Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Trump Scottish Golf Resorts Problems

Trump has inflating his Scottish Golf Resorts’ Value By $165 Million, per UK Filings. But the President told British Authorities the Properties are a Combined $65 Million in the Red. His U.S. Disclosures say they’re Worth at least $100 Million.

President Trump having filed Financial Disclosure Statements that appear to Misstate the Value and Profitability of his Scotland Golf Courses by $165 Million, is a Possibly Violating Federal Laws that are Punishable by Jail Time.

Trump claimed in his 2018 U.S. Filing that his Turnberry and Aberdeen Resorts were each worth more than $50 Million. For that same time period, he Filed Balance Sheets with the United Kingdom Government showing that their combined Debt Exceeded their Assets by 47.9 Million British Pounds, the equivalent of $64.8 Million at the Exchange Rate on Dec. 31st, 2017, the Date of the last U.K. Filing available.

His 2018 “Public Financial Disclosure” Filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) also Claims those Two Resorts earned him “Income” of $23.8 Million. His Filings with the U.K. Companies House Office in Edinburgh for that period showed the Resorts had Lost 4.6 Million Pounds, Equal to $6.3 Million.

His U.S. Disclosure Statement also Fails to mention $199.5 Million in Loans Trump has made to those Resorts: $54.9 Million from him Personally to Trump International, Scotland in Aberdeenshire; $144.6 Million from his Trust to Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire.

Knowingly providing False or Incomplete information on that Form is a Violation of the Ethics in Government Act Punishable by up to a Year in Jail. Signing the Form attesting to the Untrue Information Constitutes making a False Statement, Punishable by up to Five Years in Prison.

“The numbers don’t appear to add up,” said Virginia Canter, an Ethics Law Expert with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She added, though, that OGE Regulations give Filers a Fair amount of Latitude in determining Asset Value. “That said, it’s not at all clear after reviewing the U.K. balance sheet for Aberdeen how they came to $50 million. … I think it raises legitimate questions.”

The False and Missing Information on his 2018 Filing has been False and Missing on Trump’s Forms repeatedly, since before he even took Office.

On May 16th, 2016, for example, then-Candidate Trump also Claimed on his Financial Disclosure Forms that the Two Scotland Resorts were worth more than $100 Million, even though he Filed Papers with Companies House on Dec. 31st, 2015, acknowledging that the Courses had a Combined value of Negative $32.1 Million.

U.S. Filings also included Erroneous Information regarding Trump’s Doonbeg Resort in Ireland, which similarly Requires Annual Disclosures from Privately held Companies. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, Trump told the Irish Government that the Course had Lost Millions of Dollars, $7.2 Million in all. In that Same period, Trump Claimed on his American Financial Disclosures that the Course had provided him Tens of Millions of Dollars in Income, totaling $37.4 Million.

Trump’s Golf Courses in Scotland and Ireland offer Unique Insights into the State of Trump’s Businesses because they are Required to Submit Detailed Financial Documents Annually, even though they are Privately held. In the U.S., where the Vast Majority of Trump’s Businesses are located, there is No such Disclosure Requirement, meaning there is No straightforward way of determining whether Trump has similarly Misstated the Asset Value and Profitability of his U.S. Properties.

Americans would have a Clearer understanding of the Actual Financial Health of Trump’s Businesses had he kept his Initial Promise to Release his Tax Returns if he ran for President. But Trump Reneged on that Pledge almost Immediately after entering the Race. At First he Claimed he would Release the Returns after “Routine Audits” had been Completed, before eventually arguing that Americans had Voted for him anyway and that they were Not Interested in seeing his Taxes. In doing so, he became the First Major-Party Nominee since Watergate to Fail to Disclose his Returns.

Trump’s supposed Great Wealth was a Major Selling Point for him during his Campaign in the Republican Primaries. Weeks after entering the Race in June 2015, Trump Declared in a Press Release that his Net Worth was “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.” In a recent Speech, he Claimed the Presidency was forcing him to Lose Billions: “It’s probably costing me from three to five billion,” he told Workers at a Petrochemical Plant in Western Pennsylvania last week. “I don’t care. I want to do the right job.”

In the 2005 book TrumpNation, Business Journalist Timothy L. O’Brien wrote that Trump was most likely Worth No more than $250 Million, not the many Billions of Dollars he was Claiming at the time. Trump Sued him for Defamation, Lost, and in the Process Lied Dozens of Times about his Business Dealings in a Deposition taken by O’Brien’s Lawyers.

In 2015, National Journal found that Trump had made so many Poor Business Decisions over the years that had he simply taken the Fortune his Father gave him in 1974 and put it into a Broad Index Fund, he would have been far Wealthier than now.

The Disclosures in Europe saved him Taxes and in the U.S. gave him Bigger Bank Loans with Inflated Collateral Values.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

U.S. Energy Storage Market Sees Large Growth

The U.S. Energy Storage Market set a Growth Record in Q1 2019, deploying 148.8 MW, a 232% Increase from Q1 2018, and a 6% Jump from Q4 2018, according to the latest Wood Mackenzie U.S. Energy Storage Monitor.

Behind-the-Meter Storage made up 46% of Q1 2019 Deployments, Representing a 138% Growth from Q1 Last Year and a 36% Increase from the Fourth Quarter of 2018.

Meanwhile, Front-of-the-Meter Deployments Dropped 10% from Last Quarter, but still Quintupled their Growth from Q1 last year.

California led in Residential and Non-Residential Storage Market Growth, but Arizona, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, Dominated Front-of-the-Meter Capacity.

Deployments are expected to Surpass 4.5 GW by 2024, largely driven by Utility Procurement and Growing Awareness of the Technology's Benefits to the Grid, according to WoodMac.

Analysts predicted at the End of 2018 that Utility Solicitations of Storage as well as State Legislative Targets would drive the Resource's Growth in 2019. As the Economics of Storage and Renewables Improve, more Utilities are including those Pairings in their Integrated Resource Plans and more State Legislatures are looking at how to best Incentivize Battery Storage.

Looking at Q2 2019, the Report notes Progress has largely been made through Utility efforts to include the Resource, on its Own and Paired with Renewables.

In Q2, Southern California Edison announced Seven Contracts for 195 MW of Energy Storage, Green Mountain Power's 2018 Integrated Resource Plan included a Goal of Adding 50 MW to 100 MW of Storage in the Next Decade and Florida Power and Light Announced a 409 MW Solar-Plus-Storage Project.

Meanwhile, Utilities such as Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, Hawaiian Electric Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, are either actively Seeking Storage Solicitations or have included it as an Option for Bidders.

But as the Market continues to Grow, anticipated to reach $4.8 Billion in value by 2024, State Lawmakers and Regulators are also making it a Priority in Energy Policy:

Arkansas - The State's Public Service Commission filed Comments on Aggregating Distributed Energy Resources in the Wholesale Market.

Colorado - The Sunset Public Utilities Commission Bill, Signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D), directs the PUC to Study the Value of Adding Distributed Resources to the Grid, including Battery Storage.

Maryland - The State Passed an Energy Storage Pilot Program, which requires Maryland's Four Investor-owned Utilities to Solicit Two Energy Storage Projects each.

Minnesota - Energy Storage Bills Passed in the State would require Utilities to consider: Battery Storage as a Resource in their Future IRPs; Direct the Minnesota Department of Commerce to Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis on the Value of Storage to the Grid; and Help Utilities Recover Costs from Pilot Projects related to Storage.

New Hampshire - Introduced a Bill that would Establish a Storage Capacity Target to Reduce Peak Demand 2% below 2018 Levels.

New York - The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority allocated $280 Million for Energy Storage Projects under its Market Acceleration Bridge Incentive Program.

Texas - A Bill in the State's Legislature would allow for Distribution Utilities to enter into Third Party Contracts for Storage with a 40 MW Cap per Utility.

Washington - The State's Legislature Passed a Bill in April that Calls for Utilities, in their Planning Processes, to follow a Number of Guidelines to Better Prepare for a more Distributed Grid.

Two Congressional Bills were Introduced in Q2 that would Expand Investment Tax Credit Eligibility to Standalone Storage Facilities and the Trump Administration's Fiscal year 2020 Budget Proposed Two Initiatives that would Allocate $163 Million toward Research and Development on the Resource.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Trump's Administration Rewriting Rules for Freedom of Information Requests

The Trump Administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is trying to Rewrite the Rules on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in order to keep Pollution and Corruption Hidden from the Public.

The key is what’s called a “No Records” Response, which allows Political Appointees like Andrew Wheeler, the 15th Administrator of the EPA, and David Bernhardt, 53rd United States Secretary of the Interior, to decide what Information is Released to the Public.

But a Bipartisan Group of Senators has introduced the Open and Responsive Government Act of 2019 (S.2220) to Safeguard FOIA Requests and Ensure the Public’s Right to Information.

Trump has Packed his Administration with Climate Deniers and Fossil Fuel Lobbyists. But the only reason we know about his Plans to Hand over Public Lands to Frackers, or Roll Back the Endangered Species Act, or Purged Climate Science from Public Websites, and Fired the Scientists responsible, is because of FOIA Requests by Environmental Groups and Journalists.

You might remember that FOIA Requests played a significant role in the Downfall of Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, bringing to light his Sweetheart Condo Deal, his love of First Class Travel, his use of Body Guards to buy him Expensive Hand Lotion, and more.

Trump and his Cronies obviously want to get Rid of FOIA. But now the Supreme Court, with Two New Trump Justices installed for Life, has Overturned more than 40 years of FOIA Precedent in Ruling in Favor of Corporate Secrecy over the Public’s Right to Know.

Since that Supreme Court Decision, it’s been a race to the bottom for Trump’s Cabinet. Following on the Heels of a Terrible EPA Proposal to Hide Science from Public View, the Department of Interior has reportedly Consulted with the FBI on how to Investigate Investigative Reporters and Restrict our Rights to Information to an Arbitrary Page Count.

CLICK HERE to Sign a Petition and become a Grass-Roots Co-Sponsor of S.2220.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

DNC Rules Could Expand Not Shrink for Future Debate Stage Update Update

Democratic Presidential hopefuls at Risk of being elbowed Out by the Debate Rules may have gotten a Last-Minute Reprieve.

The Deadline to Qualify for the September Debate is Aug. 28th, just a little over Three weeks away.

To reach the Stage, Candidates have to Poll at 2% in Four Democratic National Committee-Approved Surveys and have 130,000 Unique Donors.

That’s a Bar the Majority of the Field has Not hit and Isn’t on Track to do so.

But a DNC Memo sent to All the Campaigns on Monday essentially gives those Candidates who Miss the September Debate more Time to Qualify for the October Debate, which could very well feature more Candidates, not Fewer.

The DNC Memo sets the Deadline to reach 130,000 Donors and Score at 2% in Four Polls at Two Weeks before the October Debate and Starts the Qualification Period on June 28th, the Same day Qualification for the September Debate began.

Effectively, this means All Candidates who Qualify for the September Debate are Automatically in the October Debate, unless they Drop Out of the Race.

And any Candidate who Misses the September Debate has more Time to Receive New Donations or Score 2% in the Polls.

No Date was given for the Fourth Debate in the Memo, but even an Early October Date would add about Three Weeks to the Qualification Period Ending in late August.

Extending the September Criteria to the October Debate instead of Setting New Parameters could allow struggling Candidates who Missed the First Fall Debate to Stay in the Race for an Extra few weeks to try to make it Onstage in latter Fall Debate.

Just Ten Candidates have Qualified for the Two Fall Debates: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Juli├ín Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang .

Three other Candidates: Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tom Steyer, is getting closer to Qualify for Both Debates.

Tulsi Gabbard has Crossed the Donor Threshold but still needs to get 2% in Three more Polls.

Kirsten Gillibrand needs about 30,000 more Donors as well as Three more 2% Qualifying Polls.

Tom Steyer has Three 2% Qualifying Polls and needs an One more. He has passed the 130,000 Donors.

But the October Deadline should be welcome News for Castro, Gabbard, and Steyer, and the Rest of the Candidates who aren't Close to Qualifying. Any Progress they Bank toward Qualifying for the September Debate carries over to the October Debate.

This was also the Case for the First Set of Debates over the summer.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Secured his Spot on the Stage for the Second Debate.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel has Dropped-Out.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15th District) Dropped-Out of the Race.

On August 15th, Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Dropped-Out of the Race and is deciding if he will run for Colorado Senate.

Candidates are Acutely Aware of the Importance of getting a National Audience from the Debates.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Civil Rights Groups Sue TN Over New Law that Puts Voter Registration Drives at Risk

Civil Rights Groups Sued Tennessee over a Controversial New Law that will subject Voter Registration Groups to potential Fines and Criminal Penalties, saying the Measure is Unconstitutional, Vague, and will Intimidate People from Helping others sign up to Vote.

The Lawsuit was Filed the same day Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) Signed the Law, which is set to take effect Oct. 1st. It will allow Officials to:

- Penalize Paid Voter Registration Drives that turn in 100 or More Incomplete Applications with Fines of $150 to $2,000.

- If 500 or More Deficient Voter Registration Applications are Submitted, the Groups could be Fined up to $10,000.

- The Law also Mandates that Voter Registration Drives turn in Applications within 10 days of Collecting them.

- It requires Paid Voter Registration Drives to Register with the State and to put a Disclaimer on any Public Voter Registration Material that it is Not Endorsed by the Tennessee Secretary of State.

- Anyone who knowingly Violates those Provisions could be Subject to a Class A Misdemeanor, Punishable in Tennessee with up to nearly a Year in Prison, a $2,500 Fine, or Both.

Those Provisions will Stifle the Work of Groups across Tennessee who Register Voters, Lawyers wrote in a the Complaint filed in Federal District Court in Nashville. The Law is not Clear on what exactly Constitutes an Incomplete Application and what kind of Communications require a Disclaimer, they say. That Vagueness will Hurt Voter Registration Groups because they won’t be able to Know for Certain what is Permissible. Lawmakers also Subjected only Paid Voter Registration Workers to the Bill, Exempting volunteers without giving a Reason for doing so.

Voting Rights Activists say a New Voter Registration Law is intended to make it Harder to Vote in Reaction to a Surge of Voter Registration Applications last year. Opponents Protested the Bill in the State House on April 15th in Nashville.

“Because of their vagueness, overbreadth, and undue burden, these provisions will chill Plaintiffs’ voter registration efforts, which have focused on traditionally disenfranchised communities — African-Americans and other minorities, college students, and low-income voters,” the Complaint says. The Pending Law, Lawyers say, Violates the 14th Amendment’s Guarantee of Due Process and the First Amendment’s Guarantee of Freedom of Association.

A Number of States require Groups that want to Register Voters to undergo Training. But Mark Goins, the State’s Election Coordinator, said Tennessee could be the First State to Impose Civil Penalties for Handing in Incomplete Forms.

“Tennessee’s law is one of the most restrictive voter suppression measures that we have seen this year. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discourage and deter people from helping others to register to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which Filed the Suit on behalf of the State Chapter of the NAACP, and Three other Groups that do Voter Registration Work. “There is no basis for the law’s draconian provisions that will chill basic First Amendment rights. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to discourage and deter people from helping others to register to vote”, she said.

Tennessee has some of the Worst Voter Turnout and Voter Registration Rates in the U.S. Activists say the New Law is a Direct Response to a successful effort by a Group called the Tennessee Black Voter Project to Register Tens of Thousands of Voters last year. Officials in Shelby County, Memphis, complained they were Overwhelmed by the Number of Applications. The Group turned in about 90,000 Voter Registration Forms last year, Tequila Johnson, who led the effort said. Johnson told HuffPost in April that Voter Registration Drives often get Incomplete Forms because Organizers seek Voters on the Street, at Concerts, and in other Places where they’re Busy and might Fill Out a Form quickly.

Gov. Lee Defended the Bill saying it was necessary. “This bill was presented because of actual circumstances that were meant to confuse the integrity, or to create a lack of integrity in the voting process. I think we want to provide for fair, for genuine, for elections with integrity, and that’s why I signed the bill.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Voting Overhaul in LA County CA

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County, California, has Designed and Purchased 31,000 New Ballot-Marking Devices that Voters will use in time for the March 2020 Presidential Primary.

As the Culmination of a Decade-long effort by Elections Officials to Modernize the Voting system for the County’s Large and Diverse Electorate, much of the Current Process: Ballots, Polling Locations, Vote Tallying, and more, will Change under a New County Program called Vote Solutions for All People.

Here’s what you need to know to be ready before the Earlier-than-usual Presidential Primary:

Vote Centers

Many traditional, assigned Polling Places, more than 4,000 in the County, will be Closed. Instead, the County will Open as many as 1,000 New “Vote Centers.”

In the past, Precinct Polling places were necessary to ensure that Voters Received Pre-Printed Ballots with relevant Contests. The New System will allow Voters to Cast their Ballots at Any Vote Center, which will be Open various Hours to accept Ballots in Person for 10 days. On Election Day, Voters also can still cast their Ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at any Polling Place.

Ballot-Marking Devices

The County and its Contractors spent years evaluating the way People Vote to create the Design for the New Devices to Cast Ballots. At about $3,800 a Unit, Total of $117,800,000, the Machines use Technology, with a Ballot Screen that resembles a Large Tablet Computer in Portrait mode, to Help Voters Mark their Selections. They also have Features for Additional Accessibility and Languages, such as Audio and Tactile Keypads. For Security, the Devices are not Connected to the Internet or any Networks. When the Voter is finished Marking their Selections, they Print a Paper Ballot that Voters Physically Cast for additional Protection.

Vote by Mail

The Absentee Voting Experience has been Redesigned to make Voting Easier, with newly Designed Envelopes and Large Type, Replacing Ballots that resembled Standardized Tests. Voters can Mail these Ballots or Drop them off at vote Centers. Voters also can Change their Minds and Vote in Person, without Triggering a Provisional Ballot. Vote by Mail, or Absentee, Ballots are Sorted by Staff at the Office of the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

Interactive Sample Ballot

Voters will have the Option of Pre-Marking a Sample Ballot using a Web-based Application and bringing that to a Vote Center on their Smartphone or other Device. They can then Transfer their Selections to an Official Ballot-Marking Device and Review those Votes, Speeding Up the Process.

Electronic Poll Books, and Tallying

The Vote Centers are possible, in part, because of a New computer System, Electronic Poll Books, that can Verify any Voter’s Eligibility and Same-Day Registration. Voters will be able to Receive a Ballot Specific to their Registration Location regardless of where they Cast a Vote in LA County.

Once a Ballot is Cast, a New System at the County Registrar-Recorder’s Office will use Image-Processing Technology to Capture and Store Ballots Digitally and count both Mail and Device Ballots. Election Officials say it’s a more Open, Transparent, and Accurate method for Tracking Votes. They also Stress that the Ballot-Marking Devices and Tallying System aren’t Connected, and that Paper Ballots will Serve as the Official Records for Audits and Recounts.

County Officials have Created a Website with more Information about the Changes, in Multiple Languages. You can also Learn more about how Vote Centers will soon be Implemented in Orange and Santa Clara Counties.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Monday, August 19, 2019

Costs to Mail Ballots May Skyrocket for Civilians and Military Living Overseas

Election Officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump Administration's Trade War with China could make it more Difficult and Expensive for Overseas Voters, including those in the Military, to Cast Ballots in the 2019 and 2020 Local, State, and Federal Elections.

The Issue is the Pending Withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a Group of 192 Nations that has Governed International Postal Service and Rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the Required One-year Notice stating it would Leave the UPU unless Changes were made to the Discounted Fees that China Pays for Shipping Small Packages to the U.S. The Subsidized Fees, established years ago to help Poor Developing Countries, place American Businesses at a Disadvantage and Don't Cover Costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

With the U.S. imposed Deadline for Withdrawal or New Rates fast approaching, States Officials are Running out of Time to Prepare for Overseas Mail-In Voting.

Last week, Kentucky Elections Director Jared Dearing pleaded for help from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), for himself and his peers in other States.

The Deadline for Kentucky and most Others to send out Absentee Ballots for the Fall Elections, Dearing said, falls a few Days before a Sept. 24th-25th UPU Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to Discuss the U.S. Proposal to Revise the Rate system. That makes it difficult to provide Voters with Guidance about how to Return their Ballots.

If the U.S. ends up Withdrawing from the UPU, Overseas Citizens may not be able to Return their Ballots using Regular Mail Service and could have to Pay upward of $60 to use one of the Commercial Shipping Services, Dearing said.

Dearing said it "grieves me" to think that Military Members who are "literally protecting our right to vote" may have Problems Voting themselves.

In 2018, nearly 400,000 Absentee Ballots from Overseas Voters were counted in the Midterm Election, with about 220,000 of those from Civilians and the rest from Military Members, according to the EAC. About 500,000 Overseas Ballots were Counted in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Among the States with the most Overseas absentee Ballots Cast are: California, Washington, Texas and Florida, a Swing State where Small Margins sometimes Decide the Outcome.

The U.S. Postal Service said in a Statement that because the U.S. may end up Pulling Out of the Universal Postal Union, USPS is already Working to "ensure the continued exchange of international mail items."

A Spokeswoman for the Defense Department, which Operates the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) for Military Members who need to Vote via Absentee Ballot, promised Monday there would be "minimal disruptions" even if the U.S. Pulls out of the UPU. Lt. Col. Denise Kerr said the Postal Service, DOD, and State Department, are Developing Plans to Help Overseas Voters and will Share those with State Officials.

Even if there is a Disruption in International Mail Service, Overseas Military Members and their Dependents will be able to Vote using Military Delivery Channels, she said.

Some Overseas Citizens can Vote Electronically in Pilot Programs, although 19 States Do Not Allow Electronic Return of Ballots, according to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Another option for Overseas Voters, Kerr said, would be to Drop-Off their Ballots at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, where U.S. Postal Rates will apply. "We are committed to ensuring every U.S. citizen, no matter where they are in the world, has an opportunity to cast a vote and participate in the political process," Kerr said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker