Category Archives: Electoral process

Beware Fake Tweets

The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia

By Peter Galuszka

Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.

They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.

The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.

A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”

Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading

The Real Danger with ANTIFA

By Peter Galuszka

Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..

But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.

First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”

That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading

Trailing Candidates Should Bail Out, Void Primary

By Steve Haner

More often than not, the suspense in an election is over long before the polls open. That is the case with the two primary contests which will require me to sit in a polling place all day on June 23. The expected losers should just drop out now and save us all the risk.

The precinct where I work has both a Republican and a Democratic contest scheduled, which will require my co-workers and me to be at the polling station from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. Based on what happened in the local elections yesterday, it will mostly be voting from cars – in a location with very little parking.  Continue reading

WTJU Podcast: COVID-19 and the Economy

By Peter Galuszka

Here’s is the twice-monthly podcast produced by WTJU, the official radio station of the University of Virginia. With me on this podcast  are Nathan Moore, the station general manager, and Sarah Vogelsong, who covers, labor, energy and environmental issues across the state for the Virginia Mercury, a fairly new and highly regarded non-profit news outlet. Our topic is how Virginia is handling the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Move 2020 Nomination Deadline To Late Summer

By Steve Haner

A week after the March 3 Democratic presidential primary I was sick, probably with a cold but I had to wonder. No fever developed and patent medicines got me through. But it could have been COVID-19 after checking in hundreds of voters in the Maple Street Firehouse.

There is no way I’m repeating that activity on June 9. Thank you, Governor Ralph Northam, for saving me from having to abandon the other nice folks who work that precinct. Even if we are on the infection down slope, holding a primary that day is a risk we don’t need to impose on those volunteers.

Republican officials exploded when the stay at home directive was advanced to June 10. A statement released by the Republican Party of Virginia whined:

“… the timeline seems all too convenient,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “We ask that Governor Northam show us the data that led to his decision. It is not our opinion that the Governor is purposefully engaging in voter suppression, but an explanation would help to mitigate any concerns.”

Did my statement mitigate your concerns, Jack? I bet thousands of poll workers feel the same way.

Let’s drop the debate over which elected official or cabinet agency is more hapless and focus on some truly clueless people – this state’s all but dead Republican Party. Yesterday the state party certified three candidates to run June 9 seeking the nomination against Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Don’t look at the story yet, can you name one of them? I cannot. And I would love to see somebody give Warner a race. People forget how close Ed Gillespie came to beating Mark-not-John six years ago.  Continue reading

State Senate Saves the Commonwealth. Again.

by Kerry Dougherty

Here’s a morsel of good news from Richmond: Virginia will not be joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact movement.

This year, anyway.

For the second time in 10 days a State Senate committee saved us from extreme bills that had already passed the drunk-with-power House of Delegates.

First, it was the vague assault weapons bill, which would have turned thousands of law-abiding Virginia gun owners into felons. That proposal was scrapped, thanks to four bold Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who sided with their GOP colleagues.

This week, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee tabled — for this session, anyway –– HB177, a measure that would have relinquished Virginia’s sovereignty to California and New York by awarding our electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections. Continue reading

Electoral College Vote, Carbon Tax, Labor’s Wants

By Steve Haner

The End of the Electoral College Looms

The legislature’s new ruling Democrats, having celebrated their adoption of the national Equal Rights Amendment, may continue their Constitutional aspirations next week and try to kill the federal Electoral College. Some believe the will of Virginia voters in choosing presidential electors should be overridden by the popular vote total in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia combined.

This idea is known at the National Popular Vote. Objections to the Electoral College process have a long history but were reignited when former Senator Hillary Clinton became the fifth presidential candidate who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. As predicted by Bacon’s Rebellion, the proposal to grant Virginia’s votes to the national front runner is back in three bills, with far longer lists of patrons and co-patrons. The two House bills are here and here, and the Senate version here. All now rest with firmly Democratic Privileges and Elections committees.  Continue reading

Fairfax County Has More Registered Voters than Adults Old Enough to Vote

Be sure to vote — but in only one jurisdiction!

More Northern Virginia news you will never read in the Washington Post… Fairfax County has a registration rate of 105%, according to conservative activist group Judicial Watch. In other words, the number of voter registrations exceeds the number of citizens in the county old enough to  vote.

During the last reporting period, the county removed only 5,800 voter registrations per year due to failure of registrants to respond to address-confirmation notices and failure to vote in two consecutive elections. “This is a very low number of removals for a county of this size,” said Judicial Watch in a letter to Gary D. Scott, the county registrar and director of elections. (The county population is about 1.15 million.)

Judicial Watch is not alleging that any voter fraud has occurred. Rather, the organization contends that Fairfax County is failing to comply with federal law. Continue reading

California Too Conservative for Some Virginia Dems

Left turn ahead — sharp left turn.

by Hans Bader

To some Americans, staunchly progressive California may seem too liberal. But not to Virginia’s Democratic legislators. They’re proposing legislation that would make Virginia more liberal than California. That includes letting murderers vote while in prison, and letting them be paroled even if a court has sentenced them to life without parole.

Virginia legislators have proposed allowing even the worst criminals to seek parole — such as a person convicted of murder who tortured his victim to death — even if a court sentenced them to life in prison at a time when parole did not exist. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, due to discontent over the fact that criminals were serving only about 30% of their sentences before being released.

But parole would be made available to even the worst murderers by a recently introduced bill, SB 91. It would retroactively extend parole rights to current inmates, as well as giving future criminals the right to seek parole. Most willful and premeditated murders are Class 2 offenses under Virginia law, for which parole would be available after 15 years. Continue reading

A Dialogue on Money in Virginia Politics

Jeff Thomas: Thank you for having me to Bacon’s Rebellion, Jim. I’m a longtime reader, first-time poster. Money in Virginia politics is an important topic on which I think we both agree, and I’m eager to hear your take on it. As I understand it, we’ll each answer and ask a question of the other within a 500-word limit. So let me begin.

What would be the rules for your ideal campaign finance system in Virginia?

Jim Bacon: Jeff, I’m delighted to engage in this exchange. As author of “The Virginia Way: Democracy and Power after 2016,” you are one of the few writers to take a deep interest in Virginia’s political economy, genuinely trying to understand the sources and distribution of power at the state/local level. Hopefully, this dialogue will prove illuminating.

Like you and many others, I find the role of money in politics to be disturbing. It is deeply unfair that the rich and powerful can buy more political influence through campaign contributions than ordinary citizens. But unfairness is part of the human condition. The question is whether the cure is worse than the disease. I do not believe in restricting campaign contributions, even if it means giving a billionaire California liberal like Tom Steyer and his NextGen Climate Action group (more than $3.7 million in the past few years) a bigger voice in Virginia politics than a life-long resident like myself. The Constitution gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and the right to petition government, and I regard the donation of money to political candidates as an extension of both those rights. Continue reading

Sanctimonious Money in Politics

Grrrrr

The older I get, the more irritable I get. Perhaps, upon passing the threshold to Medicare eligibility, I became a cranky old man. In my defense, however, I do find myself continually provoked. The latest vexation comes from a Community Idea Stations article describing how an increasing number of Democratic Party candidates for General Assembly are self-righteously turning down campaign donations from corporations — not just Dominion Energy, mind you, but any corporation. One example:

Zachary Brown, a law student at the University of Richmond who is running against Eileen Bedell and Ghazala Hashmi in the 10th Senate District, only raised around $2,000 in April and May. But the 23-year-old law student says he came by it honestly.

“We can’t have our constituents second-guessing out votes because we take contributions from large corporations,” Brown said.

Such sentiments are consistent with Democrats’ conviction that the injection of corporate cash is a uniquely corrupting practice. Labor union money, extracted from union dues for causes members may or may not agree with… perfectly OK. Money laundered through Democratic Party PACs… just fine. Contributions from out-of-state billionaires like Tom Steyer… not a problem. But money collected from individual employees in a corporation and bundled through a corporate PACs… horrors! Continue reading

Amazon Campaign Contributions: $75,000 and Counting

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

Speaking of alien overlords (see previous post)… I believe I’m correct in saying that Bacon’s Rebellion’s Steve Haner was the first pundit to note that if you like Amazon as a major player in Virginia’s economy, you’d better get accustomed to Amazon as a major player in Virginia politics. Now comes the Washington Business Journal noting that the Seattle-based technology giant and its political action committee have reported $75,000 in contributions to major political groups in Virginia.

Amazon has spread its money pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans. I have posted the Virginia Public Access Project summary above.

Bacon Bits: Economic Research Edition

I periodically check the research papers coming out of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) because they often address issues of interest to Bacon’s Rebellion. The research is far more rigorous from a methodological perspective than the work product of special-interest and advocacy groups, hence more worthy of serious consideration — even when it leads to public-policy implications I don’t like! Here are some quick hits from recent studies:

“The Effects of Rent Control Expansion on Tenants, Landords, and Inequality: Evidence from San Francisco”
“We find rent control increased renters’ probabilities of staying at their addresses by nearly 20%. Landlords treated by rent control reduced rental housing supply by 15%, causing a 5.1% city-wide rent increase.”

Implications: Rent control benefits existing renters but punishes newcomers entering the rental marketplace. Can you say “increasing homelessness?” As zoning codes and other restrictive policies aggravate the supply/demand imbalance here in Virginia, will our politicians avoid the temptation to impose rent controls? Continue reading

Gerrymandering Virginia from Red to Blue

by Hans Bader

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel redistricted Virginia’s House of Delegates, adopting a highly favorable map for Democrats. It is effectively a political gerrymander in their favor. The result will be to lock in Democratic dominance in the state for years to come, giving them control of future redistricting.

Tuesday’s redistricting will shift control of the House of Delegates, which currently is controlled by Republicans by a narrow 51-to-49 margin, to the Democrats. Democrats already control the governor’s mansion, and were virtually certain to pick up control of the State Senate next year, which is currently split 21-to-19 in favor of the GOP. That’s because four Senate districts currently represented by Republicans have become Democratic-leaning, and Democrats are almost certain to pick up one of those seats, because the incumbent, Dick Black (R), is retiring in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 6%. Continue reading

Americans Spend More on Thanksgiving Than Election 2018

by Dan Backer

When it’s all said and done, America will spend roughly $3 billion on Thanksgiving dinners this year—50 percent of it on turkeys alone.

That’s a whole lot of white meat and cranberry sauce—not to mention food comas. The $3 billion doesn’t even account for the billions more spent on Thanksgiving-themed advertising or the many billions spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. All in all, we’re talking well over $20 billion spent by advertisers and their customers in a sliver of late November.

Despite the occasional outcry against the commercialization of a sentimental family holiday, no one seriously speaks out against corporate ads about the turkey sale at the Piggly Wiggly, Kmart’s Black Friday specials, or Dallas Cowboys promos for Thanksgiving football.

As Americans, we accept corporate advertising as a way of life in a free-market economy. Why? Because we know there’s a choice: No matter how slickly produced the commercial, we ultimately buy what we want. That Tofurky ad isn’t forcing you to toss your turducken, is it?

But when it comes to our elections, we spend far less to advertise political messages, and yet the anti-speech movement to censor political ads grows shriller by the day. The U.S. electoral system is considerably less flush with cash than your typical holiday season. Election 2016’s final price tag—the most expensive of all time—came out to no more than $7 billion.

Election 2018 was even cheaper. The 2017-2018 election cycle—the most expensive midterm ever—cost a mere $5 billion over two years, a drop in the ocean compared to America’s Turkey Day shopping sprees. (In Virginia congressional campaign spending totaled about $66 million this year.)

But you wouldn’t know it listening to the Left. Leading up to Election Day, anti-Trump Democrats made it a mission to criticize our campaign finance system, screaming and shouting to “get money out of politics.” Jason Crow, Colorado’s newest Democratic congressman, recently blamed excessive political spending for “everything that’s wrong with our politics right now.” Recently re-elected Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) routinely claims the current system “hurts our democracy badly”—without going into specifics.

The likely Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), long ago made campaign finance reform a top priority for the new Congress. In her words: “People believe you that if you want to reduce the goal of money in politics, then they trust you to do the right thing.”

But is “money in politics” really so evil? Ads for Jeeps, Big Macs, and Harry Potter spin-offs flood our airwaves to a much, much larger extent, with nary a peep from the Left. Only when the content has to do with border security or tax cuts—and not end-of-year lease deals—do liberal Democrats throw a hissy fit.

In reality, corporate spending and political spending are not so different. Both are simply tools to promote ideas—ideas we can either like or dislike, accept or reject. In the end, it’s up to us—as free-thinking citizens—to decide which ideas we agree with and which products we want. There is no gun to your head or my head, forcing us to support an idea—or a political candidate, for that matter. Unless, of course, we adopt the Left’s increasing efforts to criminalize political speech they dislike, and use the power of Big Government to compel private individuals to act according to left-wing ideas.

Let’s be clear: When Democrats complain about our “broken” campaign finance system, they’re really just complaining about the ideas they happen to oppose—conservative ideas contrary to their own, from those who don’t buy into their left-wing ideology. Unless you accept the entirety of their ideological mashed-potato serving—whether you’re hungry for it or not—you’re just too stupid to be trusted to make your own decisions.

You might even be exposed to the “wrong” ideas! If not, why would it matter how many ads we all saw?

Our strength lies in our ideological diversity, which political spending puts on full display through robust political discourse and all the advertising people want to contribute to it. Without lots and lots of money, it is impossible to circulate ideas—liberal and conservative—to the general public. Ridding our campaign finance system of the resources to disseminate ideas is antithetical to the very concept of free speech.

Whether the 2018 midterms cost $5 billion or $50 billion, it’s still up to us to consider what information we want, and how we will vote accordingly. No amount of money can force you or me to vote against our self-interest.

To those who claim otherwise, I say gobble, gobble.

Dan Backer is founding attorney of political.law, a campaign finance and political law firm in Alexandria, Virginia.