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But she also paid a Washington-based signature gathering firm more than $200,000 to collect signatures for her campaign, state campaign finance records show.
“We support job creation and giving people a real choice in elections,” spokeswoman Jennifer Sitton said in an email response to questions about the use of paid signature gatherers.
Johnson has until Tuesday, Aug. 16, to submit at least 23,744 valid signatures from Oregon voters to the Secretary of State’s Office, and she has spent the past week urging supporters to return signature sheets to her campaign office by Saturday, Aug. 13.
At least some of those signatures, though, will be gathered not by Johnson superfans but by petition circulators who may have been hired off Craigslist. Initiative & Referendum Campaign Management Services, the Washington-based firm Johnson enlisted to help her gather signatures, posted more than 75 Craigslist job ads over the past month seeking petition circulators.
The ads offered full-time pay of $1,000 weekly or part-time pay of $25 per hour.
“This is the perfect opportunity for you to get your foot in the door for an exciting, high profile, big energy and rewarding campaign,” said a sample ad from Tillamook. “Betsy Johnson is fighting the establishment and fighting for the people of Oregon with a very meaningful campaign a head (sic) of her.”
The company estimated that campaigns should budget between $3.75 and $5 per signature. Johnson’s payment should be enough for 41,000 and 55,000 signatures, using those parameters.
Most candidates for state office don’t have to collect signatures – they pay a filing fee of between $25 and $150 and compete in a primary election or nominating convention of a minor party. But candidates who run without a party affiliation need to gather signatures from voters.
People seeking to make or repeal laws through the initiative or referendum process also must collect signatures, though they must gather far more than prospective candidates and face more obstacles when paying petition circulators. This election cycle, supporters needed to gather more than 112,000 signatures for new laws created by initiative, almost 75,000 to refer laws passed by the Legislature to the ballot and more than 149,000 to amend the Oregon Constitution.
Supporters of initiatives and referendums also have to file statements with the Secretary of State’s Office indicating whether they’ll pay any petition circulators and include a bold-faced notice on petition forms stating that some circulators are paid. Candidates aren’t required to do so.
Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.
On March 13, 2020, police officers used a fraudulently obtained no-knock warrant to break into Breonna Taylor’s home in Louisville, Kentucky and fire 32 rounds, killing her while she slept.
While there was immediate outrage, there has been little in the way of legal accountability for the Louisville metro police officers who shot her or the ones involved in obtaining the warrant.
But last week, the US Department of Justice finally announced federal charges against four cops involved with the shooting.
Prosecuting white power
Justice was initially formed to protect the rights of African Americans after the Civil War. While it has mostly abdicated responsibility of its original purpose, prosecuting Breonna Taylor’s murderers and other similar cases could fulfill the promise of early civil rights litigation.
The Justice Department was created by a bill signed by President Grant on June 22, 1870. The first full-time attorney general appointed to lead this new “law department” was Amos T. Ackerman.
The first mandate of this newly formed federal department, according to Grant, was to preserve civil rights and prosecute those fighting against the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
The organization posing the greatest risk to civil rights and freed Black people was the Ku Klux Klan. Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, or the Enforcement Acts, to empower the government to target and subdue the Klan through legal and even violent means.
Section 1983 of the KKK Act provided a civil cause of action to recover damages for the deprivation of civil rights. Section 242 of 18 U.S.C., passed with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, made it a federal criminal offense to willfully deprive someone of their constitutional rights.
By the end of 1871, under Ackerman’s leadership with Grant’s support, there were over 3,000 indictments and 600 convictions of Klansmen.
The newly formed Department of Justice was so successful in its mission it subdued the Klan in two years. Unfortunately, Grant fired Ackerman after his 1871 successes and undermined the supposed mandate of the Department of Justice to enforce civil rights.
One Grant biographer argued that Grant listened to the country’s commitment to white supremacy. “Men from the North as well as the South came to recognize, uneasily, that if he was not halted, his concept of equality before the law was likely to lead to total equality.”
It is obvious that the mission of the Department of Justice was originally meant to protect the civil rights of Black people but the 150-year history of the department has mostly shown disinterest. Between Reconstruction and the civil rights movement in the 20th century, Grant’s initial mandate seemed completely forgotten.
Retreating from white power
When the FBI was formed in 1908, then called the Bureau of Investigation, it was in large part in response to the 1901 assassination of President McKinley, which served the myth that immigrant anarchists were attacking the United States.
The first major task of the BOI was to research prostitution in order to enforce the imminent congressional passage of the Mann Act, or the “White Slavery Act.” Rather than supporting Civil Rights, the Mann Act was mostly used to police interracial relationships.
By the 1950s, the FBI was explicitly hostile to civil rights, even surveilling Martin Luther King, believing the movement to be full of communists. They offered little help against the Klan this time.
In the 1950s, US Attorney General Herbert Brownell convinced Eisenhower to federalize the National Guard to help desegregate schools. Brownell was a principle architect of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that created the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, but stepped down because he was more supportive of civil rights than Eisenhower.
The DOJ had a mixed record on civil rights during the Kennedy presidency (and Robert Kennedy’s tenure as AG). Behind the scenes Robert Kennedy intervened to support the safety of the Freedom Riders and other desegregation efforts, but he also approved FBI surveillance of King and would not risk alienating white southerners.
Embracing its original mandate
It wasn’t until 1964 that the FBI did anything meaningful to support the original civil rights mission of the Department of Justice.
That summer, three civil rights workers (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner) disappeared in Mississippi. Two of the three civil rights workers were white and from New York so the incident garnered national attention and outrage, though the Klan targeted the group because they were Black and Jewish.
After civil rights leader Medgar Evans had been killed the previous year in Mississippi, the FBI was nowhere to be found. Finally, in response to President Johnson’s urging, Hoover responded to the widespread southern terrorism against civil rights workers and opened a field office is Jackson, Mississippi.
The FBI investigated the murders but the state declined to prosecute. In 1967, the Department of Justice charged 18 people with civil rights violations related to the murders under Sections 1983 and 242. Seven were convicted but received relatively minor sentences. This wasn’t the only federal prosecution in response to southern racist terrorism but they were few and far between.
A path forward
Breonna Taylor’s killers are now being charged under Section 242 for criminal civil rights violations. Three of the police officers are accused of participating in falsifying an affidavit to get a search warrant. The fourth has been indicted for shooting into Breonna Taylor’s home through a covered window and covered glass door.
These officers allegedly deprived Taylor of her constitutional rights when they presented a false affidavit to obtain a search warrant for Taylor’s home and when unconstitutionally excessive force was used.
Section 242 was also used to successfully charge two officers involved in the 1991 beating of Rodney King. The Brennan Center’s Hernandez D. Stroud says that with a few tweaks, Section 242 could be the path for police accountability and federal intervention.
It is time for Justice to embrace its original mandate.
We are facing increased political violence, a rising climate of hate crimes and empowered white nationalists. People are frustrated with local authorities' inaction and seemingly immune vigilante police.
Justice has the tools to protect our civil rights through litigation whether the Congress strengthens existing criminal laws.
This prosecution of Breonna Taylor’s killers is an important step.
I hope we see many more.
A Texas jury awarded $45.2 million dollars in punitive damages Friday in a defamation suit brought by the parents of a murdered Sandy Hook elementary school student whom extremist conspiracy media baron Alex Jones smeared as a “crisis actor.”
This is on top of $4.1 million in compensatory damages awarded by the same jury earlier this week for Jones' relentless campaign against a dead 6-year-old and his family.
Jones is liable for intentionally inflicting emotional distress upon Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, the parents of Jesse Lewis, who was gunned down alongside 19 of his fellow students and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Jones and his staff at InfoWars waged a relentless campaign of lies against the Sandy Hook parents, calling the shooting a “hoax” and insinuating that the victims were crisis actors hired by the government as a pretext to tighten gun laws.
During the trial, the plaintiffs’ lawyers exposed Jones’ lies and his predatory business model: Jones breaks his viewers down with terrifying lies about the New World Order, reptilians, the Illuminati and the parents of murdered children.
Then he soothes them with pitches for untested boner pills, tactical gear and freeze-dried mystery meals in buckets – everything the discerning conspiracy buff needs to handle the apocalypse that is always just around the corner.
Jones draws in viewers by hundreds of millions, sells advertising on their traffic and then has the audacity to milk the rubes for donations by promising them that only he dares to tell them the truth.
It turns out, gullibility, anxiety and vanity are infinitely monetizable.
A forensic economist hired by the plaintiffs estimated that Jones is worth somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Despite being hired by the plaintiffs, the economist couldn’t hide his admiration for Jones’ success, likening the QAnon-friendly vitamin hustler to Genghis Khan. “He promulgated some hate speech and some misinformation, but he made a lot of money,” Bernard Pettingill told the jury.
God bless America!
On Wednesday, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston confronted a stunned Jones with text messages and other data from Jones’ phone.
“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” he asked.
In an epic blunder, Jones’ Connecticut lawyer Norm Pattis inadvertently shared 300 gigabytes of data with Bankston.
Bankston warned his opponent that there had been some kind of mistake, but the lawyer didn’t take the proper steps to cordon off any of the material as privileged within the 10-day deadline. So, Bankston got to use some of it in court to prove Jones had perjured himself.
The phone data proved that Jones was lying under oath when he claimed that a $2 million judgment would put him out of business and that he’d never texted about Sandy Hook.
But that’s just beginning.
Within minutes of these revelations being live-streamed, lawyers for the J6 committee sprang into action to subpoena the dumped data.
At a hearing the following day, Bankston said he intended to hand everything over to the J6 committee immediately unless Judge Maya Guerra Gamble intervened to stop him. She did not stand in his way.
On the contrary, the judge wryly predicted that the J6 committee would get those gigabytes whether Bankston cooperated or not.
The exact contents of the data leak are still unclear, but we already know that it’s not all from Alex Jones’ phone, indeed some of the records were part of an unrelated case.
The trove is huge and neither Jones’ defense lawyer, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, nor Judge Gamble seemed to know its full contents as of Thursday’s hearing.
About 2.3 gigabytes of the haul comes from Jones’ phone, including what Bankston described to the court as “intimate messages” between Jones and longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, another person of great interest to the J6 committee.
Jones met with the J6 committee in January. He claims to have asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 100 times.
The committee is well aware that Alex Jones was Trump’s insurrectionary pied piper. Jones hyped the “wild protest” on his show, exhorting his audience to show up and stop the certification of the election.
The committee also knows that Jones played a key role in fundraising to put on the rally at the Ellipse, the stage from which Trump set the mob upon the Capitol.
A particularly rabid Jones fangirl, a 72-year-old supermarket heiress named Janice Fancinelli wired $650,000 to stage the fateful rally at the Ellipse, a display of largesse that some of her concerned family members and other insiders ascribed to “her enthusiasm for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.”
The donation was handled by elite GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, who insisted that only Jones on the podium alongside Trump would satisfy the InfoWars superfan.
Wren reportedly pushed so hard that someone called the park police about a potential “disorderly.” In the end, Jones attended the rally but not in a speaking role. As the president’s inflammatory speech wound down, staffers escorted Jones out so that he could lead the crowd to the Capitol.
Photos show Jones inside the restricted area. Two InfoWars staffers entered the Capitol itself and are now facing criminal charges.
Jones’ former employee, Joe Biggs, is a Proud Boy who is facing charges of seditious conspiracy for his role in the J6 riot.
Biggs is represented by none other than Connecticut lawyer and tech wizard Norm Pattis.
As the name suggests, punitive damages are a punishment for particularly reprehensible behavior, above and beyond the compensation owed to a defendant’s victims.
Punitive damages are a jury’s opportunity to send a message to society about the defendant and their bad behavior. The award will probably be capped under Texas law, but the jury sent a clear message about the acceptability of lying about dead kids for money.
However, Jones’ biggest punishment may still be coming – at the hands of the January 6 committee or the criminal justice system.