosecuting abusive landlords. Instead of targeting people who use marijuana, we can go after the drug companies that took advantage of working-class folks for profit. We can end broken windows policing and rebuild the relationship between our communities, and the justice system that’s supposed to work for us. We can end cash bail, so that the rich and poor are held equal in the eyes of the law. We deserve a district attorney that understands that to make our community safer we help people prosper. We deserve Tiffany Cabán.”

With Ocasio-Cortez’s backing, Cabán has scored her first congressional endorsement. But Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, one of Cabán’s top opponents, has support from a wide swath of the Queens County Democratic machine, including Ocasio-Cortez’s predecessor, Crowley, the former Queens County Democratic Party Chair, along with current New York Reps. Greg Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, and Tom Suozzi.

Cabán’s campaign is pretty far behind on the fundraising front, and didn’t have to file a disclosure at the state’s last deadline because they’d raised under $1,000 that quarter. But her campaign says its strength comes from its overwhelming grassroots energy, bolstered in large part by organizers from the Queens DSA and the Working Families Party, among other groups, who plan to knock on “every last door,” Cabán communications director Monica Klein told The Intercept. Cabán has been able to galvanize a grassroots coalition to knock on doors and run a campaign on a shoestring budget — particularly for an office not many people even know they can vote for.

As progressive candidates and organizers are shaking up New York City politics with wins by Ocasio-Cortez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and a slew of insurgent challengers who wiped out the renegade Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, the Queens DA race is another push in the broader movement to wrest power from the city’s Democratic machine.

Even before it takes place, the Queens contest is already a win for the nation’s broader criminal justice reform movement that ushered in progressive prosecutors like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Rachael Rollins in Boston, and Wesley Bell in St. Louis, with each of the seven candidates in the field working to cast themselves as the most “progressive.”

The Queens DA race is another push in the broader movement to wrest power from the city’s Democratic machine.

Each contender has distanced themselves from the late Dick Brown, the borough’s last DA, and his office’s passive approach to criminal justice reform at a time when DAs across the country were making a central part of their projects to decline to prosecute low-level offenses and establish conviction review units. But as the petitioning period has passed and endorsements are being scooped up, much like the Ocasio-Cortez-Crowley primary, the Queens DA race is more clearly reflecting a split screen between the grassroots and the monied New York Democratic establishment.

Cabán’s campaign is centered on healing community trauma, ending mass incarceration, diverting funds from the DA’s office back to communities, stopping the prosecution of minor offenses, and ending the construction of new jails. She’s represented over 1,000 clients as a public defender, and she says running to transform the DA’s office is the next natural step in her advocacy for her clients.

At 31, Cabán is the youngest candidate on the ballot. She currently has no health care because she took time off from her day job to run. And she’s deferred her student loans, her campaign told The Intercept.

Since the race’s petitioning period ended April 4, Cabán has been endorsed by the National DSA, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Our Revolution, People for Bernie, the sex workers group Red Canary, the New Visions Democratic Club, the National Association of Social Workers, the 504 Democratic Club, No IDC NY, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Rockaway Revolution, and the New Queens Democrats.

She’s also got backing from former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon; New York State Sens. Jessica Ramos, Luis Sepúlveda, and Gustavo Rivera; New York City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Jimmy Van Bramer; and activists and attorneys such as Zephyr Teachout, Marc Fliedner, Linda Sarsour, Akeem Browder, and Allen Roskoff.

Cabán’s campaign has also attracted top-tier political staff, including campaign manager Luke Hayes, who worked on State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s campaign to challenge New York’s IDC; fundraising consultant Elana Leopold, who led fundraising efforts for Nixon, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Ramos, another IDC challenger; and communications director Monica Klein, who led the press team on de Blasio’s 2017 campaign and handled communications for Ramos and congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, and also helped lead the Working Families Party effort to break up the IDC.

Cabán’s top opponent at this point in the race is Katz, a career politician with no courtroom experience who’s run for at least six offices throughout New York. Despite her machine backing and questionable past positions on issues from the death penalty to cash bail, Katz has moved closer and closer to Cabán on a number of issues since The Intercept covered the race in March.

Cabán staked her campaign on ending the use of cash bail for all crimes, not just nonviolent felonies. She was also an early supporter of the city’s No New Jails movement, and opposed de Blasio’s plan to replace the Rikers Island jail by constructing four new jails. Katz previously wanted to eliminate cash bail only for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, but has since altered her platform to end cash bail completely. She supports closing Rikers and, until recently, supported de Blasio’s plan to replace the massive jail with four new borough-based jails. She now opposes that plan.

While Cabán would decline to prosecute sex work and recreational drug use, among other crimes, Katz said she would only decline to prosecute marijuana use and would want to “consider each arrest on its merits before declining to prosecute.”

In addition to distancing herself from policy proposals that fall short of the progressive standard Cabán is pushing, Katz has also tried to explain away her past support for conservative criminal justice measures. Katz said she only voted the death penalty while she was a member of the New York State Assembly on moral grounds after her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident. But during that race, where the Queens Daily News described her as a candidate “bucking the Queens Democratic machine,” Katz said she didn’t think the death penalty was a deterrent, but that she supported it because of “the enormous cost of keeping someone behind bars for life.”

In her campaign for DA, Katz is also running on sentencing reform and reducing mass incarceration. But as a New York City council member she sponsored legislation to increase penalties for minor offenses like graffiti and drag racing, and voted to create a new crime of gang recruitment despite expert testimony that such laws unfairly target young people of color who aren’t involved in crime.

Katz has raised over $1 million so far, and some of that includes funds left over from her citywide office accounts. She’s also taken a quarter of a million dollars from real estate developers and interests, while pledging to hold developers and construction companies accountable for workplace injuries. She’s the top real estate industry recipient in the race thus far, The City reported.

On Wednesday, Caban will hold an event thanking sex workers who’ve canvassed for her campaign, her campaign told The Intercept.

“When sex workers and formerly incarcerated people get together behind a DA candidate you know something’s happening,” Cabán said.

Also on the Queens DA ballot are New York City Council Member Rory Lancman; former deputy chief for special investigations in the New York state attorney general’s office Jose Nieves; former Washington, D.C., Deputy Attorney General Mina Malik; former prosecutor and retired New York Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak; and New York City attorney Betty Lugo, a former Republican who has said as recently as this month that she may be open to running on a GOP ticket for the DA’s office.

The post Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Backs Tiffany Cabán in Pivotal Queens DA Race appeared first on The Intercept.

May 22, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Backs Tiffany Cabán in Pivotal Queens DA Rac...

A criminal justice reformer running a bare-bones, grassroots campaign is building momentum to transform the Queens District Attorney’s office for the first time in close to 30 years. As Tiffany Cabán beefs up her push with help from the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has jumped in to back the queer, Latina public defender running an anti-establishment campaign many have likened to Ocasio-Cortez’s own.

After the DSA backed Cabán earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez — one of the group’s first federally elected officials — announced Wednesday that she, too, would be getting in behind the 31-year-old Queens native. The Democratic primary is set for June 25 — a day before the one-year anniversary of Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory over Joe Crowley. With no Republican in the running, the top candidate will effectively win the DA’s seat.

“We deserve a district attorney that understands that to make our community safer we help people prosper.”

“Our criminal justice system needs to change. New Yorkers deserve a seat at the table, and a champion who will fight to realign our priorities towards equal treatment under the law,” said Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “If Tiffany Cabán wins, things are going to change. Instead of criminalizing poverty, we’re going to dedicate resources towards prosecuting abusive landlords. Instead of targeting people who use marijuana, we can go after the drug companies that took advantage of working-class folks for profit. We can end broken windows policing and rebuild the relationship between our communities, and the justice system that’s supposed to work for us. We can end cash bail, so that the rich and poor are held equal in the eyes of the law. We deserve a district attorney that understands that to make our community safer we help people prosper. We deserve Tiffany Cabán.”

With Ocasio-Cortez’s backing, Cabán has scored her first congressional endorsement. But Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, one of Cabán’s top opponents, has support from a wide swath of the Queens County Democratic machine, including Ocasio-Cortez’s predecessor, Crowley, the former Queens County Democratic Party Chair, along with current New York Reps. Greg Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, and Tom Suozzi.

Cabán’s campaign is pretty far behind on the fundraising front, and didn’t have to file a disclosure at the state’s last deadline because they’d raised under $1,000 that quarter. But her campaign says its strength comes from its overwhelming grassroots energy, bolstered in large part by organizers from the Queens DSA and the Working Families Party, among other groups, who plan to knock on “every last door,” Cabán communications director Monica Klein told The Intercept. Cabán has been able to galvanize a grassroots coalition to knock on doors and run a campaign on a shoestring budget — particularly for an office not many people even know they can vote for.

As progressive candidates and organizers are shaking up New York City politics with wins by Ocasio-Cortez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and a slew of insurgent challengers who wiped out the renegade Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, the Queens DA race is another push in the broader movement to wrest power from the city’s Democratic machine.

Even before it takes place, the Queens contest is already a win for the nation’s broader criminal justice reform movement that ushered in progressive prosecutors like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Rachael Rollins in Boston, and Wesley Bell in St. Louis, with each of the seven candidates in the field working to cast themselves as the most “progressive.”

The Queens DA race is another push in the broader movement to wrest power from the city’s Democratic machine.

Each contender has distanced themselves from the late Dick Brown, the borough’s last DA, and his office’s passive approach to criminal justice reform at a time when DAs across the country were making a central part of their projects to decline to prosecute low-level offenses and establish conviction review units. But as the petitioning period has passed and endorsements are being scooped up, much like the Ocasio-Cortez-Crowley primary, the Queens DA race is more clearly reflecting a split screen between the grassroots and the monied New York Democratic establishment.

Cabán’s campaign is centered on healing community trauma, ending mass incarceration, diverting funds from the DA’s office back to communities, stopping the prosecution of minor offenses, and ending the construction of new jails. She’s represented over 1,000 clients as a public defender, and she says running to transform the DA’s office is the next natural step in her advocacy for her clients.

At 31, Cabán is the youngest candidate on the ballot. She currently has no health care because she took time off from her day job to run. And she’s deferred her student loans, her campaign told The Intercept.

Since the race’s petitioning period ended April 4, Cabán has been endorsed by the National DSA, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Our Revolution, People for Bernie, the sex workers group Red Canary, the New Visions Democratic Club, the National Association of Social Workers, the 504 Democratic Club, No IDC NY, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Rockaway Revolution, and the New Queens Democrats.

She’s also got backing from former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon; New York State Sens. Jessica Ramos, Luis Sepúlveda, and Gustavo Rivera; New York City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Jimmy Van Bramer; and activists and attorneys such as Zephyr Teachout, Marc Fliedner, Linda Sarsour, Akeem Browder, and Allen Roskoff.

Cabán’s campaign has also attracted top-tier political staff, including campaign manager Luke Hayes, who worked on State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s campaign to challenge New York’s IDC; fundraising consultant Elana Leopold, who led fundraising efforts for Nixon, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Ramos, another IDC challenger; and communications director Monica Klein, who led the press team on de Blasio’s 2017 campaign and handled communications for Ramos and congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, and also helped lead the Working Families Party effort to break up the IDC.

Cabán’s top opponent at this point in the race is Katz, a career politician with no courtroom experience who’s run for at least six offices throughout New York. Despite her machine backing and questionable past positions on issues from the death penalty to cash bail, Katz has moved closer and closer to Cabán on a number of issues since The Intercept covered the race in March.

Cabán staked her campaign on ending the use of cash bail for all crimes, not just nonviolent felonies. She was also an early supporter of the city’s No New Jails movement, and opposed de Blasio’s plan to replace the Rikers Island jail by constructing four new jails. Katz previously wanted to eliminate cash bail only for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, but has since altered her platform to end cash bail completely. She supports closing Rikers and, until recently, supported de Blasio’s plan to replace the massive jail with four new borough-based jails. She now opposes that plan.

While Cabán would decline to prosecute sex work and recreational drug use, among other crimes, Katz said she would only decline to prosecute marijuana use and would want to “consider each arrest on its merits before declining to prosecute.”

In addition to distancing herself from policy proposals that fall short of the progressive standard Cabán is pushing, Katz has also tried to explain away her past support for conservative criminal justice measures. Katz said she only voted the death penalty while she was a member of the New York State Assembly on moral grounds after her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident. But during that race, where the Queens Daily News described her as a candidate “bucking the Queens Democratic machine,” Katz said she didn’t think the death penalty was a deterrent, but that she supported it because of “the enormous cost of keeping someone behind bars for life.”

In her campaign for DA, Katz is also running on sentencing reform and reducing mass incarceration. But as a New York City council member she sponsored legislation to increase penalties for minor offenses like graffiti and drag racing, and voted to create a new crime of gang recruitment despite expert testimony that such laws unfairly target young people of color who aren’t involved in crime.

Katz has raised over $1 million so far, and some of that includes funds left over from her citywide office accounts. She’s also taken a quarter of a million dollars from real estate developers and interests, while pledging to hold developers and construction companies accountable for workplace injuries. She’s the top real estate industry recipient in the race thus far, The City reported.

On Wednesday, Caban will hold an event thanking sex workers who’ve canvassed for her campaign, her campaign told The Intercept.

“When sex workers and formerly incarcerated people get together behind a DA candidate you know something’s happening,” Cabán said.

Also on the Queens DA ballot are New York City Council Member Rory Lancman; former deputy chief for special investigations in the New York state attorney general’s office Jose Nieves; former Washington, D.C., Deputy Attorney General Mina Malik; former prosecutor and retired New York Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak; and New York City attorney Betty Lugo, a former Republican who has said as recently as this month that she may be open to running on a GOP ticket for the DA’s office.

The post Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Backs Tiffany Cabán in Pivotal Queens DA Race appeared first on The Intercept.

May 14, 2019

After Introducing Criminal Justice Reform Platform, Amy Klobuchar Push...

Just weeks after Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar unveiled a new criminal justice reform platform, she is getting ready to introduce a police-backed measure that would reauthorize part of the infamous 1994 crime law.

Now a presidential candidate, Klobuchar has received her fair share of flack for her history as an aggressive prosecutor. She has tried to counter that in part by rolling out a plan that would allow the release of incarcerated people through the creation of a clemency advisory board and the installation of a presidential adviser to advocate for reform from within the White House.

The senator, however, is working on a measure endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, and opposed by key reform groups.  Klobuchar’s bill, which she’s working on with Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, would authorize $400 million a year for a hiring program under the Community Oriented Policing Services office, or COPS, which encourages community policing by providing grants to “community policing professionals.” That’s a $247 million increase over the last congressional authorization for the hiring program in February, which allocated $153 million.

Advocating for additional funding for police is not necessarily in conflict, by itself, with the end goals of reform, said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University’s Marron School of Urban Management. Indeed, if a Democratic president were one-day intent on genuine police reform, the carrot of federal money could be a major policy lever to pull. The question is how it’s deployed and monitored, and to what end.

“There’s no contradiction between increasing police presence — which poor, high-crime neighborhoods desperately need — and criminal justice reform,” Kleiman wrote in an email to The Intercept. He noted that funding for the COPS program could provide the resources for law enforcement to make changes that would positively impact communities. “The original COPS strategy was to leverage federal money to push police departments toward community policing. It had some success. No reason to think the same strategy wouldn’t work to push departments toward other reforms.”

The COPS program was originally authorized as part of the 1994 crime bill, which is now regarded as a major factor in driving up the massive incarcerated population in the U.S. It was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton; the law was a hallmark of Joe Biden’s tenure as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but haunted both Biden and Hillary Clinton in their bids for the White House. The measure introduced tougher sentencing — including the well-known “three strikes” rule that doled out lifetime prison sentences for people who committed a violent felony and already had two or more convictions — appropriated tens of billions of dollars to add more law enforcement officers to the streets, and directed $9.7 billion to build new prisons, among other things.

Proponents of the COPS program say that it’s been responsible for a reduction in crime, but studies show that it’s “had little to or no effect on crime.”

In a 2020 budget request, the Trump administration said it planned to allocate $29.2 billion to the Department of Justice, an umbrella figure that includes money for the COPS program. The program’s critics reviewed the budget and sent a letter in April to the House Appropriations Committee recommending suspension of the COPS Hiring Program until the House Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing on it. “Created with the goal of hiring 100,000 local police officers, the COPS program has outlived its purpose and contributes to the epidemic of mass incarceration that has devastated communities across the nation,” the letter from the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, the NAACP, and the Sentencing Project reads.

“Since its inception, the COPS program has [used] billions of dollars for a purpose that many argue has fueled mass incarceration in the states. And all too often, the COPS Hiring Program supports unconstitutional policing practices and subsidizes failed police departments,” the letter continues. From 2009 to 2013, “the COPS Office awarded more than $10.2 million in grants to the Baltimore Police Department without ensuring that the police department used these funds in compliance with nondiscrimination laws, such as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During that period, the Civil Rights Division found that the Baltimore police were engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law including, unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; constantly using excessive force; and intentionally discriminating against African-Americans.”

For advocates working to reform sentencing and drug policy, Klobuchar’s enthusiasm for the legislation at a time when she’s pushing a progressive platform makes little sense. “The COPS program is the cornerstone of the repudiated 1994 crime bill,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs at Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement to The Intercept. “For legislators to reauthorize such a harmful program, without even the slightest debate on the program’s many flaws, demonstrates a misunderstanding of what this country needs to do to move away from the failed war on drugs.”

The fact that the bill would provide a blanket reauthorization for the program for five years poses another issue, Kanya Bennett, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Intercept. “Questions have been raised around sort of the function, and the utility,” she said, referencing a 2016 Congressional Research Service report that “does flag this question about the need for cops during a period where there are historically low crime rates.” That narrative “is not the one you’re hearing from this administration,” she said, “but when you actually look at the numbers, that is a legitimate question to ask. Why are we investing so much money in law enforcement when crime rates are historically low?”

Another 2013 Government Accountability Office report talks about the need for the COPS program to have a better monitoring and application progress. “So again, to the point around oversight, has the Congress attempted to respond to any of these questions that have been found by our watchdog entities there in the federal government?” Bennett said.

“Congress’s desire to appease law enforcement every May at the expense of communities that have been impacted by failed policing practices is not acceptable,” she said. As for Klobuchar’s role in the bill, she continued, “anyone who touts themselves as a criminal justice reformer cannot offer this legislation and be consistent with that agenda they’re putting forward. Especially with there not being any evidence that these programs are working.”

Klobuchar was planning to introduce the bill for a vote this week, to coincide with National Police Week, an annual nationwide tribute to law enforcement, according to Bennett, who was briefed on it by someone involved in the negotiations. The timing was confirmed by another source close to the process who requested anonymity given their work in the space. The aim had been to have the measure voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which she sits.

The timeline, however, is now in flux. Last week, Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Intercept that he thought it was on the schedule for that week, but wasn’t totally sure. The Intercept contacted Klobuchar’s office for comment last week, to which they replied that there were no plans to move the bill that week. Afterward, it became apparent that the bill was no longer up for consideration during National Police Week, according to a source close to the process.

Klobuchar’s office, the source said, did not reach out to stakeholders for feedback, as is customary on Capitol Hill: “To try and introduce the bill and take it straight to a committee vote, without even talking to key criminal justice and policing reform groups is malpractice, and an indication that Klobuchar wanted to ram this through during police week and look good for law enforcement without progressives noticing. They should know better.”

Bennett said the conversation around reintroducing the COPS bill was “somewhat surprising” given that two other bills listed for markup focused on bulletproof vests and mental health resources for law enforcement. “So to add this COPS reauthorization, which is fairly controversial for both sides — now it’s true that it has garnered bipartisan support in the past, but it has also garnered bipartisan criticism as well,” she explained. “To put this on the calendar when there has been no oversight over the COPS hiring program and its administration in recent years is highly problematic.”

The reauthorization bill appears to have support on the Judiciary Committee.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Mazie Hirono, who are both on the Judiciary Committee, said they hadn’t had a chance to review the bill but would likely support it. “Generally, I’m pretty supportive,” Blumenthal said. “I haven’t reviewed it in detail.”

“I’m generally supportive of more local law enforcement,” Hirono told The Intercept, “and I think police can become much closer to the communities in which they are serving.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the second-ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, said he wasn’t familiar with the reauthorization bill. “Well, if you’re talking about ‘do I like the existing COPS bill,’ the answer is yes. But I’m not up to date on the reauthorization,” he told The Intercept.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she didn’t know what the bill was. “Well, I have to take a look at it, I don’t know,” she said.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said last week that she has not had a chance to look at it. “Why don’t you get back with me next week when I’ve had an opportunity to read it?” she said.

Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy also said he hadn’t yet looked at the bill. “I’m going to look at it this weekend,” he told The Intercept.

The post After Introducing Criminal Justice Reform Platform, Amy Klobuchar Pushes Hundreds of Millions More Dollars for Police appeared first on The Intercept.

May 13, 2019

Liberian Refugee Wilmot Collins, Mayor of Helena, Launches Bid for Mon...

Wilmot Collins is running for Senate against incumbent Republican Steve Daines, he will announce Monday.

The entry of Collins into the race gives Democrats a mold-breaking candidate who is unlike the type that would be recruited by operatives in Washington. Collins is Montana’s first and only black mayor — a veteran, a father, and a refugee from Liberia.

Democrats have hoped that Governor Steve Bullock would launch a Senate campaign against the milquetoast Daines, but he has instead been flirting with joining the presidential field, which he apparently believes might benefit from at least one more obscure white male politician.

Collins, meanwhile, hopes that his unique profile can overcome a yawning partisan gap. Montana, while it has elected Democrat Jon Tester three times to the Senate and has a Democratic governor, is deep red in presidential years. When Collins arrived in Montana in 1994, he had spent two years and seven months navigating the United States asylum process. He’d fled Liberia’s civil war, which took two of his brothers and forced him to leave home for good. Twenty-three years later, he defeated 16-year incumbent Jim Smith to become Helena’s first black mayor — and the first black mayor in the state’s history. A Liberian refugee, elected mayor in the heart of Trump country.

The turn of events was so curious that Comedy Central’s The Daily Show sent a crew to investigate. But Collins’s strategy was simple, and it worked: Talk to people.

He knocked on thousands of doors during his mayoral campaign, he told The Daily Show. And he’ll do the same as he sets his sights on the Senate; he plans to visit at least 90 percent of the counties in the state. “Some of the counties have not seen any representative for years and years and years,” he said in an interview with The Intercept. “So they don’t have an opportunity to question their representative. With my running, with my getting in, they will have that opportunity.”

As he did during his mayoral campaign, he’ll stay away from typical partisan talking points and is still fleshing out what his platform will look like. He’s wary of the way Washington does politics. And that may work in his favor.

When Collins won his mayoral race, the local Helena Independent Record ran a headline that a “progressive ticket” was sweeping the Helena City Commission. The mayor’s seat is nonpartisan, and Collins plans to stay away from divisive party-aligned rhetoric in his Senate race. “My message is not gonna be red, blue, pink, yellow. It’s gonna be for the people of the state,” he told The Intercept.  

If Collins can gather the support to beat Daines, who won with comfortable margins in his 2012 House race and 2014 Senate race, Montana would again have two Democratic senators. The race opens up another avenue for Democrats as they work to retake a majority in the Senate, depending on the results of 2020 races.

Collins has lived in Montana for 24 years. And the issues he’s experienced firsthand and heard about from fellow Montanans aren’t new. “I decided to jump in the race because I think I understand the people. I am the people. And I don’t think our representative is adequately representing us,” he said.

 

“The way to look at it is, ‘What did he say he was gonna do when he became mayor?’ I informed them that I was going to fully fund the providers of essential services. Firefighters, police officers, EMTs. We did that. It was a nonpartisan issue,” Collins said. “We talked about curbing teenage and veterans’ homelessness. We’re working on that. We talked about providing opportunities for affordable housing. We’re working on that. So those are not issues that are Democrat or Republican. And I intend to make my platform as neutral as possible. Because those are issues that will affect the people of Montana. Our platform will relate to the people of Montana. It will not relate to D.C.”

The Republican 2017 tax plan and the Trump administration tariffs are not actually benefiting people who might support the GOP, Collins pointed out. “We are not benefiting from the administration’s tax plan. When we talk about the tariffs, the regular people are not benefiting from those tariffs,” he said. “The farmers are affected directly by those tariffs.”  

Collins says he won’t shy away from answering questions on immigration or engaging with voters on aspects of it they might not agree on. “Even if I try to keep it away, I know that those questions will be asked, and I will need to answer those hard questions,” he said. “So I will be prepared,” he continued, “because immigration is an issue we need to discuss. Immigration should be on the table. And yes, I tend to bring it up. I tend to talk about it, because I know how I came,” he said. “Can we improve? Yes, we can. So that’s how I’m gonna look at it. We need improvements, and let’s do it. Let’s work together to improve it.”

As one of very few black people in Montana — a state that only recently started accepting refugees — Collins has had his fair share of what he describes as “teachable moments” with members of the community.

“You have to educate the public,” Collins said.

“I always tell people, ‘Man, if you come in this country as a refugee, the first thing you need to do is have thick skin.’ Because there is so much misinformation out there, it will drive you nuts if you don’t remain calm and try to educate the public on the real deal. And that’s what I think we’re lacking, because we don’t have people educating the public,” he said. “So whatever they hear, they cling to it; whatever they hear, they believe. And it’s not because they’re trying to be hateful, but that’s what they heard. They haven’t heard the other side.”

When he does have those kinds of conversations, people are receptive, Collins said. “I’ve been all around the place, all around the country explaining that. And people are shocked when I tell them, this is the process you go through as refugees.”

 

As for his platform, Collins is still rolling out hard policy proposals. Issues he talked about during his mayoral race are still important — supporting first responders and service members, addressing homelessness, and creating jobs. But he’ll be looking at things that impact the state more widely, not just Helena, including how tariffs impact farmers, as well as veteran suicide, among other things. “If you put the two parties together and say, which one would you go to,” he said, “I would go 80 percent to the left. But I’m not going 100 percent,” he explained. “I identify more as a progressive Democrat than a progressive Republican.”

Health care, climate change, and affordable housing aren’t partisan issues, Collins said. “Those are issues for everybody. And I don’t understand how people try to politicize that. It’s affecting everyone.”

The post Liberian Refugee Wilmot Collins, Mayor of Helena, Launches Bid for Montana Senate Seat appeared first on The Intercept.

May 8, 2019

Democratic-Aligned Think Tank Knocks Bernie Sanders For Vote Aimed at ...

A mainstream, Democratic Party-aligned foreign policy think tank is knocking Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for voting against new sanctions on Iran in 2017 — though the think tank itself and many members of its board oppose new Iran sanctions.

Sanders has been an outspoken supporter of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and said at the time that he voted against the measure in order to preserve the deal. Sanctions, he argued, would have jeopardized the landmark agreement. But the sanctions were part of a package that also imposed restrictions on Russia and North Korea, which is why the think tank, Foreign Policy for America, supported the package.

Foreign Policy for America’s knock came in a scorecard that rated politicians on their votes in Congress. The group, also known as FP4A, released its new scorecard at the end of April, ranking members of Congress from the 115th session on a variety of foreign policy issues. The relatively new advocacy group gives Sanders a positive score in all but two of 13 categories — one of which was the bill that sanctioned Iran and Russia.

“We’re looking for the best single indicator, whether it’s a vote or a sponsorship, to score for each of one of 20 issues.”

With an increasingly crowded field of presidential candidates, the scorecard gives people an easy way to evaluate and distinguish contenders. It might not do much to damage Sanders’s reputation, but it highlights a fundamental difference in how the foreign policy community prioritizes and understands various policy issues. In this case, the score reflected a prioritization of Russia issues — particularly related to Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election — against preserving the Iran nuclear deal at a time when the Trump administration seems intent on ratcheting up tensions.

Andrew Albertson, Foreign Policy for America’s executive director, told The Intercept that the scorecard “can be a blunt instrument” that unfortunately doesn’t capture the nuances in the way members of Congress vote. “It’s a position I really respect,” Albertson said of Sanders’s vote on the bill, though noting that the group still has some differences with the senator on Iran policy.

“Our basic principle is, we’re looking for the best single indicator, whether it’s a vote or a sponsorship, to score for each of one of 20 issues,” he said. “So in this case, when that very important Russia language was combined with what we in our scorecard committee and the experts that we convened to make these decisions collectively viewed as benign, and North Korea legislation which we viewed as pretty neutral, then it’s a valuable thing to score on Russia.”

Among the members of the Foreign Policy for America’s boards are foreign policy experts who were instrumental in fighting to make the Iran deal happen. Some of those figures have expressed concerns over the choice to penalize Sanders for taking the position he did.

“I do not agree at all with its assessment. I believe Senator Sanders is right and for more reasons than you — or perhaps he, in the fullness of time — have stated.”

“I’m of course not bound to agree with everything FP4A states or publishes,” said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff and a Foreign Policy for America advisory board member, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “And, in this case, I do not agree at all with its assessment. I believe Senator Sanders is right and for more reasons than you — or perhaps he, in the fullness of time — have stated.”

In a phone interview, Wilkerson said other members of Foreign Policy for America’s leadership felt similarly on Iran and other issues the group deals with. “I would dare say that 60 or so people that came together, from Michèle Flournoy to Tony Blinken to a host of others,” he said, “there are issues, and single issues, maybe several issues, that they don’t necessarily agree on.”

Wilkerson said the Iran sanctions score along with a few other disagreements had caused him to reconsider his involvement with Foreign Policy for America. “It’s even caused me to wonder about whether or not I should continue my advisory capacity with them,” he said, adding that he and others discussed their frustration with the Iran sanctions score “in the corridors” and that the Foreign Policy for America leadership knows how he feels about it.

Foreign Policy for America gave Sanders a negative score because he voted against sanctioning Russia during a time when policymakers feared that President Donald Trump “might arbitrarily lift the sanctions on Russia,” Albertson said. “And that was alarming to a lot of people, pretty across the board in Congress. And us, too.”

Sanders had put out a statement after that vote explaining his rationale. “I am strongly supportive of the sanctions on Russia included in this bill. It is unacceptable for Russia to interfere in our elections here in the United States, or anywhere around the world. There must be consequences for such actions. I also have deep concerns about the policies and activities of the Iranian government,” he said. “But I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015. That is not a risk worth taking, particularly at a time of heightened tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies.” Sanders’s office declined to comment for this story.

While Sanders has been aggressively pushing more progressive foreign policy positions, many in the establishment of the Democratic Party still take a more hawkish line. Foreign Policy for America sits at the nexus of these two camps, drawing its board of directors and advisory board from the ranks of both groupings. Stalwart progressive foreign policy experts are working with more centrist Democratic-aligned figures, including a host of former administration and security officials, such as Flournoy, Blinken, and former CIA official Ned Price.

Among the progressives on Foreign Policy for America’s board of directors and advisory boards are leaders from organizations that advocated strongly for the Iran deal, such as J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami and Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione. Ben-Ami referred questions about the Iran sanctions score to Albertson and added, “J Street as well does not have any organizational responsibility for FP4A policy or decisions.” Cirincione did not respond to a request for comment.

The other negative score Foreign Policy for America gave Sanders was for not co-sponsoring at least two out of three 2017 bills the group selected as part of “a collection of bills that would encourage political, economic, and social reforms around the world, particularly among partner states.” Those included a resolution “supporting the right of all Iranian citizens to have their voices heard” and condemning human rights violations; the International Human Rights Defense Act, which would establish a permanent special envoy in the State Department for the human rights of LGBTI people; and the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act, which authorized assistance to victims of the state-sponsored genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Of those, Sanders only co-sponsored the International Human Rights Defense Act.

One of the issues Foreign Policy for America has focused on during its short life is Yemen. The group, Alberston said, has scored votes on blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia and has taken a public position on ending U.S. support for the brutal Saudi-led war against its neighbor. “We’ve been very active on Yemen,” Albertson said.

In late 2018, the Senate passed a bill that invoked the War Powers Act to stop U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led war — a vote that many other liberal groups sat out. The victorious vote was a landmark moment, paving the way for the first ever invocation of the War Powers Act along these lines by Congress. Despite a veto by Trump, the push was one of Congress’s most consequential foreign policy interventions in memory. Bernie Sanders, one of the earliest agitators for ending support for the Yemen war, was a key sponsor of the Senate bill.

When it came time to evaluate the 115th Congress, Foreign Policy for America declined to include the Senate’s 2018 Yemen resolution on its list of items to score. “We considered with our scorecard advisory committee the possibility of scoring sponsorship of H.Con.Res 138,” Albertson said, referring to the House version of the bill. “But we had a blanket principle to only score sponsorship on legislation that picked up support from at least a third of the body.”

 

The post Democratic-Aligned Think Tank Knocks Bernie Sanders For Vote Aimed at Avoiding War With Iran appeared first on The Intercept.

May 7, 2019

Do Susan Collins and Cory Gardner Really Want to Make Their Re-electio...

Having successfully completed the now-requisite Fox News-hosted audition for the Trump administration, Mark Morgan, nominated to be head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has a new gauntlet to run: the GOP Senate.

Morgan — a Marine, a former FBI agent, deputy sheriff, police officer, and a previous assistant commissioner for Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Internal Affairs — led Border Patrol during the last months of the Obama administration. He was ousted when Donald Trump came into office, but has since taken a harder line on immigration, enough that Trump announced in a tweet Sunday that he’d tapped Morgan to lead ICE, dubbing him “a true believer and American Patriot.”

Morgan has publicly endorsed several of the president’s more aggressive immigration policies, including his plan for a border wall. He’s supported Trump’s policy — currently under judicial review — to force people seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated. And he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in April that Border Patrol “should be applauded” for keeping immigrant children in “cages.”

“Those cages, the reason why they’re designed that way is for the safety and security of the people that are in there,” Morgan told Carlson. In another April interview with the LA Times, Morgan said the U.S. needs to “stop the incentive” for people migrating. Trump said part of the reason he pulled a previous nominee to lead ICE was because he wanted a tougher policy at the border.

But even with a Republican-controlled Senate, it’s not certain Morgan will have enough votes to be confirmed. Republicans hold 53 seats, a three-seat cushion, thanks to the design of the Senate, which awards two seats each to states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both of whom are up for re-election in 2020, are treading carefully on immigration as they’ve come under heightened scrutiny for how they position themselves on the issue in relation to Trump. Other members of the party have drawn a line at the administration’s family separation policy and shutting down the government over a border wall, leaving it an open question how many will support Morgan. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has called the child separation policy “cruel” and Mitt Romney of Utah called it a “dark chapter” in American history, one he’s now being asked to co-write.

Morgan’s time in the Obama administration could give Collins and Gardner political cover, but the two are the most vulnerable Republicans facing re-election next year. Colorado and Maine voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2018, Democrats won a trifecta in Colorado, locking down control of the governorship and the legislature, and they pulled off the same feat in Maine, where they flipped the state Senate, flipped the governor’s mansion, expanded their hold on the state House, and also flipped a GOP-held U.S. House seat. A fundraising campaign launched by activist Ady Barkan during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh has raised nearly $4 million for Collins’s eventual opponent.

Despite Morgan’s past as an Obama-era official, if Collins and Gardner support his nomination, they risk alienating voters in their states who see Trump’s child-separation policy on the border as a question of good versus evil.

Both Collins and Gardner broke with the party in January when they called for the president to end the last government shutdown without securing funding for his border wall. And Collins was one of a handful of Republicans who joined Democrats in opposing Trump’s emergency declaration in March. But Gardner sided with Trump in that case, and the Denver Post published a scathing editorial in response saying its 2014 endorsement of him was a mistake. The editorial board said Gardner had “been too busy walking a political tight rope to be a leader.” The issue, the board said, “is a constitutional crisis and one of Colorado’s two senators has failed the test.”

Collins told The Intercept she didn’t recall Morgan though she knew he’d worked in previous administrations. “He was not someone that I had dealings with, so I really don’t have an opinion,” she said. Gardner said he hadn’t yet had a chance to look at Morgan.

Asked if he’d support Trump’s choice, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said “no comment.” Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she didn’t know him, “so I would want to vet him.” Ernst is popular in Iowa and up for re-election in 2020, but Democrats dominated the state in 2018, putting her seat at risk. Pressed on her response to Morgan’s positions, Ernst was firm: “I would want to vet him. I don’t know enough about him. I want to vet him.”

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally, also up for re-election in 2020, told The Intercept she knows Morgan, but still wanted to vet him as well. “I worked with Mark when he was with Border Patrol. Very good relationship, he’s a smart guy. But like every nomination, I’d look through it thoughtfully, of course.”

West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said she liked Morgan after hearing him speak last week at a luncheon with Senate Republicans. “I met him and I think very positive towards him,” she told The Intercept. “I think we need a permanent head of ICE and I think he would be a great selection. I’ll have to learn more about him, but on the face of it, yes,” she said when asked if she’d support him. Capito said she had “no idea” whether Morgan would have enough support in the Senate to be confirmed.

While Kirstjen Nielsen’s abrupt exit last month from the Department of Homeland Security — the agency that oversees ICE — was seen as another sign of incompetence and disorganization on the part of the Trump administration, immigrant rights advocates also saw it as a rebuke of failed policies. Nielsen left amid outrage over family separations, and organizers saw her ousting as a sign that even administration officials thought they’d gone too far. Others, though, saw it as a win for White House adviser Stephen Miller’s hardline anti-immigrant agenda, making room for him to bring in operators even more extreme than Nielsen. “We were at the forefront of holding Secretary Nielsen accountable for the role she played in crafting and executing the family separation crisis,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director for the Center for Popular Democracy, in a statement to The Intercept. “If Mark Morgan plans to continue this hateful legacy, we will be on the front lines making sure he is held accountable for the suffering this administration has caused in our communities.”

The post Do Susan Collins and Cory Gardner Really Want to Make Their Re-elections About Keeping Kids in Cages? appeared first on The Intercept.

April 29, 2019

Activist Ady Barkan’s Illness Took His Ability to Speak — But He...

Ady Barkan is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the progressive neurodegenerative disease known as ALS. The father, former lawyer, and self-made activist is losing control of his motor functions. Most recently, he lost the ability to speak. But he made the trip from Santa Barbara, California. to Washington, D.C., in order to testify tomorrow at a hearing on Medicare for All at the House of Representatives.

Barkan made headlines last year for confronting then-Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., over the Republican’s support for last year’s GOP tax reform plan. Then Barkan launched a political action committee targeting lawmakers who supported the plan.

Barkan is fighting to pass Medicare for All and will testify using a high-tech device attached to his wheel chair.

Now, he’s fighting to pass Medicare for All and will testify in support of the plan Tuesday to the House Rules Committee. How, though, without the ability to speak, will Barkan advocate for public health insurance for everyone in America?

The answer is a high-tech device attached to Barkan’s wheel chair — along with an organ he still has control over: his eyes. An arm attached to the chair props up a tablet in Barkan’s line of sight and he uses his eye muscles to move a cursor around to pick and choose words. The device uses a predictive smart technology, similar to what’s used on iPhone messaging, that suggests words and phrases it believes he’s most likely to select. Once Barkan has his sentence — or sentences, depending on how long-winded he’d like to be — lined up, the device plays the words out loud with an automated voice.

“I’m going to lay out three reasons why we need to move to a Medicare for All system,” Ady told The Intercept, when asked what he plans to tell lawmakers Tuesday. “First, it’ll dramatically enhance the ability of the American people to get the healthcare we need. Second, it will save us enormous amounts of money, both individually and as a country. And, finally, it will save us the most precious resource we have: our time.”

With a team from his Be a Hero PAC and a caregiver in tow, Barkan went to Capitol Hill on Monday to make sure he’d be able to navigate in his chair and that his automated voice generator could transmit clearly through the microphones. He invited The Intercept to tag along. (Barkan helped raise funds for the Ady Barkan Reporting Fellowship at The Intercept, which was awarded to this reporter.)

Barkan will likely be the first person to ever testify to a House committee using this kind of technology. The response time to questions sometimes lags: It may take him several minutes to respond to questions from lawmakers on Tuesday. He must think up response, then use his eyes to select the letters and words he wants to say. After the response is crafted, he looks up with his large, greenish-blue eyes to let you know he’s ready. Then the automated voice reads his words over the speaker on the tablet.

With his speech restored by technology, Barkan plans to keep jumping into the ongoing debate over the state of healthcare in the United States. He’s showing up at the hearing in hopes of getting tough questions on Medicare For All, Liz Jaff, president of Be a Hero PAC, told the committee chair Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and his staff on Monday.

One question he’s prepared for is the criticism that wonders how the government will pay for a nationalized health care system. “What we can’t afford is a healthcare system that continues to put the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical executives ahead of the needs of regular people,” he said. “We pay more than any industrialized nation on earth per person on medical care, but still rank among the bottom in terms of outcomes. That’s wrong. And it’s clearly designed to benefit the wealthy and powerful instead of the rest of us. Medicare for All will save people money, and any tax increase will be far outweighed by exorbitant bills by the for-profit insurance industry.”

“For my family and the scores of millions of families that are suffering under the current system,” he added, “we can’t afford not to enact Medicare for All.”

On Tuesday, Barkan will testify along with Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund; Dr. Doris Browne, former president of the National Medical Association; Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Dr. Farzon Nahvi, an emergency physician and professor. Prior to Barkan’s invitation to testify, Nahvi was the only advocate for Medicare for All slated to appear on the dais. Now the hearing will have one of the most powerful voices — albeit electronically rendered — speaking up for the national health proposal.

Barkan’s advocacy is, obviously, deeply personal. It’s one of things that makes it so powerful. “Right now, I pay $9,000 per month on top of what my insurance company will cover for the full-time care I need,” he said on Monday. “That’s an enormous burden. And I don’t want anyone to be in this position again. Medicare for All would eliminate this huge financial stress and ensure I’m covered. Crucially, the program will provide for longterm services and supports that will allow people like me to stay in our homes and communities with the people we love.”

The post Activist Ady Barkan’s Illness Took His Ability to Speak — But He’s Still Testifying at Congress to Pass Medicare for All appeared first on The Intercept.

April 29, 2019

Joe Biden Kicks Off Campaign with Union Facing Pension Cuts Driven by ...

Joe Biden is kicking off his presidential campaign Monday afternoon alongside a local labor union in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as part of his strategy to engage working-class voters in states that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. But even as Biden basks in their image, the workers in the local union are locked in a battle with their bosses over cuts to their pensions — cuts enabled by a law passed during the former vice president’s time in the Obama White House.

Biden will speak to members of the Teamsters Local 249 alongside United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, a man Biden has previously said he “work[s] for.” Gerard himself opposed the Obama bill, and the USW has since called on Congress to pass legislation to protect benefits with alternative funding. Gerard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former President Barack Obama signed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 into law as part of an omnibus spending bill that also rolled back some Dodd-Frank consumer protection regulations on Wall Street and lifted limits on campaign contributions to national political parties. The measure allows sponsors of pension plans who can demonstrate they are in declining or critical financial condition to cut promised workers’ benefits in order to remain solvent.

Thanks to that Obama-era law, members of the Teamsters Local 249 are facing up to 30 percent reductions in their retirement benefits — the type of economic setback prone to produce the anxiety so heavily discussed in 2016. All participants in the plan will have the chance to vote on it, but the Treasury Department has the power to veto that decision if employees reject it. Many unions backed the plan as the only way to save retiree pensions in the long run, but individual workers have expressed frustration when faced with the prospect of cuts and have since called for revisions to the original bill allowing for cutbacks.

Biden’s campaign and his supporters peddle the former vice president as an antidote to President Donald Trump’s right-wing populism, a role he plays not with sweeping policy proposals designed to take on the malefactors of great wealth, but largely through tough-sounding rhetoric. He famously threatened to take Trump “behind the gym.” His trip to Pittsburg fits with an archetypal tour of working-class areas that conjure Biden’s nostalgic image of the United States, a journey that has also included Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Youngstown, Ohio, where Trump won in 2016. Biden situates himself in the rust belt by citing his ties to Scranton, Pennsylvania; his working-class upbringing and Irish Catholic heritage. The idea is that the six-term Delaware senator can use that special connection to repurpose the burgeoning class anxiety Trump was able to tap into and translate it back into energy for the Democratic Party. But in the same way that Trump styled himself as a working-class hero despite his massive inheritance and a career of reckless investing and wage theft, Biden’s desired image stands in stark contrast with his political record — and the elite and anti-labor interests backing his 2020 bid.

Despite some union backing for the law, a significant number of Democratic senators opposed it in 2014, including Sen. Bernie Sanders — one of Biden’s top opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar all saw fit to oppose it.

Sanders has repeatedly proposed legislation to repeal the provision that allows hard-won pension benefits to be cut. Sanders introduced the 2017 Keep Our Pension Promises Act with Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, with Democratic Senate co-sponsors Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Gary Peters, Jack Reed, Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, and former Sens. Claire McCaskill and Al Franken.

“Before the law was changed, it was illegal for an employer to cut the pension benefits retirees have earned,” reads a statement on Sanders’s website issued alongside the proposal. “The new legislation establishes a legacy fund within the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to ensure that multi-employer pension plans can continue to provide pension benefits to every eligible American for decades to come. This legislation is paid for by closing two tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

The looming pension issue illustrates a fundamental distinction in how the two septuagenarian politicians approach labor issues. “If Congress could bailout Wall Street and foreign banks throughout the world, we certainly can protect the pension benefits of American workers,” Sanders wrote in a statement on the legislation.

Perhaps nothing more accurately captures Biden’s essence in the tradition of corporate-friendly Democrats than the high-dollar fundraiser he hosted to kick off his campaign with help from Republican donors and corporate lobbyists. Or the one he held last Thursday at the home of Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen in Philadelphia alongside Steve Cozen, founder of the union-busting law firm Cozen O’Connor. Biden plans to hold another elite fundraiser in Los Angeles next month with DreamWorks co-founder Jeff Katzenberg; actor and director Rob Reiner; entertainment investor Peter Chernin; and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Biden’s campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Fund, which sponsors pension plans for members of the Local 249, applied in October for permission to cut benefits to more than 21,000 people working in the Pittsburgh area. The Treasury Department will rule on the application by May 7, and any approved cuts would be effective August 1. The Local 249 represents United Parcel Service employees, freight workers, and school bus drivers. Other participants in the Pension Fund include toll workers, prison staff, food service employees, and mechanics.

The post Joe Biden Kicks Off Campaign with Union Facing Pension Cuts Driven by Obama-Era Law appeared first on The Intercept.

April 26, 2019

DCCC Defense of Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Democrat Sparks Pushback...

Progressive groups are coming to the aid of Marie Newman after at least four consultants dropped her campaign under pressure from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s new policy to cut off vendors working with primary challengers.

Politico reported Friday morning that a consultant had dropped Newman’s campaign as recently as Wednesday. She’s taking a second shot at unseating incumbent Dan Lipinski in Illinois’s 3rd District after she came within 2.2 points of beating him in a 2018 primary. Democracy for America, or DFA, is endorsing Newman and will fundraise for her, a spokesperson for the group told The Intercept. Politico reported that the DCCC was clear with the consultants that if they continued working against Lipinski, their future business with the party would suffer.

The DCCC policy, critics say, will have the effect of protecting white male incumbents defending seats against challengers in an increasingly diverse party. That’s the case with Lipinski, who inherited the seat from his father in 2005 and has retrograde views when it comes to much of the Democratic agenda, including his opposition to marriage equality and abortion rights. He voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the signature legislation House Democratic leaders are trying to save in their campaign against Medicare for All.

While some House Democrats have strongly objected to the DCCC policy, others, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, support it. The DCCC says the policy doesn’t discourage primary challengers and that anyone who wants to run for office can do so without them. The DCCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The DCCC would rather stand with a so-called Democrat who has stood against reproductive, immigrant, and LGBT rights and a $15 minimum wage rather than allow a fair competition and choice for voters,” said Alexandra Rojas, head of Justice Democrats. “The Democratic Party leadership is choosing machine politics over ushering in a new generation of leaders and the fundamental idea of democracy. Dan Lipinski needs to go and Marie came within 1,600 votes of defeating him with progressive support in 2018. We look forward to Marie finishing the job, but have not made a formal endorsement at this time.”

Newman told Politico and confirmed to The Intercept that the two mail firms that dropped her campaign did so specifically because of the DCCC policy implemented by Rep. Cheri Bustos, who chairs the committee. Newman said that a number of consultants unaligned with the DCCC reached out to her on Friday and that she is putting her campaign back together. “It’s tricky,” she told The Intercept. “This has been very expensive for my campaign — it’s cost time and money and effort and frustration, but we’re working through it.

The boost from DFA will help. “Today, in response to reporting documenting the impact the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) anti-primary blacklist policy have had on her campaign, Democracy for America decided to formally endorse Marie Newman’s campaign,” a DFA press release reads. “Newman is DFA’s first non-incumbent endorsement in the battle to retain Democratic control of the U.S. House in 2020.” The grassroots, progressive PAC also endorsed Newman in her 2018 challenge.

NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsed and heavily backed Newman in 2018. The group’s president reacted angrily to the DCCC’s move against her.

Newman came within striking distance in 2018, securing votes in areas that Lipinski, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Caucus, had easily won in the past. She’s been planning her rematch since the March 2018 primary, slamming Lipinski last month for being the only House Democrat not to co-sponsor the Equality Act, a measure that would extend civil protections for LGBTQ people at the federal level. Lipinski told Roll Call that he refrained from co-sponsoring the bill because it would conflict with the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and could have “damaging and unforeseen consequences for Americans’ religious freedom.”

“The DCCC is doing tremendous damage to the Democratic brand and the progressive values its supposed to represent every single day they continue their blacklist policy that protects anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, corporate Democrats like Dan Lipinski,” DFA Chair Charles Chamberlain said in a statement. “Marie Newman brings the fresh, progressive energy needed to replace one of the most retrograde corporate Democrats still standing in Congress. Dan Lipinski’s built a career in Washington screwing over working families and providing cover to right-wing bigots by opposing everything from a $15 minimum wage and the Equality Act to women’s fundamental abortion rights.”

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is also standing behind Newman. Though the group is not yet endorsing in the race, it will be launching a fundraising push on behalf of the candidate on Friday afternoon. “The DCCC’s blacklist will have the net effect of sidelining talented consultants who want to help flip red districts blue, but also want to flip this district to being truly blue,” PCCC spokesperson Marissa Barrow said in a statement. “Progressives like Marie Newman are challenging out-dated, out-of-touch incumbents that the DCCC shouldn’t be sticking its neck out to protect — like Dan Lipinski, the co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, a tool of Wall Street, and an opponent of Obamacare.”

The post DCCC Defense of Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Democrat Sparks Pushback appeared first on The Intercept.

April 26, 2019

PhRMA Is Funding a Democratic Think Tank Trying to Derail Medicare for...

Since 2009, Big Pharma has given a decent amount of money each year to the Third Way Foundation, the parent of the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank with ties to Democratic Party leadership. The giving wasn’t astronomical, ranging between $25,000 and $75,000, but in 2016, the health care debate in the Democratic Party got real, and the contributions swelled, as Sen. Bernie Sanders gave Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton a scare, running on Medicare for All as a signature issue.

According to tax records, PhRMA, or the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, upped its gift that year to $265,000. With Donald Trump in the White House, PPI’s haul in 2017 from the drugmakers was back to normal, at $50,000, bringing the total since Barack Obama was inaugurated to $615,000. Figures for 2018 aren’t yet available yet, but PhRMA has been getting its money’s worth from PPI, as the group plays a leading role in opposing the Democratic Party’s move toward single payer.

Three years after Sanders’s first run, public opinion has shifted overwhelmingly in support of Medicare for All. Yet in its latest report “A Radically Pragmatic Vision for Universal Health Care,” PPI has worked to cast a majoritarian position as the handiwork of some fringe leftists.

PhRMA, which depends heavily on government patents and money for research and development, has teamed up with other health care interest groups to try to crush the movement for a single-payer system, and spent $28 million on lobbying last year — but that’s only what it had to report. Gifts to groups like PPI don’t legally count as lobbying.

PhRMA is part of a coalition of insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and investor-owned hospitals in the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future strategizing to defeat Medicare for All. The Intercept reported in November that PAHCF pushed Democratic candidates to run on saving the Affordable Care Act rather than supporting Medicare for All. And Democratic leadership won’t get behind single payer, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi advocating instead to fix the ACA and arguing that we just can’t pay for a nationalized health care system.

On Tuesday, the House will hold its first hearing ever on Medicare for All.

The financial ties between health care industry interest groups and the Democratic establishment are well documented. Sludge and MapLight reported this week that employees and political action committees for PAHCF members have given at least $1.3 million in direct contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2009. Some of the lobbyists and firms that have helped the DCCC raise almost $1 million of its $32 million haul in the first quarter of 2019 have represented at least 12 members of the coalition, including PhRMA and the Federation of American Hospitals, Andrew Perez and Alex Kotch reported.

PPI, in its rhetoric, focuses on fixing the ACA and lowering drug prices and says that its findings are independent of any fundraising. “First, the Pharma support has nothing to do with any position we take on policy issues,” PPI Executive Director Lindsay Lewis told The Intercept in an email. “We don’t do paid for work or paid for outcomes and our researchers do not know our donors on purpose so they can remain independent,” he said. “Second, on the issue of medicare for all, we have had the same policy thoughts for 25 years and have not changed. We believe strongly that we need to improve on the ACA and we want to find a way for universal coverage but single payer is not the right way to achieve that goal. Although I can guess that Pharma is opposed to medicare for all I have never had that conversation with them.”

PPI is the think tank wing of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, a faction of the party that organized in 1985 with the aim of curbing the party’s tilt further left in response to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The DLC, previously chaired by Bill Clinton, was known for embracing free market, corporate-friendly policies to woo big donors. PPI argues that the most viable solution to close massive gaps in health care coverage and bring down unreasonable prices is to fix the ACA and preserve both private and public options. They warn that an agenda that is too progressive will scare away swing voters, and see the battle for the Democratic Party as a test of who can win back people who flipped from Obama to Trump, rather than a challenge of turning out new or disenchanted voters.

PPI earlier this month held a forum in Iowa on “Progressive Alternatives to Nationalized Health Care” with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democratic presidential candidate. The group’s president and founder Will Marshall argued that while Americans may like the idea of nationalized healthcare on paper, once the details are spelled out, “some of that support melts away,” he told the Des Moines Register. Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that while enthusiasm for Medicare for All has increased over time, and that the majority of Americans currently support it, that support falls off when respondents are told that the plan would delay treatment time, increase taxes, and eliminate private health insurance companies.

The group released a report shortly after the Iowa event in which it argued that “activists are trying to force Democrats to embrace ‘Medicare-for-all’ as a magic pill for all that ails our health care system. PPI urges progressives to push instead for less disruptive and costly ways to align incentives to spur innovation and improve health care delivery in both the private and public sectors.”

It’s not unusual for PhRMA to give to nonprofits, health groups, political think tanks, and other Hill groups. It does so frequently to places like the American Enterprise Institute, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and others, alongside the Third Way Foundation.

PPI is adamant that its corporate support has no influence over its policy positions. In a response to a request for the group’s latest annual report, Lewis told The Intercept, “Our researchers do not know our list of donors nor what they give, we have no donor control or donor board, our writers are independent and free to come to any conclusions they have. If you are attempting to question the integrity of our writers and researchers I would think clear evidence would be needed (it doesn’t exist because its a false narrative).”

Third Way — which is not related to the Third Way Foundation, another center-left, corporate and GOP donor-funded nonprofit pushing neoliberal economics and a focus on opportunity over inequality — has also been vocal in pushing against Medicare for All. Third Way has attacked the popular program as “risky.” Co-founder and senior vice president of public affairs Matt Bennett told USA Today that the proposal is “irrelevant at best and at worst a serious distraction” from trying to save the ACA. Third Way argues that even Democratic primary voters don’t want to go too far left, pointing to 32 candidates endorsed by the New Democrats who won primaries out of the 37 that the New Dem caucus endorsed in 2018. But eight of those candidates were uncontested, 17 were virtually uncontested due to extreme fundraising disparities, and three were actually progressives in the mix — two of whom supported Medicare for All. Out of the eight remaining races in which candidates actually opposed each other ideologically, New Dems only won three.

At least 48 incoming members of Congress ran on universal health care, and Democrats seeking the White House in 2020 are coalescing around the idea. Sanders introduced a Medicare for All bill in the Senate earlier this month, with fellow presidential hopefuls Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren co-sponsoring it. Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal introduced the House companion bill last month. It has 108 co-sponsors.

Despite all that momentum, Democratic leadership still won’t budge. A top health policy aide to Pelosi told insurance executives in December that they could count on Democrats to help fight against single-payer health care. Wendell Primus urged insurers to join Democrats in focusing instead on lowering prescription drug prices. Pelosi herself has demurred on the issue, saying in the past that she generally supports the idea of universal health care, but arguing more recently that Medicare for All isn’t as good as the Affordable Care Act. In a February interview with Rolling Stone, Pelosi returned to a favorite, if not lazy, critique reserved for progressive ideas that the party can’t quite wrap its head around: “How do you pay for that?”

Congress authorizes spending every year for programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The U.S. already spends $1.1 trillion every year on health care. Included in those annual authorizations are hundreds of billions of dollars in defense spending, and billions for Trump’s border wall. Most opposition to the idea of single-payer health care comes back to the deficit. But that wasn’t a concern when Trump green-lit a $100 billion increase in defense spending last year.

The government can authorize spending on whatever it wants. The U.S. hasn’t been tied to the gold standard for almost 50 years, but policymakers still behave as if they can run out of dollars. The issue isn’t that a national health care system couldn’t be financed — it’s about appeasing a set of interlocking industries that depend on the status quo prevailing.

“Medicare For All would save individual families thousands of dollars a year and save the American health care system trillions by eliminating duplicative costs across insurance companies, zero’ing out billions in advertising costs, and ending excessive CEO pay,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told The Intercept in an email.

“Medicare For All would also ensure families can use whatever doctor they like, even if they switch jobs or lose their jobs — and people would be happier as dental, vision, and home long-term care are covered and co-pays and deductibles are eliminated,” Green said. “The only ones who understand Medicare For All and oppose it are the Big Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies who will finally have their power challenged — and the corporate-funded think tanks who are paid to give Democrats losing political advice.”

The post PhRMA Is Funding a Democratic Think Tank Trying to Derail Medicare for All appeared first on The Intercept.

April 25, 2019

Young Democrats at 31 College Campuses Call for Boycott of the DCCC...

Young Democrats at 31 colleges across the country are boycotting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over its decision to cut off vendors working for primary challengers.

The Harvard College Democrats released a letter Wednesday calling for a national boycott of donations to the party’s House campaign arm, urging people instead to contribute to individual candidates until the DCCC reverses the rule. By Wednesday afternoon, 26 chapters of college Democrats from Spelman to Arizona State had signed the letter calling the policy “regressive” and “undemocratic.” By Thursday, five more joined. Hank Sparks, president of the Harvard College Democrats, said he has emails waiting in his inbox from six other chapters hoping to sign on.

The DCCC released guidelines last month for vendors working the 2020 election cycle, requiring them to agree not to work with any candidates challenging Democratic incumbents. The committee has stood by the change even as progressive leaders met privately with Chair Cheri Bustos and slammed it. Former committee Chair Ben Ray Luján has distanced himself from the policy. And House Democrats — including Reps. Ted Lieu, former DCCC vice chair and current co-chair of its LGBT Equality caucus; Ayanna Pressley; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Raul Grijalva; Joe Kennedy; Jahana Hayes — have voiced their opposition.

“The rule would financially deter and greatly disadvantage vital new voices in our party, who are often younger and come from underrepresented and historically marginalized communities and identities,” the students’ letter reads. “Primary challengers are essential to ensure that the Democratic Party is continually held accountable to the needs of our constituents. This blacklist policy is undemocratic and antithetical to our values of inclusion and diversity.”

The students also call out the DCCC for releasing the vendor rule alongside a statement affirming its commitment to diversity. They cite Pressley, who said that Democrats “cannot credibly lay claim to prioritizing diversity & inclusion when institutions like the DCCC implement policies that threaten to silence new voices and historically marginalized communities.”

This is young Harvard politicos’ second moment in the national spotlight in the span of a week, as students from the school drew attention through aggressive questioning of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and others at a recent televised presidential forum. One student, in a health care question directed to California Sen. Kamala Harris, bizarrely caped for insurance companies. (Harris told the student not to be “duped.”) Another student told Sanders that the money he earned from his best-selling book “undermines your authority as someone who has railed against millionaires and billionaires.” A third demanded that he explain the “failures of socialism in nearly every country that has tried it.”

Even for Harvard Democrats, though, the DCCC has gone too far in its pursuit of a monopoly over the direction of the party. Sparks told The Intercept that the students have been building a coalition over the last week, and that after the CNN town hall on Monday, they realized “we do have a platform to sort of bring attention to things.”

Sparks said his chapter was heavily involved in phone-banking for the DCCC in 2018, particularly for races in districts designated as “Red to Blue,” where the committee identified promising challengers in Republican-held districts and gave them a boost in fundraising and organizational support.

“We do feel like we’ve done a lot of work to sort of help build this new Democratic majority,” Sparks said. “And so we feel like we’re stakeholders in this process as young Democrats. That they should consult us on policies like these.”

College students aren’t exactly bundling big money for the DCCC. “Honestly, it probably won’t have a big financial impact,” Sparks said. “But it’s more about using this language of boycott to draw attention to the issue and to use our platform as students to hopefully get them to reconsider the policy.”

The DCCC says its record of supporting candidates of diverse backgrounds speaks for itself.

“The DCCC is proud of its historic work, flipping 43 formerly Republican seats and electing the most diverse caucus in American history,” DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter said in a statement to The Intercept. “And as Democrats in the House combat Republicans’ attacks on Americans’ health care, take on special interests in Washington, and fight for an economy that works for everyday Americans, we are already well into our work to fortify this newly won House Majority and take the fight even deeper into ruby-red districts come 2020.”

Sparks and young students across the country poised to carry on the party’s work don’t see it that way. “Primary challengers like Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have brought to the fore issues like climate justice in a very, very new way,” Sparks said. “And I think to do anything that would silence voices like theirs would not be good for the party.”

The post Young Democrats at 31 College Campuses Call for Boycott of the DCCC appeared first on The Intercept.

April 17, 2019

National Republicans Bankrolled Lawyer for GOP Congressional Candidate...

National Republicans picked up the tab for the legal defense of a North Carolina congressional candidate whose campaign illegally solicited and forged absentee ballots in the state’s 9th District, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. The attorney has been accused by the North Carolina State Board of Elections of improperly withholding documents that would help expose the fraud.

Financing the legal defense implicates national Republicans in the scandal, but it hasn’t stopped them from exploiting to push new voter suppression laws. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have both spoken out about ballot harvesting in the 9th District, without naming the party as the culprit, using the episode to justify their push for stricter voter ID laws and attempting to curtail early voting.

The National Republican Congressional Committee paid $157,303 to a Raleigh-based law firm representing Mark Harris, whose apparent narrow victory in a November election led to an investigation into election fraud. 

John Branch, a lawyer with Shanahan McDougal Law Group, represented Harris while he testified before the state election board in February about his campaign’s scheme. The NRCC made the payments to Shanahan McDougal over a three-month period starting in December, the federal disclosures show.

Branch’s representation of Harris for potentially breaking the law itself has raised ethical questions. The lawyer withheld documents during the hearing, and the election board chair called his actions “unacceptable.” Branch said he mistakenly thought that he wasn’t required to submit those documents, Politico reported, and he eventually submitted the requested files the night before Harris was set to testify.

Board of Elections officials raised concerns last November after Harris appeared to beat Democrat Dan McCready by a slim 905-vote margin, with a major increase in absentee ballots coming from Bladen County in particular. They refused to certify the results, meaning that the 9th District currently has no representative in Congress. Harris has claimed to have been unknowingly part of the plan that was executed by longtime political strategist Leslie McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County native. Both he and the board called for a new election, which will be held in either September or November. Harris has since said he won’t run again for the seat, citing health concerns.

Ten Republicans are now running in the primary election on May 14, compared to three GOP candidates who ran last year. The winner will face McCready, Green Party candidate Loran Allen Smith, and Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott in the general election.

Following Harris’s February testimony, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for Harris, Dowless, and the state election board

Congressional Republicans using the scandal to call for a crackdown on voter fraud have yet to acknowledge that their own House campaign arm actually bankrolled the lawyer tasked with defending Harris against accusations of election fraud, let alone that Branch himself tried to keep key documents out of the hearing. It appears that national Republicans may have been aware of potential fraud even before the November election. The campaign for Harris’s Republican primary opponent, former Rep. Rob Pittenger, said it contacted both the NRCC and the state party’s executive director, Dallas Woodhouse, in May to alert them of abnormal absentee ballot activity in Bladen County. Those warnings were largely ignored. The NRCC has denied that Pittenger’s campaign contacted them. The NRCC did not respond to The Intercept’s multiple requests for comment.

The state’s Republican Party, meanwhile, stood behind Harris even as the election board opened an investigation, calling him an “innocent victim.” In an emotional hearing in February, Harris’s own son, John, testified against the candidate. John said he warned Mark Harris ahead of Election Day against working with Dowless. Dowless and four people linked to the plan to forge signatures, fill out incomplete ballots, and pay workers to collect absentee ballots — a violation of the state’s election law — have been arrested.

North Carolina has come under heightened scrutiny for increasingly conservative measures coming out of the Republican-controlled general assembly. The state’s Republican party is also being scrutinized after the indictment of its chair, former Rep. Robin Hayes, a top donor, and two of his associates on bribery charges. The state GOP is also weighing removing Woodhouse for his management of the party in light of recent events.

The race to fill the 9th District seat will be closely watched. Republicans have represented the district since 1963, but McCready appeared to lose to Harris by less than 1 percentage point in November, and the Democrat is hopeful that the GOP’s mess in the first election will propel him to victory. Several national Democrats and 2020 presidential hopefuls, including Rep. Seth Moulton, Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have reached out to help him.

McCready is a Marine Corps veteran and an alum of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, who co-founded a clean energy investment company that’s built solar farms across the state. McCready is running on a platform to combat voter suppression, preserve Medicare and Social Security, protect access to abortion, and secure equal pay for women.

Harris has endorsed Republican Stony Rushing, a commissioner for Union County and gun range owner running on protecting rights to gun ownership. Rushing is opposed to abortion and fought against efforts to remove Confederate flags from a courthouse in Monroe County after the 2015 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlotte, South Carolina. Rushing has said Harris was unfairly targeted by the state election board and that there shouldn’t be a new election. In a Facebook post, he called for the FBI to investigate the board.  

Voters will head to the polls on September 10 for either a primary runoff or the general election, depending on the results of the May primary. If candidates end up in a runoff, the general election will be held November 5. Meanwhile, the state is preparing to host the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is up for re-election next year.

The post National Republicans Bankrolled Lawyer for GOP Congressional Candidate Accused of Election Fraud appeared first on The Intercept.