Friday, September 30, 2016

WI DMV Gives Wrong Information on Voter ID

Wisconsin State officials told a Judge last week they had trained workers to make sure people could easily get IDs for voting, but an audio recording was released Thursday of Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employees telling a man he couldn’t get one quickly because he didn’t have a Birth Certificate with him.

“You don’t get anything right away,” one DMV employee said on the recording.

How Voter IDs are handled is “up in the air right now,” said another.

The recordings were made Sept. 22, the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed Court documents stating DMV “field staff are now trained to ensure that anyone who fills out these forms will receive a Photo ID, mailed to them within six days of their application,” even if they don’t have a Birth Certificate.

The Nation first reported on the recording, which was made by Molly McGrath, the National Campaign Coordinator with VoteRiders, a group helping people get Voter IDs.

Under Wisconsin law, the DMV should’ve given Moore a credential he could use for voting within six business days. But that never happened. They told him to “drive down there, to Illinois, and get a birth certificate and come back.” That would cost Moore money he didn’t have. If he entered what the State calls the ID Petition Process (IDPP), it would take six to eight weeks for him to get a Voter ID and he most likely wouldn’t be able to vote by Election Day.

Nine percent of registered voters in Wisconsin don’t have a valid Voter ID and many are still struggling to get the documents they need to vote in November. It appears that Wisconsin is violating multiple Court orders by not promptly giving eligible citizens free Photo IDs or Certificates for voting. This is particularly concerning, since early voting began this week in cities like Madison and Milwaukee and thousands of Wisconsinites are casting ballots.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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CA Takes Major Step Toward Citizen-Funded Elections

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Legislation to give citizens a greater voice in California’s Democracy. With the U.S. Congress gridlocked, California is leading a wave of Pro-Democratic Reforms passed at the State and Local level across the Country. Senate Bill 1107, by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, gives Local Governments and the State the choice to enact Citizen-Funded Election programs. California Common Cause sponsored the bill with the California Clean Money Campaign.

“More than anything else that will happen this year, the California legislature is affirming that voters are serious about democracy reform, and politicians are going to have to listen,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause President. Hobert Flynn led the fight for Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program which is now in its fifth election cycle and enjoys broad public support and 74% candidate participation. “By lifting the ban on commonsense laws that ensure free speech isn’t something afforded only to a wealthy few, California ensures every voter has a say in their family’s future,” Hobert Flynn added.

“California’s leaders are hearing from voters who are fed up with playing second fiddle to wealthy special interests,” stated Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “This bill gives Californians new options to amplify the voices of everyday voters in election campaigns.”

In the wake of this Clean Elections victory, citizens will go to the polls on Election Day to vote on Citizen-funded Election proposals in Berkeley, CA, Portland, OR, Washington State and South Dakota. Momentum continues to build around the Country where voters and Elected officials continue to pass democratic reforms at the State and Local level.

The California bill allows Local Governments or the State to enact Citizen-Funded Elections programs, which give candidates an alternative to relying on wealthy donors. Programs could offer public funding to candidates, as long as any funds are available to all qualified, voluntarily participating candidates for the same office without regard to incumbency or political party preference. Six Charter cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have such programs, but current State law bans Counties, Districts, General Law cities, and the State from enacting them.

The bill passed with a bipartisan two-thirds vote in the Legislature and was endorsed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, numerous Local Governments and Elected officials, and more than 30 organizations, including California Common Cause, California Clean Money Campaign the ACLU of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice–California CALPIRG, the California Labor Federation, the California League of Conservation Voters, the Campaign Legal Center, and the League of Women Voters of California.

“This legislation will enable citizen-funded elections to take root across the state and allow elected officials to concentrate on representing their constituents instead of worrying constantly about raising money or living in fear of offending deep-pocketed special interests,” said Flynn. “Citizen-funded elections return democracy to the people by limiting the ability of the very richest in our society to buy undue influence.”

On the Federal level a coalition of Reform groups and citizens across the country urging House and Senate candidates to answer a detailed “Who Will Fight Big Money?” questionnaire so voters can make informed choices when selecting the next Congress.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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More CA Voters Could Use Mail to Vote Under New Law

California voters may be asked to cast more of their ballots by mail as soon as 2018 under a sweeping law signed Thursday, one that would eliminate thousands of neighborhood polling places.

“We're trying to make it easier for people to participate, given the complexities of modern life,” said State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the author of Senate Bill 450.

Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on Senate Bill 450 sets in motion a major remodeling of the State's Election operations, inspired by a similar system in Colorado. Counties that opt to implement the new system will open Community "vote centers" in the weeks before Election day that offer last-minute registration and limited in-person voting.

Those counties will also have more places to drop off completed ballots.

“This landmark law will provide voters more options for when, where, and how they cast a ballot," said Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a written statement.

But the move away from polling places came as a surprise to Californians who have spent decades voting in their neighborhoods. A report released two weeks ago by UC Davis' California Civic Engagement Project found the "vote center" model raised fears with some African Americans about voter suppression and voting access.

Supporters of the new law say voter education efforts will be key to making it work.

The changes to Election operations will come in two stages: 14 Counties will be able to move toward less in-person voting in 2018, and the remaining Counties will be allowed to opt in to the new system in 2020. Counties that implement the new system will have to mail ballots to all registered voters, though Los Angeles County will not have to do so until 2024.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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CA Removing All Limits On Who Can Drop Off Your Ballot on Election Day

Californians will be able to legally hand off their sealed ballot to anyone to mail or deliver in person under a new law signed Thursday.

Assembly Bill 1921, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), removes language in State Election law that limits the delivery of a voter's ballot to close family or household members.

It also repeals, starting in Local Elections in 2017 and the next Statewide Election in 2018, the current ban on a volunteer campaign worker from gathering as many ballots as possible from voters for delivery to Elections officials. The only restriction is that a Campaign official cannot be paid to gather and deliver ballots.

While other states also have more liberal laws on who can deliver a voter's ballot, those states usually place a limit on how many ballots can be delivered by a single person. The law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown places no such restrictions.

Supporters of the new law said that limits on who could deliver a voter's ballot were an unnecessary obstacle in an era when millions more Californians are choosing to cast their ballots by mail.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Trump Foundation Lacks Certification Required for Charities that Solicit Money

Donald Trump’s Charitable Foundation, which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family, has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the State Attorney General’s office.

Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Trump’s must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks, among other things, whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers.

If New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) finds that Trump’s Foundation raised money in violation of the law, he could order the charity to stop raising money immediately. With a Court’s permission, Schneiderman could also force Trump to return money that his foundation has already raised.

Schneiderman had previously launched an investigation of the Foundation in the wake of reports by The Washington Post that Trump used his charity’s money to make a political gift, to buy paintings of himself and to settle legal disputes involving his for-profit businesses.

Tax filings show that in each of the past 10 years for which there are records, the Trump Foundation raised more than $25,000 from outsiders. Tax records alone do not reveal whether the donations amounted to solicitations under New York law, but in several cases there is strong evidence that they did.

For instance, the Foundation has received more than $2.3 million from companies that owed money to Trump or one of his businesses, but that were instructed to pay the Foundation instead, according to people familiar with those transactions.

In the most obvious example of a public solicitation, the Trump Foundation set up a website early this year to collect small-dollar donations that it promised to pass along to veterans. In all, the website said, the Trump Foundation took in $1.67 million through that site.

But, as of this week, the Trump Foundation had not obtained the State registration required to ask for donations, according to a spokesman for Schneiderman.

Experts on charity law said they were surprised that Trump’s Foundation, given its connections to a wealthy man and his complex corporation, did not register to solicit funds.

“He’s a billionaire who acts like a thousandaire,” said James J. Fishman, a Professor at Pace University’s Law school in White Plains, N.Y. He said Trump’s Foundation seemed to have made errors, including the lack of proper registration, that were more common among very small family foundations. “You wouldn’t expect somebody who’s supposed to be sophisticated, and brags about his business prowess, would run his foundation like this,” Fishman said.

The Trump Foundation was established by Trump in 1987 to give away the proceeds of his book “The Art of the Deal.” Trump is still the Foundation’s President. For many years, Trump was the Foundation’s sole donor: He gave a total of $5.4 million between 1987 and 2006.

Under State law, the Foundation during that period was required to have only the ­least-demanding kind of certification, referred to as “EPTL,” because it is governed by the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law. Under that registration, the Trump Foundation filed annual reports with the Internal Revenue Service and the State. But the State did not require an independent audit to ensure that the charity was handling its funds properly. But starting in the early 2000s, Trump’s Foundation began to change. It began to take in donations from other people.

At first, it happened a little bit at a time. In 2004 an autograph seeker sent $25 to Trump Tower, along with a book he wanted Trump to sign. The book came back signed. The money was deposited in the Trump Foundation. Then, the gifts began to get larger.

In 2005, Trump’s wife, Melania, was named “Godmother” of a new ship launched by Norwegian Cruise Lines. As part of its agreement with Melania Trump, the cruise lines said, it gave $100,000 to the Trump Foundation. The Trump campaign has not responded to requests for comment on the gift.

In the meantime, Trump himself drastically reduced his gifts. After 2008, tax records show he stopped giving altogether. Since then, according to tax records, the Trump Foundation has received all of its incoming money, more than $4.3 million, from other donors.

Under State law, charities that solicit donations from others in New York must register under a different law, called “7A” for its article heading. In this 2014 paperwork, filed with New York State’s Attorney General, Donald Trump’s Charitable Foundation did not register as a “7A” charity.

In that law, the definitions of “solicit” and “in New York” are both broad. Solicit means “to directly or indirectly make a request for a contribution, whether express or implied, through any medium.” The requirement covers any solicitation that happened in New York or involved a donor who was in New York when somebody called them and asked.

“The only thing it wouldn’t cover is somebody giving money without being asked,” said Pamela Mann, a former Head of the New York State Charities Bureau, who is now in private practice at Carter Ledyard & Milburn. “The law says that soliciting from the public in New York, without being registered to do so, is an illegal act.”

The Trump Foundation has received more than $25,000 from people other than Trump in all of the past 10 years shown in tax records. In some cases, the donors have declined to comment, so it is not clear whether the donations were actually solicited and, if so, whether the solicitation happened in New York. Trump used $258,00 from his charity to settle legal problems.

But, in several cases, The Post’s reporting has indicated that the Trump Foundation or Trump himself did help bring in the money. In 2011, for instance, Trump was the star of a televised “roast” on Comedy Central in New York. He directed his $400,000 appearance fee to the Donald J. Trump Foundation, according to a Trump Campaign staffer. Between 2011 and 2014, the Trump Foundation also received nearly $1.9 million from a New York businessman named Richard Ebers, who sells high-end tickets and one-of-a-kind experiences to wealthy clients.

Two people familiar with those transactions told The Post that Ebers bought tickets and other goods and services from Trump, and was instructed, by Trump or someone at his company, to pay the Trump Foundation instead. Trump’s Campaign has neither confirmed nor denied The Post’s reporting about the nature of the donations from Ebers. Ebers has declined to comment.

Then, this year, Trump skipped a Republican Primary debate in Iowa and instead held a televised fundraiser for veterans’ causes. As part of that effort, he set up a website,, which took donations via credit card and sent them to the Donald J. Trump Foundation. “Over 1,670,000 raised online,” said the thank-you message from the Trump Foundation, after The Post made a $10 donation in March.

The most important consequence of not registering under the more rigorous “7A” level was that the Trump Foundation was not required by the State to submit to an annual audit by outside accountants. In such an audit, Charity-Law experts said, the accountants might have checked the Trump Foundation’s books, comparing its records with its outgoing checks, and asking whether the Foundation had engaged in any transactions that benefited Trump or his busi­nesses.

In recent years, The Post has reported, Trump’s foundation does appear to have violated tax laws in several instances. In 2013, it gave a donation to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), despite a ban on nonprofit groups making political gifts. The Trump Foundation then filed an incorrect tax filing, which omitted any mention of that gift, and said incorrectly that the money had gone to a charity in Kansas. Trump paid a $2,500 penalty tax for that political gift this year.

In two other instances, Trump’s Foundation has made payments which appeared to help settle legal disputes involving Trump’s for-profit businesses. In 2007, Trump’s foundation paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit involving his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. And in 2012, the Foundation paid $158,000 to the charity of a New York man named Martin Greenberg on the day that Greenberg settled a lawsuit against one of Trump’s golf courses.

Those two cases are under investigation by Schneiderman. Just this week, his office requested that a Florida attorney provide a copy of the Foundation check that Trump had sent to settle the Mar-a-Lago case.

Trump’s son Eric has his own foundation, also headquartered in New York, which raises money from the public through an annual golf tournament. Unlike his father’s charity, however, the Eric Trump Foundation has registered to solicit funds in the State and files an annual audit report. The two Trump Foundations share an accountant, Donald Bender of the firm WeiserMazars. A spokeswoman for the firm declined to comment on Thursday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saudi 9/11 Law Could Have Unintended Ramifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Donald J. Trump Foundation has no paid employees.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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