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Roger Sollenberger

Alaska GOP senator routinely voted for policies that benefited family's chemical company

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, who faces an unexpectedly tight challenge from Democratic-backed independent Al Gross, has repeatedly cast votes in favor of policies that benefit the financial interests of his family's multinational industrial manufacturing company.

Sullivan, first elected in 2014, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as Democratic-aligned groups pour money into the Alaska race in a surprising effort to expand the electoral map. A recent investigation by Popular Investigation detailed connections between Sullivan and corporate donors pushing to develop Pebble Mine, a sprawling project in a part of Alaska home to the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and a number of federally sanctioned tribal governments.

The Republican incumbent's committee appointments and voting record reviewed by Salon appear to show links to another industrial interest with a record of environmental negligence: Republic Powdered Metals International (RPM), a sealant and coating manufacturer founded by his grandfather in 1947. Sullivan's older brother, Frank, is the current CEO.

Senate records show that Sullivan holds between $1 million and $5 million in RPM stock. He has reported earning up to $300,000 in dividends and capital gains since filing his first financial disclosure in 2014. He has augmented that income with eight stock sales since 2018, bringing in a total of $495,000, the disclosures show.

Reached for comment, Sullivan campaign spokesperson Matt Shuckerow told Salon, "Unlike Al Gross' closest adviser, former Sen. Mark Begich, who actively day-traded while in office, Sen. Sullivan has long delegated the oversight of his investments to financial advisers."

The Associated Press reported in 2015 that Sullivan's committee assignments, which oversee areas of interest to RPM, were his "top picks."

"Sullivan said he is excited to get to work and pleased with his committee assignments, which he said were his top picks," the outlet wrote. "Sullivan will serve on the committees of Commerce, Science and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Armed Services; and Veterans' Affairs."

The Committee on Environment and Public Works conducts oversight for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has targeted RPM during Sullivan's term. The conglomerate has paid more than $2.2 million in fines since 2015 to various environmental regulatory agencies, including the EPA, for violating the Clean Air Act and chemical reporting requirements, among other citations.

RPM expressed its frustration with government oversight in its July 2020 annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, claiming that the government had burdened the company with "numerous, complicated and often increasingly stringent environmental, health and safety laws and regulations."

That filing shows that an RPM subsidiary called Carboline agreed to a $1.3 million settlement with the EPA for violating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act after a citation for what the company characterized as "the release or threatened release of hazardous substances" at the Lammers Barrel Superfund site in Beavercreek, Ohio. The final amount was still subject to approval at the time of the filing.

Other subsidiaries of RPM have also been hit with fines in previous years. New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection filed a $192,000 citation with Kirker Enterprises in 2019 for failing to fully meet conditions for an air permit.

Rust-Oleum, another RPM subsidiary, agreed to a $168,000 settlement in 2018 with the EPA for violating hazardous waste reporting requirements at its plant in Williamsport, Maryland. The same plant paid out another $133,000 one year later. (No waste was released, according to the EPA.)

RPM paid out another $181,000 to the EPA in 2017 for violations of the Clean Air Act by Rust-Oleum. Its 2018 SEC filing disclosed that Rust-Oleum had struck a $455,000 settlement with California's air quality regulator regarding hazardous compounds.

In committee, Sullivan voted against EPA regulations for certain harmful carcinogen contained in sealants manufactured and sold by RPM, such as formaldehyde. He also voted against a 2015 amendment which would have strengthened asbestos regulations. In the previous year, RPM subsidiary Bondex had paid $800 million to settle asbestos claims, pushing it to file for bankruptcy.

That amendment would have designated asbestos as a "high priority chemical for regulation under the law," according to Congressional Quarterly. Sullivan's vote was consequential, in that the committee rejected the amendment by a margin of two votes.

Sullivan also voted to confirm two EPA administrators nominated by President Trump — Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler, the agency's current head — who both later blocked proposed Obama-era regulations of a chemical implicated in a wrongful death lawsuit pending against an RPM subsidiary. Both nominees were confirmed along party lines.

The woman who brought the wrongful death suit settled with Rust-Oleum in June 2020. She also sued the EPA in 2019 for refusing to ban the chemical outright. That case remains pending.

In committee, Sullivan voted against a number of amendments to the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to strengthen EPA oversights on chemical companies and compounds contained in RPM products. One amendment would have imposed new compliance requirements, while another would have required the EPA to consider the threat the substances posed to drinking water. Both amendments failed, and in the case of the latter amendment, Sullivan's vote was decisive. (The amendment failed on a tied 10-10 vote.)

Sullivan also cast a pivotal vote on an amendment which would have allowed the EPA to investigate pollutants and toxic substances that may cause cancer and other disease clusters.

Throughout this time, RPM lobbied continually against environmental regulations and compliance standards that, in the company's words, "could subject us to unforeseen future expenditures or liabilities, which could have a material adverse affect on our business." Targets included the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The company's CEO — Sullivan's brother — commended the Trump administration's approach to environmental regulations, telling Crain's Cleveland Business in 2017 that he approved of the president's "lighter regulatory touch."

Sullivan, who sat on committees charged with overseeing military construction budgets and veterans' affairs, also voted for budget expansions that opened new opportunities for RPM to secure millions in federal contracts, federal records searches show.

Beyond Sullivan's stock sales and dividends, his campaigns have received more than $70,000 from RPM employees and executives. The company's PAC contributed the maximum $10,000 to Sullivan's 2020 re-election campaign, federal filings show.

Sullivan's Senate office and RPM International did not reply to Salon's requests for comment.

Rudy Giuliani's daughter comes out against her father and Trump in brutal essay

Caroline Rose Giuliani, the daughter of former LifeLock spokesperson and Trump personal Rudy Giuliani, called for Americans to vote for the Biden-Harris Democratic ticket in a scathing rebuke of the "toxic" Republican administration.

"My father is Rudy Giuliani," Giuliani wrote in an essay published Thursday in Vanity Fair. "We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I've spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a 'Giuliani' feels counterintuitive. But I've come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now."

Giuliani, a 31-year-old Los Angeles-based LGBTQ+ filmmaker, "shunned her famous last name" while at Harvard. Instead, she used the last name of her other famous parent: "Law & Order" actor Donna Hannover. In her essay, Giuliani maintained that "being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president's personal bulldog" is "a difficult confession — something I usually save for at least the second date."

"To anyone who feels overwhelmed or apathetic about this election, there is nothing I relate to more than desperation to escape corrosive political discourse," she wrote. "As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we'll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."

Giuliani, who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, first announced her endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden in August when she tweeted a photo of herself with his running mate, Kamala Harris.

Giuliani recalled getting into debates about politics with her father, a former assistant U.S. attorney, when she was 12, or "probably before I was emotionally equipped to handle such carnage."

"It was disheartening to feel how little power I had to change his mind, no matter how logical and above-my-pay-grade my arguments were," she wrote of their disputes.

Even though those arguments crackled with "an occasional flash of connection," Giuliani added that she was never able to change her father's perspective. That painful "chasm" has grown since Trump's rise.

"I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless," Giuliani wrote. "I may not be able to change my father's mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office."

In the weeks leading up to the release of her essay, Giuliani stepped up her social media presence, at times targeting her father's own work on behalf of Trump.

"Trump is the one lying about Hunter Biden," Giuliani tweeted last month, directly replying to a tweet from her father about what he dubbed the "Biden Crime Family," adding: "And I, for one, do not support spreading false gossip about a politician's child. Just sayin..."

Senior intelligence officials warned the White House twice last year that Rudy Giuliani's efforts to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine had been compromised by Russian intelligence, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

While Caroline Giuliani acknowledges that Biden was not her first choice — she hints that she had initially wanted a more progressive candidate, such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren — she appeals to fellow progressives to not cast a protest vote, pointing to a range of threats from a second Trump administration, including civil rights and the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

"We are hanging by a single, slipping finger on a cliff's edge, and the fall will be fatal," she writes. "If I, after decades of despair over politics, can engage in our democracy to meet this critical moment, I know you can, too."

Experts dismiss 'garbage' Hunter Biden exposé in NY Post: 'Seems like a complete fabrication'

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post published a series of stories on Tuesday surrounding alleged emails between Hunter Biden and officials connected with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which the outlet obtained from a source who met multiple times over the last year with an individual whom the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned as an active agent of Russia.

The Post, which published the unverified emails on Wednesday, reported that the information came from Rudy Giuliani. The former LifeLock spokesperson attempted to distance himself from Andrii Derkach last month after the Treasury Department accused the Ukrainian lawmaker of being a Russian agent and running a "covert influence campaign" directed at the 2020 U.S. presidential election since late 2019.

Giuliani met with Derkach in late 2019. He interviewed the Ukrainian parliamentarian, in his role as President Donald Trump's personal attorney, on a trip aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The former vice president was then viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination; he is now the party's official nominee.

On that trip, Derkach and Giuliani discussed the much-debunked allegations about Biden in a segment which later aired on One America News Network (OAN). Giuliani also broadcast an interview with Derkach on his personal podcast a few months later.

Derkach worked in the interests of the Russian government to inject "false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election" into the U.S. media through interviews, press conferences and other statements, according to the Treasury Department.

His efforts include releasing edited audiotapes purporting to document improprieties by Joe Biden in his dealings as vice president with the Ukrainian government. Derkach's disinformation also played a key role in a roundly discredited report recently released by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

The authenticity of the alleged emails published by The Post has not been independently verified. Accusations of corruption against the Bidens have been repeatedly debunked by journalists.

Twitter later blocked sharing of the story after a number of journalists pointed out key falsehoods and holes in the narrative about the information's authenticity and provenance. That afternoon, the computer repair store owner who claimed to have first come across the alleged emails offered a number of contradictory versions of his own narrative in what journalists described as a "bizarre" and meandering interview.

"At least in 2016, Trump's allies pushed powerful disinformation," national security attorney Bradley Moss told Salon. "These last-ditch efforts barely qualify as trying anymore."

Moss added that several serious questions surround the chain of custody of the emails.

"It's a garbage fire story with obscene numbers of legal holes and flaws," he said.

The emails came to The Post's attention through Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign strategist now indicted on federal money laundering and obstruction charges, who told the outlet that they had been in Giuliani's possession.

Bannon recently appeared in the background of a photograph of Giuliani.

Giuliani told The Post that the emails came from a copy of a hard drive passed to him through his lawyer, Robert Costello, from John Paul Mac Isaac, the owner of a computer repair store in Wilmington, Del., who had notified Giuliani at an unspecified date — allegedly out of fear for his safety, Isaac later told reporters. (Costello has been representing Giuliani in a federal investigation into the former mayor's business dealings abroad, which reportedly includes his work in Ukraine.)

Isaac, who according to a social media post apparently voted for Trump in 2016, allegedly copied the hard drive from a MacBook laptop, which he claims was dropped off at his shop for repair in April 2019 by someone who called himself Hunter Biden.

In his Wednesday interview with reporters, Isaac claimed that a medical condition had prevented him from actually seeing the person who dropped off the laptop, adding that he believed the computer was Biden's because it bore a sticker related to the Beau Biden Foundation. The Biden family named the charity group, which focuses on child abuse, after Joe Biden's son who died of a brain tumor in 2015. The person calling himself Hunter Biden handed over three laptops for repair, Isaac alleged.

The hard drive also contained alleged photos of Hunter Biden, including with drug paraphernalia.

"The computer repair shop giving the hard drive to Giuliani likely exposed that individual to civil and criminal liability under state and federal computer privacy laws," Moss told Salon. "However, Rudy's legal situation for receiving stolen property is less clear. And if he isn't criminally liable for receipt, his dissemination of the material doesn't change the equation. That would be like charging Glenn Greenwald for publishing Edward Snowden's documents."

One of the multiple stories on the subject published Wednesday by The Post included a photo of what the shop owner claimed was a repair ticket. That invoice — which The Post printed without blurring contact information that a search by Salon subsequently linked to Hunter Biden — was dated April 19, 2019.

If Hunter Biden had indeed dropped off the computer, it would have been in the same month in which he stepped down from his position on Burisma's board of directors and his father announced his candidacy for president. It would have also been the same month in which some outlets in the U.S. press began publishing Giuliani's allegations of corruption.

The store owner claims that Hunter Biden had never again inquired about the computer containing his alleged emails.

"It seems like a complete fabrication," former U.S. Attorney and national security law expert Barb McQuade told Salon. "What are the chances that an anonymous person abandons a laptop that contains evidence about the very same conspiracy theory that Trump and Giuliani have been pursuing for more than a year? The subpoena is meaningless, because it has no tie whatsoever to Hunter Biden on its face. This seems like a desperate effort to get this talking point back in the news."

At the time of the alleged laptop dropoff, Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman had significantly ramped up their their months-long cooperative effort to dig up dirt regarding the Bidens and Ukraine.

Parnas and Fruman were later arrested at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington as they waited to board an overseas flight. Those arrests were on unrelated campaign finance charges, but they came only one day after the duo met Giuliani for drinks as impeachment hearings were heating up in Congress.

The investigation into Parnas and Fruman soon expanded to Giuliani, who was later reportedly the subject of subpoenas from federal investigators in the Southern District of New York. A lawyer for Parnas told Salon that he would be making arguments in federal court later this month. It is unclear what became of Giuliani's role in the case.

Neither Parnas' lawyer, Giuilani nor Isaac responded to Salon's requests for comment.

The story, which comes as an "October surprise" while voting is underway nationwide in the weeks before Election Day, recalls memories of the bombshell news from the end of the 2016 election cycle: Emails pulled from a laptop confiscated by the FBI upended former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign in the final days leading up to the election.

At the time, Giuliani — a former assistant U.S. attorney who maintains ties to federal law enforcement — told Fox News that he knew about a major revelation a few days in advance of former FBI director James Comey's stunning announcement that the FBI would investigate the emails.

"I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact," Giuliani said. "He's got a surprise or two that you're going to hear about in the next two days."

On another program later, he repeated the suggestion: "I mean, I'm talking about some pretty big surprises."

After Comey's announcement, Giuliani again took to Fox News, this time to boast.

"I had expected this for the last — honestly, tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be about three, four weeks ago," he said. "Because back — way back in July this started. So, this has been boiling up."

"I did nothing to get it out. I had no role in it," he added. "Did I hear about it? You're darn right I heard about it, and I can't even repeat the language that I heard."

James Murdoch says family's media empire legitimizes disinformation and obscures facts

James Murdoch, the former CEO of 21st Century Fox and the youngest son of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, has admitted that he stepped away from his father's media empire, in part, because it legitimizes disinformation and obscures facts.

"I reached the conclusion that you can venerate a contest of ideas, if you will, and we all do and that's important. But it shouldn't be in a way that hides agendas," Murdoch told The New York Times in his first major interview since his exit.

In the interview, conducted by Maureen Dowd for a profile published Oct. 10, Murdoch explained why he had "pulled the rip cord" with the family business.

"A contest of ideas shouldn't be used to legitimize disinformation, and I think it's often taken advantage of," he said. "And I think at great news organizations, the mission really should be to introduce fact to disperse doubt — not to sow doubt, to obscure fact, if you will."

"And I just felt increasingly uncomfortable with my position on the board having some disagreements over how certain decisions are being made," he continued. "So it was actually not that hard a decision to remove myself and have a kind of cleaner slate."

Murdoch left the News Corp board in July, citing editorial disagreements. The company owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post in the U.S., in addition to The Sun, The Times and Sky News overseas. His resignation letter read, in its entirety:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I hereby tender my resignation as a member of the Board of Directors of News Corporation (the "Company"), effective as of the date hereof.

My resignation is due to disagreements over certain editorial content published by the Company's news outlets and certain other strategic decisions.

James Murdoch has made no secret about the ideological gap between him and what he has characterized as the "American political project" of Fox News, a network whose fawning pro-Trump opinion programming has been compared to North Korean state TV. After Trump praised "very fine" white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, Murdoch gave $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League and told friends in an email that "I can't even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists."

Murdoch told The New Yorker in 2019 that there were "views I really disagree with on Fox" before he abandoned the company later that year. In January 2020, Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn, expressed their "frustration" with climate change denialism at News Corp as wildfires torched 46 million acres in Australia, their home country. (Fox News personalities pushed a false story about arson driving the fires, which was picked up from Murdoch-owned outlet The Australian.)

Asked in The Times interview about his thoughts on Fox News peddling misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, Murdoch replied, "Look, you do worry about it, and I think that we're in the middle of a public health crisis. Climate is also a public health crisis. Whatever political spin on that — if it gets in the way of delivering crucial public health information, I think is pretty bad."

James and Kathryn Murdoch gave $2 million to help elect Biden and Democrats, it was reported earlier this summer.

Though Murdoch no longer has an official position on the corporate board, he retains his share of the Murdoch Family Trust, which still has voting stakes in News Corp and Fox Corporation — a position Murdoch has suggested was relatively inconsequential. He has launched an independent foundation called Quadrivium, which is dedicated to supporting voter participation and climate-change initiatives.

"I think there's only so much you can do if you're not an executive, you're on the board, you're quite removed from a lot of the day-to-day decisions, obviously," he told The Times. "And if you're uncomfortable with those decisions, you have to take stock of whether or not you want to be associated and can you change it or not. I decided that I could be much more effective outside."

Postmaster General DeJoy's $700,000 donation to GOP convention aligns with Senate probe of wife

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose political contributions are the subject of multiple congressional investigations and a campaign finance complaint, donated nearly $700,000 to the host committee who put on the Republican National Convention, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings.

One $250,000 donation came the same day that DeJoy gave $210,600 to Trump Victory, a donation which is currently part of an inquiry led by Senate Democrats into a series of donations surrounding the nomination of his wife, Aldona Wos, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada.

DeJoy, a Republican mega-donor and logistics mogul, was the convention's lead fundraiser before being appointed postmaster general last spring by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Board of Governors. Congressional Democrats and secretaries of state have questioned a series of reforms made by DeJoy over the summer, which they allege appear to be part of a coordinated effort to leverage the USPS to aid the re-election of President Donald Trump.

DeJoy has denied the allegations.

Filed last Friday, the Charlotte Host Committee's report lists four contributions from DeJoy between late December 2018 and March 31 of this year, which amount to a total $685,230.

DeJoy's penultimate donation of $250,000 came Feb. 19, 2020, or the same day he made the $210,600 donation to Trump Victory, the joint fundraising vehicle shared between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Six days later, Trump nominated Wos to be an ambassador.

The donations align with a series of major donations made by DeJoy to the Trump campaign and Senate Republicans leading up to his wife's nomination as ambassador, a Salon investigation revealed. Senate Democrats announced last month that they were opening an investigation into the donations. Wos' Senate confirmation remains pending.

DeJoy was previously tapped to raise cash for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Host committees — non-profits — depend on corporate and individual donors to fund the extravagant nomination celebrations every four years. The high-profile political events are an attractive target for corporations with lobbying interests, Brett Kappel, a nonprofit and lobbying law expert at D.C. firm Harmon Curran told Salon.

"The host committee is a 501(c)(3) organization, so these contributions are tax deductible," Kappel said. "Lobbying expenditures, in contrast, are not tax deductible as business expenses."

This year's committee reported taking in more than $44 million in receipts, and it spent more than $38 million of that amount. Trump all but canceled the convention amid after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, refused to suspend public health restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While Republican delegates still met formally in Charlotte, Trump ultimately gave his acceptance speech from the White House lawn.

DeJoy's $700,000 outstripped contributions from some corporations. Software maker Oracle, for example, which has business before the Trump administration in the form of a bid to purchase the social media platform TikTok, contributed $500,000. Private prison corporations Geo Group and CoreCivic gave $250,000 each. Telecom giant AT&T donated $1 million.

A local company called Charlotte Pipe & Foundry — a century-old company owned by the wealthy Dowd family, whose executives have been reliable financial backers of Trump and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. — gave $500,000 to the committee.

Charlotte Pipe, which employs some 1,200 people, announced this May that it would relocate its flagship plant out of the city to nearby Stanly County. David Teppen, the hedge-fund billionaire and owner of the Carolina Panthers, has eyed the company's property for a new stadium.

Charlotte Pipe also gave $25,000 to the NRA Victory Fund in August 2020, the same month as the convention, FEC records show. The donation was itemized as "other federal receipts," meaning it was not money but a permitted equivalent such as gold or securities. Charlotte Pipe, which is privately owned, does not have shares to sell off, and the company does not manufacture gun parts, a company spokesperson told Salon. (The Tillis campaign has been accused of illegal coordination with the National Rifle Assocation.)

The same day that Charlotte Pipe gave $250,000 to the convention committee, the company donated $25,000 to Results for NC, a PAC affiliated with the Tillis campaign. Another Tillis-backing super PAC, American Crossroads, has poured millions into helping the embattled candidate salvage his re-election bid. It is also led by a USPS official.

A House committee announced last month that it was launching its own investigation into DeJoy following reports that he led an alleged criminal straw donor scheme by reimbursing employees at his former company for donating to GOP candidates. That was followed by an announcement from Senate Democrats of the probe into DeJoy's donations connected to his wife.

Later that month, a campaign finance watchdog filed an FEC complaint against DeJoy and his former company XPO Logistics alleging that the scheme continued at least through 2018, in total allowing DeJoy to disguise possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions.

Those contributions included over $50,000 to Trump Victory.

    DeJoy denies all wrongdoing.

    Trump advises Brett Kavanaugh to sue his accusers

    President Donald Trump on Monday advised Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to sue women who have accused him of sexual assault, a move which would trigger an investigation and public review of the evidence against him.

    Amid the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Trump offered the advice in response to a tweet from the House Judiciary Committee Republicans urging Americans to "remember what they did to Brett Kavanaugh. We don't owe the Democrats anything."

    "He should sue the women, and all of those who illegally worked with them, for false and disgusting accusations!!!" Trump tweeted, alleging a crime without providing specific evidence.

    Two hours after dragging the Kavanaugh accusations back into the limelight, Trump professed his admiration for former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who resigned from the network in disgrace after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and sustaining a toxic work culture at the right-leaning network for decades.

    Kavanaugh's 2018 confirmation hearings became a political flashpoint after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of pinning her to a bed, groping her and trying to take off her clothes at a high school house party. Ford characterized the incident as "attempted rape."

    Not long after she came forward, Ford was joined by two other women: Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a dorm party while the two were freshmen at Yale; and Julie Swetnick, who claimed that Kavanaugh had been present at high school parties where gang rapes occurred.

    "I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room," Swetnick said in an affidavit. "These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh."

    Kavanaugh categorically denied all of the allegations, and his confirmation hearings played out against the backdrop of the national #MeToo reckoning. Following the contentious hearings and a brief FBI inquiry into the claims, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the high court in October 2018.

    It is highly unlikely that Kavanaugh will sue. Legal experts point out that a suit would trigger "discovery," a portion of the trial process where each party may bring their own evidence to the table.

    Attorney Melissa Schwartz, who managed public relations for Ford during the Kavanaugh hearings, pointed out what such a move could mean for Kavanaugh.

    "Sue the the multiple credible women who came forward? And those of us who were proud to serve them pro bono?" she tweeted. "That means ACTUALLY investigating their claims and the dozens of witnesses ignored by the Committee."

    Whereas elected GOP officials controlled the scope of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, a full civil trial with evidence and witnesses would be a different matter. Kavanaugh would have to again explain his denials under oath, this time in front of an impartial judge.

    A trial would also mean the world would again hear from Ford — whom even Trump found a credible witness — as well as Ramirez, who reportedly was denied the opportunity to provide evidence during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Trump previously tweeted that Kavanaugh should sue in response to those reports, which surfaced last year.

    "Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can't let that happen!"

    Trump has been accused of sexual assault by more than two dozen women. He is currently fighting one woman's request in court for a DNA sample to support her allegation of rape.

    Trump's current nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, belongs to an obscure ultra-conservative Christian sect called People of Praise. Former members say the group teaches wives to obey their husbands at all times — and provide sex on demand.

    Automated donors to GOP campaigns are smashing FEC limits — and making headlines on fake news websites

    In recent weeks, a number of political campaigns and committees have received letters from the Federal Election Commission notifying them that they may have violated federal rules and regulations governing campaign finance, such as inaccurately reporting expenditures or accepting campaign donations in excess of the legal limit from dozens of people.

    These letters are not uncommon, and not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing — the assumption is that campaigns want to follow the rules but may have made mistakes in the heat of the contest. When the FEC notifies a campaign that it has taken too much money from donors, for instance, the letter lists the names and donation histories of the supporters who gave too much, so the campaign can isolate the over-limit amounts and refund, reattribute or redesignate that money. They have 60 days to do this before they must report back to the FEC.

    Some of those lists this year, however, have been exceptionally long — a phenomenon that election experts attribute to automated recurring donations over a long and particularly intense campaign season.

    For instance, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., received two separate notices last week, one of them 38 pages long and the other 41 pages. Each flagged excessive contributions from around 60 donors, for adjacent reporting periods. Her colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, received a nine-page list that alone flags a total well above $150,000 in excessive donations that the campaign must explain to the FEC.

    In a similar letter to President Trump's re-election campaign last month, the FEC flagged more than 35,000 contributions from 1,045 donors, totaling more than $4.5 million in donations that the campaign needs to explain and reconcile. That list was 855 pages long. On Oct. 1, the FEC sent the campaign another letter flagging excessive donations, this one 814 pages long.

    Some of those lists this year, however, have been exceptionally long — a phenomenon that election experts attribute to automated recurring donations over a long and particularly intense campaign season.

    For instance, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., received two separate notices last week, one of them 38 pages long and the other 41 pages. Each flagged excessive contributions from around 60 donors, for adjacent reporting periods. Her colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, received a nine-page list that alone flags a total well above $150,000 in excessive donations that the campaign must explain to the FEC.

    In a similar letter to President Trump's re-election campaign last month, the FEC flagged more than 35,000 contributions from 1,045 donors, totaling more than $4.5 million in donations that the campaign needs to explain and reconcile. That list was 855 pages long. On Oct. 1, the FEC sent the campaign another letter flagging excessive donations, this one 814 pages long.

    "You have to consider the possibility that some of these serial donors may not have fully appreciated what they were doing when they signed up for recurring contributions," Kappel said.

    The McSally notices illustrate this point. The contribution history of one single recurring donor, Bruce P. Bengtson, accounts for more than 10 full pages, or 25% of the list. Other donors take up multiple pages, such as Bill Deaton, whose name appears on 215 line items in one letter.

    Deaton, founder of a Kentucky-based data-processing company, was fined $1 million and sentenced to a year of home detention in a federal fraud case in 2010. FEC records show he has contributed $6,706 to McSally this year. The individual limit for a full election cycle is $5,600.

    The Graham campaign also appears to have erred in some of its bookkeeping, according to the FEC, and the Harrison campaign needs to explain several donors with foreign addresses and three sources identified as "possible prohibited entities." (While the letter does not elaborate on the latter, one of the names — PCCC, LLC — appears to have been identified as a difficult-to-trace entity in a Center for Public Integrity analysis of 2016 donations to Hillary Clinton.)

    One of the over-limit donors to Graham, who has taken to begging for campaign cash in recent Fox News appearances, was Washington attorney Ty Cobb, formerly a lawyer for Trump during the Russia investigations. Cobb has given Graham $1,000 above the $2,800 general election maximum.

    A handful of names, however, are on the lists for both Graham and McSally. All those people, according to FEC searches, appear to be retirees. A closed-quote Google search of these donors brings up something unusual: Their names also appear in the headlines of what look like online news articles announcing their donations.

    For instance, a man named Henry L. Collins III gave $4,350 to Graham's campaign between April 30 and June 30, in a series of dozens of donations between $50 and $500. During that same period, he gave $4,425 to McSally. FEC records show that as of July 15, Collins had contributed a total $14,745 to McSally, nearly $10,000 above the individual limit, and as of June 30 had given about $8,400 to Graham, an excess of $2,800.

    On July 1, Collins' name was featured in a headline for an article in something calling itself PHX Reporter that read: "Martha McSally's campaign committee receives $2,705 from Henry L. Collins III."

    But PHX Reporter is identical to another site called Western South Dakota News, which on July 14 announced Collins' $500 contribution to Liz Marty May, a Republican congressional candidate. (Collins did not reply to Salon's request for comment.)

    For that matter, Western South Dakota News looks exactly like the Treasure Coast Sun, which looks like the Columbia Standard — a site that published stories about individual contributions to both Graham and Harrison. Collins' name appears in a list of top donors for the month of May on a Columbia Standard article — and three other donors on the list appear to have exceeded the legal limit with contributions from that month alone.

    These sites are part of a larger network of what could fairly be described as fake news sites — webpages that publish algorithm-driven content, much of it anonymous and automated, targeted at hyper-local audiences. Those networks of sites — dubbed "pink slime," a play on "yellow journalism" — have tripled in size as Election Day approaches. And they're part of an even larger network, connected to a conservative PAC.

    That network, however, also appears to publish campaign refunds at times. One repeat McSally donor who spoke with Salon said that he had been refunded money multiple times over the last year, most recently last week, after the McSally campaign's most recent FEC letter. Earlier refunds made it into the pink slime headlines. The latest news apparently has yet to break.

    The McSally, Graham and Harrison campaigns declined to comment for this article.

    Susan Collins wrote legislation that made millions for her husband's consulting firm

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who finds herself trailing Democratic challenger Sara Gideon in a hotly contested election battle with national implications, wrote contracting reforms as a member of the Senate Government Affairs Committee that appear to have directly benefited the lobbying and consulting firm of her future husband's lobbying and consulting firm.

    While that firm had some contracts that coincided with Collins' tenure on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, it also landed a major $48 million contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2013 — the year after Collins stepped away from that committee.

    Collins first met Thomas Daffron in 1974 when she was an intern in the office of Rep. William Cohen, who went on to serve three terms in the Senate. (Cohen, a Republican, has endorsed Collins for re-election to the Senate — and Joe Biden for president.)

    Daffron served as a consultant on Collins' 1996, 2002 and 2008 Senate campaigns, and ran her leadership PAC from 2003 until 2012, when they married. Collins signed over power of attorney when the couple bought a $705,000 townhouse in Washington, public records show.

    From 2006 to 2016, Daffron was chief operating officer at a K Street lobby shop called Jefferson Consulting, which also did some government contracting work. The firm took in nearly $60 million in federal contracts during his time there, with a significant increase after he became COO.

    For most of that time, from 2005 to 2012, Collins either chaired or served as a senior GOP member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, whose portfolio includes government contracting oversight. Daffron had "suggested [Collins] join the less desirable Government Affairs Committee," the Portland Press Herald reported in 2001.

    Tom Daffron, a 16-year Cohen staffer who worked with Collins, created her campaign advertising and suggested she join the less desirable Government Affairs Committee because of the opportunity for high-profile work. A shrewd choice, as she became the first freshman to lead the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations with a staff that enhanced her own. Daffron remains a close friend and one of the top advisers in her 'kitchen cabinet,' sources said.

    While on the committee, Collins wrote contractor reform designed to "strengthen the procurement workforce," an area in which Jefferson Consulting specialized, securing tens of millions of dollars in government contracts related to acquisition services.

    One such measure was a piece of contracting reform signed into law as part of the 2008 defense budget. After the budget passed, Collins singled out acquisition language, saying that she was "particularly pleased that important reforms to the federal acquisition workforce were also included."

    The association representing government contractors "by and large" supported Collins' bill, calling it a "serious effort to address the root causes of the government's challenges with acquisition."

    Between 2006 and 2016, Daffron's firm landed more than $76 million spread across dozens of federal contracts related to acquisition and procurement, according to searches on In 2010, Jefferson Consulting reported providing acquisitions services and support to nearly two dozen federal agencies.

    Certain specific provisions included with Collins' 2007 contract reforms appear to have benefited Daffron's firm directly, by adding new requirements for acquisition services that Jefferson specialized in.

    For instance, one item imposed new requirements on chief acquisition officers at each federal agency, at a time when Jefferson Consulting held a $331,000 contract to providing services to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Chief Procurement Officer. (Collins' committee had oversight of Homeland Security.)

    Another provision required the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute to prepare an "acquisition workforce development strategic plan." Daffron's firm later reported helping the Federal Acquisition Institute with "Strategic Assessments of Acquisition Operations/Acquisition Workforce Studies" — as captured in April 2010, the earliest available version of Jefferson Consulting's website on the Internet Archive.

    Collins also created a new "acquisitions administrator" charged with overseeing the acquisition workforce and developing a strategic plan for the acquisition workforce. Jefferson claimed on its site that it had provided eight federal agencies with "strategic assessments of acquisition operations."

    Finally, Collins' reform bill required USAID to revise its strategy to address acquisition problems in Afghanistan. In 2013, the year after Collins left the Senate Homeland Security committee, Jefferson Consulting secured a $49 million contract with USAID for procurement support services, according to government spending records. Two years later, the firm announced it had landed a $33 million acquisition contract with USAID.

    Neither Collins' office nor Jefferson Consulting replied to Salon's request for comment.

    The White House is telling two stories about how often Trump gets tested

    President Donald Trump has not been tested daily for the coronavirus, the New York Times reported Tuesday, which raises questions about whether the White House lied about the issue recently in on-the-record emails with reporters.

    Citing "two people familiar with the practices," The Times reported that "the president himself was not tested every day."

    However, Salon had asked senior press staff in an Oct. 2 email whether the White House had stopped testing people close to Trump daily in recent weeks, or whether the president had skipped or lapsed in his daily test routine. White House deputy spokesperson Judd P. Deere responded, "No."

    In other recent emails, administration officials told Salon that Trump was tested "regularly," but would not specify. Deere did not reply when asked to confirm his denial for this article.

    It is still not clear when the president, who was hospitalized with the virus over the weekend, last tested negative. The critical piece of information, which both the White House and the president's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, have declined to provide, would indicate whether Trump had been infected before the first presidential debate last Tuesday, or ahead of a fundraiser he attended Thursday at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.

    Citing an individual familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that Trump and the first lady had tested negative on a rapid test ahead of the Bedminster trip on Thursday morning. But when Salon asked for confirmation, the White House could not affirm the claim.

    Trump first announced his positive test in an early Friday morning tweet. The White House released a memo around the same time in which Conley says he had "received confirmation" that the president and first lady had tested positive for the virus.

    However, CBS News later reported that Trump had received a positive rapid-test result earlier that day, which he declined to mention during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. Instead, the president discussed the recent positive diagnosis of top aide Hope Hicks.

    "I just heard about this," Trump told Hannity, even though Hicks had tested positive that morning. The news had reportedly prompted Trump to take a rapid test upon his return from Bedminster, which came back positive and triggered a second PCR test to confirm the results.

    The White House has created the public impression that the president is tested daily. In late July, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump was being tested "multiple times a day." Though Trump disputed the claim later that day, he said, "I do take probably on average a test every two days, three days."

    In early May, Trump told reporters at the White House that he and his inner circle would be tested daily. The announcement came hours after one of Trump's personal valets tested positive for COVID-19.

    A spokesperson for the Cleveland Clinic, which hosted Tuesday's presidential debate, told Salon that the Trump campaign told it "on the honor system" that the president had tested negative ahead of arrival, but the White House has yet to confirm. The Trump family did not wear masks in the auditorium, and they brushed off a debate staffer when reminded.

    The debate came on the heels of a heavily-attended Rose Garden celebration for Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, after which several attendees tested positive for the virus — including several who helped prepare Trump for the debate.

    The White House denies that the nomination festivities were a superspreader event.

    Since mid-August, the White House has used a new rapid test from Abbott, which claims 97% accuracy based on screening individuals within seven days of first symptoms. Given that Trump first tested positive on Thursday, Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Kaiser Health News that the president's infection "likely happened five or more days ago."

    "If so, then he was widely infectious as early as Tuesday" — the day of the debate — Osterholm said.

    The White House kept Hicks' diagnosis so mum that even campaign manager Bill Stepien and adviser Chris Christie, who helped prep Trump for the debate in close quarters over the course of several days, did not find out until news reports. Both tested positive, and Christie, who like Trump is obese, announced that he checked in to a hospital on Friday "out of an abundance of caution."

    Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, 76, was also in the prep rooms, and told Salon on Tuesday morning that he had so far not tested positive. Giuliani, who coughed noticeably during a Fox News appearance Monday, added that anyone who wondered if he might have COVID-19 "has become consumed by hate and it's eating away at them. The Left, the Democrats have let it get out of control."

    "No symptoms of any kind," Giuliani said. He did not reply to follow-up questions through Wednesday.

    Trump campaign discussing plans to appoint its own state electors -- no matter the results: report

    Trump campaign officials and legal advisers are reportedly preparing to appoint their own state electors as a way to secure victory in a contested election, a move that would precipitate an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

    The country will in all likelihood not know the outcome of the presidential election on Election Day. It is likely, given a raft of threatening public statements from President Trump, that he will reject unfavorable results.

    The president is not directly elected by the people — the official votes are cast by electors on behalf of the voters in their states. Though states have historically chosen their electors by popular vote, the Constitution does not mandate that, saying only that a state shall appoint its electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct."

    Every state has allowed its voters to make the call in every election since the late 1800s. But in 2000, the Supreme Court held in Bush v. Gore that the states "can take back the power to appoint electors."

    According to a Sept. 23 article in The Atlantic, campaign advisers to Trump, in conjunction with Republican state leaders, are preparing to test this theory. Sources in the Republican Party, at both state and national levels, say that the campaign is considering a plan to "bypass" the popular vote results and install its own electors in key battleground states where the legislatures are controlled by Republicans.

    Republicans control both legislative bodies in the six closest battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those six, both Arizona and Florida have Republican governors.

    After the national election, the plan goes, the Trump campaign would cry foul about rampant fraud and demand that state legislators ignore the ballot tabulations and choose their electors directly. If the campaign can sustain doubt or confusion about the ballot count, legislators will feel more and more pressure to take up the responsibility before the Dec. 8 deadline when electors' names are sent to Congress for verification.

    The Atlantic reported that a Trump campaign legal adviser said this effort would be framed as protecting the will of the people.

    "The state legislatures will say, 'All right, we've been given this constitutional power. We don't think the results of our own state are accurate, so here's our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,' " the legal adviser told the outlet. The adviser said that by extending long windows for mail-in ballots to be counted after Election Day, Democrats have exposed the tabulation process to allegations of inaccuracy and fraud.

    "If you have this notion that ballots can come in for I don't know how many days — in some states a week, 10 days — then that onslaught of ballots just gets pushed back and pushed back and pushed back," he said. "So pick your poison. Is it worse to have electors named by legislators or to have votes received by Election Day?"

    When The Atlantic asked the Trump campaign about plans to circumvent the vote and appoint loyal electors, and about other strategies discussed in the article, the deputy national press secretary did not directly address the questions. "It's outrageous that President Trump and his team are being villainized for upholding the rule of law and transparently fighting for a free and fair election," Thea McDonald said in an email. "The mainstream media are giving the Democrats a free pass for their attempts to completely uproot the system and throw our election into chaos." Trump is fighting for a trustworthy election, she wrote, "and any argument otherwise is a conspiracy theory intended to muddy the waters."

    Three Pennsylvania Republican leaders told The Atlantic that they had already talked about appointing electors directly, and one of them — the chair of the state's Republican Party — said he had discussed the possibility with the Trump campaign.

    "I've mentioned it to them, and I hope they're thinking about it too," Lawrence Tabas said. "I just don't think this is the right time for me to be discussing those strategies and approaches, but [direct appointment of electors] is one of the options. It is one of the available legal options set forth in the Constitution." He said that if the voting process "has significant flaws," then people could "lose faith and confidence" in the system.

    Jake Corman, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate, said that if the count draws on for too long, the legislature will have to choose electors. "We don't want to go down that road, but we understand where the law takes us, and we'll follow the law," he said.

    That road could lead to a scenario where six battleground states have competing sets of electors, each authorized by different branches of the state — one by the Republican legislature, one by the Democratic governor. Even in Arizona and Florida, where Republicans fully control the government, an independent set of Democratic electors could try to certify their own votes for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in an effort to kick the final call up to Congress.

    This almost happened during the 2000 Florida recount: Republican Gov. Jeb Bush certified electors for his brother, George W. Bush, before the recount had been settled. The Gore campaign was ready to assemble its own group of Democratic electors to cast rival ballots, but after the Supreme Court ruled against Gore, he conceded — just days before the Electoral College convened.

    Given this plan, The Atlantic reports, it's possible that mirror-image state electors could turn in competing sets of votes, submitted "to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate" — who, by the way, is Vice President Mike Pence.

    The contest at that point gets very complicated, but plays out in one of three ways: If Democrats take the Senate back and hold onto the House, then Biden wins; if Republicans hold the Senate and flip the House, a less likely scenario, then Trump wins; but if Congress remains divided after the election, the Constitution does not offer a solution.

    As Constitutional scholar Norm Ornstein told The Atlantic, "Then we get thrown into a world where anything could happen."