Right-wing funders are waging war to keep dark money secret — and some liberals are joining them

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, opening the door for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political causes (although not directly to political candidates). As corrosive as that decision was to democracy, it came with a slight proviso. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: while "the Government may not suppress [corporate] speech altogether," it may "regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements." Citizens United found, in other words, that corporations could spend without limit, but government had a right to force public disclosure that spending to the public.

Since then, it's become abundantly clear that money in politics takes numerous forms, far beyond the obvious subterfuge of a corporation donating to a political action committee that then funds a political candidate. In the nonprofit world, big-money donors pump hundreds of millions into politically-motivated 501(c) organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors. Those groups then funnel this money into patently political ventures, even though they are technically forbidden from engaging in significant lobbying. That two-step process describes the phenomenon known as "dark money," which allows wealthy individuals and corporations to exert enormous influence on the political system behind a veil of anonymity.

Last year alone, more than $1 billion in dark money was spent in the 2020 election, a record high. Contrary to some people's assumptions, "both sides" actually do it — dark money flows to and from Democrats as well as Republicans. In truth, anonymous money has been part of America's political bloodstream for decades now, but not until relatively recently has the debate around it rose to a national level. Last month, in the first major case of its kind since Citizens United, the issue of nonprofit donor disclosure returned to the highest court in the land.

In this case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (consolidated with another, functionally identical case, Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta) the Supreme Court will decide whether political nonprofits can be compelled to disclose who their largest donors are. This case in question specifically concerns donor disclosure rules in California, but its implications are unmistakably nationwide. And while the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and the Christian-oriented Thomas More Center are distinctly right-wing in ideological terms, they have some surprising allies before the high court.

As things work now, the IRS annually collects from every nonprofit a form called Schedule B, which lists the personal information of each nonprofit's largest donors. The stated legal purpose is to regulate or prevent various financial crimes like fraud and money laundering. California is unique in requiring nonprofits to submit their Schedule B forms to the state attorney general's office — if they want to keep on raising tax-deductible donations.

To be clear, California collects the information, but does not release it to the public. But this seemingly innocuous bureaucratic regulation has sent shockwaves throughout the conservative nonprofit world — not to mention a number of liberal-leaning or civil-libertarian nonprofits as well, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign.

Broadly speaking, the strange coalition of plaintiffs in the Americans for Prosperity argue that the state's interest in collecting Schedule B's — which, once again, would not be made publicly accessible — does not outweigh the burden that the law would impose upon them. They further argue that this burden may be acute for nonprofits that advocate for or against controversial causes, like abortion. Furthermore, the plaintiffs have argued that if their donors are unmasked — by means of a hack or leak, for instance — these donors could be at risk of severe reprisal, causing a chilling effect on future donations.

John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative-libertarian group, told Salon in an interview he sees this as "a free association problem."

"Whether it's a conservative organization or a liberal or progressive organization," Bursch said, "they all recognize that publicly exposing donors to groups that engage in public advocacy risks chilling — causing people to not donate, or to donate below thresholds where they won't appear on a Schedule B."

Bursch currently represents the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian conservative legal nonprofit that briefly embraced Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the presidential election and is now battling on behalf of donor privacy. He alleges that there have been several cases when donors have felt threatened because of their connections to Americans for Prosperity Foundation or Thomas More. Court documents detail purported instances of doxing, death threats and even assassination attempts. It's worth noting that the plaintiffs also fear "economic reprisal," such as boycotts or criticism of their businesses, activities that are clearly legal and constitutionally protected expressions of free speech.

To make their case, the plaintiffs draw upon an unlikely parallel: the Supreme Court's seminal 1958 ruling in NAACP v. Alabama, where the justices found that Alabama officials could not force the NAACP to turn over its membership list due to the possibility of violent public retaliation against its members.

At the time of that decision, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote that the NAACP had made "an uncontroverted showing" that the "revelation of the identity of its rank-and-file members has exposed these members to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility." Alabama's effort to expose NAACP members was largely understood by racial justice advocates as a clear attempt to dismantle the civil-rights group through the use of racial terror.

Bursch acknowledged that the historical circumstances around NAACP do not resemble those of the current case, but insisted, "To think that [Thomas More] donors might not face life or death is not really accurate."

Unsurprisingly, many critics of the corrosive force of money in politics reject any comparison between the cases. In a statement to Salon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., drily observed "an enormous gap between the Supreme Court case cited by petitioners — a civil rights-era decision where NAACP members had reason to fear state-sanctioned bombings, assassinations and other violence — and the problem of billionaires secretly running dark-money-funded political covert ops in our country."

Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Election Reform Program, echoed that analysis in an interview with Salon: "I always pause at any contemporary actor analogizing themselves to the NAACP in the South in 1958. And that includes folks on the right and left. AFP, whether or not it is right on the merits, represents some of the most powerful interests in the country. This is not comparable to the NAACP in the South prior to the civil rights movement."

There's another important difference between the two cases: While the plaintiffs in the Americans for Prosperity case are alleging a largely hypothetical risk of reprisal, they are demanding a result that in goes further than in the NAACP decision. As Vox's Ian Millhiser explained, "the plaintiffs insist that they are entitled to facial relief — meaning that the state's disclosure rule must be tossed out for all nonprofits, regardless of whether donors to those nonprofits face harassment, or even if they want to keep their donations secret."

Weiner said that a universal ban on mandatory donor disclosures is not warranted, arguing that the plaintiffs' case goes no further than claiming "that the law should not be applied to them. It's hard to see how all this adds up to 'the law is facially invalid,' which is a really sweeping position to take in light of a couple incidents."

Bursch responded that Americans for Prosperity "is precisely the type of case where a facial ruling would be appropriate," saying, "It's almost nonsensical to suggest that thousands of charities should have to individually sue California to keep their donor information confidential."

Even though California has no plans to release "dark money" donors' names, Bursch argues there is still likely to be a chilling effect, claiming that the state does not maintain a secure record-keeping system and leaves an "open door" for hackers. It's true that in 2012, a Schedule B for Planned Parenthood was leaked in California, potentially revealing hundreds of donors' names and addresses. But such occurrences have been rare.

As mentioned above, nonprofit donor disclosure is a particularly hot topic when it comes to dark money, which typically moves through 501(c)(4) nonprofits, or "social welfare organizations," which collect money from anonymous donors and then spend it on campaigns or candidates on said donors' behalf.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation, however, is a (501)(c)(3), meaning that in order to preserve its tax-exempt status, it's supposed to designate its funds for "charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals," according to IRS rules. However, Americans for Prosperity, the group's sister organization, is a 501(c)(4), meaning that it can more significantly engage in political advocacy and lobbying — largely in favor of reduced taxes, deregulation and other business-friendly policies — and has done so vigorously.

Bursch claimed earnestly that dark money has "nothing" to do with the current Supreme Court case, reminding this reporter that 501(c)(3) charities like AFPF are barred by federal law "from participating in any political advocacy, which is where the dark money issue arises." Explaining the relationship between Americans for Prosperity and its affiliated foundation, he said, "My understanding is that the 501(c)(3) can't fund the 501(c)(4). So,although they share a name and perhaps some common goals, the work they engage in is completely different. You can't cross those lines."

AFP did not respond to Salon's request to comment on its relationship with AFPF, which has been known to cross some lines. In 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused AFPF of financing blatantly political commercials that criticized the Obama administration, alleging that the ads "made the Americans for Prosperity Foundation a de facto political action group in violation of the federal tax code," according to the New York Times.

Bursch said that he believed or understood that AFP and AFPF had a "different office, different directors, different employees and different purposes." In fact, a comparison of AFP and AFPF's 2018 tax filings shows that a significant number of officers, directors, trustees and key employees work at both entities, including Nancy Pfotenhauer, Mark Holden, Robert Heaton, Emily Seidel, Slade O'Brien and various others.

Supplemental information on AFPF's filings also states that "certain employees of Americans for Prosperity Foundation may perform services for Americans for Prosperity, a related organization, through a service contract between the organizations." (This relationship also goes the other way.) AFPF is additionally listed as AFP's "direct controlling entity," a designation whose legal meaning is not entirely clear but certainly suggests an intimate relationship.

Not all contributors to political nonprofits count as "dark money donors," to be sure. Some are ordinary citizens, no doubt, genuinely interested in contributing to what they believe are nonpartisan endeavors. But it's precisely the lack of donor disclosure that makes the whole process opaque.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a staunch critic of money in politics, affirmed the need for more effective disclosure in light of the AFP and AFPF's purposefully mysterious relationship. "Because we're dealing with dark money, we don't really know the relationship between AFPF and AFP," he said. "When a 501(c)(3) gives money to a 501(c)(4) to engage in electioneering activities, that's what dark money is all about." (Salon could not find clear evidence that money has flowed from AFPF to AFP, let alone how it might have been used.)

"The Federalist Society and the Federalist Society Foundation both share the same goals and aspirations," Johnson expressed. "People are trying to exert influence. That's the reason why they contribute to these organizations that have a political agenda."

'It's basically the Titanic': Republican dissent grows louder as GOP preps for a NeverTrump purge

Anti-Trump detractors of the GOP are growing louder in their criticisms of Donald Trump, even as the party grows increasingly hostile toward anyone that breaks from absolute praise for the former president.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

On Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., likened the Republican Party to the Titanic amid the internal battle currently being waged against Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for her anti-Trump record. Reports have speculated that the Republican Party is planning to oust Cheney as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference and replace her with budding GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.

"Right now, it's basically the Titanic," Kinzinger warned in a CBS interview on "Face the Nation."

"We're like, you know, in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine. And meanwhile, as I've said, you know, Donald Trump's running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat."

Kinzinger acknowledged that "there's a few of us that are just saying, 'Guys, this is not good,' not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country."

The Illinois representative also took specific aim at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who Kinzinger said quickly changed his tune about who is to blame for the Capitol riot.

"Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She's just consistently been saying it," Kinzinger explained. "We have so many people including our leadership in the party that have not admitted that this is what it is, which was an insurrection led by the president of the United States, well-deserving of a full accounting from Republicans."

The congressman concluded that his party must have "an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to Jan. 6" and "quit peddling in conspiracies."

Kinzinger, one of the ten House Republicans that broke party ranks and voted to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot, has been a vocal apostate of the Republican Party since Trump's departure from office. In March, Kinzinger launched a super PAC dedicated to supporting anti-Trump Republicans in the 2022 elections, called "Americans Keeping Country First."

Kinzinger's comments came just as Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan drew upon yet another metaphor to describe the madness of his own party. On Sunday, Hogan called the GOP "a circular firing squad" hellbent on excommunicating any member who dares utter a modicum of criticism against the former president.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Hogan addressed Cheney's potential ouster. "It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader or you get kicked out of the party, it just doesn't make any sense," Hogan lamented. "It's sort of a circular firing squad where we're just attacking members of our own party instead of focusing on solving problems or standing up and having an argument that we can debate the Democrats on some of the things that the Biden administration is pushing through."

He concluded: "We had the worst four years we've had ever in the Republican Party losing the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate."

Echoing Kinzinger, Hogan shamed his colleagues for brushing the Capitol riot under the rug and not pinning enough blame on the former president.

Many party veterans have argued that the GOP will need to let go of Trump in order to build a broader coalition for the next cycle of elections. Others have suggested that Trump's effect on the American psyche will be extremely difficult to shake off.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult, it seems, for people to go out on the stump and defend somebody like Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney," said former Senator Jeff Flake, who was censured by the GOP this year. "About 70 percent of Republicans probably genuinely believe that the election was stolen, and that's debilitating. It really is."

A storm is brewing in Arizona: Why QAnon is obsessed with the state's shady election audit

There is a storm brewing in Arizona. For the past week, Maricopa County — the state's major population center — which narrowly favored President Joe Biden during the 2020 general election, has been holding its very own election audit following demands from a Republican-led coalition to recount the ballots.

Stoking the fire behind the audit is an army of online QAnon conspiracy theorists, who have taken it upon themselves to fastidiously monitor live streams of each and every auditor in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the recount is being held, according to VICE. Any suspicious activity seen in the streams is reportedly being flagged by QAnon fans, who then spread word of such activity on various fringe pro-Trump forums and QAnon Telegram channels, often attached to grandiose claims of election conspiracy.

Several prominent members of the MAGAverse have already taken the reins of the surveillance campaign, as VICE reported. Ron Watkins, the former administrator of the message board 8kun, which has been called "ground zero for QAnon," recently shared a series of videos alleging foul play by various auditors. "We are watching the auditors," Watkins wrote. "No shenanigans will get through the sharp eyes of the watchers." Watkins is believed by many to be the original architect behind Q, the anonymous leader whose online "drops" launched the QAnon conspiracy theories.

The audit is being conducted by Florida-based tech company Cyber Ninjas, owned by Doug Logan, a known QAnon conspiracy theorist who, in advance of the recount, speculated that it would garner an extra 200,000 votes for Donald Trump, according to the Huffington Post. Logan himself has widely spread false claims on Twitter that Trump lost the election due to systemic fraud, without of course supplying any evidence.

Arizona Republican officials had reportedly never heard of Cyber Ninjas, which has no known experience in auditing elections. On Friday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury demanded that the firm provide more transparency regarding its recount procedures. Cyber Ninjas has so far refused to hand over such information, claiming it would "compromise the security of its recount," according to The Arizona Republic. The company also alleged that divulging the details of its recount procedures would threaten its trade secrets.

Members of the MAGAverse have also bandied unsubstantiated fears that the left will attempt to physically shut down the recount in order to prevent Trump's miraculous return to office. (Which, to be clear, is a legal and constitutional impossibility.) According to the Daily Beast, many watching the auditors have expressed fear that the Arizona Rangers, a civilian law enforcement auxiliary that has been patrolling outside the recount premises, cannot provide enough security to ward off a leftist attack.

One MAGA influencer by the name of Joe M. stoked fears that Arizona Gov. Greg Ducey, who refused to fortify the audit's security detail at Trump's behest, speculated that Ducey's refusal indicates the presence of "domestic paramilitary paid mercenaries, cunningly named 'Antifa'" who "are on standby and will be deployed against American civil servants, and the public at large, when political and media subterfuge is no longer effective, and the true result is finally revealed."

Trump's former national security adviser, the Q-curious retired general Michael Flynn, claimed in a speech last month to have "intel" that antifa and Black Lives Matter activists "from Portland and Seattle" planned to come to Arizona "to disrupt finding the truth." No such invasion has occurred to this point.

The Arizona Rangers themselves attempted to allay security fears by sharing an article from the right-wing fringe news site Gateway Pundit, which only added fuel to the fire by claiming: "The Coliseum is well guarded and there are contingencies if someone tried to bully their way in. But the Democrats are desperate and will do anything — even steal an election to gain power."

On Thursday, the Arizona Democratic Party, along with the sole Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, filed a lawsuit against Republican State Senate President Karen Fann and Cyber Ninjas in a last-ditch attempt to put an end to the audit, according to AP News. The suit alleges that Fann and another GOP state senator have outsourced the recount to an "inexperienced third party with clear bias" who will cause "irreparable harm to the integrity of Arizona's election systems."

Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council 's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told Salon that members of QAnon are "anticipating discrepancies they hope will validate their false beliefs about the integrity of the vote."

"Even a minor flaw that does not alter the result of the final tally has the potential to revamp falsehoods about the election and inspire calls for additional recounts or further action," Holt explained. "Given how desperate these communities have proved themselves to be in their search for a smoking gun, it's hard to imagine a scenario where they would actually accept a finding that reveals no foul play. Many are seeking validation, not answers."

As big corporations strike a pose for racial justice, they keep on funding the police

As protests for racial justice erupted around the globe last summer following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, many activists called upon corporate America to step up and fight for racial equality in the workplace and beyond, bringing to light a long history of discrimination toward workers of color. The push prompted a series of sweeping apologies and broad action plans, shifting the goalposts for what would be expected of corporations in their relatively new status as "corporate citizens."

This article was originally published at Salon

Nearly a year later, many major corporations have assumed a similar posture following Chauvin's conviction on murder charges, reminding the American public of their purported commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Amid mounting evidence that many police departments routinely display both implicit bias and outright racism, reports show that corporate America continues to pour millions of dollars into the police. If "defund the police" was always more an activist slogan than a reality, in effect the opposite seems to be occurring.

One way corporations funnel money into law enforcement is through police foundations. As nonprofits, police foundations allow police departments to raise unregulated slush funds from undisclosed sources, generally meaning corporations or private foundations associated with wealthy families or individuals. Police have historically used this money to expense weaponry and special equipment that is not covered by their municipal budgets.

"Police foundations are really good at hiding what they're actually spending their money on," Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color of Change, told Salon. "These foundations exist completely off the books."

According to Nonprofit Quarterly, there are about 251 police foundations across the U.S. A report last year by the government watchdog LittleSis found that a whole host of well-known corporations have been intimately involved with police foundations throughout the nation.

One notable example is AT&T. Last year, Sludge found that AT&T was "an active donor" to the Seattle Police Foundation, which according to IRS filings amassed more than $1.5 million in contributions and grants in 2019 alone. Gothamist reported in 2019 that AT&T made an appearance as a "deep-pocketed donor" at the New York City Police Foundation, which collected $9.2 million in contributions and grants over the fiscal year ending in June 2019. Because these foundations are not subject to typical IRS disclosure laws, neither of them reported how that money were spent.

AT&T is also a "Platinum Partner" of the National Sheriffs' Association, a pro-police lobbying group that fights to preserve the 1033 Military Surplus Program, a government-run initiative that distributes surplus military-grade weaponry and supplies to police departments throughout the nation. In order to become a Platinum Partner, a corporation must donate at least $15,000.

Asked about the company's relationship with law enforcement, an AT&T spokesperson told Salon that the company supports "many civil rights organizations" and is "working with them to redefine the relationship between law enforcement and those they serve to advance equitable justice for all Americans."

Kevin Walby, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg, told Salon that any company that makes strong rhetorical commitments to racial equality should not donate to police foundations at all, saying that in doing so, "they are actually backstopping very racist policing practices."

Target is another corporate giant with deep ties to the police. On Tuesday, Target CEO Brian Cornell postponed a speaking event in anticipation of Chauvin's verdict, later telling his employees in an internal memo: "The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I've experienced. Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today's verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner."

One might assume such concern for racial justice would translate to the company's spending habits. However, according to government watchdog LittleSis and Sludge, the Minnesota-based retail giant has donated to at least nine police foundations since 2015, including those in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. Back in 2014, Target quietly donated $200,000 to the Los Angeles Police Foundation so that its affiliate department could gain early access to surveillance software engineered by Palantir, a company accused of whitewashing systemic racism with its supposed data-driven solutions to policing. Target has also supplied thousands of dollars in grant money to various law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The company reported that by 2011, it had given "Public Safety Grants" to over 4,000 law enforcement agencies. In that same year alone, Target said it had distributed more than $3 million in grants to "law enforcement and emergency management organizations."

A Target spokesperson declined to provide more recent figures on grant money. The company also declined to clarify whether its relationships with police foundations remain active, instead providing the following statement: "We also believe that team members and guests should feel safe in their engagements with law enforcement. We support holistic changes in policing that advance more equitable, community-centric policing that is grounded in innovative law enforcement reform best practices."

Numerous tech giants, including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, also support the police in ways outlined above. Amazon, for example, which claimed to "stand with [its] Black employees, customers, and partners" following Chauvin's verdict, has supported the police in a variety of different ways. In 2019, the tech giant reportedly donated up to $9,999 to the Seattle Police Foundation. A company representative told Salon that the company has not donated to the Seattle Police Foundation within the last two years. Salon was unable this, since the foundation reportedly scrubbed all information pertaining to its corporate sponsors shortly after LittleSis released its report.

Additionally, Amazon board member Indra Nooyi serves as a trustee on the board of the New York City Police Foundation, according to digitally archived information on the foundation's website from last year.

Meanwhile, AmazonSmile, the company's charity initiative — which allows Amazon to donate 0.5% of proceeds from a sale to the buyer's chosen charity — has helped pass along donations from customers to numerous police foundations, including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland. (This relationship has been publicly advertised via Twitter.)

A company representative said that Amazon defers to guidance from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center on what organizations meet AmazonSmile's eligibility requirements. These requirements state that eligible organizations cannot "engage in, support, encourage, or promote … intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race." Just this year, however, the SPLC published a feature calling racial bias in policing a "national security threat."

Neither the Seattle Police Foundation nor New York City Police Foundation responded to Salon's request for comment.

Coffeehouse giant Starbucks has visibly attempted to go above and beyond in demonstrating its commitment to racial justice. Last year, at the height of the racial unrest following George Floyd's death, the coffee chain said it would distribute 250,000 shirts bearing the "Black Lives Matter" slogan to employees, flouting its existing ban on any apparel that "advocate for a political, religious or personal issue," according to the Wall Street Journal. Just this year, Starbucks invested $100 million in "small business growth and community development projects in BIPOC neighborhoods."

Following the Chauvin verdict, Starbucks the company released a statement from CEO Kevin Johnson, which read in part:

Today's jury verdict in the murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin will not soothe the intense grief, fatigue and frustration so many of our Black and African American partners are feeling. Let me say clearly to you: We see you. We hear you. And you are not alone. Your Starbucks family hurts with you ... We will be here for our partners in the Twin Cities and for each and every BIPOC Starbucks partner as we try to understand the systemic wrongs that lead to inequality.

One might argue these "systemic wrongs" have been exhibited by the Seattle Police Department. In a 2019 "Use of Force" report released by the Seattle Police, the department revealed that it used force against Black residents at a disproportionately higher rate than white residents. According to the report, more than 31 percent of cases of police force used against males involved Black males, even though they make up around 7 percent of the city's population. A subsequent "Disparity Review" that year found that residents of color were frisked at higher rates than white residents, even though white people were statistically more likely to be carrying a weapon, and that Seattle officers drew their guns in encounters with residents of color at a higher rate than with white residents.

In that same year, Starbucks donated two grants totaling $15,000 to promote "implicit bias training" within the Seattle police and help the department host its "2019 banquet gala," a spokesperson told Salon. The company also "contributed $25,000 to the New York City Police Foundation to help provide protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, and coordinated the delivery of meals to precincts." The representative did not say whether there were any accountability mechanisms in place to ensure the money was used appropriately, but did note that the company does "not currently have any funding with the Seattle Police Foundation."

When corporations like Target and Starbucks give money to police foundations, it not only presents an ideological contradiction; it also presents a conflict of interest within the department itself, noted Walby, of the University of Winnipeg. "We only hear about donations" to police "when corporations want to celebrate them," he said. "They want that halo effect. However, there are lots of instances in which the transfers and purchases aren't made public. It's an even bigger problem if they're spending it on money that pertains to the corporation."

In 2014, for instance, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Los Angeles Police Foundation received $84,000 in donations from stun-gun maker TASER International (now known as Axon) prior to TASER's contract with the LAPD. In another case, Motorola, a donor to the New York Police Foundation, was later awarded several NYPD contracts, as reported by Politico in 2017. "There's a real potential for private influence in public policing through police foundations," Walby said. "It's appropriate to call this money dark money. Because we can't really see this money going in. We can't really see this money going out."

As the negative impact of police violence and criminalization becomes increasingly apparent in communities of color, Walby and Hatch argued, continuing to donate to police undermines corporations' claims to awakened social consciousness. "Police departments across this country have plenty of money," Hatch said. "They are well-resourced in a way that undermines other programs that could lead to safer and healthier communities."

"Any money for police reform just enhances the power base of police as an institution," Walby said. "The institution can't change conduct that is institutionalized. The funds should be given directly to community and social development groups, groups that actually have a chance of creating something like equality in our world."

Trump-appointed justices give gun rights activists the Supreme Court case they've sought for decades

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it's set to hear a landmark gun rights case which, if ruled in favor of the plaintiff, could set a radically conservative precedent for the judiciary's interpretation of the Second Amendment.

This article first appeared in Salon.

The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett, likely to be argued this fall, will address whether Americans have the right to carry a firearm outside their homes –– a right generally obtained through a license given out on the basis of "proper cause." A New York state restriction first implemented in 1913, proper cause mandates that someone applying for gun ownership must establish a legitimate reason to own a gun. According to NPR, most states in the U.S. allow residents to carry a firearm outside their home without a specific license for doing so. However, states like California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have strict requirements around the practice. Those who establish "proper cause" may argue that out-of-home gun ownership is required for the purposes of hunting or personal safety, for example.

However, the two individual plaintiffs, Robert Nash and Brendan Koch, both New York residents, are claiming that the current restrictions in place for proper cause are far too stringent. Paul Clement, a lawyer representing the plaintiff, argued that proper cause "makes it virtually impossible for the ordinary law-abiding citizen" to get a license. Both Nash and Koch reportedly petitioned the state for licenses for reasons of personal safety, but were denied licenses after a district court found that neither men faced "any special or unique danger to [their] life," according to CNBC. The state's denial would later prompt them to file a suit with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

The state of New York currently prohibits anyone from carrying an out-of-home firearm without demonstrating to a court that the petitioners possess "a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession."

Last June, the Supreme Court refused to hear ten appeals to cases related to gun laws, sparking particular ire from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in a dissent at the time that "in several jurisdictions throughout the country, law-abiding citizens have been barred from exercising the fundamental right to bear arms because they cannot show that they have a 'justifiable need' or 'good reason' for doing so."

"One would think that such an onerous burden on a fundamental right would warrant this Court's review," the Justice added.

However, with the newly-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett cementing the 6-3 conservative bent of the bench, Thomas may see a more sympathetic judiciary to gun rights advocates, As Vox's Ian Millhiser explained, after a 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established the constitutionality of "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill," Barrett argued that ruling should be narrowed to "dangerous people," suggesting that felons should have the right to bear arms.

Back in 2011, Justice Kavanaugh also argued in a dissenting opinion that "courts are to assess gun bans and regulations based on text, history, and tradition," and "not by a balancing test such as strict or intermediate scrutiny." In other words, there is a good chance that Kavanaugh, a proud textualist, will rule in favor of the plaintiffs by way of a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, which does not outline any specific restrictions on who should obtain firearms under what circumstances.

A conservative ruling on the case could prove exceptionally damaging for the gun reform movement, which has long fought for tighter restrictions on gun ownership. The issue has become particularly salient amid the flurry of recent mass shootings, many of which obtained legal licenses to buy guns.

Vox's Ian Millhiser argued with a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, a ruling in favor of gun rights has the potential "to unwind a consensus within the lower courts that permits many gun regulations to stand, and then to allow those lower courts to complete the process of dismantling other gun laws."

A decision is likely to be delivered by the summer of next year.

House Democrat not backing down after blasting Tom Cotton's 'racist trash' speech

The Democratic-led House passed a bill this week that would designate Washington, D.C. as the 51st in the union, but not before Republicans trotted out a litany of less than good faith arguments against the idea.

This article first appeared on Salon.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise argued against it based on D.C.'s crime rate, claiming the district "can't perform basic governmental duties like protecting its residents from criminals," but failing to mention that his home state, Louisana, has had one of the nation's highest rates for over three decades. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said in a presser that D.C. "wouldn't even qualify as a singular Congressional district." Of course, D.C. has a larger population than both Wyoming and Vermont.

Speaking of Wyoming, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton argued the sparsely populated state has "three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state."

But freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., condemned such baseless objections to representation for the residents of Washington, D.C., as "racist trash" during a speech on the House floor this week.

"I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word 'white,'" Jones said of Cotton's argument, accusing Republicans of "racist insinuations that somehow the people of Washington, D.C. are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy."

"One of my House Republican colleagues said that D.C. couldn't be a state because the district doesn't have a landfill," Jones said. "My goodness, with all the racist trash my colleagues have brought to the debate, I can see why they're worried about having a place to put it."

Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland then demanded that Mondaire's "racist trash" comment be stricken from the record. But Mondaire did not back down.

"Establishing the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state will make our Union stronger and more just," the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement this week. "Washington, D.C. has a robust economy, a rich culture, and a diverse population of Americans from all walks of life who are entitled to full and equal participation in our democracy."

The bill, H.R. 51, which the White House said puts D.C. in "equal footing with the other states," would assign 700,000 residents their own elected officials. Currently, D.C. has three electors, but it has no elected representation aside from a non-voting House Delegate –– a distinction made clearly in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

"For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C. have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress," the OMB continued. "This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded."

According to The Hill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden backs D.C. statehood. In order for the bill to be signed into law, Democrats will have to execute a constitutional amendment, which, faced with an obstructionist Republican Party, is no small feat. At least 10 GOP senators would have to break rank in order for Democrats to secure the 60-vote margin needed to move the process forward. Last year, the House passed H.R. 51 roundly, but it died in the Republican-majority Senate. Amid intense pressure from progressives to revive the effort this year, mainstream Democrats are forging ahead with the bill.

Republicans have just about unilaterally demurred D.C. statehood, presumably because it would enfranchise a historically blue district. D.C. has backed every Democratic presidential candidate since 1961, when the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, which allotted D.C. three electors.

Last month, for example, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said in a Congressional hearing that "D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court."

Twenty-two GOP state attorneys general penned a missive to President Biden earlier this month, expressing staunch opposition to the idea for both constitutional and policy-related reasons. "For over two centuries," they wrote, "the District's residents have all willingly lived there."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued in a Tuesday interview that D.C. statehood amounts to nothing more than a partisan power-grab by Democrats, who are trying "to be able to get what [they] want all the time."

"These folks are not interested in compromise," he claimed. "They're interested in passing all of their bills to remake America in spite of the mandate that they did not get last year, as rapidly as possible. And the filibuster is what prevents that. So it looks like we're down to two brave Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, preserving the institution."

The View's Joy Behar forced to apologize -- but some critics aren't buying it

"The View" co-host Joy Behar found herself apologizing for misgendering Caitlyn Jenner multiple times during a Friday broadcast, claiming that she underslept the night before.

The apology came out of a discussion between her and her fellow co-hosts about Jenner's recently announced bid for California governor. While remarking upon Jenner's high hopes of winning –– given the former athlete's political connections to aides and officials from the Trump administration –– Behar called Jenner, a transgender woman, "he" several times within the same breathe.

"He's got this guy Brad Pascale running his campaign. What do you think about that?" Behar asked her co-hosts. "I mean that guy was accused of using campaign funds to enrich himself. That's who is running his campaign—or her campaign, rather."

"I think that he should—she, rather—should take a seat and let somebody with the credentials take over a major state like California," she said, later correcting herself, after which she called Jenner a "he" again just before the segment concluded.

Following a commercial break, Behar addressed the audience to make a formal apology. "So first of all let me apologize for my pronoun mixup," she started. "I think I just didn't get enough sleep last night. I had no intention of mixing them up, and I tried to correct it immediately, but whatever, it just came out. So I'm sorry if anybody was upset by that."

Although she quickly apologized, Behar's slip-up earned her some criticism on Twitter.

"Joy Behar misgendered Caitlyn Jenner at least four times on the View this morning," tweeted New York Magazine columnist Yashar Ali. "Caitlyn transitioned over six years ago. I don't know why Joy misgendered her but it's an important reminder that we don't misgender people even if we don't like their politics."

Geoffrey Ingersoll, editor-in-chief of right-wing news site The Daily Caller, responded to Ali's tweet with a jab at the left: "Yet another reminder about how often the woke new rules don't apply to people the elites find politically distasteful."

On the significance of Jenner's bid, the View's co-hosts were notably split.

"I think it's great," declared Ana Navarro. "Breaking the glass ceiling is a good thing. A transgender Republican might change some Republican minds … if she wants to run, it's her right to run."

Co-host Meghan McCain disagreed. "I don't take this that seriously," McCain said. "I don't think she's going to win… I don't think this is the type of thing that should have on the job training."

Earlier during the broadcast, Behar apologized for an entirely separate remark made about a mom who was demanding that her child's school end its mask mandate. The mom in question, Behar said, was "bitching about" the issue.

She later walked that comment back after some pushback from McCain. "Maybe I shouldn't have said she was 'bitching,'" Behar admitted. "I apologize. It just slipped out."

'Conservative cancel culture' is why Marjorie Taylor Greene abandoned 'America First Caucus'

White pride might not remain as alive and well in the Republican Party as it appeared just one day ago, as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was forced to walk back plans for a new House caucus meant to promote "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions" after Greene's fellow Republicans hit her with swift criticism.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

On Friday, Greene, along with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., unveiled a new right-wing caucus called the "American First Caucus," saying the group of legislators intends to "follow in President Trump's footsteps."

According to Greene spokesman Nick Dyer, who blamed "dirty backstabbing swamp creatures'' for leaking the document to Punchbowl News, the first to obtain the caucus' policy platform, the group's final platform is still underway.

"Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it's announced to the public very soon," he said on Friday. The next day, Dyer told CNN Greene "has no plans to launch anything," explaining that "she didn't approve that language."

Taking specific aim at Biden's immigration policies, the caucus had argued only a day before that "societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country."

It also put forth the notion that immigrants are less educated than they've ever been, a lie which Insider fact-checked with a recent Gallup poll that found "the estimated 44 million immigrants in the United States are better educated than ever, due in part to rising levels of schooling in many of the countries they came from and an influx of high-skilled workers to the U.S. in recent years, especially from Asia."

The caucus' platform additionally touched on President Biden's infrastructure bill, the deliberations around which have devolved into a game of political football. The American First Caucus said it wanted to promote "architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture," which is in keeping with Trump's now-revoked executive order banning federal buildings from taking on certain modern styles, as Forbes noted.

The American First Caucus also parroted election conspiracy talking points, claiming that the 2020 election was riddled with systemic fraud. "Across the country federal elections have been undermined by using voting machines that are readily compromised and illegally accessed whereby results appear manipulated, voters are disenfranchised, and faith in our system eroded," it alleges. "Mail-in voting, long recognized as subject to fraud, has become normalized. We will work towards an end to mail-in voting, implementation of national voter ID and substantive investigations into mass voter fraud perpetrated during the 2020 election." However, a cursory investigation made clear that the 2020 election was the least vulnerable to fraud in the entire history of the country.

Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the project and Greene on Friday.

"The hatefulness ... is only surpassed by its ignorance of American history and values," Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a major Freedom Caucus member, told Forbes.

Meghan McCain's husband makes a big reveal about Joe Biden

To even the most casual observer, there was little reason to doubt that conservative pundit and co-host of "The View," Meghan McCain, voted for Joe Biden in the last election. For nearly two years, the daughter of former Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain made clear that she was no fan of Donald Trump, who frequently attacked her father, even after his death, and frequently suggested that she supported Biden, a longtime Senate colleague of her father's. According to McCain's husband, however, she did not vote for Biden.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

In a tweet last month, Federalist publisher, and husband of McCain, Ben Domenech revealed that "My wife didn't vote for Joe Biden." The revelation came as part of a response to a Federalist article he shared decrying alleged bias in the media's coverage of the border crisis under President Biden. Domenech, quoting a line from the article about a migrant girl who drowned in the Rio Grande, opined to Biden voters: "This is what you voted for."

Hinting at previous indications that McCain voted for Biden, Salon editor Sophia Tesfaye replied to Domenech's tweet: "reads like a subtweet to a very specific someone."

Domenech then responded: "My wife didn't vote for Joe Biden, and I don't communicate with her via tweets."

But McCain has suggested on multiple occasions that she did in fact vote for Biden in the 2020 presidential race.

Asked in Sep. 2019 whether she would be voting for him in the upcoming presidential election, McCain stated on a Bravo talk show, "I get asked about this all the time and I will say — and I'm just going to leave this like this — Joe Biden and I, everyone knows, are very close. And I love him dearly and I think he is a truly decent, wonderful human being that could be very healing for the country." McCain added that Biden, who in 2018 delivered a eulogy for the late Sen. John McCain, her father, has been close with her family for some time. McCain and Biden's friendship in office is also well-documented.

McCain threw more support behind Biden in April 2020 on Bravo's late-night show "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," when she told viewers that the choice between Trump and Biden boiled down to "personal" experience.

"I keep telling everyone I promise you you will know who I'm voting for," McCain said. "But it really shouldn't take a rocket scientist to know there's one man who has made pain in my life a living hell and another man who has literally shepherded me through the grief process. This really shouldn't be rocket science for people."

McCain added that Biden was "integral in [her] life, especially after [her] dad got sick." The Trumps, by comparison, were "always making [her] mom cry."

Asked who she was going to vote for a few months later in Aug. 2020, McCain was notably more guarded.

"I'm not saying who I'm voting for," she demurred, "but I'm not voting for Trump." McCain added that she'd wait until the debates as well as the unveiling of Biden's running mate before making a decision.

Following President Biden's election win in early November of last year, McCain and her mother Cindy publicly celebrated. "Only a very personal note," the pundit tweeted, "I am relieved and look forward to having a president who respects POW's who have been captured." McCain was, of course, referring to when Donald Trump in 2015 disparaged her father being captured in the Vietnam War.

Although Domenech's latest Twitter exchange appears to contradict Meghan McCain's prior indications of voting for Biden, neither he nor McCain responded to Salon when asked for comment.

'Coordinated attack': How Republican legislatures across the country are keeping the Trump agenda alive

GOP state lawmakers across the country are pushing a tidal wave of anti-progressive bills addressing cracking down on voting, protesting, pandemic management, Medicaid expansion, and transgender protections.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a new law on Thursday banning transgender women and girls from competing in school sports teams that correspond with their gender identities. A trio of Iowa GOP lawmakers introduced a bill in the same spirit, but quickly withdrew it from consideration last week. The Iowa bill would have required students to present signed statements from licensed doctors confirming their biological sex before being admitted to any sports team. On Monday, North Carolina hopped on the anti-trans bandwagon, with lawmakers introducing a bill that would apply similar restrictions on transgender students in middle and high school. Mississippi and North Dakota passed similar laws last month.

Activists say that the Republican state-level pushback indicates a "coordinated attack" against the transgender community. Opponents of equality failed to claw back marriage equality and failed in their push for bathroom bills," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. "These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they're not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to sow fear and hate."

State Republicans have also taken aim at public demonstrations in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which triggered a cascade of vague handwringing from GOP lawmakers about so-called "left-wing violence."

On Thursday, the Florida House opened debate on H.B. 1, a bill that would strengthen penalties against rioters by designating misdemeanors as felonies. "We've proposed the strongest anti rioting, pro-law enforcement reforms in the nation," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said to lawmakers earlier this month. "We will not allow our cities to burn and violence to rule the streets, and we will not leave any doubt in the minds of those who wear the uniform that the state of Florida stands with you."

Opponents of the bill have railed against its overbroad definition of "riot," stressing that it would heighten the potential for police violence by expanding the circumstances in which the use of force is warranted. The Florida bill was preceded by a flurry of similar anti-protests bills introduced in state legislatures immediately after the Capitol riot, according to The Intercept. At the time of the report's publication, at least nine states were considering 14 anti-protest bills.

In Georgia, a bill currently under review increases penalties for anyone that commits a crime during a protest. A Kentucky bill would criminalize insulting a police officer.

Republican state officials have also systematically blocked any expansions to Medicaid.

In Missouri, the House Budget Committee voted along party lines to impede a bill that allowed the state to spend respectively $130 million and $1.6 billion in state and federal funds in order to bolster Medicaid, a move that would allow 230,000 uninsured low-income Missouri residents to get coverage. Although Missouri voters approved the measure on a ballot question last August with a 53% majority, Republicans have argued that the cost of expansion would be too high, even though the Affordable Care Act already covers 90 percent of the cost. Mississippi is pulling a similar stunt, as Salon reported last week. The Magnolia State's governor, Tate Reeves, signaled on Mar. 14 that he would not expand the state's Medicaid program, even though the move would make the state eligible for a 15% federal match in funding. As already noted, since the Affordable Care Act already covers 90% of the cost, the governor is effectively turning down a 105% match, or 5% credit.

Many states are also facing a severe curtailment of voting rights.

On Wednesday, Michigan Republicans filed 39 election reform bills with proposals that would, among other measures, require voters to request absentee ballots, prohibit online absentee voting, and bar clerks from providing prepaid return postage on absentee ballots. State Democrats have demurred the bills as both undemocratic and racist, as they would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

Earlier this month, the Georgia state legislature passed a similar bill that, as Salon reported, would "limit Sunday voting to a single day, restrict mail ballot drop boxes to early voting locations, require voter ID for mail ballots, set the deadline for voters to request mail ballots to 11 days before the election, and cut the amount of time between general elections and runoffs from nine weeks to four." Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, D, said the bill likens "post-Reconstruction Jim Crow-era laws." Texas also joined the fold last week by introducing a new wave of voting restrictions that would prohibit drive-thru voting, restrict voting machines at polling centers, slash early voting hours, and more.

Other states around the country are continuing to undermine federal public health guidance as the pandemic wanes. Ohio's state legislature, for example, voted on Wednesday to limit the ability of Gov. Mike DeWine, R, to issue public health orders. DeWine has argued that the move "jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan" and "restrict local health departments' ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face."

Mitch McConnell keeps getting caught telling lies

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained steadfast in his decades-long commitment to alternative facts, bandying falsehoods this week about the civil rights history behind the filibuster, H.R. 1, and his contact with President Biden.

McConnell delivered his first lie when he argued during a Tuesday press conference that the filibuster "has no racial history at all. None." He added, "There's no dispute among historians about that."

There's not much dispute because McConnell's claim is flat-out untrue. Historians broadly agree that the filibuster is deeply rooted in the legislative tradition of obstructing civil rights for Black people. According to a study conducted by The Washington Post, of the 30 measures derailed by the filibuster between 1917 and 1994, "exactly half addressed civil rights –– including measures to authorize federal investigation and prosecution of lynching, to ban the imposition of poll taxes and to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race in housing sales and rentals."

In fact, one of the key factors in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the defeat of the filibuster routinely employed by segregationist senators, which is why former President Barack Obama once called the maneuver a "Jim Crow relic."

McConnell doubled down on the untruths on Wednesday morning when he alleged that the Biden administration has thus far made "no effort whatsoever" to work with Republicans. The minority leader specifically claimed he had not been invited to the White House and had not spoken to President Biden since he took office.

"I don't believe I've spoken with him since he was sworn in," McConnell told reporters. "We had a couple of conversations before then."

According to the Washington Post, McConnell in fact spoke with Biden twice in early February. On one occasion, the minority leader himself claimed the two had spoken about the status of the coronavirus relief bill. On another, McConnell claimed he "spoke with both President Biden and Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken yesterday about the situation in Burma."

McConnell's office later acknowledged those conversations had in fact occurred.

In the past, Biden and McConnell have been on comparatively amicable terms. As Obama's administration came to a close, McConnell praised Biden's work as Obama's vice president. "He doesn't waste time telling me why I am wrong," McConnell said of Biden at the time. "He gets down to brass tacks, and he keeps in sight the stakes. There's a reason 'Get Joe on the phone' is shorthand for 'Time to get serious' in my office."

In a December interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, the senator referred to his relationship with the president as a "friendship." McConnell was the only Senate Republican who attended the funeral of Biden's son, Beau.

Last week, however, McConnell decried the Biden administration's "left-wing" tendencies, but said he had expected them all along. "I'm not surprised that he's not a moderate. He just seemed moderate," said the Senator. "So I'm not surprised there's a left wing administration. I anticipated it."

He concluded, "And that's why it's going to be very difficult to craft bipartisan agreements, because they want to jam things through their way, hard left, which I don't think the American people expect any bipartisanship to support."

McConnell's third lie of the week came when he claimed during a hearing that the Democratic-backed voting rights bill, H.R. 1 or the For the People Act, is a wholly unnecessary piece of legislation because "states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever."

That's a stark contrast with reality, which has seen an intense Republican-backed push for state-level voter restrictions across the nation. More than 150 Republican-sponsored proposals in at least 33 state legislatures are currently under consideration — all of which aim to restrict voting rights by limiting mail-in ballots, heightening voter ID requirements, closing alternative registration options and other tactics.

In Georgia, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams made headlines this month when she called the state's new voting bill "a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie." The bill, if signed into law, would repeal no-excuse absentee voting for Georgia residents, 1.3 million of whom used the method to cast ballots in last year's general election.

In South Carolina, one bill under consideration would mandate signature matching for all absentee ballots. A Texas proposal would require the Department of Public Safety to verify each voters' citizenship.

The For the People Act, meanwhile, aims to set national standards in voting rights by establishing independent redistricting commissions, prohibiting campaign spending by foreign nationals, reforming the Federal Election Commission and more. McConnell has forcefully argued against the bill, labeling it a partisan Democratic power-grab. "This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system," he said on the Senate floor, "But even more immediately, it would create an implementation nightmare ... that would drown state and local officials who run elections."

McConnell also claimed in a Tuesday podcast that Democrats want to turn the FEC into a "prosecutor" in issues of campaign finance.

"We had record turnouts last year. ... So this is not to drive up turnout," McConnell said of the bill, "Turnout's already driven up." In fact, despite record turnout, there were numerous reports of voter-suppression tactics in 2020.

The Senate minority leader also described the Democrats' plan to reduce the FEC board from six to five members — two from each party and one unaffiliated member — as yet another partisan power grab. It could better be described as an effort to break partisan gridlock. As Salon reported in November, Republicans themselves have tried to pack the FEC board with members of their own party, and left it without a viable voting quorum for 14 months under the Trump administration.

Former Yale psychiatrist says she was fired after Alan Dershowitz complained about anti-Trump tweets

A formerly Yale-affiliated faculty member says she was unjustly sacked after attorney Alan Dershowitz complained about her tweet that claimed Trump supporters were suffering from a "shared psychosis."

Dr. Brandy Lee, a former faculty member in the School of Medicine and Yale Law School, filed a complaint on Monday alleging "unlawful termination" which she says was "due to her exercise of free speech about the dangers of Donald Trump's presidency."

In a Jan. 2020 tweet, Yale Law alumnus and former chief White House ethics lawyer noted to Dr. Lee that Dershowitz's had recently used phrasing similar to Trump's use of the word "perfect" to describe the call between himself and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalensky that was at the center of the former president's first impeachment trial.

Lee then tweeted that "Alan Dershowitz's employing the odd use of 'perfect'…might be dismissed as ordinary influence in most contexts," adding that "given the severity and spread of 'shared psychosis' among just about all of Trump's followers, a different scenario is more likely." That scenario, she said, was "that he has wholly taken on Trump's symptoms by contagion."

On Jan. 11, Dershowitz responded with a missive to Yale Law School call asserting that "Dr. Bandy Lee of the Yale Medical School has publicly 'diagnosed' me as 'psychotic,' based on my legal and political views, and without ever examining or meeting me. "

"This constitutes a serious violation of the ethics rules of the American Psychiatric Association," he concluded, "I am formally asking that association to discipline Dr. Lee. By this email, I also formally ask Yale University, Yale Law School and its medical school to determine whether Dr. Lee violated any of its rules."

According to Lee's complaint, Dr. John Krystal, the Chair of the Psychiatry Department, warned Dr. Lee that the department would "terminate [her] teaching role at Yale University" if her "behavior d[id] not change." Yale Law School later ceased its referral of student cases to Dr. Lee and called her into a meeting held by Dr. Krystal, where she was told by three additional faculty members that she'd breached academic conduct, an assertion with which Lee strongly disagreed. No further efforts at reconciliation were made before Lee was sent a notice of her termination in mid-May.

"I have done this with a heavy heart, only because Yale refused all my requests for a discussion, much as the American Psychiatric Association has done," Lee wrote in an email to the Yale Daily News. "I love Yale, my alma mater, as I love my country, but we are falling into a dangerous culture of self-censorship and compliance with authority at all cost."

According to court documents, Lee continued to speak about Trump's mental fitness, a topic she has covered extensively with Salon, after Krystal's warning. "Although the committee does not doubt that you are acting on the basis of your personal moral code," Krystal wrote in a letter to Lee on Sept. 4, "your repeated violations of the APA's Goldwater Rule and your inappropriate transfer of the duty to warn from the treatment setting to national politics raised significant doubts about your understanding of crucial ethical and legal principles in psychiatry."

Per the Goldwater Rule, The American Psychiatric Association deems it unethical for licensed psychiatrists to comment on a public figure's mental or psychological health unless granted official permission.

In her complaint, Lee called the rule a "gag order" that operated "in conflict with psychiatrists' duties, responsibilities, and role in the interest of public health in light of her belief that Donald Trump posed a dangerous threat to this country and the world."

Lee also noted that she had not diagnosed Dershowitz but had commented on the "widespread phenomenon of 'shared' psychosis'." Lee believed that "President Trump's followers were likely to be influenced to some degree by his pathology because of the level of exposure, not necessarily because of the specific use of the word "perfect" but by the exaggerated sense of self and impunity they seemed to share."

Dershowitz told the Yale Daily News that he was not privy to Lee's suit until the paper had contacted him. "[Lee] credits me with getting her fired," he said. "I'm not that powerful. I am pleased with the fact that I brought to Yale's attention the facts that demonstrate her deviation from professional norms. The facts are the facts, and Yale acted on the documented facts, not on my opinion."

Parler sued by co-founder who claims pro-Trump social platform was 'hijacked' by right-wing Rebekah Mercer

Parler co-founder John Matze has sued the conservative social network for wrongfully ousting him from his role as chief executive and stripping his 40% ownership stake following the site's shutdown in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.

In a lawsuit filed in Nevada this week, Matze alleged that Jeffrey Wernick and Rebekah Mercer, two deep-pocketed investors of the company, forcibly removed him from the company by way of bullying and intimidation. Matze, who accused Parler's investors and co-founders of seizing his personal property, is seeking "millions" of dollars, according to his complaint.

"John Matze, the founder of Parler and its former CEO, has commenced suit to vindicate his rights," said Todd Bice, Matze's lawyer. "He seeks both compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to his claims."

Matze's suit sheds light on the internal upheaval within Parler following the Capitol riot. When reports found that Parler served as a breeding ground for far-right conspiracy and white supremacist violence, several tech giants such as Google, Amazon Web Services, and Apple removed Perler from their online marketplaces.

Parler, claiming that Amazon conspired to undermine competition against Twitter, subsequently sued Amazon for removing the app from its platform. Amazon has said that Parler's suit is meritless. In February, a judge sided with Amazon in a preliminary ruling, arguing that Parler breached its contract by hosting unfettered incendiary speech. According to NPR, Amazon's lawyers wrote in a court filing that Parler had a backlog of some 26,000 reports of flagged material. Parler has since been reinstated with help from L.A.-based cloud-hosting firm SkySilk Inc.

In early February, Matze said that he sparred with Mercer over the limits of Parler's commitment to free speech, which was at times tested by threats of domestic terror and violence. Matze alleged that he wanted the platform to crack down on pro-violent rhetoric, but he received pushback from the company's leadership, in particular Mercer.

Parler has called Matze's portrayal of the internal conflict "inaccurate and misleading."

Leading up to the riot, Parler served as a moderation-free megaphone for many far-right organizers like Ali Alexanders and Alex Jones, both of whom spread election fraud conspiracy that fueled the insurgency on Capitol Hill, as reported by Salon in February. In fact, many Parler users had penetrated the Capitol and shared evidence of it on the platform.

Since Parler went offline, other alt-tech platforms like Gab, MeWe, and Telegram –– which offers encrypted messaging –– have become more popular for conservatives, many of whom now feel that Facebook and Twitter engage in systematic censorship of right-wing voices.

How Fox News ignored Boulder King Soopers' shooting in prime time

As CNN and MSNBC covered the deadly shooting that unfolded at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store on Monday, Fox News opted not to air anything about the massacre, instead focusing on President Biden's trouble walking up a set of stairs and complaining about the so-called "farce" of social distancing.

Ten people were killed on Monday afternoon when a gunman opened fire at King Soopers grocery store, according to authorities. Hundreds of police officers in the greater Denver area responded to the incident. SWAT officers, who escorted customers out of the premises, were also called to the scene. One of the first police officers to arrive on the scene, Eric Talley, 51, was killed, according to Police Chief Maris Herold.

As CNN and MSNBC aired the Boulder police's press conferences following the fatal incident, Fox News' programming left the shooting almost entirely unreported. As first reported by CNN's Oliver Darcy, during the press conference, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity played footage of Biden stumbling up the stairs of Air Force one last week. And even after it had been announced that ten people had lost their lives in the shooting, anchor Fox's Laura Ingraham nevertheless held an interview about the "farce" of social distancing.

As more details of the shooting were revealed, Tucker Carlson ran trite stories like "THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR GIRLS' SPORTS" and "MIAMI VICE: DRUNK PARTYGOERS TRASH RESTAURANTS."

When Hannity eventually got around to covering the shooting during an interview with Dan Bongino, Rush Limbaugh's successor, later Monday night, the host launched into a diatribe about why the shooting demonstrates the need for a strong police force, especially after the protests last summer.

"'They're not riots,' we were told all summer to over 2,500 cops injured," Hannity said. "But these are the cops that go put themselves in harm's way. And in this case we lost one tonight."

"There's not a social worker on planet earth that would be dumb enough for that scenario," echoed Bongino, alluding to Black Lives Matter activists who called out the tendency of police officers to escalate mental health crises. "It's brave police officers that do that."

The discrepancy in coverage sparked outrage online, with many commenting on Fox's complete lapse in editorial judgment.

"Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham completely ignored what happened in Boulder today," tweeted former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh.

"Fox showed its true colors Monday night," chimed Oliver Darcy, a senior media reporter at CNN.

"This is how Fox & Friends covered the Boulder mass shooting this morning," said Vox journalist Aaron Rupar, posting a video of Fox leading into the story by stressing that it was "on the minds of Colorado's [college] basketball team as they fell to Florida state."


As CNN noted, Monday's mass shooting was the seventh in just the last seven days.

Gunman hijacks National Guard caravan transporting COVID vaccines in Texas: authorities

An Arizona man was arrested after police say he corraled a convoy of National Guardsmen transporting COVID-19 vaccines to Matador, Texas, on Monday morning.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

Larry Harris, a 66-year-old man from Wilcox, Arizona, was armed when he tailed three National Guard vehicles from a gas station in Lubbock to approximately two miles east of Idalou, authorities said, according to WAFB9. Idalou Police said that Harris made multiple attempts to run the caravan off the road, at times veering into oncoming traffic. Once the vans stopped, he pointed a gun at one unarmed Guardsman and demanded to search all of the vehicles, insisting that he was a detective. The Guardsmen eventually filed out of their vehicles.

Police later found Harris to be in possession of a loaded pistol, as well as two loaded magazines. No bullets were fired in the standoff and Harris was immediately taken into custody. According to WAFB, Harris was charged with "aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint of 11 National Guard Soldiers, unlawful carrying of a weapon, impersonating a Public Servant, and interference with Texas Military Forces."

Harris told police that he believed a woman and a child were being held hostage in the van.

"Mr. Harris appeared to be mentally disturbed," said Idalou Police Chief Eric Williams. "This was a very dangerous situation since the suspect was standing in the midst of the unarmed Guardsman with a loaded weapon when the Idalou Officers arrived on scene. We are grateful that the officers were able to take him into custody without any of the Guardsmen, the officers or the suspect getting hurt."

The Idalou Police and Lubbock County Sheriff are still investigating the incident.

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