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Leftist Groups Tapping $1 Billion To Vastly Expand The Private Financing Of Public Elections

Leftist Groups Tapping $1 Billion To Vastly Expand The Private Financing Of Public Elections

Authored by Steve Miller via RealClear Wire,




Leftist Groups Tapping $1 Billion To Vastly Expand The Private Financing Of Public Elections

Authored by Steve Miller via RealClear Wire,

Democrats and their progressive allies are vastly expanding their unprecedented efforts, begun in 2020, to use private money to influence and run public elections.  

Supported by groups with more than $1 billion at their disposal, according to public records, these partisan groups are working with state and local boards to influence functions that have long been the domain of government or political parties.  

Registering and turning out voters - once handled primarily by political parties – and design of election office websites and mail-in ballots are being handed over to those same nonprofits, which are staffed by progressive activists that include former Democratic Party advocates, organized labor adherents and community organizers. 

Republicans have opposed such efforts, passing legislation in 24 states since 2020 curbing the private financing of elections. But the GOP does not have a comparable, boots-on-the-ground effort to influence election boards and workers, and the private-funding bans haven’t proved absolute in some states.  

 “There is a cottage industry of 501c3s in public policy and in the political arena, trying to shape the future of immigration or education or any other topic,” said Kimberly Fiorello, a former Republican state representative in Connecticut. “Increasingly they are about elections, election administration, election technology, ballot design, and all with big funding. These groups seem innocuous, but they aren’t innocuous because they are funded by one political side.” 

Many of the progressive groups seeking to influence elections are connected to Arabella Advisors, a Washington-based, for-profit consulting company founded and led by Eric Kessler, a White House appointee during the Clinton administration.  

Arabella’s projects, which include the New Venture Fund, the Hopewell Fund, the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Secure Democracy USA, had combined revenues of $1.3 billion between 2020 and 2021, tax filings show.  Nonprofits supported by Arabella in 2020 gave out $529 million to “defend democracy.”  

That coincided with the rise of private-public election partnerships as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated an estimated $350 million to the progressive Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL) to support local efforts in the pandemic-challenged 2020 election.

The voting was marked by social-distancing rule changes encouraging early and mail balloting, imposing policies that Republicans seek to roll back to pre-pandemic rules. The grants of “Zuckerbucks”or "Zuckbucks," as they are referred to by conservative critics, were supposed to be nonpartisan, but research indicated they were disproportionately allocated to areas to boost Democratic voter turnout. 

Apart from legislative curbs on private financing of elections, Republicans so far have not shown any interest in countering their opponents' strategies. Scott Walter, president of the conservative Capital Research Center, told a Zoom audience of Greenwich, Conn., residents this month that 2020 was an outlier in the way voting was shaped by outside influences.   

“It was only in 2020 with the so-called ZuckBucks, and it wasn’t illegal because no one ever dreamt of having something like this,” Walter said. “There haven’t been any efforts by Republicans that we’re aware of to do anything like this anywhere.”  

In the past two years, Democratic interests have worked from several angles, pushing back against voter ID, and seeking same-day voter registration, prolonged early voting, and a wide expansion of mail-in voting.  

Among the endeavors:  

  • The training of election officials by CTCL and like-minded organizations promising “nonpartisan” learning opportunities. Such training used to be the primary domain of the Election Center, a 1,500-member trade group that includes election officials and administrators.   

  • CTCL efforts to generate favorable media coverage: setting up interviews between elections offices and media outlets, and placing op-eds in local newspapers, under the bylines of election officials, using a prewritten template lamenting the lack of public funding for elections.  (Stuart Baum, a CTCL staffer, wrote to Greenwich voting registrars in October: “A reporter from the Washington Post is interested in learning more about your experiences with your aging voting machines … specifically the unfortunate meltdowns that you've experienced with them.”)  

  • Sympathetic local officials alerting CTCL to public records requests for information regarding its work. A December information request from an attorney at the conservative Americans for Public Trust was sent to CTCL by Macoupin (Illinois) County Clerk Pete Duncan, noting "attached is a FOIA you may already be aware of, but I figured I would pass it along to you."  

  • Lobbying at the state and federal level. New Venture, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, and the Hopewell Fund spent a combined $6.8 million on lobbying Congress last year, according to Open Secrets. State lobbying records show New Venture, Hopewell, and Secure Democracy have lobbied in at least 41 states over the past five years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on issues including election reform.   

Lobbying operations provide a more even battlefield as the two parties and their allies have worked vigorously to propose and support new election laws across the country and oppose such measures from the other side. But Democrat efforts draw special concern from foes because they are connected to the same groups that claim they are providing nonpartisan training to election officials and seek to allow private money to flow more freely.   

In Georgia, the Hopewell Fund and Secure Democracy USA dispatched lobbyists to the Atlanta capitol building to water down a bill banning private funding of elections two weeks before its passage in March 2021.  They won a loophole that allowed DeKalb County in February to accept a $2 million grant from CTCL – this despite the law’s being drafted in part by Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.   

“Now it looks like some of these states will have to go back and amend their legislation to ensure things like DeKalb can’t happen,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America,  told RCI. Georgia lawmakers have moved to strengthen the law following the DeKalb County grant.   

In Utah, county clerks in Cache and Weber counties, while so far adhering to the state’s legislative ban on taking grants from outside private groups, have each paid $1,600 to be part of CTCL’s so-called voter integrity plan.  

CTCL says more memberships and grants are to be announced soon, “once membership paperwork is finalized,” according to emails obtained by RCI through a public records request.   

While Utah lawmakers last year passed a measure prohibiting elections offices from accepting private grants, “the way it’s written, I could technically take grant money if I wanted for certain activities, but I choose not to because I don’t want to push the envelope,” Ricky Hatch, Weber County clerk and a member of CTCL’s advisory board, said in a Zoom event earlier this year.   

Hatch did not respond to an interview request.   

CTCL's allies include the National Vote at Home Institute, the Center for Democracy, Voting Rights Lab, Rock the Vote, and the Center for Secure and Modern Elections. The groups over the past several years have worked with CTCL on symposiums and presentations to election officials across the U.S.   

The go-to for elections workshops and information has for decades been the Election Center, the national association of election officials, which holds numerous events each year. Now CTCL is among the presenters tentatively scheduled for an April event 

The Election Center’s spokeswoman and CEO of programs is CTCL board director Tammy Patrick, who is also a senior adviser to the elections division of the Democracy Fund.   

Patrick said in an email that election training “continues to evolve,” and that as technology changes, more training is needed.  

“Although [the] Election Center strives to meet every need our membership has, this is where our relationships with academic institutions, partner organizations and other government agencies plays a vital role in keeping election professionals current,” Patrick wrote.  

In related activity, the Biden administration has sought to stem state probes of possible voting malfeasance, sending both broad and specific warnings to states engaged in post-election studies that would potentially catch election malfeasance.  

A state audit in Texas found that a former Dallas city council member and convicted felon requested mail ballots for 393 individuals as the 2020 presidential election approached, and an RCI review of the ballot applications found that over 90% of those voters were Democrats.  

Teri Hodge, convicted in 2010 on tax fraud charges connected to her alleged role in a city hall bribery and extortion scheme, collected the mail-in ballot applications all over the city as she and several assistants, including Dallas County District Clerk Felicia Pitre, helped beef up the party’s voting base for the election by registering voters, signing up over 400 county residents to automatically receive mail-in ballots.  

“This was not illegal,” said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office.  

But the finding would normally lead to a further look into the accuracy of the applications and verification through calling the voters.   

As Taylor’s office sought to investigate further, it was thwarted by a directive from the U.S. Department of Justice issued in July 2021 that said contacting voters placed them in jeopardy of violating federal laws regarding voter intimidation.   

“There is DOJ guidance that says that talking to voters about things like this [how they applied to vote by mail] is potentially considered voter harassment or voter intimidation,” said Jacqueline Hagan Doyer, legal director of the Forensic Audit Division at the Texas Secretary of State’s office.   

Hodge, who also served on the elections committee as a state representative, could not be reached for comment.   

Since 2018, we’ve seen Democrats catch up with the Republican strategy of getting voters to vote,” said Paul Bentz, a political consultant in Arizona. Voter registration, early voting, and mail-in ballots are cornerstones of the strategy, he said.   

The Republican National Committee in 2021 announced its Election Integrity Committee, which produced a 24-page report several months later. The report insisted outside help for elections be prohibited, among other things, but the committee has done nothing since.  

“The RNC established an election integrity committee to examine how Democrats attack election integrity – and more importantly, to lay out a blueprint for protecting our elections from the far-left,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told the Washington Examiner after the report was released.  

Committee Chairman Joe Gruters did not respond to an interview request.   

Mac Warner, West Virginia’s Republican Secretary of State, told RCI that his party needs to become more aggressive in elections, using some of the same tactics as their opponents.  

When you’ve lost so many elections, you finally have to decide to fight fire with fire,” said Warner, who is a gubernatorial candidate for 2024. “You don’t win elections by not getting ballots out there. You can start playing by their rules and win an election. It’s time to go in another direction.”  

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/15/2023 - 20:20

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What Follows US Hegemony

What Follows US Hegemony

Authored by Vijay Prashad via,

On 24 February 2023, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a…



What Follows US Hegemony

Authored by Vijay Prashad via,

On 24 February 2023, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a twelve-point plan entitled ‘China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’.

This ‘peace plan’, as it has been called, is anchored in the concept of sovereignty, building upon the well-established principles of the United Nations Charter (1945) and the Ten Principles from the Bandung Conference of African and Asian states held in 1955. The plan was released two days after China’s senior diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow, where he met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s interest in the plan was confirmed by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov shortly after the visit: ‘Any attempt to produce a plan that would put the [Ukraine] conflict on a peace track deserves attention. We are considering the plan of our Chinese friends with great attention’.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the plan hours after it was made public, saying that he would like to meet China’s President Xi Jinping as soon as possible to discuss a potential peace process. France’s President Emmanuel Macron echoed this sentiment, saying that he would visit Beijing in early April. There are many interesting aspects of this plan, notably a call to end all hostilities near nuclear power plants and a pledge by China to help fund the reconstruction of Ukraine. But perhaps the most interesting feature is that a peace plan did not come from any country in the West, but from Beijing.

When I read ‘China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’, I was reminded of ‘On the Pulse of Morning’, a poem published by Maya Angelou in 1993, the rubble of the Soviet Union before us, the terrible bombardment of Iraq by the United States still producing aftershocks, the tremors felt in Afghanistan and Bosnia. The title of this newsletter, ‘Birth Again the Dream of Global Peace and Mutual Respect’, sits at the heart of the poem. Angelou wrote alongside the rocks and the trees, those who outlive humans and watch us destroy the world. Two sections of the poem bear repeating:

Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.

History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

History cannot be forgotten, but it need not be repeated. That is the message of Angelou’s poem and the message of the study we released last week, Eight Contradictions of the Imperialist ‘Rules-Based Order’.

In October 2022, Cuba’s Centre for International Policy Research (CIPI) held its 7th Conference on Strategic Studies, which studied the shifts taking place in international relations, with an emphasis on the declining power of the Western states and the emergence of a new confidence in the developing world. There is no doubt that the United States and its allies continue to exercise immense power over the world through military force and control over financial systems. But with the economic rise of several developing countries, with China at their head, a qualitative change can be felt on the world stage. An example of this trend is the ongoing dispute amongst the G20 countries, many of which have refused to line up against Moscow despite pressure by the United States and its European allies to firmly condemn Russia for the war in Ukraine. This change in the geopolitical atmosphere requires precise analysis based on the facts.

To that end, our latest dossier, Sovereignty, Dignity, and Regionalism in the New International Order (March 2023), produced in collaboration with CIPI, brings together some of the thinking about the emergence of a new global dispensation that will follow the period of US hegemony.

The text opens with a foreword by CIPI’s director, José R. Cabañas Rodríguez, who makes the point that the world is already at war, namely a war imposed on much of the world (including Cuba) by the United States and its allies through blockades and economic policies such as sanctions that strangle the possibilities for development. As Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said, coups these days ‘do not need tanks. They achieve the same result with banks’.

The US is attempting to maintain its position of ‘single master’ through an aggressive military and diplomatic push both in Ukraine and Taiwan, unconcerned about the great destabilisation this has inflicted upon the world. This approach was reflected in US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s admission that ‘We want to see Russia weakened’ and in US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s statement that ‘Ukraine today – it’s going to be Taiwan tomorrow’. It is a concern about this destabilisation and the declining fortunes of the West that has led most of the countries in the world to refuse to join efforts to isolate Russia.

As some of the larger developing countries, such as China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and South Africa, pivot away from reliance upon the United States and its Western allies, they have begun to discuss a new architecture for a new world order. What is quite clear is that most of these countries – despite great differences in the political traditions of their respective governments – now recognise that the United States ‘rules-based international order’ is no longer able to exercise the authority it once had. The actual movement of history shows that the world order is moving from one anchored by US hegemony to one that is far more regional in character. US policymakers, as part of their fearmongering, suggest that China wants to take over the world, along the grain of the ‘Thucydides Trap’ argument that when a new aspirant to hegemony appears on the scene, it tends to result in war between the emerging power and existing great power. However, this argument is not based on facts.

Rather than seek to generate additional poles of power – in the mould of the United States – and build a ‘multipolar’ world, developing countries are calling for a world order rooted in the UN Charter as well as strong regional trade and development systems. ‘This new internationalism can only be created – and a period of global Balkanisation avoided’, we write in our latest dossier, ‘by building upon a foundation of mutual respect and strength of regional trade systems, security organisations, and political formations’. Indicators of this new attitude are present in the discussions taking place in the Global South about the war in Ukraine and are reflected in the Chinese plan for peace.

Our dossier analyses at some length this moment of fragility for US power and its ‘rules-based international order’. We trace the revival of multilateralism and regionalism, which are key concepts of the emerging world order. The growth of regionalism is reflected in the creation of a host of vital regional bodies, from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), alongside increasing regional trade (with the BRICS bloc being a kind of ‘regionalism plus’ for our period). Meanwhile, the emphasis on returning to international institutions for global decision-making, as evidenced by the formation of the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter, for example, illustrates the reinvigorated desire for multilateralism.

The United States remains a powerful country, but it has not come to terms with the immense changes taking place in the world order. It must temper its belief in its ‘manifest destiny’ and recognise that it is nothing more than another country amongst the 193 members states of the United Nations. The great powers – including the United States – will either find ways to accommodate and cooperate for the common good, or they will all collapse together.

At the start of the pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged the countries of the world to be more collaborative and less confrontational, saying that ‘this is the time for solidarity, not stigma’ and repeating, in the years since, that nations must ‘work together across ideological divides to find common solutions to common problems’.

These wise words must be heeded.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/19/2023 - 23:30

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“True Stories… Could Fuel Hesitancy”: Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

"True Stories… Could Fuel Hesitancy": Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

Authored by Jonathan Turley,




"True Stories... Could Fuel Hesitancy": Stanford Project Worked To Censor Even True Stories On Social Media

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

While lost in the explosive news about Donald Trump’s expected arrest, journalist Matt Taibbi released new details on previously undisclosed censorship efforts on social media. The latest Twitter Files revealed a breathtaking effort from Stanford’s Virality Project to censor even true stories. After all, the project insisted “true stories … could fuel hesitancy” over taking the vaccine or other measures. The effort included suppressing stories that we now know are legitimate such as natural immunity defenses, the exaggerated value of masks, and questions over vaccine efficacy in preventing second illnesses. The work of the Virality Project to censor even true stories should result in the severance of any connection with Stanford University.

We have learned of an ever-expanding coalition of groups working with the government and social media to target and censor Americans, including government-funded organizations.

However, the new files are chilling in the details allegedly showing how the Virality Project labeled even true stories as “anti-vaccine” and, therefore, subject to censorship. These files would suggest that the Project eagerly worked to limit free speech and suppress alternative scientific viewpoints.

Taibbi describes the Virality Project as “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billions of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs.”

He added: “We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content. At least six major Internet platforms were ‘onboarded’ to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.”

According to Taibbi, it targeted anyone who did not robotically fall in line with the CDC and media narratives, including targeting postings that shared “Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway,” research on “natural immunity,” suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab,” and even “worrisome jokes.”

That included evidence that it “knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself.”

The Virality Project warned Twitter that “true stories … could fuel hesitancy,” including stories on “celebrity deaths after vaccine” and the closure of a central New York school due to reports of post-vaccine illness.

The Project is part of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford and bills itself as “a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Stanford Law School, connects academia, the legal and tech industry and civil society with policymakers around the country to address the most pressing cyber policy concerns.”

The Center launched the Project as a “a global study aimed at understanding the disinformation dynamics specific to the COVID-19 crisis.”

As with many disinformation projects, it became a source of its own disinformation in the effort to suppress alternative views.

It is being funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Hewlett Foundation.

On its website, it proclaims: “At the Stanford Internet Observatory our mission is to study the misuse of the internet to cause harm, and to help create policy and technical mitigations to those harms.” It defines its mission to maintain the truth as it sees it:

“The global COVID-19 crisis has significantly shifted the landscape for mis- and disinformation as the pandemic has become the primary concern of almost every nation on the planet. This has perhaps never happened before; few topics have commanded and sustained attention at a global level simultaneously, or provided such a wealth of opportunities for governments, economically motivated actors, and domestic activists alike to spread malign narratives in service to their interests.”

What is even more disconcerting is that groups like the Virality Project worked against public health by suppressing such stories that are now considered legitimate from the efficacy of masks to the lab origin theory. It was declaring dissenting scientific views to be dangerous disinformation. Nothing could be more inimical to the academic mission. Yet, Stanford still heralds the work of the Project on its website.

There is nothing more inherently in conflict with academic values than censorship. Stanford’s association with this censorship effort is disgraceful and should be a matter for faculty action. This is a project that sought to censor true stories that undermined government or media narratives.

I am not hopeful that Stanford will sever its connection to the Project.  Censorship is now the rage on campuses and the Project is the perfect embodiment of this movement. Cloaking censorship efforts in self-righteous rhetoric, the Project sought to silence those who failed to adhere to a certain orthodoxy, including scientific and public health claims that were later found flawed or wrong. The Project itself is an example of what it called “media and social media capabilities – overt and covert – to spread particular narratives.”

Stanford should fulfill its pledge in creating the Virality Project in fighting disinformation by eliminating the Virality Project.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/19/2023 - 17:55

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Royal Caribbean Officially Makes Controversial Change

The cruise line has made a controversial change that some passengers will love while others will be angry.



The cruise line has made a controversial change that some passengers will love while others will be angry.

During the early days of the cruise industry's comeback from the covid pandemic, Royal Caribbean outlawed smoking in the casino. At the time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) required passengers to wear masks in public areas of the ship except when eating or drinking while stationary.

Smoking was, at first, a sort of loophole. People would smoke in the casino and remove their masks (or at least move them to the side) while playing slot machines. That basically meant that unlike drinking, where your mask could be moved and then replaced for a sip, smokers were essentially not wearing a mask.

DON'T MISS: Carnival Cruise Line Comments on a Possible (Very) Adult Change

Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Free Report closed that loop by fully outlawing smoking in its casinos while masks were still required. That was something that smokers weren't happy about, but probably understood given how large a role the CDC was playing in setting cruise ship rules.

Once the CDC stopped requiring masks (and regulating cruise ships at all), Royal Caribbean reverted to its pre-pandemic smoking policies. That meant that every casino on its ships had a smoking section. Technically, smoking is only allowed when actually playing a slot machine, but that's hard to enforce and the casinos quickly filled back up with smoke.

Now, the cruise line has officially made a long-rumored move that should make non-smokers really happy while angering a whole different group of the cruise line's passengers.

Image source: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Oasis-Class Ships Getting Non-Smoking Area

Wonder of the Seas, the newest member of Royal Caribbean's Oasis class was originally built to sail out of China. It was moved to Florida due to the covid pandemic which created a sort of happy accident for non-smokers.

The ship was built with a secondary casino that was originally intended as a high rollers room. Once the ship was repurposed to sail from the United States, that smaller casino was shifted from an area designed to cater to big-money players into a non-smoking casino.

For months, it has been rumored that the cruise line would turn the "Jazz on 4" space -- the same location as the non-smoking "Golden Roon" on Wonder of the Seas -- into similar non-smoking casinos. Royal Caribbean never commented on those rumors, but it did warn passengers on some sailings that service in the Diamond Lounge, an area next to Jazz on 4 reserved for Diamond and higher members of the company's loyalty program, would be disrupted due to construction.

The results of that construction have been revealed on another Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas. Johnny Travalor shared pictures of the new casino in a Facebook group for fans of Royal Caribbean's casinos.

"The brand new non-smoking casino on Harmony officially opened today and I have been here since the opening playing, donating!" he shared.

That's not official confirmation that all Oasis-class ships will have Jazz on 4 turned into a non-smoking casino, but all signs point in that direction.

Royal Caribbean Makes Some Passengers Mad

No change on a cruise ship will make all passengers happy. Some Royal Caribbean gamblers have suggested that the non-smoking area, which is much smaller than the original casino, should be the smoking area.

"Maybe once they see the non-smokers are bursting at the seam in that space and the smoking casino isn’t as crowded they will reverse it," Barb Boyer Green shared.

"That should be the smoking room...seems like the non-smokers are being put in a closet," Maureen Ethier added.

Not all passengers, however, are upset because of the size of the non-smoking area. Some are lamenting the loss of Jazz on 4, which hosted live jazz music.

"I think this is an overall loss, with now an entertainment area being taken over on this ship. I always enjoyed the jazz club and this will do nothing for the smell of the ship, net loss for all passengers" Justin Rogers wrote.

"It was our fav such a sad day. It was our escape, great talent, romantic, not another venue like it. Such a shame," added Julia Doumad.

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