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U.S. state attorneys general likely to bring antitrust lawsuits against Google: source

A group of state attorneys general led by Texas are likely to -file an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc's Google and are working on potential litigation for later this year, a person familiar with the situation said on Friday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

U.S. state attorneys general likely to bring antitrust lawsuits against Google: source

A group of state attorneys general led by Texas are likely to -file an antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc's Google and are working on potential litigation for later this year, a person familiar with the situation said on Friday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

At least 182 high-ranking congressional staffers have violated a federal conflict-of-interest law with overdue disclosure of their personal stock trades

Watchdog groups say the trend shows Congress isn't taking the STOCK Act seriously. Rebecca Zisser/InsideriStock; Skye Gould/Insider Insider analyzed congressional staff financial filings from January 2020 to mid-September 2021. Reporters found at least 182 instances in which senior staffers were late disclosing stock trades. "A lot of people just ignore the law, and it goes unenforced," one ethics watchdog said. At least 182 of Capitol Hill's most influential and highest-paid staffers have blown past deadlines to detail and disclose their personal stock trades — violating a federal conflict-of-interest law in the process, an Insider analysis of congressional financial documents reveals. The staffers' failure to properly disclose the transactions come with a laundry list of excuses and rationalizations. They're also a violation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, a 2012 law designed to prevent insider trading and defend against financial conflicts among elected officials and their top aides.Insider's tally includes aides in both the House and the Senate with high-ranking jobs such as chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors. Also among them are workers known as professional staff members, who serve on congressional committees to advise lawmakers on policy.High-ranking congressional staffers often wield significant influence over their elected bosses. Many also regularly meet with special interests and corporate lobbyists, who could conceivably represent a company or industry in which a congressional staffer personally invests. That's why a law President Barack Obama signed almost a decade ago obligated senior staff to disclose their stock trades, just as lawmakers had to.The late-reporting problem is decidedly bipartisan. The violations split almost exactly down the middle between Democrats and Republicans.The 182-person finding is part of Insider's exhaustive Conflicted Congress project, in which journalists reviewed nearly 9,000 financial-disclosure reports for every sitting lawmaker and their top-ranking staffers.Watchdog groups say the sheer number of late filings is evidence of a far-too-lax attitude on Capitol Hill about ethics rules. The congressional staffers' infractions come on top of STOCK Act disclosure violations by at least 48 members of Congress.Compounding the problem, ethics watchdogs say, is a secretive enforcement process. Both lawmakers and their staff work out any breaches of the law in private. Few are open with the public about why they failed to disclose their stock trades properly or how they worked to fix the issue."Your research is showing that when it is not disclosed a lot of people just ignore the law and it goes unenforced," said Craig Holman, a government-affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen who helped shape the STOCK Act and wants to make it stronger.He called Insider's findings "stunning" and said all documents detailing people's trades, and any enforcement steps taken, should be made public.The chief of staff for Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, appeared to be late disclosing numerous trades in 2020.Gary Cameron/ReutersStaffers have lots of excusesInsider reached out to 48 staffers whose trades appeared to be disclosed the latest, as well as those who appeared to be the most frequent STOCK Act violators. Thirty-four of them didn't respond, weren't forthcoming about why their disclosures were late, or refused to share how they attempted to comply with the law. Some who provided information about why they were late said they forgot or misunderstood the deadlines despite receiving ethics training that all staff are required to take, both when they get hired and then periodically over the course of their Capitol Hill careers. Others blamed a financial advisor or spouse for failing to tell them about the trade in a timely manner. Still others described a convoluted, difficult-to-understand disclosure process that didn't always accommodate their various financial situations — including unexpected inheritances or gifts to family members — despite their best efforts to comply with the STOCK Act.Stock trades exceeding $1,000 from senior congressional staffers, their spouses, and any dependent children are supposed to be a matter of public record. Yet many senior staffers who were late disclosing their trades were unwilling to open up about what happened or whether they faced a penalty.Douglas Coutts, the chief of staff for Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas who is making early moves toward a 2024 presidential run, appeared to be late disclosing numerous trades in 2020, each valued between $1,001 and $15,000. He listed trades in companies including the insurance provider Chubb Limited; Google's parent company, Alphabet; and the healthcare company Abbott Labs, known for its COVID-19 testing capabilities. Cotton sits on the Judiciary Committee, which has scrutinized large tech companies like Google over antitrust concerns.At least one document appears to show that Coutts disclosed some trades nearly two months past a federally mandated deadline.An attorney for Cotton's office declined to explain why Coutts' disclosures appeared to be habitually tardy, and she called the financial-disclosure requirements "onerous.""He is all squared away," Cotton's general counsel, Meg McGaughey, said of Coutts, declining to elaborate further on the documents.Bryan Petit, a senior professional staff member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by the conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, appeared to be about a year and nine months late disclosing a JPMorgan trade from 2019. The trade was made by his spouse and was valued at $15,001 to $50,000."Senator Manchin's staff is in full compliance with Senate Ethics Committee requirements," Manchin's communications director, Sam Runyon, said without elaborating. Walter Shaub, who leads the Government Ethics Initiative at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, said he was shocked by the majority of staffers who weren't forthcoming, given their access to lawmakers and lobbyists and knowledge about pending legislation."We have entrusted these people with great power. They owe us great transparency," he said. "They are not even giving us minimal transparency.""The public will have questions if these things keep happening," he added. "And there is nothing on the culture of the Hill that suggests this will stop happening.""There is at least an optics problem," said Jason Briefel, the director of policy and outreach at the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional association representing career federal civil servants. "All the members and staff, these are significant numbers."Some congressional staffers were forthcoming.Mike Henry, the chief of staff for Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat of Virginia, was 1 to 1 1/2 years late disclosing five sales on different dates in 2019 that his spouse made in Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. stock. The biotech company develops treatments for serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and it has faced backlash from state regulators for high prices. Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton's 2016 vice-presidential running mate, serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has the power to regulate the healthcare industry and oversees government healthcare programs.Henry's highest Vertex sale was valued at $50,001 to $100,000. He told Insider the Senate Ethics Committee informed him that he'd forgotten to file a disclosure about it. He said that he paid a fine — the standard late-filing penalty is $200 — but that the committee didn't give him a receipt."I will certainly work harder to avoid such oversights in the future, as disclosing information like this is important to me," he said.The office of Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat of Ohio, did not explain why his state director, John Ryan, appeared to be about 3 ½ years late disclosing a 2018 purchase worth up to $15,000 in TotalEnergies SE, a petroleum refining company. Trudy Perkins, Brown's communication director, said Ryan paid a late fee after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics notified him about the late reporting. One example of a staffer tardy in acknowledging a particularly large number of trades is Julie Leschke, a deputy chief of staff for Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Leschke and her husband, Dr. John Leschke, appeared to be more than two years late reporting at least 12 stock trades in companies that included Facebook, Amazon, and Alibaba. Taken together, the trades were worth at least $131,006 and as much as $440,000. Separate trades that appeared to be late were listed in several other documents she filed. Johnson's office attributed the late filing to a change in reporting requirements. In 2013, Leschke became state director and deputy chief of staff under a work category known as a "political fund designee" — someone who is allowed to engage in campaign activity, including fundraising, outside of Senate hours. Under Senate ethics rules, she only had to file annual personal financial disclosures in that role. Alexa Henning, deputy chief of staff for Johnson, said that Leschke filed her annual reports as required. Then, in 2018, a cost-of-living salary adjustment bumped Leschke into a different worker category that then required regular reporting of stock transactions, she said. "Senate Ethics noticed this in December of 2020 and contacted her," Henning said. "She worked closely with Ethics to quickly remedy. No waiver was necessary." Multiple other late filers didn't dispute the tardiness of their financial reporting, instead offering pandemic-related reasons for the lapses. Competing challenges mentioned include juggling work-from-home duties and full-time parenting while schools were closed; liquidating cash to bring home college-age students who would have otherwise been stranded abroad as international travel bans took hold; and caring for older relatives rather than leaving them isolated during quarantine. The staff director for Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, was late disclosing stock trades.Alex Wong/Getty ImagesComplex rules and minimal oversight Senate staffers receive automated email notifications from ethics officials when they're late disclosing their personal stock trades. But House staff face a far more complicated process and less oversight, Insider has learned. House staffers typically have to notice on their own that they forgot to disclose a stock trade on time. Then it's up to them to call up the House Ethics Committee to explain what happened and have a conversation with attorneys about whether they owe a fine or can apply for a waiver.  Gary Andres, the staff director for Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he didn't know one of his stock-trade disclosures was more than a year late until Insider asked him about it. He checked on it and said he spoke with the House Ethics Committee and "the matter has been resolved." The missing trade was valued at $500,000 to $1 million and was conducted by his spouse in Union Pacific Corp."My financial advisor filed this in January but due to a clerical error it was not logged in by the Ethic Committee," he said. "Once this clerical error was discovered by my financial advisor he filed it again in 2021."Robert Marcus, the chief of staff to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat of Illinois, filed a disclosure roughly eight months late disclosing a purchase in Insulet Corp., a medical-device company whose products include a wearable insulin dispenser to treat diabetes.  Marcus told Insider he recently called the House Ethics Committee to let it know and the panel assessed a $200 fine, which he said he would pay. Marcus said he forgot to disclose the trade, valued between $1,001 and $15,000, on time. He said that he didn't trade large amounts of stock but that investing was fun for him and something he'd been curious about since childhood. "It wasn't nefarious," he said of missing the deadline. "It was just a missed opportunity or a missed deadline that was off.""I'm just embarrassed of myself for missing it because I do care about these things," he added. "I do care about ethics in this place. And I'm very upset at the way things are going around here nowadays in that department with some people, but I don't want to be one of them."The communications director for Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was late disclosing stock trades.Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty ImagesSmall consequences Most of the congressional staffers' late disclosures aren't nefarious — they happen because people aren't paying attention to the rules or are preoccupied with other parts of their lives, said a former, nonpartisan staffer for the Senate ethics panel.But the person also partly blamed the lack of serious consequences for filing disclosures late."If there is no real consequence for doing it wrong, what is the reason to really pay attention?" said the person, who requested anonymity to protect professional relationships.Staffers are supposed to pay a federally mandated fine starting at $200 after they've exceeded their deadline by 30 days. The only way to otherwise get right with the law after a tardy disclosure is to explain the reason behind the violation to the House or Senate ethics committees, which have the power to grant waivers that get staff out of paying a fine but still put them in compliance with the STOCK Act.These waivers are supposed to be granted only "in extraordinary cases," according to ethics manuals.No public ledger exists disclosing whether and when congressional staffers paid a fine or got a waiver. This makes it impossible to independently determine the extent to which congressional staffers are held accountable by Congress when they break the STOCK Act's disclosure rules. The only way to try to verify what happened is to go straight to the source of the violation. But only five senior staffers provided Insider with copies of their waivers. One was Maria McElwain, the communications director for Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. She disclosed 18 trades late that occurred over four months in 2019, the most recent of which appears to have happened about a year before it was disclosed. McElwain attributed the gaffe to miscommunication with her financial advisor about federal reporting requirements.The Senate Select Committee on Ethics waived her late fee after she fessed up, she said. "Since this was my first mistake and I confirmed that I had developed communication safeguards to ensure that it wouldn't happen again, I was granted a penalty waiver," McElwain told Insider. That waiver appears to have covered trades worth $32,018 to $305,000 and included investments in Home Depot, Apple, and Verizon Communications. If staffers don't disclose their stock trades by the deadline but have a reasonable excuse, then the Senate Select Committee on Ethics would likely waive their fee, said a senior Senate staff member.They were also likely to get excused if it was just their first time, said the senior Senate staffer, who had no record of improperly disclosing stock trades but spoke with Insider to help explain the relationship between the Senate staff and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics trains congressional staffers on how to fill out the financial documents, and some professional staff who work for committees even get ethics refresher courses focusing "on topics of relevance," including how to follow the STOCK Act, according to the senior Senate aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.The House and the Senate also have attorneys in each Ethics Committee at the ready in case staff have any questions or want to discuss issues in their reports, three former congressional ethics staff told Insider. Holman said he thought all STOCK Act waivers should be made public to be able to determine whether they were being granted only in extraordinary cases."Sometimes waivers are justified — and that would be compliance — but we should be able to scrutinize the grounds by which waivers are being issued," he said. Shaub also raised concerns about the circumstances under which ethics committees were choosing to grant waivers."In the executive branch, 'I didn't know' or 'I forgot' will not get you out of the $200 fine," said Shaub, who previously served as the director at the US Office of Government Ethics. "The standard is supposed to be 'unusual hardship.' Not caring enough about ethics to know the rules isn't 'unusual hardship.' In fact, it's anything but unusual in Congress."The chief of staff for Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican of Iowa, said her finances were complicated and that she wasn't always able to disclose her finances on time.Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty ImagesMurky disclosure rulesInsider reviewed every stock trade disclosed by high-level congressional staffers from January 1, 2020, to September 13, 2021. Their trades are listed in documents known as periodic transaction reports, which, for congressional staffers, are not available to the public online and must be obtained either through a cumbersome records-request process or by using a little-known computer terminal in congressional office buildings in Washington, DC.For the most part, Capitol Hill staff members are required to report their stock trades regularly only if they earn a congressional salary starting at $132,552 annually. That's generally the salary minimum for senior aides, but many other jobs on the Hill providing tech support or financial management for offices have similar compensation.All of these job descriptions appeared among the 182 people Insider identified as having submitted their disclosures late. Only four of the total identified appeared to be nonpartisan staff. The extent to which other Capitol Hill office employees with lower salaries trade stocks is unknown because they don't have to disclose it.Senior congressional staffers have 30 days to disclose a trade, or 45 days if they learned about a trade a few days after it happened, such as when a financial advisor made it and didn't notify them right away. The first penalty is $200 regardless of how late a staffer was, the number of companies the staffer invested in, or how much the staffer invested. Increasingly higher fines follow if they continue to be late — potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars in extreme cases, though Insider hasn't found evidence of staff or members of Congress paying such large fines.While filers are, by law, considered late after 30 days, they still have another 30-day "grace period" before congressional officials might fine them. Insider's analysis identified disclosures that ranged from as little as one day late to others that appeared to be four years late.A former investigative counsel at the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that investigates ethics concerns and complaints in the House, said cases did emerge in which it could be hard for people to figure out whether they're supposed to submit a report. The former investigative counsel, who asked not to be named to speak candidly, offered the example of a spouse leaving a company and triggering a repurchase of their stock holdings.Some senior staff members told Insider that certain circumstances could make it harder to report their finances in a timely way. Lisa Goeas, the chief of staff for Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, called her finances "complicated.""My family had several transactions involving family businesses over the past few years that resulted in the trusts and underlying assets that I disclose," she said.Goeas said she worked closely with the Senate Ethics Committee on her reports to comply with the STOCK Act, saying, "I want to get them right." But she still has filed six disclosures late in seven years, and while she said she received a waiver for the first late-filing fine, she said she paid the others and they were in the range of $200 to $400. Goeas said that she did not direct or control the investments and that in some cases she filed her report past the deadline because the trust didn't provide her with needed information on time. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat of Virginia, introduced the bipartisan TRUST in Congress Act, which would require all members of Congress put certain investment assets in a blind trust.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesDon't hold your breath for a stronger STOCK ActGovernment experts say it's far past time to make the STOCK Act stronger. James Thurber, a professor at American University who is a congressional-studies scholar, said that for starters there should be more enforcement measures to ensure congressional staffers submit their financial disclosures on time."We should have transparency about that," he said. "They should abide by the rules."  Holman of Public Citizen said Congress and staff might better comply with the law if fines were higher and if people had to publicly disclose their violations "so that there is political pressure and political price for this." The public can get immediate access to staff's financial disclosures only through accessing five computers on Capitol Hill — three on the Senate side and two on the House side — and some open-government experts want staff to post all their financial disclosures online just as members of Congress do.Even when accessed, some periodic transaction reports may leave out details. While reporting this story, Insider viewed documents that showed the disclosures sometimes contain private, confidential notes that are visible only to a staffer and the Ethics Committee. The notes in some cases can help to explain why a trade has been disclosed late or can even contain crucial details showing the staffer hasn't run afoul of the law. Briefel at the Senior Executives Association urged caution against online disclosures of staffers' information given the potential it could create for doxxing and other kinds of attacks on public servants."This conversation probably needs to be part of a broader conversation about the balance between privacy and openness for public officials in general," he said. Yet he and good-government advocates agree the self-policing strategy Congress established in the STOCK Act has proved inadequate. Even its champions concede the law amounts to little more than a toothless annoyance. "Congress doesn't like to punish itself," the former Senate Ethics Committee staffer told Insider. Several bills reintroduced this congressional session have sought to make the STOCK Act stronger.A bipartisan House bill called the Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust in Congress Act would require lawmakers, their spouses, and dependent children to place certain assets into a blind trust, relinquishing all control of their assets to a third party. The Ban Conflicted Trading Act, introduced in both the Senate and the House, would prohibit members of Congress and senior staff from buying individual stocks.But the bills have languished, and no formal hearings or votes on them appear imminent.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 13th, 2021

New York AG Tish James is running for governor on her record of taking on Trump. But her role in the criminal probe of his company remains hazy.

What James has contributed to the Trump Organization criminal investigation is less clear than her record challenging the former president's policies. New York Attorney General and governor candidate Letitia James and former President Donald Trump. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images; Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images New York AG Letitia James has joined forces with the Manhattan DA for the Trump Organization investigation. She's also running for governor and touting her record of going after former President Donald Trump. Her office has scored wins against Trump on the policy front, but her exact role in the criminal investigation is unclear. When New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her run for the governor's mansion in October, she highlighted some of her biggest cases. And she put 76 of them in one category."I've sued the Trump administration 76 times," she said. "But who's counting?"James' challenges to former President Donald Trump fall into two categories, one of which went unmentioned in her announcement video.There are the cases she brought against the Trump administration, including lawsuits trying to halt policies that she alleged protected predatory lenders, relaxed environmental rules, and discriminated against LGBTQ people."Defending the rights and wellbeing of New Yorkers and fighting for the powerless have always been my top priorities as attorney general," James told Insider in a statement, once again touting her office's 76 lawsuits. "For two years, my office stood up and fought the Trump Administration every time it tried to trample on the rights of New Yorkers and Americans across the country."James also brought cases against Trump personally, including an investigation into the Trump Organization, which so far has produced a criminal indictment against the former president's company and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg.Two prosecutors from James' office were cross-designated to work with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which is leading the Trump Organization probe. Since the investigation is ongoing - prosecutors impaneled a second grand jury for the case earlier this month - there's limited public information about the machinations behind the probe, including what work each office has contributed thus far.While James can't talk about the details because the investigation is ongoing, Daniel R. Alonso, a former top deputy for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., pointed out the information James' office gathered for its civil cases against Trump could be a major asset."My best guess is that what the attorney general's office brought to the table is a hell of a lot of knowledge about the Trump Organization," Alonso told Insider. James has called out Trump from her perch as New York AGJames has approached her cases against the Trump administration with a special zeal. When he was in office, she used her position to get federal courts to halt policies she said trampled on civil rights issues."We filed 76 lawsuits against an administration that was hostile towards women, immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, workers, and countless others; and we won over and over again," she told Insider. "Now, under the Biden-Harris Administration, we've seen decisive leadership that has protected young Dreamers, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and millions of others across New York and the rest of the United States."James also scored a big win with her office's investigation into the Trump Foundation, which was forced to dissolve in 2019, though the civil lawsuit began under the tenure of her predecessor, Barbara Underwood. Trump admitted to illegally using the nonprofit's money for personal profit and to advance his political career. Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC on February 8, 2018. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images In an interview with ABC's "The View" in December 2020, when asked about Trump calling her investigations against him "harassment," James basically launched into a campaign speech.​​"With respect to the rant of the President of the United States since I've been in office these past two years - yes, my office has either led or joined 68 lawsuits against this administration. Protecting our environment, protecting immigrants, protecting the rights of women, protecting dreamers, protecting the Affordable Care Act, protecting the Postal Service and the list goes on," she said, adding: "It's important that the president of the United States understand that no one is above the law."The law came for the former president's business after Michael Cohen, the former Trump Organization executive and personal lawyer for Trump, testified before Congress in February 2019. He alleged the company kept two sets of books: one to receive favorable bank loan and insurance rates, the other to pay little in taxes.Both the Manhattan DA's office and the New York Attorney General's office were listening. The offices then opened investigations, on parallel tracks, to examine the company's finances. Court filings and public announcements suggested they were each looking at whether the Trump Organization broke state laws by making hush-money payments to people who said they had affairs with Trump, by misrepresenting its finances, and by offering untaxed benefits to top employees.James and the Manhattan DA joined forcesAs recently as fall 2020, both prosecutors' offices had separate teams working what appeared to be the same leads. In an interview with Insider , Jennifer Weisselberg, a cooperating witness for both investigations, said that investigators from each office asked her about the same issues in separate interviews.James' office distinguished itself in the following months with a series of announcements about the inquiries into the valuations of several Trump Organization properties as part of a civil investigation. Among them is 40 Wall Street, located just across the street from James' office in Manhattan. The Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, center, arrives for a courtroom appearance in New York, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) The properties also include the Seven Springs estate in upstate New York, which the Trump Organization said in tax filings was used as a nature conservatory. Eric and Donald Trump Jr. said in media interviews that they used the estate as a summer home, however, and James' office successfully forced Eric Trump, now a Trump Organization executive, to sit for an interview.Meanwhile, Vance's office put enormous resources into the case. It went to the Supreme Court twice to enforce a subpoena for the Trump Organization and obtain reams of tax documents. Solomon Shinerock - the prosecutor in the DA's office who has been doing almost all the talking at the two public court hearings so far - said in September that the office had about 6 million pages of evidence for the charges against Weisselberg and the company.Under state statute, the New York Attorney General's office has the ability to bring criminal cases under only a few areas of law. Otherwise, it needs a referral from the governor's office or state legislature to pursue a wide-ranging criminal investigation.The office can also "cross-designate" its attorneys with a district attorney's office, which is what happened for the Trump Organization investigation. Earlier this year, two prosecutors on James' team were basically loaned out to the Manhattan DA's office. The team-up saves work for everyone, Alonso said."If somebody's already gathered evidence, and they've already cataloged that they've already interviewed witnesses related to it - there's a value in accelerating that part of the investigation," Alonso said. "So it makes sense to team up." Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr. District Attorney of New York County and New York State Attorney General Letitia James arrive in court for the hearing of Allen Weisselberg in New York on July 1, 2021. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images The DA and AG offices jointly led a criminal investigation, while the AG's office has also continued its civil probe. In July, the prosecutors on the criminal case filed a 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, accusing the executive of evading taxes on income and benefits like a free apartment. Vance and James walked side-by-side that day into court, where the company and Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to the charges."My office remains committed to enforcing the law and holding accountable those who abuse their authority - no matter how powerful," James said in the statement to Insider.Vance will retire on December 31 after three terms as DA, and on January 1, Alvin Bragg will take over. Bragg is a former top official in the New York State Attorney General's office himself, leaving two weeks before James took office. He's widely expected to keep the same tack as Vance."My approach to this case will be the same as mine to every case: follow the facts and deliver justice for New Yorkers," Bragg told Insider in June. "That's what we did in the Attorney General's office where I led the team that sued Trump and his administration more than 100 times, including successfully suing the Trump Foundation, removing the citizenship question from the census, and challenging the travel bans and other unlawful policies."Running for governor as a sitting AG is a tradition in New York politicsIn Albany, James has earned a reputation as a shrewd operator and a rising star in the Democratic Party. As the state's attorney general, she's in the process of suing the National Rifle Association into oblivion, and her office's investigations and litigation has shut down consumer scams and led to hundreds of gun buybacks. Nearly every day, her office issues a press release about cases against predatory lenders and opioid deaths.Now that the gubernatorial primary is open, lawmakers are weighing whom to support, or whether to stay out of the race altogether as Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul implements her agenda while trying to secure a full term.For Assemblyman Phil Steck, an Upstate Democrat from Schenectady who has yet to endorse a candidate, James' record on antitrust enforcement and opioids carries more weight than her challenges to Trump."I'm a fan of the attorney general for two reasons," Steck, who endorsed James' rival, Zephyr Teachout, in the 2018 AG primary, told Insider. In that primary, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed James. Attorney General of New York Letitia James and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) take part in ceremonies before the Veteran's Day Parade in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri "First, since she's been attorney general, I think the office has done a lot of outstanding work in many areas that protect the public interest," Steck continued. "Two, she has a long history of progressive politics. So in comparison - while I know the current governor very well and like her - the reality is that the new administration is surrounding itself with a very similar aura to that which existed when Andrew Cuomo was governor."Changing how business is done in Albany could be a very powerful message for the James campaign following nearly three full terms of the Cuomo administration, Steck said. But he added that the AG's Trump investigations could play well in a primary atmosphere."I think from a strategic standpoint, what Tish James is doing is trying to show to Democrats that she was someone who was willing to take on Donald Trump," the assemblyman said.But did James's lawsuits against the Trump administration - often filed in concert with other Democratic state AGs - result in substantial change? One Democratic operative told Insider they didn't think so."Clearly Tish used Trump to raise her profile, and you see that in the announcement video," a longtime Democratic New York political operative, who plans on sitting out the 2022 gubernatorial primary campaign, told Insider."You know who's counting? The people who have seen zero results out of this," the operative continued. "To voters in New York and Democrats and donors across the country who were resting their hopes on Tish James, she's delivered bupkis." New York Attorney General Letitia James (L) and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz take a look at some guns after a gun buyback event organized by the NYPD on June 12, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz Given that attorney general has been a well-trodden springboard for Empire State gubernatorial hopefuls - Cuomo ran on a "Clean Up Albany" slogan when he secured the top job - James' ability to showcase her record could make or break her campaign, according to the longtime state political operative."New York attorney general is one of the best perches for a push to run for office," the operative said. "Ask Elliot Spitzer. Ask Andrew Cuomo. Right? Elliot Spitzer, sheriff of Wall Street, took down titans in the financial industry - what did Tish do? She filed a few lawsuits against Donald Trump?"From the perspective of rival campaigns, the operative argued, there's an opening to to turn the primary electorate's anti-Trump fervor against James in a "boomerang" fashion."I do believe that you are going to see her Democratic opponents saying, 'Tish, where's the beef?'" the operative said, referencing the 1980s ad campaign from Wendy's. "So yeah, I think it's going to be a problem."Yet for a potential key Upstate endorsement like Steck, that decision won't hinge on James' Trump investigations."I'm just stressing the point that for me, when my decision as to who I might support for governor is announced, it's not going to be based on Donald Trump," Steck said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 12th, 2021

A conservative group is suing to block Biden"s student debt forgiveness, but it faces legal hurdles

Legal experts point out the challenges a conservative organization faces in the first major lawsuit against Biden's student loan relief. U.S. President Joe Biden, joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, speaks on student loan debt in the Roosevelt Room of the White House August 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced steps to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year and cap payments at 5 percent of monthly income.Alex Wong/Getty Images The Pacific Legal Foundation announced Tuesday it was filing suit against student loan relief. The conservative legal organization argues that the president is "usurping" Congress's power to make laws. But the plaintiff's concern over automatic relief and accompanying tax bills might be tenuous. The first major lawsuit against President Joe Biden's student debt relief has rolled in from Indiana.The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit legal organization, announced that it had filed suit against Biden's relief — a development that comes after rumblings from conservative business groups and attorneys general that they would pursue legal action.Significantly, the Pacific Legal suit has a borrower plaintiff at its core: Frank Garrison, a public interest attorney at the organization who is currently eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) and has paid off his debts through that program for the last six years. According to the lawsuit, Garrison expects to qualify for complete forgiveness through the program in about four years.Garrison, who received a Pell Grant, is now eligible for $20,000 in relief through Biden's forgiveness — and, as Indiana intends to tax student loan relief, will "face a state income tax liability of more than $1,000 for 2022." The suit argues that automatic relief is causing Garrison to incur a tax bill he would not have gotten otherwise, and that the administration is "usurping" Congress' law-making power. "Congress did not authorize the executive branch to unilaterally cancel student debt," Caleb Kruckenberg, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, said in a press release. "It's flagrantly illegal for the executive branch to create a $500 billion program by press release, and without statutory authority or even the basic notice and comment procedure for new regulations."The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, according to projections spanning the next 30 years, student loan relief will cost $400 billion.The viability of lawsuits blocking the relief has hinged on whether they can find a plaintiff, as the Washington Post reported.But Luke Herrine, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alabama who focuses on the legality of debt cancellation, told Insider in an email that the plaintiff depends on how the Department of Education rolls out the relief plan, "including whether this borrower qualifies for automatic discharge and if there's an opt out or not (since if the borrower does not automatically have debt cancelled, he can just avoid the alleged harm)." The Biden administration has indicated that anyone who wants to opt out relief will be able to."The claim is baseless for a simple reason: No one will be forced to get debt relief. Anyone who does not want debt relief can choose to opt out," Abdullah Hassan, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement to Insider. "Why would this group bring this baseless claim? Because opponents of the debt relief plan are trying anything they can to stop this program that will provide needed relief to working families."There's also, Herrine said, the "difficult legal question" of how the Indiana tax authority interprets its statute, and whether the relief can even be taxable."Those contingencies speak to how viable the suit is. I think: not very," Herrine wrote. The borrower's standing to sue is "tenuous" and "contingent," especially since the alleged harm of the tax burden may not even."Borrowers should know that conservatives are hell bent on stopping this popular plan and courts may well go with them, eventually," Herrine said. But the fact that this is the best case they've found so far both indicates how popular the plan is, and how difficult it is to make a legal case against the relief.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytSep 27th, 2022

To Avoid Civil War, Learn To Tolerate Different Laws In Different States

To Avoid Civil War, Learn To Tolerate Different Laws In Different States Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute, Most commentary on the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—which overturns Roe v. Wade—has focused on the decision's effect on the legality of abortion in various states. That's an important issue. It may be, however, that the Dobbs decision's effect on political decentralization in the United States is a far bigger deal. After all, the ruling isn't so much about abortion as it is about the federal government's role in abortion. State governments are free to make abortion 100 percent legal within their own borders. Some states have already done so. The court's ruling limits only the federal government's prerogatives over abortion law, and this has the potential to lead to many other limitations on federal power as well. In this way, Dobbs is a victory for those seeking to limit federal power.  The decentralization is all to the good, and there's nothing novel about it. Historically, state laws in the US have varied broadly on a variety of topics from alcohol consumption to divorce. This was also true of abortion before Roe v. Wade.  Moreover, decentralizing abortion policy in this way actually works to defuse national conflict. This is becoming even more important as cultural divides in the United States are clearly accelerating and become more entrenched. Rather than fight with increasing alarm and aggression over who controls the federal government—and thus who imposes the winner's preferences on everyone else—people in different states will have more choices in choosing whether to live under proabortion or antiabortion regimes. In other words, decentralization forces policymakers to behave as they should in a confederation of states: they must tolerate people doing things differently across state lines.  This will be essential in avoiding disaster, and laissez-faire liberals (i.e., "classical liberals") have long supported decentralization as a key in avoiding dangerous political conflicts. Ludwig von Mises, for example, supported decentralization because, as he put it, it "is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil ... wars." The Impulse to Use Federal Power to Force Policy on Everyone Law has never been uniform across state lines in the United States, although this was not for a lack of trying on the part of the federal government. As the power of the federal government grew throughout the twentieth century, the central government repeatedly sought to make policy uniform and put it under the control of federal courts and regulatory agencies. Prior to Roe v. Wade, abortion was a state and local matter only. Before the drug war, the federal government did not dictate to states what plants they should let their citizens consume. Before the Volstead Act, "dry" states and "wet" states had far different policies on alcohol sales. Some states had lenient divorce laws. Some did not. Some states allowed gambling. Even immigration was once the domain of state government. Although some federal law enforcement agents existed in the nineteenth century, "law and order" was overwhelmingly a state and local matter prior to the rise of agencies like the FBI.  The cumulative effect of making all these areas the prerogative of federal regulators, agents, and courts has been to convince many Americans that the United States government ought to federalize most areas of daily life. In the modern way of thinking, only less important or trivial matters are to be left up to the state and local governments. For many Americans, they learned to just think that it was abnormal for the state next door to have different gun policies or drug policies than one's home state.  Drugs, Alcohol, and Guns In the past decade, this impulse to intervene in neighboring states has been highlighted by the de facto end of nationwide marijuana prohibition in the United States. Beginning in 2012 with Colorado and Washington State, recreational marijuana use has become essentially legal in nearly two dozen US states. This means a resident of one state can travel to a neighboring state to consume a drug that is illegal in his or her home state. Some state governments have a hard time dealing with this. Politicians in antimarijuana states complained that their citizens had too much access to prohibited substances. Not surprisingly, attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in federal court in an attempt to force Colorado to reimpose marijuana prohibition on its citizens. Fortunately, these lawsuits—which if successful would have greatly expanded federal power over states—failed.  Alcohol prohibition grew out of the same desire to force some states' preferences on all other states. In 1917, only twenty-seven states embraced statewide prohibition. It took a constitutional amendment to impose prohibition on all the rest.  Moreover, laws governing the purchase and carry of firearms vary broadly from state to state, with "constitutional carry" allowing permitless carry in some states. Some states allow for private gun sales without any background checks. Other states greatly restrict these activities. Naturally, policy makers who oppose the freedom to carry firearms have sought for many decades to impose uniform gun policy nationwide.  Federal Centralization Run Amok: The Fugitive Slave Acts  The most notorious case of using the federal government to impose nationwide uniformity is likely the Fugitive Slave Acts (passed in 1793 and 1850). Contrary to the myth that slave owners hated a strong federal government and wanted only local control, slave drivers enthusiastically and repeatedly invoked the federal fugitive slave laws. This was done in order to force Northern governments to cooperate with Southern states in kidnapping runaway slaves and returning them to their "owners." The Dred Scott decision extended federal protections of slavery even further, and the ruling allowed many slave owners to argue they could even take their slaves into nonslave states and territories, regardless of state and local laws prohibiting slavery. Many abolitionists refused to acknowledge federal prerogatives and actively opposed federal agents who attempted to enforce federal laws extending slavery beyond the slave states. Some Northern governments explicitly refused to cooperate with the Fugitive Slave Acts. So successful were these efforts to undermine federal law that South Carolina secessionists listed the failure of federal slave laws as a reason for secession in 1860. Slavery advocates were enraged by the idea that their neighbors in other states weren't being forced to help prop up the slave system.  After Roe, States Are Quickly Decentralizing American Abortion Law In all of these cases, the perceived "answer" offered by proponents of legal uniformity was to bring in the federal government to force people in state A to do the bidding of people in state B. Thanks to the overturning of Roe, however, many states are moving in exactly the opposite direction.  Some states have moved toward prohibiting abortion within their own borders. But proabortion states are also taking some key legal steps toward further decentralizing policy. Policy makers in Massachusetts have moved to protect the state's citizens from extradition to antiabortion states for abortion-related crimes. The state's governor also signed an executive order prohibiting the state's agencies "from assisting another state's investigation into a person or entity" for abortion-related activities. New York's governor has signed legislation "that shields [abortion] providers and patients from civil liability" in abortion-related claims. The message here: "Those laws in antiabortion states have no power here." Centralization Breeds Conflict This is the way the system was designed to work. People can choose to live in state A, where abortion is illegal. But should some of those people travel to state B to get an abortion, state B ought to be under no obligation to help state A enforce its laws either inside or outside the state. To demand anything more than this inevitably ends up involving the federal government to impose new obligations on every state. (This strategy of centralizing power should not be confused with trying to directly change laws within those states. It is, of course, a good thing to pressure governments to end unjust laws from within, but such efforts are totally different than calling in the federal government to end abortion by federal fiat.) As we have seen with abortion, slavery, drugs, and guns, when the feds are involved, every national election ends up being a referendum on whatever issue is deemed so important that the federal government must impose one way of doing things on everyone. This only makes national politics even more nasty. The end of Roe v. Wade may end up emphasizing the political and cultural divisions in America by forcing many Americans to recognize that the United States is not one place. It is many places. This is not a problem, however, if we relearn that rather than employ federal coercion to "solve" the world's problems, it's perhaps better to tolerate others doing things differently in other parts of the world. On the other hand, if Americans can't shake the idea that the regime must force one way of life on everyone, we can expect national political divides to grow ever more bitter.  Tyler Durden Sun, 07/03/2022 - 18:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 3rd, 2022

The ‘Nuclear Arms Race’ of Office Exclusives

Open competition is inherent to a free market—or so they say. One of the hallmarks of the real estate industry is the transparency of the landscape. MLS data must be made available (to everyone who pays) and consumers ostensibly can view every available house, with sellers marketing to every buyer, and buyers able to peruse… The post The ‘Nuclear Arms Race’ of Office Exclusives appeared first on RISMedia. Open competition is inherent to a free market—or so they say. One of the hallmarks of the real estate industry is the transparency of the landscape. MLS data must be made available (to everyone who pays) and consumers ostensibly can view every available house, with sellers marketing to every buyer, and buyers able to peruse every available home. Consumers also freely choose their agents based on whoever they think will best serve their needs, and (hopefully) for no other reason. But why the caveats? What is keeping the industry from reaching a maximum level of open, fair competition—or will there always be exceptions, limitations and privileges in the market? One of these exceptions that agents and brokers have seemingly become comfortable with is the so-called “office exclusive” listing. In 2020, a policy called “Clear Cooperation” sought to curtail the long-standing practice of “pocket listings,” which the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has defined as “a listing in which an agent has a listing agreement and the seller does not authorize the placement of the listing on the MLS.” Those are now banned, at least by NAR members. But while Clear Cooperation requires all REALTORS® to list a property widely on the MLS within one business day of marketing it publicly, an exception was explicitly carved out for listings that are marketed, but not publicly—properties that are kept within the same brokerage or office. The purpose, according to NAR, was to allow consumers who need privacy for whatever reason to still sell a home without attracting unwanted attention. In today’s market especially, however, this ability to protect and shield listings from the broader public has come under increased scrutiny. It has also fallen in the shadow of a handful of lawsuits that have accused NAR and big brokerages of anticompetitive practices. But as it stands right now, is the office exclusive a great tool for a savvy agent and a specific consumer? Or is it a loophole that is allowing big companies to eat up market share at the expense of both agents and consumers? Denee Evans, the CEO of the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS), a collection of more than 200 MLSs which advocates for an organizes around industry issues, tells RISMedia that at the highest level, keeping listings on the MLS provides a “transparent, accurate and pro-competitive marketplace” for the industry. “It’s not just consumers, it’s agents,” she says. “If we as an industry…are not sharing the most listings with the most amount of people, I think it’s negative.” Mutually assured destruction Simon Black is an agent with independent boutique brokerage Red Oak Realty in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even in a real estate market that has been inventory-constrained and unaffordable for decades, he takes the stance that office exclusives are not a runaway problem for the region. “I think it was probably a bigger deal many years ago when people didn’t see the power of staging a property,” he says. “We’ve trained our buyers and sellers specifically in this market, because they’ve seen how that really does get such great results. I think we’ve trained them to see there’s real value to bringing things on market, and so I think off-market has become less of an event here.” One notable stipulation made alongside the Clear Cooperation policy was requiring office exclusives to still be “filed” with a local MLS to ensure data accuracy, even though the data is not shared (a “certification signed by the seller” must also be included to affirm that it is the seller’s choice not to put their property on the MLS). Evans says that is one of the most important evolutions of the “pocket listing” landscape, because that way the data is at least verified and reliable. “ still gets entered into the MLS,” she says. “But a ‘pocket listing,’ to me, is one that never gets on the MLS and is in the ‘secret society club’—I call it the dark data of real estate. That’s where a lot of the issues can arise.” But that doesn’t mean that office exclusives are themselves not potentially a source of problematic behavior or changes in real estate, especially as their use hasn’t accelerated during the current inventory crunch. Mega-brokerage Compass was explicitly called out during a recent Harvard panel focused on housing issues for allegedly trying to carve out market share using office exclusives in the Bay Area. Speaking recently to RISMeda about the company’s tech platforms, Compass Regional President Rory Golod showed the way agents working there receive an “inventory advantage” by having access to listings that no one else does. “Because of our market share in so many of our markets, we have hundreds of listings that are private exclusives, that are off-market listings that only Compass agents have Black says Red Oak does not dabble in the practice of “pitching…potential sellers and buyers as having that magical place where these off-market listings exist,” though he adds there are some agents who certainly do that in the region. “It seems sort of discriminatory in a way, where you’re restricitng who can see property, which doesn’t feel right to me,” he says. Chris Kelly, president and CEO of Texas-based brokerage Ebby Halliday, says that “members of the public who are most impacted” by this type of scenario are underrepresented communities—often people of color. “They are disproportionately impacted by this,” he says. “I have to be connected to the right real estate agent at the particular right brokerage in order for them to be able to tell me what they have for sale that they’re not sharing…so if you look at affluent areas, you can see how that can get disproportionate pretty quickly.” While there is nothing intentional or inherent about this scenario, Kelly emphasizes that without extremely thoughtful, careful and transparent practices, the impacts can start to move into fair housing issues. While the marketing benefit for an agent with a large number of office exclusives is obvious, the brokerage in question also gets to double its share of commission by essentially guaranteeing these listings will be dual-agency deals, providing an obvious motivation to increase the number of office exclusives from the brokerage side. Brokerages also can use office exclusives as a recruiting tool both for agents and homebuyers, especially in times of tight inventory. Kelly says that this scenario could easily spiral into an “arms race,” where every brokerage or office in a given region is trying to grow their exclusive listings to compete with everyone else, rather than using office exclusives in the limited scenarios the policy was intended for. “The analogy I like to use is the buildup of nuclear arms,” he says. “As more brokerages are holding more properties back as office exclusives—ones that don’t fit a unique seller or a unique property circumstance—eventually other brokerages say, ‘Gosh, I’m giving you all my listings, you’re giving me half of yours or whatever percent—I’m going to do the same thing to you, I’m not going to share.’ And then everyone does that.” Office exclusives or other pseudo off-market listings don’t always include the same disclosures, at least in California, according to Black, which can make a transaction more complicated for everyone involved. “You can imagine because oftentimes there’s still sellers living in them, they won’t always have that robust inspection, maybe, the general inspection or the best inspection,” he said. “It can be a complete disclosure packet or it can be an incomplete disclosure packet, and you as the buyer and the buyers’ agent need to decide, do we need additional inspections?” It is hard to track exactly how prevalent office exclusives are since how they are categorized and collected depends on the brokerage, as well as the MLS. Some are disseminated in private Facebook groups, according to Kelly, or intranet platforms within a company. Kelly adds that in the past, off-market listings were made up of “typically” high-price point homes and mostly fit into the explicit reasoning for the policy—high-profile people looking for privacy. But that does not appear to be the case in the current low-inventory, highly competitive market that is especially brutal in major metros. “In a normalized market, having a certain percentage of office exclusives probably doesn’t make a huge difference in respect to the consumer,” Kelly says. “What we have seen in some markets is the office exclusive, I think, gets abused in some capacity where it is being used for properties that do not have a unique selling point or a unique circumstance for the seller to justify the office exclusive.” Foundations One way to look into the future of off-market, or semi off-market listings, is to look at a region that has already experienced a few decades of low inventory with high appreciation and demand. Black says that the Bay Area can serve as this kind of sample. “Most people in this area have been living where we haven’t had property to sell for such a long time,” he explains. “You realize there is value in you actually moving out of your property and getting it professionally painted and staged and getting those professional photographs taken, and so most people who transact in this area, they do transact on the market.” Those sellers that do utilize off-market listings nearly always do so for the sake of convenience rather than just for privacy, he says, because they do not want to go through the trouble of vacating the premises and allowing strangers to stage, photograph and fix-up their home. They are willing to sacrifice some degree of profit, knowing the house will still sell at a premium in the highly competitive market. Black adds that real estate agents are not often pushing the office exclusive because they know it will almost certainly cut into their commission. Sometimes they will, according to Kelly, because there will be less work overall for them to do, but that is not a widespread issue—making the most money for both yourself and your client is still going to be a strong motivation. “Where do I maximize the potential eyeballs of interested buyers for my product? It’s putting it in the place where most consumers go to get their listings,” he says. While Black and Kelly both emphasize there are and will always be appropriate reasons to keep a listing from a wider view, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is only one method for doing that. Evans claims that MLSs can—and do—individually provide nuanced ways to list properties while still allowing sellers the flexibility they want or need in terms of marketing. “It just depends on what that local marketplace is driving at,” she says. One of the most widespread alternatives—one that is also nuanced and diverse—is the “coming soon” designation, which NAR does not directly regulate. Depending on the local rules, this designation can restrict viewing of a property just to members of the MLS or to agents rather than the general public, as well as limit when offers or showings can happen, according to Evans. This potentially allows for a more localized, more curated way to carry out some of the functions office exclusives were intended for, and these rules can be modified by any individual MLS board based on local market conditions, she adds. For that reason, Evans says there is no real consensus on the future of office exclusives from MLS leaders, to her knowledge. “The approach in each marketplace can be different…my one thought is, the heart of our industry is cooperation, so anything that promotes and furthers cooperation, I would be in support of,” she says. From the legal side, some industry insiders have been hesitant to address the issue of office exclusives because of an ongoing antitrust lawsuit that is targeting the entirety of Clear Cooperation as a violation of antitrust laws. A district court specifically cited office exclusives as evidence that Clear Cooperation was not anti-competitive or illegal when dismissing the case—though a federal circuit court recently reversed that decision, putting Clear Cooperation back in the spotlight. Black says the current rules allow for significant flexibility, at least in California. Some can stay fully within a company, some can be marketed more broadly across an MLS or across the state, but not syndicated on Redfin or Zillow, which is very important for some people’s privacy. Both Kelly and Black also acknowledge there might be some temptation from the agent’s side to push clients to sign up for office exclusives because it means less work from them, and in the hot market right now, the home is likely going to sell anyway for a good price. Black says he recently had a home go under contract after 350 showings over 12 days. “It was a 63-stair walk-up to the front door, it’s not for everyone clearly,” he laughs. “It received multiple offers, and we will close with a really great offer.” But in the end, both argued that most agents are going to be motivated to put the work in and go the extra mile—both for their client’s and their own bottom line—and the agents who offer this more fundamental value proposition will ultimately be successful. “The idea of saying, ‘Well it’s really stressful to have all these people coming in ’— that’s the agent’s job,” Kelly says. “If my lawyer or doctor came to me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to make it easier on me when I’m operating on you, or working on this case’—I kind of feel like that’s what an agent could be doing sometimes …we get paid to manage stress, take it off of that seller.” The post The ‘Nuclear Arms Race’ of Office Exclusives appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaMay 12th, 2022

San Francisco renters are unionizing against Big Landlords as frustration over rent prices and alleged harassment reaches a boiling point

The city introduced a law mandating that landlords engage with renters organizing for cheaper rent and better conditions, a first in the US. Peskin's office said they want the law to facilitate better communication between landlords and tenants in San Francisco.Thomas Winz / Getty Images San Francisco passed a law requiring landlords to bargain with renters who want to organize.  That was after SF's biggest landlord, Veritas, allegedly refused to meet with its tenants.  Veritas renters are looking for relief as rent costs — and inflation in general — spike nationwide.  Renters in one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States just scored a big win: the right to organize, and the right to be heard by their landlords. Last week, San Francisco's new "Right to Organize" ordinance went into effect, requiring landlords to recognize tenant associations within their properties, attend tenant meetings at least four times per year, and bargain with tenant unions "in good faith." If landlords fail to comply with the ordinance, renters can apply for a rent reduction as a penalty. The law is the first of its kind in the country. Aaron Peskin, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, drafted the ordinance after overseeing negotiations between Veritas Investments, the largest landlord in San Francisco, and its tenants. The tenants clamored for Veritas, which is also the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging tenant harassment, to cancel rent debt accumulated during the pandemic. "Tenants organized behind what is usually an individual source of shame — debt — and leveraged it as a group to win concessions from Veritas that would not otherwise have been possible," Brad Hirn of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco told Capital and Main's Jack Ross.Peskin's office said they want the law to facilitate better communication between landlords and tenants in San Francisco, while across the country, tenants in other cities are suffering from the same problems. The cost of monthly rent reached a record high in February. The federal eviction moratorium — which saved thousands of lives during the start of the pandemic, according to a Duke University study — ended in August, while 7.4 million households were behind on rent."It's a union at home," Lenea Maibaum, a Veritas tenant and an organizer of the Veritas Tenants' Association, told Capital and Main. "We're all workers who can unionize at work. Now we can unionize at work and at home."Inching toward a seat at the bargaining table 106 Veritas renters sued the landlord for tenant harassment in 2019, alleging that the firm harassed rent-stabilized tenants by driving buildings into disrepair, ignored asbestos and mold growth in apartments, and invaded tenants' privacy through incessant construction.And after a five-month long strike last year, the Veritas Tenants' Association announced that they had reached an agreement with Veritas to cancel debt for tenants and to waive rent increases for 2022. In a statement to The San Francisco Business Times from January, however, Veritas said it has no agreement nor has it been in negotiations with either of the two groups that issued a press release saying they were ending a rent strike. The company said the tenants groups mischaracterized its public statement from December, where it announced a program guaranteeing that, if any of its residents apply for rent relief and see their benefit cut short due to lack of funding by the state, Veritas would cover it for up to 18 months. That's not the end of the road for VTA, however — last week, members sent 15 letters to Veritas, presenting majority approval of tenant associations in 15 buildings asking that Veritas formally acknowledge their unions under the new ordinance, according to Capital and Main. "When Veritas was refusing to meet with their tenants, or saying there was no way they were going to meet with tenants if there was an advocate in the room, that's when we cried foul," Peskin's aide, Lee Hepner, told Capital and Main. "And ultimately that did fuel language in the legislation that says you can't refuse to meet with tenants if they bring their own advocates."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 18th, 2022

2022 is shaping up to be a legal nightmare for Trumpworld. Here"s a timeline of upcoming court cases and legal obstacles.

Donald Trump and his allies are bracing for a flurry of legal challenges this year. Here are the big cases to put on your radar. Political consultant Roger Stone, former President Donald Trump, and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Scott Olson/Getty Images; Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images Donald Trump and his allies are facing a flurry of legal challenges this year. Investigations into his company's finances are ongoing, along with others related to January 6. Here are the dates to watch out for this year. Former President Donald Trump has had a number of surprising legal victories ever since he left the White House — though his greatest potential battles are still looming.In November, Summer Zervos, who had accused Trump of sexual assault following her appearance on "The Apprentice," dropped her lawsuit against him before he was forced to sit for a deposition. At around the same time, a New York state judge dismissed a lawsuit from Michael Cohen seeking to have the Trump Organization reimburse his legal fees for work he did on Trump's behalf.But greater dangers loom. The Trump Organization is the subject of a sprawling investigation from the Manhattan district attorney's office and the New York attorney general's office into alleged financial misconduct.In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is weighing charges over his conduct in the 2020 election. Those investigations are proceeding as the Justice Department comes up on the five-year deadline to prosecute Trump over acts of possible obstruction that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller III scrutinized as part of his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.Meanwhile, the Biden administration is sending a steady stream of Trump's White House records to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. And Trump — along with many of his allies — face federal investigations and lawsuits stemming from the January 6 insurrection. Expect the judges in those cases to set court dates later this year.While Trump mulls whether to run for president again in 2024, 2022 is shaping up to be a year of legal headaches for the former president and his associates. Here's a timeline of the threats Trumpworld faces.AprilFormer President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan on August 22, 2021, in New York City.James Devaney/GC ImagesApril 15 — The Trump Organization is required to meet this deadline to hand over a batch of outstanding discovery documents to the New York Attorney General's office for its investigation into potential financial misconduct.April 20 — For the same case brought by the New York Attorney General's office, the Trump Organization needs to give the judge a progress report on how it's complying with subpoenas for other documents.April 25 — Judge Arthur Engoron, who's overseeing the subpoena case between the New York Attorney General's office and Trump's company, is scheduled to hold a hearing to make sure all his orders have been complied with.MayFlorida Rep. Matt GaetzGettyMay 2 — Jury selection is scheduled to begin in a trial regarding a civil lawsuit brought by a group of protesters against the Trump Organization. The protesters sued in 2015, alleging the company's security guards roughed them up during a demonstration outside Trump Tower. A video of a deposition Trump was forced to take this past fall is expected to be shown at the trial as evidence.May 2 — A special grand jury for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' investigation into Trump will be empaneled on May 2 and continue for up to 12 months. This announcement on Monday comes after Willis formally requested to have a special grand jury that would give her the subpoena power to obtain documents and compel witnesses to testify.May 6 — Federal prosecutors need to meet this deadline to respond to Stephen Bannon's motion to dismiss the charges against him for refusing to comply with subpoenas from the House of Representatives January 6 Committee. After allowing Bannon to respond, the judge is expected to rule whether the charges can stick and when to set a trial.May 10 — Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is scheduled to give a deposition for a lawsuit brought by a group of people who say the Trump Organization pushed an alleged pyramid scheme.May 12 — Eric Trump is scheduled to give his own deposition for the same lawsuit. Ivanka Trump will also be required to testify, though her deposition date hasn't yet been finalized. Their father is set to testify the following month.May 13 — A federal judge has ordered the government to provide a status report on the cooperation of Joel Greenberg, a former Gaetz associate who has pleaded guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.Greenberg could potentially be a key witness in the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz, one of Trump's most loyal supporters. He'd been scheduled to be sentenced in March but his attorney requested a delay while his client continues to answer federal investigators' questions.May 20 — The Manhattan District Attorney's office has until this date to respond to motions from the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg to dismiss the criminal charges against them. It'll be an opportunity to lay down any new evidence they've gathered since filing the indictment last July, as well as to dispel reports that the investigation is faltering.JuneFulton County District Attorney Fani Willis walks past boxes of criminal case files at her office in Atlanta on Feb. 24, 2021.AP Photo/John BazemoreJune — Willis told the Associated Press in January that she is expecting to decide whether to charge Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, by the first half of 2022.June 16 — Two days after his birthday, Trump is scheduled to sit for his deposition in the lawsuit brought by plaintiffs alleging the Trump Organization pushed a pyramid scheme. As Insider's Yelena Dzhanova reported, they sued after saying they lost thousands of dollars from joining a company called ACN and trying to sell its telephones with video capabilities.June 29 — Litigants will get to see a copy of Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" tapes. June 29 marks the deadline of discovery for the ACN case. While Trump, in "Celebrity Apprentice," vouched for the ACN Videophone, litigants are trying to figure out if other footage shot for the show demonstrated otherwise. ACN lost an attempt to bring the case to arbitration, and a jury trial is expected to be scheduled for late 2022 or 2023.JulySteve Bannon speaks to the press on his way out of federal court in Washington, D.C., on November 15, 2021.Drew Angerer/Getty Images)July 7 — Prosecutors and Roger Stone, one of Trump's longtime political advisors, have to meet this deadline for a civil case in which the US Attorney's Office in Florida alleged Stone failed to pay $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties.July 12 — The New York State Supreme Court will hold a hearing in the Manhattan District Attorney's criminal case against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, who's become more marginalized within the company following the indictment from last July.The status conference is expected to update the public on how Trump Organization lawyers are reviewing the 6 million pages of discovery material for the case, in which the Manhattan District Attorney's office alleges the company and executive dodged millions of dollars in taxes. The judge has also signaled he wants to hold a trial before the end of 2022.July 18 — Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, is expected to go on trial in Washington, D.C. Bannon is facing two criminal charges over defying a congressional subpoena. The Justice Department formally charged him in November 2021 after he refused to comply with a subpoena handed down from the House Select Committee that is investigating the January 6 riot.SeptemberThomas Barrack.Alex Wong/Getty ImagesSeptember 7 — Tom Barrack, the chairman of Trump's 2017 inaugural committee, is set to stand trial in September on charges he secretly acted as an agent of the United Arab Emirates.Barrack was charged in July with using his access to Trump to advance the United Arab Emirates' foreign-policy goals and later misleading federal investigators about his activities in a 2019 interview. The indictment of the top Trump fundraiser marked an escalation of the Justice Department's crackdown in recent years on covert foreign influence.Barrack's legal team is headlined by Daniel Petrocelli, a partner at the law firm O'Melveny & Myers who previously represented Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and, more recently, defended AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner Inc. against a Justice Department antitrust challenge.September 26 — The Trump Organization and Donald Trump's 2016 inaugural fund are expected to go to trial for a lawsuit brought by Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine alleging they misused nonprofit funds. A precise trial date has not been set.In November, Trump notched a partial win when the judge dismissed part of the suit, but other elements of the case — such as the attorney general's claim that the committee illegally misused funds — will be moving forward. But on February 15, another judge reversed that decision, reinstating the Trump Organization as a defendant.NovemberTrump ally Roger Stone is auctioning off a non-fungible token of an autograph addressed to him by former President Donald Trump.Stone Cold Collection/Roger StoneNovember 7 — Trump's longtime political advisor Roger Stone is scheduled to go to trial in federal court in Florida over allegations that he failed to pay $2 million in taxes, as well as interest and penalties for the unpaid sum. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 11th, 2022

Insiders say RAINN, the nation"s foremost organization for victims of sexual assault, is in crisis over allegations of racism and sexism

22 current and former staffers said that RAINN, which has deep ties to Hollywood and corporate America, is facing an internal reckoning. Scott Berkowitz, RAINN's co-founder and CEO, began his career in politics, advising former Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old.RAINN; Kris Connor/Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider22 current and former staffers say the organization favored by Hollywood and corporate America is in crisis. 'How can RAINN be helping survivors externally, when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?'April Cisneros says the first time she was sexually assaulted at her private Christian college was in 2015, while she was playing piano in the school's conservatory. A music tutor came into the small practice room and began to touch her. The second time, one year later, she remembers waking up in a hotel room near campus after drinks with classmates. One man was forcing his hand into her pants while another ejaculated on top of her. The incidents were devastating, and further compounded by a conservative religious community that lacked empathy for her pain or a framework to understand it. "Maybe it's demons attached to you that attracted this fate," she recalls one pastor telling her. Others placed the blame on her, wondering if she set the right boundaries with men. While studying abroad at Oxford University in 2016, in an effort to get far away from what she suffered back home, Cisneros attempted to take her own life.Soon after, she Googled for help, and the website for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, flashed across her computer screen. RAINN, which was founded in 1994 as a nonprofit, bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual-violence organization, operating a 24-hour hotline for victims and pushing for state and federal policies to punish sex offenders and support survivors. It has deep ties to corporate America and Hollywood, partnering with Google and TikTok and media like "I May Destroy You" and "Promising Young Woman," both of which center on sexual assault. (Insider itself utilizes RAINN's hotline; our publishing system automatically appends a referral link to RAINN at the bottom of every story about sexual assault.) In 2019, it reported nearly $16 million in revenue. It says its programs have helped 3.8 million people, and 301,455 people called its hotlines last year.The organization was a beacon in a difficult time, and Cisneros soon threw herself into supporting it. She cycled 1,500 miles across the country for a fundraising drive; later, after the Trump administration rolled back Title IX protections for campus-sexual-assault victims, she decided to get involved more directly. April Cisneros biked across the US to raise money for RAINN.April Cisneros"I was so angry," Cisneros told Insider. "I just remember thinking, 'Well, why don't I just, like, go try to be a part of the solution?'" She began working for RAINN in 2018 as a communications associate.But she soon discovered that it looked very different from the inside. Instead of the supportive, inclusive victims' advocacy organization that offered her hope in the depths of her depression, Cisneros found herself in a demoralizing workplace overrun by what she described as racism and sexism. She recalled that during the filming of a video about survivors' stories, her boss asked a participant to smile while recounting a sexual assault. "If you don't," Cisneros remembered her boss saying, "it'll look like you have a bitch face."Cisneros is among 22 current and former RAINN staffers who spoke to Insider and described a roiling crisis over race and gender in the over-200-person-strong nonprofit. These people described a culture in which a routine training was beset by racist caricaturing, executives ignored employees' requests for change, and people who were deemed political risks — including sexual-assault survivors — were silenced. According to these accounts, in one instance, a supervisor badgered an employee during the time she took off to recover from an abortion. In another, an Asian staffer was replaced on a project with a white man after their boss deemed him a better fit because of his race and gender. One staffer sent a resignation letter, obtained by Insider, in which she bemoaned "toxic managerial behavioral patterns" and worried that "young employees like myself, many of them survivors themselves, are currently being treated like their rights at work do not matter, like their comfort and security and health at work doesn't matter, like the skills they bring to work are worthless."RAINN declined to make its founder and president, Scott Berkowitz, available for an interview. In a statement, the group said it had made great strides in diversifying its workplace and addressing the concerns of its employees of color. It accused the current and former staffers who came forward to Insider of providing "incomplete, misleading, and defamatory" information about "a handful of long-outdated and disproven allegations.""RAINN is proud of the work our committed staff do, day in and day out, to support survivors of sexual violence," the statement read. "As an organization, we owe it to our committed staff to provide a work environment where they feel safe, appreciated, and heard … Over the last several years, like most organizations, RAINN has worked to expand and implement comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals. We regularly update staff on our progress toward achieving those goals, and solicit feedback on potential areas of improvement. While there is always room to build on our efforts, we are continually working to foster an open dialogue between employees and leadership to ensure ideas and concerns can be heard and addressed."RAINN hired Clare Locke LLP, a boutique libel law firm that has gained a reputation for representing clients facing #MeToo allegations, including Matt Lauer and the former CBS News executive Jeffrey Fager, to respond to Insider's inquiries. During Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, the firm's cofounder Libby Locke came to his defense, writing: "No wonder Judge Kavanaugh is angry. Any man falsely accused of sexual assault would be."When Insider asked RAINN whether Clare Locke's work was consistent with the organization's mission and values, the firm's partner Thomas Clare emailed a statement attributed to RAINN: "Given your questions contained outright lies about RAINN and our staff, and publication of those claims is potentially defamatory, we hired defamation counsel. We recognize we have a right to legal representation, and our attorneys have helped us disprove your ridiculous and libelous allegations."Some RAINN employees fear that the corporate dysfunction has poisoned the work of the largest sexual-violence organization in the country, which they continue to view as crucial, despite their own experiences. "How can RAINN be helping survivors externally when they're traumatizing survivors and their own employees internally?" Cisneros said.How RAINN became Hollywood and corporate America's go-to partner Through savvy marketing and hard work, RAINN has become to sexual assault what Planned Parenthood is to reproductive health: the premier, full-service resource for people struggling with a crisis and the ultimate destination for donations to help people who have been victimized.The global embrace of the #MeToo movement, and the contemporary focus on the depth and pervasiveness of sexual assault, has further aided RAINN's ascension. Companies in crisis often turn to the organization to telegraph their commitment to social responsibility. After dozens of women sued Lyft, claiming they were assaulted by its drivers, the company worked with RAINN to roll out extensive safety initiatives and contributed $1.5 million to its coffers.Hollywood has also embraced the organization. RAINN was cofounded by the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Tori Amos, who promoted the organization's hotline at her concerts and sat on its advisory board. In 2018, Timotheé Chalamet pledged his earnings from Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York" to groups including RAINN, as did Ben Affleck from productions affiliated with Harvey Weinstein. Christina Ricci, a star of Showtime's breakout hit "Yellowjackets," has served as an official spokesperson since 2007, and the platinum-selling pop artist Taylor Swift has donated to the organization, something it publicized from its social-media accounts.—RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2021 But Berkowitz has largely stayed out of the public eye. He began his career as a political wunderkind, advising Sen. Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign at just 14 years old. A profile in his grandparents' hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania said he was personally responsible for collecting $100,000 in donations for Hart — a feat achieved in between classes at American University, where he was already a sophomore. After graduation, Berkowitz continued to work in and around politics. His experience in the field, he said in a 2019 interview with RAINN, taught him about the "extent of the problem" of sexual violence in the United States and the opportunity to fill this "service gap.""I knew next to nothing about the issue," Berkowitz said. "It just seemed like a good idea." Christina Ricci has been a RAINN spokeswoman since 2007.Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty ImagesEarly on, Berkowitz ran the day-to-day operations, and his early fundraising prowess served him well. After a series of sexual assaults at the infamous Woodstock '99 festival, promoters and record labels did damage control by giving RAINN 1% of the proceeds from the festival's CD and video releases. "In raw self-interest, the money and attention that would come from it would allow RAINN to promote the hotline better, provide more counseling, print more brochures," Berkowitz told the Village Voice. RAINN's budget swelled in tandem with its brand. Total revenue rocketed from more than $1.2 million in 2009 to nearly $16 million in 2019. Berkowitz's compensation grew from $168,000 to over $481,000 over the same period. Even though RAINN's tax returns list Berkowitz as its president and indicate that he was paid nearly a half a million dollars in the year ending in May 2020, RAINN says that he is not in fact an employee and does not receive a salary. Instead, for reasons that RAINN did not explain, he is paid through A&I Publishing, a company solely owned by Berkowitz that contracts with RAINN. "Scott Berkowitz is paid solely as an independent contractor through A&I Publishing and does not receive any salary or benefits," it said. "He has never received any employee compensation from RAINN."RAINN's tax records tell a slightly different story. The group has reported paying a total of $561,500 in consulting fees for "strategic and financial oversight" to A&I Publishing from 2001 to 2006, during which time Berkowitz drew no salary from RAINN. Since 2007, though, RAINN has reported directly paying Berkowitz a total of $3,529,000. (RAINN says he "is recused from all board consideration of his compensation.")Over the same period, RAINN also began reporting payments to A&I to service $288,000 in debt that it owed the consultancy at 5% interest. RAINN's tax records don't reflect that the organization ever received any cash from A&I; instead, the loan is described in its 2006 tax return as "issuance of debt for prior year services." RAINN says the loan, which has been repaid, stems from "deferred payment for fees" that RAINN owed A&I "for a number of years."'How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake?'With the Woodstock '99 deal, Berkowitz struck on a highly successful strategy — corporate penance — and he would often return to it. But he also looked to the public sector for funding opportunities.One of RAINN's largest sources of revenue — $2 million a year — is its contract to run the Department of Defense's Safe Helpline, which offers confidential, anonymous counseling to members of the military who have been affected by sexual violence. Multiple staffers who spoke with Insider said Berkowitz was exceedingly sensitive about maintaining the contract. They said that he had gone to great lengths to stay in the Department of Defense's good graces and that they believe RAINN has at times been overly deferential to its interests. Michael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder in February 2022.Evan Jenkins for InsiderMichael Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, a former flight attendant and roller-rink operator who previously served in the Navy as a medic, said that in 1982, just months after he enlisted, a Navy physician raped him. The doctor, who outranked Wiedenhoeft-Wilder, threatened him with prison time if he came forward. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder said it was the first of multiple sexual assaults he suffered, all of which resulted in a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder stayed silent about the assault for nearly 30 years. He became depressed and experienced paranoid suspicions that the government was spying on him, ready to silence him if he ever told the truth about his assault.But decades of therapy empowered Wiedenhoeft-Wilder to eventually come forward. He discovered the Safe Helpline, which then led him to RAINN's Speakers Bureau, a roster of more than 4,000 volunteer survivors who share their stories with the media, student groups, and other organizations. When Wiedenhoeft-Wilder signed up with the bureau, his story was selected for publication on RAINN's website. In October 2019, he worked with April Cisneros, who helped manage the Speakers Bureau, to prepare the story.But the story was abruptly killed. Cisneros said Berkowitz decided to pull Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's account once he realized that it involved an officer assaulting an enlisted man."Once we actually wrote up his story, Scott was like, 'No, we're not even getting into this,'" Cisneros told Insider, adding that Berkowitz refused to send the story to the Department of Defense for review, as it routinely did with accounts of military sexual assault. Cisneros said Berkowitz told members of the communications team that promoting the testimony of a man who had been assaulted by one of his superiors could harm the military's reputation and upset the Department of Defense. Cisneros told Insider she believed that Berkowitz did not want to risk losing the government's funding.Wiedenhoeft-Wilder was shocked. He had spent time with Cisneros revisiting the details of an assault that haunted him for 30 years, all for nothing."I've spent the last several days trying to deal with the devastating news that the article about my military sexual trauma being canceled for someone else," he told Cisneros in an email on October 31 that Insider reviewed. "How does an organization like RAINN make such an egregious mistake? Do you have any idea how this mistake has affected me? It's absolutely devastating. Just one more failure for me.""I feel victimized all over again," he wrote. "What did I ever do to you people to deserve this!"Cisneros, worried about Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's mental health, forwarded the exchange to Berkowitz and Keeli Sorensen, then the vice president of victim services, she said. "Maybe you just tell him you made a mistake," Cisneros recalled Sorensen telling her. She felt Sorensen's suggestion was, in effect, to "[fall] on my sword for RAINN."Cisneros told Insider that she told Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a lie about a scheduling conflict and blamed the mix-up entirely on herself. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder didn't believe her. "I know she wasn't telling me the truth," he told Insider. "I knew it wasn't her fault. It was a really weird, very strange thing to do to someone."Cisneros was heartbroken. She felt that she'd betrayed Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's trust and was distressed because she felt an anti-sexual-violence organization had asked her to deceive a rape victim. "What's so sad is people treat him like he's so paranoid about being silenced by the military, but that paranoia is at least … legitimate," Cisneros said. "And it happened again at RAINN."Sorensen denied having any involvement in the incident and said she was "not authorized in any way to instruct Ms. Cisneros in this matter," adding that Berkowitz had "total authority" with respect to the publication of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story. She said she did not know why Berkowitz pulled the testimony."I had no part in the matter," Sorensen said, "but it's my recollection, based on my conversation with Ms. Cisneros, that she had promised Mr. Wiedenhoeft-Wilder that she would publish their story before having secured final approval from Mr. Berkowitz."RAINN also said that if Cisneros had promised Wiedenhoeft-Wilder a spot on its website, it had "no knowledge of that and she was not authorized to make that commitment."Cisneros disputed that. She said that she provided Berkowitz with details of Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's story before reaching out and that he approved. "Scott gave me the greenlight to move ahead with the process if [Wiedenhoeft-Wilder] expressed interest," Cisneros said."We have no recollection as to why this survivor's story did not run in the fall of 2019," RAINN said, adding that some isolated quotes from Wiedenhoeft-Wilder's interview — stripped of their military context — were shared on RAINN's social-media accounts. The statement pointed to other stories from survivors of sexual assault in the military that RAINN had published; none of those featured scenarios in which an attacker outranked their victim.Evan Jenkins for Insider"We are not aware of the Department of Defense expressing concern over RAINN's coverage of military survivors," RAINN said, "nor is it standard practice for RAINN to consult with [the department] regarding the material and resources it publishes unless they directly mention Safe Helpline. RAINN frequently publishes the stories of military survivors and will continue to do so as it works to carry out the organization's mission to eradicate sexual violence from every corner of society."Anxiety around RAINN's relationship with the Department of Defense came up again in 2019. Six former staffers said one RAINN employee felt compelled to frantically retract public comments she had made in support of Black trans victims of violence amid the Trump administration's efforts to expel trans people from the military. The woman suddenly and mysteriously departed the organization on the day her remarks were published.(The woman's identity is known to Insider, which is not naming her because doing so may expose her to professional harm. The woman declined to comment for the record.) On March 7, 2019, to mark International Women's Day, the employee was one of "8 everyday women" featured by The Lily, a women-focused website published by The Washington Post. The Lily post listed the woman's age, background, position at RAINN, and responses to a questionnaire about her favorite fast-food chains and movies. But she came to fear that her seemingly uncontroversial answer to one question could become a professional liability.InsiderThe answer came a few months after the Trump-era transgender military ban went into effect, reanimating debates over trans rights. Two sources told Insider that the woman told them that RAINN's leadership expressed alarm over her contribution to the article and was frustrated that the woman had spoken to the media without getting consent from leadership.One source told Insider that Jodi Omear, then RAINN's vice president of communications, said minutes after reading the article that it was "too controversial" and that she worried it "could jeopardize our contract with the Department of Defense." The source said Omear escalated the article to Berkowitz and the human-resources director, Claudia Kolmer, because she was confident they would feel the same.Omear told Insider that because the former staffer had been under her supervision, it would be "inappropriate" to comment on her exit from the organization.On the day the questionnaire was published, the woman called the reporter at The Lily who'd conducted the interview and asked her to remove the reference to RAINN, as well as her comments about trans people, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The writer agreed. Insider viewed an original version of the interview that contained the employee's affiliation and comments about trans rights; the version currently published online does not.Two former employees said the woman was escorted out of the office by human resources the day the story was published. RAINN said that "it is standard practice that an employee separating from the organization is accompanied by a RAINN human resources representative when leaving the premises in order to collect their office keys, security fob and other credentials," adding that it "reached a separation agreement" with the woman a week after the story was published.One staffer who sat near her described the woman as a "fabulous" employee who was heavily invested in the projects they were set to work on together."It was one of the reasons why it was so shocking," the staffer said. "Like, where'd she go?"In its statement, RAINN claimed that the woman's remarks were an unauthorized attempt to speak on behalf of the Pentagon. "[The RAINN staffer] spoke with a Washington Post reporter on-the-record, on behalf of RAINN and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, which she was not authorized to do," the statement said. "Contractually RAINN is barred from speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense or Safe Helpline." The Lily billed the interview as an opportunity to "step inside the lives of 8 everyday women." Aside from identifying her employer and job description — a format applied to other women featured in the post — the woman's interview did not touch on RAINN or the Department of Defense. Instead, she answered questions about her favorite body part and what she would change about her upbringing if she could.Still, RAINN said, the woman broke the rules: "The issue at hand centered around a clear violation of RAINN policy. RAINN supports all transgender survivors and has worked to remove the barriers to reporting sexual violence in LGBTQ communities, and to elevate the stories of transgender survivors, particularly for transgender persons of color for whom sexual violence is all too prevalent."Asked why, if that were the case, the woman would ask The Lily specifically to remove her comments about trans victims, RAINN said it was "unaware of any evidence indicating [the woman] was pressured to retract or remove" the comments. "RAINN is always mindful of honoring its contractual obligations not to speak on behalf of the DoD and the Safe Helpline," it said. "The fact someone commented on other subject matter or issues was irrelevant."A white male staffer was deemed a better fitJackii Wang joined RAINN's public-policy team in 2019, hopeful that she could use her experience working in national congressional offices to advance legislation that would help sexual-assault survivors. But she said her boss, RAINN's vice president of public policy, Camille Cooper, instead saddled her with administrative responsibilities like writing greeting cards. Wang said Cooper regularly discounted her ideas and "berated" her when they disagreed on issues the younger staffer considered minor. It became "psychologically terrifying," Wang said. Wang didn't immediately view that as discriminatory — multiple staffers said many of Cooper's employees complained of similar treatment. But during a performance review in December 2019, Wang said, Cooper attempted to explain her perception of Wang as defiant by rattling off stereotypes that Wang felt were "very targeted towards my Asian identity.""Camille asked me questions like, you know, 'Is your family very strict?' 'Do they expect perfectionism from you?' ... 'What was your childhood like?' Do I have problems with authority because of my family background?" Wang told Insider. What started as an implication became explicit, Wang said, when Cooper announced she would pull Wang off a lobbying assignment.Jackii WangDaniel Diasgranados for InsiderAt the time, RAINN was working on a Florida bill that would close a loophole in the state's statute of limitations for teen survivors. Cooper called Wang and another staffer into her office and told the two women she had decided to send a white male colleague in Wang's place, Wang said. Wang asked why."And she was like, 'Well, you know, because he's a white male,'" Wang recalled.Wang was mortified. While she had experience working with Florida legislators, her male colleague wasn't even registered to lobby in the state. Wang and the other staffer said Cooper argued that he would connect better with white conservatives in the state."He can talk about baseball. He can really, like, connect with these men," Cooper said, according to Wang and the other staffer present. "And these men really hate women.""Her reasoning for picking a white man over me for the project is that he'll be received better," Wang said. "But if that's the logic that she's following, then, like, I guess I shouldn't work anywhere because white men are received better everywhere."Neither Cooper nor the man responded to requests for comment.Wang said she reported the incident to Kolmer, the human-resources director, and Berkowitz in March 2020, along with a detailed recounting of other complaints about Cooper's leadership. But Wang said Kolmer never took serious action. When Wang quit that June, she sent Berkowitz a blistering resignation letter. "As you know, she has harassed and bullied every single person on our team, including an intern, and has blatantly discriminated against me," Wang wrote.Berkowitz thanked Wang for her time and for informing him, and asked Kolmer to discuss the issues Wang raised. Cooper continues to serve as a vice president, the face of RAINN's policy arm.RAINN said that Wang was too junior a staffer to lead a statewide lobbying effort and called her claims of discrimination "false and defamatory.""RAINN took Wang's allegations seriously and investigated the matter thoroughly," the statement said. "Ultimately it was determined that the basis of Wang's claims of discrimination were unfounded."RAINN did not deny Wang's claim that Cooper told her a white man would connect better with conservative legislators.Cooper wasn't the only executive to receive complaints. One current staffer and one former staffer described a meeting in which Jessica Leslie, the vice president of victim services, defended Berkowitz's unwillingness to address the concerns of staffers of color."You have to understand where he's coming from," they remember Leslie saying. "I mean, he's a white man, and you're all people of color — like, he's really nervous around you."One of the staffers was furious. "We just wanted to have a conversation. We're not about to berate the man," she told Insider. "This is not true," RAINN said. Its statement said that at a Safe Helpline shift managers meeting, a group of managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz would meet with them. When Leslie asked them to craft an agenda first, RAINN said, the shift managers asked Leslie if Berkowitz wanted an agenda because he was "uncomfortable talking to women of color." "The shift managers created this narrative," RAINN said, "not Leslie."Through an attorney, Leslie said she agreed with RAINN's responses and called the allegations against her "demonstrably baseless."A racist training, a pay disparity, and an email uprisingStaffers of color told Insider that they were often underpaid compared with their white counterparts; one, a nonwhite Latina woman who asked to remain anonymous, said she made $35,000 a year and lived in public housing to keep her head above water. After she quit for a higher-paying opportunity, RAINN filled her job with a white staffer who earned roughly $20,000 more, Cisneros said, adding that the white staffer disclosed her salary. (Three additional sources with knowledge of her salary corroborated Cisneros' account.) RAINN said the salary discrepancy was a result of both the role being "restructured" to include "significantly more responsibility" and the fact that the white staffer had an advanced degree.Four current and former RAINN staffers recalled that after RAINN's white office manager left for a new job, her replacement, a Black woman named Valinshia Walker, was asked to perform janitorial tasks that were not in her predecessor's job description — including scrubbing floors on her hands and knees, washing dishes, and disinfecting conference rooms. "Let me be very clear: [Walker's predecessor] never washed dishes from the sink. Ever," one former staffer said. "Val? You would come in, and Ms. Walker was cleaning the conference room. Like, wiping down all the tables. Spraying down the chairs. Doing the kitchen, she's washing dishes from the sink … You would see her walking around with the mask on and gloves because she literally cleaned. Like a cleaning lady."Walker declined to comment for the record. "The beliefs of your sources are simply not true," RAINN said, adding that Walker was hired as the "office coordinator," which had a different set of responsibilities than the "office manager" she replaced. "Maintaining a clean office has always fallen under the responsibilities of the HR and admin staff as a whole, this includes the office manager and office coordinator," the statement said. "We are not aware of any instances where Walker was asked to handle cleaning responsibilities beyond those that were part of the office coordinator's regular duties."Staffers also recalled what became a notorious and hamfisted mandatory sexual-harassment training in early 2020 led by an outside employment attorney hired by RAINN. According to more than a dozen employees, the attorney used a series of racist stereotypes to illustrate examples during the training."So let's just say, you know, there's Nicki [Minaj] and Cardi B are employees, and they're at their desks, and they start twerking," Cisneros recalled the lawyer saying. "Is that inappropriate workplace behavior?"At one point, Cisneros said, the lawyer proposed a hypothetical scenario in which a Latino-coded man — participants recalled his name was "Jorgé" or "José"—  kissed a coworker. The lawyer asked if the behavior could be appropriate "because this is Latino culture." "Your information regarding this training is inaccurate," RAINN said. "The examples in this legal training were all past legal cases using fictitious names." It added that staff concerns "were immediately addressed and the training was subsequently modified based on their feedback."Sarcia Adkins, a shift manager for the Department of Defense Safe Helpline who attended the training, was furious. She wrote an email to multiple executives, including Sorensen, Kolmer, and Berkowitz, on March 5 demanding action from the organization. "I wanted to get up and walk out at various points and it was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had at RAINN as a woman of color," she wrote. Kolmer acknowledged her complaints and promised to meet with Adkins alongside Berkowitz and Sorensen to discuss changes to the training and her issues with the nonprofit's culture.Adkins said that Kolmer didn't follow up that March but that Sorensen did reach out to schedule a one-on-one meeting. RAINN said Adkins agreed to meet Sorensen but "did not show up, without notification or explanation," and "did not follow up after she skipped the meeting." Several months later, after a former colleague intervened, Adkins did meet with Berkowitz and Sorensen. Adkins told Insider she was underwhelmed. "They pick what they want you to talk about," she said.The dysfunction came to a head during the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd sparked a series of bitter internal conversations about RAINN's track record on race. In June 2020, Berkowitz sent an email with the subject line "A Note to the RAINN Family" to the entire staff. In it, he acknowledged the unrest and pledged to support the company's Black staffers.Sarcia Adkins replied to the email with a list of demands and copied the entire organization. She asked for mandatory cultural-competency training and a commitment to hiring Black employees for leadership positions. (RAINN says that 43% of its top seven staffers are people of color.) Adkins — who has been with RAINN since 2014 — asked Berkowitz why he hadn't reached out following the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and dozens of other victims of police violence."RAINN has never been a place [that] acknowledges or uplifts their black staff, not just people of color, and the injustices we face in the world and within the structure of RAINN," Adkins wrote.Following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Scott Berkowitz sent an email to staffers acknowledging the resulting unrest and pledging to support the company's Black staffers. But employees at RAINN began responding en masse, including one person who asked why a similar message was not sent after other police killings of Black people.Provided to InsiderIn 2021, in response to the outrage over the George Floyd email, the organization began internally releasing draft proposals on diversity, equity, and inclusion with goals the organization planned to achieve or had already accomplished. The laundry list of objectives, which Insider reviewed, included a plan to "develop new relationships to ensure a diverse pool of internal and external candidates for all open positions" and "collect more data to identify the causes of turnover."But people working in the organization say little has been achieved, or even attempted."Hiring practices are not getting better," said a current RAINN staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. "There's been no management training. Turnover is horrendous." In its statement, RAINN recounted the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts it began implementing in 2021, including "expanded recruiting," "revised exit interviews," and "researched training on DEI-related issues.""The summer of 2020 sparked important cultural conversations in companies and organizations across the United States, RAINN among them," the statement said. "As we've seen nationwide, there is more work to be done. Over the past two years, RAINN worked with experts and garnered input from staff to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and goals … Changes implemented to date include increasing diversity within senior management to better reflect our staff diversity and the people we serve, implementing an anonymous third-party ethics hotline where employees can voice concerns without fear of reprisal, offering expanded professional development and internal promotion opportunities, and increasing health and mental health benefits for employees, the four top priorities identified by staff."As evidence of its success in addressing the concerns of its employees of color, RAINN provided Insider an email that Aniyah Carter, a staffer on the Department of Defense Safe Helpline, wrote to the vice president of communications, Heather Drevna, in June 2020. Carter, who is Black, had been one of the most outspoken staffers demanding change at RAINN after Berkowitz's George Floyd email fiasco. When Drevna sent a follow-up email to staff announcing an employee survey and more personal and sick days, Carter replied with a note of thanks."I just want to personally thank you and the senior team for this," she wrote. "It's one thing to listen to and hear us. It's another thing to take action. I am proud of the responses of my colleagues and I am grateful for the swift action from leadership. It is my sincere hope that we continue to make a necessary shift in the right direction. Please let me know if there is any way I can be of assistance."Scott Berkowitz at the "Tina The Tina Turner Musical" Cocktail Reception, co-hosted by Anna Wintour in support of RAINN, on January 31, 2020.Tiffany Sage/BFA/ReutersWhen Insider asked Carter about the email, she said any movement in the right direction quickly stalled."They sent an email and that was it," Carter told Insider. "So my 'sincere hope' was crushed. It's so insulting for me. When this first happened and you were optimistic and gave us the benefit of the doubt, you say it here," she said, mocking RAINN's use of her email. "And it's like, OK, but two years later here we still are. And I've mentioned how I'm frustrated, but you're going to take words from two years ago feeling optimistic about the future and spin it as if that applies to today? Seriously? That was very upsetting because it makes me feel like this is more about optics than, like, how your staff really feels."'OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?'When April Cisneros arrived at RAINN, she began working for Jodi Omear. Cisneros said she quickly ran up against Omear's domineering management style, which often seemed dismissive of and belittling to other women. Besides the "bitch face" comment, Cisneros said, Omear joked about how office dress codes could reduce the risk of sexual assault by preventing people from wearing provacative outfits. "I understand we're not supposed to blame the victim," Cisneros recalled Omear saying, "but, like, what do you expect to happen if you're in a dimly lit room and people of the opposite sex [are] wearing pants with holes in them?" Omear did not deny making either comment but told Insider that when training people who lacked experience with on-camera work, she directed them to "over-exaggerate facial expressions." She also said she "advocated for casual professional attire across the organization."Cisneros' low point at RAINN occurred in January 2019, when she unexpectedly became pregnant. She decided to take a sick day to visit a doctor. She told Insider she informed Omear the day before and outlined when her unfinished work would be completed.Omear became angry, Cisneros said, demanding to know why she didn't give more notice and insisting on further details. Omear called Cisneros at 9 p.m. demanding answers. Cisneros broke down and told her boss about the surprise pregnancy. According to Cisneros, Omear replied, "OK, well, who's gonna do the press clips?"The next day, as Cisneros met with her doctor, her phone buzzed with calls and texts from Omear. Between the stress of an unplanned pregnancy and Omear's incessant check-ins, Cisneros said, she "started bawling" under the stress.  A day later, Cisneros received a prescription for a two-day medical abortion. She requested an extra day off to recover, but Omear continued to pester her, texting and calling Cisneros for updates on RAINN's monthly marketing report. Cisneros said she finished the report from home while waiting for the bleeding to die down. (A RAINN staffer who was familiar with the incident corroborated Cisneros' version of events.)Omear told Insider that it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Cisneros specifically and did not directly answer a series of questions about Cisneros' allegations. "In general, when working with communications staff, especially in a fast-paced environment on such an important issue, it is/was important to ensure that other team members were able to cover assignments to meet any potential deadlines and organizational needs," she said in an emailed statement.RAINN said that it "was not aware of this incident happening in real time" and that it "supports employees taking time off and does not support managers encroaching on sick time."Omear's conduct was the final straw for Cisneros, and she wrote to human resources to complain. Cisneros said Claudia Kolmer told her in a meeting that the conflict "was a big misunderstanding" and that she should have come clean about her pregnancy sooner. (RAINN said that Kolmer told Cisneros that different managers have different preferences about how they should be notified of sick time and that "Cisneros was never asked to share sensitive personal or medical information.")Dissatisfied, Cisneros unloaded on Omear to Kolmer, accusing her boss of making inappropriate complaints about the loud breathing of a colleague who used a wheelchair and the habit of another colleague, who was blind, of walking into Omear's office by mistake, Cisneros said. (Another former RAINN employee corroborated the complaints to Insider.) Cisneros also said she told Kolmer that Omear made lewd remarks about the attractiveness of a sexual-assault victim set to make a public-service announcement. Omear denied making the lewd comments. She also denied complaining about disabled colleagues but said that she did recall "thanking one of my staff for helping" a blind colleague "when she couldn't find her way around the office."Cisneros rallied the entire RAINN communications department to put together a detailed list of other allegations of inappropriate behavior by Omear, which she collected in a memo for Kolmer and Berkowitz.Omear left RAINN that July, ostensibly to launch her own communications consulting firm. But Cisneros said Berkowitz told her that he had pushed Omear out in response to Cisneros' efforts. "We want you to know we're letting her spin her own story," Cisneros said Berkowitz told her. "But this is a direct result of the conversation you all have with us."The experience nonetheless angered staffers. Cisneros left RAINN the next year.Another colleague, Martha Durkee-Neuman, wrote a scathing resignation letter shortly after Omear announced her exit, addressing it to Omear, Berkowitz, and Kolmer."Jodi leaving of her own accord with no accountability is not justice," Durkee-Neuman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider. "It is not justice for the countless people that she has fired or driven from RAINN. It is not justice to pretend that nothing has happened, that staff were not forced to go to HR over and over and over until something was finally done." "I do not believe any of this work of justice or restoration will happen at RAINN, so unfortunately, this is no longer the right organization for me," she added."After the communications team raised concerns [about Omear] with Claudia Kolmer," RAINN said, "RAINN worked swiftly and diligently to investigate the staff's complaints. RAINN took appropriate action to address the findings of that investigation and Omear separated with RAINN shortly thereafter."Martha Durkee-Neuman's resignation letter.Martha Durkee-Neuman'What is left?' On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of charges related to the shooting deaths of two people at a civil-rights rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Some time later, Leslie, then the interim vice president of RAINN's victim-services department, addressed the organization's Black staffers. "I am deeply saddened by the pain and violence that has continued to plague our Black neighbors and communities," she wrote. "I want to recognize how this may be affecting you, as you navigate your day and the work you do at RAINN." She then touted the racial diversity of the victim-services department.Nearly 18 months had passed since the organization sent around its email about the death of George Floyd. Despite various promises and initiatives, in the eyes of many staffers, little had changed. But here it was again, another email promising to listen to staffers of color. Employees were enraged.Aniyah Carter, the Safe Helpline worker whose email RAINN provided to Insider, reminded her boss that nearly two weeks had passed since the verdict. "By now, we have already had to check in with ourselves so that we can continue our day-to-day lives," she wrote. "And while the opportunity to check in with managers is still absolutely available (and encouraged), the reminder to do so would have been more beneficial if it occurred when this took place." Carter also highlighted the gap she saw between leadership's stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its on-the-ground support of its employees of color, a sentiment echoed by other staffers who spoke to Insider.Daniel Diasgranados for InsiderFor Cisneros, the repeated failure of the organization to address the concerns of its staff speaks to something darker, and she is worried about how the culture at RAINN is affecting its ability to help abuse survivors."If church can't help, if school can't help, if the police can't help, if the hospital can't help, if my family can't help, my friends can't help — and now this nonprofit that is specifically saying that it's here to help people like me can't help?" she said."Like, what is left?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2022

Mark Meadows says Trump was never more "despondent" than when the Supreme Court rejected Texas" lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election

The lawsuit argued that Biden's victories in key battleground states should be thrown out over unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud. Former President Donald Trump.AP Photo/Evan Vucci Mark Meadows said Trump was "despondent" when the Supreme Court tossed out Texas' election lawsuit. The suit was a brazen and dubious bid by Texas to throw the 2020 election to Trump. "Can you believe this?" Trump said after the court struck down the suit, per Meadows' memoir. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows wrote in his new memoir, "The Chief's Chief," that he had never seen Donald Trump look as "despondent" as he was when the Supreme Court rejected a longshot bid by Texas to overturn the 2020 election results.Texas' lawsuit argued that Joe Biden's victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia should be thrown out over unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud. The suit said that as a result, the Republican-led legislatures in all four states should be allowed to select a pro-Trump slate of electors to hand Trump a victory. The case was supported by 18 Republican attorneys general, as well as a majority of House Republicans.In a brief order issued on December 11, 2020, the high court said it would not hear the lawsuit, brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, due to a lack of standing. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections," the court said in a one-page ruling.But Meadows mischaracterized the opinion in his memoir, falsely saying that the court ruled that Trump himself — as opposed to Texas — "had no standing to bring a challenge to an election that he was running in — one that was unfairly decided against him.""If he didn't have standing, I wondered, who did?" Meadows wrote. He went on to say that "to this day, I don't think I've ever seen President Trump quite as despondent as he was when I walked into the Oval Office in late December.""My head hanging low, I informed him that the Supreme Court would not be hearing out challenges to the election results," the book said.Meadows wrote that Trump didn't say anything for a moment. After a few seconds, he looked up at the ceiling, folded his arms, and said, "Can you believe that?""No sir," Meadows said, according to his memoir. "No, I can't."But he added that reflecting on the moment now, "considering what had occurred during the last four years, it was sadly believable."Trump significantly hyped the Texas case in the run-up to the Supreme Court's ruling."We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!" he tweeted shortly before the court handed down its opinion.Texas' demand was immediately decried by constitutional scholars as an unprecedented and legally dubious request for judges to overrule a democratic outcome in a free and fair election.As Insider has reported, despite Trump and Republicans' claims of election malfeasance and voter fraud, the 2020 race was the safest and most secure in US history.Meadows in his book lamented that the Trump camp's allegations of voter fraud were dismissed by courts all over the country, including by the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority and three Trump-appointed justices."For the most part, the cases were dismissed because the judges believed that states had no 'standing' to bring the cases," Meadows said, referring to the long-held legal principle that a party bringing a lawsuit or defending itself against one must demonstrate that it has been caused harm by the law or actions that are being challenged.He went on to say, falsely, that "the facts of fraud were not looked at by the judges and courts."As The Washington Post noted, the lawsuits brought by Trump's campaign and his GOP allies hinged on smaller complaints and isolated instances as opposed to the widespread fraud that the president said had plagued the election. In almost all the cases, judges determined that "Republicans did not provide evidence to back up their assertions — just speculation, rumors or hearsay," The Post said.Several lawyers who spearheaded those cases have since been disciplined by the courts. In August, a federal judge imposed sanctions on Trump-aligned attorneys including Sidney Powell and Lin Wood for spouting nonsense conspiracy theories in lawsuits that were filed "in bad faith and for improper purpose."And Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who was perhaps the most prominent face of Trump's election crusade, was suspended from practicing law in New York and Washington, DC, after an appellate division of New York's Supreme Court found "uncontroverted evidence" that Giuliani "communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large" about the election results.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 7th, 2021

Zuckerberg to be added to Facebook privacy suit

Facebook is at the center of multiple legal battles with regulators. It is the target of antitrust and consumer protection lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and several state attorneys general......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsOct 20th, 2021

Meet Jeff McConney, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg"s right-hand man who has been quietly testifying in the Manhattan DA"s criminal probe

Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney is CFO Allen Weisselberg's second-in-command and has worked at the company for decades. Former U.S. President Donald Trump in New York City. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Trump Organization executive Jeffrey McConney has testified twice for the grand jury investigating the company. He's the second-in-command to CFO Allen Weisselberg, who's been charged with tax fraud. McConney may be able to give prosecutors a better understanding of the company's finances. For months, prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization's finances have struggled to get the cooperation of Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump's main money man.But they have had success getting information from his second-in-command: Trump Organization controller Jeffrey McConney.McConney has testified at least twice to a grand jury empaneled by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. The Manhattan prosecutors, along with the New York State Attorney General's office, are investigating the Trump Organization's finances and examining whether the company broke tax, insurance, or bank laws.Prosecutors brought charges in July against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg, its CFO. Weisselberg and attorneys for the Trump Organization pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the special grand jury investigation remains ongoing.Weisselberg has worked for former President Donald Trump's company and family since 1973, and arguably knows more about Trump's finances than anyone else on the planet.Prosecutors have sought to "flip" Weisselberg into cooperating with the investigation. Several witnesses, including Michael Cohen and Jennifer Weisselberg, his former daughter-in-law, believe he ultimately will - if he hasn't already. But there's no public indication the executive is cooperating just yet. McConney has worked for the Trump Organization since 1987, according to his LinkedIn profile, working closely with Weisselberg. In 2017, the CFO told investigators in the New York Attorney General's office that he trusted McConney so much, he'd sign documents he prepared without even looking at them."Knowing that it went through Jeff McConney, who provided the original information, then he told me it's okay to sign, I would go ahead and sign these things," Weisselberg said in the interview.McConney helps manage the Trump Organization's financesThe 66-year-old McConney is a staunch Trump supporter by all accounts. He's a "rank-and-file Republican voter" and sometimes wears Trump-branded neckties, according to The Daily Beast. His home in Marlboro, New Jersey, is a short drive away from Trump's golf club in Colt's Neck.Barbara Res, who oversaw Trump Organization construction projects in the 1980s and 1990s - and who also thinks Weisselberg may flip - told Insider that McConney handled billing when they overlapped at the company."We were spending money, and someone had to go over what we were spending," Res said.McConney was eventually promoted to be the company's controller and a senior vice president. In an interview he gave to state investigators in 2017, which was reviewed by the Daily Beast, he said his team oversaw paperwork for bank loans, tracked checks, maintained tax documents, and prepared Trump's personal financial statements. McConney also helped prepare tax returns for the Trump family's charity organization, Weisselberg told investigators in 2017. The Trump Organization's Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg in September. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle Prosecutors obtained at least 6 million pages of evidence for its July indictment against the Trump Organization and Weisselberg. Much of that evidence consists of subpoenaed financial documents, which experts say include tax returns and preparation documents. McConney may be able to walk through those documents for grand jurors and prosecutors.The interviews McConney and Weisselberg gave to the New York Attorney General's Office were for an investigation into the Trump Foundation. The charity shuttered in 2019 after the investigation found that Trump used its funds to advance his political career and for his own personal gain.McConney, who handled day-to-day matters for the foundation, told investigators that it wrongly used $120,000 in funds to pay fines and settle lawsuits on Trump's behalf, according to The Daily Beast. He also said he regretted a $25,000 payment to a political campaign for Pam Bondi, who as Florida attorney general declined to investigate fraud claims against Trump University."Anything and everything that could go wrong did go wrong," McConney said.He has links to Trump's 2016 campaignAccording to Weisselberg, McConney jumped to help Trump's campaign for president.In January 2016, Weisselberg and McConney tagged along as Trump skipped a Republican debate and instead hosted a fundraiser for veterans' charities."I asked Jeff McConney if he'd like to go with me. And he said sure," Weisselberg told investigators in 2017. "So he grabbed the checkbook." Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to veterans at Drake University on January 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images McConney worked with Brad Parscale, then the digital director of Trump's campaign, to set up a fundraising website. He also worked with Cory Lewandowski, Trump's campaign manager at the time, to select charities to direct money to, emails obtained by investigators and reviewed by Insider show.McConney's son arguably gave Trump the biggest contribution of all: Instructions for using Twitter.Justin McConney, who ran the Trump Organization's social media between 2011 and 2017, recalled in an interview with Politico how he encouraged Trump to use the app."The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in 'Jurassic Park' when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors," the younger McConney said. "I was like, 'Oh no.'"McConney testified twice for the Manhattan grand jury, and is reportedly referenced in charging documentsProsecutors brought McConney to testify for grand jurors twice, in July and September.At least one of those times, according to disclosures from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, McConney had complied with a subpoena. The Trump Organization previously asked courts to block prosecutors' subpoenas, including for documentation related to McConney's work, but the Supreme Court ruled in February that it had to comply.Under New York state law, witnesses who are subpoenaed to testify in front of grand juries automatically receive "transactional immunity," which blocks prosecutions for crimes related to the activity they testify about. However, if McConney came to a cooperation agreement with prosecutors prior to being subpoenaed, they may still be able to bring charges against him.Patricia Pileggi, an attorney representing McConney, didn't respond to Insider's requests for comment. Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr. in 2017. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images Prosecutors also appeared to reference McConney in their July indictment. "Unindicted Co-Conspirator #1" - who according to the Wall Street Journal is McConney - "agreed to and implemented" a compensation scheme that prosecutors allege underreported Weisselberg's income and allowed him to avoid certain taxes.McConney also reportedly made an appearance in 2017 charging documents federal prosecutors in New York brought against Cohen. In 2016 Cohen, who at the time worked as a lawyer for the Trump Organization and for Trump personally, paid off two women who said they had affairs with the then-presidential candidate to ensure their silence ahead of the election.Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance charges for the payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Manhattan prosecutors are said to be examining whether the payments broke state-level campaign finance laws as well.At least one of those payments were processed by two executives at the Trump Organization, federal prosecutors said in their indictment. One of them was Weisselberg, according to Cohen; the other, according to the Journal, was McConney.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 13th, 2021

Facebook asks judge to throw out antitrust lawsuits filed by FTC and state attorneys general

Facebook argued the suits fail to provide enough evidence that the tech giant engaged in anticompetitive practices. There's a growing appetite in Congress for incre.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMar 10th, 2021

Google target of new U.S. antitrust probe by state attorneys general

More than half of U.S. state attorneys general are readying an investigation into Alphabet Inc's Google for potential antitrust violations, a source knowledgeable about the probe said on Tuesday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersSep 3rd, 2019

The White House calls a lawsuit to block student loan forgiveness "baseless" because anyone can opt out of relief

"The lawsuit that was announced today was a teed up, opportunistic challenge against the student debt cancellation plan," one expert said. President Joe Biden delivered remarks from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on Tuesday promoting his Safer America Plan.AP Photo/Evan Vucci A conservative legal organization sued the Education Department over Biden's debt relief plan.  The White House said that suit's claims are "baseless" in a statement to Insider.  The suit likely has no standing, experts told Insider, because the plaintiff can opt out of relief. A conservative group is challenging the legality of President Biden's impending cancellation of student debt for millions of borrowers, and the White House categorically denied all of its claims.   The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit legal organization, announced on Tuesday that it had filed a suit against the Department of Education because of Biden's relief plan, a move that comes after rumblings from conservative business groups and attorneys general that they would do so. It's the first major lawsuit against the Biden administration's announcement that it would forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers making under $125,000.The lawsuit claims that the executive branch lacks the authority to create a forgiveness policy, saying that it is solely within Congress's power to create laws. The White House came out strongly against the Pacific Legal Foundation's assertions. "The claim is baseless for a simple reason: No one will be forced to get debt relief. Anyone who does not want debt relief can choose to opt out," Abdullah Hassan, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement to Insider. "Why would this group bring this baseless claim? Because opponents of the debt relief plan are trying anything they can to stop this program that will provide needed relief to working families."The White House has said that over 40 million people are likely to be eligible for forgiveness under Biden's plan, and the first cancellations are expected to take place before the end of the year. The plan will cancel up to $10,000 in debt for federal borrowers who earn less than $125,000 annually, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. Republican politicians have long opposed any relief plan from Biden, with attorney generals from states like Texas, Missouri, and Arizona confirming recently that they're considering attempts to block Biden's plan. Congressional Republicans are upset too. The Pacific Legal Foundation's plaintiff, Frank Garrison, isn't pleased with the relief either. Garrison, a public interest attorney at the legal organization, is currently paying off his loan debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. He expects to see full forgiveness in about four years.However, Garrison is now claiming that because he qualifies for $20,000 in relief, he will be facing a new tax burden from his home state of Indiana."The lawsuit that was announced today was a teed up, opportunistic challenge against the student debt cancellation plan, where they attempted to find the needle in the haystack," Abby Shafroth, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, told Insider. "They tried to find the one person who might actually be harmed by the student debt cancellation plan that promises to deliver relief to up to 43 million working and middle class Americans."Luke Herrine, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alabama who focuses on the legality of debt cancellation, told Insider in an email that Garrison "likely does not have standing to sue." That's because the basis of the argument — the new tax bill — hasn't happened and may not happen, especially if Garrison can opt out."The big problem with his whole claim that cuts to the heart of it is the federal government is gonna have an opt out process, so that no one who wants to leave their student debt in place, will have to have it canceled," Shafroth said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytSep 27th, 2022

Multipolar World Order – Part 1

Multipolar World Order – Part 1 Authored by Iain Davis via OffGuardian.org, Russia’s war with Ukraine is first and foremost a tragedy for the people of both countries, especially those who live—and die—in the battle zones. The priority for humanity, though apparently not for the political class, is to encourage Moscow and Kyiv to stop killing men, women and children and negotiate a peace deal. Beyond the immediate confines of the conflict, the war is also seen by some as representative of an alleged clash between great powers and, perhaps, between civilisations. All wars are momentous, but the ramifications of Ukrainian war are already global. Consequently, there is a perception that it is the focal point of a confrontation between two distinct models of global governance. The NATO-led alliance of the Western nations continues to push the unipolar, G7, international rules-based order (IRBO). It is opposed, some say, by the Russian and Chinese-led BRICS and the G20-based multipolar world order. In this 3 part series we will explore these issues and consider if it is tenable to place our faith in the emerging multipolar world order. There are very few redeeming features of the unipolar world order, that’s for sure. It is a system that overwhelmingly serves capital and few people other than a “parasite class” of stakeholder capitalist eugenicists. This has led many disaffected Westerners to invest their hopes in the promise of the multipolar world order: Many have increasingly come to terms with the reality that today’s multipolar system led by Russia and China has premised itself upon the defense of international law and national sovereignty as outlined in the UN Charter. [. . .] Putin and Xi Jinping have [. . .] made their choice to stand for win-win cooperation over Hobbesian Zero Sum thinking. [. . .] [T]heir entire strategy is premised upon the UN Charter. If only that were so! Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be the case. But even if it were true, Putin and Xi Jinping basing “their entire strategy” upon the UN Charter, would be cause for concern, not relief. For the globalist forces that see nation-states as squares on the grand chessboard and that regard leaders like Putin, Biden and Xi Jinping as accomplices, the multipolar world order is manna from heaven. They have spent more than a century trying to centralise global power. The power of individual nation-states at least presents the possibility of some decentralisation. The multipolar world order finally ends all national sovereignty and delivers true global governance. World Order We need to distinguish between the ideological concept of “world order” and the reality. This will help us identify where “world order” is an artificially imposed construct. Authoritarian power, wielded over populations, territory and resources, restricted by physical and political geography, dictates the “world order.” The present order is largely the product of hard-nosed geopolitics, but it also reflects the various attempts to impose a global order. The struggle to manage and mitigate the consequences of geopolitics is evident in the history of international relations. For nearly 500 years nation-states have sought to co-exist as sovereign entities. Numerous systems have been devised to seize control of what would otherwise be anarchy. It is very much to the detriment of humanity that anarchy has not been allowed to flourish. In 1648, the two bilateral treaties that formed the Peace of Westphalia concluded the 30 Years War (or Wars). Those negotiated settlements arguably established the precept of the territorial sovereignty within the borders of the nation-state. This reduced, but did not end, the centralised authoritarian power of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE). Britannica notes: The Peace of Westphalia recognized the full territorial sovereignty of the member states of the empire. This isn’t entirely accurate. That so-called “full territorial sovereignty” delineated regional power within Europe and the HRE, but full sovereignty wasn’t established. The Westphalian treaties created hundreds of principalities that were formerly controlled by the central legislature of the HRE, the Diet. These new, effectively federalised principalities still paid taxes to the emperor and, crucially, religious observance remained a matter for the empire to decide. The treaties also consolidated the regional power of the Danish, Swedish, and French states but the Empire itself remained intact and dominant. It is more accurate to say that the Peace of Westphalia somewhat curtailed the authoritarian power of the HRE and defined the physical borders of some nation states. During the 20th century, this led to the popular interpretation of the nation-state as a bulwark against international hegemonic power, despite that never having been entirely true. Consequently, the so-called “Westphalian model” is largely based upon a myth. It represents an idealised version of the world order, suggesting how it could operate rather than describing how it does. Signing of the Peace of Westphalia, in Münster 1648, painting by Gerard Ter Borch If nation-states really were sovereign and if their territorial integrity were genuinely respected, then the Westphalian world order would be pure anarchy. This is the ideal upon which the UN is supposedly founded because, contrary to another ubiquitous popular myth, anarchy does not mean “chaos.” Quite the opposite. Anarchy is exemplified by Article 2.1 of the UN Charter: The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members. The word “anarchy” is an abstraction of the classical Greek “anarkhos,” meaning “rulerless.” This is derived from the privative prefix “an” (without) in conjunction with “arkhos” (leader or ruler). Literally translated, “anarchy” means “without rulers”—what the UN calls “sovereign equality.” A Westphalian world order of sovereign nation-states, each observing the “equality” of all others while adhering to the non-aggression principle, is a system of global, political anarchy. Unfortunately, that is not the way the current UN “world order” functions, nor has there ever been any attempt to impose such an order. What a shame. Within the League of Nations and subsequent UN system of practical “world order,”—a world order allegedly built upon the sovereignty of nations—equality exists in theory only. Through empire, colonialism, neocolonialism—that is, through economic, military, financial and monetary conquest, coupled with the debt obligations imposed upon targeted nations—global powers have always been able to dominate and control lesser ones. National governments, if defined in purely political terms, have never been the only source of authority behind the efforts to construct world order. As revealed by Antony C. Sutton and others, private corporate power has aided national governments in shaping “world order.” Neither Hitler’s rise to power nor the Bolshevik Revolution would have occurred as they did, if at all, without the guidance of the Wall Street financiers. The bankers’ global financial institutions and extensive international espionage networks were instrumental in shifting global political power. These private-sector “partners” of government are the “stakeholders” we constantly hear about today. The most powerful among them are fully engaged in “the game” described by Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard. Brzezinski recognised that the continental landmass of Eurasia was the key to genuine global hegemony: This huge, oddly shaped Eurasian chess board—extending from Lisbon to Vladivostok—provides the setting for “the game.” [. . .] [I]f the middle space rebuffs the West, becomes an assertive single entity [. . .] then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. [. . .] That mega-continent is just too large, too populous, culturally too varied, and composed of too many historically ambitious and politically energetic states to be compliant toward even the most economically successful and politically pre-eminent global power. [. . .] Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. [. . .] [I]t would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state. The “unipolar world order” favoured by the Western powers, often referred to as the “international rules-based order” or the “international rules-based system,” is another attempt to impose order. This “unipolar” model enables the US and its European partners to exploit the UN system to claim legitimacy for their games of empire. Through it, the transatlantic alliance has used its economic, military and financial power to try to establish global hegemony. In 2016, Stewart Patrick, writing for the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a foreign policy think tank, published World Order: What, Exactly, are the Rules? He described the post-WWII “international rules-based order” (IRBO): What sets the post-1945 Western order apart is that it was shaped overwhelmingly by a single power [a unipolarity], the United States. Operating within the broader context of strategic bipolarity, it constructed, managed, and defended the regimes of the capitalist world economy. [. . .] In the trade sphere, the hegemon presses for liberalization and maintains an open market; in the monetary sphere, it supplies a freely convertible international currency, manages exchange rates, provides liquidity, and serves as a lender of last resort; and in the financial sphere, it serves as a source of international investment and development. The idea that the aggressive market acquisition of crony capitalism somehow represents the “open markets” of the “capitalist world economy” is risible. It is about as far removed from free market capitalism as it is possible to be. Under crony capitalism, the US dollar, as the preferred global reserve currency, is not “freely convertible.” Exchange rates are manipulated and liquidity is debt for nearly everyone except the lender. “Investment and development” by the hegemon means more profits and control for the hegemon. The notion that a political leader, or anyone for that matter, is entirely bad or good, is puerile. The same consideration can be given to nation-states, political systems or even models of world order. The character of a human being, a nation or a system of global governance is better judged by their or its totality of actions. Whatever we consider to be the source of “good” and “evil,” it exists in all of us at either ends of a spectrum. Some people exhibit extreme levels of psychopathy, which can lead them to commit acts that are judged to be “evil.” But even Hitler, for example, showed physical courage, devotion, compassion for some, and other qualities we might consider “good.” Nation-states and global governance structures, though immensely complex, are formed and led by people. They are influenced by a multitude of forces. Given the added complications of chance and unforeseen events, it is unrealistic to expect any form of “order” to be either entirely good or entirely bad. That being said, if that “order” is iniquitous and causes appreciable harm to people, then it is important to identify to whom that “order” provides advantage. Their potential individual and collective guilt should be investigated. This does not imply that those who benefit are automatically culpable, nor that they are “bad” or “evil,” though they may be, only that they have a conflict of interests in maintaining their “order” despite the harm it causes. Equally, where systemic harm is evident, it is irrational to absolve the actions of the people who lead and benefit from that system without first ruling out their possible guilt. Since WWII, millions of innocents have been murdered by the US, its international allies and its corporate partners, all of whom have thrown their military, economic and financial weight around the world. The Western “parasite class” has sought to assert its IRBO by any means necessary— sanctions, debt slavery or outright slavery, physical, economic or psychological warfare. The grasping desire for more power and control has exposed the very worst of human nature. Repeatedly and ad nauseam. Of course, resistance to this kind of global tyranny is understandable. The question is: Does imposition of the multipolar model offer anything different? Signing the UN Charter – 1948 Oligarchy Most recently, the “unipolar world order” has been embodied by the World Economic Forum’s inappropriately named Great Reset. It is so malignant and forbidding that some consider the emerging “multipolar world order” salvation. They have even heaped praise upon the likely leaders of the new multipolar world: It is [. . .] strength of purpose and character that has defined Putin’s two decades in power. [. . .] Russia is committed to the process of finding solutions to all people benefiting from the future, not just a few thousand holier-than-thou oligarchs. [. . .] Together [Russia and China] told the WEF to stuff the Great Reset back into the hole in which it was conceived. [. . .] Putin told Klaus Schwab and the WEF that their entire idea of the Great Reset is not only doomed to failure but runs counter to everything modern leadership should be pursuing. Sadly, it seems this hope is also misplaced. While Putin did much to rid Russia of the CIA-run, Western-backed oligarchs who were systematically destroying the Russian Federation during the 1990s, they have subsequently been replaced by another band of oligarchs with closer links to the current Russian government. Something we will explore in Part 3. Yes, it is certainly true that the Russian government, led by Putin and his power bloc, has improved the incomes and life opportunities for the majority of Russians. Putin’s government has also significantly reduced chronic poverty in Russia over the last two decades. Wealth in Russia, measured as the market value of financial and non-financial assets, has remained concentrated in the hands of the top 1% of the population. This pooling of wealth among the top percentile is itself stratified and is overwhelmingly held by the top 1% of the 1%. For example, in 2017, 56% of Russian wealth was controlled by 1% of the population. The pseudopandemic of 2020–2022 particularly benefitted Russian billionnaires—as it did the billionaires of every other developed economy. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2021, wealth inequality in Russia, measured using the Gini coefficient, was 87.8 in 2020. The only other major economy with a greater disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the population was Brazil. Just behind Brazil and Russia on the wealth inequality scale was the US, whose Gini coefficient stood at 85. In terms of wealth concentration however, the situation in Russia was the worst by a considerable margin. In 2020 the top 1% owned 58.2% of Russia’s wealth. This was more than 8 percentage points higher than Brazil’s wealth concentration, and significantly worse than wealth concentration in the US, which stood at 35.2% in 2020. Such disproportionate wealth distribution is conducive to creating and empowering oligarchs. But wealth alone doesn’t determine whether one is an oligarch. Wealth needs to be converted into political power for the term “oligarch” to be applicable. An oligarchy is defined as “a form of government in which supreme power is vested in a small exclusive class.” Members of this dominant class are installed through a variety of mechanisms. The British establishment, and particularly its political class, is dominated by men and women who were educated at Eton, Roedean, Harrow and St. Pauls, etc. This “small exclusive class” arguably constitutes a British oligarchy. The UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has been heralded by some because she is not a graduate of one of these select public schools. Educational privilege aside, though, the use of the word “oligarch” in the West more commonly refers to an internationalist class of globalists whose individual wealth sets them apart and who use that wealth to influence policy decisions. Bill Gates is a prime example of an oligarch. The former advisor to the UK Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings, said as much during his testimony to a parliamentary committee on May 2021 (go to 14:02:35). As Cummings put it, Bill Gates and “that kind of network” had directed the UK government’s response to the supposed COVID-19 pandemic. Gates’ immense wealth has bought him direct access to political power beyond national borders. He has no public mandate in either the US or the UK. He is an oligarch—one of the more well known but far from the only one. CFR member David Rothkopf described these people as a “Superclass” with the ability to “influence the lives of millions across borders on a regular basis.” They do this, he said, by using their globalist “networks.” Those networks, as described by Antony C. Sutton, Dominic Cummings and others, act as “the force multiplier in any kind of power structure.” This “small exclusive class” use their wealth to control resources and thus policy. Political decisions, policy, court rulings and more are made at their behest. This point was highlighted in the joint letter sent by the Attorneys General (AGs) of 19 US states to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. The AGs observed that BlackRock was essentially using its investment strategy to pursue a political agenda: The Senators elected by the citizens of this country determine which international agreements have the force of law, not BlackRock. Their letter describes the theoretical model of representative democracy. Representative democracy is not a true democracy—which decentralises political power to the individual citizen—but is rather a system designed to centralise political control and authority. Inevitably, “representative democracy” leads to the consolidation of power in the hands of the so-called “Superclass” described by Rothkopf. There is nothing “super” about them. They are ordinary people who have acquired wealth primarily through conquest, usury, market rigging, political manipulation and slavery. “Parasite class” is a more befitting description. Not only do global investment firms like BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street use their immense resources to steer public policy, but their major shareholders include the very oligarchs who, via their contribution to various think tanks, create the global political agendas that determine policy in the first place. There is no space in this system of alleged “world order” for any genuine democratic oversight. As we shall see in Part 3, the levers of control are exerted to achieve exactly the same effect in Russia and China. Both countries have a gaggle of oligarchs whose objectives are firmly aligned with the WEF’s Great Reset agenda. They too work with their national government “partners” to ensure that they all arrive at the “right” policy decisions. US President Joe Biden, left, and CFR President Richard N. Haass, right. The United Nations’ Model of National Sovereignty Any bloc of nations that bids for dominance within the United Nations is seeking global hegemony. The UN enables global governance and centralises global political power and authority. In so doing, the UN empowers the international oligarchy. As noted previously, Article 2 of the United Nations Charter declares that the UN is “based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” The Charter then goes on to list the numerous ways in which nation-states are not equal. It also clarifies how they are all subservient to the UN Security Council. Despite all the UN’s claims of lofty principles—respect for national sovereignty and for alleged human rights—Article 2 declares that no nation-state can receive any assistance from another as long as the UN Security Council is forcing that nation-state to comply with its edicts. Even non-member states must abide by the Charter, whether they like it or not, by decree of the United Nations. The UN Charter is a paradox. Article 2.7 asserts that “nothing in the Charter” permits the UN to infringe the sovereignty of a nation-state—except when it does so through UN “enforcement measures.” The Charter states, apparently without reason, that all nation-states are “equal.” However, some nation-states are empowered by the Charter to be far more equal than others. While the UN’s General Assembly is supposedly a decision-making forum comprised of “equal” sovereign nations, Article 11 affords the General Assembly only the power to discuss “the general principles of co-operation.” In other words, it has no power to make any significant decisions. Article 12 dictates that the General Assembly can only resolve disputes if instructed to do so by the Security Council. The most important function of the UN, “the maintenance of international peace and security,” can only be dealt with by the Security Council. What the other members of the General Assembly think about the Security Council’s global “security” decisions is a practical irrelevance. Article 23 lays out which nation-states form the Security Council: The Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [Russian Federation], the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council. The General Assembly shall elect ten other Members of the United Nations to be non-permanent members of the Security Council. [. . .] The non-permanent members of the Security Council shall be elected for a term of two years. The General Assembly is allowed to elect “non-permanent” members to the Security Council based upon criteria stipulated by the Security Council. Currently the “non-permanent” members are Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. Article 24 proclaims that the Security Council has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security” and that all other nations agree that “the Security Council acts on their behalf.” The Security Council investigates and defines all alleged threats and recommends the procedures and adjustments for the supposed remedy. The Security Council dictates what further action, such as sanctions or the use of military force, shall be taken against any nation-state it considers to be a problem. Article 27 decrees that at least 9 of the 15 member states must be in agreement for a Security Council resolution to be enforced. All of the 5 permanent members must concur, and each has the power of veto. Any Security Council member, including permanent members, shall be excluded from the vote or use of its veto if they are party to the dispute in question. UN member states, by virtue of agreeing to the Charter, must provide armed forces at the Security Council’s request. In accordance with Article 47, military planning and operational objectives are the sole remit of the permanent Security Council members through their exclusive Military Staff Committee. If the permanent members are interested in the opinion of any other “sovereign” nation, they’ll ask it to provide one. The inequality inherent in the Charter could not be clearer. Article 44 notes that “when the Security Council has decided to use force” its only consultative obligation to the wider UN is to discuss the use of another member state’s armed forces where the Security Council has ordered that nation to fight. For a country that is a current member of the Security Council, use of its armed forces by the Military Staff Committee is a prerequisite for Council membership. The UN Secretary-General, identified as the “chief administrative officer” in the Charter, oversees the UN Secretariat. The Secretariat commissions, investigates and produces the reports that allegedly inform UN decision-making. The Secretariat staff members are appointed by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is “appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” Under the UN Charter, then, the Security Council is made king. This arrangement affords the governments of its permanent members—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—considerable additional authority. There is nothing egalitarian about the UN Charter. The suggestion that the UN Charter constitutes a “defence” of “national sovereignty” is ridiculous. The UN Charter is the embodiment of the centralisation of global power and authority. UN Headquarters New York – Land Donated by the Rockefellers The United Nations’ Global Public-Private Partnership The UN was created, in no small measure, through the efforts of the private sector Rockefeller Foundation (RF). In particular, the RF’s comprehensive financial and operational support for the Economic, Financial and Transit Department (EFTD) of the League of Nations (LoN), and its considerable influence upon the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), made the RF the key player in the transformation of the LoN into the UN. The UN came into being as a result of public-private partnership. Since then, especially with regard to defence, financing, global health care and sustainable development, public-private partnerships have become dominant within the UN system. The UN is no longer an intergovernmental organisation, if it ever was one. It is a global collaboration between governments and a multinational infra-governmental network of private “stakeholders.” In 1998, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the World Economic Forum’s Davos symposium that a “quiet revolution” had occurred in the UN during the 1990s: [T]he United Nations has been transformed since we last met here in Davos. The Organization has undergone a complete overhaul that I have described as a “quiet revolution”. [. . .] [W]e are in a stronger position to work with business and industry. [. . .] The business of the United Nations involves the businesses of the world. [. . .] We also promote private sector development and foreign direct investment. We help countries to join the international trading system and enact business-friendly legislation. In 2005, the World Health Organisation (WHO), a specialised agency of the UN, published a report on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in healthcare titled Connecting for Health. Speaking about how “stakeholders” could introduce ICT healthcare solutions globally, the WHO noted: Governments can create an enabling environment, and invest in equity, access and innovation. The 2015, Adis Ababa Action Agenda conference on “financing for development” clarified the nature of an “enabling environment.” National governments from 193 UN nation-states committed their respective populations to funding public-private partnerships for sustainable development by collectively agreeing to create “an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development;” and “to further strengthen the framework to finance sustainable development.” In 2017, UN General Assembly Resolution 70/224 (A/Res/70/224) compelled UN member states to implement “concrete policies” that “enable” sustainable development. A/Res/70/224 added that the UN: [. . .] reaffirms the strong political commitment to address the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development [—] particularly with regard to developing partnerships through the provision of greater opportunities to the private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society in general. In short, the “enabling environment” is a government, and therefore taxpayer, funding commitment to create markets for the private sector. Over the last few decades, successive Secretary-Generals have overseen the UN’s formal transition into a global public-private partnership (G3P). Nation-states do not have sovereignty over public-private partnerships. Sustainable development formally relegates government to the role of an “enabling” partner within a global network comprised of multinational corporations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations and other actors. The “other actors” are predominantly the philanthropic foundations of individual billionaires and immensely wealthy family dynasties—that is, oligarchs. Effectively, then, the UN serves the interests of capital. Not only is it a mechanism for the centralisation of global political authority, it is committed to the development of global policy agendas that are “business-friendly.” That means Big Business-friendly. Such agendas may happen to coincide with the best interests of humanity, but where they don’t—which is largely the case—well, that’s just too bad for humanity. Kofi Annan (8 April 1938 – 18 August 2018) Global Governance On the 4th February 2022, a little less then three weeks prior to Russia launching its “special military operation” in Ukraine, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping issued an important joint statement: The sides [Russian Federation and Chinese People’s Republic] strongly support the development of international cooperation and exchanges [. . .], actively participating in the relevant global governance process, [. . .] to ensure sustainable global development. [. . .] The international community should actively engage in global governance[.] [. . .] The sides reaffirmed their intention to strengthen foreign policy coordination, pursue true multilateralism, strengthen cooperation on multilateral platforms, defend common interests, support the international and regional balance of power, and improve global governance. [. . .] The sides call on all States [. . .] to protect the United Nations-driven international architecture and the international law-based world order, seek genuine multipolarity with the United Nations and its Security Council playing a central and coordinating role, promote more democratic international relations, and ensure peace, stability and sustainable development across the world. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) defined “global governance” in its 2014 publication Global Governance and the Global Rules For Development in the Post 2015 Era: Global governance encompasses the totality of institutions, policies, norms, procedures and initiatives through which States and their citizens try to bring more predictability, stability and order to their responses to transnational challenges. Global governance centralises control over the entire sphere of international relations. It inevitably erodes a nation’s ability to set foreign policy. As a theoretical protection against global instability, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but in practice it neither enhances nor “protects” national sovereignty. Domination of the global governance system by one group of powerful nation-states represents possibly the most dangerous and destabilising force of all. It allows those nations to act with impunity, regardless of any pretensions about honouring alleged “international law.” Global governance also significantly curtails the independence of a nation-state’s domestic policy. For example, the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda 21, with the near-time Agenda 2030 serving as a waypoint, impacts nearly all national domestic policy—even setting the course for most domestic policy—in every country. National electorates’ oversight of this “totality” of UN policies is weak to nonexistent. Global governance renders so-called “representative democracy” little more than a vacuous sound-bite. As the UN is a global public-private partnership (UN-G3P), global governance allows the “multi-stakeholder partnership”—and therefore oligarchs—significant influence over member nation-states’ domestic and foreign policy. Set in this context, the UN-DESA report (see above) provides a frank appraisal of the true nature of UN-G3P global governance: Current approaches to global governance and global rules have led to a greater shrinking of policy space for national Governments [. . . ]; this also impedes the reduction of inequalities within countries. [. . .] Global governance has become a domain with many different players including: multilateral organizations; [. . .] elite multilateral groupings such as the Group of Eight (G8) and the Group of Twenty (G20) [and] different coalitions relevant to specific policy subjects[.] [. . .] Also included are activities of the private sector (e.g., the Global Compact) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and large philanthropic foundations (e.g., Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Turner Foundation) and associated global funds to address particular issues[.] [. . .] The representativeness, opportunities for participation, and transparency of many of the main actors are open to question. [. . .] NGOs [. . .] often have governance structures that are not subject to open and democratic accountability. The lack of representativeness, accountability and transparency of corporations is even more important as corporations have more power and are currently promoting multi-stakeholder governance with a leading role for the private sector. [. . .] Currently, it seems that the United Nations has not been able to provide direction in the solution of global governance problems—perhaps lacking appropriate resources or authority, or both. United Nations bodies, with the exception of the Security Council, cannot make binding decisions. A/Res/73/254 declares that the UN Global Compact Office plays a vital role in “strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to partner strategically with the private sector.” It adds: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges that the implementation of sustainable development will depend on the active engagement of both the public and private sectors[.] While the Attorneys General of 19 states might rail against BlackRock for usurping the political authority of US senators, BlackRock is simply exercising its power as valued a “public-private partner” of the US government. Such is the nature of global governance. Given that this system has been constructed over the last 80 years, it’s a bit too late for 19 state AGs to complain about it now. What have they been doing for the last eight decades? The governmental “partners” of the UN-G3P lack “authority” because the UN was created, largely by the Rockefellers, as a public-private partnership. The intergovernmental structure is the partner of the infra-governmental network of private stakeholders. In terms of resources, the power of the private sector “partners” dwarfs that of their government counterparts. Corporate fiefdoms are not limited by national borders. BlackRock alone currently holds $8.5 trillion of assets under management. This is nearly five times the size of the total GDP of UN Security Council permanent member Russia and more than three times the GDP of the UK. So-called sovereign countries are not sovereign over their own central banks nor are they “sovereign” over international financial institutions like the IMF, the New Development Bank (NDB), the World Bank or the Bank for International Settlements. The notion that any nation state or intergovernmental organisation is capable of bringing the global network of private capital to heel is farcical. At the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in 2021, King Charles III—then Prince Charles—prepared the conference to endorse the forthcoming announcement of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). He made it abundantly clear who was in charge and, in keeping with UN objectives, clarified national governments role as “enabling partners”: The scale and scope of the threat we face call for a global systems level solution based on radically transforming our current fossil fuel based economy. [. . .] So ladies and gentleman, my plea today is for countries to come together to create the environment that enables every sector of industry to take the action required. We know this will take trillions, not billions of dollars. [. . .] [W]e need a vast military style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at [its] disposal far beyond global GDP, and with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders. It offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition. Unless Putin and Xi Jinping intend to completely restructure the United Nations, including all of its institutions and specialised agencies, their objective of protecting “the United Nations-driven international architecture” appears to be nothing more than a bid to cement their status as the nominal leaders of the UN-G3P. As pointed out by UN-DESA, through the UN-G3P, that claim to political authority is extremely limited. Global corporations dominate and are currently further consolidating their global power through “multi-stakeholder governance.” Whether unipolar or multipolar, the so-called “world order” is the system of global governance led by the private sector—the oligarchs. Nation-states, including Russia and China, have already agreed to follow global priorities determined at the global governance level. The question is not which model of the global public-private “world order” we should accept, but rather why we would ever accept any such “world order” at all. This, then, is the context within which we can explore the alleged advantages of a “multipolar world order” led by China, Russia and increasingly India. Is it an attempt, as claimed by some, to reinvigorate the United Nations and create a more just and equitable system of global governance? Or is it merely the next phase in the construction of what many refer to as the “New World Order”? Tyler Durden Sat, 09/24/2022 - 19:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 24th, 2022

Transcript: Albert Wenger

     The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in… Read More The post Transcript: Albert Wenger appeared first on The Big Picture.      The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ ANNOUNCER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, what can I say, I have yet another extra special guest, Albert Wenger, managing partner at Union Square Ventures. He has a fascinating background in technology and software, and is interested in all sorts of interesting things, ranging from climate change to humanism, to the huge transitions that humans have gone through as a species and what it means to society, investing, scarcity and just the quality of life that we will enjoy as a species. I found this conversation to be really intriguing. If you’re interested in venture capital, in technology, in how to think about early stage investing, well, strap yourself in, this is a great one. With no further ado, my conversation with Union Square Ventures’ Albert Wenger. You have quite a fascinating history. Let’s delve into that, starting with your background. You won a national German competition in computer science in high school. Tell us about that and where that led you. ALBERT WENGER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, UNION SQUARE VENTURES: Well, I fell in love with computers very early on when I was a young teenager. And my parents were super indulgent of this at a time when that was very unusual, and they bought me an early Apple II computer, one of the earliest Apple IIs to be sold in Europe, actually. And I’ve stuck with that, my entire life. I’ve studied computer science as an undergrad and as a graduate student. And I’ve been investing in a lot of computer companies over the years. So it’s been a central to what I do and who I am. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about the timing of school. You graduate Harvard in 1990, with an Economics and Computer Science degree, perfect for the explosion of the Internet; a PhD from MIT and Information Technology in ‘96. So when you were leaving school, were you interested in the Internet, or was it more hardware and software? WENGER: No. The web was really exploding while I was at MIT. And I actually finished my PhD in ’99, but I started a company in late ‘96, early ‘97. And I was kind of doing the company and the thesis at the same time, which wasn’t great for either, and also wasn’t great for our marriage. We kind of managed to get through that. But I was really fascinated with the web from when I first discovered it, which was in a computer lab at MIT where I’m trying to do my stats homework. So — RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about some of the other companies you either founded or run, the most famous is probably del.icio.us, which ended up getting picked up by Yahoo. Tell us a little bit about — WENGER: It was an early Web 2.0 darling, Joshua Schachter had started. He was working at Morgan Stanley actually full time. He had started this as a side project. And it was kind of this idea that you would share your bookmarks with others, because bookmarks were kind of an indication of something that was actually interesting on the Internet. And Joshua added tags to that, and so you could browse things by tags. And at that time, Union Square Ventures’ Fred and Brad had started the firm, they had just raised the first fund. I had just finished another project I was been working on. And they were like, “Hey, we’re talking to this guy, Joshua, what do you think?” So I met up with Joshua, and they wound up investing, and I wound up to become the president. RITHOLTZ: So you’re president of del.icio.us, you see it through in order to be acquired by Yahoo in the early 2000s. Tell us a little bit about that experience. WENGER: The del.icio.us team was tiny. It was sub 10 people, basically. RITHOLTZ: Wow. WENGER: And it was a very rapidly growing service. I made myself sufficiently unpopular during the acquisition because I insisted on certain things, I’m like, “We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this.” At they at the end, they were like, “We want all of you except for this Wenger guy. We don’t want him,” which was perfect for me, mind you, because I didn’t want to relocate out to the West Coast. So I got to just take my marbles and start making angel investments. RITHOLTZ: So is that what led you to Etsy and Tumblr was the del.icio.us acquisition? WENGER: Yeah, exactly. I had a little bit of money and I met Rob Kalin, the founder of Etsy. He had just come back from the West Coast. He had tried to raise money on the West Coast, was unsuccessful with that. And so I wrote an angel check here, and then I brought Union Square Ventures in as the first Series A investor. RITHOLTZ: Is that what led to your transition from entrepreneur to venture capital? WENGER: Well, I was basically hanging out at the USV offices after the sale of del.icio.us and — RITHOLTZ: Just because you had no place else to go. WENGER: Because I knew both Brad and Fred really well, and so it was kind of a natural thing to do. I did these angel investments. I led the Union Square Ventures investment in Etsy, I became a venture partner for that, and then became a GP in the 2008 fund. RITHOLTZ: So Etsy, also Tumblr was another one. And if memory serves, were they acquired by Yahoo? WENGER: They were also acquired by Yahoo. Yes. RITHOLTZ: Okay. So you’re working at a contact list. What was that experience like now not as a president, but as an outside investor? WENGER: It was a very, very lucky landing for Tumblr, because Yahoo really was the only bidder and they were bidding against themselves, but they didn’t really know that. RITHOLTZ: So what eventually led you to say, “You know, I think I could do this venture stuff full time. Let me hang my hat at Union Square Ventures and focus solely on something else.” WENGER: Yeah, that had really been my goal since my own first startup in ’96, ‘97, which was a company called W3Health that ultimately failed. From that experience, I realized that I really loved startups, but then I was never going to be good operator, but I thought I could maybe be a decent investor. RITHOLTZ: Let me make a digression here, and since you’re in front of me, I have to ask this question. So I deal with traders, investors, fund managers, economists down the list, there is no group of people that seem to be prouder of their failures than venture capitalists. Why is that? WENGER: Because it’s an integral part of the business. And if you can’t deal with failure, you can’t be a VOICE, because many of the startups you invest in fail. RITHOLTZ: Statistically, that’s your expectation? WENGER: Yes, absolutely. RITHOLTZ: So it just seems like the healthiest way to think about what is unavoidable, yet so many people within the world of finance, kind of dance around it, try not to deal with it. There’s a little bit of denial. It’s almost like an object of pride, “Look, here are all the companies we invested in that didn’t make it. Look, here are all the great companies we passed on.” It’s almost like a point of pride, this sort of self-awareness. WENGER: Well, it’s also important too, how the venture capital model works overall, right? So the most you can ever lose in venture capital is the amount of equity you’ve put in. RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: But the upside is nearly limitless. I mean, it’s what Nassim Taleb calls convex tinkering, right? It’s the perfect example of that. You take many small, relatively small positions, and any one of them can become very, very large. But you also learn a lot from the things that don’t work. You know, sometimes you learn a lot more from that than you learn from the ones that do succeed. RITHOLTZ: Sure. You tend to learn more from losers than winners usually. And then I have to ask the same question, so Union Square Ventures, by definition Union Square is here in New York City. What’s it like being a venture investor on this side of the country, as opposed to what seems to be, you know, the gravitational black hole of venture out in Silicon Valley in California? WENGER: Well, first of all, it’s no longer that. So you know, Sequoia just opened a New York City office. Andreessen Horowitz has people on the ground here. So New York City is now, today, one of the epicenters. When we started, that wasn’t the case. When we started, people were like, “Oh, there’s been no tech company in New York City. There’s been no IPO.” Of course, you know, we were involved with two of the major IPOs. We led the Series A in Etsy. I also led the Series A — we — Union Square Ventures led the Series A in MongoDB, the big New York City-based success story. So it was incredibly healthy, though, because we were never caught up in the “Oh my God FOMO” of we have to have one of these and one of those, and everybody else is investing in the sector. It was always a “Let’s form our own thesis. Let’s figure out what we believe, and then let’s find companies that fit with that.” And we’ve always been extremely competitive in winning deals in the West Coast. In Twilio, I led the Series A, for Union Square Ventures, and there was a, you know, San Francisco-based company. So — RITHOLTZ: Last question on this topic, how different is venture in New York versus California, or is there really no big difference? WENGER: There used to be a noticeable difference between East Coast and West Coast. Today, I think that’s completely erased. RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. So let’s talk about the thesis-driven venture capital firm, which is how USV describes itself. Tell us what these theses are and how do they drive your investment? WENGER: Yeah. So there’s been an evolution over time. I would say, you know, what we call Thesis 1.0 was that we invest in large networks of engaged users, differentiated by user experience, and those were investments like Twitter and Tumblr. And then we started to focus on companies that had less obvious network effects, so more data behind the scenes, companies like Sift, for example. And then we added to our thesis sort of infrastructure, and infrastructure investments included Twilio and MongoDB, Cloudflare. Stripe. There’s a whole bunch of infrastructure investments, infrastructures for building digital businesses. Our current iteration, what we call Thesis 3.0 is about broadening access to knowledge, capital and well-being by leveraging existing networks and protocols, and building trusted brands. And each part of that thesis actually means something very concrete. So let me just pick one of them, building trusted brands. For us, a lot today is about is your business model fundamentally aligned with your customer or not? The advertising model, as we have learned is not aligned with customers’ interests, right? If you’re YouTube, you want to serve the most engaging video so that you can show more ads. You don’t want to serve the most appropriate video, right? But if you have a subscription model, let’s say like Netflix, you want to show something that somebody actually really truly deeply is going to relate to, so that they stay as subscriber long term. So each part of this thesis means something and we use the sort of high level thesis to then look for very concrete things. So for example, I said broadening access to capital, so we’ve done a lot in lending, like, how can we do better underwriting, better, cheaper, faster loans, for instance, to small businesses, investment, like a company like Funding Circle, or to individuals, like a company like Upgrade, in a way that actually helps people, so where you’re not dragging them into like a debt hole, but you’re actually helping them build up their credit score while you’re giving them — extending their credit. RITHOLTZ: So 3.0 sounds a lot like World After Capital, I’m hearing some very similar themes. WENGER: Absolutely. There’s a strong relationship between some of the ideas in the book and some of the ideas that inform our investing. RITHOLTZ: We’ll circle back to the book in a little bit. Let’s talk about a couple of companies you invested in because I’m picking up a theme there, Meatable, Terra, Living Carbon, Marvel Fusion, Legendary Food, climate sustainability impact investing. WENGER: Yeah. So those are all personal investments, not Union Square Ventures investments. But I made those investments in the run up to us forming a climate thesis, and now a Climate Fund. So those are all investments that go back a few years, when I sort of became really interested in what kind of opportunities come out of the climate crisis. The climate crisis, if we don’t get on top of it, none of the other stuff will matter. None of the money we’ve made will matter. It’s so big. It’s so much bigger than COVID, for example, in ways that I think people still don’t appreciate. And so I made some personal investments first, and then we started talking to our LPs about it. And then during COVID, we raised the first Climate Fund, $160 million Climate Fund. We’re almost done investing that. And so the climate thesis is very simple. We want to invest in companies that either reduce emissions, draw down existing emissions, or help with adaptation. So I’ll give an example of an adaptation investment. We invested in a company out of Australia called FloodMapp. And what they do is they predict where things are going to flood. They also measure the actual flooding. Floods are one of the biggest problems coming out of the climate crisis, and they’re here today. This is not some future problem. And mega floods in Pakistan, a third of Pakistan is underwater as we speak. I don’t think people understand how horrific the devastation there is. RITHOLTZ: It’s the other side of the droughts that are everywhere. It’s what’s dry gets drier, what’s wet gets wetter. WENGER: Absolutely. Talking about emissions reductions, we’ve made investments, for example, in our first ever investment in Africa, in a company called Shift EV. What Shift EV does is it takes existing delivery vans and retrofits them in a space of a couple of hours, from internal combustion engine to electric. RITHOLTZ: A couple of hours? WENGER: A couple of hours. Yes. RITHOLTZ: Because if you want to take an old 911 and convert it to EV, it will take you about a year, assuming if you can get on the list. It’s that backed up for that shift itself. WENGER: So they have completely industrialized this process. RITHOLTZ: That’s amazing. WENGER: You drive a minivan in and a couple of hours later, drives out as an EV. RITHOLTZ: Wow. What do they do with the internal combustion engine and — WENGER: That’s a great question. I need to ask Ellie what they do with that. I don’t know. RITHOLTZ: I mean, it seems like that’s a lot of hardware to just throw away. WENGER: I don’t know. Great question. RITHOLTZ: Really interesting. WENGER: And then I’ll talk about one of the drawdown investments. We’ve invested in a company called Brilliant Planet out of the U.K. What they do is they build ponds in the desert and they pump seawater in, and then they grow algae very, very rapidly, continues algae bloom, and it takes a huge amount of carbon out of the atmosphere. RITHOLTZ: Algae in ponds — WENGER: In the desert. RITHOLTZ: — can move the needle? WENGER: Yes. Absolutely. RITHOLTZ: That’s quite fascinating. Two questions come out of this, one is structural and one is fund based. Let’s do the fund one first. So John Doerr had a climate fund started about 10 years ago at Kleiner Perkins. Some people have said it kind of lagged other similar era venture funds. Was he just early? How do you look at this in terms of not just having a positive impact on the planet but generating a return on investment? WENGER: Yeah. The early green tech funds, they were too early in one sense. But in another sense, they were actually crucial to our having a shot at overcoming the climate crisis. Because if it hadn’t been for the investments, we wouldn’t have gotten on the cost curve, for instance, for solar PV, right? So the reason we have really cheap PV today, the reason we have really relatively cheap batteries today is because of some of the investments that were made back there. And there’s this pattern in the world where every big technological shift starts with a bubble, right? RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: So when we had ships, we had the South Sea bubble, right? And when we had railroads, we had the railroad bubble. There was an automotive bubble. There was dot-com bubble, multiple bubbles in crypto. There was a green tech bubble. But, now, it’s a decade-plus later and all the things that they were rightly concerned about are all coming true. And we are now reaping some of the benefit, but we’re also now building on — we’re sort of standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were. RITHOLTZ: And to clarify, I believe that fund doubled over 7 or 10 years, not like it was a sinkhole, but compared to what it could have done, had that money been invested elsewhere, it might have seen better returns. But it wasn’t — I don’t want to make it sound like it was total loss. So the second question is, you’re making seed investments, how does that work if you want to bring one of those seeds to your firm, to Union Square Ventures? And from a public market, that sounds like it’s a compliance and conflict nightmare. You guys approach it differently. WENGER: In our LPA, we can write checks up to $100,000. So we can’t make massive investments in startups. So all of the companies you mentioned have a sub $100,000 investment. And then the only one where I’ve invested more is Marvel Fusion. We can invest more once the fund has passed on something. So if the fund says we’re not doing this, then we can invest. RITHOLTZ: Got it. Interesting. So along those lines, there are some venture firms that don’t really seem to care a lot about valuations and others seem to focus on a little bit. How do you fall in that spectrum? Is valuation significant, or is it, hey, we’re going to make 100 investments and if two or three workout, the valuations are irrelevant? WENGER: No, we’ve definitely always been disciplined on valuation, and we’ve let a number of things go. Sometimes we let them go and they do great, like, “Well, we could have made money if we had invested.” And sometimes you’re very happy at that. Our approach is we’ve always kept our fund sizes small, so we don’t need to be in everything that’s out there. Our latest funds are — our core fund is $250 million. So these aren’t big funds in the scheme of things when you have other firms that raised $3 billion. $8 billion, $15 billion per fund. And as a result, if we think the price is too high, we can just find something else. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about some of those bigger funds, and I guess we’ll hold Softbank off to the side because that was really aberrational. But do you end up when you have lots of $10 billion and $20 billion venture funds, with too much capital chasing to a few good deals? How does this impact the whole ecosystem that’s out there? WENGER: Largely, it’s great for us because we’re early stage investors. So it means there’s lots of money to come in and fund later rounds of the companies we’ve invested in. So we haven’t really spent much of our time worrying about it. And then every once in a while, these firms go. We’re going to go really early and some of them do spread money early. But we find, because we’re thesis-driven and because we are opinionated, on deals that we’re really interested in, we can win those deals. Sometimes they’ll take a small check from somebody else along for the ride, but they know that we work with early stage companies that we roll our sleeves up, that we’re involved, and that we have a thesis. And you know, we take the approach we’d rather disagree with the founder and then not invest than sort of like — be like, “Oh, well, whatever it is you want to do.” Like, we have a thesis as to why we think this is interesting. Let’s talk about this. If it’s aligned, great. And obviously things may change after we’ve invested. We’re not like stubborn, you know. But let’s talk about why we are excited. And if that aligns with you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, let’s go separate ways, right? So we take a kind of — I call it a high alpha approach investing. We’d rather have really upfront conversations about what we like and don’t like than sort of get married as it were. And actually, it’s harder to get rid of VC than it is to get a divorce. So like we think it’s good to have these conversations up front, right? RITHOLTZ: What about follow-up rounds, or some firms that will do a seed round, and then participate in an A or B round? Is that something that Union Square does? WENGER: Well, we reserve a lot of funds for follow-on, and we have a very sort of, I think, sophisticated reserves methodology that we’ve honed over many funds cycles now, where we actually built kind of a Monte Carlo analysis of the portfolio to see how much money we think we need to keep in reserve. But eventually, when the valuations get too high, the rounds get too large, we don’t follow on. We have a separate vehicle called the Opportunity Fund, where we sometimes write bigger checks into late-stage rounds in some of our portfolio companies, but not always. RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk a little bit about this book, “The World After Capital,” starting with what is technological nonlinearity? I liked that phrase. WENGER: The basic idea is that every once in a while in humanity’s history, we invent things that radically change what we, as society, have as a binding constraint on us. So let me make that very concrete. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors were foragers. They were hunter-gatherers. They would go out and find things, and eat berries and kill little squirrels. And then roughly 10,000 years ago, we had a bunch of inventions. We figured out that you could plant seeds, that you could irrigate them, that you could domesticate animals, that you could use the dung from the animals too as a fertilizer. We figured all those things out and we got agriculture. And the constraint shifted from how much food can you find to how much land — arable land do you have. And when that constraint shifted, we changed just about everything, about how humanity lives. Like, we went from being migratory to being sedentary. We went from very flat tribal societies to very hierarchical agrarian societies. We went from being, clearly, like polygamous, polyamorous, whatever you want to call it, to being monogamous-ish. We went from having religions where, you know, everything was a spirit, a tree, a rock, everything had a spirit, and then we went from that to theistic religions where there was some different number of gods. Then fast forward to a couple 100 years ago, we had sort of the enlightenment. With the enlightenment, we had sort of big scientific breakthroughs and we figured out how to dig up stuff out of the ground and burn it and create energy, and make heat and electricity and all those things. And the constraint of it again shifted from, you know, how much land do you have to how much physical capital can you create? How many machines can you build? How many buildings, roads, railroads, et cetera? RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. WENGER: And we changed everything yet again. And so now the point of the book is, guess what? We have to change everything yet again, because capitalism, this is why the book is called “The World After Capital,” capital is no longer the binding constraint. Instead, it’s human attention. RITHOLTZ: Human attention, so that’s the third great shift is. So we went from agricultural scarcity to having enough food. WENGER: We went from forager to agrarian, so from food scarcity to land scarcity, then we went from land scarcity to capital scarcity. And now, we’re going from capital scarcity to attentional scarcity. RITHOLTZ: Capital is no longer scarce. So now attention is the new scarcity, which there’s a line in the book that really caught my eye, attention is time plus intentionality. Explain that. WENGER: Yeah. So speed just tells you how fast you’re going. Velocity tells you how fast you’re going towards something, towards some destination. RITHOLTZ: Speed plus direction. WENGER: Speed plus direction is velocity. And the same is true for attention. Time just tells you how much time has elapsed, you know, two hours. Attention is what was your mind and your body doing during those two hours. Were you, you know, just scrolling Twitter, or were you like working on a solution to the climate crisis? RITHOLTZ: So you say something about these transitions that really jarred me. Previous transitions like agriculture emerged over thousands of years and was incredibly violent. Industrial Age lasted over hundreds of years, and also involved lots of violence and bloody revolutions, and two World Wars, which raises the obvious question, what sort of violence is the next transition based on attention scarcity potentially going to involve? WENGER: Well, at the moment, the leading candidate is the climate crisis. We have known about it for literally hundreds of years, actually, and we have refused to do enough about it. And so now, we have entered the state where we’re getting extreme heat events. We’re getting extreme drought events. The food supply is definitely in question. Something that we have taken for granted for many years now. We’ve taken for granted that you can go to the store and buy food. Unless we really course correct very hard, very dramatically, and by dramatically, I mean, the level of government activation that we had in World War II. In World War II, we spend roughly 50% of GDP on the war effort. We need to spend roughly 50% of GDP on the climate crisis for several years sustained in order to actually avert it. RITHOLTZ: So that suggests that you don’t think there’s going to be some technological magic bullet going to appear out of nowhere? WENGER: Well, if you look at World War II, the government went to Ford and said, “We need you to build airplanes, not cars.” And actually, there’s a chart in my book that shows that output of cars dropped. We need to get to a similar point where we’ll say there’s certain things we’re just not going to do for a while because we need to do these other things. There are great technologies. We don’t need to invent some magic bullet that doesn’t exist. We just need to build a lot of what we already know how to build. Like, we need to build a lot of nuclear power plants. We need to build a lot of these ponds in the desert that can draw down carbon. There’s 1001 different things that we need to build. We just need to take our physical capital and point it at that. And when you do that at that scale, incredible things become possible. So, during World War II, Ford Motor Company built a plant, it was called the Willow Run facility. And in Willow Run, they built the B-17 Liberator bomber. Now, that’s a four-engine bomber, with lots of gun turrets to defend against fires. At peak production, they finished — they finished one of these every hour. RITHOLTZ: Amazing. WENGER: They finished a complete airplane every hour. And my point is once we decide to take our attention, and allocate our attention to what the real problem is, we can redirect our physical capital. We have plenty of physical capital. People say, “Oh, you can’t build nuclear power plants fast enough.” That’s if you built them in peacetime mode. If you built them in wartime mode, you could build them very rapidly. RITHOLTZ: So when you say this requires a substantial commitment of capital, let’s put a dollar amount on that. Are you talking — WENGER: Half of GDP. I’m saying half of GDP. RITHOLTZ: So you’re saying $10 trillion? WENGER: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: Just in the U.S. alone? WENGER: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: Now, we just passed a climate bill, arguably, that was a couple of billion dollars, $100 billion maybe over 10 years. And it was like pulling teeth, it was a miracle it just managed to skate through. And that’s a fraction of a trillion dollars. How you’re going to get 10x or 100x? Do things have to get much worse before they get much better? WENGER: Yeah. I mean, there’s a book about the climate crisis called “Ministry for the Future,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. And the book starts with a devastating heat event in India, where tens of millions of people die. I don’t know what it takes. But I can tell you, it’s only going to get worse, it’s going to get a lot worse. And at some point, hopefully, people — enough people will wake up and say, “No, no, we really actually have to get into a wartime footing. RITHOLTZ: So up till now, a huge swath of the population has been asked my grandkids problems, what wakes them up? Is that sort of events? I mean, you see what’s happening in California. You see what’s going on in lots of the United States with droughts. It seems like people are starting to pay attention. WENGER: Oh, absolutely. Yale does an incredible survey of climate attitudes. And it is very clear that even in the U.S., which has been lagging on this, a significant majority of people believe that the climate crisis is real, that is caused by humans, and the government should do something about it. So I actually believe this is going from a kind of a losing proposition for politicians to a winning proposition. And I think politicians need to be much more into it. Most of them still aren’t willing to acknowledge the full extent of this crisis. And the physics of this crisis are extraordinary. So because of all the CO2 we’ve put in the atmosphere, the amount of heat that we’re now trapping that used to radiate out into space, do you know how much heat it is? It is four Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs every second. RITHOLTZ: It’s insane. I read that in your book and I was like, no, no, he must mean every week. Every second? WENGER: Every second. Now, imagine for a moment you had alien spaceships above Earth, throwing four Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs into our atmosphere every second. RITHOLTZ: That would put us on a wartime footing? WENGER: And what will we do? Yeah. We would drop everything, right? We would be like, “They’re trying to kill us. We have to get rid of them.” I mean, we made a movie about it called Independence Day. RITHOLTZ: Four nuclear bombs every second? WENGER: Yeah. RITHOLTZ: And it’s just — WENGER: Of every minute of every hour of every day, it’s a mind-boggling amount of heat. RITHOLTZ: So there’s a couple of other things in the book I wanted to touch on. You mentioned alien visitors. We’ll hold off on the Fermi paradox discussion because nobody wants to hear me babble about that. But one of the things I thought was kind of interesting is the transition of the nature of scarcity. You’re right, it changes the way we measure human effort. It makes it more difficult, and we need increasingly more sophisticated ways of providing incentives to sustain unnecessary level of effort. Flash that out a little more. WENGER: So if you think of hunter-gatherers, right, I mean, you can see the results of effort immediately. RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: Like, you go to the forest, you either come back with something or not. RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: So it’s very easy to create incentives. Like, if you don’t find something, go back hunting and come back with something. RITHOLTZ: Or you’ll go hungry. Right. WENGER: When you go to agriculture, you have these, you need to see, you need to take care of it, and you don’t know how big a harvest you’re going to get. So you need a little more sophisticated incentive, and a lot of those incentives were often provided by a religion. Religion is sort of saying you have to apply yourself to this backbreaking work. This is the work of the Lord, et cetera. And then when we went over to capital, now it gets even more complicated because you might not see results of some effort for many, many years. I actually think when I say more sophisticated incentives, in the book, I talked a lot about just freeing up humans to pursue their interests, to make it so that you can freely allocate attention. And I’m always very inspired by mathematics. Like, you can’t get rich as a working mathematician, basically. I mean, yes, if you wind up going to Wall Street, you can. But if you actually keep working as a mathematician, that’s not a — you know, there’s also no patents. And you know, the only thing math works on recognition by peers, and there’s some prizes. There’s like the famous Fields Medal, and there’s some other prizes. And yet, the amount of math that’s been produced over the last, you know, few decades is just mind-blowing extraordinary. And I believe we need to bring that type of model to many, many more parts of the economy and parts of activity. So in a way, what all of “The World After Capital” is about is how can we shrink all the explicitly incentivized economic activity, where there’s an explicit, okay, you go to work and you get paid a wage kind of thing. And here’s a market transaction, how can we shrink that and make room for things that are super, super important, but cannot have prices, cannot be economically incentivized? Let me give concrete examples of that. Obviously, we’ve talked about the climate crisis. But let’s talk about death from above. Like, every million years or so, the earth gets hit by something very large out of space. That’s very, very bad when it happens. But there’s no market for allocating resources to that. There’s no supply and demand for it. So we, as humanity, need to decide that this is a real problem and we ought to be working on it. RITHOLTZ: Now, aren’t we tracking various large observed asteroids and doing some stuff? WENGER: We are, but the amount of effort we’re putting into this relative to the size of the problem is minuscule. The number of people who sort of truly globally work full time on this is a tiny fraction of the people we actually should have. And we’re also not working sufficiently on like what will we do if we detected one that’s clearly headed for us, right? RITHOLTZ: Well, you send Bruce Willis up and — WENGER: Exactly. Yes. RITHOLTZ: — he takes it, right? WENGER: Yeah, he does. RITHOLTZ: I mean, it’s not unknown. We know the regular major extinction events. There’s a real interesting theory that as the sun goes around the galaxy and passes over and above the galactic plane, that affects the asteroid belt and — WENGER: The famous Oort cloud is where a lot of these objects — yeah. RITHOLTZ: Right, which is full 360 around the — WENGER: Yes. So we know all of this. And here’s the interesting thing. When we went from the agrarian age to the industrial age, we didn’t get rid of agriculture. This agriculture today, right, we all eat food that’s grown in agriculture. But what we did is we shrunk how much human attention is required to do agriculture, and we took it from being like 80% of human attention to like sub 10%. RITHOLTZ: It’s less than 2% in United States. It’s tiny. WENGER: So what I want to do is, let’s do the same with the rest of the economic sphere. I’m not an anti-capitalist. I’m not a degrowth. Person. I’m not suggesting we should get rid of markets. I’m just saying we should compress market-based activity from absorbing much of human attention to absorbing maybe 30% of human attention, and we should free the rest up to work on these incredibly important thing. Some of them are threats, and some of them are opportunities, right, opportunity to cure cancer, opportunity to create incredible wildlife habitats, restore those wildlife habitats, opportunity to travel to space. I mean, all these opportunities that we’re not paying attention to because they’re not — again, they’re not really market price based and can’t be market price based. There’s just no prices for them. RITHOLTZ: So the conclusion of the book had a list of action goals, which was not what I was expecting in a book on venture capital and “The World After Capital;” mindfulness, climate crisis, democracy, decentralization, improving learning, and humanism. Address whichever those you feel like. WENGER: Well, these are all core components of how to have a — hopefully, a transition that’s not a violent transition, right? These are all about how could we get out of the industrial age into the knowledge age without some cataclysmic event, without a world war, without killing billions of people through the climate crisis, right? They’re also all components of what a knowledge age society might look like. Right? So let’s talk about mindfulness for a second. We’re constantly assaulted with new information now. You know, our brains evolved in an environment where when you saw a cat, there was an actual cat. Now, there’s an infinity of cat pictures. So if you don’t work on how you — how much you are in control of your mind, external sources will control your mind. So mindfulness, which is a much abused word, but it has become much more important in a world where we’re constantly assaulted by information flows, right? Let’s talk about humanism for a moment. Humanism is about recognizing that humans are the prime movers on this planet. We are the ones who have brought about the climate crisis. We are the ones who put a theory to solve it, or wind up getting wiped out by it. And it’s about this idea that, you know, with great power comes great responsibility. And so, we are responsible for the whales, not the whales for us. There is — at the moment, because we’re in this transition period already, and because things are going so poorly for so many people in this transition, there’s no a flight back to religion, there’s a flight to populism. And a big part of the book is about, no, there is a secular alternative way of thinking about society that embraces science, that embraces progress, that embraces humans and all types of humans, and that recognizes that we are first and foremost human, and only secondarily are we American, or Russian, or male or female or something else. You know, these are all secondarily. But primarily, we’re humans, and humans are fundamentally different from all the other species on the planet. RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. So let’s talk about the current state of the world for venture capitalists. We’ve seen valuations come way down for public companies. They’re pretty reasonably priced these days, about 16 times for the S&P 500. That’s historically, more or less, average. Where do you see the state of the world in early stage valuations? How are they holding up? A year ago, late stage valuations had gone just bonkers. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on today. WENGER: The correction always, basically, is a trickle-down type of correction. It happens very rapidly in the public markets. Then you still get some high-priced private rounds that either were in the works, or they have a lot of structure. In the later stage markets, you know, there’s a headline number. But then nobody talks about all the war in coverage that’s behind the scenes. And then the early stage valuations tend to sort of lag behind all of that. But we’re seeing early stage valuations come down. And as a firm, we’ve always been disciplined on valuations. So we just let a lot of things go where we just thought it was — RITHOLTZ: Are they down off the peak, or are they cheap and attractive? WENGER: The down of the peak, whether they’re cheap or attractive, I think, you know, time will tell. But we are back in a situation where, you know, there are seed deals getting done that’s below $10 million, certainly below $20 million, and you know, seed rounds that have a reasonable size. So you know, for a while we were seeing these $10 million, $20 million, $30 million seed rounds. RITHOLTZ: It sounds pricey. WENGER: Yeah. And that’s not happening anymore. But at Union Square Ventures, we’ve also always tried to basically be at the next era, at the next thesis and evolve our thesis before everybody else gets there. And once everybody else gets there, try and evolve our thesis. And so, for example, in the Climate Fund, we’ve made any number of reasonably priced investments, very reasonably priced. RITHOLTZ: So I always assumed it was tied to the public markets. But sometimes you just don’t realize, when you have a good couple of years in a row in the public markets, like we saw in the 2010, pretty much straight up through 2021, you see that impact and what people are looking for, what sort of deals get done, and valuations generally. WENGER: I always find it relatively surprising how much private early stage valuations are tied to public markets because our holding — RITHOLTZ: That’s the exit, right? WENGER: But our holding periods are 5, 8, 10 years. And so, like, what’s the current public — RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: And so there’s a couple of different explanations. One, obviously, is just investor sentiment, right? RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: You know, when investors are like bearish because of what they’re seeing in the public markets, they take a bearish attitude towards their own investing. We try — at Union Square Ventures, we try to have a pretty steady pace as one way of contracting our own sort of — you know, whatever our own emotions may be about the public markets. There is, however, another effect that sometimes is underestimated, which is that the people who give money into venture funds, so these are pension funds and endowments, and so forth, they have a certain whip from the public markets, because when they’re feeling flashed on the public markets then their private allocation, you know, as a percentage of their overall portfolio, they have a certain target in mind. Then when the public markets come down a lot, all of a sudden, they’re overallocated, so they want to pull back. So there is a mechanism by which the current public markets transmit into the private markets. There’s a real financial mechanism. There’s a psychological mechanism and a real financial mechanism by which some transmission, some contagion basically happens from the public market into private market. But it doesn’t make very much sense. Like, if people were sort of more cognizant of both that emotional reaction and this mechanism, they’d be like, “Well, yeah, but innovation is happening at some pace. In some area, there’s some innovation and we should be funding that innovation.” RITHOLTZ: So I’m just making notes, investors are irrational. WENGER: Deep and profound insight right here. RITHOLTZ: Right. There you go. WENGER: You’ve never heard this one before. RITHOLTZ: So to put that into a little context, 2020, 2021, very founder-friendly deals. Now, it seems like a little more investor-friendly, a fair assessment or not quite there yet? WENGER: Well, when it comes to founder-friendly versus investor-friendly, there’s a lot more to deal than valuation. There’s all the other terms. And while I believe we will see a correction on valuation that’s pretty significant, I don’t think we’re going to go back to where venture capital was 20 or 30 years ago, that had all these super draconian terms. Certainly, even at the early stage, even at the early stage, there were all these like — there were redemption provisions in the early stage deals. I don’t think that’s going to come back. We are not fans of structure in latest stage deals. Like, just to give a good example, when I was still on the board of Twilio, Twilio had the option of doing a totally clean, no structure round and call it $1,000,000,001. In a highly structured round with like — you know, we’re going to have a full ratchet into an IPO at a $1,000,000,005. And I was — you know, some of the other investors at the table really wanted the $1,000,000,005 number because it’s a big headline number. And I talked to Jeff and I said, “It doesn’t make any sense.” RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: You don’t actually know what your deal is until many years. Like, just take the deal where you know what the deal is today and you know what the deal is a year from now, and two years from now, because it’s not going to change based on circumstances. RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: And so Jeff took the clean deal, and that enabled Twilio to go public when the IPO window reopened. Whereas at the $1,000,000,005 deal, they wouldn’t have been able to go public. And that worked incredibly well for Twilio to become a public company. RITHOLTZ: Really interesting. So since we’re comparing early stage investments to the public world, lately, everybody has been looking at different sectors the past year. Energy has done well, technology not so much. Within venture, do you see that same sort of segmentation, different sectors have different — WENGER: Well, we were basically the first sort of venture firm to have a dedicated climate fund. And now, many of the venture firms are following suit, either adding a climate pocket to their existing funds, or a climate thesis or, you know, some people call it sustainability fund. Ours is very focused on climate. So for instance, we don’t deal with water waste. It’s strictly about atmospheric carbon. So there’s a lot money rotating into that sector. There’s still healthy sort of activity around Web3. So you know, Web3, there’s still — RITHOLTZ: Crypto, blockchain, all that? WENGER: Yeah. There’s still healthy sort of activity. I do think that certain kind of software companies that had found it very easy to raise money, I think they’re finding it a lot harder, just because people have looked at it and said, “Wow, I think we’ve reached some stage of normalization in this market.” You know, like, not everything in this market is going to be a $50 billion outcome. There’s going to be many, much smaller outcomes, and so we need to adjust accordingly. And also, many of these markets had just too many companies raised venture capital doing basically more or less the same thing. RITHOLTZ: So it was easy to raise money for a fund today, a little more challenging, even if you’re a pretty decent sized VC with a 10, 20-year history. Are they having difficulty going back to their clients saying, “Hey, we’re doing another billion dollars?” WENGER: You know, I think that we will only see a year from now, or two years from now. There were a lot of funds that have put out a lot of money very, very rapidly, and we’ll see just how big the hangover is. But we won’t know that for some time. RITHOLTZ: So some of the folks who give advice to founders like Chamath and Jason, and the crew with the All-In Podcast, they’ve been talking about — preaching really about cutting costs and reducing your burn rate, and get ready for a tough year or two. How do you see this environment? Is that good advice, or do you really have to, you know, go all out and get more funding as opposed to trying to make a more modest burn rate last longer? WENGER: There’s very little one size fits all advice that makes sense. RITHOLTZ: Fair. WENGER: Nonetheless, we held a call early this year for all of our portfolio companies. And we said this really is a big adjustment and it’s not a one or two months’ blip. This is a long-term adjustment. And it was great because we had some CEOs in our portfolio who had managed through the implosion of dot-com bubble, and they spoke about just how difficult the funding environment can get. So generally speaking, we did a lot in ’21 because we saw this coming. To me, the biggest sign of the bubble really was — that we really were reaching the tail end, was all these incubation efforts that were being raised. And I knew this because I had raised money into an incubator in ‘99, towards the end of the dot-com bubble. And I think when investors think, “Oh, I don’t even need the entrepreneur, I can just start the company myself,” that’s kind of when you know that it’s gotten too easy, right? And that’s not going to lie. So in ‘21, we took a lot of liquidity. We sold a lot of things that we were able to sell. And we told all of our portfolio companies to raise money. And so — RITHOLTZ: Last year, this is — WENGER: ‘21. Yeah. Well, it’s best to do things before. RITHOLTZ: Sure. Sure. WENGER: Right? So as a result, we have very few companies in our portfolio that need to raise. We have some, but we have very few. And then, you know, at the beginning of this year, we told everybody who had raised successfully, “You got to make this money lasts much longer than you thought when you raised it.” And so, yes, absolutely. You know, companies were operating with very inefficient growth. Because it was easy to fund inefficient growth, you could be burning $1 million, $2 million, $3 million, $4 million a month. And you know, if you were growing 405%, 50%, 60%, that was good enough. That’s not going to be the case. So you’re either growing very fast, or you have something very compelling, in which case you can raise money, or you are growing, you know, 20%, 30%, but you are growing very, very efficiently, right? So being in the sort of 50% growth, but you’re super inefficient, that’s going to be a really tough place to be. RITHOLTZ: All right, so before I get to my favorite questions, I have two questions I’ve been sitting on sort of from the book and some from your blog continuations that I want to hear where you go with this. And the first one is a quote from the book, “Malthus could not foresee the scientific breakthrough that enabled the Industrial Revolution.” I think you let him off the hook a little too easy. It’s just an abject failure of imagination. And you are in the imagination business. The Malthusians, weren’t these folks just unable to imagine any sort of progress or technological development? WENGER: Well, we have had more progress and more technological development than people were able to imagine. I think, conversely, we’re now in the opposite trap. We can’t imagine that things could get really, really bad. We can’t imagine that the climate crisis could disrupt our food supply to the point where billion people starved. We simply can’t wrap our head around this idea. So I think we’re in the opposite trap at the moment. We’ve been so used to the success of progress, and we’ve so neglected the engines that produce progress, that I think we’re in the opposite trap at the moment. RITHOLTZ: What are the other engines? Is it early stage investing from governments when the project has a 10 and 20-year ROI that the private sector won’t do it? WENGER: It’s foundational research. We’ve not had a true breakthrough in science since quantum mechanics. It’s a hundred years ago. So general relativity and quantum mechanics are hundred years ago. Now, we’ve made some progress in biology. Biology, we’ve had some really good progress. But you know — RITHOLTZ: You’re talking fundamental science not technology. WENGER: Fundamental science. RITHOLTZ: Like, I immediately think of semiconductors was a giant — WENGER: Oh, no, incredible progress. But fundamental science, we’ve not had a true big unlock in a hundred years. Now, I think when we talk about engine of progress, this is also how hard is it to start a business? How many regulations do you have to comply with? How expensive is it to comply with those regulations? We’re also talking about — we’re still subsidizing oil and gas globally, to the tune of trillions of dollars. RITHOLTZ: Yes. Yes. WENGER: Subsidizing oil and gas, it’s crazy. RITHOLTZ: Which by the way, helps to explain why so many people have an incentive to either question the impact, the source or the reality of climate change. WENGER: Yes. RITHOLTZ: There’s forces that work there. WENGER: And so, I believe we’re in this sort of opposite trap today. And you know, people like to make fun of Greta Thunberg. But young kids, young activists understand the severity of the climate crisis in a way — RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: — in a way that most adults don’t seem to be willing to accept. RITHOLTZ: Right. I don’t think climate change is going to impact my life. You know, I’m 60. I’m going to run out the clock. WENGER: You’re not. RITHOLTZ: Someone your age — WENGER: The reality is you’re not. You’re not going to escape. You and I are not going to escape this. It’s here, it’s now and it’s only going to get worse. RITHOLTZ: I don’t doubt that for a second, but — WENGER: And here’s the thing, I think — RITHOLTZ: I challenge — WENGER: We could live in this amazing, incredible future. Like, wouldn’t you rather live in a city that has mostly electric or all electric cars in it? Like, the air would be so much better. Wouldn’t you rather live in a world that has huge — like, think of all the Midwest, instead of growing corn to feed cows — RITHOLTZ: Right. WENGER: — super inefficient. If we can grow the meat of the cows in the vast instead, we could have like incredible forests. We could have incredible wildlife areas. Like, we could have this amazing, incredible future. We could have energy reserve. If we build more nuclear power, electricity could basically be almost free. So we have this amazing thing we can go. Instead, we’re headed for this complete disaster and we’re mostly like, “eh.” RITHOLTZ: I think that’s a fair assessment. I think you definitely have that. And I certainly see people my generation, absolutely think it’s not going to impact them or minimum impact, it’s really the grandkids’ problem. WENGER: Yeah. And it’s just — that’s totally, utterly wrong. RITHOLTZ: All right, one other curveball I have to ask you about, which involves Yuval Noah Harari, who says in Sapiens, “All value systems are based on equally valid, subjective narratives, and humans have no privileged position as a species.” You say he’s wrong. Explain. WENGER: Not just wrong, it’s completely dangerous because it opens the door to absolute moral relativism. It’s sort of like, well, if you believe that, then, you know, the ISIS narrative is just as valid, you know, and I just think that’s wrong. And I do think there’s an objective thing, which is humans have knowledge. And by knowledge, I mean, I can read a book today that somebody else wrote in some other part of the world a thousand years ago, right? No other species on the planet has this. I mean, other species have amazing things about them, but none of them has knowledge. And that puts us in a privileged position. By the way, privilege comes with obligation. That’s usually what it used to mean. Today, we think of privilege just it lets you do whatever you want. But it used to mean that you had real obligations, right? And I believe because we have the power of knowledge, we have real obligations to other species. Other species don’t have much of an obligation to us, but we have an obligation to them. RITHOLTZ: And the interesting thing about what you said is not only does no other species have the ability to access anything, anybody has written, anytime in history, pretty much this is the first generation that had access in that way, across — pretty much across the whole board. WENGER: Well, this is the amazing thing about digital technology, right? We could use it to make all the world’s knowledge accessible to everybody in the world. And great things could come from that, right? So there’s some people like Elon Musk and others who are like, “Oh, my God, the population is going to, you know, decrease a lot and that will be bad.” I’m like, no, we have 8 billion people at the moment, peak population. The present trajectory might be 11 billion, although if we don’t get on top of the climate crisis, it will decrease actually rapidly. But we’re making such poor use of it. Why? Because so many people don’t have access to knowledge, don’t have a shot. I always love the story of Ramanujan, the famous mathematician, who used to send a letter to Hardy. And Hardy was like, “We should bring this guy over to England and he would have been a very productive mathematician.” There are Einsteins, and Ramanujans, and Elinor Ostrom, and Marie Curies all around the world today, and we’re not giving them — so we’re vastly undertapping human potential. And we can use digital technology to change that and to give everybody access. And that’s one of the things, one of the great opportunities that we have in this transition to the knowledge age. RITHOLTZ: Quite, quite fascinating. So let me jump to my favorite questions that I ask all of my guests, starting with, tell us what kept you entertained over the past couple of years. What have you been watching or listening to? WENGER: I really don’t watch much. At the moment, the only thing I watch with any kind of regularity Sabine Hossenfelder’s YouTube series called Science Without the Gobbledygook. RITHOLTZ: I’ll take a look at that. I’m a giant fan of YouTube Premium, and I’m always astonished that people I know who are YouTube junkies won’t spring for the 8 bucks a month to pull out commercials and distractions. But YouTube is just an endless rabbit hole. WENGER: Well, YouTube is an example of the best and the worst of the Internet all in one place, right? There’s so much amazing knowledge like Sabine’s videos, Veritasium. I mean, you could learn almost anything from how to fix your dishwasher to how — you know, the theory of general relativity works. At the same time, YouTube is also this place where tons of people, you know, become radicalized or redpilled, or whatever it is, because the algorithm — the algorithm has the wrong objective function, right? Its objective function is engagement. It’s not lifting people up. RITHOLTZ: Tell us about some of your mentors who helped shape your career. WENGER: I was super, super fortunate when I was an early teenager. We talked about this, when I first fell in love with computers. I lived in a relatively small village in Germany. And there was one computer science student there who was maybe 10 years older than I was. And he just spent time with me, and he gave me his books, and he gave me his floppy disks with software, and he helped me sort of understand all this. And I’m forever grateful to (Anstur Guenther), wherever you are in the world. RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. Have you spoken to him anytime recently? WENGER: No, because I haven’t been able to find him. Basically, he seems to have disappeared. RITHOLTZ: Well, if you’re listening, reach out to Albert. Tell us — we mentioned a number of books. Tell us about some of your favorite and what you’re reading right now. WENGER: Favorites, I would say David Deutsch, “The Beginning of Infinity” is definitely one of my favorites. RITHOLTZ: I just ordered that because of you. WENGER: I’m reading at the moment, a book by Ada Palmer called “Perhaps the Stars.” It’s the fourth book in a series called the Terra Ignota Series. She’s a professor at the University of Chicago. RITHOLTZ: What sort of advice would you give to a recent college grad who is interested in a career in either entrepreneurship or venture capital? WENGER: Develop a mindfulness practice, you know, whatever works for you, whether that’s yoga, running, for me, it’s conscious breathing. I just think it’s such a superpower not to get hijacked by your emotions. It’s a true superpower. And the more humans can cultivate it, the more we can achieve. RITHOLTZ: That’s really, really intriguing. And our final question, what do you know about the world of venture today that you wish you knew 30 or so years ago when you were first getting started? WENGER: There will always be another bubble. RITHOLTZ: There will always be another bubble. That’s amazing. Just human nature can’t be avoided. WENGER: It can’t be avoided. RITHOLTZ: And what should we do in anticipation of during and after bubbles? WENGER: We should acknowledge that they will come, that they’re part of how we operate, that you can make money before, during and after. RITHOLTZ: There you go. Really, really fascinating stuff. We have been speaking with Albert Wenger. He is managing partner at Union Square Ventures. If you enjoy this conversation, well, be sure to check out any of our previous 400 or so discussions we’ve had over the past eight years. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts from. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at mibpodcast@bloomberg.net. Sign up for my daily reading list at ritholtz.com. Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps put these conversations together each week. Sarah Livesey is my audio engineer. Sean Russo is my head of Research. Paris Wald is my producer. Atika Valbrun is our project manager. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio. END   ~~~   The post Transcript: Albert Wenger appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureSep 20th, 2022

Sperry: Unpacking Apparent Trump-Hillary Double Standard

Sperry: Unpacking Apparent Trump-Hillary Double Standard Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClear Investigations, Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch obtained evidence that a computer contractor working under the direction of Hillary Clinton’s legal team destroyed subpoenaed records that the former secretary of state stored on a private email server she originally kept at her New York home, and then lied to investigators about it. Yet no charges were brought against Clinton, her lawyers, or her paid consultant. The leniency accorded to Clinton contrasts with recent moves by Attorney General Merrick Garland to aggressively investigate former President Trump and his lawyers for allegedly obstructing investigators’ efforts to locate subpoenaed records at his Florida home. Legal experts say the apparent double standard may provide a useful defense for Trump and his legal team. The treatment of Clinton included a deal with her defense team that required the FBI to, in effect, obstruct its own investigation. During its 2016 probe, the bureau agreed with her lawyers' demands to destroy two laptop hard drives containing subpoenaed evidence immediately after searching for files on them. They did so while the information was still being sought by congressional investigators and even though the lawyers had served under Clinton at the State Department and were subjects of the FBI’s investigation. In fact, the laptops were theirs.Long before it bowed to the request, the FBI suspected Clinton's lawyers played hide-and-seek with evidence, making the concession that much more baffling. The scandal first erupted on March 2, 2015, when news broke that Clinton had secretly set up a non-government email server in the basement of her Chappaqua, N.Y., mansion in the weeks before she started her job at Foggy Bottom in early 2009. She used the unauthorized and unsecured device to conduct official State Department business – including transmitting and storing classified information – which allowed her to bypass legally mandated archiving of her government records. The next day, the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent her attorney David Kendall a letter advising his client to preserve all electronic records created since January 2009 and specifically not to delete any emails on her private server. The panel then issued a subpoena for records related to the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Three weeks later, on March 25, Kendall and former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills, who also acted as her personal attorney, asked a computer contractor with Platte River Networks, which hosted Clinton’s secret email server, to join a conference call with them, according to FBI documents. Over the next week, the contractor, Paul Combetta, deleted the entire email archive from Clinton's server using a software program called BleachBit, which digitally “shreds" files to prevent their recovery. All told, the paid Clinton agent scrubbed 31,830 emails from her server and backup files. In addition, he permanently removed duplicates of the emails from the laptops of Mills and another Clinton lawyer and aide, Heather Samuelson, where they also had been stored. According to  FBI records, Combetta knew the documents he destroyed were under subpoena.  In July 2015, the FBI counterintelligence division opened a criminal investigation, codenamed “Midyear Exam,” in response to a referral from the intelligence community inspector general concerning Clinton’s unsecure server. The FBI predicated the opening of the probe on the possible compromise of highly classified Sensitive Compartmented Information. Emails classified at the SCI level were later found on Clinton’s server.Some career FBI agents working on the case, which was tightly controlled within headquarters and deemed a “SIM,” or sensitive investigative matter, thought they had a slam-dunk case of obstruction, a key aggravating factor for prosecuting cases involving the mishandling of classified information or government records. All they had to do was get Combetta in a chair and pressure him to implicate the high-level Clinton surrogates who told him what they wanted done. Several investigators believed "that Combetta’s truthful testimony was essential for assessing criminal intent for Clinton and other individuals, because he would be able to tell them whether Clinton’s attorneys — Mills, Samuelson or Kendall — had instructed him to delete emails,” according to a 2018 report by the DOJ's inspector general. But during voluntary interviews with FBI agents, Combetta falsely denied he had “deleted or purged” Clinton’s emails from the server or back-ups, and insisted Clinton’s legal team never requested that he do so. Combetta refused to talk to investigators about the critical March 2015 conference call with Clinton's lawyers that preceded his purge of evidence, the only topic he refused to speak about. So investigators and prosecutors agreed to give him immunity and interview him again. Still, they never got his account of the conference call. A written FBI summary of the interview, known as an FD-302 report, does not reference the call, indicating that agents failed to follow up on a key line of questioning in the investigation. Investigators declined to pursue other aspects of the case as well. They obtained an email in which Combetta told a colleague he was part of a “Hilary[sic] coverup operation” and said he would elaborate later at a "party." Asked about it, Combetta claimed he was just joking; the FBI accepted his explanation and did not appear to follow up with the colleague to learn what they discussed at the party. The FBI also accepted another explanation for why Combetta, using the screen name “stonetear," sought technical assistance on the Reddit forum on how to "strip out" the email addresses of a “VERY VIP" client from a “a bunch of archived email,” in an apparent reference to Clinton. (After Internet sleuths revealed stonetear was a name Combetta used in other forums, he began scrubbing his posts from the web.) An FBI case supervisor told the inspector general that “he believed Combetta should have been charged with false statements for lying multiple times,” according to the IG report, but prosecutors refused to indict him. The FBI also obtained forensic evidence from the server that could establish that Combetta made the deletions, but prosecutors balked at charging him with obstruction. Then-FBI Director James Comey personally agreed with the DOJ decision to give Combetta immunity rather than sweating him in a grand jury box, which typically is done with subjects who are lying, to get them to tell the truth. Comey was forced to defend the deal in an October 2016 conference with FBI supervisors, who were hearing complaints from rank-and-file agents that headquarters handed out immunity deals “like candy” to Clinton witnesses. Comey explained the bureau wasn't interested in prosecuting a small fish like Combetta, and sought only to massage him for information to “make a case on Hillary Clinton,” even though internal FBI emails reveal Comey already had decided to let Clinton off the hook. He did not explain why the contractor hadn’t been pressured more with threats to bring charges against him for lying to agents, the traditional investigative method for getting such an uncooperative witness to turn. “With respect to Combetta, we found his actions in deleting Clinton’s emails in violation of a congressional subpoena and preservation order and then lying about it to the FBI to be particularly serious,” DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his report. “We asked the prosecutors why they chose to grant him immunity instead of charging him with obstruction of justice.” One DOJ prosecutor told Horowitz’s investigators they wanted to make Combetta “feel comfortable enough” that he would eventually cooperate on his own. Another said they weren't interested in prosecuting a bit player for lying and that doing so would just bog down the investigation, which they were rushing to wrap up “well before” the November 2016 presidential election. "I was concerned that we would end up with obstruction cases against some poor schmuck on the down that had a crappy attorney who [was] hiding the ball,” the unidentified prosecutor said. "And so at the end of the day, I was like, look, let’s immunize him. We’ve got to get from Point A to Point B. Point B is to make a prosecution decision about Hillary Clinton and her senior staff well before the election if possible,” the prosecutor added. "And this guy with his dumb attorney doing some half-assed obstruction did not interest me. So I was totally in favor of giving him immunity." The prosecutors reported directly to then-DOJ counterespionage official David Laufman, who would later play a key role in the discredited Russiagate probe, including opening investigations on several Trump advisers and signing off on wiretap warrants targeting at least one Trump aide, even though he knew they were based on a fabricated dossier financed by the Clinton campaign. Prosecutors also gave Clinton aides Mills and Samuelson immunity deals, over the objections of some FBI investigators who wanted to bring them before a grand jury to explain their actions. A handful of agents also argued for issuing a search warrant to seize their personal laptops, which they used to upload all the emails from the Clinton server and cull away supposedly “personal” messages that they claimed were out of the reach of investigators. Instead, prosecutors opted to review the laptops through an unusual consent agreement, which restricted searches to certain files and specific dates – and nothing before or after Clinton’s tenure as secretary, which put any email exchanges with Combetta out of reach – and required the FBI to destroy the hard drives after conducting the limited search, according to documents outlining the agreement. “This is simply astonishing given the likelihood that evidence on the laptops would be of interest to congressional investigators,” former Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and three other GOP congressional leaders complained in a letter to DOJ at the time. In his talk at the FBI conference, Comey explained that he had to agree with prosecutors and defense lawyers to limit the search because of “huge concerns” that attorney-client privilege and attorney work product could be discovered on the laptops, a concern that apparently did not register in the broad, sweeping search of Trump’s records. Agents scooped up at least 520 pages of attorney-client privileged information during their raid of Mar-a-Lago, according to a federal judge who has ordered an independent inspector to review the seized records for privileged material. Mills and Samuelson, who agreed to answer only a narrow scope of questions to prevent investigators from soliciting privileged information, were later allowed to sit in on Clinton’s own interview, which the FBI conducted after Comey had already drafted a statement exonerating her of mishandling classified information and obstructing justice. The director famously delivered the statement in a July 5, 2016, press conference, proclaiming the FBI found “no evidence” that Clinton’s emails were “intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.” Trump Didn't Get 'the Same (Gentle) Treatment' Grassley says the FBI “pulled its punches” investigating Clinton in comparison to Trump, who he says is being harshly investigated and prosecuted for the same offenses. “Trump has not been provided the same (gentle) treatment given to Secretary Clinton and her associates,” Grassley asserted in a recent statement.    To be sure, the agency has used more intrusive methods probing Trump for similar allegations of mishandling classified information and concealing documents under subpoena. Unlike the Clinton probe, where investigators and prosecutors sought to obtain evidence by consent whenever possible, the department has used a federal grand jury to issue subpoenas to Trump for thousands of documents, as well as surveillance video footage, from his Palm Beach estate. They also obtained a search warrant to raid his private office and family bedrooms. In addition to seizing more than 11,000 documents, agents confiscated some 1,800 personal items, including gifts, photo albums, clothing, passports, and medical and tax records, according to court records. Clinton and her representatives were spared such heavy-handed tactics and indignities, the senator pointed out. “Even though Secretary Clinton and her attorneys did not hand over classified records in their possession, they were not subject to a raid similar to what occurred at Mar-a-Lago,” Grassley said. In the end, computer-forensics investigators and intelligence analysts were able to determine that at least 81 classified email chains were transmitted and stored on Clinton’s unclassified personal server. Their levels ranged from CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET/SPECIAL ACCESS PROGRAM, a highly sensitive designation which makes access to certain information restricted even to Secret and Top Secret clearance-holders without a “need to know.” By comparison, the FBI recovered 100 documents with classified markings from its raid of Trump’s home. They range in level from CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET. In a court filing last month, DOJ said it developed evidence that presidential records held in a basement storage room at Mar-a-Lago may have been concealed or removed prior to a June visit by FBI agents to pick up classified documents, suggesting possible attempts to obstruct investigators.Investigators issued a grand jury subpoena in May for the records and visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick them up. When they got there, the filing said, a Trump lawyer handed them a large envelope containing documents. Another lawyer acting as the official custodian of Trump’s records certified in a sworn statement that they conducted a “diligent” search for classified papers in response to the subpoena. Over the next two months however, officials “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” DOJ said in its filing, without specifying what it believes was removed from the room, or by whom. The affidavit explained that this suspicion is why it sent some 30 armed agents back to Mar-a-Lago early last month to conduct a massive search of the property. Prosecutors say the additional documents they found with classified markings cast doubt on claims by Trump’s lawyers that they were fully cooperative with the subpoena. They are said to be focusing their investigation on Trump lawyer Christina Bobb, in particular, who allegedly acted as the custodian who signed the certification. Bobb, who has not been charged with a crime, did not respond to requests for comment. Trump’s legal team has told the court that the DOJ “significantly mischaracterized” the June meeting with Bobb and another lawyer, but did not elaborate. Laufman, the top prosecutor in the Clinton case and a caustic critic of Trump in the media, believes Trump should also be worried and “has significant criminal exposure” to an obstruction rap. “Either [his lawyers] wittingly lied or they got that assurance from their client, in which case Trump has jeopardy,” Laufman, an Obama appointee and donor, told Politico. But at this point, investigators can only speculate that documents were intentionally moved or destroyed to avoid compliance with subpoenas, which would be a felony. Legal experts note that prosecutors were careful to say in their filing that documents were “likely” concealed and that efforts were “likely” taken to obstruct the investigation, indicating they still lack solid evidence. “It is not clear from the filing if the FBI has evidence of intentional acts of concealment as opposed to negligence,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said. By contrast, prosecutors had solid material evidence – including emails, phone calls, work tickets and computer forensics – that Clinton operatives conspired to not just conceal but actually destroy documents under subpoena in violation of Section 1519 of the federal criminal code, the same statute cited by the FBI in its warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. It bars the destruction or falsification of any documents or materials “with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence” an investigation.”"Did Hillary Clinton violate 18 USC 1519 when emails from her private email server were destroyed during government investigation? Possibly, yes,” said Donald Skupsky, a lawyer specializing in government records-retention procedures. "In December 2014, she did instruct her team to destroy remaining emails after 60 days. And ultimately, she never halted nor protested again any records destruction,” he added. "Under 18 USC 1519, Clinton may have concealed and covered up the destruction of records." Both the Trump and Clinton cases also invoke Section 2071, a federal statute which prohibits the willful concealment, removal, or destruction of federal records. But in investigating Clinton’s homebrew server scheme, prosecutors declined to pursue a Section 2071 charge because they argued the statute had “never been used to prosecute individuals for attempting to avoid Federal Records Act requirements by failing to ensure that government records are filed appropriately,” according to the IG report. Some legal experts say the same standard should apply to Trump, whom the DOJ said tried to avoid Presidential Records Act requirements. Trump lawyer Jim Trusty said Trump’s retention of allegedly classified papers is akin to “an overdue library book” and complained that Biden administration prosecutors are holding him “to a different standard than anyone else” because he is a Republican. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon earlier this month issued an injunction temporarily barring the Justice Department from using the seized material in its espionage investigation until a Special Master can review it for privileged and other information outside the scope of the probe. Despite the order, the obstruction part of DOJ's probe can move forward. Among other things, investigators can continue to interview witnesses about whether subpoenaed documents were moved or concealed. “DOJ is in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation pertaining to potential violations of the Espionage Act, as well as obstruction of justice, 18 USC 1519, and unlawful concealment or removal of government records, 18 USC 2071,” DOJ chief counterintelligence prosecutor Jay Bratt stated in a recent court filing. Paul Sperry is an investigative reporter for RealClearInvestigations. He is also a longtime media fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Sperry was previously the Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily, and his work has appeared in the New York Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Houston Chronicle, among other major publications. Tyler Durden Sat, 09/17/2022 - 18:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 17th, 2022

Anthony Fauci: From AIDS To COVID-19, A Pharma Love Story

Anthony Fauci: From AIDS To COVID-19, A Pharma Love Story Opinion authored by Lorenzo Puertas via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), After forty-eight years of leading the U.S. government’s responses to infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently announced his plans to retire at the end of the year. His story warrants a closer look for what it tells us about American politics, business, and health care. For decades before his recent fame, Fauci has been a medical researcher credited with important new understandings of the human immune response, particularly in HIV and AIDS. He also helped develop therapies for several previously fatal diseases, including a treatment of vasculitis which turned a 98 percent mortality rate into a 93 percent survival rate. For most of his career, he has been the world’s most-cited researcher on AIDS and infectious diseases. He has received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ironically, Fauci has also presided over a decades-long decline in the overall health of American citizens. During his time in public health, a great number of chronic illnesses have become commonplace. Food allergies, autoimmune diseases, and cancer now affect more than half of American children. Autism, once rare, now affects 1 in 44 children. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 17, 2022. (Shawn Thew/Pool/AFP via Getty Images) A Lifetime in Public Health Anthony Fauci was born in Brooklyn in 1940, the son of a pharmacist. Pharmacy was the family business, and both his mother and sister worked in his father’s shop beneath their apartment. As a young man, Fauci studied medicine at Cornell University, graduating first in his class. After his residency in 1966, he took a research job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and he has worked for the U.S. government ever since. In his five decades in public health, Fauci has advised every President since Ronald Reagan. Since 1984 he has been the head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID), one of 27 institutes within the NIH, given the mission of researching and preventing infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases. For many Americans, Fauci has been the trusted face of the U.S. government response to the pandemic. It was his confident explanations, both to the public and to policymakers, which led to the use of lockdowns, business closures, masking, and vaccines as the response to the virus. His many critics see a different Anthony Fauci—a bureaucrat who seems to have made a career of putting politics and corporate profits above public health. “Dr. Fauci has shaped the American medical world,” said Mary Holland, President of Children’s Health Defense, in an interview with The Epoch Times. “He’s moved American health institutions, NIH in particular, to a very intertwined relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.” Holland’s nonprofit organization, chaired by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has been a prominent critic of Dr. Fauci’s policies—particularly the mass vaccination of American citizens. Censorship and Control “Dr. Fauci and his NIAID have played a very dark role in COVID,” Holland said. “The level of propaganda we have lived through in the last two years is unprecedented in my lifetime. I lived in the Soviet Union after law school, fighting for human rights and working against government propaganda and censorship. And now we are living through that in the United States.” According to Holland, Fauci is the key player in the U.S. government’s efforts to control all information relating to the pandemic and the virus. “The documents are coming out that show that the government has been censoring us, suppressing factual information that relate to this virus and the pandemic.” Even criticism of Fauci has been censored, says Holland. “Robert Kennedy’s new book, ‘The Real Anthony Fauci’ has been suppressed at every turn,” she said. The 2021 book takes a hard look at Fauci’s career and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kennedy has found it almost impossible to promote his book. “No major publication in the country would review the book,” said Holland. “The New York Times would not include it on their bestseller list, and he [Kennedy] was not invited on any major media platform, except for Tucker Carlson and The Epoch Times. The level of censorship has been astonishing.” Kennedy isn’t the only one censored. For two years, mainstream media outlets have ignored the scientists who have questioned Fauci’s views. These scientists have seen their ideas rejected (or later retracted) by medical journals, denounced by government officials, and censored by social media platforms. Fauci has been candid about his suppression of dissent. “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science,” Fauci told CNBC in a June 2021 interview. In May, the attorneys general for Missouri and Louisiana filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden and other White House officials, accusing them of violating the First Amendment by colluding with social media giants to suppress information about the pandemic. According to recently released court documents, the Biden administration worked so closely with social media that Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg gave Fauci his personal phone number when the crackdown on COVID-19 information began. But why this need for control? What information needed to be covered up? According to Holland, it’s the role that Fauci may have played in creating, and prolonging, this pandemic. The P4 laboratory (L) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on May 27, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images) “By all appearances they have tried to cover up their role in funding lethal gain of function research in China,” said Holland. “They have also suppressed the use of lifesaving early treatments like ivermectin and hydroxycholoroquine, and they have suppressed valuable research into preventive measures that could have saved countless lives.” The result, says Holland and other critics, is a dark period in American history. Fauci’s Pandemic? Starting in early 2020, Americans faced unprecedented government intrusion in their lives. Business and school closures, lockdowns, mask mandates—and the man behind these government policies has been Anthony Fauci. In countless interviews and press conferences, Fauci positioned himself as the one true source of correct COVID-19 information and guidance. Emergency orders at the federal, state, and local levels were based on Fauci’s opinions. Fauci himself took credit for the policy of lockdowns, saying in October 2020, “I recommended to the president that we shut the country down. That was a very difficult decision because I knew it would have very serious economic consequences.” “Anthony Fauci is clearly at the very center of all things COVID,” Holland said. “And he has been in charge of controlling the information about the pandemic.” “From the very beginning, when many scientists were pointing to a lab origin for this virus,” said Holland, “Anthony Fauci put a stop to that important debate.” Despite the discovery of NIAID’s funding of gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Fauci continues to say that the virus likely has a natural origin. A similar thing happened with scientific opposition to Fauci’s policies. The Great Barrington Declaration, written in October 2020 and signed by over 60,000 doctors and scientists, opposed lockdowns and advocated a new policy of protecting only the most vulnerable populations while allowing the rest to live freely and develop natural immunity. Fauci called the Declaration “ridiculous” and “very dangerous,” and led a campaign to attack the authors and signatories, instead of their ideas. “It has been remarkable,” Holland said, “to see one of the most influential figures in American life purposely suppressing truthful information—about a lab leak, about scientists who said there should be no lockdowns, about the value of masks and the risks of vaccines.” “In the COVID response we saw extraordinary corruption,” said Holland. “The origin of the virus was covered up. Important treatments were suppressed. And vaccines were authorized, and mandated, on inadequate science.” Ivermectin tablets packaged for human use. (Natasha Holt/The Epoch Times) Suppression of Cures One of the most astonishing aspects of Fauci’s leadership during the pandemic has been his strong opposition to any potential treatment. In two years, neither Fauci nor any U.S. government agency has published a single treatment protocol for COVID-19 patients. In contrast, China had a treatment protocol online by mid-March of 2020. The result of an organized collection of data from hundreds of hospitals treating thousands of patients, the Chinese protocol included simple solutions like saline nasal lavage and antiseptic mouthwash to reduce viral loads, and cheap drugs like zinc, Pepcid, chloroquine, and antibiotics. As of this writing, the United States still has no official treatment protocol. And no protocols have been proposed by any major American university or research hospital. Yet every American doctor who has tried to publish one has been quickly censored and ridiculed. Dr. Peter McCullough knows this firsthand. The author of the protocol that became the most downloaded medical paper of 2020, McCullough was among the first American doctors to develop, test, and publish a successful treatment protocol, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in hospitalizations and death among his patients. A medical doctor and author of over 600 peer-reviewed research articles, McCullough at first had no thought of developing his own treatment plan. But he soon became alarmed at the government’s failure to provide treatment advice to America’s doctors. By May 2020, McCullough began taking action. He quickly set up a network of doctors to share information about effective treatments—something Fauci never did. For his efforts, he found himself sued by Baylor University, had his Wikipedia page re-written to label him a source of “COVID misinformation”, and had his reputation attacked in print and online. All while major medical institutions did nothing to find a treatment. “They didn’t even try,” McCullough is quoted as saying in “The Real Anthony Fauci.” “Harvard, John Hopkins, Duke, you name it. There wasn’t an ounce of original research coming out of America to fight COVID—other than vaccines.” Across the country, Dr. Pierre Kory was fighting the same battle. The co-founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), Kory and a team of doctors were quickly developing their own protocol and putting it online. Like McCullough, Kory had discovered the effectiveness of ivermectin, hydroxycholoroquine, and a number of other inexpensive and easily available drugs. Kory testified twice to the U.S. Senate explaining the success of his treatment protocol. He also submitted a formal paper to the NIH, which quickly dismissed the results as “insufficient data” lacking proper clinical trials. Another research paper explaining the protocol was retracted by the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology due to “unsupported claims”. “The efficacy of some of these drugs… is almost miraculous. We could have stopped the pandemic in its tracks in the Spring of 2020,” said Kory. “Yet Dr. Fauci refused to promote any of these interventions. It’s not just that he made no effort to find effective off-the-shelf cures—he aggressively suppressed them.” “You had Birx, Fauci, and Redfield doing press conferences every day,” Kory said in an interview. “And not one of them ever treated a COVID patient or worked in an emergency room or ICU. They knew nothing.” “Dr. Fauci’s suppression of early treatments,” said Kory, “will go down in history as having caused the death of half a million Americans.” But why would Anthony Fauci suppress effective treatments? Why attack doctors trying to find a solution? According to Robert Kennedy, it might be because safe and effective treatments for COVID-19 would make the new vaccines unnecessary. Successful treatments aren’t just a marketing challenge for the vaccine manufacturers—they’re a legal obstacle, too. Once a successful treatment for COVID-19 is established, it becomes much less likely that the FDA will grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to new vaccines and new drugs. Under federal law, there must be no approved alternative way of treating or preventing a disease before authorizing an EUA. The EUA under which the experimental vaccines were given to millions of Americans would never have been granted if COVID-19 was known to be an easily treatable disease. In “The Real Anthony Fauci”, Robert Kennedy writes, “His bizarre and inexplicable actions give credence to the suspicions held by many Americans that Dr. Fauci is working to prolong the epidemic in order to impose expensive patented drugs and vaccines on a captive population.” AIDS COVID-19 isn’t the first time that Anthony Fauci has been accused of using public policy to benefit big pharma corporations. Forty years ago, at the height of the AIDS crisis in America, many AIDS activists called Anthony Fauci a sellout to the drug companies. “You are responsible for all government funded AIDS treatment research,” said activist Larry Kramer in an open letter to Fauci in the San Francsico Examiner in 1988. “You are part of a government bureaucracy that values thriving pharmaceutical company entrepreneurism over the health of people with HIV.” Kramer’s criticism: instead of focusing on improving patients’ health, Fauci’s only answer to AIDS was the development of new drugs. “How long will it take you to start focusing on the immune system, how to boost it and how to prevent the opportunistic infections that are killing people with AIDS? Still, you give your blessing to clinical trials of highly profitable toxins…” “You are a pill-pushing pimp that cooperates with drug companies in forcing dangerous concoctions down the throats of a desperate community,” wrote Kramer. “AIDS drugs are not sold to help people, they are sold to make a profit.” White House Chief Medical Adviser on Covid-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., on Feb. 11, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) Conflicts of Interest Despite the criticism Fauci endured, the AIDS crisis produced the most important opportunity of his career: using NIAID to develop, and profit from, new drugs. His collaboration with pharmaceutical companies quickly grew into a billion-dollar business. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allowed NIAID and government scientists like Fauci to directly profit from drug development. Under the law, NIAID was now allowed to file patents on the new drugs that their research was creating, and then license those drug patents back to pharmaceutical companies. Individual government scientists could also put their names on patents and collect royalties. This created a new income stream for Anthony Fauci: royalties on the sales of all drugs developed through NIAID-funded research. Drug development very quickly became the focus of Fauci’s NIAID, and millions of dollars in royalties started to pour in. According to a 2006 investigation by the Associated Press, NIH and NIAID were concealing millions of dollars in royalties paid not just to the agencies, but to individual officials including Fauci, with little regard for the ethical and legal conflicts of interest. This information was not made public until the Associated Press obtained the information under the Freedom of Information Act. In early 2022, OpenTheBooks.com, a government watchdog nonprofit, reported over 22,0000 royalty payments totaling nearly $134 million in royalty payments from pharma companies to the NIH and directly to over 1,600 NIH scientists. These payments occurred between 2009 and 2014. Data from 2015 onward is not yet available. As a co-owner of drug and vaccine patents, Fauci himself receives royalty payments, including from the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The amount of these payments has not been made public. It is perhaps no coincidence then, that the Biden administration’s COVID-19 plan, “The Path out of the Pandemic”, consists of only one strategy: more government vaccination mandates. “Think about it,” said Children’s Health Defense president Mary Holland. “NIAID is a joint venture partner with Moderna! How can the government be a joint venture partner with a for-profit corporation? And then set public policy to force the use of that product? The conflict of interest is astounding.” Experiments in New York Drug development for AIDS created a little-known episode in Fauci’s career. Starting in 1985, the NIAID provided funding for clinical drug trials on HIV-positive children, studies which included children in the New York foster care system. According to a 2009 report by the Vera Institute of Justice, 25 of the children involved in these experiments died, though there is no evidence that they died as a direct result of the experiments. “NIAID under Fauci exploited the most vulnerable in our society to develop new drugs,” said Holland. “These were poor children, without parents, many of whom were already very sick. Episodes like this, make one genuinely recall other medical atrocities in history, experiments conducted on vulnerable people without proper informed consent.” Experiments in Africa Experimentation on humans has been a key part of Fauci’s role in new drug and vaccine development, especially in Africa in the search for a solution to AIDS. Since the mid-1990s Fauci has been the chief promoter of the quest for an HIV vaccine. Under Fauci’s advice, every American president since Clinton has pledged billions of taxpayer dollars to this project—foreign aid diverted away from food and infrastructure to vaccine manufacturers and their research projects, in the name of eradicating AIDS in Africa. In early 2000, Fauci and Bill Gates formed a unique partnership to control this flow of money. By leveraging the research funding available through Fauci’s NIAID, Bill Gates’ celebrity philanthropy, the tragedy of AIDS, and the massive wealth of pharmaceutical companies, Fauci and Gates acquired tremendous influence over health policy around the world. This Fauci-Gates partnership is detailed in a 2008 report in the Journal of European Molecular Biology, provocatively titled “The Gates Foundation: How Sixty Billion Dollars and One Famous Person Can Affect Spending and Research Focus of Public Agencies”. As many human rights organizations have pointed out, Fauci and Gates have spent decades profiting from the use of Africans as test subjects for experimental drugs that often do great harm. And there still is no vaccine for HIV. Read more here... Tyler Durden Wed, 09/14/2022 - 20:20.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytSep 14th, 2022

Florida Watchdog Groups Allege Mail-in Ballot And Voter Roll Violations In 2020, 2022

Florida Watchdog Groups Allege Mail-in Ballot And Voter Roll Violations In 2020, 2022 Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), A citizens’ group called the Florida First Freedom Alliance (F3A) last week presented evidence to election officials and law enforcement officers that more than a thousand mail-in ballots were voted from undeliverable addresses in Orange County in the Aug. 23 primary election. The group also released evidence alleging that across the state serious irregularities occurred involving thousands of unrequested changes of addresses being recorded on voter registration rolls without the knowledge or consent of the affected voters. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis listens as Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody speaks during a press conference at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Aug. 18, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) A separate citizens’ group called the Lake County Election Integrity and Voter Protection Coalition (LCEIVPC) collected the data from public source information. F3A spokesperson Christopher Gleason, of Clearwater, told The Epoch Times, “Based on an analysis of the 2020 election and the data that we have thus far for the 2022 primary, we are seeing Supervisor of Elections Offices sending out envelopes with vote-by-mail ballots enclosed to mailing addresses that cannot receive these vote-by-mail ballots. “The resulting problem is that there are thousands of completely undeliverable vote-by-mail ballots that were later turned in to election officials as legitimately cast vote-by-mail ballots.” F3A has made available to election officials a spreadsheet containing the results of a computer crosscheck conducted by LCEIVPC of what Gleason calls “only a small sliver” of those who requested mail-in ballots in Orange County. Christopher Gleason, spokesperson for the Florida First Freedom Alliance. (Courtesy photo) The data allegedly reveals that almost 1,100 vote-by-mail ballots were sent to and cast from undeliverable addresses in that small sample alone. “This is what happens when dirty voter registration rolls result in massive numbers of undeliverable ballots,” Gleason told The Epoch Times. “The question is, who is voting them?” The Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office did not respond to a request for comment by press time. LCEIVPC spokesperson Kris Jurski told The Epoch Times in a recent phone interview: “There are thousands of people across Florida listed on the voter rolls whose address is flawed with either incomplete or inaccurate information—missing a digit in the zip code, an apartment complex with inaccurate, incomplete, apartment numbers, or none at all, and misspelled words. Small errors. But just enough to render a mail-in ballot undeliverable. “The whole game is to generate undeliverable ballots—a portion of which are somehow being obtained and voted by somebody else,” alleged Jurski. “And the volume of those undeliverable ballots also serves the purpose of muddying the waters, creating confusion, and overwhelming the system,” he said. After analyzing the July 2022 voter rolls, Jurski’s group informed Florida elections officials that in just one of the state’s 27 U.S. congressional districts (District 11) nearly 60,000 residential addresses were in need of updating and correction. The group found over 30,000 residential addresses that were designated by the United States Postal Service as undeliverable. Jurski stated there were thousands of address splits in which voters had their addresses temporarily altered in 2020 and that the practice continues today. “Performing the switch is how an unauthorized actor could get a person’s mail-in ballot without his or her knowledge. “This may be why there are so many obviously faulty addresses kept on voter registration rolls.” It may also explain the experience reported by many in-person voters who showed up at their polling places to vote on election day and were told by the election worker they had already voted, Jurski said. “Thousands of these ballots are being voted by someone—then just in time for the election, the addresses are electronically switched back, making the scheme all but undetectable by local election officials. “This is classic identity theft,” alleged Jurski. He explained that the voter’s name, ID number, house number (but not his street name), and all other information in his voting records remain the same on the registration rolls. He said the switches are done in low volume over a wide area of jurisdictions, and that there is less such activity during primaries because fewer votes are needed to impact the outcome of races than in general elections. “Many elections in Florida are decided by less than one percent or even by just a handful of votes, so the situation is very concerning,” he said. Jurski told The Epoch Times that a citizens’ canvass of 12th Street in the city of Clermont in Lake County, conducted on Aug. 27, just days after Florida’s Aug. 23 primary election, found residents completely unaware of a switch that was made to their voter registration records. Without their knowledge, request, or assent, all of the 12th Street voters surveyed had their addresses electronically changed to say Red Belly Road and then changed back again weeks later. “We obtained 37 sworn affidavits from the 37 people registered to vote on 12th Street attesting that they never requested a change of address. A voter information card issued to a resident of 12th Steet in Clermont, Fla. with an inaccurate Red Belly Road address. (Courtesy photo) “A married couple residing on 12th Street showed us two voter information cards displaying their names and inaccurately listing them as living on Red Belly Road,” Jurski said. Alan Hays, Supervisor of Elections in Lake County, told The Epoch Times in a Sept. 5 phone interview that he was aware of the 12th Street incident. Hays, a Republican, said he wants to assure people that every change on the Lake County voter rolls was made by “authorized personnel, either directly employed by Lake County or contracted with it. “We are not in violation of any law. We completely follow the letter of the law. “I don’t question the intent of the citizens’ groups. In fact, I share their desire for pure and clean elections.” Hays explained that the 12th Street changes (to Red Belly Road and back to 12th Street again) resulted from the United States Postal Service referring to the block as 12th Street, while the Lake County E-911 System calls the same thoroughfare Red Belly Road. “As we were in the process of making our precincts coincide with newly redrawn district lines, the consultant we employed used the E-911 designation of Red Belly Road instead of the name 12th Street. “Our office chose to use the E-911 Geo Point Data System for our redistricting work,” explained Hays. Greg Holcomb, the director of public safety support and 911 coordinator for Lake County, told The Epoch Times, “We have never referred to 12th Street in Clermont as Red Belly Road. It has never been named Red Belly Road. “There was a 12th Street in the Wekiva Falls RV Resort that was renamed Red Belly Road, but that was in Sorrento and has nothing to do with the 12th Street in Clermont. They are on opposite ends of Lake County.” United States Postal Service records show the communities have different zip codes. In all but the above-mentioned case of the married couple’s voter information cards, the Postal Service considered the block residents’ mail undeliverable if it bore the Red Belly Road address. According to Jurski, the long-time personal acquaintance between the couple and their mail carrier may have been a factor in their receiving the misaddressed envelopes containing the inaccurate voter information cards. In his letter to election officials, Gleason alleged that the existing safeguards provided by Florida law to prevent the misuse of mail-in ballots are being ignored by many county election supervisors. He pointed to Florida statute 101.6103, a law governing mail-in ballot procedure, which says in part, “Ballots shall be addressed to each elector at the address appearing in the registration records and placed in an envelope which is prominently marked Do Not Forward.” The F3A provided election authorities with screenshots of mail-in ballot envelopes that were sent out to voters that do not bear what they allege to be the statutorily required instruction “Do Not Forward.” Instead, the envelopes only say, “Return Service Requested.” “That is a clear violation of the plain language of the law,” alleged Gleason. “Specific words have specific meanings in the law and in postal regulations.” Gleason contends that the deficient labeling does not clearly and definitively inform apartment managers, RV park managers, or mailroom clerks handling other people’s mail that it should not be forwarded. As evidence of the problem, Gleason’s group provided authorities with a screenshot of a vote-by-mail ballot envelope that had been forwarded in Pinellas County. Similar evidence of such occurrences in other counties, such as Pasco, has also been sent along to election officials. Dustin Chase, the deputy supervisor of elections in Pinellas County, disagrees that the envelopes used by his office violate the statute. Chase told The Epoch Times in a phone interview, “From our perspective and that of our attorneys, we are conducting elections legally pursuant to all laws.” Chase described F3A as “a very sincere group of patriots that is dedicated to ensuring the integrity of our elections. We respect them.” However, Chase went on to state that the group is not understanding that the section of the Florida election law it cites applies only to “all-mail-in elections,” such as referendums, where no candidates or offices appear on the ballot and there is no in-person voting. Gleason contends that the plain statutory language governs the handling of mail-in ballots in all elections. Read more here... Tyler Durden Sat, 09/10/2022 - 19:30.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytSep 10th, 2022