FBI Probes Allegation That DeJoy Used Illegal Scheme to Rise as GOP Megadonor

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating Republican campaign donations in connection to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and his former company. As first reported by The Washington Post, FBI agents have been looking into campaign contributions potentially made by people currently and formerly employed by DeJoy. Sources told the publication that investigators have also issued a subpoena to the embattled postmaster general in connection with the donations.

Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives

Environment & Health Right-Wing Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting State Climate Initiatives Environment & Health COVID Isn’t Over — the US Must Do More to Combat It Worldwide War & Peace Barbara Lee Introduces Bill to Help Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Economy & Labor Report Shows Stimulus Checks Significantly Reduced Hardship for Families Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US As Republicans in Washington propose to further strip an already pared-down jobs and infrastructure package that activists warn is not bold enough to deliver Biden’s promises of “real change,” lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. In April, GOP lawmakers in Connecticut launched a “Stop the Gas and Food Tax” campaign, which characterizes an effort by 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a plan to “punish” the middle class. The effort their ire was directed at, the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), contains provisions to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. “I think one sign of the desperation of the [GOP] opposition is that they’re really resorting now to things that are factually untrue,” Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney at Save the Sound, told Connecticut Mirror, referring to how the TCI-P categorically does not levy a tax on consumers at the pump. Progressive groups including the Climate Justice Alliance have also opposed the program, but on the grounds that it distracts from reforms that center the needs of communities on the frontlines of pollution and climate crises, such as overhauling the mass transit system. Right-wing groups have relied on disinformation and economic alarmism to promote the fossil fuel industry’s agenda for decades, advocates say. For example, in 2015, a multimillion-dollar PR campaign by a front group for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) surfaced in California when lawmakers were getting close to passing the state’s Clean Energy and Pollution Act. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Adrienne Alvord described the WSPA radio spots and glossy mailers calling on Californians to “stop the hidden gas tax” as “one of the most extreme examples of fossil fuel-interest misinformation I’ve ever seen.” Now, efforts have arisen in New York state to quash what would be the most progressive state-level climate jobs bill in the U.S. The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) is a novel proposal that provides a roadmap for funding the state’s 2019 commitment to 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2040, by establishing a new state authority that proponents estimate would generate between $11 billion and $15 billion annually by calling on polluters to pay a $55 fee on each ton of climate pollution emitted, which would rise to $74 by 2030. The bill also calls for additional fees on co-pollutants that are harmful to human health, like ozone and the microscopic particulate pollution known as PM2.5, which is highly correlated with asthma and other respiratory problems. Unlike TCI-P or cap-and-trade schemes, the CCIA is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations that worked with state lawmakers to introduce it, under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. According to a report by the coalition, the legislation would support more than 160,000 ongoing jobs, including 4,560 jobs manufacturing electric buses, 11,700 jobs retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency and 11,404 jobs in the care economy. The fund would also provide tax rebates to low- and middle-income New Yorkers to cover fluctuating energy costs amid the transition away from fossil fuels. The CCIA would direct 33 percent of revenue, or an estimated $4 billion annually to a community-led just transition fund, and 7 percent, or an estimated $1 billion annually, to a fund to support workers and communities that will need to transition away from livelihoods in the fossil fuel sector. Lawmakers with ties to oil and gas interests are obstructing action at the state level by misrepresenting regional climate bills as gas taxes. Organizers began facing a barrage of pushback beginning in April, after vice president of the corporate lobbying group Business Council of New York State Ken Pokalsky testified against the bill, estimating a 55 cent per gallon fee on gasoline and a 26 percent rise in the cost of natural gas for home heating. According to watchdog group the Public Accountability Initiative and database LittleSis, the Business Council is heavily backed by fossil fuel interests, with members including pipeline conglomerate Kinder Morgan, Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy and the American Petroleum Institute. Vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers followed days later, including from New York state senators Daphne Jordan and Thomas F. O’Mara, whose top campaign contributors during the 2020 election cycle included the Business Council. Local papers across the state, such as The Island Now and the Saratogian amplified the framing of the bill as a “gas tax” by linking concern over rising prices at the pump to a recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. A similar message has continued to be broadcast on TV stations and an NPR affiliate station. Stephan Edel, coalition coordinator with NY Renews, told Truthout the gas tax rhetoric is disingenuous and distracts from what the bill actually offers communities across the state. “We put the fee upstream on importers and major fossil fuel companies. Some of those companies will choose to pass those costs onto consumers even though they don’t have to,” he explained. NY Renews has conducted multiple analyses of the legislation’s impact on New Yorkers, which have all concluded that tax rebates of $700-$1,200 per household to help with energy costs would cover or exceed the potential impact of rising fuel costs passed to consumers, leaving 60 percent of New Yorkers with more money. “Those things are completely lost when the conversation focuses on ‘will the price at the pump go up?’” Edel added. The Climate and Community Investment Act … is designed by and for the almost 300 community organizations … under a multiracial, multi-sector coalition called NY Renews. The bill’s potential passage comes at a critical time given the federal gridlock. Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a national climate strategist, told Truthout the CCIA and efforts to stamp it out could set a precedent for what will play out elsewhere. “New York is always a trendsetter and as a state laboratory is often a good place to learn about the nuance from financing to accountability in the State Attorney General, the regulatory space and in the streets,” she said. Sacoby Wilson, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland, says the CCIA would serve as a model for other regions in the U.S. that have yet to develop such a dense environmental justice network and presence in the halls of power. “That bill has the opportunity to bring justice forward and really target communities with the most needs,” he said, noting that without legislation like the CCIA, aggressive action on climate issues at the state and federal levels could result in just another “massive transfer of wealth” that further harms low-income and communities of color, which Wilson says “have been dumped on for years and excluded from economic opportunity.” The executive director of the Brooklyn-based community development organization UPROSE, Elizabeth Yeampierre, took part in preventing just this kind of wealth transfer in 2019, when her organization helped fight off an attempt by real estate developers to rezone an industrial waterfront area in Brooklyn for high-rise apartments and hotels. The proposed development was slated for the Sunset Park neighborhood, where 29 percent of residents, the majority of whom are Latinx or Asian, live below the poverty level. Now, instead of hosting luxury apartments that organizers say would have gentrified the neighborhood, Sunset Park is slated to serve as a manufacturing hub for offshore wind turbines, where the Norwegian company Equinor has committed $50 million to workforce development. As Inside Climate News reports, residents have expressed excitement about the possibility of over 1,000 high-paying jobs as an alternative to retail or service gigs or working in dirtier industries. “New York is really the belly of the beast when it comes to capitalism,” Yeampierre told Truthout, noting how the CCIA is designed to help organizers tap into funding for clean energy and climate resilience projects that build neighborhood wealth, like what’s now happening in Sunset Park. The climate bill faces some opposition on Long Island and upstate, yet almost two-thirds of New Yorkers acknowledge that climate change is already hurting people in the U.S., and 75 percent of residents think corporations should do more to address global warming. Yeampierre said she believes necessary constituents and lawmakers might back the bill — if they weren’t facing the oil and gas industry’s alternative facts. “I would think that people would be excited to hear about communities leading with solutions that are viable, operational and that address the disparities of fossil fuel extraction and racism,” she said. “If you address the needs of the most vulnerable, everyone will benefit.” The proposed legislation currently has 28 co-sponsors in the Senate and 49 co-sponsors in the State Assembly. In the remaining days of the legislative session, which ends on June 10, Clarke Gocker, an organizer with PUSH Buffalo, said activists will continue reaching deeper into communities to educate policy makers, residents and small businesses on what’s actually in the bill. For example, the bill includes billions annually in funding for projects like Buffalo’s School 77: a formerly abandoned building on the city’s west side that is now home to affordable apartments, a Black theater collective, a community gym, and a space that served as a COVID-19 mutual aid hub last summer, all powered by a 65-kilowatt solar array installed and maintained by local workers. “There’s a lot of popular education that needs to happen to dispel this disinformation and misinformation,” Gocker said. “The CCIA is a novel legislative intervention and I don’t think there’s a lot of precedent, which is why it’s so exciting.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Jayapal Presses Biden to Cut Off Infrastructure Talks With Republicans

Politics & Elections 100+ Democracy Scholars Issue Dire Warning About Threats to Voting Rights in US Racial Justice Robin D.G. Kelley: The Tulsa Race Massacre Went Way Beyond “Black Wall Street” Politics & Elections Democrats Remind Biden That Bipartisanship on Infrastructure Is “Hopeless” Politics & Elections The Fight Against Fascism Isn’t Over Politics & Elections Even With Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel, We Mustn’t Be Complacent Environment & Health Here’s How to Fight Climate Destruction and Environmental Racism Simultaneously As President Joe Biden prepared to continue talks with the Senate GOP’s lead infrastructure negotiator on Wednesday, progressive Democrats in Congress implored the White House to stop wasting precious time wrangling with a party that has repeatedly shown it is uninterested in pursuing an adequate legislative package. “It’s time to go big, bold, and fast on an infrastructure plan that repairs bridges and roads — but also guarantees paid leave and child care,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said late Tuesday. “The GOP isn’t going to meet us halfway. It’s time to go alone — and get this done.” Last week, a group of Republican senators unveiled the outlines of an infrastructure proposal that called for just $257 billion in new spending over eight years — a far cry from the $1.7 trillion in above-baseline spending Biden offered as a compromise proposal. Republicans flatly rejected that offer as excessive, even though the president lopped roughly $500 billion off his initial American Jobs Plan. Progressive lawmakers, and even some centrists, have grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as Biden’s talks with the GOP have predictably moved toward less spending as Republican negotiators attempt to strip out key climate proposals and other measures they consider extraneous, including elder care. “Time is tick, tick, ticking past. Every day spent on hopeless bipartisanship is a day not spent on climate,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Tuesday. “We can survive bumpy roads; a ruined planet is for eons.” And yet, as Politico reported Tuesday, “the White House continues to see upside to infrastructure negotiations with Republicans, even as the talks run on longer than President Joe Biden initially planned.” “The president still has faith in his ability to win over reluctant Senate Republicans and advisers see benefits — reputationally and politically — in working across the aisle,” according to Politico. But leading progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have warned of the potentially disastrous consequences of dragging out negotiations with Republicans, both for the climate and for Democrats’ chances of holding on to their slim congressional majorities. The Vermont senator and other progressives in Congress have proposed spending $10 trillion over the next decade on rebuilding the United States’ core infrastructure, combating the climate crisis by expanding renewable energy, and tackling economic and racial inequities. “What happens if they spend week after week, month after month ‘negotiating’ with Republicans who have little intention of addressing the serious crises facing the working families of this country?” Sanders wrote in a CNN op-ed last week. “What happens if, after the passage of the vitally important American Rescue Plan — the Covid-19 rescue package signed into law by President Biden in March — the momentum stops and we accomplish little or nothing?” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has said he is prepared to move forward on infrastructure and other priorities using budget reconciliation, a filibuster-proof process that allows lawmakers to pass spending bills with a simple majority. But Biden and conservative Senate Democrats, most prominently Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have balked at using reconciliation without first attempting to attract Republican support. Manchin, whose vote Senate Democrats need to move forward with their agenda, indicated last week that he would be willing to let infrastructure talks with the GOP continue until the end of the year in the hopes of eventually reaching a bipartisan deal. As The Hill reported Tuesday, “The White House and congressional Democrats have said they want to get an infrastructure deal passed before the August recess.” “But the more time lawmakers devote to infrastructure,” the outlet noted, “the more uncertain it becomes whether Biden can get other priorities passed before the midterms.” With pressing agenda items such as voting rights expansion, immigration reform, and a major safety net boost at risk of dying in the Senate, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) echoed Jayapal’s call for Democrats to move ahead with their policy priorities unilaterally. “Instead of wasting our energy negotiating against ourselves for an infrastructure package that Republicans clearly have no interest in passing,” Bush tweeted, “let’s put our energy into abolishing the filibuster, passing the policy we were elected to deliver, and getting ish done for our people.” This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

GOP Votes to Oust Liz Cheney for Not Peddling Trump’s Big Lie

House Republicans voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) from her leadership position on Wednesday, in a move that cemented the right’s unending fealty to former President Donald Trump. Cheney had refused to continue perpetuating Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen, which many Republicans viewed as a sort of betrayal of their values — though Cheney herself has been a loyal rank-and-file GOP member over the years, often pushing the worst elements of conservative ideology.

Trump’s “Big Lie” Could Hurt Republicans in 2022, GOP Pollster Says

A veteran pollster for Republican candidates and officials over the past several decades has a warning for his party: Pushing former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud may cause a GOP midterm election loss. Midterm elections usually go badly for the political party associated with the president currently in office. Only two presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have seen gains in Congress for their own political party in a midterm race after winning a presidential election: Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002.

Texas Democrats Fought GOP Voter Suppression Bill Through the Night

Texas House Republicans passed a voter suppression bill early Friday morning despite a tough fight put up by Democrats, who offered over 130 amendments from late Thursday into the night. Democrats were able to water down the bill, SB 7, and cut into some of the most punitive proposals, but the final vision retained restrictive proposals like limiting ballot drop boxes and prohibiting counties from sending unsolicited absentee ballots. The House voted at 3 am to advance the bill, which contained 20 of the provisions proposed by Democrats, who had slim chances of outright stopping the bill. Texas’ House is controlled by Republicans by a wide margin; the bill passed 81-64.

GOP Lawmakers Are Trying to Overrule Voters on Everything From Medicaid to Weed

Amid growing concerns that Republicans will try to use new voting laws to overturn elections in the wake of a campaign of lies stoking unfounded fears about vote-rigging, GOP-led state legislatures across the country are already trying to reverse popular ballot initiatives approved by majorities of voters. Missouri voters last year passed a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. Arizona approved a new tax on the wealthy to fund schools. South Dakota legalized marijuana. But Republicans are trying to block those measures from being implemented and dozens of state legislatures are pushing new bills to make it harder to get voter initiatives on the ballot in the first place.

While Democrats Work on Infrastructure, Republicans Are Busy Defending Slavery

Prisons & Policing Jailers Tortured and Murdered Marvin Scott III, Family Says After Viewing Video Politics & Elections A New Wave of Jim Crow Laws Is Here. Here’s What You Need to Know. Politics & Elections Facebook Board Announces Trump Remains Banned. Trump Starts His Own “Platform.” Immigration Biden’s U-Turn on Refugees Aligns With Voter Support for Pro-Immigrant Policies Economy & Labor Amazon Is Dictating Personal Hygiene, Nail Length of Contract Drivers Politics & Elections Judge Says DOJ Memo on Barr’s Decision Not to Charge Trump Must Be Released As the nation grapples with fighting for racial justice and against police-perpetrated murders of Black Americans, Republicans have evidently found a different cause worth fighting for: making racist, seemingly unprompted defenses of slavery. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that he doesn’t believe that 1619, the year that enslaved Africans first arrived in the U.S., is an important date in history. People have “exotic notions” about important points in U.S. history, and 1619 isn’t one of them, McConnell said. “I just simply don’t think [racism is] part of the core underpinning of what American civic education ought to be about,” McConnell continued, speaking at the University of Louisville. McConnell has gone on a tirade against The New York Times’s 1619 Project about slavery in the U.S. and Democrats’ anti-racism agenda — though anti-anti-racism, as commentators have pointed out, is simply just racism. Nikole Hannah-Jones, who headed the 1619 Project on slavery that has Republicans up in arms, spoke on CNN about McConnell’s comments. “This is not about the facts of history — it’s about trying to prohibit the teaching of ideas they don’t like,” she said. Indeed, many Republicans have long embraced racism but have been emboldened by former President Donald Trump’s style of being openly and brazenly so — to the point that some political journalists have noted that the GOP wants to be called racist so that they can play the victim and claim to be silenced by anti-racists. Perhaps that’s why Tennessee Republican State Rep. Justin Lafferty on Tuesday suggested that the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted enslaved people as less than one whole person in population counts, was actually a good thing because it helped to end slavery. But it didn’t; it only further “sanctioned slavery more decidedly than any previous action,” as historian Staughton Lynd writes. Or maybe it’s why Colorado Republican State Rep. Ron Hanks also defended the Three-Fifths Compromise last month, saying that it “was not impugning anybody’s humanity” to count an enslaved person as less than one human being. Republicans evidently don’t believe that it was just some elements of slavery that were positive, however; Louisiana Republican State Rep. Ray Garofalo Jr. last week said that schools should teach “the good” of slavery alongside the bad. “If you are having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery: the good, the bad, the ugly,” Garofalo said. There is, of course, no “good” to slavery, and it’s abhorrently racist to suggest as such. Garofalo later retracted his statement, but only after Democrats circulated a video of him speaking on the “good” of slavery that now has nearly a million views. Regardless of the GOP’s intentions, it’s no coincidence that they are raging an attack on anti-racism just as rallies and protests for Black lives have swept the country. Though the GOP’s overt defenses of slavery all happened in recent weeks, the right has been waging racist attacks prominently in the past year. For months, the right has been railing against critical race theory — scholarly work with the goal of dismantling oppression and white supremacy — despite lacking a clear understanding of what it is. They are claiming that racism has been eradicated in the U.S. even as Black Americans face death at the hands of the state simply for walking down the street or while sleeping in their homes. It’s evidently not enough for the GOP that racism is alive and well in the U.S. — the party seems to be operating on a mandate to enshrine racism in the nation forever — and normalizing defenses of slavery appear to be part of that strategy. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Conspiracy Theorist Hired by GOP to Lead Arizona Recount Cost Taxpayers $150,000

Politics & Elections Facebook Will Announce Tomorrow Whether Trump and His Fascist Posts Can Return Economy & Labor Mutual Aid Efforts Are Working to Fill the Gaps of Biden’s COVID Response Economy & Labor Amazon’s Anti-Union Bullying Shows Why We Need the PRO Act Economy & Labor Tax Dodgers Owe US Over $7 Trillion, Says Janet Yellen Politics & Elections Biden Picks Warren Ally to Oversee Student Aid, Signaling Shift on Student Debt Human Rights Over 10 Million People Could Become Homeless When Eviction Moratorium Ends Nearly six months after voting ended in the 2020 presidential election, Republicans are leading an effort in Arizona to throw undue doubt into President Joe Biden’s win in the state — and they’ve hired conspiracy theorists to help lead the charge. Republican legislators in the state, who hold a majority in the legislature, successfully subpoenaed 2.1 million ballots earlier this year. Senate Republicans demanded the ballots from election officials in Maricopa County, which put Biden over the top and then didn’t have anywhere to put the ballots once they got them. The GOP obtained the ballots with the goal of completing their own audit of the election results, despite the fact that the state’s own audits, as well as Maricopa County’s audit, found no evidence of voter fraud. Still, Republicans think that they can conduct a better audit — perhaps one with different results — and have hired a company with zero experience with elections to do so. As Judd Legum of Popular Information wrote, “The counting will continue until results improve.” The company Republicans have hired, for $150,000 of taxpayer money, is called Cyber Ninjas. Cyber Ninjas is a Florida-based cybersecurity company which has been described by its founder, Doug Logan, as a “Christian company.” Logan has espoused views supporting the conspiracy theories put forth by “Stop the Steal” groups and QAnon-affiliated Ron Watkins, who propagate the false claim that it was former President Donald Trump, not Biden, who truly won the election. Arizona is not Logan’s first rodeo in challenging election results. He was previously listed as an expert witness in a lawsuit in Michigan where the plaintiffs claimed that voting machines were rigged. Though the company has tried keeping their audit methodology under wraps, they’ve been ordered by a judge to disclose documents with procedures for the audit. The procedures “[don’t] make any sense, and I’ve seen a lot of audits,” Tammy Patrick, senior elections adviser for Democracy Fund and former Maricopa County elections worker, told USA Today. The documents detailing procedures for “forensics” are vague and unclear. One such procedure evidently being employed by Cyber Ninja is using UV lights to check for watermarks on the ballots. Arizona’s ballots don’t have watermarks, and the Brennan Center for Justice has warned that the lights could make the ballots deteriorate, but that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from believing that using the UV light might reveal a secret watermark. Observers and election experts have also caught the auditors making basic mistakes like using blue pens that might alter the vote on a ballot or not securing the area where ballots are being counted by locking the doors. Cyber Ninjas has also recruited former state lawmaker Anthony Kern to help validate ballots. Kern is a Trump supporter who was at the Capitol on January 6 with the mob trying to get the election results overturned. State Republicans are also evidently trying to raise funds beyond the $150,000 from the government for the audit effort, Legum reports. The Arizona Senate is soliciting donations to raise $2.8 million for the effort on a website, fundtheaudit.com, owned by an organization created by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, also a known Trump supporter. Trump himself has been bragging about the audit, despite the fact that Arizona lawmakers don’t have the authority to overturn election results. Still, he’s been telling Mar-a-Lago guests that the audit will perhaps help reinstate him — although, even if the legislators could overturn the result of the state’s election, and if there were any evidence of fraud, the 11 electoral votes it would give the former president would still not be enough to give him the win he wants. So then why are Republicans still chugging along to overturn Arizona’s results? It’s unclear, but the audit is already likely having harmful effects. Most Republican voters still believe that the election was rigged; and the very fact that Republicans are conducting an audit may indicate, to some, that there are legitimate reasons to believe that there was fraud, no matter how spurious the real reasons for the audit are. Political observers warn that the results of the audit, even if they’re falsified or based on flawed methodology, could end up adding fuel to the Republicans’ voter suppression fire in Arizona and across the country. “The idea, obviously, is to create a new truth for Republicans,” wrote MSNBC’s Steve Benen, “at which point pro-Trump forces can exploit the lie to justify new voter-suppression efforts and perhaps even related efforts in other states, where Republicans can hire Cyber Ninjas of their own.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Marijuana Is Bipartisan, But That Doesn’t Mean Federal Legalization Is A Sure Thing

There was once a time when the only lawmakers supporting the concept of legal marijuana were those long-haired candidates running as independents that didn’t have a chance at winning anyway. But...