Raw Story

Revealed: Mar-a-Lago wasn’t the first time Trump 'evidence' was flooded

Donald Trump has been here before — 35 years ago — with an investigation. Then a flood in a room with evidence.

It happened when auditors in New York City spent two years probing more than $3 million in unpaid rent the city was expecting from Trump’s Grand Hyatt hotel from operations in 1986.

That flood was noted in passing as part of a 2016 report by CBS News in the context of then-candidate Trump refusing to release his tax returns, purportedly because he was being audited. It said the two-year audit of Trump’s hotel from the late 1980s involved “stonewalling, disorganization and obfuscation at every turn.”

The story has a whole new context after CNN reported that in October of last year, a drained swimming pool at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and resort flooded a room with computer servers containing surveillance video.

Skepticism abounded immediately that it was done on purpose to damage evidence in the Justice Department’s investigation of potential obstruction. Trump is under investigation for his handling of classified documents after leaving office as president. The video could show how and when documents were moved.

In the Grand Hyatt case, city auditors filed a 73-page report, posted by CBS News. It said that Trump’s lease obligations should have required substantial documentation — “documentation (that) the Hotel — for one reason or another — could not or did not provide.”

Of particular interest today is the next sentence.

“In September, 1988, the Hotel informed us that it could not locate seven of the twelve monthly general ledgers, because they ‘were discarded after they were severely damaged by water when the room in which they were stored was flooded,’” the report said.

Two months later, the report said, “summary information” about the data being sought was found at a storage site in New Jersey.

“We determined the summaries would be sufficient for our purpose, although their use entailed substantial additional labor to reconstruct the details of the monthly transactions,” the report said.

The audit report went on to describe more delays and missing documents.

The Trump hotel’s “resistance to our review and the Hotel's lapses in record keeping had substantial impact upon our inquiry's scope and methodology,” the report said.

Trump’s rent was tied in part to the hotel’s gross revenue and profits. The report’s Executive Summary said auditors were investigating why the hotel paid $3.7 million for rent in 1985 and, although its gross revenues increased in 1986, it paid only $667,155.

After lawsuits and the bankruptcy of an accounting firm used by Trump, the case was mistakenly labeled as disposed and later reopened. Trump had sold the hotel and the new owners reached an undisclosed settlement, CBS News reported.

DeSantis wants 'additional time' to reveal his personal finances

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested — and the Federal Election Commission granted — more time for the newly minted presidential candidate to reveal details about his personal finances.

“We are requesting an extension to file Governor DeSantis' financial disclosure until July 1, 2023. The Governor has a financial disclosure due to the Florida Commission on Ethics on July 1, 2023 and the additional time will help ensure accuracy and consistency,” said a letter from Charlie Spies of Dickinson Wright PLLC, who is counsel for the governor and the DeSantis for President campaign.

Lisa J. Stevenson, acting general counsel at the FEC, granted him a 17-day extension through July 1, according to a June 6 letter.

At least as of last year, DeSantis wasn't known for his wealth — more so, his relative lack of it, especially when compared to his main presidential campaign foil, billionaire former President Donald Trump.

In 2022, DeSantis’ net worth was less than $319,000. He still had student loan debt, and he didn’t own property, according to Insider, citing Florida disclosure records.

Any spike in DeSantis’ wealth during the past year, when his national profile increased significantly as he breezed through a pricey re-election campaign and weighed whether to run for president amid fights with Walt Disney Co., would be notable.

DeSantis and Trump are two among a dozen candidates who have entered the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, which is expected to grow today with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement of his candidacy.

DeSantis joins several other members of a growing field of presidential candidates who requested extensions to file public financial disclosures, including Trump, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and author Marianne Williamson, according to a Raw Story analysis of FEC records.

President Joe Biden, who announced his reelection campaign last month, submitted his disclosure report, and Republican candidate Nikki Haley also filed her disclosure on time, revealing the millions of dollars she earns from speaking engagements, consulting fees and revenue from her own company.

Such disclosures require presidential candidates to reveal details about their income, assets, stock trades, royalties, debts and certain contractual agreements, such as book deals with publishing houses.

DeSantis announced his presidential candidacy on May 15 and officially filed registration paperwork with the FEC on May 24. DeSantis initially had 30 days to file a public financial disclosure report with the federal government.

'PGA is gonna get what it deserves': Condemnation of Saudi LIV merger unites some House members

WASHINGTON — Members of both sides of the political aisle spoke out against the PGA merger with the Saudi Arabia-owned LIV Golf Tuesday. Just last year, the PGA said that the LIV tournaments were unacceptable and that they would refuse to allow "sports washing" of the Saudi royal family, which has been accused of aiding 9/11 hijackers and human rights violations over the years.

Then, on Tuesday, both groups announced they were merging into a "new, collectively owned, for-profit entity."

Speaking to Raw Story, some lawmakers expressed concern.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), an avid golfer, confessed he was "irritated" at hearing the news.

"The PGA Tour has its own issues, obviously, but they can't just brush aside the source of the [LIV] tour's money and the business model is a problem, I think, too," Kildee explained. "Like you're just paid to show up. The advantage of PGA is that every week you show up, and if you do well, you do well, and if you don't, then you might be looking at some other tour at some point."

He agreed that a lot of frustration has to do with the assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. A February 2021 FBI report confirmed that "Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia approved the assassination," The New York Times reported at the time.

"But it's also just the notion that after the Khashoggi killing, the idea, whether it was clearly intentional, it felt intentional, to sort of try and buy a reputation by creating this LIV tour and it's validated by these great tour pros," Kildee continued. "You put enough money on the table you can get some real talent. You know?"

When asked if he thought there should be a hearing into the merger, he said that he worries about the potential anti-trust implications and he does have concerns, but the idea of targeting a private business is something he's also worried about.

Republican Rep. Chip Roy (TX) gave Raw Story a frank comment on the merger: "It's s--t!" he shouted as he raced to the House floor.

Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), who is taking on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2024, had a unique perspective as a former professional football player.

His face sinking when informed of the news, Allred told Raw Story that it's an example that "sports-washing" of golf, and previously soccer, is increasing. In 2022, the World Cup was hosted by Qatar; in 2018, Russia hosted the soccer tournament. Both nations were accused of attempting to use the event as a means to appear respectable on the world stage despite human rights issues, corruption, labor abuses and hostility to LGBTQ people, The Nation explained.

"It's not just that it's Saudi-backed that it's a problem," Allred explained. "But it's because it's about accountability. And professional sports already has enough negative impressions without adding in politics."

He went on to cite Khashoggi but also mentioned "women's rights, LGBT rights" and said, "There are a lot of concerns, which, in the geopolitical context, you could say still strategically very important to the United States, when we're talking about who you want to watch on Sunday when you're watching The Masters, you don't want to be thinking about that."

Donald Trump has expressed his excitement over it.

"I think they're going to get what they deserve, no question in my mind," said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). "And I think that Saudi Arabia has thought, in dealing with the supply of oil, that they had suited themselves finely in the world's position. I think that not only have they made a huge mistake, but it makes us move toward independence, and a lot of other countries."

He went on to say that the Saudis were "striking out, as far as I'm concerned."

Why an unused government fund just grew by $8.3 million and why you can’t have the money back

An unused government fund intended to pay for presidential elections grew by nearly $8.3 million in April — and the taxpayer-funded money will now sit untouched in a bureaucratic black hole for what could be years or even decades, according to a Raw Story analysis of U.S. Treasury records.

The Presidential Election Campaign Fund has now ballooned to $442.7 million as of April 30, Treasury records show.

A once-popular resource for White House aspirants, the fund hasn’t been used regularly in 15 years — but taxpayers continue checking a $3 check box that they encounter when filing their annual tax returns by the April deadline. Even though less than 4 percent of taxpayers checked the box in recent years, the fund continues to grow by tens of millions of dollars annually.

But as the fund continues to climb toward half a billion dollars, politicians and nonprofits have ideas for how to reform the nation’s obsolete public campaign financing policies or simply reallocate the idled money.

Among them is Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who told Raw Story the money could be used to help close the nation’s budget gap.

“It's just sitting there … This is just a small effort on many other efforts that we have in trying to tackle this budget,” Ernst said. “You’ve just got to get out there and raise money if you're gonna play, so why do we do this?”

Nonprofits could benefit from the money that’s sitting in the fund, said Rick Cohen, chief communications officer and chief operating officer for the National Council of Nonprofits. While the Council is focusing much of its tax policy efforts on getting the universal charitable deduction back after it expired in 2021, the hundreds of millions of dollars in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund could help numerous charities.

“Every dollar can make a big difference for people who rely on nonprofits,” Cohen said. “It may seem like a small amount when it comes to the government's budget, but 90% of the sector has less than a $1 million budget every year. You could double the budget of 500 nonprofit organizations and still have more to go around.”

Cohen said it would be great to see a tax form checkoff box for donating to charities like Colorado has that allows taxpayers to donate their return to nonprofits.

“It's very similar to that checkbox for the Presidential Election Fund, where they can check a box and say, ‘I want to donate a portion of my return to this charity,’ which is a great thing,” Cohen said. “It makes it that much simpler, and it's when people are having additional money coming to them.”

President Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate in 2008, declined to take Presidential Election Campaign Fund money, helping to effectively kill the nation's system of publicly financing presidential elections. (Shutterstock)

Why do no candidates want the money?

It wasn’t until the 2012 presidential election that candidates all but stopped using the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. From the 1976 presidential election through the 2004 election, parties’ nominees would accept public funding for the general election.

But in 2008, Democratic nominee Barack Obama broke the trend and opted not to accept general election public funds — with Republicans accusing him of breaking a promise in the process.

Prior to that, some candidates opted not to use the fund for presidential primaries, such as Democrat John Kerry and Republican George W. Bush in 2004, and Bush in 2000.

And neither President Joe Biden, a Democrat, nor any Republican presidential hopefuls, including former President Donald Trump, have any plans to use the fund ahead of Election 2024.

Why did the fund fall out of fashion?

“The basic reason is the system comes with a spending cap, and those amounts are very small by today's presidential election cost standards, so essentially, if you're a strong candidate, if you know you can raise hundreds of millions of dollars, it would not be a rational choice to participate in the program,” said Ian Vandewalker, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s elections and government program.

“Candidates can raise more and probably need to raise more to be competitive in a campaign. There's also issues about how early the primaries are now, and when the first disbursement is and whether you run out of primary money before you officially get nominated.”

During the early 2000s, “one could say that the fund was dying,” said Bradley A. Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School who served on the Federal Election Commission from 2000 to 2005, including one year as chairman. “You might say that it was starting to break up during that period at the beginning of the century.”

Back when candidates were using the fund regularly, having too little money to go around — not too much — was the problem. This necessitated candidates to borrow to keep their campaigns afloat until the fund was replenished after Tax Day, Smith said.

The majority of taxpayers have always chosen not to select the $3 checkoff box, but without any major candidate tapping it recently, the fund has now recovered and grown to its $442.7 million balance — its largest balance ever.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is one of the few presidential candidates to use Presidential Election Campaign Fund money during the past 15 years. Jim Young/Reuters

During the 2012 and 2016 elections, just four candidates — Republican Buddy Roemer, Democrat Martin O’Malley, Green Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson — together received about $3 million for their primary campaigns, and no one took money for the general election. In 2020, no candidates at all accepted funds for the primaries or the general election, according to FEC records.

Keep the $442 million in place?

Nevertheless, not everyone would like to see the $442 million in available public presidential campaign funding used for some other purpose.

“I think the Democrats realize nobody's using the fund, but it's almost like the dream is still there,” Smith said. “If the fund’s abolished completely, then you’ve got to reestablish the whole thing and pass on new legislation, whereas now, I think there's this hope that maybe it can spring back to life. They can amend it to get more money to the fund.”

Reforming the public campaign financing system to keep it alive is a viable option, some nonprofits argue. The Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute affiliated with New York University School of Law, is pushing for a model of public financing based on small donor contributions, which would be matched by a multiplier. This model has been seen on the state level in places like New York where small donations are matched at a six-to-one ratio.

Nonprofit government reform group Common Cause supports citizen-funded elections, too, including campaign funding vouchers. Common Cause said it would prefer to see the current presidential public financing system modernized rather than see the fund emptied.

“The disclosure laws and regulations have not kept pace at all with outside spending,” said Stephen Spaulding, vice president of policy and external affairs at Common Cause. “A significant percentage of money comes through ‘dark money’ groups that don't have to disclose where the money is coming from, and so voters are left in the dark, and this sort of secret spending is really dangerous for democracy because it means that you're no longer able to follow the money.”

The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission significantly contributed to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund’s current state of affairs as an unused resource.

The ruling overturned key campaign finance restrictions and allowed corporations and outside groups, including certain nonprofit organizations, to raise and spend unlimited money to advocate for or against political candidates.

“That's part of what generates this arms race mentality that drives people to look for the biggest donors. It doesn't have to be that way,” Vandewalker said. “We would support reforming the program to update it for the realities of campaigning today, which would mean larger grant amounts, potentially no spending cap and a multiple match system as opposed to what exists today.”

Another supporter of public campaign funding reforms is Ann Ravel, who served as an FEC commissioner from 2013 to 2017, including one year as the commission’s chairwoman.

“The thing about the idea of having the public funding of elections is in part because it's important that people just don't rely on donors or corporations and all of the unbelievable amount of money that's been spent in elections, and instead, hopefully, the idea is that more varied candidates can run and get some money in order to do it,” Ravel told Raw Story.

Restrictions, restrictions

For any 2024 presidential candidate who choses to use the nation’s public campaign matching fund, such as it is today, they’ll face significant headaches.

To access public funds, they’d need to obtain a minimum of 20 contributors in each of at least 20 states, raising at least $5,000 per state. The fund matches the first $250 of individual contributions during the primary campaign.

They’d also be required to limit personal spending on their campaign to $50,000 and limit their overall campaign spending.

Spending limits for the 2024 election haven’t been set yet and likely won’t until later this year or early 2024, according to Myles Martin, a public affairs specialist for the FEC.

“To my knowledge, I don't think anyone has submitted any applications for matching funds yet, and the general election grants that would be available to major party nominees, neither party has used those in recent years,” Martin said.

Changes to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Until 2014, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund also provided funding for the Democratic and Republican national conventions. In 2012, each convention received $18,248,300.

“The fact was that there was so much public money being spent on the conventions, and I guess the view then, and it probably is still the case, was that it made those conventions into shows,” Ravel said. “A lot of money was spent to entice people to go and watch and make it be like some big event.”

In 2014, Obama signed legislation that would stop the public funding of conventions. Instead, the money was reallocated to the National Institutes of Health to fund the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a 10-year initiative funding pediatric research. The last disbursement of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund was to the NIH in 2020 for $736,000 for the Kids First initiative.

With the funding set to end in 2023, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0 in January 2021, which passed the House but didn’t pass into law. The Act calls for dedicating $25 million annually to the research initiative from 2023 to 2027.

“Advancing this legislation has been a top priority since I first came to Congress … I’m proud to see our hard work paying off and am eager to continue our efforts to get this bipartisan bill to the President’s desk,” Wexton said in a press release.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is one of the bill’s 110 co-sponsors, and he also introduced in January 2023 the Strengthen the Pediatric Research Initiative Act that calls for eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund altogether and transferring the remaining funds into pediatric research.

"There is nothing of greater importance than finding cures for childhood cancers and other deadly diseases," Cole said in a press release. "Although Congress has made significant strides throughout the last decade to provide the funding to find these lifesaving cures, there is much more work to be done still. I'm proud to introduce the Strengthen the Pediatric Research Initiative Act to redirect this money from political campaigns toward this worthy cause."

Spaulding, of Common Cause, said he was cynical of the motivations behind the Strengthen the Pediatric Research Initiative Act’s call to reallocate the fund.

“No question that we should be investing in health research, in ending cancer, in making advances in science, that's no question. I think it's a bit of a false choice to say that we have to do one or the other. We can do both. We can repair a presidential public financing system, which worked well for decades, and at the same time, continue to invest in science,” Spaulding said.

Smith, a Republican, said the GOP is angling to repeal the system under the guise of supporting causes most people support, such as helping children or cancer research.

“It’s really a relatively small amount, and it just always strikes me as gimmicky. I think they probably actually hurt support for repealing it … why not just say we want to repeal this because we don't think it does any good, and we think it's wasting a couple hundred million bucks a year?” Smith said. “To most people, a couple hundred million sounds like a lot of money. To a U.S. senator in Washington, a couple hundred million, that's chump change … But to your average citizen out in Omaha, $200 million still sounds like a lot of money.”

For the 2024 election, where presidential candidates in the primary and general elections are expected to collectively raise billions of dollars, experts agreed that the money is likely to continue sitting in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, unused for any purpose.

“To take the money almost is like putting a sign up saying, ‘I don't think I can win,’” said Smith, who also serves as chairman of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, which opposes many campaign finance regulations. “If you're running against Joe Biden … you know you’ve got to spend a lot of money, a lot more than you're going to get from the matching funds program, and the same thing on the Republican side. If you're going to match Trump or even [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, who's sitting on a huge war chest, not all of which he can convert directly into running, but he's got huge fundraising capabilities, obviously, you have to realize that the matching funds program just probably is not going to give you enough to do it.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 17, 2023, and has been updated to reflect changes in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund’s cash balance and related political developments.

Trump ridicules Chris Christie’s 'size' in bizarre Truth Social rant

Donald Trump slammed Chris Christie in a strange social media post Tuesday after the former New Jersey governor announced his candidacy in the 2024 race.

The former president in a post on his Truth Social website suggested that Christie has a “psychological problem” with “SIZE” and described his announcement speech as rambling.

“How many times did Chris Christie use the word SMALL?” Trump wrote.

“Does he have a psychological problem with SIZE? Actually, his speech was SMALL, and not very good. It rambled all over the place, and nobody had a clue of what he was talking about," he added.

“Hard to watch, boring, but that’s what you get from a failed Governor (New Jersey) who left office with a 7% approval rating and then got run out of New Hampshire. This time, it won’t be any different!”

For his part, Christie took aim at Trump during his announcement at Saint Anselm College.

Christie said he was running Because "the truth matters.”

“Donald Trump made us smaller by dividing us even further and pitting us one against the other," the candidate said.

The Associated Press reports that Christie, who "during his time as New Jersey’s governor established a reputation as a fighter with a knack for creating viral moments of confrontation, faces an uphill battle to the nomination in a party that remains closely aligned with the former president, despite Trump’s reelection loss in 2020 and Republicans’ poorer-than-expected showing in the 2022 midterm elections."

The former New Jersey governor is positioning himself as an alternative to Trump who's willing to engage with the former president.

“I’m not dumb. The way to win is to beat the guy who’s ahead. And so what would a campaign look like? A campaign would look like a direct frontal challenge to Donald Trump trying to return to the presidency,” Christie recently said in a podcast interview.

How the Republicans became the party of vigilante violence

Let’s review.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called Daniel Penny a “hero” after the 24-year-old former Marine killed street performer Jordan Neely on a subway despite the fact New York Police Department sources said Neely had not become violent that day, May 1, nor had he threatened Penny.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) has vowed to pardon Daniel Perry, who in April was convicted of murdering Garrett Foster in July 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas, after Perry texted a friend, “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work, they are rioting outside my apartment complex," anddrove his car threateningly into a crowd before shooting Foster.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was among Republican officials who mocked the assault last October on the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sharing conspiracy theories about the right-wing vigilante who fractured Paul Pelosi’s skull with a hammer.

In November 2021, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), tweeted an altered anime video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) with a sword to the neck, earning him a formal censure from the then-Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives … and pats on the back from Republican colleagues.

The 2020 Republican National Convention glorified a white couple who, on the lawn of their St. Louis mansion, brandished firearms at peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

Republican support for violence is so prolific, it has become a staple of campaign ads. Vice, for one, sees this as evidence vigilantism seeps up from the base, and incendiary media such as Fox News amplify it. While demagogues such as Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson have a history of inciting violence, the godfather of modern-day vigilantism is Donald Trump.

Vox counts more than 40 instances, from the launch of Trump’s presidential campaign in June 2015 to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, in which he encouraged or endorsed violence. Following his election, threats against Congress memberssoared more than tenfold to 9,625 incidents in 2021 alone. “Far-right terror,”says Vox, “is currently the most significant ideological threat in the US,” with a proliferation of right-wing threats against elected officialsacross the country. Axios published a roster filled with others.

In a notorious call for vigilantism, Trump praised child soldier Kyle Rittenhouse “as the ‘poster boy’ for the right to self-defense,”according to CNN. Weeks before traveling to Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020 where he killed two people with an AR-15-style rifle at a Black Lives Matter protest, the then-17-year-old Rittenhouse fantasized about shooting looters.

While thecorporatemedia recognize the GOP has “made violence part of their brand,” it doesn’t answer the most important question: why this happened.

Trump’s scorched-earth racism is the pivotal factor. By winning the presidency in 2016, Trump blazed a social-media shortcut to power. His victory inspired a surge of fascist gangs such as the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, and obscure but even more violent outfits including Patriot Front, Resist Marxism, Rise Above Movement, Jericho March and American Guard.

Trump made it possible for any dime-store bigot to jump on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, demonize entire groups — particularly leftists like anti-fascists and BLM — and threaten violence. For those with persistence and a bit of prowess, social-media demagoguery was an easy path to notoriety, money and followers. Operating under the protection of the demagogue-in-chief, and indifference if not sympathy from elements of police, formed by the history of white supremacy, these new hatemongers were able to jump from virtual violence to the real world.

The violence began with a bang the night of Trump’s inauguration when a right-wing couple shot and nearly killed a left-wing protester in Seattle. Within months, far-right riots — and killings — took place in leftist bastions such as Berkeley, Calif., and Portland, Ore., culminating in the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a neo-Nazi rammed a crowd of counter-protesters with his car, killing Heather Heyer. The shock of the murder, and hundreds of neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” during a torch-light parade, put extremists back on their heels.

White supremacists march on Charlottesville, Va., during the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally that left a woman dead. Image via Karla Cote/Creative Commons.

But far-right gangs reconstituted themselves, aided by police in Portland who allowed the Proud Boys to turn the city into their fight club with almost no consequences. The George Floyd protests supercharged vigilantism as police aligned with the far right inseeing BLM and antifa as public enemy number one.

This time the explosion was even bigger: the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The only reason Trump’s attempted coup did not succeed is because his mob of thousands did not use guns, which convicted seditionistStewart Rhodes regretted afterwards, against a police force who had every warning imaginable of the coming insurrection.

Far from squelching the taste for violence, the failed coup whetted the appetite of Republican politicians and voters alike for lawless justice.

This raises a more fundamental question. Why do GOP voters believe it necessary to circumvent legitimate channels to enact their vision?

It wasn’t always this way, and the growing desire for vigilantism is an ominous warning sign for the future of America. In short, there is a vicious cycle from media that stokes fears for profit to a middle class fed the message that those at the bottom are to blame for society’s woes to politicians who claim deep-rooted social problems can be solved through policing at home or abroad: the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on terror.

A crucial similarity in criminalizing social problems is they are racialized, as well. Blacks are to blame for crime, Mexicans for illegal drugs, Muslims for terrorism. This approach begins with Nixon’s Southern strategy that delivered him the White House. He usedcoded racial appeals such as “law and order,” “war on drugs” and “benign neglect” toward the Black community to indicate Black people were a threat whom he would protect the “silent majority” of whites from.

Before winning the 1980 presidential race, Ronald Reagan used overt dog whistles, talking of “welfare queens,” “strapping young bucks” buying steak with food stamps, saying the Voting Rights Act was “humiliating to the South,” and kicking off his general election campaign with a segregationist friendly speech endorsing states rights near Philadelphia, Miss., site of the infamous murder of three civil-rights activists in 1964.

As the right’s racial rhetoric got hotter at the presidential level, with George H.W. Bush relying on the Willie Horton ad to win the 1988 contest by implying a victory by Democrat Michael Dukakis would mean “Black rapists running amok,” the era of hate radio simultaneously dawned after Reagan gutted the Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

Soon, Republican voters were sucking on vitriol from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin for decades. The relentless drumbeat that “real Americans” were under attack from feminists/Blacks/Muslims/Marxists/immigrants/Mexicans/queers — take your pick — stoked volcanic rage on the right.

But for years, Republican voters couldn’t adequately vent that anger. Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolution that put Congress in the hand of the bomb-throwers in 1994, eight years of the Bush-Cheney “war on terror”, and the white backlash to Barack Obama under the banner of the Tea Party, were unable to satisfy the desire of a rabid right to not just defeat, but to smash their foes.

The torrent of right-wing hate helped inspire Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in 1995 in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, but the atrocity undercut support for far-right extremism. The attraction of racial violence soared after the 9/11 attacks and exploded into a reinvigorated militia movement and a series of racist murders after Obama was elected.

On one side was Fox News incitement of viewer rage to stay relevant, profitable and powerful, and on the other was wild fantasies of the politics of revenge that government could not fulfill.

Enter Donald Trump. His 2016 campaign completed the electrical circuit triggering a bomb. Millions of Americans, saturated with racist grievances, could now take matters into their own hands. And many did. Trump promises even more unchecked violence if elected again in 2024, telling supporters a few months ago, “for those who have wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

Trump has turned the party of law and order into one of lawlessness and chaos.

Tennessee pride celebrations showcase queer joy amid neo-Nazi threats and legal attacks

PULASKI, Tenn. — Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies kicked off Pride month here with a common theme: defiance.

No matter the string of anti-gay actions by Tennessee's Republican-controlled state government or threats by avowed neo-Nazis plotting in the shadows. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents and their allies celebrated in even some of the state’s deepest red counties while taking heart from a federal court ruling this weekend that struck down the state’s new anti-drag show law as unconstitutional.

Thousands of people streamed into a Pride celebration held at a city-owned horse park Saturday in Franklin, where a tie-breaking vote cast in April by the Tennessee city's mayor proved to be the deciding factor in the event obtaining a municipal permit.

Police presence was significant: law enforcement officials established a mobile command center and positioned a SWAT unit truck on the gently rolling grounds of the park, and arrested at least one protester. Other protesters held placards at a gas station across the street from the celebration, well beyond the sight line of attendees strolling a fairway between vendor tents and listening to music from a mobile stage.

Sixty miles to the south, in Pulaski, local police staged inside the city's courthouse with helmets, riot shields and batons, but the martial display didn’t dampen the festival's mood on an adjacent street, where families danced with children, friends mingled, drag queens posed for photos with children and a funk band played on the courthouse steps. Opponents with religious-themed signs occupied a protest zone on the opposite side of the courthouse.

“It’s amazing to have it on the square,” said Ericka Quinones, who organized the first Pride in Pulaski — a city of 8,397 people — with her wife, Layla, in 2021. “They have events here all the time. Why should we be treated any different?”

After organizing Pride two years in a row, the Quinones family passed responsibility to the Giles County Inclusivity Coalition when Layla got pregnant. For the first two Pride celebrations, they had secured the county Agri-Park, a facility used for county fairs and 4-H competitions. But following a divisive local election in 2022, the county commission enacted new rules prohibiting performances with “male and female impersonators,” effectively shutting out Pride. The new rule was approved two months before Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a Tennessee law that likewise banned drag performances in the presence of children.

Katie Whitfield, secretary of the Giles County Inclusivity Coalition, told Raw Story she was worried the venue change would expose attendees who might not want to be outed as LGBTQ to passersby “walking through on the street and taking photos like paparazzi,” but Ericka and Layla Quinones said they view the increased visibility of the new location as an improvement.

The two Middle Tennessee cities are both nestled in GOP strongholds. Donald Trump carried about 62 percent of the presidential vote in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential election in Williamson County, the wealthiest in the state and home to Franklin.

In Giles County, with a median household income below the state average, Trump expanded his vote share from 71.6 percent in 2016 to 74.1 percent in 2020.

As in Pulaski, the Pride event in larger Franklin, with a population of 83,454, similarly ran into opposition earlier this year.

Surrounding Williamson County — home to Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, the author of the anti-drag bill — has become a target of far-right organizing.

During a raucous public comment period during a work session held by the Franklin City Council in March, some residents urged council members to deny a permit to the Pride event.

“It is part of a social change agenda that wants to come to Franklin, and we are seeing it play out all over the country,” one woman said. “That agenda is not pro-religion, pro-community, pro-Christianity, pro-family or pro-America. Rather, it seeks the destruction of all of those elements.”

“You think you are doing things based on laws, but you are doing things and you are letting Satan in,” another woman said. “He will not take an inch, I promise you. He will take everything, and it will not stop.”

But in a preview of the defiance on display this weekend, another speaker pushed back, telling the council he moved to Franklin because of his husband.

“So, I’m here in the midst of you, but I am here,” he said. “We are here. I know people have moved here to not be with me or my kind. But we are here. But we urge you to vote yes and give us one day of celebration.”

One man was arrested during Franklin Pride. Jordan Green/Raw Story

Despite online chatter from neo-Nazis falsely labeling the Pride celebrations as “groomer” events and urging one another to “take your streets from the degenerates,” only one neo-Nazi appeared to show up at the Franklin Pride event. He carried a sign with a homophobic slur, but eventually left after a couple hours, after complaining about losing his job due to being doxxed in response to a man accusing him of being a federal agent.

Across the street from Franklin Pride, a group of right-wing influencers secured an event space in the Factory, an industrial space repurposed as a high-end shopping mall. Vaguely marketed as counter-programming to Pride, the event promised “an epic weekend of liberty-centered music, comedy, lectures, live podcasts, aerial acrobatics, community building and more.”

Despite top billing for prominent right-wing conspiracists such as election denier Patrick Byrne and InfoWars host Owen Shroyer, who faces charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, the low-key event drew only about 75 people.

In spite of the attention on Franklin and Williamson County by conspiracy theorists and extremists as a flashpoint for culture war, Holly McCall, editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Lookout and a longtime resident, told Raw Story that most residents and elected leaders are uncomfortable being pushed beyond traditional chamber-of-commerce Republicanism.

“They don’t want that reputation as a place where hateful people come,” she said. “It’s bad for the brand.”

While Franklin is shrouded in Civil War history, with a Confederate monument soaring from the middle of the roundabout in the center of town and a newer bronze statue commemorating the United States Colored Troops in front of the courthouse, Pulaski has a more unambiguous association with hate, as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan.

Members of Rocket City Medic Collective staff a tent at Pulaski Pride on June 3. Jordan Green/Raw Story

During Pulaski Pride, the Rocket City Medic Collective from Huntsville, Ala., staffed a tent directly across from the courthouse steps, where about six members equipped with tactical vests handed out cold water.

One of the members, "Foxtail", wore a patch announcing her pronouns as “she/they” and another with an assault rifle silhouette superimposed over a Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) trans pride flag. She said Tennessee’s unrestrictive gun laws and active organizing by extremist groups made Pulaski a priority for the medic collective, which describes itself as a group providing first aid while protecting people from right-wing extremist attacks.

“People are allowed to carry firearms in Tennessee,” she said. “We may not know who is carrying a firearm. That is an unknown. Tennessee has a significantly higher level of right-wing extremists, including the Tennessee Active Club, White Lives Matter and the Ku Klux Klan.”

As she was speaking, Foxtail interrupted herself to inform another member of the collective: “Open carry behind you," indicating an unknown man believed to have a pistol on his waist.

Tiffany York, a drag queen from nearby Lewisburg, Tennessee, chatted with young people and handed out prizes during a drag queen trivia event at Pulaski Pride. York, a gay man, said he started doing drag as “Halloween fluke” 19 years ago, and the current political backlash has caused him to commit more deeply to the art form.

“After last night, with [the drag ban] being ruled unconstitutional, to not have to go back to 1970 and to not have to go back into the closet, it’s a relief,” he said. “I’m happy it happened on a Pride day that I’m a part of. That’s such a wonderful feeling.”

Chad Nance contributed reporting for this story.

The GOP’s evil plans for 'The Little Mermaid' and fascism have surfaced

Ron DeSantis has a problem. No matter how hard he tries to kill off The [“woke” Black] Little Mermaid by taking down the company that brought her to life, it’s not going to help him beat Donald Trump in the GOP primary.

Nobody in the Republican Party, in fact, can successfully “run to the right of Trump” because Trump is running as an open fascist. And the only thing to the right of an open fascist is a total dictator who has utterly shattered even the façade of fascist democracy (remember that Putin and many other modern autocrats were “elected” repeatedly).

Donald Trump is running to be something between Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin — what Orbán calls “illiberal democracy” and I’m calling “fascism” — and the only way to successfully beat him, to “run to the right of him,” would be to run as an absolute autocrat like Saudi Arabia’s MBS or China’s Xi.

Which, apparently, is of interest to a large portion of the GOP base, particularly Qanon followers and, more significantly, rightwing billionaires who — like German steel industrialist Fritz Thyssen (who wrote the book I Paid Hitler) — believe themselves to be immune from the GOP turning on them once a Republican strongman leader takes over.

This is why DeSantis has been so aggressive about destroying the voting and educational rights of minority groups in Florida while ruining the careers of government employees who’ve dared speak up against him.

It’s why he’s relentless — to the point of destroying tens of thousands of Florida jobs — in his war against Disney.

It’s why he’s launched a jeremiad against queer people and given every hater and bigot in the state the ability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Proving he can get away with such authoritarian behavior with impunity shows, he appears to believe, that he’s even more capable of being an authoritarian tyrant than Trump.

Because that’s what DeSantis and Trump are actually running for right now: both want to be America’s first fully fascist autocrat, an Americanized version of Mussolini or Putin.

DeSantis is doing his very best to prove he can defy the will of the people, as he just proved with his six-week abortion ban in Florida, and do it enthusiastically, because he’s running for the job of strongman despot rather than president. Democracy be damned.

It’s also why both he and Trump are behaving like they can say or do anything to get into the White House — because neither thinks, once he’s sworn in, that he’ll ever have to run for election again.

Like Putin in Russia, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Orbán in Hungary — with DeSantis’ early successes in Florida shutting down polling places, purging voter rolls, and arresting Black people who’ve voted; and with Trump’s embrace of open Nazis while marshaling an army of armed “election monitors” — both plan to rig our national electoral system so heavily that no future Republican will ever lose.

Just like the playbook used by Mussolini, Hitler, and Pinochet.

That’s what Trump and DeSantis are running for. They want to be Putin, or even Xi or MBS if they could pull it off. They both have all but said out loud they want to end the American experiment. (Trump actually did say it out loud, as The New York Times notes.)

And there’s a constituency for tyranny in America, one that’s large enough to swing Republican primary elections. At this point, it’s becoming clearer by the day that a Republican who still believes in democracy — a Mitt Romney type of figure — has absolutely no chance of becoming the GOP’s nominee for 2024.

Thus, the big question now and going forward toward that election is this:

“Is that authoritarian-embracing Republican constituency large enough to put a fascist like DeSantis or Trump into office in next year’s general election?”

After all, when the American people look for political leadership, they’re always looking for “The Real McCoy.” Pale imitations almost never work in US politics; in fact — as Ron DeSantis is learning — being the wishy-washy version of somebody else always works against candidates.

For example, way back in 1948 Democratic President Harry S. Truman was running for re-election (he inherited the office when FDR died) and experiencing total frustration with some in his own party who were supporting Republican policies, particularly the union-busting Taft-Hartley Act, which gave states the power to gut unions via so-called “Right to Work for Less” provisions.

When Truman vetoed the legislation in 1947, 106 Democrats in the House and 20 in the Senate voted with Republicans to override his veto; Taft-Hartley stood, and has since been the GOP’s main tool to destroy unions in Red state after Red state over the past 70+ years.

Which provoked Truman to issue his famous dictum:

“Given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will pick the Republican every time!”

Today’s version of Truman’s famous saying is true for both parties.

Phony progressives, like “moderates” in the so-called “Corporate Problem Solvers” caucus, are vulnerable to genuine progressives, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proved when she ran against corporate Democrat Joe Crowley.

And phony GOP fascists, like Tim Scott, Chris Christie, or Nikki Haley, will always get steamrolled by real fascists like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.

It’s why regardless of who enters the GOP primaries, the fascist-loving base is going to make sure their party’s nominee is someone running to be an American fascist in the style of Trump or DeSantis.

This highlights the biggest systemic problem the GOP is currently facing. White supremacists, antisemites, and women-hating men across the country were given a taste, albeit a small sample, of real “blood and soil” type Christo-fascism with the presidency of Donald Trump.

And now they desperately want more.

The crisis, therefore, for any Republican who wants to run against Trump is that they’ll have to run to the right of fascism. But what occupies that space? Pure, raw, genocidal dictatorship that completely ends America.

Consider how far we’ve already gone:

— Trump said that he’ll pardon the traitors who tried to overthrow our government, throwing down the gauntlet by openly embracing a treasonous attempt to assassinate the Vice President and overturn the Constitution.

DeSantis was thus forced to quickly echo the sentiment, adding that he’d even consider pardoning Trump himself if he’s convicted of violating the espionage act by selling America’s secrets to the Saudis or Putin.

— Trump wanted to create his own private police force answerable only to himself, much like Hitler’s SS or Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and for a while nearly did it, illegally sending out-of-uniform Border Patrol officers to Portland to kidnap and harass antifascist demonstrators.

DeSantis, however, actually did the job in Florida, creating a militia answerable exclusively to him, along with his own personal police force that was specifically designed to harass and arrest Black people who try to vote.

— Trump wanted to shut down the “fake news” reporters who kept pointing out his lies; he argued we should gut the First Amendment so news outlets and op-ed writers who offended him could be fired or vulnerable to lawsuits.

DeSantis one-upped him; he now blocks reporters from even covering many of his activities and supported a bill in the Florida legislature that would have given him and other Republicans the power to sue reporters who offended them. Killing the Florida media was too extreme even for his own legislature, but he tried, and promises as president he’ll succeed where Trump failed.

— Trump tore families apart at the southern border and almost a thousand children are still missing, having been trafficked into a shady “Christian” network of foster and adoption homes.

DeSantis outplayed him by imitating the White Citizens’ Council trick from the 1960s, when they offered Black families in the south free bus fare north with the phony promise of jobs and housing.

This is increasingly happening among Republicans running for the House and Senate, and in the states, too, as other Red state governors imitate DeSantis.

At the same time, members of state and federal legislatures and rightwing media are calling for everything from the “eradication” of queer people to using state money to fund all-white “Christian” academies and destroy public education.

There was a time in America when we would have said, “It can’t happen here.” It was a time we believed our country would never fall to cynical authoritarian hucksters.

When opponents of fascism were heralded as heroes, as the “greatest generation” winners of World War II, as role models for young people, instead of being vilified by fascist-leaning Republican-affiliated media as “Antifa.”

When, as historian Heather Cox Richardson brilliantly pointed out, the US government made movies and published pamphlets explaining what fascism was and how dangerous it would be if it ever infested our politics.

That time is gone. Now, it can happen here. And there’s a whole army of billionaires willing — enthusiastic, eager even! — to finance it.

They’re joined in this by a nationwide network of churches, organized during the Reagan administration and openly defying IRS rules, using your and my tax subsidies to encourage hate, bigotry, and intolerance across the country.

So, now America faces a series of very real choices. Do we maintain the American experiment with a democratic republic, or embrace Trump’s and DeSantis’ vision of a government that rigorously polices every aspect of business and our private lives?

— Will The Little Mermaid be the last multiracial movie Disney makes?

— Will the censorship of public school classes, intimidation of teachers and professors, and banning of books move from Red states to the entire nation?

— Will we join Uganda — marching to the tune of members of the American evangelical movement, pastors Scott Lively and Franklin Graham, and an activist group in Arizona — in making homosexuality punishable by death?

— Will our Supreme Court prevail in their assertion that billionaires buying politicians and judges is merely an exercise in “free speech” rather than naked bribery and corruption?

— Will we continue to allow Red state governors to purge tens of millions of Americans from voting rolls, shut down polling places, and intentionally create mile-long lines to vote in Democratic neighborhoods?

— Will American democracy — what’s left of it — survive this onslaught?

Nobody is riding in to save us, the way we saved the world in 1945. Neither the EU, NATO, nor the UN will intervene. Our closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada, have already declared a hands-off policy toward US politics.

This time, the answer is entirely in our own hands.

'Gay gay gay gay gay!' Emails detail outrage over cancellation of LGBTQ-themed play in Indiana

Some emails contained vitriolic screeds. Others expressed concern for gay teachers. One offered a plaintive plea from a high school student bewildered by the conduct of adults.

Taken together, emails obtained by Raw Story help tell the inside story of what would this week become a national news event — the resurrection of an LGBTQ-themed play, "Marian, or The True Tale of Robin Hood," following its cancellation by a public high school in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The students, with outside financial and logistical support, put on the play anyway as an independent production after a months-long saga involving Carroll High School, principal Cleve Million and district superintendent Wayne Barker.

“I'm guessing you are a True Florida Man and this is all about Don't say Gay....well Wayne GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY GAY !!!” one email said. “Your main role is to educate our kids, well … you've done your job to educate them in YOUR HOMOPHOBIA! Signed, straight married white dude.”

Another wrote that Northwest Allen County Schools “used to be a place any teacher would desire to work. It's very sad that it's come to this point. Please STOP catering to these parents and students with their ultra right wing agenda. They will never stop complaining and trying to force their agenda on our schools until you stand up and say NO. We are a PUBLIC school. Show your teachers you support them!”

Raw Story obtained the emails through the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. The district lightly redacted some of the emails and cited exceptions in public records law to withhold others. Raw Story redacted emailers' personal contact information.

The issues discussed in the emails attracted the attention of media from the Washington Post to Playbill, which publishes programs for Broadway and Off Broadway shows and covers the industry. It also elicited an inquiry from the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Barker, who also received emailssupporting the school’s actions, answered most critics by offering to meet with them and explaining that the cancellation was Million’s decision — and that he supported it.

“It became apparent to Mr. Million that this was becoming a divisive issue for students who were interested in participating in the play,” Barker wrote. “For those reasons, it was cancelled.”

At least one emailer wouldn’t accept that explanation.

“You certainly understand that, given the comments of (school) board members, it’s hard to view this as anything other than a reaction to queer content in this play,” he said.

Another emailer took a particularly harsh tone, writing to Barker, “I am simply ashamed of the cowardice demonstrated by you and the rest of the school board in cowing to the fascist thugs who use religion to justify policy at a secular institution. You have no right to call yourself a man, stand up for freedom of speech or resign, as cowards have no place in the education of our youth.”

An emailer to Million and school board members asked them for empathy.

“Please put yourselves in the shoes of a young person who is targeted by this kind of hate in their very own community,” it said, “by parents who claim to be caring, Christian adults, and by classmates who openly call them faggots and other slurs, tell them they should just do the world a favor and kill themselves, etc.”

Million responded that he had met with “many” LGBTQ+ students who reached out to him.

“They have been good, positive, and constructive conversations,” Million wrote. “Many of our conversations have centered around support not only for the LGBTQ+ students but all students and what that could look like. As I continue to have these conversations with students, I am gaining their insight at how we can support and protect them.”

A teacher in the Fort Wayne district, which is in Indiana’s second-largest city, wrote to Barker that his colleagues “fear that this will open the door and invite more bigotry aimed beyond just the students.”

“When a colleague approaches you and tearfully asks, ‘What will happen when a parent complains about my orientation?’ it is easy to feel apprehensive about the climate in the district,” the email said. “Unfortunately, there are those in this community who will see the cancelation of the play as a win for their beliefs, be they political, religious, or otherwise, and they will feel emboldened to push even more in the future.”

Another emailer feared educational quality could suffer if the district is seen as bigoted.

“If our teachers continue to have to deal with being called groomers, being told they are indoctrinating their students and pushing their personal beliefs on them, they will leave,” it said. “With all of the new anti-LGBTQIA bills being passed, they will now have to worry about outing their students to parents, dealing with students who no longer trust them as teachers, and constantly worrying about saying something to offend a student or parent.”

One student’s email showed maturity well beyond many teenagers’ years.

“Parents care more about students’ identity, ethnicity, race, and political views than any student at Carroll,” the student wrote. “Honestly, Carroll students do a really good job at representing equality and not caring about people’s identity. Although seeing adults act the way they do just makes me question the people that are supposed to be building my future and my peers’ future. It’s scary seeing adults treat kids this way.”

'It just strains credibility': Washington GOP congressmen struggles to comply with conflicts-of-interest law

A Washington state congressman is the latest lawmaker to violate a federal conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure law by failing to properly report up to $765,000 in personal stock transactions, according to a Raw Story analysis of federal financial documents.

In some cases, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) reported stock trades a year and a half late.

Newhouse is the latest among 13 lawmakers Raw Story has so far identified this year to violate the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which requires federal lawmakers to report within 45 days any individual stock, bond, Treasury security or cryptocurrency transactions they, their spouses or dependent children conduct.

“In reviewing their finances, the congressman’s spouse noticed an oversight in her filing and took immediate steps to rectify it as soon as possible,” Mike Marinella, Newhouse’s press secretary, said in a statement to Raw Story. “The congressman and his family have always been and will continue to be fully transparent about their finances which is why it was corrected immediately.”

Newhouse reported 61 separate stock transactions on a May 26 financial disclosure, each in the $1,001 to $15,000 range. Federal lawmakers are only required to disclose the value of such stock transactions in broad ranges.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) was late disclosing up to $765,000 in personal stock transactions. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Only 10 of the transactions were in compliance with the STOCK Act’s reporting deadlines. Newhouse disclosed stock purchases and sales across a variety of industries, including tech, financial services, agriculture, pharmaceutical and energy companies such as Apple, Tesla, Citigroup, Deere & Company, Eli Lilly and Company, Marathon Petroleum and NextEra Energy.

Newhouse serves on several U.S. House committees and appropriations subcommittees that have oversight jurisdiction for some of those industries. His appointments include:

  • House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party
  • House Committee on Appropriations
  • Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration
  • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
  • Subcommittee on Homeland Security

“The purpose of the law is to give the public notice of trades soon after they're made, and that purpose is defeated if the trades aren't reported until a year or more after,” said Kedric Payne, vice president, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization.

Newhouse’s congressional office did not confirm whether or not he would need to pay a fine for the late disclosure. The standard fine is $200.

“If you had a higher penalty, I think it would get the attention of lawmakers a lot quicker,” Payne said. “That $200 penalty is from the 1970s. If you change that to just adjust it for inflation, I think then you'll start to get people's attention.”

‘Updated guidance’

Another Washington state congressman, Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), was seemingly late in reporting 28 financial transactions totaling up to $420,000 — an ostensible violation of the STOCK Act.

But his congressional office said conflicting guidance from the House Committee on Ethics caused Larsen to not report until last week stock trades he made as far back as 2020.

“In 2020, while setting up a managed IRA account to diversify his portfolio, Rep. Larsen received initial guidance from the House Ethics Committee that he did not need to file Periodic Transaction Reports because he did not control selection or trade of any security in the new portfolio,” Joe Tutino, a spokesperson for Rep. Larsen, told Raw Story in a statement.

RELATED ARTICLE: Can’t stop, won’t stop: Another congressman violates STOCK Act

“In 2022, upon reviewing Rep. Larsen’s draft financial disclosure, Committee staff informed him of updated guidance that required the representative to file a periodic transaction report to come into compliance with the STOCK Act. He worked with Committee staff to file the required periodic transaction report,” Tutino continued.

Larsen’s financial disclosure report, filed on May 26, noted stock transactions for Larsen’s individual retirement account across a variety of industries, including semiconductors, defense, pharmaceuticals, insurance and transportation. He traded individual stocks in companies that include Allstate, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CVS, Intel, Sempra, General Dynamics and Union Pacific.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) said the House Committee on Ethics gave conflicting advice on filing his financial disclosures. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Larsen is a member of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is co-chairman of the U.S.-China Working Group.

All stock transactions were in the $1,001 to $15,000 range.

“This managed account within the RRL IRA was set up late 2020. At the time I received guidance that due to the account being one where I did not control selections or trades, I did not need to file PTRs. That guidance has since changed and am reporting per new guidance,” Larsen said in the report.

Tutino said Larsen is waiting to hear back from the House Committee on Ethics as to whether he must pay a fine.

“Rep. Larsen is committed to transparency. Rep. Larsen does not select or trade individual stocks, per his contract with his financial adviser, and he will continue to be prohibited, per contract, from making selection or trade of any security,” Tutino said. “Going forward, Rep. Larsen’s financial adviser will notify him of any actions relevant to STOCK Act compliance after the account manager takes the action, and Rep. Larsen will be reporting those actions in periodic transaction reports.”

It is unclear whether the House Committee on Ethics considers Larsen’s late stock disclosures an official violation of the STOCK Act.

Tom Rust, staff director and chief counsel for the House Committee on Ethics, which is tasked with investigating alleged STOCK Act violations, said “no comment” when reached by Raw Story.

“It's hard to believe that he received guidance that you don't have to report a stock transaction just because you don't control this transaction because the law is written anticipating that you may not be the person making the transaction,” Payne said.

Payne said he was not aware of any changes to reporting policies outlined in the STOCK Act.

“It just strains credibility to think that the Ethics Committee advised anyone that there's an exception that doesn't exist, so this looks as though it was a violation of the rule,” Payne said. “Maybe he misunderstood it, but the rules haven't changed.”

Continued violations

Dozens of members of Congress have failed to comply with the STOCK Act. During the 117th Congress from 2021 to 2022, at least 78 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — were found to have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to a tally maintained by Insider.

Raw Story has this year identified 13 members of Congress, including Newhouse, who have broken the federal conflicts of interest law.

Last week, Raw Story reported that Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) was more than a year late disclosing up to $45,000 of his wife’s purchases of stock in CarterBaldwin.

Six representatives failing to report up to $376,280 in stock transactions in May were Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Raw Story identified other STOCK Act violators in recent weeks, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), with up to $265,000 in late financial disclosures, and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), who was late in disclosing up to $5 million in U.S. Treasury note purchases.

Earlier this year, Raw Story also broke the news that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) failed to properly disclose that his wife sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in gaming company Activision Blizzard in September 2022 and purchased up to $15,000 worth of stock in Amazon.com in August 2022.

Raw Story reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was several days late disclosing that he had sold personal stock in an energy company and a pair of federal defense contractors. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also violated the STOCK Act in March with a late disclosure.

Congressional stock ban efforts

The ongoing violations come at a time when a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced several similar bills aimed at banning congressional stock trading.

The most recent bill to be introduced this session — the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act — is co-sponsored in part by political rivals in Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Other materially similar bills include the Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act, the TRUST in Congress Act and the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act.

“I think there's a strong possibility that the legislation on stock trading will move, especially when you keep seeing public concern about the noncompliance with the STOCK Act,” Payne said.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘I mistakenly left it in draft’: Republican violates STOCK Act with up to $5 million in late disclosures

The STOCK Act was passed by Congress in 2012 to prevent insider trading, promote transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among federal lawmakers and other government officials.

In the decade since, the push for a total ban on lawmakers trading stocks while in office gained but then lost momentum last year when the Democratic-led House, then led by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, decided not to conduct a hearing on any of stock-ban bills and never brought it to the House floor for a vote.

News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interests among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal hasreported.

The Wall Street Journal won a 2023 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into financial conflicts among officials who work in federal agencies while Insider won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for its reporting on congressional financial conflicts.

Neo-Nazi Marine Corps vet accused of plotting terror attack possessed classified military materials: sources

A neo-Nazi Marine Corps veteran jailed for allegedly plotting to attack the power grid and commit acts of racial terror stands accused by the government of possessing classified Defense Department materials on a computer drive at the time of his arrest, Raw Story has exclusively learned.

The nature of the classified materials found on Jordan Duncan’s hard drive upon his arrest in Idaho in October 2020 is unclear. The government has not described the contents of the materials, which were found amid a tranche of documents about chemicals and bomb-making, or provided any explanation about how Duncan allegedly obtained them.

But the revelation about apparent classified materials in the possession of Duncan, as alleged by the government in a court filing, adds an explosive new dimension to the federal case against him — as the nation’s defense apparatus continues to reel from a separate classified document leak allegedly committed by a National Guard airman.

It also comes amid previously reported details of Duncan’s role in an alleged neo-Nazi plot to target power substations and carry out a campaign of racial violence. Duncan’s background as a Russian linguist trained by the Marine Corps in electronic communications raises the provocative question — yet unanswered — about whether he passed on classified information to a foreign government or otherwise used it to harm the United States by advancing an agenda to promote social discord and undermine democracy.

Following Duncan’s arrest, in October 2020, authorities executed a search warrant on his apartment in Boise and seized an external hard drive. Three months later, in January 2021, a federal prosecutor informed a judge that investigators uncovered what “appeared to be classified material,” according to details in court documents reviewed by Raw Story that have not been previously reported.

Court filings made by defense counsel earlier this year specified that the materials described by the government as being potentially classified were discovered on the external hard drive seized from Duncan’s apartment.

Concerns surrounding the security of classified Defense Department documents have been magnified recently with the disclosure that Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts National Guard airman, shared sensitive military documents about the war in Ukraine on the Discord messaging platform while harboring fantasies about carrying out mass shootings and, like Duncan, envisioning a race war — an imagined armed conflict in which the belligerents are determined by skin color.

Duncan and Teixeira’s access to sensitive military documents as relatively low-level operators is not unique. In the past 15 years, significant leaks of military and national security information have been carried out by Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, and Chelsea Manning, a junior intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army.

Duncan and two other men were initially charged in October 2020 with illegally manufacturing and transporting firearms. Charges grew to include conspiracy to damage an energy facility, and expanded to include five defendants overall.

As described in court documents, the defendants allegedly conspired “to attack the power grid both for the purpose of creating general chaos and to provide cover and ease of escape” while undertaking a campaign of assassinations against Black Lives Matter founders and Democratic politicians.

The alleged goal: cause a societal collapse and create a white ethno-state.

Theft of government records?

Among the five men named in the indictment, three — including Duncan — served in the Marine Corps. A fourth was a member of the New Jersey Army National Guard and a fifth was an adult film actor. The government alleges that the cofounder of the group stole military gear, including body armor and magazines for assault rifles, from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and shipped it to other members over the course of almost three years.

Duncan, who had recently relocated to Idaho at the time of his arrest, was walking across the parking lot to go to his job at a military contractor one day in October 2020 when, according to his lawyer, 20 FBI agents with assault rifles and flashbang grenades swarmed him and knocked his cell phone out of his hand.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which is prosecuting the case, declined to answer questions.

Duncan’s lawyer told Raw Story he has not had the opportunity to review the classified materials despite more than two years passing since the government reported their existence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Kocher gave notice to a federal court in North Carolina in February 2021 that the FBI was executing a search warrant to review electronic devices and accounts seized in the investigation. Kocher told the court that the review would determine whether there was evidence of violations of two federal laws that respectively criminalize the theft of government records and the acquisition of information about national defense activities with the intent to use it to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation. Conviction for the former charge carries up to a year in prison, while the latter carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Duncan’s current charges carry a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years. To date, he has not faced any additional charges related to the alleged classified documents.

Raymond Tarlton, Duncan’s attorney, wrote in a motion filed earlier this month that “the government’s position on the purported information contained on the hard drive allegedly seized from Mr. Duncan’s home is that it is not relevant to the government’s case and that it is not exculpatory.”

Tarlton told Raw Story that he expects to review the materials in a secure room similar to a sensitive compartmented information facility, commonly known as a SCIF, where no cell phones are allowed, in accordance with the Classified Information Procedures Act.

It is not clear whether the materials identified by the government as being potentially classified were obtained by Duncan during his time in the Marine Corps, or following his discharge when he worked for two different military contractors.

Duncan specialized as a Russian linguist in the Marine Corps, and studied at a military language institute at the Presidio of Monterey on the central California coast during his enlistment. Following his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 2018, Duncan worked for a military contractor, Academy Solutions Group, in San Antonio, Texas, and then, briefly, for a Navy contractor in Idaho.

Tarlton suggested a third possible source for the materials to Raw Story: “In theory, it could be things from Wikileaks.”

The contents of the external hard drive are extensive, and Tarlton said the volume amounts to a terabyte of materials. It remains unknown what the documents identified by the government as potentially classified say, but the overall contents of the hard drive on which the classified material was discovered have been amply described in federal court.

During Duncan’s detention hearing in December 2020, Naval Criminal Investigative Service Agent John Christopher Little — the lead investigator in the case — told the court that he discovered “an extensive library on a lot of different topics” on the hard drive, including information on explosives, car bombs, chemical weapons; military manuals; and folders labeled “propaganda.” Some of the military manuals appeared to be available on the internet, Little testified.

The explosives manuals included information about ammonium nitrate, which was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, and how to make thermite, which Little described as “a mixture of aluminum powder and oxidized metal” that “burns extremely hot” and is “utilized by the military to penetrate armor.”

Little testified that one of the defendants told him that members of the neo-Nazi group discussed thermite as an option for burning through electrical transformers. Little also told the court that the documents on chemical weapons included instructions on how to make ricin, a poison derived from castor beans that has been used to carry out at least one assassination.

During a detention hearing for one of Duncan’s co-defendants in August 2021, Little added that the hard drive included “information taken from the military.” His testimony does not make clear whether investigators believe that information was derived from Duncan’s service in the Marine Corps or employment with a private contractor, or was simply downloaded from a public site on the internet.

But Kocher, the lead prosecutor in the case, has expressed concern that information collected by Duncan was shared with his co-defendants.

Little testified that schematics and a manual with information about detonators and car bombs was found on Duncan’s hard drive and also on an iCloud account controlled by co-defendant Paul Kryscuk, in addition to the information about how to make thermite. Little also testified that a manual on how to build silencers for firearms was found on both Duncan’s hard drive and co-defendant Joseph Maurino’s phone. Kryscuk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to damage an energy facility in 2022. Maurino, a former member of the New Jersey Army National Guard, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to illegally manufacture and transport firearms.

During the search of Duncan’s apartment in Boise, the authorities also recovered a fake ID and an active Defense Department-issued passport. Little testified that Duncan was required to return the passport upon his discharge from the Marine Corps, and that his employer in Boise said the passport wasn’t needed for work.

Fake ID seized from Jordan Duncan's apartment in Boise, Idaho. Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Magistrate Judge James E. Gates cited the “library” of materials found on Duncan’s hard drive, his fake ID and illegal Department of Defense passport, his background in intelligence and communications and the fact that he apparently lied to obtain a security clearance as a basis for his decision to order him held in pre-trial detention as a flight risk and danger to the community.

The ideal candidate: ‘an intelligence/com guy’

Duncan met Liam Collins, a cofounder of the neo-Nazi group, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 2018, near the end of his stint in the Marine Corps, Little testified. Duncan’s training in signals intelligence made him an ideal candidate for the neo-Nazi group.

Prior to founding the group, Collins posted on Iron March — a forum for violent neo-Nazis that shut down in 2017 — that he was “looking for an intelligence/com guy for his group,” Little testified. “He wants someone with that specific skill set for his group.”

Following his discharge from the Marine Corps in September 2018, Duncan started work with Academy Solutions Group, a military contractor based in Columbia, Md., at the company’s facility in San Antonio, Texas.

Duncan’s position there, as listed on his LinkedIn page, was “cyber help desk technician.” Academy Solutions Group was recently acquired by DarkStar Intelligence, a Virginia firm that specializes in support for confidential informant and human intelligence operations, and intelligence analysis for the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

Academy Solutions Group, according to its website, primarily served the Defense Department and national intelligence agencies, while boasting that its employees held security clearances ranging from top secret to “TS/SCI,” an acronym for “top secret/sensitive compartmented information.”

Judge Gates told Duncan during his December 2020 detention hearing that had he been candid about his involvement with the neo-Nazi group, “your security clearance would have been removed or canceled.”

Academy Solutions Group is deeply enmeshed in the U.S. military. For example, it announced in 2018 that it was a subcontractor on a $54.6 million contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force to defense industry giant Northrop Grumman to provide “integrated cyber capabilities across domains for U.S. Cyber Command.”

The contract indicated that the work would be performed in San Antonio with an anticipated completion date in October 2021. That timeframe directly overlaps with Duncan’s tenure at the company from February 2019 through September 2020.

Multiple emails and phone calls from Raw Story to Academy Solutions Group, seeking clarification as to whether Duncan worked on the contract, went unreturned.

The U.S. Cyber Command was established in 2009 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. According to the command’s official history, the command grew out of a recognition publicly acknowledged by Pentagon leaders as early as 1995 that “U.S. military networks were vulnerable to remote attacks” and that “foreign entities were probing U.S. government networks and could potentially disrupt vital operations.”

The agency’s website highlights its role in protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference, including participation in a “Russia Small Group” that worked to protect the 2018 midterms, which in turn evolved into the Election Security Group, focused on protecting the 2020 election. The Cyber Command also utilizes offensive capabilities “to impose costs on adversaries, according to the website.

The Cyber Command is headed by the national security director, currently Gen. Paul M. Nakasone. The National Security Agency did not respond to an inquiry from Raw Story about whether officials have undertaken any investigation of Duncan’s work for Academy Solutions Group.

Venmo transactions

In April 2019, during the period Duncan was employed by Academy Solutions Group, records for the cash-transfer app Venmo show that a user named “Jerry Dunkey” paid Duncan an undisclosed amount for “solvent traps and a drill press.”

Agent Little explained to the court during Duncan’s detention hearing that solvent traps can be “readily converted with little effort into functioning silencers” when attached to rifles. A drill press, Little explained, could be used to manufacture a firearm.

Later that year, in September, public Venmo transaction records reviewed by Raw Story show that “Jerry Dunkey” made another payment to Duncan with a note attached that said in apparent jest: “Some rubles lmao.” LMAO is a common acronym for “laughing my ass off.”

Court records provide little indication of what, if any, Defense Department materials Duncan obtained during his 20-month stint at Academy Solutions Group in San Antonio. And while Duncan’s background as a Russian linguist and the fact that his employer held a contract with an agency tasked with defending against election interference by Russian raise provocative questions, there’s no record of communication between Duncan and Kremlin agents.

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A spokesperson for the Naval Criminal Intelligence Service said agents do not comment on investigative matters, and an email to the National Security Division at the Justice Department went unreturned.

What is clear is that when Duncan packed up his belongings and moved from San Antonio to Boise in September 2020, he and his neo-Nazi conspirators were building for something that he viewed as significant.

In July 2020, Duncan sent a color image to Paul Kryscuk through the social media platform Instagram. It showed Duncan and three other members of the neo-Nazi group pointing assault rifles at the camera and included the text: “POV you’re a race mixer.” Agent Little told the court that the image was extracted from video the group recorded of a firearms training in the desert outside of Boise earlier that month.

“Part of the significance, too, is that their training was offensive in nature,” Little testified during Duncan’s detention hearing. “It was — they were doing things in a very paramilitary, militaristic style, advancing on targets, covering each other’s movements, communicating about when they were reloading their magazines, everything else.

“So, the fact that that training took place, and then that they choose to take a photo from that training and label it as the point of view ‘you’re a race mixer,’” Little added, “is significant to me and indicates that [racial violence] had something to do with the purpose of that training for them.”

A still from a propaganda video shows a neo-Nazi group that included Jordan Duncan conducting firearms training in Idaho in July 2020. Source: U.S. Department of Justice

In early August 2020, with Duncan back in San Antonio and Kryscuk still in Boise, the two men exchanged messages on Instagram that expressed their yearning for the time they would come together again as a group in Idaho and set a plan in motion.

“I’m like 4 weeks away from being there fam,” Duncan wrote. “Been thinking a lot more about stuff you and I need to be doing.”

“We’re gonna lay major groundwork,” Kryscuk replied. “Play time is over.”

“I’m so serious lately that I actually am not enjoying my life,” he added. “It kinda sucks. Looking forward to you getting out here so we can get s--- done.”

“Yeah, I feel you,” Duncan said. “The closer I get to it the more I think about everything we have to do.”

“And brother,” he added, “we’re gonna have to move some mountains.”

The Republican vote thieves strike again

The first rule of business and marketing is that if you make it easy for folks to buy your product or engage with you, more people will do so. If you don’t want people to buy or use your product or service, on the other hand, just make them jump through hoops to complete the transaction and many won’t bother.

Republicans know this and have been applying it to voting for the better part of 50 years; recently they’ve turned it into a science.

Polling before the 2020 election in Texas, for example, showed that Joe Biden may beat Trump just as he did in so many other swing states across the country. From Trump failing there, the Republican elders in the state knew, it would be a short jump to flipping the entire state Blue, as happened with Michigan and Wisconsin.

Harris County — basically, solid-Blue Houston — laid out a plan to send out forms to all its 2.5 million registered voters to qualify for mail-in ballots (it was during the pandemic and before vaccines were available, after all).

Making it easier to vote, even during a pandemic, was definitely a bridge too far for the GOP: it sent (now impeached) Attorney General Ken Paxton into action.

Paxton immediately filed a lawsuit to stop the largest Democratic county in all of Texas from making voting convenient.

The state had spent years, after all, driving up the number of hours voters in Democratic parts of the state had to wait in line to cast a ballot and they weren’t about to let voting become painless.

A 2020 study by Northern Illinois University ranked Texas dead last in the nation in ease of voting, with the GOP having put into place a whole series of roadblocks designed to make it hard to register or even to vote during elections.

Paxton explained to Steve Bannon how well his lawsuit worked, bragging about forcing millions of Houstonians to take their lives in their hands if they really wanted to vote:

“If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million,” Paxton told Steve Bannon in June, 2021 adding, “and we were able to stop every one of them.”

Texas’ 38 electoral votes were crucial to Trump even getting close to beating Biden, and if heavily Democratic Harris County/Houston had been able to easily vote in large numbers — it was even less safe to vote during a pandemic in a high-population-density city like Houston than in rural Texas — Republicans would be toast.

So he essentially denied them an opportunity to vote without exposing themselves to a deadly disease that ultimately killed over 1 million Americans.

“If you want to vote in Houston,” Paxton essentially said, “you’re going to have to expose yourself to Covid.”

As Paxton pointed out to Bannon:

“Had we not done that, we would have been in the very same situation — we would’ve been on Election Day, I was watching on election night and I knew, when I saw what was happening in these other states [that did expand mail-in voting for the pandemic], that that would’ve been Texas. We would’ve been in the same boat. We would’ve been one of those battleground states that they were counting votes in Harris County for three days and Donald Trump would’ve lost the election.”

This kind of massive and morally reprehensible voter suppression is pretty much limited to Republican-controlled states. It’s their latest strategy for holding power.

In contrast to Texas (60.4% voter turnout), I live in the easiest state in the union to vote: Oregon (75.5% voter turnout).

For over a quarter-century, voting in Oregon has been conducted entirely by mail. There are polling places in a few government buildings for disabled people, but otherwise everybody gets their ballot in the mail six weeks or so before the election and can send them back in an enclosed, postage-paid envelope right up to and including on election day.

From Minnesota (79.9% turnout) to Maryland (71.1% turnout), Democratic-controlled states that make it easy to vote and don’t throw up obstructions to voting by mail generally have the highest turnout.

Colorado, Oregon, Washington state, Hawaii, and Utah conduct their elections entirely by mail. By contrast, Oklahoma (54.9% turnout), Arkansas (56% turnout), West Virginia (57.5% turnout) and Tennessee (59.8% turnout) all throw up obstacles to registering to vote and voting by mail, and thus have low voter turnout.

In the week or three after our ballot arrives in the mail, Louise and I find the time to sit down at the dining room table with a laptop and look up all the obscure races that used to confound us when we had to vote in person and couldn’t bring anything into the booth with us.

Voting for judges, ballot measures, city and county races, etc. that once involved wild guesses are now thoughtful and specific: democracy in Oregon is strengthened by every voter having this same ability.

And throughout those two-plus decades that Oregonians have voted entirely by mail, there hasn’t been a single credible claim of consequential, election-altering voter fraud. It’s a phrase that only makes the local newspapers when Republicans in some other state are using it to justify blocking people from registering or voting.

Using Donald Trump’s “stolen election” lies as the basis for their actions, legislators in every Republican-controlled state in the nation have made it harder to vote over the past few years. States under Democratic control, on the other hand, have uniformly made it more convenient to vote.

With the exception of voting-obsessed first-in-the-nation New Hampshire, all of the top-10 voter turnout states are controlled by Democrats.

This is no way to run a democracy: the right to vote should not be a partisan issue.

America needs national voting standards, and the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution offers a basis for them. Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution says:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government....”

The Framers of the Constitution were clear about the importance of that clause; it was proposed by Pennsylvania’s James Wilson at the Constitutional Convention on July 18, 1787 and almost the entire day was spent debating it.

It’s an amazing sentence, that could be as sweeping in its power as the Commerce Clause (which JFK and LBJ used to force integration of the South) but has never been used in any meaningful way since it was written on that hot summer day in 1787.

The first time the “Guarantee Clause” came before the Supreme Court, slavery was the law of the land and Chief Justice Roger Taney, a slaveholder himself, was determined to keep it that way by bottling up the Clause’s power under the rubric of states’ rights.

Seven years before he tried to cement slavery into the law of every state in the union with his Dred Scott decision, Taney ruled in Luther v Borden (1849) that the Supreme Court should never be allowed to interfere with “state’s rights” on the basis of the Guarantee Clause.

“Under this article of the Constitution,” Taney wrote, “it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a state.”

In other words, Taney said: The definition of what a ‘Republican Form of Government’ actually means isn’t yet laid out in the law or previous interpretations of the Constitution: therefore, it’s politics. And politics is the province of Congress, not the Supreme Court, which must limit itself to law.

On that foundation, later Supreme Courts repeated Taney’s pro-slavery “states’ rights” assertion that the question was political and not one to be decided by the courts: instead, it was up to the politicians in Congress if they were going to “guarantee a Republican Form of Government” to — or within — any particular state at any point in the future.

Taney was quoted “lucidly and cogently” in Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v Oregon (1912) and Chief Justice John Roberts noted in 2019 that, “This Court has several times concluded that the Guarantee Clause does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim.”

Thus, to this day, it’s up to Congress, not the Court, to decide what a “Republican Form of Government” is and how Congress will guarantee it to and/or within every state.

Which brings us to today, and how Congress can use that clause to end partisan gerrymanders, dial back the power of money in politics, and guarantee the right of every American citizen to vote without undue difficulty.

Back in 2021, Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski joined with Senators Kaine, King, Merkley, Padilla, Tester, and Warnock to propose the Freedom To Vote Act.

The opening of the Act laid it’s goals out clearly:

“Congress also finds that it has both the authority and responsibility, as the legislative body for the United States, to fulfill the promise of article IV, section 4, of the Constitution, which states: ‘The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a “Republican Form of Government.”’” [emphasis added]

The proposed law even notes as justification for its existence how the Supreme Court has dropped — or laid down — the ball and therefore Congress must pick it up:

“Congress finds that its authority and responsibility to enforce the Guarantee Clause is clear given that Federal courts have not enforced this clause because they understood that its enforcement is committed to Congress by the Constitution.”

The Freedom To Vote Act would have ensured a “Republican Form of Government” in America and undone 50 years of obstacles Republicans have placed in front of voters. It included:

— Automatic voter registration and online registration for 16 year olds who will be 18 and thus eligible to vote in the next election
— Same day voter registration nationwide
— An end to partisan gerrymandering
— Limits on campaign contributions to a maximum of $10,000
— Criminalization of “pass through” groups to get around campaign finance laws
— A requirement by all corporations to fully and rapidly disclose all election spending over $10,000
— Making all websites (like Facebook) with more than 50 million users create a publicly available and publicly searchable archive of political ads
— Brings web-based election expenditures under the same disclosure rules as TV
— Makes it a federal crime to prevent a qualified person from registering to vote
— Requires 14 consecutive days for early voting, at least 10 hours each day
— Requires easy access to polling places for rural and college campus voters, and easy access to voting for all voters by public transportation
— Guarantees that all voters, nationwide, can vote by mail with no excuses necessary
— Guarantees that all voters can put themselves on a permanent vote-by-mail list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail
— Requires states to give voters the ability to track their mail-in ballots to be sure they’re counted or contest any challenge to their ballot
— Forbids states from forcing mail-in voters to have their ballots witnessed, notarized, or jump through other onerous hoops
— Requires secured and clearly labeled ballot drop boxes in all jurisdictions
— Requires the Post Office to process all ballots on the day they’re dropped off and without postage
— Requires states to keep voting lines shorter than 30 minutes in all cases and places
— Allows people waiting in line to vote to receive food or water from others
— Gives the right to vote to all felons who have served their sentences, in all states
— Prohibits voter “caging” where failure to return a postcard gets you purged
— Prohibits states from deleting voters from the rolls because they haven’t recently voted
— Empowers voters to sue in federal court any state or local officials who interfere with their right to vote
— Criminalizes intimidating, threatening, or coercing any election official or election worker
— Requires federal prosecution of anybody who tries to harm or undermine public officials by doxxing the personal information of an election worker or their immediate family
— Makes it a federal crime to publish or distribute false information about elections (when, where, etc.)
— Increases federal penalties for voter intimidation or otherwise interfering with our absolute right to vote
— Keeps partisan “poll watchers” at least 8 feet from voters in all circumstances, including while voting
— Requires paper ballots in all cases and all elections (there are exceptions for disabled voters)
— Requires post-election audits
— Provides criminal penalties for any candidate or campaign that fails to fully and immediately report any interactions with foreign governments
— Gives lower income individuals $25 they can use to give to candidates in $5 or more increments.

The legislation died from a Republican filibuster in the Senate in 2022, but if Democrats and Republicans who actually believe in democracy can gain a large enough majority in the upcoming elections this November and next, it should be pushed to the front of the line of new legislation.

Republicans know the only way they can continue to hold onto national power — and even keep their control over states like Texas, Georgia, and Florida — is by making it difficult to register and vote, by criminalizing voter registration drives, and by arresting and parading before TV cameras Black former felons who unwittingly voted.

There are limits to their cynical game, though, and the more clearly Americans realize how a process that should be painless and convenient, including vote-by-mail — as it is here in Oregon and in many other advanced democracies around the world — the sooner we can achieve that “more perfect union” the Founders set as our national aspiration.

'Mean, vicious, malignant, hateful': Tucker Carlson’s counterpart recalls their forgotten C-SPAN segment

The young journalist looked a bit tired in his tan sport coat and striped bow tie.

It was early on a Saturday, after all — the 8 a.m. hour on New Year's Eve eve of 1995 — and he spoke in soft, sometimes halting tones about trimming government and encouraging tax cuts. He praised the Washington Post's watchdog reporting. He waxed philosophical about legislative processes in a fashion fit for a history professor.

"The founders didn't want, and I don't think we want, any bill or law or idea to breeze through Congress without a vigorous, and for that reason, grubby, debate," then-Weekly Standard staff writer Tucker Carlson told C-SPAN's "Saturday Journal" host Lew Ketcham. "That is the way the system should, and does work."

So it went. No yelling or cursing. No demonizing or demagoguing. When a chipper caller from Salt Lake City mistakenly referred to liberal magazine "Mother Jones" as "Mother Goose" while asking a question about corporate welfare, the malapropism caused 26-year-old Carlson to visibly swallow a sheepish smile.

Observed through the lens of now, the long-forgotten interview and call-in segment — as of today, the online clip of Carlson's C-SPAN debut has just 624 views during the past 27 1/2 years — is preposterous.

The Carlson of 2023 ranks among the most polarizing men in America, perhaps second only to former President Donald Trump — lionized by millions of conservatives for his bombastic Fox News broadcasts that detractors describe as a cesspool of racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. Carlson's anti-vaccine preaching, election conspiracy-promoting, Jan. 6 insurrection-denying shows were also huge business for Fox News — until the network fired him last month amid numerous controversies, including a discrimination lawsuit and revelations of racist text messages.

"I had no idea how evil he would turn out to be. No idea," author and journalist William Saletan, then a Mother Jones reporter who shared the C-SPAN studio with Carlson that morning, recalled to Raw Story. "And I don't think anything in that conversation prepared me for that."

William Saletan (l), Tucker Carlson (c) and C-SPAN host Lew Ketcham (r) appear on "Saturday Journal" the morning of Dec. 30, 1995.

Carlson's first C-SPAN interview "was notable for not being notable," Saletan said. "He didn't say anything that that was anything off the kind of standard path for what a mid-1990s conservative magazine writer might say about policy or politics."

So what happened to Carlson during the three ensuing decades, as he hopscotched his way from CNN to PBS to MSNBC to the Daily Caller to Fox News?

Saletan grew biblical.

"I'm kind of an Old Testament guy. I think that nobody makes you evil. You just are. And I'm sorry to say that," he said. "But ... I think somebody like him, he had to have had a core of vice, of viciousness, that he either disguised from others, from himself, from his audience. Maybe he suppressed it because you just couldn't say those kind of things out loud and have a career. But as soon as he could have a career and say those things, he started saying them."

Saletan continued: "Anyone watching him today, there's no way to describe that objectively other than mean, vicious, malignant, hateful. He just loves to humiliate people. He's like the kid in grade school who would find anything that he could pick on about you. And if it was your ethnicity, or your religion, that's what he would choose. That's the way he functions. He's a child. He's just absolutely a mean child with an adult job. He probably he had that in him all along."

Carlson could not be reached for comment. But in a video he posted on Twitter after his firing from Fox News, Carlson held court about the concept of truth.

"When honest people say what's true, calmly and without embarrassment, they become powerful. At the same time, the liars, who have been trying to silence them, shrink and they become weaker. That's the iron law of the universe. True things prevail. Where can you still find Americans saying true things? There aren’t many places left, but there are some. And that’s enough. As long as you can hear the words, there is hope."

Carlson also bemoaned how "undeniably big topics" facing the nation — war, civil liberties, science, demographic changes, corporate power, natural resources — are no longer discussed.

"When was the last time you've heard a legitimate debate about any of those issues? It's been a long time," Carlson said. "Debates like that are not permitted in American media."

Carlson, who last appeared on a C-SPAN-produced program in 2018, must've not checked the network's policy- and issue-heavy schedule lately.

What does Saletan, now a writer with The Bulwark, believe Carlson will do next with himself?

"If he thinks it was all a game, he'll probably sit there and collect his severance or whatever he got from Fox," Saletan said. "On the other hand, if he's sincere about this stuff, he might start his own media operation and say, what the hell? I don't have to answer to Rupert Murdoch or corporate executives any more. So I'm going to talk all the time about how the Muslims and the Mexicans are taking over our country."

Deepfake democracy: How AI is bamboozling Congress and threatening the 2024 election

WASHINGTON — America’s in the midst of its first AI-fueled election. Duping voters in 2024 — a year where “deepfakes” are expected to supplant our current meme-driven political unreality — will be easier than ever.

Bogus but hyper-realistic videos of Donald Trump secretly plotting with Russian President Vladimir Putin or President Joe Biden in a secret White House confab with antifa activists? Entirely fake speeches delivered by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) or Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)?

All possible now. Just watch the wouldn’t-have-been-possible-in-2020 deepfake video starring a computer generated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s depicted as desperately trying to convince his colleagues in “The Office” that he’s not wearing women’s clothes. Donald Trump Jr. is among the people who've shared it on social media in recent days.

Among the most unprepared for AI-infused election shenanigans: members of Congress themselves.

“I haven't heard it talked about here,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told Raw Story when asked about deepfakes and AI impacting Election 2024.

It’s not that the the Capitol isn’t buzzing with AI regulatory chatter since OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified before lawmakerslast Tuesday — including telling Hawley that even he is “nervous” about large language learning platforms, such as his company’s ChatGPT, being used to manipulate voters. The problem: this was news to many at the Capitol.

That’s why experts are nervous, too, especially since AI technology is evolving at warp speed.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman: "If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong."youtu.be

“Congress should have been proactive yesterday — decades ago,” Woodrow Hartzog, professor of Law at Boston University, told Raw Story.

Congress has a ton of catching up to do, mainly because U.S. policymakers — at the behest of Silicon Valley’steams of Washington lobbyists — have dithered for years in writing rules for the digital road, more or less allowing tech companies to police themselves.

“At the very least, it needs to think about the fact that this is not just a technology and deepfakes problem, that the problem of deepfakes in our democracy is rooted in significantly broader structural concerns around tech accountability, generally, mixed with our laws surrounding privacy, surveillance, free expression, copyright law, equality and anti-discrimination,” Hartzog continued. “All of those seemingly disparate areas — and the cracks that have been growing in our protections around them — are part of this story.”

How dangerous, really?

Artificial intelligence offers great promise of taking humanity to new technological heights.

But the ability to create increasingly realistic fake media is getting easier by the nanosecond, too. What formerly required specialized expertise — not to mention days and weeks worth of time; thus dedication — only to concoct clunky deepfakes is now available to all. The democratization of fakes has many experts freaked out.

It’s easy to see how AI-based deceptions, propaganda and scams could damage an election’s status as truly free and fair, even if just a small fraction of voters are affected.

Consider that the 2016 election was decided by some 80,000 votes across three states. Countless bots and Russian intelligence officers involved themselves (if Senate Republicans are to be believed). Campaign operatives — domestic and foreign, and as bad as they can be — have nothing on AI’s powers (if its creators are to be believed). Especially when combined with today’s always-improving deepfake technology, the ability to dupe is almost easy.

“Think about this as nuclear technology,” Siwei Lyu, a SUNY Empire Innovation Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, told Raw Story. “Right now, instead of just the U.S. government and a few governments in the world knowing the techniques for making atomic bombs, like everybody now can have a toolkit off of Amazon to make their own atomic bombs. How dangerous that could be, right?”

Lyu continued: “Of course, somebody may use that as a generator to power up my house and then I don't need to be on the electricity grid anymore, but there are people for sure who will misuse it — and those are the things we have very little control over. So that's really where the problem is.”

The fear for Election 2024 isn’t, necessarily, one big, earth-altering digital atomic explosion; the fear is dozens, hundreds or even thousands of personal smart bombs — polished, powered and propelled by generative AI — being quietly dropped on susceptible-to-vulnerable populations in swing states.

They might originate from domestic sources: say, unscrupulous super PACs or lone-wolf political agitators unconcerned about the nation’s largely antiquated election laws and regulations that, in some cases, haven’t been updated since the dawn of the World Wide Web. If that.

Worse, they could come from foreign actors — think Russia, or perhaps Iran and North Korea — who’ve already demonstrated an insatiable appetite for sowing chaos in U.S. elections.

“The makers of deepfakes will create those fake media to reinforce, strengthen your belief, and then the recommendation algorithm will actually push that to you as a user so you will start to see more of this stuff,” Lyu said.

This will all be guided by the private data of millions of Americans, which Silicon Valley firms already have access to because of congressional inaction. When fed into generative AI platforms like ChatGPT the algorithmic loop of fear-drenched, truthy sounding falsehoods and fakes could prove infinite.

'Got to move fast'

Back on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now a part of bipartisan negotiations – along with Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Todd Young (R-IN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) – focused on legislating artificial intelligence.

“We can’t move so fast that we do flawed legislation, but there is no time for waste, or delay, or sitting back,” Schumer told his colleagues on the Senate floor after Altman testified. “We've got to move fast."

There’s only a short window to act, because generative AI is becoming more ubiquitous – more than 100 million people have already signed up for ChatGPT alone.

“And so while it is important for Congress to act, I hope that they realize that they can't just pass one anti-deepfake law of 2023 and dust their hands and call it a day, because this problem is one that is significantly larger than just a few algorithmic tools,” Hartzog, the BU law professor and co-author of Breached: Why Data Security Law Fails and How to Improve It, told Raw Story. “It's fundamental to our whole sort of media information distribution networks and free expression and consumer protection laws.”

Other lawmakers don’t feel the same pressure. Many assume America’s safer than other nations when it comes to AI-powered deepfakes.

“I think in a more advanced ecosystem, like our new system, it's probably easier for campaigns to jump on it pretty quickly and knock it down. I think in the developing world it could start riots and civil wars,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently told Raw Story.

Others in Congress – including party leaders – think the government is largely helpless when it comes to preventing the deepfake-ification of American elections.

“All we can do is tell the truth and appeal to the public not to believe everything they hear and see,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate majority whip, told Raw Story.

While 2020 was the "alternative fact” election, 2024 is primed to be the alternative reality election. “Fake news” isn’t just a bumper sticker anymore; it’s now reality.

“We’re in it,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Raw Story, “and AI is making it exponentially easier to create a false narrative, to project that false narrative worldwide, to make the false narrative believable by creating much more detailed and thorough content and it will be very hard to take something that’s disseminated worldwide and knock it down as false.”

Gillibrand has been calling for the creation of a new federal Data Protection Agency for years now, arguing the Federal Trade Commission is toothless when it comes to regulating big tech. The Federal Election Commission, meanwhile, often takes years to reach any agreement on even the most modest updates to its political advertising regulations.

“I think we have to keep focusing on the truth and making sure we have levers of government and a legal system to create accountability and oversight to make sure the truth is protected,” Gillibrand said.

Legislating "truth" in a post-truth political universe may prove impossible, but we really won’t know until the dust settles after Election 2024. That’s why many lawmakers, experts and privacy advocates are bracing for an election like no other in U.S. history.

“Every anti-democratic trick in the book will be played in 2024. No doubt,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) – a Trump impeachment manager and member of the select Jan. 6 committee – recently told Raw Story. “The guy dines with racists and anti-Semites, Trump seems determined to prove that he can do anything he wants, including shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and his cult following will not budge. So this is where we are in the 21st century.”

QAnon Shaman: I’m 'reinforced' in the views that led me to January 6th

The man who attained national notoriety as the face of the January 6 Capitol riot has emerged from prison with his conspiratorial views “reinforced. ...If anything, they're stronger than they were."

The QAnon Shaman, whose real name is Jacob Chansley but who now wants to be known as Jake Angeli, walked out of an Arizona halfway house Thursday after being sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in the incitement. His image as he strutted through the Capitol bare-chested, his face smeared with red, white and blue paint and his head and shoulders draped in a fur, bison-horned headdress, became world famous.

Hours after his release, he told Raw Story in an exclusive interview that he continues to love and support Donald Trump – and he isn't ruling out a political career of his own.

Angeli, 35, pleaded guilty on November 17, 2021, to felony obstruction of an official proceeding. He served 29 months of his sentence.

He spoke one-on-one with Raw Story via Zoom – though he was told by his lawyer not to respond to questions about the events of January 6.

His release occurred just hours before Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes received an 18-year sentence from U.S. Judge Amit Mehta for seditious conspiracy in connection with the attack on the Capitol. At his sentencing, Rhodes continued to claim to the judge that he was a “political prisoner.”

In the Raw Story interview, Angeli was asked if he believed he was the same – or if prison had mellowed his views.

"That's an interesting question," Angeli said. "Let me put it this way: My belief that the government and the media are corrupt has only been reinforced."

He added: "It just reinforced them. If anything, they're stronger than they were."

So, did Angeli, who sat in former Vice President Mike Pence's Senate chair and left him a threatening note, but who was not charged with acts of violence, feel that he fell into a different category than the Oath Keepers? Or did he consider them brothers-in-arms?

"I feel compassion and sympathy for them because I try to remain as objective as possible in every instance and I try to see things from everybody's perspective," he said. "I can see why they consider themselves whatever it is. I understand, that doesn't mean I agree. But I also understand positions on the left that I don't agree with."

Angeli said he continues to back Trump.

"I love Donald Trump," he said. "I respect that man and he has my support. But that doesn't mean that I don't critique his policies or the things that he says. I mean, this is America, you know, we're allowed to have an opinion."

"I don't even think he's a politician," Angeli added. "I think he's a man who – especially because the media had such a strong and intense campaign against him – had more of a following than if they would have just gotten behind him or just left him alone. And it also illustrated through his plight that anybody that isn't uniparty Washington DC establishment is going to be vilified and destroyed by the system that profits from our tax dollars and proxy foreign wars."

But asked if he'd do it all again, if he thought it was in support of Trump, he declined to answer. "There's too much there and we don't have time to cover it," he said. "It's a loaded question."

Angeli, who lives in Arizona, similarly doubled down in his support for former TV anchor Kari Lake, who has refused to accept her loss last November to Governor Katie Hobbs. Lake’s claims of election fraud have been repeatedly rejected by the courts.

But Angeli said, "Of course" Lake was the real winner in the election. He reiterated her claims that the election was fraudulent.

"Absolutely. Kari Lake has my full support. I love that woman and everything she's done for Arizona," he said.

Angeli apparently plans to stay involved in the political world in some manner. "He is set to speak Sunday at a welcome-home celebration at a Scottsdale church, the Arizona Republic reported. He has a website offering consultations with him for $500, and merchandise that features his iconic image on reusable water bottles, phone cases and apparel," the report said.

Raw Story asked Angeli if he was considering a run for office.

"People have asked me that before," he responded. "The only way that I would ever do that is if there was such a strong demand for it."

So, was that a yes?

"I wouldn't rule it out, but in all honesty, politics is so dang dirty, and Washington is so frickin’ filthy and politics, even here in Arizona, is so corrupt," Angeli said. "You get in there all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and then a man in a suit with a gun in one hand and maybe a briefcase in the other says, 'Look, this is how it works, son.'"

Angeli said he continues to maintain what he terms "the practice of shamanism." Asked if he embraced the title of "Shaman," he said: "I am a shamanic practitioner. Anybody that calls themselves a shaman most likely isn't one. Shaman is actually a Mongolian or Siberian term, and it means 'the one who knows.'"

"But every culture has shamanism at the roots. It's like a medicine man or medicine woman – 'witch doctor' is the derogatory term. It's about getting in touch and in tune with nature, about getting in touch and in tune with the spirit world and God. It's about experiences. It's about ascension. It's about enlightenment. It's about altered states of consciousness to gain a larger broader view of this world and the spirit world simultaneously."

"So, the shaman has their foot in one world, the spirit world, and the other foot in the actual physical world. And they act like a medium between these two worlds for the people that per se don't have the courage to do what the shaman does."

Does that make it a cult?

"Usually, cults are led by some sort of a charismatic and egocentric leader. Shamanism is not a cult at all. It's actually the antithesis of that."

Of his outfit, Angeli said, "I've heard a lot of people call it a costume. It's regalia on the level of priestly robes in the shamanic tradition."

The moniker QAnon Shaman, he said, wasn't some he came up with. Instead it was given to him by the Sandy Hook conspiracist Alex Jones. "Then the media just took off with it and had the audacity to proclaim that I gave myself that title without any proof whatsoever for their claims."

"I neither embrace nor reject the title. ... If a mystical shamanic name is necessary, I use the name 'Yellowstone Wolf.' But there are those who call me America's Shaman and I like that name much more than Qanon Shaman. The reason being the stigma that has been created in the media for that name and the persona they attached to it are in no way who I am or the persona I represent. They created a straw man to use in their propaganda machine, a straw man that they could use to create a shock and awe campaign to further their psychological, social and political agenda."

Angeli declined to discuss his current views on Qanon, saying it was "far too nuanced and complex to comment on right now."

But he did say: "I want to be very clear. I am a libertarian. I'm not a Republican, I'm not a Democrat. That's very important. I'm a Libertarian who believes in the Constitution and I firmly believe in the idea that we are a republic, not a democracy."

He added, "I'm of the belief that we can no longer trust institutions. I don't care what they are. We have to learn to stop trusting the wrong people or the wrong institutions to do the right thing. And we have to start trusting individuals who have proven over the years that they are willing to undergo great personal sacrifice to get the truth to the people."

Given the opportunity to suggest a headline for a story about himself, Angeli suggested: "Jake Angeli. He's not what you think."

Can’t stop, won’t stop: Another congressman violates STOCK Act

A dozen lawmakers have now violated a federal conflicts-of-interest and financial disclosure law in 2023 — the latest a Republican representative from Nebraska, according to a Raw Story analysis of congressional financial documents.

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) was more than a year late disclosing some of his wife’s purchases of stock in CarterBaldwin, an executive search firm, according to a new congressional financial disclosure.

By law, Smith had 45 days to publicly report his wife’s purchases, all made between January 2022 and February 2023 and together valued between $3,003 and $45,000. (Federal lawmakers are only required to disclose the value of such stock purchases in broad ranges.)

“Representative Smith became aware of a potential oversight while filing his financial disclosures on May 15,” said Tiffany Haverly, a spokesperson for Smith. “The transactions not reported were spouse transactions related to her employment, which is not a publicly traded company. He does not own any publicly traded stocks and immediately contacted the House Ethics Committee to notify them of the potential oversight and seek additional guidance.”

Smith paid the standard $200 fee for filing a late disclosure, Haverly told Raw Story.

“He quickly took action and filed all necessary disclosures on May 23. He also sent payment to the Treasury to cover any late fees that may be associated with the inadvertent late filing of these transaction reports while they are being reviewed,” Haverly said in a statement. “The congressman regrets the error, is committed to transparency, and will report these transactions in accordance with the law moving forward.”

Continued violations

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 requires members of Congress — within 45 days — to report any individual stock, bond, Treasury security or cryptocurrency transactions they, their spouses or dependent children conduct.

But dozens have failed to comply. During the 117th Congress from 2021 to 2022, at least 78 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike — were found to have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to a tally maintained by Insider.

Including Smith, Raw Story has identified nine members of Congress who violated the STOCK Act in the month of May alone, and 12 overall this year.

Six representatives failing to report up to $376,280 in stock transactions last week were Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who last year led Democratic House leadership’s self-aborted effort to ban congressional stock trading, also violated the STOCK Act last week with up to $265,000 in late financial disclosures, Raw Story reported.

The week before Raw Story broke the news that Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) was late in disclosing up to $5 million in U.S. Treasury note purchases.

Earlier this year, Raw Story reported other STOCK Act violations, breaking the news that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) failed to properly disclose that his wife sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in gaming company Activision Blizzard in September 2022 and purchased up to $15,000 worth of stock in Amazon.com in August 2022.

Raw Story reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was several days late disclosing that he had sold personal stock in an energy company and a pair of federal defense contractors. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also violated the STOCK Act in March with a late disclosure.

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) violated the STOCK Act when he was late disclosing three of his spouse's stock purchases. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congressional stock ban efforts

The ongoing violations come at a time when a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced several similar bills aimed at banning congressional stock trading.

The most recent bill to be introduced this session — the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act — is co-sponsored in part by political rivals in Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Other materially similar bills include the Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act, the TRUST in Congress Act and the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act.

The STOCK Act was passed by Congress in 2012 to prevent insider trading, promote transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among federal lawmakers and other government officials.

In the decade since, the push for a total ban on lawmakers trading stocks while in office gained but then lost momentum last year when the Democratic-led House, then led by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, decided not to conduct a hearing on any of stock-ban bills and never brought it to the House floor for a vote.

News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interests among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal hasreported.

The Wall Street Journal won a 2023 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into financial conflicts among officials who work in federal agencies while Insider won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for its reporting on congressional financial conflicts.

Stewart Rhodes’ son fears Trump or DeSantis will pardon his father

Dakota Adams, eldest son of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, was somewhat disappointed with the 18-year prison sentence a federal judge imposed Thursday on his convicted seditionist father.

Adams considers it too short.

“I was hoping for better than 20 (years), but it still means he's going to die in prison unless he's pardoned, and that's good enough for me," Adams said in an exclusive interview with Raw Story.

Therein lies the rub: unless he’s pardoned.

That’s part of why Adams, 26, said the sentence, for seditious conspiracy at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, did not represent "closure" for him. Prosecutors asked for 25 years.

“I'm no longer in an emotional landscape where I'm thinking about having a relationship with Stewart, where terms like 'closure' would apply,” he said. “Basically, it's just the threat that Stewart presents has been decreased where the only hurdle remaining is if someone insane wins the presidential election and pardons him for political points."

At a CNN town hall earlier this month, former President Donald Trump, who is running for re-election in 2024 amid his numerous legal troubles, mused about pardoning perpetrators of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

“I am inclined to pardon many of them,” Trump said, adding that he would take up the issue early in another potential presidency. “I can’t say for every single one, because a couple of them, probably they got out of control.”

Newly minted Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis — one of several Republicans now vying to run against presumptive 2024 Democratic nominee President Joe Biden in next year's general election — also weighed in on pardoning people convicted of crimes connected to the January 6 attack.

“On day one, I will have folks that will get together and look at all these cases, people who are victims of weaponization or political targeting, and we will be aggressive in issuing pardons,” DeSantis said Thursday on a podcast.

Speaking to the court before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta announced the sentence, Rhodes said he was a “political prisoner.” The judge retorted, “You’re not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes. You’re here because of your actions.”

Adams, who wrote in Raw Story about the process of extracting himself from Rhodes’ far-right paranoia, said he’s concerned about DeSantis who, at age 44, is more than three decades younger than Trump.

"DeSantis has been exhibiting all the characteristics of a wanna-be strongman dictator, in his actions as governor of Florida,” Adams said. “And I see inside the mainstream GOP a slow-moving effort to rig the presidential election permanently."

By that, he said he meant gerrymandering and voter suppression, abetted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Speaking to the court Thursday, Rhodes compared himself to Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

"Stewart is completely obsessed with 'The Gulag Archipelago,'” Adams said of Solzhenitsyn’s book, which described forced labor and show trials in the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. “He quoted Solzhenitsyn all the time. It was one of his favorite people to pull quotes from. I'm not convinced he actually read 'The Gulag Archipelago,' cover to cover, instead of the cursory reading you do to kind of 'front,' like you've really absorbed the work."

Rhodes also told the court Thursday that he felt like the protagonist in Franz Kafka’s 'The Trial,' an early 20th-century work that depicted a character who was arrested without knowing the charge.

"That's a really funny comparison because Stewart absolutely knows what he's on trial for,” Adams said. “It's never been unclear. He's certainly delusional enough to see himself as the accused in The Trial."

Earlier this week, Adams’ mother, Tasha, was officially divorced from Rhodes. Raw Story exclusively obtained her 2018 affidavit in which she alleged depraved and paranoid behavior by her then-husband, including beating his children and emotionally abusing them. The court this week unsealed the affidavit and other documents in the case.

Dakota Adams said that reading that Raw Story article brought back horrific memories.

"I've been in therapy for over a year now and I'm exorcizing a lot of ghosts by writing about my childhood,” Adams said. “It is nice that there are finally consequences (for Rhodes), but mostly it's the cold calculation that Stewart is no longer a potential short-term threat, roaming loose in the world and trying to rebuild his private army."

'Inherently cowardly': Stewart Rhodes’ son explains why he rejected his seditious father

Editor's note: Judge Amit Mehta today sentenced Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in federal prison following Rhodes' conviction last year of seditious conspiracy and other charges in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. This commentary, written by Rhodes' son, Dakota Adams, originally appeared in Raw Story on July 12, 2022.

My name is Dakota Adams.

Unfortunately, I am Oath Keeper Stewart Rhodes’ son. And unfortunately for both of us, I may be relevant to you.

It is now undeniable that radicalization and the draw of right-wing extremist thought is a significant problem facing the nation, perhaps a fatal crisis, and in this context, there's a lot of interest in the stories of people who came back from the right-wing fringe. I have only my niche experience to offer from a very odd life. But I've been told that this might be valuable to those interested in how I went from a teenage militiaman who believed in Pizzagate to casting off my birth name of Dakota Stewart Rhodes and joining BLM and pro-choice protests.

If tracing the stumbling, fumbling path to independent thought taken by the son of an insurrectionist militia leader contains a valuable lesson, I have a responsibility to show you all. If there's a chance my story will be of any help to millions of people who have lost family and friends to right-wing cult behavior, then I have an obligation to tell it.

So, this is how I left the Far Right.

To begin with, I wasn't always what most people think of when they picture the current crop of Alt Rite frat bros and angry bitter Incels (I was never that bitter). My political life started in the Libertarian Right explosion that was the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, caught as a child in the wake of my father's ambition, even before Oath Keepers, as he made a name for himself as a campaign organizer. Stewart asserted authority by banking off his law degree, military background, and former staff position at the office of Paul himself.

I gained political consciousness attending sign-making parties with all the weirdos and misfits who felt out of place in the mainstream GOP, even some crossover democrats from the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but still undeniably steeped in right-wing ideology. There was something that would echo later in a much worse year, the belief that only bringing in an outsider candidate, even a crazy one, could fix the system.

Stewart Rhodes (Photo by Nicholas Kamm for AFP)

Implicit in everything was the sense that even the GOP, with its authoritarian tendencies and bloodthirsty enthusiasm for the global war on terror, was inherently more closely aligned with 'us' enlightened souls than anyone on the left. By our ideology even Left Libertarians would inevitably bring about socialism by introducing clear tools of statism like progressive taxation, environmental protection, and dreaded death-panel Socialized Healthcare, setting off the brief half-life of all socialist government systems as they actively decayed into communism. Left Anarchists would simply skip the intermediary and go to Full Communism immediately, ironically instituting the most government-ful of all governments. Socialism, after all, is when the government does stuff, the more stuff the more socialist, with communism as its natural endpoint.

The GOP, being fervently against socialism, must therefore be on the lighter end of the government authority spectrum, despite its decades-long love affair with militarized police and the surveillance state. In events, connections, strategy, and policy, the Libertarian right would continue to align itself with big government conservatives as a holding action against democrats. More charitably, it could have been considered an attempt to convert the GOP from the inside.

Of course, Ron Paul would lose. In the ensuing panic and dissolution of the nascent Liberty Movement, my father would seize the time and place to found Oath Keepers and redirect the considerable grassroots energy that was now aimless and directionless, playing on his particular background to secure a niche. Oath Keepers would broadcast a message of hope, at least in the early years, and retain something of the emotional core of the activist outsider politics spirit that had given the Ron Paul following its animus. Under the surface, Stewart Rhodes was already playing to the fears of conservatives about the incoming Obama administration, particularly on guns, alluding to FEMA camp conspiracy theories and riding the bleak outlook of preppers and doomsdayers to success.

The sense that the Ron Paul campaign was the last best hope for avoiding economic collapse and New World Order takeover, prophesied by Survivalists nationwide for decades on end, was prevalent. Now that the last hope was shattered the die was irreversibly cast.

This, too, would reverberate later.

My own childhood politics of course grew harder and more fringe in my survivalist adolescence, as Oath Keepers transformed into Stewart's roving private army and income machine behind the veterans' org facade, but the drift into further anti-government belief wasn't quite what would set me up to fall for the Cult of Number 45 later on. Neither were the anonymous internet boards filled with outcasts and edge cases, efficiently compromised by white supremacist recruiters, the strongest influence, although the endless MAGA memes that would pour through that vector certainly made an impact. I had carried on the activist spirit of the sign parties for a while, evangelizing Ron Paul's 'real' message, the one the media kept you from hearing, and the good words of Bo Gritz and Ayn Rand to the online masses (that last with some caveats, even then).

Over time the sheer weight of depression and stress from the constant looming civil war and fall of society ground me down, and outlasting Bernie Bros in online arguments lost its luster with everything else. I spent my remaining adolescence with one foot in apocalypse training and one foot in basement-dwelling NEET-dom, burying myself in the internet to avoid having to think about The Coming End and taking shelter in web novels and anime when life became unbearable.

The Coming End ruled my life, variously called The Collapse, The Crash, the End of Days (for the religious), and sometimes in our family wryly referred to as the “a-Cop-alypse.” It was an economic crash, a nuclear war, a mass terrorist attack, a natural disaster, any event that would end civil society and reduce the United States to a war of all against all as the starving masses turned on each other, local warlords with looted military hardware rising to fill the power vacuum. All of this was of course to be engineered by nefarious forces within the government, taking advantage of a naturally occurring crisis causing one directly to create a situation so bad that most people would beg for a totalitarian rule that would restore order to the chaos.

The government faking a biological terrorist attack by a hostile nation like Iran, a ‘False Flag’ attack, to create domestic chaos and start a convenient war simultaneously was a popular scenario. The cause varied with the headlines and the times, fallout from Fukushima or a North Korean EMP attack as examples, but the belief remained concrete and it was always at most eighteen months away.

Some welcomed The Collapse as a chance to start society over again, others harbored juvenile fantasies of their survivalism paying off in social status and sexual conquest when the fall of civilization made them superior to the starving ‘nu-males,’ others simply believed in it as an inevitability to be weathered, or as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Some, like me, lived in unending fear.

I knew my family was not ready to survive a collapse, not under Stewart’s leadership.

By the time Trump became the clear front-runner in the Republican primary the end-of-days stress cycle I lived in had worn me down, leaving me primed for cult recruitment. I was beginning to lose my all-encompassing fear of the end after it had repeatedly failed to materialize, just enough to have cognitive space left for deep bitter anger. My entire life, the perceived actions of political elites and policymakers had been cause for household panic, from domestic to international events that were nonetheless evidence of the New World Order at work.

The Muslim Brotherhood in 2012s Egypt being implicated in a rocket attack on Israel was somehow blamed on shadowy NWO power brokers, working to promote war, and obviously a domino that would lead to us struggling to survive the violent US balkanization through fuzzy logic I cannot recall. Every political move large and small by The Establishment was a source of terror and despair when filtered through the paranoid lens I'd been raised with, and I'd had enough.

My belief in the end of days and sinister conspiracies had waned, but the emotional mark had not. It was a weak point that would make me vulnerable to exploitation.

I had missed many online pipelines to well-known brands of right-wing extremism at this point, largely because I was thoroughly a child of the Constitutionalist Militia Movement and indoctrinated against competing right-wing ideologies.

I'd been trained to see conspiracies and psychological warfare in every shadow, and so I'd clocked the Nazi recruiting on messageboards instantly for the manipulation it was. I'd been raised in a cult of fanatical American Exceptionalism, and genuinely believed that the Constitutional Militia Movement was an anti-racist force unfairly maligned by liberal media (until, years down the line, I didn't). The general racism of the unmoderated dark corners of the internet washed over me with no effect except warping my sense of humor.

I somehow ended up avoiding misogyny despite all efforts by my father and his circle. So, when early GamerGate turned from YouTubers like TotalBiscuit actually talking about ethical games journalism to become a firestorm of entitled sexually frustrated hatred, I stepped off the bandwagon.

By the time Trump hit the campaign trail, I had finally burnt out enough on Militia Ideology and The Coming End to be open to more mainstream populist politics. In my increasing doubts about whether The Collapse was really ever coming and the Movement as a whole, I had lost the ideological core of my early life. Without fervent belief in the apocalypse and the militia role in it, I had nothing to anchor myself to except a vague emotional idea of American Patriotism, I was finally one of Steve Bannon's “rootless white males” and ready to be swept up in the next vast current.

Like a lot of people, for many different reasons, I felt robbed of the generally secure middle-class life that pop culture had implicitly promised. In the propaganda storm around Trump, I saw a glimmer of hope that things might be fixed, and certainly a chance to strike back at the Establishment that I blamed for the awful state of the country and my life.

I didn't really see Trump as a savior, I saw him as the Bigly-est brick the American people could pick up and throw through the White House windows. After a lifetime of fearing the machinations of political machines too vast to comprehend, I saw their churning efforts terminate in the likes of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, feeling simultaneously that this end state could not possibly be the work of a rational unified conspiracy and thoroughly fucking insulted. So I would pick Trump's ugly bulbous head up on election day and hurl the bastard as far as I could, to demonstrate how thoroughly done We the People were with a process that consistently returned the blandest of the worst choices.

This was the first step in the memes getting to my psyche, the rabid Trump enthusiasm overriding my initial skepticism of Trump on Constitutionalist grounds as my anger at the "Establishment" made it easy to get swept along with the crowd.

I saw the early beta versions of QAnon come and go, numerous online handles claiming to be anonymous insiders from the Secret Service, FBI, and NSA leaking big news about upcoming arrests and secret espionage operations. Stewart bought into some, in particular a claim that the Clinton server contained mass amounts of damning information that could cause societal instability and foreign wars if released and so had to be handled carefully. In the midst of this, the Q handle would emerge with its now distinctive style of vague allusions and almost Socratic style of rhetorical questions. Q would go on to become a mass cultural phenomenon and perhaps the founding of the next American religious movement, but it failed to appeal to me or catch my interest at the time.

I was of course deaf to the many Trump scandals, largely because I was increasingly insulated in Trump fan circles that massively downplayed them or simply ignored them. I wouldn't see any of the clips of Trump blatantly lusting after his daughter, the Epstein party allegations, or the Russian mob connections for years to come. The Russia allegations, if anything drove me further into the flabby yellow arms of Cult 45. I'd imbibed enough fear of Russian soldiers in UN blue being imported to Keep the Peace in post-collapse America in my life and I was done with it. My fury at John McCain for seeming to be seeking another Cold War knew no bounds, I was absolutely through with any kind of generational struggle or conflict. I just wanted to live my life, and if the system presented me with a selection of warmongers and a single untested clown. I was going for that red nose for no other reason than to shock the carnival barker who set my choices.

There was, of course, the chance that he might be surprisingly competent and fix everything, or at least not suck too badly. As a crass reality show star, I figured that he might just host some kind of bizarre media telethon from the Oval Office for 4 years straight and let his generally competent, if corporate stooge-heavy, cabinet run the country reasonably well. All he had to do was not start a major foreign war, keep ISIS down, avoid collapsing the economy, and he could be hailed as the next Reagan by the GOP forever (I as yet had no concept of what a bad president Reagan himself had been).

In my mind, the worst case was 4 years of W Bush-esque gaffes bringing about a new golden age for Saturday Night Live parodies, before he left the White House to comfortably rule American mass media for the rest of his life.

If the economy could just not crash for a few years, if I could avoid being drafted to fight in a conflict in Ukraine that I then barely understood and largely didn't care about, I might be able to get out of the shadow of Oath Keepers and the Fatherlord and have my own life.

Through 4chan and Reddit's Trump communities, I was immersed in the Podesta email scandal, the conspiracy theories connecting Clinton lawyers to Central American pedophiles and executives for the Amber Alert system. They were entertaining, sometimes as outlandish as claims that Trump was a time traveler or had force field technology invented by Nikolai Tesla, and more and more they seemed oddly plausible. They fed the shining hope aspect of Trump’s appeal, beginning to paint every event as a move on a chess board that would bring down corrupt political conspiracies and big business. The outlandish and mundane theories existed together, interlinked, on a spectrum that allowed the reader to pick up whatever beliefs suited them and still be meshed within a generally like-minded online community. The energy and enthusiasm became intoxicating in a way I hadn’t felt since the Paul campaign.

At 18 years old, knowing that it hardly mattered in the grand scheme of the Electoral College, I cast my first-ever vote in an election for Donald J. Trump. I joked on Social Media that my vote would single-handedly swing Montana’s results and save the United States.

I was, like many Americans, glued to election night coverage and thrumming with anxiety, running to and fro between our table in a rural bar and grill on the Canadian border and the parking lot where a ghost of cell service let me check the news as votes were counted. I kept mainstream sources open in one window and 4chan's toxic Politics board in another to have one eye on the crazy people's take. I had plenty of crazy opinions in my personal life of course, but the 4chan crowd had fewer delusions of grandeur.

“What do you think,” said Stewart after confiscating my small paycheck for answering emails for Oath Keepers to panic-buy canned goods and dog food, “If we take Oath Keepers to the Capitol to act as security, will the Left use that as an opportunity for a false flag attack?”

Stewart had been obsessed with the specter of a Clinton presidency, terrified of the FBI unleashed to go after the militia leaders who had slipped away from Bundy Ranch. I was mainly concerned that Federal agents raiding our house to arrest Stewart could end with our dogs being shot. It did, however, mark one important difference from the past: Stewart was losing his mind over this month's Potential Apocalypse and I felt almost totally indifferent to the end-of-world aspect.

I had political anxiety a-plenty, sure, but I had detached myself from the cyclical fear of every headline that had ruled my life until a peak at Jade Helm '15. While Stewart fretted and plotted in insane megalomania, laboring under the self-gratifying delusion that the Clinton dynasty and Bilderberg Group were hinging their plans with bated breath on Stewart's tactical decisions, the first thread in my belief had unraveled.

The bitter thought that Stewart's decisions were putting our dogs in danger of being shot during a standoff at our home would be the beginning of the next step. My belief in The Donald had already peaked, although I did not know it.

My entanglement in Pizzagate and Clinton conspiracy theories would allow me to ignore the pointed fact that no one had been arrested as promised, but I could only ignore the advance of time for so long. This, the forever wait by the Lock Her Up contingent of Trump voters, would become what I mark as the prototype of the eternal 'two more weeks' familiar to anyone who has studied QAnon. I was not down for eternally clinging to scraps of theory and inference, and so my enthusiasm for Trump dwindled to a gray indifference while others were sucked in deeper.

The second step would take longer, a slowly dawning awareness against a backdrop of childish Tweets from the white house and ineffectual media circus leadership. This was largely because I started to see uncomfortable parallels between the way Trump ran his cabinet and the toxic mismanagement style Stewart brought to the Oath Keepers board of directors. Any similarity between my father and Trump was cause for concern, and being raging narcissists the similarities were many, since I was by now completely aware that my father was a psychopathic fraud. I'd begun planning my family's escape, a process that would take nearly two years to complete, and took on myself a world's weight of new responsibility. Online political discourse and conspiracy theory simply took a backseat.

I would jerk back to attention, however, when our country betrayed the Kurds.

Like a lot of the militia adjacent right-wing, I'd become somewhat enamored with the struggle of the Kurdish people. All the conservative American cultural notes were hit, independent mountain people with a love for democratic government and personal freedom who'd been at our side since the Iraq war and had taken the brunt of the losses in combating ISIS. I'd researched the foreign volunteer regiments and decided against buying a plane ticket after reading about one fighter getting his nose broken in a headbutt by a Pirates of the Caribbean actor, which was tracked for a Public Relations focused outfit that would take middle-aged dads from the UK and untrained American idiots. Like a militant Groucho Marx, I realized I should be wary of joining any paramilitary that would be willing to take me as a member. Still, I had become deeply emotionally entangled in their cause and believed they represented a bright light in a dark time for the world.

Over the course of a single hour-long phone call with a foreign dictator, our president was convinced to completely abandon our most faithful regional allies in the Global War on Terror in one of the worst strategic decisions made by any president in modern history. The Kurds were added (again) to our long list of local allies betrayed in conflicts from Tripoli to Laos, and permanently set the reputation of the United States as an unreliable ally and fair-weather friend. I watched dumbfounded as a state that possibly intended genocide was given free reign to roll over the people who had done all the dying to destroy the caliphate our national failures helped create, just so that Trump could get an attaboy from an autocratic strongman. Or maybe not just an attaboy, the more I looked at the situation objectively the more I saw that in every aspect Putin gained enormously. This decision had done us no good in any respect, but had many advantages for the strategic goals of Russia. Standing in the family kitchen, I remember jokingly telling my mother that I was ready to re-think all of those Russiagate allegations. It didn't feel like a joke.

Almost more worrying was the way people I knew reacted, changing their own viewpoints to stay in lockstep with Trump. Later, when Trump was trying to drum up support for a war with Iran, I would have a bizarre argument with a bartender in which we circled endlessly from her insistence that we had no part in middle eastern “tribal conflicts” and should leave well enough alone in the entire region before immediately declaring that we needed a troop presence in the middle east to keep hostile Muslim nations done before they posed a threat. No matter how many times I tried she could not see the contradiction.

After the Las Vegas shooting I would see it again, in the swirl of disinformation that included one local trying to convince me that the entire shooting had been faked because a photographer with a telescopic lens couldn't see any bullet holes in the street.

I knew people in Las Vegas who'd been there, which led to some awkward confrontations around my small town as conspiracy theory spread. In the aftermath, Trump signed a gun control bill that banned the bump stock accessory that had been used by the shooter, successfully passing more gun control in 4 years than Obama had in 8, and I watched in amazement as many of the hardcore Second Amendment fanatics I was surrounded by twisted themselves in knots to avoid conflicting with Trump's actions.

One redneck youth told me that Trump had stopped all mass shootings permanently by banning bump stocks, people with Gadsden flag plates suddenly advocated for red flag laws and even confiscating all weapons from veterans on grounds of PTSD only to stay in step with Trump.

I began to worry that there was nothing Trump could do that would shake their belief.

My increasing concern with Trump's cult status was not enough to draw me out of the right-wing completely, although I was agreeing with liberal criticisms of the administration more and more, but that shock would be coming soon enough.

The Donald continued to lose me throughout the pandemic, the well-studied absolute failure of the administration to act decisively or effectively particularly striking to a lifelong prepper who'd grown up hearing dire warnings of antibiotic-resistant plagues and weaponized viruses. Not only had the administration failed in the crisis, they'd politicized it. I watched in shock as a public health crisis was outright denied so that appropriate response could be turned into a wedge issue, and again as people I knew who had panicked the hardest at the first reports from Wuhan seemed to gradually forget that they'd ever believed in the virus at all.

All chaos and death was blamed again on the shadowy NWO, obviously out in the world sowing societal havoc with gremlin glee to create that ever-precious power vacuum. This frustrated me to no end, as someone who had followed news about the virus closely from the start. Conspiracy theory outlets that had milked the early downplaying of the outbreaks by health organizations, presenting themselves as champions of truth when governments claimed that all was well, turned to alleging that the entire pandemic had been a hoax or a cover for attacks by secret microwave weapons.

Oath Keepers would perform a similar 180. Stewart, scrambling to recover from an open letter to Trump asking for harsher Covid measures, would appear in a maskless photo op with a gym owner who refused to comply with lockdown orders in an attempt to salvage support from his base.

This was symptomatic of a larger shift in the militia movement, a sea change I'd been largely unaware of after gradually dropping out of militant circles. Oath Keepers presents an excellent case study, an unpublished open letter to Trump by Stewart Rhodes “schooled” the president on the Constitution in an adversarial tone. This letter would have marked a course forward for Oath Keepers as a less partisan watchdog organization looming over the shoulder of the Trump admin on the lookout for misbehavior, a direction that was in line with the mission statement of Oath Keepers more than armed standoffs in the desert. It was, however, just one of several strategies Stewart was evidently weighing for keeping O.K. relevant after the 2016 elections.

A perennial problem in militia and conservative activist orgs is keeping members engaged and money flowing when a Republican is in office, the threat being that many members would assume that all was now well and 'go to sleep' instead of continuing to power Oath Keepers. Taking up position as he who watches the watcher would be one legitimate path to keeping Oath Keepers in circulation as an organization.

However, going full MAGA and setting itself against the shadowy leftist threat would prove to be the path of least resistance. Many militias would make this choice, aligning unquestioningly with MAGA to stay relevant and keep the numbers up despite going against their stated antiauthoritarianism and distrust of government.

If I fully understood this at the time, the events of the BLM riots would have been less of an awful surprise.

This part is going to be hard to imagine, even after getting oriented a bit on what the inside of my younger self's brain was like, but the fact that the entire Constitutionalist militia movement did not turn out in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in 2020 was a massive shock to my entire belief system.

In 2014 Ferguson, the Oath Keepers rooftop security teams had been planning an armed march in solidarity with BLM, including the loan of AR-15s to organizers, to demonstrate that the second amendment belonged to all Americans. It never happened, Stewart blaming local O.K. leaders for dropping the ball. Stewart had given the green light to collaborate with the John Brown Gun Club, but simply never got around to answering emails from them. O.K. had even offered to join the Standing Rock protests, and been turned down in the justifiable fear of it being co-opted into another standoff circus.

The death of EMT Breonna Taylor, shot in bed during a no-knock raid on her home, had clear parallels to the 2011 shooting death of marine veteran Jose Guerena who had similarly been killed in a SWAT raid when he was given no time to recognize the intruders in his home as police and lay down his rifle. Oath Keepers had protested his death, staying the course even when every single police officer on the Oath Keepers board of directors resigned in protest to our protest and left half the national leadership seats vacant. Our media guy assembled a touching memorial video that was instrumental in early awareness of Oath Keepers when it hit the internet, sending a loud and clear message that Oath Keepers would stand up for veterans even if it meant criticizing the police. I saw no reason why the killing of a first responder should be different from the killing of a marine vet, especially when both had been drug busts that targeted not the shooting victim, but an associate under investigation. For Guerena a family member, for Breonna a spouse.

In my view, Oath Keepers and many allied militias had more history of sympathy with BLM than of being antagonistic, or at least of general ideological alignment. Oath Keepers had taken great pains to boycott events that also hosted speakers from racist groups, maintained careful separation from alt-right and Identity Europa contingents at the Berkeley protests, and once kicked Randy Weaver out of an Oath Keepers parade after he refused to renounce White Separatism. I saw the militia movement I had lived in as a force loyal to the idea of America, not an ethnic majority.

A lot of this I put down to the influence of 3% founder Mike Vanderboegh, whose life's work was forging the disparate militias into an anti-racist armed civil disobedience movement that could gain political legitimacy.

I had marched in several protests he organized in my childhood, the gun rights marches drew armed crowds and police monitoring. His talks establishing a link between gun rights and racial justice drew a handful of attendants.

According to the dogma of the Constitutionalist side of the Militia Movement, White Supremacists were supposed to be the enemy. Racist groups were perhaps a lower priority to some than communists, out of a belief that radical leftists had influence in government that the Klan lacked (a hilarious irony in hindsight), but domestic enemies of the Constitution nonetheless.

They were a constant presence that had to be checked, a camel with its nose perpetually creeping under the tent, attempting to advance themselves by associating with Constitutionalist militias in the eyes of the media to increase conflict and puff themselves up. I'd been long since out of touch with most Oath Keepers, but I assumed that the mission remained unchanged. All enemies, foreign and domestic. It follows logically that an anti-racist, anti-government movement would turn out for racial justice protests after egregious killings by agents of the state.

What happened instead was that the militias finally got to see the black helicopters and 'black bag' abduction squads they'd long predicted in action, vindicated at last, and they stood aside to cheer on the state.

I was baffled when escalating police violence against peaceful protests was met by jeers from my remaining militia contacts on social media. Federal agents in plain clothes abducted protesters in unmarked rental vans without legal arrests ever being recorded, crowds were barricaded in place for mass arrests, citizens shot with less-than-lethal munitions on their own front porches, tanks rolling through neighborhoods flanked by police and soldiers in gas masks. It was a scene out of any and every paranoid antigovernment fantasy come to life, and the reaction was 'serves you right'.

Instead of stepping up to seize the moment, even in a self-promotional move to gain legitimacy and a wider platform, the militiamen all stayed home chuckling over the schadenfreude of seeing 'the left' being repressed after 'the left' had refused to stand up for right-wing protesters and gun owners in the past.

Debatable as that is, the Teamsters Union went to bat for Cliven Bundy after all, the obvious correct response would have been to act the bigger man and march out anyway. Especially after Bundy Ranch, a lot of police violence would have been cooled by a line of backwoods paramilitary Bubbas, all with wild beards and American flag bandannas, standing between the police and protesters and simply refusing to move.

Instead, they stayed at home, laughing at 'the left' for finally getting their turn under the boot (in a very particular view of reality) and actively cheering the black helicopters. The use of state violence against protest movements in modern America moved toward normalization, the president threatened the deployment of US military forces to crush protests, and the anti-government freedom fighters applauded from home.

Except the ones that went to counter-protests. They turned up all right, to try to provoke queer teens into fights while strutting around in their plate carriers and tactical vests, and to unexpectedly run into the eldest son of their generalissimo on the wrong side of the crowd. They turned up waving Trump flags and the star-spangled banner, as if a protest against the unlawful killing of black people was inherently a protest against Trump and America itself. I thought about that image, the defensive reflex of the militia right to any attack on racism, for a long time.

Their excuses when pressed were varied, shallow, and made little sense. The protest was ridiculous because black abortions happened and people protest that less, where was the protest for people killed by illegal immigrants, there's "intelligence" that Antifa is going to launch a terrorist attack at 7 p.m. (in which case you absolutely should be standing in the open, clearly identifiable as right-wing militia and incredibly predictable in your regular movements while you patrol the venue, you go dude), the killing of George Floyd was a conspiracy because that many cops shouldn't have shown up that quickly for a counterfeit bill call and that meant a false flag engineered to sow social chaos. On and on, bewildering bullshit and empty whataboutisms without any real concrete reasons that had more than a single sentence of depth.

The only thing that made any sense to me, later, was to wonder whether I'd always believed in a lie and the whole movement really was racist to the core. My remaining militia movement Facebook friends started referring to people by barely disguised racial epithets like 'dindus' and the leader of the local group, a splinter of Oath Keeper's CPT program, told me that he'd be willing to accept white nationalist members if they didn't rock the boat. I stopped wondering, and I severed a lot of contacts.

In all this, I sort of lost track of what Trump was doing. I'd tuned in a bit to the endless conga line of scandals and instantly burned out when the sheer volume was too much to handle. It felt like diving into a monstrous comic book series with a confusing timeline, by design, and except for when Trump wandered across the street to hold a bible upside down and tear gas reporters I hadn't paid a lot of attention. I hadn't yet mastered the post-2020 mindset of staying perpetually afraid and angry of and about everything, all the time.

By the time of election night I was totally apathetic, disliking Biden but completely over anything to do with Trump and disgusted by the state of the country when I saw a piece of the presidential debates. I was a bit happy when the results were called in, one eye on 4chan's '/pol/' board again to watch the endless tide of election fraud claims and denial turn into pure salt. Actual neo-Nazis had been cheering for Biden, tired of Trump-supporting 'normies' crowding their weird little online ecosystem and rooting for Joe out of pure spite. Then, the election fraud claims started getting annoyingly loud and strident in a very real-life non-4chan way.

Annoyance turned to icy fear real fast when the loyalty purge started in the Pentagon.

I again found myself flooded with anxiety and glued to election coverage, my security blanket of no longer believing in civil war and collapse gone. I saw the machinery of a coup clicking into place, the legal justifications and attempts to lever control over the military, the Blackwater pardons bringing Betsy DeVos to my attention for the first time amid consistent online rumors that mercenaries were being hired by Trump to secure essential infrastructure amid some domestic conflict.

Trump continued to meet with Mike Lindell who from my perspective appeared from absolutely nowhere like the world's worst magic trick, and Michael Flynn after they both floated imposing martial law to overturn the election. Stewart, who had included imposing Martial Law and suspending the Constitution in his Oath Keepers founding list of 10 Orders We Will Not Obey, ignored this and continued pledging his undying loyalty to Trump in the midst of bizarre rants on the O.K. website about J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and crossdressing. I knew by then that Stewart Rhodes was inherently cowardly and self-interested, but seeing Oath Keepers as a whole turn to effectively simping for the figurehead of a clearly evident treasonous conspiracy, one that embodied in itself every bogeyman threat to America that Oath Keepers had ever warned of, was the final death of any faith I had left in the militia right.

Somewhere in here I realized that I could no longer stand conservative news outlets, which didn't seem to match reality at all. The only people who saw the warning signs I saw, who were paying attention to the clear and present danger, were the liberals and leftists that I'd held as a logically flawed Other at best for most of my life. I held my breath for weeks on end, even after the 6th and the inauguration, and felt almost empty when I was no longer checking political news sites for new reasons to hate the president every hour, on the hour. Obsession over impending doom can be addictive, and if you get started in childhood it's pretty hard to break the cycle.

QAnon finally came back into my view, no longer fading into background noise, and I saw the mythology seeping into my everyday life. Even after the 6th, many in my town were waiting for the national guard on capitol hill to shout 'surprise' and declare that the security fences and barbed wire were because the Capitol was actually being converted into a prison camp, the loyalists relocating to the new capitol at Mar-a-Lago. The newspaper was filled with Letters to the Editor calling out the capitol insurrection 'hoax'. I began to realize that large segments of the population, my neighbors and some of my friends, would cling to the alternate reality for perhaps the rest of their lives. At this point, Trump could die and millions of Americans would refuse to ever believe it. I have had to learn to accept this.

I have had to learn to accept a lot of things, including that there is no silver bullet for deprogramming. I spent my entire youth practicing shouting down opposing views without ever really considering them, simply because I already knew I was right, and it took a series of hard hits undermining my belief system to shake me loose from ideology and preconception. The key, I think, was the causes that were important to me simply because I had empathy for people who were different from me, and the curiosity to look further when the narratives I had agreed with contradicted the facts. These are traits missing in huge parts of our population, although they can be learned, but I believe those that find themselves course-correcting when their sense of what is right diverges from what they are told are the ones that matter most. I would rather reach one thoughtful cultural conservative with facts that give them pause than get 10 rootless habitual followers to agree with me just because my views are 'in' right now, only one of those is a lasting change.

Above all is the will. Believing that Daddy Trump will save me, that I was always on the right side and never seriously, badly wrong about the world, and that my deepest held beliefs are infallible, is easy and comforting. Coming to the conclusions that I have, tearing apart every childhood dogma and finding little I want to save, is incredibly hard and has put me at odds with large parts of my family and my community, but I cannot justify doing anything else. I cannot even justify staying quiet and dissenting only in my own mind, even though standing up publicly is a source of horrific anxiety. It would be hypocritical in the extreme to hope for someone else, everyone else, to speak up for sanity and basic human decency when the GOP primaries are running ads that double as vigilante death squad threats. Not unless I spoke up, too.

'Grabbed her by the throat': Unsealed court docs allege Stewart Rhodes created 'constant fear' at home

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — a key figure in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — beat his kids, used the toilet in their presence, encouraged them to use drugs and harbored an “obsession with sex (that) led him to incredibly inappropriate behavior around the children,” newly released court filings obtained by Raw Story allege.

A 2018 affidavit, filed by Rhodes’ ex-wife, Tasha Adams, as part of her divorce proceedings, alleged that Rhodes’ emotional and physical abuse of their children included punching and choking them.

The affidavit — which Rhodes said in his own court filing “twisted over 23 years of facts” — also alleges that Rhodes’ abuse included the family’s pets.

“Stewart has also kicked, hit, and punched the dogs in front of the children so many times,” the affidavit said. “One time he racked his pistols and almost shot our puppy in front of all the children.”

The allegations against Rhodes included gross violations of his children’s privacy.

“When he still lived with us Stewart insisted on going into the bathroom and using the toilet while the girls were showering,” the document states. “(One of his daughters) noticed a direct correlation between his insistence on using the bathroom while the girls were showering and his mood.

“The angrier he was, the more likely he was to force the door open or to order them not to use the lock I had installed on the bathroom door,” the document continues. “Eventually, he broke the lock. He would tell them to just close the curtain while he sat down.”

The document also cited another allegation about Rhodes’ behavior involving one of his daughters.

“Stewart told her all about how he used to get paid (during our marriage) to have sex with other men's wives while they watched,” the affidavit states. “He described what they paid him to do, how he found partners using Craigslist, and that it was all basically a charitable act because some of these men were disabled.”

One alleged incident involved Rhodes watching pornography at the kitchen table with the volume turned up and his children present.

“The older children said they would turn up the TV to drown out the noise so the little ones couldn't hear,” the document says.

Rhodes answered the affidavit by accusing Adams of fomenting parental alienation.

“Tasha and her attorney twisted over 23 years of facts in an attempt to accomplish Tasha's true goal of keeping the children from me,” Rhodes’ court filing said. “There are simply no grounds to restrict my contact with the children other than Tasha apparently now wants to change a lifestyle and parenting methodology she actively participated in for over 20 years. That is neither the basis of an emergency nor grounds to withhold me from the children.”

‘Grabbed her by the throat’

Rhodes was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy against the United States and other offenses related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Earlier this month, prosecutors asked for a 25-year prison sentence.

“Rhodes used his powers of persuasion and his platform as leader of the Oath Keepers to radicalize more than 20 other American citizens to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Those who have studied Rhodes and who know him best suggest that such behavior is completely in character and unlikely to change.”

Rhodes’ defense team portrayed him as a loyal follower of former President Donald Trump who was ready to follow orders from the president to help overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Donald Trump, Stewart RhodesStewart Rhodes attempted to communicate with then-President Donald Trump ahead of the Jan.6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, although there's no evidence that the two men ever connected. (Rhodes picture by Nicholas Kamm for AFP, Trump by Chandan Khanna for AFP)

Rhodes also said that he would have killed then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a recording presented at trial.

Raw Story obtained Adams’ affidavit and other divorce documents from a source, not from the Lincoln County (Montana) District Court, where the documents were filed.

A court clerk confirmed Tuesday that the documents were unsealed but could not immediately provide certified copies.

After a court session Monday afternoon, Adams and her oldest son Dakota recorded a video that was posted on Twitter.

“I’m divorced,” Adams said. “My case has been unsealed. … And we get to talk about things that happened in the divorce. … Stewart did not show up to this. There was an open Zoom. … My lawyer is an incredible badass and everything is wonderful.”

Adams’ allegations of physical abuse includes the description of an incident where Rhodes swung one of their daughters around by her hair because her room was messy.

Another allegation involved Rhodes’ daughter, then 14: “Stewart grabbed her by the throat and choked her. He pulled back his opposite fist to punch her in the face but my son yelled from across the yard and Stewart let go, so she ran into the house.”

The document alleges that the oldest child, son Dakota, endured much of the abuse.

“The worst time was probably when he was 13,” Stewart’s ex-wife said in the court document. “I had left the room and Stewart punched him in the head so hard that he was dizzy and sick afterwards, fell on his knees, and couldn't see in full color for two days. I walked in on the scene, saw Dakota falling to his knees.”

Rhodes, the document alleges, also referred to his children as a “f—--- lazy little bitch,” “retarded” and “stupid.”

The document said he routinely pitted the children against each other in “stick fighting,” leaving them bruised.

“Stewart’s world view is that we are always under attack and need to be prepared to defend ourselves,” the affidavit says. “He continually tells the children about rape and murder in detail far too graphic for their ages, telling them about the mechanics of rape and how little children are often kidnapped and tortured and chopped up. He keeps the children in constant fear of rape and murder as a control tactic.”

The document said Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, did “training scenarios” with the older daughters where he did a mock attack and they had to fight him off.

“When they got to the point where they couldn’t fight him anymore,’ the document alleges, “he would yell that they had just been raped and murdered.”

How Des Moines forced Donald Trump to pay his bills

Ahead of Donald Trump’s campaign visit to Iowa last week, the Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation made sure it was financially protected from the nation’s bill-skipper-in-chief.

According to documents obtained by Raw Story through an Iowa public records request, the public operator of Lauridsen Amphitheater in Des Moines, Iowa, compelled the Trump 2024 campaign committee to sign a six-page contract to use the facility for a May 13 rally that was ultimately canceled because of potential tornadoes in the area.

The Water Works Park Foundation charged the Trump campaign $12,900 for rent, not including fencing, parking personnel and portable toilets, according to the contract, which Trump campaign treasurer Bradley Crate signed.

“Base rent fee is due prior to event, any additional fees as ordered by DJTFP24 will be due within 30 days of event’s conclusion,” the contract said in bold type, referring to the Trump 2024 campaign.

Sam Carrell, executive director of the Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation, said Tuesday that the Trump campaign indeed paid ahead.

"While we don’t offer a refund, we do offer other open make up dates when weather forces a cancellation," Carrell told Raw Story.

The Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to "improve the quality of life for Central Iowan’s by the enhancement of Water Works Park in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Trump campaign also appears to at least be liable for more than $1,000 of damage to grass. As Axios reported, “Before leaving the park, a semi-truck went off a rock path and into soggy grass areas that were off limits to vehicles. Then, food truck drivers and other vendors drove on the same spots.”

Another part of the contract obtained by Raw Story said the Trump campaign “shall be responsible for, and pay for damages to the Water Works grounds and facilities, which are caused by the event.”

Trump, according to Axios, has reportedly agreed to pay, but the campaign did not respond to the story.

The contract states that the Trump campaign was required to have a “comprehensive general liability insurance policy, including public liability and property damage, covering its activities hereunder, in an amount not less than One Million Dollars ($1,000,000).”

The contract did not, however, require the Trump campaign to pay for associated local public safety costs — the kind that Trump officials have generally avoided in recent years. Trump has a long history of ignoring bills in business and politics. Numerous cities are still asking Trump to pay police- and public safety-related bills from his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.

This year — eight days before Trump’s rally on March 25 in Waco, Texas — public officials there signed a detailed contract with the Trump campaign ahead of Trump’s event at the city-owned Waco Regional Airport.

Because the event was at a municipal facility, city officials had more legal leverage over the Trump campaign, and they used it — including forcing Trump to foot bills for “public safety, sanitation and transportation personnel and resources required to preserve public order and protect public health, safety and welfare”.

At the same time, officials in El Paso, Texas, were still waiting for Trump to pay up for public safety-related costs stemming from a February 2019 visit.

"The Trump campaign has not submitted any payments for their debt," El Paso city spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta told Raw Story, noting that Trump’s tab is $569,204.63, including a city-issued late fee of $98,787.58.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. inoculates himself against financial disclosure

The Federal Election Commission granted Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. more time to reveal his personal finances, buying the member of the wealthy Kennedy family an extra 45 days to disclose his assets, income and liabilities as required for all presidential hopefuls.

Kennedy joins several other members of a growing field of presidential candidates who requested and received extensions until June 29 or beyond to file public financial disclosures, including former President Donald J. Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — all Republicans — and author Marianne Williamson, a Democrat, according to a Raw Story analysis of FEC records.

“The reason for the request is that the press of business in the past 30 days, since his announcement has been so extraordinary, the demands on Mr. Kennedy's time have been great, and his presence at various venues across the country, requires extra time to produce the report,” said a May 22 letter from Kennedy’s new campaign manager, former Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, to Lisa J. Stevenson, acting general counsel at the FEC.

Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of late President John F. Kennedy, must file his disclosure by the July 6, the new deadline the FEC granted.

The environmental lawyer, who has become known as a prominent vaccine skeptic, announced his candidacy in early April. Kennedy's disclosure could potentially confirm the millions the New York Post reported he made from his anti-vax work with charities and his book, “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health."

Along with Williamson, Kennedy faces extremely long odds in a Democratic primary against President Joe Biden, who announced his reelection campaign last month.

"If it looks like I can raise the money and mobilize enough people to win, I’ll jump in the race," Kennedy wrote on Twitter on March 10 as he was considering a presidential run. "If I run, my top priority will be to end the corrupt merger between state and corporate power that has ruined our economy, shattered the middle class, polluted our landscapes and waters, poisoned our children, and robbed us of our values and freedoms. Together we can restore America's democracy."

Biden submitted his disclosure report on time, as did Republican candidate Nikki Haley, whose disclosure revealed the millions of dollars she earns from speaking engagements, consulting fees and revenue from her own company.

Timely financial disclosures have been a particular problem with members of Congress, dozen of whom have been weeks, months or even years late in disclosing federally mandated financial trades — including severalmembersthis month.

Rudy Giuliani is still an honored man at these five colleges despite a tsunami of legal scandals

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a central figure during Donald Trump’s presidency, stands accused of sexually assaulting an ex-employee.

He is also accused of offering to sell presidential pardons for $2 million each — he denies wrongdoing.

And that’s just last week.

Giuliani also repeatedly lied about President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, according to the House January 6 Committee.

He actively worked to overturn the 2020 presidential election’s results and is facing a civil defamation suit brought by Georgia election workers.

He rallied Trump supporters to stage a “trial by combat” just before they attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and has advocated bombing Mexico.

He violated professional legal standards, per a D.C. Bar disciplinary committee.

Worse yet for Giuliani, he’s endured the suspension of his law license in New York and Washington, D.C, with a New York court declaring Giuliani’s “conduct immediately threatens the public interest” while he “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign.”

Even Giuliani’s own lawyer is just about through with him.

But at Georgetown University, Syracuse University, St. John Fisher University, Loyola University Maryland and The Citadel, Giuliani remains an honored man.

At present, each school has allowed Giuliani to keep honorary degrees they bestowed on him before his MAGA-era troubles began — despite, in some cases, mounting outrage from students, faculty and alumni.

Any of them could take Giuliani’s degrees back.

“If at any time during the life of an awardee the University becomes aware of documented evidence of criminal, unethical or immoral behavior or activity, the University has the right to rescind the honorary degree,” Georgetown University’s honorary degree revocation policy states.

“In considering any revocation, Georgetown would follow this policy,” the university wrote in a statement to Raw Story in confirming the former mayor “received an honorary degree from Georgetown in 2002 at the Law Center Commencement.”

Georgetown University officials this week refused to say, however, whether the school’s board and administration are actively attempting to strip Giuliani of his degree, and if so, where the process — if there is one — stands.

That’s more than the other four schools were willing to say about Giuliani.

The Citadel spokesman Zachary Watson acknowledged — but did not answer — Raw Story’s questions about the status of the honorary degree Rudy Giuliani received from the South Carolina military school in 2007.

Then-Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (center) receives an honorary degree of doctor of public administration from Citadel Associate Provost Isaac Metts (right) on May 5, 2007. Stephen Morton/Getty Images

Officials at Syracuse University and St. John Fisher University in New York, as well as Loyola University Maryland, did not respond to repeated phone and email messages.

Their silence stands in stark contrast to the messages three other schools — the University of Rhode Island, Drexel University in Pennsylvania and Middlebury College in Vermont — have sent Giuliani: they’ve already revoked honorary degrees they had awarded him.

“The totality of Mr. Giuliani’s recent actions, which have led to the suspension of his license to practice law, include repeated unfounded claims of widespread election fraud, have significantly contributed to undermining the public’s faith in our democratic institutions and in the integrity of our judicial system, and stand in clear opposition to Drexel’s values,” Drexel wrote in 2021 when it deep-sixed Giuliani’s 2009 honorary doctor of laws degree.

Last year, after the University of Rhode Island Board of Trustees unanimously revoked honorary degrees awarded to both Giuliani and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, school President Marc Parlange said that the men “no longer represent the highest level of our values and standards that were evident when we first bestowed the degree.”

‘It’s just disappointing’

In a text message to Raw Story, Giuliani communications and political adviser Ted Goodman said, "Frankly, we weren't even aware of those decisions, and it's just disappointing, and it says more about the culture of these institutions than anything else."

At Georgetown University, institutional culture is exactly the reason why the school should terminate Giuliani’s honorary degree, one student group argues.

The “ongoing revelations about Mr. Giuliani’s inappropriate behavior and personal corruption represent egregious violations of the Jesuit values that guide Georgetown,” the Georgetown University College Democrats told Raw Story in a statement.

“His behavior has clearly risen to the level of ‘unethical and immoral,’ the university's standards for revoking honorary degrees,” the Georgetown University College Democrats continued. “The University should join its peer institutions across the country by immediately revoking Mr. Giuliani’s honorary degree to preserve the integrity and reputation of the school. A failure to do so would compromise Georgetown’s commitment to its Jesuit mission and the advancement of the common good.”

At St. John Fisher University, a private Catholic College near Rochester, N.Y., legal studies professor James Bowers introduced Giuliani before the former mayor received an honorary degree from the school in 2015. But Bowers has since changed his mind on Giuliani, telling Insider last year that he “clearly no longer represents the values that the Board of Trustees and our president professes that they believe in.”

According to student news organization Cardinal Courier, hundreds of alumni signed a letter asking the school to de-honor Giuliani. But university president Gerard Rooney declared in response: "After consultation with board leadership, the Board of Trustees is not planning to revisit this matter at this time."

Eighty miles east down Interstate 90, Giuliani received his earliest honorary degree in 1989 from Syracuse University’s College of Law. He also delivered Syracuse University’s commencement address in May 2002, eight months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But as Giuliani’s reputation as “America’s mayor” tarnished, David Bruen, president of Syracuse’s student government from 2021 to 2023, worked through the University Senate in an attempt to rescind the honorary degree.

“It was very concerning because earlier that year was January 6 and he played an integral role in disinformation and trying to overturn the result,” Bruen told Raw Story. “Joe Biden has an actual degree from (Syracuse’s) College of Law and Giuliani tried to overturn the election of an actual alum.”

The University Senate, a body of roughly 150 including students, faculty, and staff, passed a resolution to rescind the degree in spring 2022. More than 75% of the members voted in favor.

The matter went to the Board of Trustees, which commissioned a report on honorary degrees at Syracuse. Last November, the trustees passed criteria for rescinding degrees.

The criteria say Syracuse would consider rescinding an honorary degree only “in the most extreme circumstances, based on misconduct that is so egregious or shocking that it brings the character of the recipient into significant disrepute.”

ALSO READ: Trump again pushes back deadline to reveal his finances

Another part of the standard requires “clear and convincing evidence of the recipient’s misconduct, such as a criminal conviction, a finding or sanction by a court or another adjudicating body like a professional association or regulatory agency, or otherwise irrefutable evidence.”

By the end of last year, it appeared Syracuse University was poised to claw Giuliani’s degree back. But as winter turned to spring and the school year ended, Syracuse University officials hadn’t taken action.

The Syracuse University student government filed a petition for revocation with the University Senate’s Honorary Degrees Committee. Bruen, who graduated from Syracuse University earlier this month, said it will probably take a final, conclusive decision to disbar Giuliani for Syracuse to move forward with revocation of the degree.

“I have confidence that if there’s news, they’ll take action,” Bruen said. “I will be watching very closely.”

So will Giuliani.

"It'll be interesting to see who is behind these efforts to attack Mayor Giuliani and if anyone at these schools will inform these students about the basic principles of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ and if they'll educate these students on the mayor's past as the man who took down the mafia, cleaned up New York and comforted the nation following 9/11," said Goodman, Giuliani’s spokesman.

Busted: These 6 members of Congress violated a federal conflicts-of-interest law

At least six more members of Congress have violated the STOCK Act by failing to disclose transactions — up to $376,280 collectively — within a 45-day federal deadline, according to Raw Story analysis of congressional financial documents.

The majority of the late disclosure dollars came from Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL) who was late in disclosing up to $300,000 in stock transactions from a joint trust.

He is joined by five other lawmakers who were late in disclosing transactions in the $1,000-to-$15,000 range: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).

The lawmakers aren’t alone in violating the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act this week.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who last year led Democratic House leadership’s self-aborted effort to ban congressional stock trading, violated the STOCK Act with up to $265,000 in late financial disclosures, Raw Story reported on Wednesday.

Raw Story also broke the news last week that Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) was late in disclosing up to $5 million in U.S. Treasury note purchases.

The ongoing violations come at a time when a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced several similar bills aimed at banning congressional stock trading.

The most recent bill to be introduced this session — the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act — is co-sponsored in part by political rivals in Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Other materially similar bills include the Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act, the TRUST in Congress Act and the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act.

The STOCK Act requires members of Congress — within 45 days — to report any individual stock, bond, Treasury security or cryptocurrency transactions they, their spouses or dependent children conduct.

But dozens have failed to comply. During the 117th Congress from 2021 to 2022, at least 78 members of Congress — dozens of Democrats and Republicans alike — were found to have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to a tally maintained by Insider. This year, Raw Story has identified 11 more STOCK Act violators.

“Throughout the past few weeks, months, and years, we’ve seen far too frequent reports of Members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — making suspiciously timed trades. Whether these headlines are surrounding the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank, like in the past few weeks, or related to the pandemic or invasion of Ukraine, as we were seeing a few years ago, these trades undermine the trust that the American people deserve to have in their government,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said in a statement to Raw Story.

Spanberger, who sponsored the TRUST in Congress Act, continued, “A spotlight in the press has not yet stopped the next breaking news cycle of questionable trades. Congress must hold ourselves accountable by removing the ability to buy or sell individual stocks at all — and remove even the perception of impropriety. My bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act has the most cosponsors of any legislation to ban congressional stock trading — and more of my colleagues are still getting on board. I’ll keep pressing my colleagues to join our effort, and I’m keeping my foot on the gas until this reform makes it to the president’s desk.”

The Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives declined to comment and referred Raw Story to the House Committee on Ethics.

Tom Rust, staff director and chief counsel for the House Committee on Ethics, which is tasked with investigating alleged STOCK Act violations, said “no comment” when reached by Raw Story.

Among the latest STOCK Act violators:

Rep. Jonathan Jackson (D-IL)

Jackson, a freshman Illinois congressman who took the seat held by former Rep. Bobby Rush, was late in disclosing up to $300,000 in stock transactions he made earlier this year, according to a disclosure he submitted on May 12.

The stocks are part of a joint trust.

“We announced that the filing was delayed, and we take this matter seriously. However, I want to emphasize that we are now in full compliance, and I've implemented measures to ensure timely filings in the future,” Jackson told Raw Story. “Setting up the new office, we've changed a compliance officer, and that contributed to the delay, so very comfortable with our team now.”

Jackson disclosed four January stock purchases, ranging from $15,001 to $50,000 each, for electronics manufacturer AMETEK Inc., Deere & Company, Parker-Hannifin Corporation and Visa.

On Feb. 28, he purchased $15,001 to $50,000 in Brighthouse Financial Inc. stock and sold UnitedHealth Group stock in the same price range.

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Jackson of Illinois (left) speaks with House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC). U.S. House of Representatives

Federal lawmakers are only required to disclose the value of their stock trades in broad ranges.

“I'll assume full responsibility that I made some changes, and I knew it would be delayed,” Jackson said. “I know what the consequences were. I've honored that, and we've ensured the process will be timely going forward. I did the extension, and you'll see the rest of them.”

Jackson said he paid the customary $200 fine for a STOCK Act violation.

“We were always familiar with what the fines would be and always wanted to be in compliance, so fines have been paid. The extensions have been made. The coordination between our compliance officer and the brokers have been connected,” Jackson said.

Jackson said he did not have an opinion on his colleagues’ legislation that would ban congressional stock trading, but he said he accepts the current rules and will comply with them.

“I'm all about public trust and oversight, and I've read all the necessary information. It was with a slight delay, but I received that,” he said.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI)

Dingell, who represents Michigan’s 6th congressional district, submitted a disclosure on Monday reporting the purchase of $1,001 to $15,000 in Disney stock on Nov. 29.

“Congresswoman Dingell discovered the omission while filing her annual financial disclosure and acted immediately to rectify the issue by promptly filing a periodic transaction report,” said Michaela Johnson, a spokesperson for Dingell.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) speaks during a press conference after a House Democratic Caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on November 2, 2021 in Washington, DC. Allison Shelley/Getty Images

“She will continue to defer financial decisions to a financial advisor and has directed her office to proactively take measures to ensure this issue does not occur again,” Johnson said. “She will continue to support efforts in Congress to increase transparency and accountability, especially when it comes to trading stocks and financial portfolios.”

Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID)

Fulcher, who represents Idaho’s first congressional district, reported on May 12 that he sold of Banc of California stock shares worth between $1,001 to $15,000. The date of the sale was March 15, 2022, meaning his disclosure was more than a year late.

Fulcher’s team did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)

Sarbanes, the congressman representing Maryland's 3rd congressional district, was nearly a year late in disclosing two purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds in June 2022, both in the $1,001-to-$15,000 range.

“Congressman Sarbanes had never purchased Treasury securities and was unfamiliar with the protocol, but he has since worked with the House Ethics Committee to take all necessary steps,” said Natalie Young, communications director for Sarbanes. “He voted for the STOCK Act and supports efforts to establish additional measures addressing transparency and stock ownership.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)

Kaptur submitted a disclosure on Monday that revealed she sold $1,280.03 worth of stock in The Andersons, Inc. — an agriculture supply company. She made the sale on Oct. 21, meaning her disclosure was more than five months late.

“In 38 years of filing congressional disclosure reports, Congresswoman Kaptur has never purchased or traded individual stocks,” said Ben Kamens, communications director for Kaptur. “When her brother passed away in 2021, she inherited her first individual stocks and fully disclosed she would hold and not trade them.”

Kamens continued, “In 2022, it became clear that as a result of redistricting Congresswoman Kaptur would represent the Ohio agribusiness whose stock she had inherited. To avoid even the appearance of any conflict with her official work, Congresswoman Kaptur promptly sold all of her shares in the stock.”

Kaptur’s team said she paid a $200 late fee and has since moved the stock proceeds to a certificate of deposit with “no intention of buying or selling individual stocks,” Kamens said.

“Upon discovering the $1,280.03 transaction exceeded the reporting limit of $1,000, she filed the required report and a $200 fee for the delay in recognizing the oversight,” Kamens said.

Rep. Deborah Ross (D-NC)

Ross, the congresswoman for North Carolina’s second congressional district, disclosed on Sunday her spouse’s Nov. 7 exchange of Unity Software Stock. Value: somewhere between $1,001 and $15,000.

“This transaction was a stock exchange that resulted from the merger of Unity Software and ironSource, a technology company,” said Josie Feron, a spokesperson for Ross’s office. “While Congresswoman Ross’ husband held Unity stock through his Roth IRA, he did not direct the transaction, and she reported it as soon as she became aware that it had occurred,”

Feron did not confirm whether or not Ross paid a fine, saying, “Congresswoman Ross contacted the Ethics Committee when she became aware of this transaction. The Ethics Committee instructed her to report the transaction, which she did.”

The Committee on House Ethics does not publicly reveal whether lawmakers have been assessed fines or if they’ve paid them.

Violation epidemic

The STOCK Act was passed by Congress in 2012 to prevent insider trading, promote transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among federal lawmakers and other government officials.

In the decade since, the push for a total ban on lawmakers trading stocks while in office gained but then lost momentum last year when the Democratic-led House, then led by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, decided not to conduct a hearing on any of stock-ban bills and never brought it to the House floor for a vote.

Earlier this year, Raw Story reported other STOCK Act violations, breaking the news that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) failed to properly disclose that his wife sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in gaming company Activision Blizzard in September 2022 and purchased up to $15,000 worth of stock in Amazon.com in August 2022.

Raw Story also reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was several days late disclosing that he had sold personal stock in an energy company and a pair of federal defense contractors. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also violated the STOCK Act in March with a late disclosure.

News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interests among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal hasreported.

The Wall Street Journal won a 2023 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into financial conflicts among officials who work in federal agencies while Insider won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award for its reporting on congressional financial conflicts.

Donald Trump, Matthew Kacsmaryk and 'the man who hated women'

You’ve probably never heard of Anthony Comstock, a Civil War Union soldier and New York Postmaster, who died in 1915. You need to learn about him and his legacy, however, as his long fingers are about to reach up out of the grave and wrap themselves around the necks of every American woman of childbearing years.

Anthony Comstock was a mama’s boy who hated sex. His mother died when he was 10 years old and the shock apparently never left him; women who didn’t live up to her ideal were his open and declared enemies, as were pornography, masturbation, and abortion. He was so ignorant of sex and reproduction that he believed a visible human-like fetus developed “within seconds” of sexual intercourse.

Comstock spent decades scouring the country collecting pornography, which he enthusiastically shared with men in Congress, and harassing “loose women.” For example, when he visited a belly-dancing show (then a new craze) in Chicago at the Cairo Theatre during the World’s Fair of 1893, he demanded the show be shut down.

As Amy Sohn, who wrote a brilliant Comstock biography titled The Man Who Hated Women, noted:

“Despite national controversy and Comstock’s intervention, ultimately the only alteration made to the fair’s belly dancing was costuming: the dancers swapped their gauze blouses for thin woolen undershirts. The vice hunter had lost in Chicago. But he would not forget the dancers, and would have four of them arrested and fined when they came to New York that winter. New York, after all, was Comstockland.”

Comstock lobbied for and shepherded through Congress a law passed on March 3, 1873 titled “An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, obscene Literature and Articles of immoral Use.” Today we refer to it as the Comstock Act.

Its language with regard to abortion is not at all ambiguous:

“Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance … designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral use; and
“Every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and
“Every written or printed card, letter, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind giving information, directly or indirectly, where, or how, or from whom, or by what means any of such mentioned matters, articles, or things may be obtained or made, or where or by whom any act or operation of any kind for the procuring or producing of abortion will be done or performed, or how or by what means abortion may be produced, whether sealed or unsealed; and
“Every paper, writing, advertisement, or representation that any article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion, or for any indecent or immoral purpose; and

“Every description calculated to induce or incite a person to so use or apply any such article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing—
“Is declared to be nonmailable matter and shall not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier.” (emphasis mine)

The penalty is also not ambiguous. Persons mailing information about abortion, or drugs or devices to produce an abortion:

“[S]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, for the first such offense, and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, for each such offense thereafter.”

The Biden administration argues that the Comstock Act of 1873 was set aside almost a century ago.

And, indeed, in 1930, the Appeals Court for the Second Circuit ruled in Youngs Rubber Corp. v. C.I. Lee & Co that the law couldn’t apply to things sent through the mail that are legal, even if they were illegal at the time of the passage of the Comstock Act. (The case involved condoms manufactured by Youngs Rubber.)

“Such a construction,” the court wrote, “would prevent mailing to or by a physician of any drug or mechanical device ‘adapted’ for contraceptive or abortifacient uses, although the physician desired to use or to prescribe it for proper medical purposes.”

The law has been amended by Congress four times (in 1955, 1958, 1971, and 1994), but the language above was never struck because legislators figured the appeals court’s ruling rendered it nugatory.

But don’t tell that to Trump’s appointee Texas District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Amarillo, who ruled last month that Mifepristone was to be banned nationwide: he based a large part of his decision on the plain language of the Comstock Act.

And don’t tell it to the three rightwing judges hearing an appeal this week of Kacsmaryk’s decision before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

When the Biden administration’s attorney argued that Kacsmaryk’s decision was “unprecedented,” Circuit Judge James Ho — also a Trump appointee, who personally swore his good friend Kacsmaryk into his office — interrupted her with a curt snap, saying:

“I guess I’m just wondering why not just focus on the facts of this case rather than have this sort of ‘FDA can do no wrong’ theme.”

The appeals court, made up of a George W. Bush appointee and two Trump appointees, earlier had ruled in their preliminary finding to hear the case that they disagreed with the Biden administration’s assertion that, to quote the three judges, “the [Comstock] law does not mean what it says it means.”

When the Biden interpretation of the Comstock Act was brought up in oral arguments, the Bush appointee, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, said there is “some disagreement” about whether previous court rulings actually invalidated the law.

Republican members of Congress agree, and want the Comstock Act enforced nationwide.

In a letter sent to CVS (among other pharmacy chains), Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and eight other Republican senators (Lankford, Daines, Braun, Rubio, Marshall, Risch, Crapo and Blackburn) wrote that the Biden interpretation (and that of Congress in 1955, 1958, 1971, and 1994) is wrong.

“We write to express our support and agreement with 21 State Attorneys General,” they wrote “who have reminded you that Federal law in 18 U.S.C. 1461-1462 [the Comstock Act] criminalizes nationwide using the mail, or interstate shipment by any express company or common carrier, to send or receive any drug that is ‘designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.’”

The 1930 court ruling that lawmakers and judges had, for over 90 years, believed only applied the Comstock Act to items that were illegal (like child porn), she wrote:

“[D]oes not protect CVS or any other individual or entity from being prosecuted within the five-year statute of limitations for the illegal mailing or interstate shipment of abortion drugs … even for conduct that occurs today.”

The lawyer for Republicans defending Kacsmaryk’s ruling before the Fifth Circuit, Erin Hawley (the wife of Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley), went so far as to assert before the court that even physicians and pharmacies shouldn’t be able to receive Mifipristone or other drugs that could produce an abortion via the mail, FedEx, or UPS:

“What the Comstock law says is that it is improper to mail things that induce or cause abortions, which is precisely the action the FDA took in 2021 when it permitted the mailing of abortion drugs.”

If Hawley’s interpretation is ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court, all abortions in the United States would be ended when drugs and suction and surgical devices designed specifically for the procedure can no longer be shipped to hospitals, clinics, or physicians’ offices.

And this is no idle threat.

Given how all three judges on the Fifth Circuit reacted to this week’s arguments, most court observers believe they’ll vote to sustain Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling and ban Mifipristone nationwide, perhaps even outlawing its legal shipment to pharmacies for other uses like helping with incomplete miscarriages.

Other drugs and surgical devices used for abortions are almost certainly next.

As Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond wrote for his Substack newsletter, anti-abortion activist Mark Lee Dickson, who’s helped several cities around the country put into law local versions of the Comstock Act, told him:

“If a future president were to enforce these federal statutes, then they could shut down every abortion facility in America.”

Such a ruling by the Fifth Circuit will kick the whole mess up to the Supreme Court, where six hardcore rightwing Catholics (Gorsuch attends his wife’s church but was raised Catholic) are gleefully rubbing their hands in anticipation.

This battle promises to be long and hard-fought, and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Fifth Circuit’s anticipated decision the only solution will be for Congress to overturn the Comstock Act itself.

And that’s unlikely to happen unless or until Democrats can take back the House, hold the White House, and gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in the 2024 election. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Several states are now stockpiling Mifipristone in anticipation of just such a dystopian outcome. Families with women and girls of childbearing age may want to do the same.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Revealed: The secret plan to break the 'independent spirit' of the Supreme Court

We have, today, the most extreme Supreme Court since the early 1930s, and it didn’t just get that way through Republican appointments. Breaking two centuries of tradition, wealthy GOP donors are now using money, gifts, and other enticements to keep the Court in line.

In this, they’re exploiting the lifetime tenure given federal judges by the Constitution. If a billionaire or industry can suck up to and build a relationship with a Supreme Court justice early enough in their career, they can be confident of decades of decisions that favor them and their interests, as we’ve seen most shockingly in the case of Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas.

This is the exact opposite of the intention of the Framers of the Constitution.

They believed that such a secure lifetime position would mean justices could exercise actual judgment when deciding cases, rather than being beholden to any particular interest group, including the political party that appointed them.

As Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist 78 about lifetime appointments (“permanency in office”):

“[F]rom the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security.”

Hamilton and the other Framers envisioned a Supreme Court that was immune to public opinion, the arguments of presidents and senators, and great wealth alike.

Lifetime appointments were, they believed, the guarantee of that:

“If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty.”

And until the 1990s, when wealthy “donors” began courting Supreme Court justices to build “friendships” and offer “vacations” and “speaking fees,” that’s how it worked.

Prior to the Reagan era, not only did justices display considerable independence, but they also often defied their own party and its donor class.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower once remarked, referring to his appointees Earl Warren and William Brennan:

“I have made two mistakes, and they are both sitting on the Supreme Court.”

The story is both fascinating and instructive, showing how far down the rabbit hole this Court has gone.

In the election of 1952, three-term California Governor Earl Warren put his name into nomination for president at the Republican National Convention. Four years earlier, in the presidential race of 1948, Warren had been Thomas Dewey’s vice-presidential running mate (they lost to Truman), and so was nationally known as a solid, reliable Republican.

He’d been a forceful law-and-order District Attorney for Alameda county, then California’s hard-assed Attorney General (1938), then such a popular governor (1942, 1946, 1950) that California’s then-Senator Richard Nixon endorsed him for president on the first ballot.

Thus, when Eisenhower won the nomination and the White House, his first appointment to the Supreme Court went to Earl Warren.

Warren’s credentials as a conservative Republican were impeccable, and Eisenhower and his Vice President, Richard Nixon, both celebrated when Warren stepped down from his governorship to join the Court. Eisenhower accurately called him, “a man of broad experience, professional competence, and with an unimpeachable record and reputation for integrity.”

Once on the Court, though, and no longer answerable to the voters or any other political pressure group, Earl Warren felt he could do as his conscience — rather than his party — guided him. His first truly consequential decision as Chief Justice of the Court was 1954’s Brown v Board, which outlawed racially segregated public schools.

Furious, oil baron Fred Koch helped the John Birch Society fund “Impeach Earl Warren” billboards across the United States.

But Warren was unfazed.

Brown was followed by his pulling together Court majorities to legalize birth control and recognize the never-before defined “right to privacy” in the Griswold decision, the elimination of prayer in public schools (Engle v Vitale), the right to refuse to incriminate oneself (Miranda), the right to have a free defense lawyer (Gideon v Wainwright), striking down laws against interracial marriage (Loving v Virginia), and ending a form of extreme gerrymandering by requiring all congressional and state legislative districts be of the same population (“one man, one vote” in Reynolds v Sims and Westbury v Sanders).

Earl Warren, in other words, became a constitutional liberal once he experienced the “independent spirit in the judges” that Hamilton had promised.

The same happened with William J. Brennan, a conservative and staunch Catholic who was confirmed by every Republican in the Senate except one. Brennan had never been a politician, but his judicial record made Eisenhower certain he’d rule along conservative lines.

His record was so conservative, in fact, that the National Liberal League, then the nation’s leading progressive group, vigorously opposed his nomination.

Instead, Brennan became one of the most outspoken liberals in the history of the Court, once he was given lifetime tenure.

Republicans were burned again when Jerry Ford nominated John Paul Stevens to the Court in 1975.

Stevens was a lifelong Republican; was functionally the lead prosecutor for the Greenberg Commission which removed two corrupt justices from the Illinois Supreme Court; voted as an Appeals Court judge to reinstate capital punishment and against affirmative action; and was seen as so business-friendly that the former president of Bell & Howell, then Republican US Senator Charles H. Percy, proudly put his name into nomination for the high court.

But once Stevens experienced the “independent spirit” Hamilton referenced, he became one of the Court’s most outspoken liberals. His dissent in Citizens United is must-reading today as he predicted all the corruption we’ve since seen; he wrote the opinion in Wallace v. Jaffree striking down school prayer; and he voted to legalize pornography under the rubric of free speech.

He also wrote the majority opinion in Chevron v NRDC which established the Chevron deference which — as I noted last week — the current Supreme Court appears prepared to strike down as part of their campaign against regulatory agencies.

Stevens authored the main dissent in the “guns for everybody” Heller decision, and his dissent in Bush v Gore — which handed the presidency to George W. Bush even though Al Gore had won a half-million more votes and the Florida vote was in mid-recount — was absolutely scathing, writing:

“It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

Finally, David Souter was nominated by George HW Bush. He’d been a law-and-order prosecutor who was “noted for his tough sentencing,” and rose to Attorney General for the solid red State of New Hampshire.

That state’s Republican governor, John Sununu, assured Bush that Souter would be a “home run” for conservatives. It didn’t turn out that way, with his pro-choice vote in Planned Parenthood v Casey and his joining Stevens in opposing the Court’s handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

After four “conservatives” on the Court disappointed Republicans, the billionaires who fund the conservative movement set out to make sure it would never happen again, Alexander Hamilton be damned.

Wealthy donors poured millions into the Federalist Society and other groups to select, groom, and maintain the rightwing purity of future nominees. Once in office, gifts, trips, speaking fees, lavish vacations, and regular visits to the mansions and estates of high-profile billionaires became staples of Republican justices.

But with conservative judges, just like with conservative politicians, comes the corruption associated with deference to political power and great wealth (the hallmarks of today’s conservative movement).

The Republicans on the Court now regularly use the so-called “Shadow Docket” to impose unsigned, unjustified decisions on the nation; refuse to recuse themselves in cases where their conflict of interest is clear; refuse to adopt a code of ethical conduct or even hold themselves to the lower standards required of every other federal judge; sneer at reasonable requests from Congress for testimony and accountability; and are gleefully taking America as far back toward the 19th century as they can.

And by indulging in their own corruption, they have also managed to corrupt Congress and the American political landscape.

The main source of much of today’s cultural crisis and political corruption tracks back to Republican nominees on the Court, from Lewis Powell authoring the First National Bank decision that gave corporate “persons” full “free speech” rights to bribe politicians (overturning a century of anti-corruption laws), to Citizens United (political bribery), Heller (guns), and Dobbs (abortion).

Thus, repairing the Court must be a top priority for Americans concerned about the future of American democracy. We have to restore the institution to the level of independence and integrity envisioned and articulated by Alexander Hamilton and the framers of the Constitution.

It is our absolute obligation and necessary to salvage our republic. But how?

Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution puts the Supreme Court itself clearly subordinate to Congress, which was given the obligation (“shall”) to “regulate” the Court:

“[T]he supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Congress can use this power to impose a code of conduct on the Court, and must do so after the 2024 election if Democrats can regain control of the House and hold the Senate and White House.

Through much of the Court’s history, the number of justices reflected the number of appeals courts, one step below the Supreme Court. Today there are 13 of these courts, so Congressman Ed Markey this week introduced legislation to expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices.

As co-sponsor Hank Johnson (D-GA) said at the press conference announcing the bill:

“Today, a 6-3, far-right supermajority on the United States Supreme Court threatens our rights, our democracy, and our planet. To restore our democracy, we must expand the United States Supreme Court, and we must do so now. Republicans captured the Court against the will of most Americans.”

Other suggestions include term limits for justices, laws stripping the Court from jurisdiction (“Exceptions”) over money in politics while reversing their assertion that corporations have rights under the Bill of Rights, and refusal by states or other entities to abide by “shadow docket” decisions (a variation on the precedents set by Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln).

All deserve serious consideration and debate in Congress, because today’s billionaire corruption of our Supreme Court justices has thrown our country into a full-blown constitutional crisis and placed democracy here and around the world at risk.

As Congressman (and senatorial candidate) Adam Schiff noted this week:

“Our nation's highest court is not a conservative court. A conservative court would have respect for precedent. This is a partisan court, with a reactionary social agenda. And unless we are to accept the loss of our rights, the court must be expanded, rebalanced, and reformed.”

Given the current Republican control of the House of Representatives it’s unlikely the proposal to expand the Supreme Court will go far, but it’s important that Democrats — and concerned citizens like you and me — work to prepare the ground for a future Democratic majority.

We must restore what Alexander Hamilton called the “independent spirit” of the Supreme Court.

The foundations of our nation are shaking: it’s Paul Revere time. Spread the word!

Jim Jordan concedes Jan. 6 prosecutions are unprecedented because events were unprecedented

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-OH) weaponization committee held a Thursday hearing with what he called FBI whistleblowers alleging the Bureau has become a political arm of the Justice Department's attacks on conservatives.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening that the FBI whistleblowers may have had an axe to grind. The men lost their top security clearance due to their support for the Jan. 6 attackers. Losing the higher level clearance almost certainly meant that they were limited in the kinds of jobs they could do.

During the last hearing, it was uncovered that the "whistleblowers" were being paid by Republican donors. That was mentioned at Jordan's press conference on Thursday morning.

"They got a family! How are they supposed to feed their family?" Jordan asked.

The comment comes as Republicans are attempting to force work requirements on welfare recipients.

After Jordan's press conference, Raw Story followed the Republican through the tunnel to the hearing room, asking about the FBI changing protocol for investigating all Jan. 6 protesters. Instead, the FBI looked at each one individually. Jordan's claim is that this was all to justify President Joe Biden's message that domestic terrorism is becoming an increasing problem.

"It's an attitude I think from the time, I don't know," said Jordan. "I mean, maybe it has something to do with that crazy speech Joe Biden gave last year where he's standing in front of Independence Hall and calls half of the country fascists."

The FBI investigations began under former President Donald Trump, who still had a little less than a month in office. None of the FBI leadership changed from Trump's administration to Biden's. The FBI director is still a Trump appointee. Biden's speech Jordan links to the breach in protocol was made two years after the investigation began.

Raw Story told Jordan that what happened on Jan. 6 was unprecedented, which is why the Justice Department says that their approach to investigations and charges have been unprecedented as well.

"I think people who did wrong should be prosecuted," Jordan conceded. "Based on what the whistleblowers told us they're treating it differently than other situations and criminal activity. And that's why you heard the clip of Mr. O'Boyle's testimony in the press conference."

Jordan was asked if he believes there's a problem with domestic extremism in the United States, and he replied, "To the extent we do, we should prosecute it. But what these guys are telling us is they are making it seem as if every case — cataloging and categorizing cases to inflate those numbers. That's what the whistleblowers have told us."

Thus far, the DOJ and FBI are treating individuals differently because some of the attendees were "caught up in the moment" while others were militia members who planned to create the moment. Rather than treating all Jan. 6 people the same under all one event, the DOJ appears to recognize that not all who entered the Capitol were there as a result of a premeditated plot to hang Vice President Mike Pence if he didn't stop the 2020 election certification.

Jordan argues that considering each individual attack increases the raw numbers of what the FBI calls domestic terrorists. Lumping more than 1,000 people into a block of domestic terrorists would increase that number even more.

Also at issue is that there are no specific domestic terrorism laws in the United States, a point that former FBI counter-terrorism chief Frank Figliuzzi frequently mentions when speaking.

The FBI defines domestic terrorism as: "Violent criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, radical or environmental nature."

By that definition, not all 1,000 people at the Capitol could legally be considered domestic terrorists. Even those who committed no acts of violence, or lower-level violent acts, like pushing the barriers into a line of Capitol Police, or pushing an officer, are not being charged as severely as those who used weapons to attack the officers.

Gracyn Dawn Courtright, for example, carried off a "Members Only" sign, but there was no evidence she violently attacked anyone with it. She pleaded guilty and was given a month in prison. Thomas Webster, a former New York police officer and Marine Corps veteran, swung a metal flagpole at police and tackled another officer. A jury found him guilty of assault and he was given 10 years in prison.

The FBI was criticized after Jan. 6 for mishandling the event in a way that would have prepared for possible violence. Figliuzzi said a year after the 2021 attack that the Bureau could have opened a "threat assessment" or declared Jan. 6 "National Security Special Event." Special events are done for everything from the Super Bowl to other major events or gatherings that could be a soft target for terrorism.

With additional reporting by Matt Laslo

MAGA House Republicans slam Paul Ryan ahead of his portrait unveiling

WASHINGTON — Freedom Caucus members trashed former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ahead of the unveiling of his portrait at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. But it was their contrast to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that revealed more about today's House GOP.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) called Ryan a "missed opportunity" because "we had everything," he said, referencing the GOP holding the House, Senate and White House after Donald Trump took over in 2017.

"Obamacare, the border, reckless spending, he failed to address any of that," said Burchett. "You only get one bite at the apple and he blew it."

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) agreed, saying that Ryan "didn't have the determination to secure the border, which had he done that we would not be having the trouble we're having today."

Ryan disagreed with the Freedom Caucus, Norman explained. "McCarthy's done a good job," he said about the current Speaker being more agreeable to the far-right branch of the conference.

"He did a good job because we kind of indicated what we need to get this country back on track," Norman bragged. But Speaker Ryan "didn't do that. I think he looked on us with disdain."

Burchett said he has different thoughts on McCarthy, calling him an "excellent leader" even though they oftentimes don't agree.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) called Ryan a "good man," and noted, "there are a lot of Republicans whose presence you don't feel any more" in today's GOP.

"I never thought I would say this, but I miss Paul Ryan," confessed Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), "because he was not crazy and he had principles. Whether or not you disagreed with him, you understood he believed what he was saying. That's not what we have now."

He compared the era of Ryan to McCarthy by saying, "now when I see an apple on a table, a Republican colleague will say it's a banana. And when they live in an alternate reality, it's very hard to govern."

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) called Ryan a different brand of Republican than exists now. He recalled talking about sports with Ryan and seeing him in the congressional gym early in the mornings.

"It's pretty obvious that ideologically, he's a very different stripe of Republican than Donald Trump. He was Speaker of the House for two years under the Trump presidency, and I wonder if he looks back now and regrets that he enabled Trump for those two years instead of standing up to him when he could."

Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) wasn't paying much attention to the GOP leadership at that time, he explained. He was single-issue focused on gun legislation. He explained that regardless of the Republican lawmaker, the NRA is flexing its muscle on. Laws like permitless carry and reciprocity laws, where all concealed weapons licenses are honored across several states, are dangerous and extreme.

'We are at war': Anti-trans activists lock arms with North Carolina GOP gubernatorial frontrunner

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson praised Moms for Liberty, a conservative group that opposes transgender rights, as the modern-day equivalent of Betsy Ross, Rosie the Riveter and Rosa Parks.

Members of the group, who are in Raleigh to lobby the North Carolina General Assembly for legislation prohibiting transgender girls and women from participating in female sports and to ban gender reassignment surgery for minors, greeted Robinson by saying, “We love you, Mark!”

“And I love you,” Robinson responded.

Robinson addressed the conservative group, which has pushed culture-war battles at local school boards across the country by assailing pandemic restrictions and demanding book bans while building electoral power, during a reception today at his official residence. Among the speakers was a lobbyist for Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing Christian legal group that one prominent extremism watchdog has publicly designated as a "hate group."

Reps. Ken Fontenot and John Torbett, two Republican lawmakers, also spoke at the event.

Several speakers at the event struck martial tones, including Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich, who traveled from Florida to attend.

“We are at war,” Descovich said. “But you have heard that.”

Nathan Street, a former music teacher who resigned from a public elementary school in Greensboro while under investigation for allegedly physically abusing students, was in attendance. During his speech, he asked the Moms for Liberty members to "give me your best muscle pose." When they obliged he enthused, "Whew, look at them guns down there! I love it. I love it."

Flexing his biceps, Street added, "When it's all said and done, you're able to do this, and you're able to say, 'Bring it, pal. I'm ready to fight you and I'm ready to take you down to the mat, whatever I've got to do to win."

Robinson, who is considered the Republican front-runner in North Carolina's 2024 gubernatorial election, compared the nation's current political climate to that of the Civil War.

“I know people say we’re more divided now than at any time in our history,” Robinson said. “I would remind those individuals that we fought a civil war. And even though we were divided not just along political lines, not just along geographic lines, we were actually on opposite sides of battle killing each other on battlefields. Blood was shed. More blood than has ever been shed by Americans in our history was shed during our civil war because we were fighting over those essential rights — states’ rights, the rights of individuals, liberty itself. We came out of that war stronger than ever.”

Robinson rocketed to recognition in 2018 when he addressed the Greensboro City Council in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Schoolhigh school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The viral video of his populist appeal for gun rights earned him the keynote speaker slot at the National Rifle Association convention and made him a darling of conservative media. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2020, with no prior political experience.

Since his election as lieutenant governor, Robinson’s anti-LGBTQ statements from church pulpits have generated outrage.

In June 2021, he told the congregation in Seagrove, N.C., that LGBTQ “issues have no place in a school,” adding, “There’s no reason anybody in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality — any of that filth.”

More recently, during a sermon in a church in Mooresville, N.C., outside of Charlotte, Robinson mocked churches that are welcome LGBTQ people, saying, “You see so many pastors right now will say in their pulpits, ‘I don’t want this church to be political, I don’t want to talk about politics that have anything to do with religion. We used to be religious in this church, and we’re going to love, we’re going to accept everybody, and we’re going to accept everything. I’m going to fly a rainbow flag out front and spit right in the face of God.’”

A sign propped against the porch at the lieutenant governor’s residence read, “We do not co-parent with the government.”

Across the street from the event at Robinson's residence, Blue Miller, one of roughly a dozen protesters, taunted the Moms for Liberty activists while the chief state government lobbyist for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom spoke.

“You say you’re not co-parenting with the government — at the governor’s mansion lawn and you’re going to speak to the General Assembly?” said Miller, who is a transgender person. “You guys are trying to take this state and run it. I mean, you all are trying to be the state. You’re schmoozing with the state.”

Alliance for Defending Freedom, which defended a Colorado baker who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple before the Supreme Court in 2018, has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The watchdog group, which tracks extremism, asserts that Alliance Defending Freedom has “supported the recriminalization of sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ adults in the U.S. and criminalization abroad,” citing the group’s support for a Texas law criminalizing sodomy, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2003.

The Alliance Defending Freedom disputes the characterization, contending it “has never supported the passage of law criminalizing homosexuality.”

Asked if Robinson was comfortable with Alliance Defending Freedom’s positions, John W. Waugh, a spokesperson told Raw Story in an email: “The Lt. Governor has said time and time again that he will defend the rights of ALL North Carolinians.”

The budding alliance between Robinson and Moms for Liberty echoes the group’s alignment with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to seek the presidency in 2024 alongside at least several other Republican candidates, most notably former President Donald Trump.

Moms for Liberty helped mobilize the activist base for DeSantis’ successful reelection campaign last year. DeSantis aligned with the group’s “parent’s rights” messaging, and spoke at its most recent national summit in Tampa in July 2022. This year, Moms for Liberty has announced that Robinson will be part of the speaker lineup at the upcoming national summit in Philadelphia in July, and the group is expected to play a similar role in his gubernatorial campaign.

House Democrat who sponsored congressional stock ban bill just violated the STOCK Act

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who last year led Democratic House leadership’s self-aborted effort to ban congressional stock trading, just became the latest lawmaker to violate the STOCK Act with up to $265,000 in late financial disclosures, according to a Raw Story analysis of financial records.

Lofgren violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act by failing — in one case, for months — to properly disclose her husband's sale of two stocks.

Lofgren was late in reporting her husband’s partial sale on March 23 in software company Deskworks Inc. stock, valued between $100,001 to $250,000. She was also late in disclosing her husband’s sale of $1,001 to $15,000 worth of Expedia Group stock on August 25, 2022.

Members of Congress are only required to disclose the values of such trades in broad ranges.

“All of these transactions, which are related to my husband’s solo practice retirement accounts, are managed by a financial advisor. I do not know about them until they are reported. If there is a late fee owed, it will be paid,” Lofgren told Raw Story in a statement

The STOCK Act requires lawmakers to publicly reveal, within 45 days, any individual stock, bond or cryptocurrency transaction‚ including those of their spouses and dependent children. The law, passed by Congress in 2012, is designed to prevent insider trading, promote transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among federal lawmakers and other government officials.

In the midst of numerous scandals and STOCK Act violations, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tasked Lofgren — then the chairwoman of the Committee on House Administration — with conducting an April 2022 public hearing on stock trading by members of Congress.

But the panel did not reach a consensus, The Hill reported. Lofgren in September introduced the Combatting Financial Conflicts of Interest in Government Act, which would ban Congress members and staff and Supreme Court justices from trading stock.

The Democratic-led House, then led by Pelosi, decided not to conduct a hearing on Lofgren’s bill — or any of several similar stock-ban bills — and never brought it to the House floor for a vote.

Lofgren told Raw Story in a statement that she does not personally trade individual stocks and has “never done so in my entire life.

“Any individual stock listed in any of my filings come from my husband’s retirement accounts and are listed as such. As noted in the transaction report, my husband is the stock owner through his solo practitioner law firm’s retirement funds, and he reported the assets once he was alerted of them by the financial advisor,” Lofgren said. “In the last congressional session, I introduced the Combatting Financial Conflicts of Interest in Government Act, which would end insider trading by members of Congress, and I engaged with many pro-transparency and pro-democracy groups during the bill-writing process.

“Right now, my husband is making adjustments to his accounts – moving from stocks to mutual funds and exchange traded funds – as we agree with the reform groups’ advocacy,” Lofgren added. “There will be much more activity in my husband’s financial transactions in the coming weeks, which will be reflected through a series of required Periodic Transaction Report filings, as he proactively moves to align his accounts to widely-held investments.”

The most recent bill to be introduced this session — the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act — is co-sponsored in part by political rivals in Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Other materially similar bills include the Ending Trading and Holdings in Congressional Stocks (ETHICS) Act, the Trust in Congress Act and the Preventing Elected Leaders from Owning Securities and Investments Act.

Continued violations

Lofgren joins a growing list of congresspeople who Raw Story has reported on violating the STOCK Act.

Most recently, Raw Story broke the news that Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) violated the STOCK Act when he failed to properly disclose purchasing up to $5 million in U.S. Treasury notes.

In January, Raw Story broke the news that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) failed to properly disclose that his wife sold up to $100,000 worth of stock in gaming company Activision Blizzard in September 2022 and purchased up to $15,000 worth of stock in Amazon.com in August 2022.

Raw Story also reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was several days late disclosing that he had sold personal stock in an energy company and a pair of federal defense contractors. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) also violated the STOCK Act in March with a late disclosure.

During the 117th Congress from 2021 to 2022, at least 78 members of Congress — dozens of Democrats and Republicans alike — were found to have violated the STOCK Act's disclosure provisions, according to a tally maintained by Insider.

News organizations including the New York Times, Insider, NPR and Sludge have documented rampant financial conflicts of interests among dozens of members of Congress, such as those who bought and sold defense contractor stock while occupying positions on congressional armed services committees or otherwise voting on measures to send such companies billions of federal dollars. The executive and judicial branches are riddled with similar financial conflict issues, too, as the Wall Street Journal hasreported.

The Wall Street Journal won a 2023 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into financial conflicts among officials who work in federal agencies.

Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, senior government affairs manager with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group that exposes conflicts of interest in the government, told Raw Story last week that he expects little to no consequences for violations of the STOCK Act.

“We’ve seen a lot of these kinds of violations in the STOCK Act disclosure requirements over the past couple of years, and I think it just speaks to a larger issue that really pervades the institution of Congress, and that’s that they just don't really take their ethics very seriously,” Hedtler-Gaudette said. “In particular, they don't take their disclosure requirements and their transaction reporting requirements seriously, and that's a problem because already the public doesn't trust Congress, generally speaking.”

POGO said its ideal vision for policies around congressional stock trading would be a ban on trading stocks and other assets like commodities and futures that are susceptible to insider trading while in office.

“It’s not that we don't want people to be able to have a financial portfolio, and obviously everyone ought to be able to save as far as retirement goes, but they just shouldn't be able to have an unfair advantage,” Hedtler-Gaudette said. “In the current moment that’s what they have right now.”

Five more Republican lawmakers surrender FTX money to U.S. Marshals Service

Money keeps pouring into the U.S. Marshals Service from federal political campaigns and committees who received funds from FTX, the now-defunct cryptocurrency company, according to a Raw Story analysis of federal campaign records.

Another five political campaigns sent $15,500 in campaign cash to the government agency best known for hunting down suspected criminals, adding to at least $160,000 collected from 30 federal political candidates and party committees, as Raw Story first reported.

The five new campaigns that gave up the money are fundraising entities for Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

Stefanik is chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the GOP’s fourth most powerful position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

These mass “disgorgements” to the U.S. Marshals — an extraordinary development with almost no precedent in politics — stem from the Department of Justice urging politicians to return contributions made by FTX executives, including Sam Bankman-Fried, the company’s former CEO. Bankman-Fried faces 13 charges in federal court, including fraud, breaking campaign finance laws and violating the Foreign Corrupt Business Practices Act with an alleged $40 million bribe to Chinese authorities.

“Based on our office's investigation, we have cause to believe these donations represent the proceeds of Bankman-Fried's crimes and accordingly are forfeitable under applicable provisions of the federal asset forfeiture statutes,” said a letter sent by the Department of Justice to a member of Congress’ campaign committee, which in turn shared its contents with Raw Story.

The letter continued, “It is the intent of this office to request any funds forfeited be made available to compensate the victims of Bankman-Fried's crimes pursuant to the Department of Justice's restoration and/or remission regulations."

These letters seem to indicate the DOJ taking a harder stance on campaigns taking money from suspected criminals — and could be considered an “aggressive practice,” said Kevin O’Brien, a partner at Ford O’Brien Landy LLP and former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice.

“Forced forfeiture is a very onerous process. It's not fun, and I think that might have something to do with why they're so eager to send the money back,” O’Brien said. “Investors pretty much lost their shirt, and so the government has an obligation to collect what it can from other sources, including people who are required under the law to forfeit the proceeds of a crime.”

As for sending the money to the U.S. Marshals, O’Brien called it “unusual” and “weird.” He wasn’t sure why the funds were directed to the U.S. Marshals but theorized it could be a bureaucratic decision. The Marshals could be taking the funds as a part of its Asset Forfeiture Program, which allows the USMS to manage and sell assets seized and forfeited by the DOJ, according to the U.S. Marshals website.

“The Molinaro campaign sent the contribution it received from an FTX Executive to a U.S. Marshals recovery fund. It will benefit those defrauded by FTX,” said Dave Catalfamo, an adviser to the Molinaro campaign.

Four of the five new disgorgements came from FTX executive, Ryan Salame, a frequent political donor, according to Raw Story’s analysis of FEC records.

Salame’s house was searched by the FBI on April 27, but he has not been charged with a crime.

“Since news broke, I have waited on guidance from the bankruptcy court on what to do with the funds I received connected to FTX. Having received said guidance, I have tendered the funds to the court. It is up to the court to decide what to do with the money,” Rep. Morgan Griffiths (R-VA), who previously returned $2,900 in FTX-related contributions, said in a statement.

Among the political contributions that federal political committees have sent the U.S. Marshals to date, according to federal records:

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — $36,500

Republican National Committee — $25,000

Former Republican Sen. Ben Sasse — $5,800

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) — $5,800

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) Campaign Fund — $5,800

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) — $5,800

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) — $5,800

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) — $5,800

Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) — $2,900

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) — $2,900

Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) — $2,900

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — $2,900

Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ) — $2,900

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) — $2,900

Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC) — $2,900

Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) — $2,900

Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) — $2,900

Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX) — $2,900

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) — $2,900

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) — $2,900

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) — $2,900

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) — $2,900

Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-FL) — $2,900

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) — $2,900

Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) — $2,900

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) — $2,900

Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) — $2,900

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) Presidential Exploratory Committee — $2,900

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) — $2,900

Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) — $2,900

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) — $2,900

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) — $2,900

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) — $2,700

Athena PAC (Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida) — $2,500

Axne PAC (Democratic Rep. Cynthia Axne of Iowa) — $1,618

Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) — $1,000

Jericho March extremists illustrate threat of present-day MAGA violence

As Donald Trump plots a return to the White House in 2025, his past courtship of militant far-right groups — some of whom led the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol — highlights an ongoing threat of political violence in the United States.

Trump has continued to signal to violent extremists since Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. In February, the former president amplified a user on the Truth Social platform who pledged that his supporters will “physically fight for him” to win the Republican nomination while warning that “we Are Locked and LOADED.”

Jacob Glick, a former investigative counsel for the January 6th Committee, told Raw Story it’s largely beside the point whether Trump directly or indirectly coordinated with the militant groups that attacked the Capitol — including, most prominently, leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who have been convicted of seditious conspiracy.

“The scheme is in plain sight,” said Glick, who now serves as policy counsel at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. “The fact is that both Trump’s authoritarianism and the fascistic bloodlust of the militant groups who aligned with him were out in the open. They each saw each other without necessarily communicating directly. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous. That’s how this anti-democratic dynamic has operated throughout history.”

A patch on a tactical vest worn by a Trump supporter at the Jericho March rally reads: "Water boarding is how we baptize the terrorists." Jordan Green/Raw Story

Glick pointed to one particular strand of the Jan. 6 story as exemplifying Trump’s proximity to the militant groups.

Robert M. Weaver, then employed in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, co-organized the Jericho March — a series of quasi-religious gatherings attended by a loose coalition of Trump supporters who staged weekly rallies in state capitols that culminated with a major demonstration in Washington, D.C., in December 2020.

The Jericho March helped set the stage for what transpired less than a month later on Jan. 6, 2021.

Texts obtained by the January 6th Committee show that Weaver communicated extensively with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, a featured speaker at the rally, and also received confirmation of Trump’s approval through an undisclosed contact within the Trump camp.

“What the messages show is a really egregious instance of a pro-Trump political operative serving in the administration at the time who was extremely active in Stop the Steal — welcoming the help of armed extremists and didn’t reject it,” Glick told Raw Story.

A representative for the Trump campaign could not be reached for comment.

Weaver’s collaboration with Rhodes — now among six Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy — represents a “mainstreaming and normalization of political violence” seen in multipleinstances of crossover between political operatives and militants in the runup to Jan. 6, Glick said, adding, “The Jericho March was 1,000 percent in that category.”

‘Let his church roar’

Weaver presented an unlikely candidate to lead the Christian nationalist wing of the election denial movement. It’s a movement that materialized quickly, one bent on keeping Trump in power after 2020 election returns showed the former president losing the electoral vote to Democrat Joe Biden.

A member of the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma with a business background in healthcare and employee benefits, Trump had made Weaver part of his administration. Then-President Trump first tapped Weaver to lead the Indian Health Service in 2017. But Weaver withdrew following a report by the Wall Street Journal that indicated his resume inaccurately stated his qualifications.

Despite being denied the leadership post, which required Senate confirmation, Weaver in July 2020 joined U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff as an adviser to the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

While other political operatives such as Ali Alexander, Amy Kremer, Felisa Blazek and Tomi Collins began organizing weekly rallies to sow doubt about the result of the 2020 election, Weaver launched a similar effort to mobilize Christians and a smaller subset of conservative Jews behind Trump. Weaver teamed up with Arina Grossu, a former Family Research Council spokesperson who was also working at Health and Human Services at the time, to lead what they called the Jericho March.

A self-described “holy roller, speaking-in-tongues” Pentecostal Christian, Weaver recalled during a Dec. 9, 2020, interview with Christian radio host Eric Metaxas that two days after the election he cried out to God in prayer, and then heard a voice telling him: “It’s not over.”

Weaver told Metaxas: “And the vision was of people all over the crowd, shofars blowing. I saw Catholics. I saw evangelical Christians. Charismatic Christians. I saw all kinds of nuns. I saw Jewish rabbis. I saw people praying. The church was united. And I knew that we were supposed to march on the 12th, that God was showing us that. And I knew we were also supposed to go to the contested states, and do the same thing. And it wasn’t just one time. God said to do it every day at noon, so we’ve been doing it since.”

A man holding a pro-Second Amendment flag raises his hand during a praise song at the Jericho March in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2020. Jordan Green/Raw Story

As described by Weaver and others, the Jericho March was inspired by the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament, in which Joshua, the successor to Moses, leads an army of Israelites who conquer the ancient city of Jericho by marching around it seven times while blowing horns, with the walls crumbling at the seventh pass.

“God had told me that this was about unity,” Weaver said. “He told me to let his church roar.”

On the same day he described his vision to Metaxas, Rhodes added Weaver to the “Dec. 12 DC Security/Leadership” Signal chat, according to the communications which Weaver turned over to the January 6th Committee.

In a separate text obtained by the January 6th Committee, Weaver introduced Rhodes to Stephen Brown, whom the organizers hired to handle logistics for the event, writing: “Steve meet Stewart with Oathkeepers security. Please get with him to work on extra security.” Not only did the Oath Keepers provide additional security for the rally, but Rhodes spoke from the stage during the event.

Responding to news on the eve of the rally that the Supreme Court would refuse to hear a challenge filed by the Texas attorney general, Rhodes launched into a rant in the “Dec. 12 DC Security/Leadership” chat labeling the justices as “compromised or deep state traitors” and calling on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.

“We are at war,” Rhodes wrote. “At war with China and all its American proxies, who are the domestic traitors and insurrectionists. Trump needs to be a wartime president and wage war on our enemies. That is all he has left. If he doesn’t do that, then we will have to fight against an illegitimate Biden regime and all of the deep state with him. It will be a bloody and desperate fight.”

Rhodes' comments on the Signal chat previewed his remarks when he took the stage the next day.

“He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader,” Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, told the January 6th Committee during a public hearing last July. “And the Insurrection Act would have given him a path forward with that. The fact that the president was communicating, whether directly or indirectly messaging that gave him the nod. All I can do is thank the gods that things did not go any worse that day.”

Trump ‘encouraged by’ Jericho marches

While Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder, was emboldened by Trump’s flirtation with the Insurrection Act in 2020, the Jericho March organizers were able to cite the president’s approval to galvanize supporters. Trump’s benediction was passed down to Weaver through a contact at the White House, his co-organizer told the January 6th Committee.

In a Nov. 10, 2020 Jericho March newsletter obtained by the committee, Arina Grossu wrote: “President Trump is also aware of the Jericho Marches and is encouraged by them.”

One of the staff members asked Grossu how she knew that Trump was aware of the marches.

“So that is a question for Rob,” she responded. “I don’t have — I was not in those conversations or in any of those — I did not have that kind of connection.”

Grossu also told the committee that in the days leading up to the Dec. 12 rally, “there was talk that maybe he would fly over,” and indeed Trump did signal his approval to the rally by flying over in Marine One that day.

President Trump flies over the Jericho March in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 12, 2020. Jordan Green/Raw Story

Again, Grossu said her information came from Weaver.

“Rob would probably know more about details of that,” she said. Grossu said she did not know the identity of Weaver’s point of contact at the White House.

The committee did not depose Weaver, although he did provide documents. Reached by phone by Raw Story last week, Weaver abruptly hung up.

The Dec. 12, 2020, Jericho March event in Washington, D.C. was a pivotal moment in the lead-up to the insurrection, in Glick’s view.

Two days later, the duly appointed electors would meet to cast electoral votes on behalf of their respective states. And in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, following a late-night meeting at the White House at which Trump’s allies urged him to call out the National Guard to seize voting machinery, Trump would summon his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 with his infamous “be there, will be wild” tweet.

“It’s all of the January 6th story compressed into one disturbing arc,” Glick said. “December 12th was such an important day in terms of proving that model of political-militant coordination can work. They were able to replicate it on January 6th.

“December 12th was also important because Trump flew over the rally,” he continued. “That night D.C. descends into violence. He sends out his tweet a week later. We see Trump witnessing firsthand the violent potential of the Stop the Steal movement on the ground in D.C. Then, a few days later, when his paths to victory are all but closed off, he calls out his supporters again.”

“Be there, will be wild” was only the culmination of Trump’s courtship of militant groups, Glick said.

“The dynamics are crystal clear in the January 6th Committee report, in the DOJ prosecutions and in public reports,” Glick said. “Trump leaned into the potentially violent power of his base, while he was simultaneously orchestrating multiple illegal schemes to undermine the election. His extreme base followed those cues. They engaged in a call and response that stretched back for months and years before January 6th.”

Trump cultivated militant far-right groups throughout the 2020 campaign.

The former president kicked off his last re-election campaign with a speech in Orlando, Fla. in June 2019 in which he complained that “our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day” as members of the Proud Boys street gang prowled the streets outside the venue chanting, “Pinochet did nothing wrong” in homage to the late Chilean dictator known for extrajudicial execution of political opponents.

Days before a January 2020 Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Va. that attracted militia members, neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists, Trump tweeted: “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.” As protests against COVID restrictions took shape across the country — including one in which men in tactical gear carried assault rifles into the Michigan state capitol — a couple months later, Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” and, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege.”

During his first debate with Joe Biden in September 2020, Trump infamously instructed the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” And in the closing days of the campaign, he minimized a plot by Three Percenters to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, telling supporters at a rally in Lansing that “people are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t.”

‘2024 is the final battle’

The same contours of desperation that drove Trump’s 2020 campaign are in place again for his 2024 bid.

While Trump is the early favorite to again win the Republican presidential nomination, significant trouble looms for him. The multiplecriminalinvestigations against Trump may only increase the incentive for him to inflame his supporters with appeals to base fears. He will also face a 2024 Republican primary featuring several legitimate, conservative candidates intent on ending Trump’s political career for good.

Recalling that the Trump campaign sought to link civil unrest that erupted during his administration to Biden, Kristofer Goldsmith — a military veteran who leads the anti-sedition group Task Force Butler — predicted that Trump will encourage rioting during the 2024 election in order to inflict political damage on his Democratic opponent.

“Any opportunity he has to inspire a riot, especially in American cities — what are traditionally considered Democrat-controlled areas — he has every incentive to inspire riots, and there are tons of neo-Nazis around the country who are desperate for that kind of permission structure,” Goldsmith said.

While militant leaders such as Rhodes looked to Trump for approval to carry out acts of violence, Trump signaled to extremists at key moments during the 2020 campaign when he needed to energize his base by invoking fears about federal investigations, gun control, urban crime, and pandemic restrictions.

Goldsmith said Trump shows every sign of similarly exploiting anti-LGBTQ hate as the 2024 campaign unfolds.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Trump-backing Jan. 6 ‘marshals’ ditched their pink vests and staged an insurrection

“The way that the last two years have gone with the radicalization of the Republican Party and the adoption of legislation specifically targeting, taking away the rights of, and imposing restrictions on the LGBTQ community, I expect Trump to use that,” Goldsmith told Raw Story. “I expect Trump to use the LGBTQ community as a punching bag to further radicalize the Republican Party — to give permission to elements of the far right that have a desire to go out and use violence.”

During a campaign rally in New Hampshire last month, Trump demonstrated how his rhetoric has evolved since he left the White House in January 2021. Specifically, he used anti-LGBTQ language and apocalyptic political imagery to excite his supporters.

“Does anybody really believe what’s going on in this country?” Trump asked. “I will sign a law prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states. And this is what we must do to save our country from destruction. 2024 is the final battle. If we don’t take it over, we’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Far from condemning those who committed violence on his behalf, Trump has offered symbolic support.

The former president glorified the rioters who attacked the Capitol by playing a recording of Jan. 6 defendants housed at the D.C. jail singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during a recent rally in Waco, Texas. And last week, during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, Trump said he was inclined to pardon many of those who face criminal charges in the attack. That signaling gives a green light to future violence, Goldsmith said.

“He wants to assure his fascist troops and out-and-out neo-Nazis that he will go to bat for them if they commit violence on his behalf,” Goldsmith said.

Again, as in 2020, Trump is refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of any outcome in the 2024 election that does not make him the victor, while claiming that America’s very nationhood is at stake.

“I’m just telling you,” he said during his campaign rally in New Hampshire last month, “if we allow them to cheat, because that’s the only way they’re going to win the election — if we allow them to cheat again, you’re not going to have a country.”

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