Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saudi 9/11 Law Could Have Unintended Ramifications

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a new law allowing U.S. victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments may have “unintended ramifications,” despite Congress’s overwhelming vote this week to defy President Barack Obama’s veto of the Legislation.

Though Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) was easily overridden, many Senators are seeking changes to the law later this year, particularly after gauging any international reaction. McConnell laid some fault at the hands of the White House, calling the battle over JASTA a “good example” of “failure to communicate early about the potential consequences” of a popular bill.

“I told the president the other day that this is an example of an issue that we should have talked about much earlier,” McConnell said Thursday. “It appears as if there may be some unintended ramifications of that and I do think it’s worth further discussing. But it was certainly not something that was going to be fixed this week.”

At Obama's last event he explained the unintended ramifications of a override of his veto.

A spokesman said McConnell and Obama spoke on Monday, the same day the Majority leader teed up a vote on the veto override. The vote in the Senate to reject Obama’s veto was 97-1, and 348-77 in the House.

Later Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also said the law could be revisited. "I would like to think there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of legal ensnarement that occur, any kind of retribution," Ryan said at his weekly press conference Thursday. "I would like to think there’s a way we can fix so that our service members do not have legal problems overseas while still protecting the rights of the 9/11 victims, which is what JASTA did do."

The White House lashed out at Congress for the veto override. Administration officials pointed out that some Senators shared their concerns that the measure could backfire on the United States abroad, yet they still supported it. Nearly 30 Senators have signed a letter asking the bill’s leading sponsors to address any unintended consequences of JASTA after it goes into effect.

“It’s hard to take at face value the suggestion that they were unaware of the consequences of their vote, but even if they were, what’s true in elementary school is true in the United States Congress: ignorance is not an excuse, particularly when it comes to our national security and the safety and security of our diplomats and our servicemembers," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Thursday.

Obama also called the override a “political vote” and a “mistake.” “It’s a dangerous precedent, and it’s an example of why sometimes you have to do what’s hard. And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what’s hard,” Obama said at a CNN town hall. “If you’re perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that’s a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do.”

Still, McConnell’s comments echoed complaints from Republicans and Democrats who said the White House did little to engage members of Congress with their concerns.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but no one had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships. And I think it was just a ball dropped,” McConnell said. “I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t, [but] it would have been helpful if we had a discussion about this much earlier than the last week.”

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the lead Democrat on the Legislation, said on Thursday that he is willing to look at changes, but “not any that hurt the families.” He worked closely with families of 9/11 victims to craft the measure.

He also responded to the White House’s criticisms, saying: “It’s hardly political for me.” “I’ve sat and worked with these families for five years. I feel their pain. Not close to the amount because I didn’t lose a loved one the way they did,” Schumer said. “But this is about justice. And I would say in a very partisan time, for any president — and this one in particular — to have only one veto override, that’s a darn good record.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the only member of the Senate who voted to sustain Obama’s veto, declined to comment about his vote.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Attorney General Widens Probe of Trump Foundation

The New York Attorney General's investigation of the Donald J. Trump Foundation has broadened to include new allegations of self-dealing by Trump that surfaced after the probe began.

The town of Palm Beach, Florida, has provided documents to the New York Attorney General's Office as part of the probe, a lawyer for the town confirmed. The documents relate to a legal dispute that Trump settled with the town using Foundation money. The details of the 2007 Palm Beach case were first reported by the Washington Post last week.

"The New York Attorney General’s Office did contact me in regard to this matter," John Randolph, the Palm Beach Town attorney said. "I just sent them the documents that I had previously sent to the Washington Post."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had announced earlier this month, before the Washington Post's reporting on the Palm Beach case, that his office had opened an investigation into Trump Foundation after it was reported that Trump had used Foundation money to buy personal gifts for himself.

The contact with Palm Beach by the Attorney General's Office suggests its probe had widened to include other alleged acts of self-dealing.

The Palm Beach case was one of two cases reported on by the Post in which Trump or Trump-owned businesses settled legal disputes that didn't involve his Foundation but that used Foundation monies as part of the settlement.

In the the Palm Beach case, the Florida town had levied some $120,000 in fines against Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort for erecting an 80-foot flagpole that violated local rules limiting flagpole heights to 42 feet. Trump brought a lawsuit against the town, which was later settled with Trump donating $100,000 to a charity agreed upon by Palm Beach. Trump donated to the Fisher House, a local veterans' organization, but used money from the Foundation rather than his own, in a practice experts say is blatant "self-dealing."

Self-dealing, or the use of a charity's money to the personal benefit of one of its operators, is a major no-no in charity world, and a violation of both State law in New York, where the Trump Foundation is registered, and IRS regulations, according to legal and tax experts.

In the second legal case reported on by the Washington Post last week, Trump used Foundation money to settle a 2010 dispute over prize money in a hole-in-one contest at one of his golf courses. A man named Martin Greenberg had scored the hole-in-one at a charity event for Alonzo Mourning's charity held at Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. When Greenberg did not receive the $1 million promised for the shot, he sued the golf course, the Mourning charity, and the insurer for the prize money. The parties agreed on a $500,000 donation to a charity of Greenberg's choosing. A $158,000 donation was ultimately sent to the Martin Greenberg Foundation, but that contribution came from Trump Foundation, which has not received a donation from Trump himself since 2009.

In interviews last week with a wide range of Tax and Charity Law experts that included a former Charities Investigator in the New York Attorney General's Office, the experts said that investigations into "self-dealing" could result in a settlement between the charity and prosecutors, or, if the charity is uncooperative, a legal case could be brought.

“The attorney general has the authority to investigate those kinds of violations and seek monetary remedies, seek removal of director in appropriate cases, and pretty much everything in between,” Pamela Mann, the Head of the tax exempt organizations group at the New York City law firm Carter Ledyard, who for 11 years served as Chief of the Charities Bureau at the New York Attorney General’s office. “I think it’s conceivable they could also seek to involuntary dissolve a foundation because it's not really acting like a charitable foundation.”

The Donald J. Trump Foundation has no paid employees.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NYC Provides Free Wi-Fi in Home of Public School Kids

New York City announced it is teaming up with Google and Sprint to provide thousands of public school kids with Free Wi-Fi in their homes.

The program will be open to any family that has children in public school and no internet access at home.

It will be run by the city's library system, and applicants must have no outstanding fines on their library cards in order to take part in this project.

The City plans to launch this new service on October 1st.

The Library HotSpot program started as a small pilot by The New York Public Library (NYPL) which serves the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, in December 2014 to help close the digital divide and address the needs of over 2 million New Yorkers who do not have access to broadband internet at home. In April of 2015, the program grew, and the City’s three library systems partnered with the City and Google to loan hotspots at branches across the City.

The initiative, the next round of the Library HotSpot program, will launch in 46 library branches across the City, primarily in high-need neighborhoods with low internet connectivity. The branches, which are run by the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Library, and New York Public Library’s in Harlem and uptown include:

115th Street Library
125th Street Library
Aguilar Library
Bloomingdale Library
Countee Cullen Library
Fort Washington Library
George Bruce Library
Hamilton Grange Library
Harlem Library
Inwood Library
Macomb’s Bridge Library
Morningside Heights
Riverside Library
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Washington Heights Library

are all located near DOE Community Schools.

Community Schools are neighborhood hubs where students receive high-quality academic instruction, families can access social services, and communities congregate to share resources and address their common challenges. This program recognizes that in order for a student to succeed in school, we need to eliminate the learning barriers to ensure equity and excellence for all families. Community Schools support students, engage families, and strengthen communities from all sides; integrating academics, health, youth development, and family engagement and providing access to critical programs and services like vision screening, mentoring, expanded learning programs, adult education, mental health counseling and internet access, which directly support a student’s learning.

Eligibility to borrow one of the 5,000 free hotspots, which are powered by Sprint as part of the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, extends to City residents who are over 18, report no internet at home, report having at least one public school student in grades pre-K through 12, have a fine-free library card, and attend a lending event at one of the participating branches. There is a limit of one hotspot per family and the hotspots are loaned for one year. While qualifying families can have students in any public school, the program will target students at Community Schools by coordinating outreach with Community School partners, parent coordinators, and school leaders. Library staff will hold information sessions and lending events in targeted Community Schools.

“We’re committed to Equity and Excellence for all New York City students, and this will help create expanded opportunities for students to complete homework, research, and thrive outside of school,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Partnerships are a cornerstone of Community Schools and I am pleased that all three library systems have joined forces with our schools in support of their students and families. This initiative will be available for all students and families, and we encourage them to take advantage of this resource.”

“As technology continues to advance, there are several communities that remain disconnected. A reliable Internet connection has become a basic necessity to all: an essential tool in a child’s educational journey. I applaud Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, our three library systems and Google on establishing a robust ConnectED initiative. It’s imperative for families to have access to the Internet, because it is as vital at home as it is in our classrooms and libraries. This initiative will provide a critical amenity to our City’s greatest assets – our students,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

CLICK HERE to find out more about this program.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Electionline Weekly Sept-29-2016

Legislative Updates

California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed Legislation that will allow convicted felons serving time in County jails to vote in California elections. "I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the Nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) told The Los Angeles Times. The law takes effect January 1, 2017

Pennsylvania: Under House Bill 29, poll watchers would be allowed to observe anywhere in the State and not just the County where they are registered to vote. Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) introduced the bill back in 2014, long before poll watchers became an issue in the 2016 election. The bill unanimously passed the House State Government Committee in June. The full House could take it up this week or this fall. Should it pass the House, it would move to the Senate, where its future is uncertain. The Legislative session ends Nov. 30 and if it is not approved, the bill will die.

In other poll watching legislation news, Rep. David Maloney (R-130) said that he plans to introduce House Bill 148 which would make interfering with the elective franchise of a voter a serious offense that would merit a criminal penalty. “When an individual uses intimidation or duress to persuade a voter to cast his or her ballot in a certain way or to refrain from voting, such action affects one of the fundamental rights and privilege accorded to citizens of this nation – the right and privilege of casting a vote for the candidate or candidates of one’s choice,” Maloney said.

Utah: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, lawmakers are showing little enthusiasm for changing the deadline for posting by-mail ballots, even though confusion prevented counting 70 ballots in the House District 53 GOP Primary race that was decided by just nine votes. Government Operations Interim Committee Co-Chairman Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, polled members to see how many would like to pursue changing deadlines and found the vast majority opposed it.

Legal Updates

Federal Litigation: According to The Washington Post, a U.S. Appeals Court panel that barred Kansas, Alabama and Georgia from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement to a Federal Voter Registration form wrote Monday that Federal law leaves it to a Federal Elections agency, not the States, to determine whether such a change is ­necessary. The 2-to-1 written opinion follows a Sept. 9 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. ­Circuit.

Alabama: Greater Birmingham Ministries and several disenfranchised Alabama ex-felons filed a Federal lawsuit this week challenging the state’s practice of stripping a convicted felon of their voting rights. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the restriction disenfranchises more than 130,000 black citizens.

Arizona: U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes rejected an attempt by State and National Democrats to suspend Arizona’s new Ballot-Harvesting law that prevents individuals from turning in cast ballots on behalf of others. The plaintiffs said they will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Illinois: U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan blocked Election Day Voter Registration at polling places in Illinois, declaring a State law allowing the practice Unconstitutional because it created one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. Voters will still be able to register Nov. 8 and cast a ballot for President but only at a limited number of sites, including the County Clerk's office, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Kansas: On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robison ordered Secretary of State Kris Kobach to appear in Court on Friday and explain why he shouldn’t be held in Contempt of Court. The plaintiffs contend Kobach has failed to register individuals applying at Division of Motor Vehicle offices who haven’t shown Proof of Citizenship despite a Federal order. Robinson directs Kobach to appear at the Friday hearing, and says he may file a written reply by the end of business Thursday.

Shawnee Co. Judge Larry Hendricks amended his original order allowing people who registered to vote at the DMV, but failed to provide Proof-of-Citizenship to vote in the Primary to include the upcoming November General election.

Missouri: This week, the St. Louis Board of Elections asked an Appeals Court to modify a previous ruling on Absentee voting and allow the County to use touch-screen voting machines for voters with disabilities. “The Board respectfully suggests the following sentence: ‘This Opinion does not bar the use of touch-screen absentee ballot voting without the use of envelopes for persons who appear in person to vote absentee and who demonstrate that a disability prevents them from voting using a paper ballot but would be able to vote using a touch-screen voting machine.”

New Hampshire: This week the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule that New Hampshire authorities provided no evidence that Ballot Selfies encouraged Vote Buying or Voter Coercion. “The ballot-selfie prohibition is like ‘burn[ing down] the house to roast the pig,’” wrote Judge Sandra Lynch. The Secretary of State’s office is reviewing the decision and considering legal options, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Ohio: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio’s process of removing Inactive Voters from the voter rolls violates Federal law. One Judge on the Court's Three-Judge panel concurred in part, and dissented in part. The decision sends the case back to the Lower Court, which must establish a process for either restoring Purged Voters to the rolls or allowing them to vote Provisionally and having all those votes count.

A group that includes the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Ohio Democratic Party wants the full 15-Judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a law that allows Election officials to throw out Absentee ballots if the voter legibly signs his or her name in the space that calls for the name to be printed.

South Carolina: Students at Furman University in South Carolina have sued Greenville County challenging the County’s handling of Voter Registration. The students’ suit asserts that the students should be allowed to register at their school address instead of their home address. According to Greenville Online, the students claim a longstanding policy created by Greenville County Board of Voter Registration and Elections goes beyond State Election law and has thwarted efforts of Furman University students for years who want to register to vote in the location where they live for much of the year.

Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the State’s Voter ID law. According to The Statesman, the Appeal could take months and will not affect rules adopted for the upcoming General election.

Virginia: Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit heard arguments involving Virginia’s Voter ID law. During the hearing, the Justices repeatedly asked plaintiffs and defendants if the Virginia law resembled the North Carolina law the 4th Circuit recently overturned.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump’s Company Violated U.S. Embargo Against Cuba

A company controlled by Trump secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s Presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump Executives, internal company records and Court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean Country was prohibited without U.S. Government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, Executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before he launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami, where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.

At the time, Americans traveling to Cuba had to receive specific U.S. Government permission, which was granted only for an extremely limited number of purposes, such as humanitarian efforts. Neither an American nor a company based in the United States could spend any cash in Cuba. Instead, a foreign charity or similar sponsoring entity needed to pay all expenses, including travel. Without obtaining a license from the Federal Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of Federal law, trade experts say.

A former Trump Executive who spoke on condition of anonymity says the company did not obtain a Government license prior to the trip. Internal documents show that Executives involved in the Cuba project were still discussing the need for Federal approval after the trip had taken place.

OFAC officials say there is no record that the agency granted any such license to the companies or individuals involved, although they cautioned that some documents from that time have been destroyed. Yet one OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, says the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino is “essentially zero.”

Prior to the Cuban trip, several European companies reached out to Trump about potentially investing together on the island through Trump Hotels, according to the former Trump Executive. At the time, a bipartisan group of Senators, three former Secretaries of State and other former officials were urging then-President Bill Clinton to review America’s Cuba policy, in hopes of eventually ending the decades-long embargo.

The goal of the Cuba trip, the former Trump Executive says, was to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions. While in Cuba, the Trump representatives met with Government officials, bankers and other business leaders to explore possible opportunities for the casino company. The former Executive says Trump had participated in discussions about the Cuba trip and knew it had taken place.

The fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo. “The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed,’’ says Richard Matheny, Chair of Goodwin’s National Security and Foreign Trade Regulation group, based on a description of the events by Newsweek. “That would be illegal. If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice.”

Shortly after Trump Hotels reimbursed Seven Arrows, the two companies parted ways. Within months, Trump formed a Presidential exploratory committee. He soon decided to seek the nomination of the Reform Party, which was founded by billionaire Ross Perot after his unsuccessful 1992 bid for the White House.

Trump launched his Presidential campaign in Miami in November 1999. There, at a luncheon hosted by the Cuban American National Foundation, an organization of Cuban exiles, he proclaimed he wanted to maintain the American embargo and would not spend any money in Cuba so long as Fidel Castro remained in power. At the time, disclosing that his company had just spent money on the Cuba trip, or even acknowledging an interest in loosening the embargo, would have ruined Trump’s chances in Florida, a critical Electoral state where large numbers of Cuban-Americans remain virulently opposed to the regime.

“As you know—and the people in this room know better than anyone—putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,’’ Trump told the crowd. “It goes to Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer. He’s a killer. He’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”

By the time Trump gave that speech, 36 years had passed since the Treasury Department in the Kennedy administration imposed the embargo. The rules prohibited any American person or company, even those with operations in other foreign countries, from engaging in financial transactions with any person or entity in Cuba. The lone exceptions: humanitarian efforts and telecommunications exports.

The impact of the embargo intensified in 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union ended its oil subsidies to the island and triggered a broad economic collapse. By 1993, Cuba faced extreme shortages, and Castro was forced to start printing money solely to cover Government deficits. Three years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which codified the embargo into law and worsened Cuba’s economic decline. With many financial options closed off, Cuba attempted to find overseas investment to modernize its tourism industry and other businesses.

The first signs that American policy might be shifting came in March 1998, when President Clinton announced several major changes. Among them: resuming charter flights between the United States and Cuba for authorized Americans, streamlining procedures for exporting medical equipment and allowing Cubans in the U.S. to send small amounts of cash to their relatives on the island. However, Americans and American companies still could not legally spend their own money in Cuba.

That fall, as critics pressured Clinton to further loosen the embargo, Trump Hotels saw an opportunity. Like the Communist regime, the company was struggling, having piled up losses for years. In 1998 alone, Trump Hotels lost $39.7 million, according to the company’s financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Its stock price had collapsed, falling almost 80% from a high that year of $12 a share to a low of just $2.75. After multiple bankruptcies, Trump severed his ties with the company; it is now called Trump Entertainment Resorts and is a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises, run by financier Carl Icahn.

The company was desperate to find partners for new business that offered the chance to increase profits, according to another former Trump Executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. The hotel and casino company assigned Seven Arrows, which had been working with Trump for several years, to develop such opportunities, including the one in Cuba.

On February 8, 1999, months after the consultants traveled to the island, Seven Arrows submitted a bill to Trump Hotels for the $68,551.88 it had “incurred prior to and including a trip to Cuba on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc.”

The 1999 document also makes clear that Executives were still discussing the legal requirements for such a trip after the consultants had already returned from Cuba. The Government does not provide after-the-fact licenses. “Under current law trips of the sort Mr. Fields took to Cuba must be sanctioned not only by the White House but are technically on behalf of a charity,” the bill submitted to Trump Hotels says. “The one most commonly used is Carinas Cuba.”

The instructions contain two errors. First, while OFAC is part of the Executive branch, the White House itself does not provide licenses for business dealings in Cuba. Second, the correct name of the charity is Caritas Cuba, a group formed in 1991 by the Catholic Church, which provides services for the elderly, children and other vulnerable populations in the Caribbean nation. Caritas Cuba did not respond to emails about contacts it may have had with Trump Hotels, Seven Arrows or any individuals associated with them.

The invoice from Seven Arrows was submitted to John Burke, who was then the Corporate Treasurer of Trump Hotels. In a lawsuit on a different legal issue, Burke testified that Trump Hotels paid the bill in full, although he denied recognizing the document.

The Cuba venture was one of two assignments given to Seven Arrows at that time, and the second has already emerged as an issue in the GOP nominee’s bid for the Presidency. Trump Hotels also paid the consulting firm to help develop a deal with the Seminole tribe of Florida to partner in a casino there. Knowing that the Florida Legislature and Governor opposed casino gambling in the state, Trump authorized developing a strategy to win over politicians to get the laws changed in an effort named “Gambling Project.” The law firm of Greenberg Traurig was retained to assemble the strategy. A copy of the plan prepared by the lawyers showed the strategy involved hiring multiple consultants, lobbyists and media relations firms to persuade the Governor and the Legislature to allow casino gambling in the state. The key to possible success? Campaign contributions.

The plan states “the executive and legislative branches of Florida government are driven by many influences, the most meaningful of which lies in campaign giving.” For the Legislature, it recommends giving to “leadership accounts” maintained by state political parties, rather than to individual lawmakers, because “this is where the big bucks go and the real influence is negotiated.” Records show Seven Arrows also incurred $38,996.32 on its work on the Gaming Project, far less than it spent for the Cuba endeavor.

Aside from deceiving Cuban-Americans, records of the 1998 initiatives show that Trump lied to voters about his efforts in Florida during that period. At the second Republican Presidential debate in September 2015, one of Trump’s rivals, Jeb Bush, said the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida’s Governor in an effort to legalize casino gambling in the state. “Totally false,” Trump responded. “I would have gotten it.”

The documents obtained by Newsweek give no indication why the $39,000 spent on Seven Arrows’ Primary assignment, arranging for a casino deal with the Seminole tribe,
was so much less than the $68,000 expended on the Cuba effort. The former Trump Executive could not offer any explanation for the disparity.

Though it has long been illegal for corporations to spend money in Cuba without proper authorization, there is no chance that Trump, the company or any of its Executives will be prosecuted for wrongdoing. The statute of limitations ran out long ago, and legal analysts say OFAC’s enforcement division is understaffed, so the chances for an investigation were slim even at the time.

And perhaps that was the calculation behind the company’s decision to flout the law: the low risk of getting caught versus the high reward of lining up Cuban allies if the U.S. loosened or dropped the embargo. The only catch: What would happen if Trump’s Cuban-American supporters ever found out?

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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SEC Secret Money Rider Included in Spending Bill

Corporate shareholders have a right to know how managers are spending their money, especially when it comes to political contributions.

Voters have a right to know who is influencing their Democracy.

Sen. Mitch McConnell is the obstacle to Americans knowing more about who is buying influence, access, and power in our Government.

By using must-pass Legislation, like funding bills, to prohibit the SEC from even discussing requiring disclosure of corporate political contributions, he personifies the worst in politics, by protecting the interests of wealthy special interests over the people.

We should strongly condemn the irresponsible brinkmanship and the forced compromises required when working outside of normal Legislative process, all just to keep voters in the dark about Corporate Political spending.

Voters must choose candidates committed to reform, regardless of Party.

CLICK HERE to learn more about where Congressional candidates stand on these Democracy Reforms.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Computer Researcher Tells Congress Possible for Hackers to Alter Election

Hackers could influence the outcomes of November’s Elections, a Computer Science Professor who has demonstrated security weaknesses in voting machines told lawmakers on Wednesday. “It’s possible,” said Andrew Appel, a Professor at Princeton University, at a House Oversight IT Subcommittee hearing focused on Election Cybersecurity.

But Appel, who has hacked voting machines used in many states, was the only one to reply affirmatively when subpanel Chairman Will Hurd (R-Texas) asked for a "yes" or "no" answer to the question, "Can a cyberattack change the outcome of our national elections?”

The four other people testifying, including a Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Federal agency that assists with elections, a top Department of Homeland Security Cyber official and the Head of a public policy firm's division focused on voting rights, all essentially answered “no.”

The DHS official, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Andy Ozment, later clarified his answer to stress that DHS was not resting on its laurels.
“We have to always be vigilant,” he said. “In the field of cybersecurity, we can never relax.”

But Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wasn't completely soothed by the responses from the four witnesses. "My view is they don’t have to hack 50 states," he said. "In a close presidential election, they just need to hack one swing state. Or maybe one or two. Or maybe just a few counties in one swing state."

Wednesday's hearing comes as the Obama Administration is investigating whether Russia is behind a series of election hacks targeting Democratic Party organizations, current and former Government officials and multiple State Voter registration databases.

Many Democrats, including Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's Campaign, have blamed Moscow for trying to tilt the election in favor of GOP rival Donald Trump with the digital attacks.

But Trump pushed back at the theory during Monday's first Presidential debate. "It could be Russia, but it could also be China, but it could also be lots of other people, it also could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?" he said.

Reportedly, U.S. intelligence officials have "high confidence" that Moscow is behind at least the hack at the Democratic National Committee, which kicked off this summer's string of digital intrusions. Since then, a steady stream of leaks have continued to frustrate Democratic officials, and embarrass other prominent figures, such as Colin Powell.

At the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday, CIA Director John Brennan acknowledged that Russia has an "active" history "globally" of trying to "influence political developments." Intelligence officials are factoring in Moscow's penchant for meddling as they investigate the U.S. election hacks, Brennan explained. "What we do at the CIA is to look at country's capabilities, look at their intent and look at what they have done in the past, and determine whether if something that certainly looks like a duck, smells like a duck and flies a duck, whether it is a duck or not," he said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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