Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lawmaker Told NYC BOE Follow Law

New York City Councilman, Dan Gardonick, sent the City's Board of Elections (BOE) a sternly worded Letter, taking the Agency to task for Failing to Comply with the Law.

He demanded Action a week after the BOE ignored a Law Requiring it to Post Notices at Old Poll Sites when it Moves them to New Locations. The BOE changed Hundreds of Poll Sites in the Months before last week's Primary, affecting more than 200,000 Eligible Voters.

Gardonick also called for the Agency to Submit a Plan to his Office by Sept. 29th Outlining how the Agency will meet its Legal Requirements in time for the November Elections.

“When it comes to following the law, it is not their prerogative to pick and choose. That’s exactly what they are doing here, and the end result of course is that it is making life more difficult for New Yorkers when they are trying to exercise their fundamental right to vote.", Garodnick said.

Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the Board of Elections, once Testified at a Hearing that the City Council, as a Local Legislative body, did not have Jurisdiction over its Activities, since the Board is Governed by State Election Law.

Garodnick urged the Board to Check out an Opinion from the New York Attorney General’s Office that Concluded the BOE is in fact a Local Agency. “The board is comprised of local residents appointed by local elected officials, is financed by local government, and performs its functions within a local jurisdiction.”

Gardonick said the Opinion makes it clear that the BOE must be responsive to the City Council and the Mayor.

A Spokeswoman said the Board’s Position has not Changed.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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MAZON a Jewish Response to Hunger

For 30 years, MAZON have been building an Army of Anti-Hunger Advocates. If everyone becomes an Advocate and Speaks Up, we can achieve the Goal of Systemic Change.

They Work With:

Policymakers: They work with Local, State, and Federal Leaders to Protect and Strengthen Federal Nutrition Programs and Advocate for Public Policies that address the Root Causes of Hunger.

What They Do:

- Advocate for Smart and Effective Public Policies to Eliminate Hunger and its Causes
- Identify Opportunities to Strengthen Nutrition Assistance Programs
- Lead National Initiatives and Campaigns to Engage concerned Individuals and Community Groups

Grantee Partners: MAZON provides Funding, Training, and Resources to Nonprofit Organizations in the United States and Israel who Share their Commitment to Advocating the End of Hunger.

What They Do:

- Support Advocacy and Public Policy efforts to Protect and Strengthen the Government Food and Nutrition Programs 
- Provide Funding to a range of Anti-Hunger Organizations including Food Banks, Legal-Service Organizations, Statewide Coalitions and Advocacy Groups
- Utilize Insight from Partners to Inform and Leverage their Own Advocacy Priorities

Targeted Communities: They Develop and Implement Strategic Initiatives designed to Encourage the Anti-Hunger Community to effectively address Emerging Issues.

What They Do:

- Promote Access to more Nutritious Food in Food Banks and the Emergency Food Network
- Help Low-Income Seniors get the Nutrition Assistance Benefits they need
- Address the growing problem of Food Insecurity among Military Families

Synagogues: They have a Network of nearly 1,000 Synagogue who Mobilize their Congregations and their Communities to help end the Injustice of Hunger.

What They Do:

- Visit Partner Synagogues all over the Country to Raise Awareness about Hunger
- Explore ways to Engage the Jewish Community to Advocate for effective Hunger Policies 
- Create Educational Tools and Activities for Students of all Ages

Students & Teachers: They provide Resources for Students and Teachers.

What They Do:

- Create Tools and Learning Experiences for Students for All Ages

State Advocacy Projects: Their MAZON Advocacy Projects (MAP) extend the importance of Advocacy to their Partner Synagogues and their Communities.

What They Do:

- Unite Synagogues, Grantees, and like-minded Advocates into a Powerful Constituency
- Identify a Specific Hunger-Related Issue within each Community

The Public: They Educate the Public about the Severity of Hunger in the U.S. and Israel.

What They Do:

- Create Advocacy Campaigns
- Dispel Myths about Who is Hungry
- Empower Students of All Ages to become Advocates

CLICK HERE for more information about MAZON.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Paper Ballots Back Thanks to Russian Hacking Fears

The Voting Machines and Computers used to Record and Tally the Nation's Ballots are suddenly a Hot Button issue due to mounting evidence Russia tried to Interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections.

According to the FBI, as many as 39 States had their Election Systems Scanned or Targeted by Russia. There's No Evidence of Votes Changed, but Voter Suppression may have happened due to Voter Poll Records Changed. But given the Stakes, some State Agencies that Run Elections are trying to Curb any further Interference prior to Mid-Term Elections in November.

Their Tool of Choice: Ensuring Systems can't be Hacked, and if they are, making those Breaches immediately obvious. To do this, some are taking the Unusual move of Rewinding the Technological Dial, debating measures that would add Paper Ballots, similar to how many Americans Voted before Electronic Voting started to become widespread in the 1980s.

States with Electronic-Only Voting Machines want to add a Paper Back-Up that would Mandate, for every Electronic Ballot Cast, creation of a Paper version that could be Counted, and presumably, not easily Altered.

Dean Logan, Head of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and also the Registrar-Recorder for Los Angeles County, said some of his Workers attended DefCon. Hackers' Ability to Break into Voting Machines was a fresh reminder that Agencies needed to make the Process more secure. "My staff came back with pretty eye-popping stories about when people have physical access to the voting equipment, that they can do things and they can do them pretty quickly," he said.

Georgia is fighting a Suit by Voters that, among other Claims, alleges the State needs to Switch to a Paper-Ballots-based Voting System because it now uses Touch-Screen Voting Machines that do not meet the Requirements of State Law due to their Age and Vulnerability to Hacking.

Rhode Island is set to vote on a Measure that would require an Audit of Voters' Paper Ballots after each Election.

Virginia announced it would No Longer use Touch-Screen-Only Voting Machines after a Hack-a-Thon in Las Vegas showed how easily they could be Breached. The Board of Elections Voted to Replace their Voting Machines used in 22 Localities in the State to those that have Paper Back-Ups. "The step we took today to decertify paperless voting systems is necessary to ensure the integrity of Virginia's elections," said James Alcorn, Chair of the State Board of Elections, in a statement.

The U.S. Voting Machine Industry is dominated by Three privately-held companies, Election Systems & Software in Omaha, Neb., Dominion Voting Systems in Toronto, and HartInterCivic in Austin, Texas. A Wholesale Refitting of the Nation's Voting Machine Infrastructure would represent a sizable Sales Opportunity for them. But there's little Money in the States to make that happen, say Experts.

Too often Voting Officials lack the Resources necessary to Protect and Upgrade Election Infrastructures, said Lawrence Norden, at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and Author of a report in June called Securing Elections from Foreign Interference. "The federal government says it's up to the states to fund it, the states often put it down to the counties and the counties say they have no money. So we need some shared responsibility for funding elections and making sure they're free and fair," he said.

Voting Integrity Activists aren't Advocating returning to a Totally Paper-based Voting System, but instead requiring that Voting Machines produce a Paper Record that can be used to Check the Reported Electronic Totals.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?

An Article posted in Cambridge University Press, by Eric McGhee and Bors Shor, in the Perspectives on Politics, asked the questions Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?.

Party Polarization is perhaps the most Significant Political Trend of the past several Decades of American Politics. Many Observers have pinned hopes on Institutional Reforms to Reinvigorate the Political Center.

The Top-Two Primary is one of the most interesting and closely watched of these Reforms: a radically Open Primary system that Removes much of the Formal Role for Parties in the Primary Election and even allows for Two Candidates of the Same Party to Face each other in the Fall.

Here they Leverage the Adoption of the Top-Two in California and Washington to Explore the Reform’s Effects on Legislator Behavior.

They find an Inconsistent Effect since the Reform was Adopted in these Two States. The Evidence for Post-Reform moderation is stronger in California than in Washington, but some of this stronger Effect appears to stem from a contemporaneous Policy Change, District Lines drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission, while still more might have emerged from a Change in Term Limits that was also adopted at the same time.

The Results Validate some Claims made by Reformers, but Question others, and their Magnitude casts some Doubt on the Potential for Institutions to Reverse the Polarization Trend. These Results are Preliminary, and do not necessarily Speak to the Merits of these Reforms more generally, since Moderation was not the only Benefit Supporters claimed for them.

But the Effects are Conditional enough to broaden the Conversation to these other Benefits as possible reasons for supporting Reform as well. At any rate, the Top-Two is an especially strong Example of the sort of Institutional Reforms that might draw American Parties back toward the Center of the Ideological Spectrum.

The Evidence for some Effect bolsters the Idea that Institutions are at least Partly to Blame, but given the magnitude of the Policy Change the Effect is Fairly Weak. Thus, while Institutions and Primaries in particular may be part of the Story, the Lion’s Share of Polarization likely comes from some Other Source.

CLICK HERE to read the Report.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump Using RNC Campaign Funds to Pay Legal Bills from Russia Probe

U.S. President Trump is using Money Donated to his Re-Election Campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to Pay for his Lawyers in the Probe of alleged Russian Interference in the U.S. Elections. The RNC paid in August more than $230,000 to cover some of Trump’s Legal Fees related to the Probe.

Trump’s Lead Lawyer, John Dowd, received $100,000 from the RNC and that the RNC also paid $131,250 to the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, the Law Firm where Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s Lawyers, is a Partner. The RNC is Scheduled to Disclose its August Spending today and the Trump Campaign is due for a Disclosure on Oct. 15th.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) allows the use of Private Campaign Funds to pay Legal Bills arising from being a Candidate or Elected Official. While previous Presidential Campaigns have used these Funds to Pay for Routine Legal Matters such as Ballot Access Disputes and Compliance requirements, Trump would be the First U.S. President in the Modern Campaign Finance era to use such Funds to Cover the Costs of responding to a Criminal Probe, said Election Law Experts.

It was not clear how Trump’s Legal Costs related to the Russia Probe would be Allocated between the Campaign and the RNC. Reuters could not determine how Large a Legal Bill Trump has incurred to date from his Lawyers on the Mueller Investigation. Trump hired his longtime New York Lawyer Marc Kasowitz to Head his Defense Team in May, but Kasowitz stepped down in July, with Dowd taking over the Lead Role. Special White House Counsel Ty Cobb, who is a Salaried Staff Member, is also working on the matter.

The Trump Campaign has paid Law Firm Jones Day almost $4 Million, according to Campaign Filings, mostly for Routine Campaign Legal Expenses like Ballot Access Disputes, Vendor Contracts, Human Resources, and Compliance with State and Federal Laws. It has also responded to Russia-Related Inquiries on behalf of the Campaign by, for example, Providing Documents to Congress.

The reason Trump is able to tap into his Campaign Funds for Legal Expenses is because for the past decade, Presidential Candidates have abandoned Public Financing for their Campaigns. Instead, they have built Networks that collect Millions of Dollars from Private Donors, a move that comes with less Restrictions on how the Money is spent. President Obama in 2008 was the First to eschew Public Financing for his Campaign, and all the Major-Party Candidates followed Suit in 2012 and 2016.

Trump also Filed for Re-Election the day he took Office in January, two years earlier than any previous President, ensuring a Fund of Millions in Campaign Cash would remain at his Disposal. According to its most Rrecent Filing to the FEC, Donald J. Trump for President Inc had almost $12 Million on hand by the End of June, an increase of over $4 Million since January.

Adav Noti, a Senior Director at the Campaign Legal Center, a Watchdog Group that describes itself as Nonpartisan, said Public Campaign Funds, as opposed to the Private Funds Trump has raised, cannot generally be used for Expenses arising from Criminal Investigations, or for any Expenses that arise after the Campaign is over.

President Bill Clinton, who ran Two Publicly Funded Campaigns, had Supporters start Legal Defense Funds and used his Own Insurance to help Pay Legal Bills during the Whitewater Investigation. He still wound up with Millions of Dollars in Personal Debt which he Paid Off through Speaking Fees he Earned once he left Office.

Hillary Clinton, who ran a Privately Funded Campaign, paid Millions to Campaign Lawyers at Perkins Coie to handle routine Legal Matters, according to Campaign Filings. Her Campaign made No Payments to the Washington Law Firm Williams & Connolly, which Represented her in the Probes of her use of a Private Email Server when she was U.S. Secretary of State.

Campaigns also have Discretion to Pay Legal Fees for others besides the President. According to a July filing, the Trump Campaign paid $50,000 to the Law Firm of Alan Futerfas, who is Representing Donald Trump Jr.

A number of other Current and Former Trump Staffers have also recently Hired Lawyers.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Dodd-Frank Rollbacks May Lead to Bank Failures

The Systemic Risk Council (SRC or Council) is a Private Sector, Non-Partisan body of former Government Officials, Financial, and Legal Experts committed to addressing Regulatory and Structural issues relating to Global Systemic Risk, with a particular focus on the United States and Europe. It has been formed to provide a strong, independent voice for Reforms that are necessary to Protect the Public from Financial Instability. The Goal is to help ensure a Financial system in which we can all have confidence.

On September 19, 2017, the Systemic Risk Council submitted a Comment Letter to the United States Department of Treasury (UST) on its Report of June 2017 on possible Reforms to Banking-System Regulation.

The Council believes that “the UST Report includes a number of worthwhile technical reforms and addresses important issues that are largely incidental to stability, but [is] concerned that some of the Report’s main recommendations would jeopardize the resilience of the financial system, the public finances and the welfare of citizens.”

The Panel of former Top Financial Regulators, Policymakers, and Academics warned the Trump Administration that some of the Recommendations it's made for Rolling Back Bank Rules under Dodd-Frank and other Laws could make it harder to Prevent the Collapse of Global Financial Firms and mitigate the Damage.

The Systemic Risk Council, a Group including former Bank of England Deputy Governor Sir Paul Tucker, ex-Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila Bair, and former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, said in their Letter that several Recommendations.

CLICK HERE to read the 13 page (pdf) Systemic Risk Council Letter to Treasury Department.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GOP Senator Wants to Block States From Setting Up Single-Payer Systems

Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) said Tuesday that he’s so Opposed to the idea of a Single-Payer Health Care System that he’s trying to Block California, New York, any other Democratic State from setting up such a State System.

“I think single payer is a mistake and I think it would be bad for a blue state. That’s part of my job in the United States Senate, to make value judgments like that.” Kennedy said.

Kennedy is attempting to Insert the issue into Republicans’ latest Bill to Repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under the so-called Cassidy-Graham Legislation, States would be given Block Grants to set up their Own Health Care Systems. While the fate of the Bill is unclear, the Louisiana Senator seeks to add an Amendment that would prevent States from using Federal Money for a Single-Payer System.

He said he sees no Contradiction between his Party’s strong Advocacy of States’ Rights, and his Effort to Strip States of the Ability to set up the types of Programs they want. “I love, I believe in states’ rights, but I also believe in the supremacy clause, and I believe the United States Congress has a legal and a moral obligation to, on occasion, set down national rules.” Kennedy said.

But isn’t this just a Case of his not liking a certain Policy that Millions of others in, say, California might want for themselves? “Well, if ― yes,” he conceded. “I feel strongly about it. And I’m in the United States Senate and I’m supposed to do what I think is right. And that’s what I think is right.”

A Single-Payer System, one version also known as “Medicare for all,” is one in which a Public Agency Organizes Health Care Financing but leaves Delivery of Services to the Private Sector. Public Support for the Concept has grown in recent years, although it’s nowhere near becoming a Reality at the National Level.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently introduced Single-Payer Legislation that would give Government-Run Health Insurance to Everybody in the Country. The Bill picked up a Number of Democratic Co-Sponsors in the Senate and it’s excited the Progressive Base, but it isn’t going anywhere. 

Kennedy said he doesn’t think Americans would be Happy with a Single-Payer System if they actually had it. “A single-payer system won’t work and it will break us, OK? We won’t be able to afford it,” he said. “That’s how I vote. It doesn’t mean if you disagree, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means you’re wrong.”

But in a State System, what would stop the State from keeping the Money the State collects for Federal Health Care, and not submit it to the Federal Government, if the State is supplying the Medical Insurance for All State Citizens?

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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