Fine Gael accused of trying to 'manufacture political crisis' as Martin calls for 'substantive' Confidence and Supply deal review

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has doubled down on his demand for a “substantive” review of the Confidence and Supply arrangement.

Mr Martin said this review must happen before he will consider renewing the deal which underpins the Fine Gael-led Government. Speaking at the Fianna Fail President’s Dinner in Dublin, Mr Martin used the vast majority of his speech to attack Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael.

He accused Fine Gael leader of trying to “manufacture a political crisis” after a number of ministers called for the review of the confidence and supply agreement to be expedited.

He said the speeches he heard at Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis showed the objective for Fine Gael “is holding power, not what you do with it”.

“I am saying to Fine Gael, please; don’t give us any lectures about responsible politics or the need for stability,” he said.

“There is an agreed process. It requires a substantive review which should be completed. Stop trying to manufacture a political crisis and start focusing on doing your jobs.”

Mr Martin also accused the Government of “massaging” homelessness figures and said Mr Varadkar does not acknowledge a problem until it is at crisis level.

“The housing emergency is the direct result of a Government which refused to undertake even basic planning, ignored population projections and has failed to deliver on any of the four housing strategies published in the last five years,” he said.

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Martin demanding review of Dail pact

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has doubled down on his demand for a “substantive” review of the confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Mr Martin said this review must happen before he will consider renewing the deal which underpins the Fine Gael-led Government. Speaking at the Fianna Fail President’s Dinner in Dublin, Mr Martin used the vast majority of his speech to attack Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael.

He accused Fine Gael leader of trying to “manufacture a political crisis” after a number of ministers called for the review of the confidence and supply agreement to be expedited.

He said the speeches he heard at Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis showed the objective for Fine Gael “is holding power, not what you do with it”.

“I am saying to Fine Gael, please; don’t give us any lectures about responsible politics or the need for stability,” he said.

“There is an agreed process. It requires a substantive review which should be completed. Stop trying to manufacture a political crisis and start focusing on doing your jobs.”

Mr Martin also accused the Government of “massaging” homelessness figures and said Mr Varadkar does not acknowledge a problem until it is at crisis level.

“The housing emergency is the direct result of a Government which refused to undertake even basic planning, ignored population projections and has failed to deliver on any of the four housing strategies published in the last five years,” he said.

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Donald Trump continues to offer help for Nancy Pelosi’s House speaker bid

Democrats won the majority. Now they just need a speaker of the House.

The standoff over Nancy Pelosi’s bid to regain the gavel intensified as Democrats left Washington for the Thanksgiving break in what has turned out to be an unsettling finish to an otherwise triumphant week that saw them welcome a historic class of newcomers to Capitol Hill and prepare to take control from Republicans.

U.S. President Donald Trump is jumping in to offer some help, saying Saturday that he could “perform a wonderful service” by rounding up Republican votes for Pelosi’s candidacy. Trump says he genuinely likes Pelosi and looks forward to working with her, but it’s an almost unheard of proposition for the party that relied on the California Democrat as a chief villain on the campaign trail.

“I would help Nancy Pelosi if she needs some votes,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to survey the devastation from the California wildfires. “I like her, can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi. She’s tough and she’s smart, but she deserves to be speaker, and now they’re playing games with her, just like they’ll be playing with me.”

Pelosi, who was the first woman to become speaker and served from 2007 to 2011, was certain that she will hold that post again. Last week she dismissed a suggestion that she could rely on Republican support to help amass the House majority needed in January when Democrats take control of the chamber after this month’s election victory.

“Oh, please, no, never, never, never,” she said.

Trump went so far Saturday to tweet the name of one Republican congressman, Rep. Tom Reed of New York, who has said he could be open to backing Pelosi if she committed to changes that would shift some power from the House leadership. Reed is a part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, whose members have broached the idea as a show of bipartisanship to help reform Congress. Reed welcomed Trump’s tweet Saturday even though GOP lawmakers considering endorsing Pelosi would open themselves up criticism in their 2020 re-election bids for daring to support someone their base has reviled.

“The president understands Congress is broken,” said Reed’s spokesman Will, Reinert. Reed has said for months “he’s open to voting for anyone who promises to reform the House of Representatives for the American people.”

Pelosi met with the group last week, but not with Reed or other Republicans.

“Leader Pelosi will win the speakership with Democratic votes,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said Saturday.

Pelosi was expected to work the phones from California during the break after meeting privately with newly elected Democrats who could be crucial to her bid. Her foes were equally confident they have the votes to stop her ascension.

For now, it’s a band of disgruntled Democrats, led mostly by men, in the forefront of the opposition. With a test vote looming in late November, and at least one potential Pelosi challenger stepping forward, Democrats are facing the uncomfortable prospect of the internal squabble that the speaker’s vote Jan. 3 could drag on for weeks.

“I think chaos is good if it’s productive. I think chaos is bad if it is too disruptive and it divides us too much,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose leaders were upbeat after meeting with Pelosi this past week.

Newly elected lawmakers indicated they were having good meetings with the leader, though few said the talks had changed their minds.

“It isn’t about her, it’s about wanting new leadership,” said Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA operative who defeated tea party Republican Rep. Dave Brat in suburban Richmond. “There isn’t anything she could say, because the decision isn’t about her.”

Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey said he had a “pleasant” meeting, but remains a “no” on Pelosi. He is among 17 Democrats who have signed on to a letter opposing her. Van Drew said they discussed his districts and which committees he’d like to serve on. “I don’t feel under pressure,” he said.

Pelosi also has met with Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a potential rival for the speakership who said the two had “a very open and frank discussion.”

Fudge said she would probably decide after Thanksgiving break whether she will run.

“To her credit, she wanted to know what my concerns were,” Fudge said. “What she asked me was, basically, how we could get to a point where I’m supportive.”

One question for some Democrats is what, exactly, Pelosi means when she says she intends to be a transitional leader, a bridge to a new generation. She has led the party for 15 years.

If it were up to most of the Democratic Party, Pelosi easily would win. They see her as a skilled and tested leader prepared to confront Trump and deliver on priorities.

Pelosi, 78, first became speaker after Democrats took control of the House in midterm elections during former President George W. Bush’s second term. With President Barack Obama, she was pivotal in passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

With a narrow Democratic majority, now at 231 seats in the 435-member House, Pelosi does not have much cushion to secure the 218 votes needed, assuming all Republicans vote against her, as expected. Some House races remain undecided and the Democratic majority could grow slightly.

There is a chance the math could shift in Pelosi’s favour if lawmakers are absent or simply vote “present,” meaning she would need fewer than 218 votes for an absolute majority.

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Parti Québécois leaders meet in Montreal to discuss election loss

Members of the Parti Québécois are meeting Saturday to dissect the party’s crushing defeat in October’s general election.

Former leader Jean-Francois Lisée is among those expected to attend a closed-door meeting of riding presidents and members of the party’s executive in Montreal.

The Parti Québécois garnered only 17 per cent of the popular vote and lost official party status after winning only 10 seats.

Lisée lost his own seat in the Montreal-area Rosemont riding to a candidate from the surging left-wing party Québec solidaire.

Interim party leader Pascal Bérubé and the party’s president will both deliver speeches at today’s meeting.

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Sex Assault Rules Under DeVos Bolster Defendants’ Rights and Ease College Liability

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled a highly anticipated overhaul on Friday of the rules governing campus sexual assault, reducing the liability of colleges and universities for investigating sexual misconduct claims and bolstering the due process rights of defendants, including the right to cross-examine their accusers.

The rules would be the first regulations to govern how schools should meet their legal obligations under Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. The regulations will now face a 60-day public comment period before they are final.

The regulations mirror a draft proposal first reported by The New York Times in August, which established a narrower definition of sexual harassment, tightened reporting requirements, relieved colleges of the responsibility to investigate off-campus episodes, and outlined steps schools should take to provide support for accusers. They also give schools the flexibility to choose a higher evidentiary standard, establish an appeals process, and offer the option of cross-examination.

“Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined,” Ms. DeVos said in a statement announcing the regulations. “We can, and must, condemn sexual violence and punish those who perpetrate it, while ensuring a fair grievance process. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.”

Victims’ rights advocates and Obama administration officials denounced what they saw as an overly aggressive rollback of the steps taken by the previous administration to combat sexual assault on campus.

“We brought this hidden violence into the public eye, and we saw schools change their practices as a result,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a statement. “These protections made students safer and gave parents peace of mind. Today’s proposed rollback would return us to the days when schools swept rape and assault under the rug and survivors were shamed into silence.”

The most significant changes outlined in the final proposal include procedural mandates that underscore Ms. DeVos’s belief that the system shaped by the Obama administration lacks fairness, consistency and due process.

The new rules codify procedures that would essentially turn college boardrooms into courtrooms when adjudicating sex assault disciplinary proceedings.

Under the new rules, schools would be required to hold live hearings and would no longer rely on a so-called single investigator model that has become common at colleges. Accusers and students accused of sexual assault must be allowed to cross-examine each other through an adviser or lawyer. The rules require that the live hearings be conducted by a neutral decision maker and conducted with a presumption of innocence.

Both parties would have equal access to all the evidence that school investigators use to determine facts of the case, and a chance to appeal decisions. Elementary and secondary schools, which are also bound by Title IX, would not have to hold live hearings.

Though the rules were drafted over the last year, they were vetted in recent weeks by the White House and other administration agencies where emotions still ran hot over the fallout from the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

President Trump used due process arguments to rally conservatives when his Supreme Court nominee faced allegations of sexual assault, including an episode said to have occurred at Yale. Justice Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed even after one accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, publicly aired her allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing that all sides considered painful.

“If this proposed rule goes into effect, every single campus Title IX process is going to replicate what happened in the Senate Judiciary Committee against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” said Jess Davidson, the interim executive director of End Rape on Campus.

Victims’ rights and due process advocates commended the department for including safeguards in the cross-examination requirement. The rules prohibit direct questioning of victims by the defendant, keeping in line with the Obama administration’s recommendation; require cross-examination to occur through a third-party, such as an adviser or lawyer; and include a “rape shield” protection that would keep a complainant’s sexual history off limits.

“There is no better way to test the truthfulness of an accusation than by questioning the accuser during a live hearing,” said Justin Dillon, a partner at the Washington-based law firm KaiserDillon, who has represented dozens of accused students. “If colleges are going to adjudicate what are essentially crimes, then accused students deserve to have the tools to defend themselves effectively.”

But victims’ advocates said the regulation undermined the intent of the sex discrimination law, which is to combat gender-specific discrimination and define sexual misconduct as a means of denying students access to an education.

Several groups said they believed the rules were meant to decrease the number of Title IX investigations on campus and chill sexual assault and harassment reporting. In a summary of its proposal, the department said the rules sought “to produce more reliable outcomes, thereby encouraging more students to turn to their schools for support in the wake of sexual harassment and reducing the risk of improperly punishing students.”

Legal experts say that the department appears to be aligning itself with the courts, where a wave of opinions in the last two years have weighed heavily on the side of accused students.

K. C. Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, said he believed the Education Department sought to institutionalize a recent decision by a federal court. In that ruling, against the University of Michigan, the court said that universities must allow students or a representative to directly question their accusers in a live Title IX hearing.

But Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, warned that while schools welcomed clarity from the Education Department on how to properly balance support for survivors and the rights of accused students, colleges and universities were ill-equipped to essentially conduct trials.

“Colleges and universities are not courts, and these sort of proceedings would require us to legalize student disciplinary proceedings,” Mr. Hartle said. “We lack the knowledge, the expertise, and credibility to do this.”

Last September, when Ms. DeVos announced that she would propose Title IX rules, she rescinded nonbinding Obama-era guidelines, which she said “failed too many students” and coerced colleges into setting up “quasi-legal structures.”

The Obama-era guidelines were hailed by victims’ rights advocates for holding colleges accountable for properly addressing rising reports of sexual assault on campuses, but they were nonbinding. Particularly contentious was the encouragement of colleges to adopt a lower standard of evidence — “preponderance of evidence” — in adjudicating cases.

They also applied a broader definition of sexual harassment and maintained a longstanding standard that a school “reasonably should know” of an episode in determining a school’s liability for failing to investigate a complaint. The rules also required schools to investigate any claim of harassment, regardless of where it initially took place.

The new rules would require that institutions only be held legally responsible for investigating formal complaints and responding to reports that school officials have “actual knowledge” of happening. A formal complaint is one made to “an official who has the authority to institute corrective measures.” If a victim opts not to file a formal complaint, the rules encourage schools to provide “supportive measures,” without being penalized.

The new rules would adopt a new Supreme Court definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

The rules also maintain that complaints must involve conduct that occurred in the school’s own program or activity, though the department said that schools should look at factors like whether the harassment occurred at a location or under circumstances in which the school “owned the premises or exercised oversight, supervision or discipline over the location or participants.” The rules would also allow schools to choose the evidentiary standard — “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing” evidence — to apply in determining whether accused students are responsible for alleged misconduct.

In determining whether schools took the proper steps to address the allegations, the department would apply a standard called “deliberately indifferent,” meaning that an institution would be in violation of the law “only if its response to the sexual harassment is clearly unreasonable in light of known circumstances.”

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How the Trump Administration Stepped Up Pursuit of WikiLeaks’s Assange

WASHINGTON — Soon after he took over as C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo privately told lawmakers about a new target for American spies: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Intent on finding out more about Mr. Assange’s dealings with Russian intelligence, the C.I.A. began last year to conduct traditional espionage against the organization, according to American officials. At the same time, federal law enforcement officials were reconsidering Mr. Assange’s designation as a journalist and debating whether to charge him with a crime.

Mr. Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions unleashed an aggressive campaign against Mr. Assange, reversing an Obama-era view of WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity. For more than a year, the nation’s spies and investigators sought to learn about Mr. Assange and his ties to Russia as senior administration officials came to believe he was in league with Moscow.

Their work culminated in prosecutors secretly filing charges this summer against Mr. Assange, which were inadvertently revealed in an unrelated court filing and confirmed on Friday by a person familiar with the inquiry. Taken together, the C.I.A. spying and the Justice Department’s targeting of Mr. Assange represented a remarkable shift by both the American government and President Trump, who repeatedly lauded WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign for its releases of Democratic emails, stolen by Russian agents, that damaged his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

A prosecution of Mr. Assange could pit the interests of the administration against Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Assange could help answer the central question of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III: whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the presidential race. If the case against Mr. Assange includes charges that he acted as an agent of a foreign power, anyone who knowingly cooperated with him could be investigated as a co-conspirator, former senior law-enforcement officials said.

Justice Department officials did not disclose the charges against Mr. Assange on Friday, prompting speculation around Washington about their nature. The case might be tied to the hacked Democratic emails, which are part of Mr. Mueller’s evidence of the wide-ranging election interference personally ordered by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The charges could also be related to WikiLeaks’s publication last year of C.I.A. tools to penetrate computers and mobile devices, the so-called Vault 7 disclosures.

National security officials have long viewed Mr. Assange with hostility and considered him a threat. “He was a loathed figure inside the government,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who served as a deputy national intelligence officer for Russia under the director of national intelligence until May.

This account is drawn from current and former officials familiar with the government’s effort to step up scrutiny of Mr. Assange.

He first raised the ire of the American government in 2010 when Chelsea Manning, then known as Army Specialist Bradley Manning, began feeding classified documents from military computers in Iraq to WikiLeaks.

American law enforcement officials began seriously investigating the ties between WikiLeaks and Russia after Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed closely held intelligence secrets, escaped to Russia in June 2013. Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks editor and one of Mr. Assange’s close advisers, accompanied Mr. Snowden to Moscow. Law enforcement officials wanted to know what role the group played in brokering Mr. Snowden’s asylum in Russia.

A year later, F.B.I. and C.I.A. officials began arguing internally that Mr. Assange was an information broker, not a journalist, former officials said. At one point, they pushed for a meeting with President Barack Obama to make the case that he was not a journalist, according to people briefed on the talks. The meeting never occurred.

Inside the Justice Department under Mr. Obama, some officials expressed reluctance to pursue Mr. Assange because he could be construed as part of the news media. Obama administration officials were hesitant to wage a high-profile fight with Mr. Assange after being criticized heavily by the news media for obtaining records of journalists through court subpoenas in pursuit of leakers. The step is considered an intrusion on press freedoms.

Mr. Assange seemed to have crossed into uncharted ground by 2016 with the publication of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, former F.B.I. officials said. He was deliberately attacking Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump and coordinating with Russian intelligence operatives, wittingly or not, to maximize the damage to her campaign.

Mr. Pompeo, then a Republican congressman from Kansas, initially praised the WikiLeaks disclosures. But once he took over the C.I.A., his rhetoric hardened.

His first speech as director came a month after WikiLeaks published the archive of hacking tools stolen from the C.I.A., seriously eroding the agency’s ability to conduct electronic espionage.

Mr. Pompeo laid down a gauntlet. “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” he said last April.

To support his assessment, Mr. Pompeo cited how the group had encouraged followers to join the C.I.A. and steal secrets, and how “it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from anti-democratic countries.”

After his speech, Mr. Pompeo headed to Congress to privately brief members conducting intelligence oversight on the C.I.A. efforts against WikiLeaks. Mr. Pompeo said the agency was conducting counterintelligence collection, which can include developing informants and penetrating computers overseas, officials said.

Mr. Pompeo also seemed to hold open the possibility that the intelligence community could begin other, more aggressive efforts to try to disrupt WikiLeaks. Some lawmakers expressed discomfort, according to an American official.

The speech by Mr. Pompeo, who has since become secretary of state, and other efforts were intended in part to pressure the Justice Department to intensify its reassessment of Mr. Assange, an intelligence official said.

Law enforcement officials had been trying to learn more about Mr. Assange’s knowledge of WikiLeaks’s interactions with Russian intelligence officers and its other actions, and for a time seemed willing to offer him some form of immunity from prosecutions in exchange for his testimony, reaching out to his lawyers. But Mr. Assange’s release of the Vault 7 tools ended those negotiations.

Senior Justice Department officials pushed in 2017 to declare internally that WikiLeaks was not covered by special rules governing how investigators interact with journalists. The regulations require higher-level approval to obtain journalists’ records, like phone logs and emails, as part of investigations into leaks of classified information. By releasing hacking tools and playing a role in disrupting the election, Mr. Assange, the senior officials argued, was acting more like an agent of a foreign power than a journalist.

Mr. Assange may have begun working with Russian intelligence without knowing with whom he dealt, said Ms. Kendall-Taylor, now a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security. The intermediaries and cutouts sent by Russian intelligence to deal with Mr. Assange were supposed to give him plausible deniability.

“But as he spent more time, the relationship with the Russians grew closer,” she said. “I would expect that he knows what he is doing by the end of this.”

Federal prosecutors began working on a sealed criminal complaint this summer, a former law enforcement official said. It was not clear whether the Justice Department declared that Mr. Assange was not a journalist or whether prosecutors gathered sufficient evidence to charge him without resolving that issue.

Mr. Assange’s case also has implications for Mr. Mueller.

In July, the special counsel charged 12 Russian military intelligence operatives with interfering in the 2016 election. That indictment contained thinly veiled references to WikiLeaks, identifying it as “Organization 1.” Notably, the indictment did not identify the organization as a member of the news media, and it asserted that the Russian operatives transferred their stolen documents to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks encouraged “Guccifer 2.0,” the online persona of the Russian operatives, to provide it with the Democratic documents because it would “have a much higher impact,” according to court papers.

Whether anyone connected with the Trump campaign worked with Mr. Assange or others to carry out Russia’s scheme to interfere in the 2016 presidential race is at the heart of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

So far, no evidence has publicly emerged that anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Moscow’s disruption, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied any “collusion” with Russia. But the special counsel’s office continues to summon witnesses before a federal grand jury, asking about interactions between allies of Mr. Trump and Mr. Assange through intermediaries or other means.

What has become abundantly clear since the election is that various associates of Mr. Trump’s tried their best to figure out what information Mr. Assange possessed, how it might harm the Clinton campaign and when he planned to release it.

About a month before the election, for instance, Donald Trump Jr., a key adviser to his father, sent WikiLeaks a private message on Twitter asking about speculation that Mr. Assange planned to soon release documents that would prove devastating to Mrs. Clinton. “What’s behind this Wed leak I keep reading about?” he asked. He has said he got no response and never corresponded with WikiLeaks again.

Charges against Mr. Assange would be a big step, said Joshua Geltzer, a former official in the Justice Department’s national security division. But, he added, the precise nature of the charges may not be known until Mr. Assange is in the custody of American officials. Mr. Assange has lived in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, forced there as he sought refuge from Swedish prosecutors who pursued him on charges of sexual abuse.

“The government has certainly been concerned about and looking at Assange for a long time,” Mr. Geltzer said. “Ultimately, the stakes are high in this one, given the complexities of the case, and the government must be prepared for that going in.”

Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting.

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Top Kentucky court upholds state's 'right-to-work' law

(Reuters) – The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld the state’s so-called “right-to-work” law, which makes it illegal to require workers to join unions and bars the collection of fees from private-sector workers who choose not to become union members.

Rejecting a challenge by the Kentucky AFL-CIO and other unions, the court in a 4-3 decision on Thursday said the promotion of economic development and job growth formed the “rational basis” that the state needed to justify passing the law. The law, which took effect last year, allows workers who do not join unions to receive union-negotiated benefits without paying dues.

Nearly 30 U.S. states have passed “right to work” laws, and none have been struck down by courts. Voters in Missouri in August decided to reject a proposed right-to-work law, marking the first time such a measure was defeated at the polls.

Kentucky state officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither did the unions that challenged the law.

The unions claimed the law violated the state’s constitution by discriminating against unions. They also said the state legislature had no reason to designate the measure as “emergency legislation,” which allowed it to be signed into law within days of its passage.

But the Kentucky Supreme Court said it had little authority to question what constitutes an “emergency.” It was reasonable for the state to pass a law that only applied to unions because of their significant economic impact, the court said.

“The legislature clearly established a rational basis for the act: to promote economic development, to promote job growth, and to remove Kentucky’s economic disadvantages in competing with neighboring states,” Judge Laurance Vanmeter wrote for the court.

Republicans in Kentucky had been trying to pass the right-to -work law for nearly two decades. The legislation was passed in January 2017, two months after Republicans won control of the state’s General Assembly for the first time since 1921.

Supporters of the law say it will spur economic growth and attract new businesses to the state. Opponents see it as an assault on organized labor and blue-collar workers that will limit union revenues and erode wages, benefits and workplace safety.

The judges who dissented on Thursday said that because Kentucky’s law treats union employers and workers differently than non-union businesses and employees, it violates a provision of the state constitution guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

The case is Zuckerman v. Bevin, Kentucky Supreme Court, No. 2018-SC-000097-TG.

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On Politics With Lisa Lerer: ActBlue, the Democrats’ Not-So-Secret Weapon

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

There have been a lot of Democratic winners this election cycle. Many are historic firsts. More than two dozen are veterans. And more than 100 are women.

But all have at least one thing in common: ActBlue.

The online giving platform emerged as the piggy bank of the Democratic resistance in the 2018 midterms, funneling nearly $1.6 billion in contributions to Democratic candidates and causes. That’s more than an 80 percent increase over what it brought in four years ago.

And while ActBlue wasn’t the sole source of small-dollar donors for Democrats, it was certainly a powerful one: The candidates, committees and organizations who used the platform — more than 14,500 of them — paid credit card transaction fees and, in turn, got to outsource their financial collections to tested, easy-to-use software. (The group, a nonprofit, funds its staff of about 100 through donations.)

Republicans have long benefited from stronger support among wealthy donors and the business community, relying on a network of lavishly funded super PACs. But ActBlue has changed the game for Democrats. Founded in 2004, the nonprofit has developed into a trusted platform, turning the once-cumbersome process of donating to a campaign into something that can be done with just one click of a cellphone.

The technology encourages small, recurring donations that go directly to candidates, giving campaigns more control over how the money was spent. The money can also be transferred quickly, wired from ActBlue into campaign coffers by the next morning.

“There used to be these old ways of thinking that there was just a finite pool of people to reach out to when you were doing it all on paper,” said Erin Hill, the executive director of ActBlue. “Technology can help democratize this process in a way that wasn’t possible 20 years ago.”

Of course, money doesn’t guarantee success. Four of the five House candidates who received the most in small donations lost their elections, according to a New York Times analysis conducted in mid-October. (ActBlue doesn’t release the top recipients of donations.)

But strategists on both sides say the flood of small dollars — helped along by $110 million from the former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg — changed the race for Democrats in the final weeks of the election season, allowing the party to remain competitive in reach districts, dominate the airwaves and force Republicans to spread out their spending.

“Their money was astronomical,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC. “If you had told me last year this is how much money they would have to spend in these races, I would have laughed at you.”

Republicans, too, are noticing the power of small dollars. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, issued a dire warning to Republican donors in a meeting after the election, and he charged his political team with figuring out how to better tap into a wider pool of contributors.

“ActBlue wasn’t ActBlue in year one, two or three,” said Mr. Bliss. “Someone has to develop a brand. It’s doable but takes time.”

They’ll have a lot of catching up to do. In the early handicapping of the 2020 presidential race, some of the strongest potential contenders are those with expansive lists of small donors, a group that includes Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke, who lost his bid for a Texas Senate seat. That’s in part because of the success of Mr. Sanders, perhaps the highest-profile ActBlue user, who powered his 2016 primary campaign through small dollars.

“We don’t go away after a campaign,” said Ms. Hill. “Campaigns, whether they won or lost, they disappeared on Wednesday. We are permanent infrastructure.”


Election week (now, month?) updates

We’re 10 days out from Election Day and votes are still (!) being counted. Here’s the latest on where things stand:

Senate races

• Florida is still, well, being Florida. Rick Scott, the Republican governor, held a 12,603-vote lead over the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. The state is now waiting for the results of a state-mandated manual recount. Here’s how that recount works.

Governor races

• The Democrat Stacey Abrams ended her bid to be the next governor of Georgia on Friday night. In a speech, she sharply criticized her Republican rival, Brian Kemp, but said she saw no legal path to overturn the results. Mr. Kemp is now poised to become governor in January. Read the latest here.

• Ron DeSantis, the Republican, leads his Democratic opponent, Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee by enough to avoid an order by state officials for a manual recount. Mr. Gillum said he would continue to push to have all votes counted before any election results were certified.

House races

• Democrats are up to a gain of 36 seats, from the 26 seats they had gained on election night. Six races are still outstanding in Utah, California, New York and Texas. We’re keeping a close eye on Utah’s Fourth District, where Representative Mia Love, the Republican, is trailing by just over 1,000 votes, and Texas’ 23rd District, where Representative Will Hurd, the Republican, leads by over 1,000 votes.

We’ll be updating the undecided races through the weekend.


What to read tonight

Amazon is coming to Long Island City in Queens, N.Y., and Crystal City in Arlington, Va. Check out what those places look like now before they’re forever changed by the tech giant.

Thousands of Californians have fled the wildfires, driving through flames and losing almost everything. Here are the stories of nine of them. And here’s what you can do to help.

Sasha Issenberg, a friend of the newsletter, tries his hand at fiction with this fascinating extended thought experiment into what a “conscious uncoupling of these United States” could look like.


… Seriously

I’m sorry, Sour Patch Kids cereal just sounds completely repulsive. But open to hearing arguments in favor. If you try it: PLEASE LET US KNOW. (And send pictures!).


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Fine Gael's Ard Fhéis hears rallying cry to be 'election ready'

FINE Gael’s Ard Fhéis has heard a rallying cry to be election ready as the two day event gets underway in Dublin.

The party’s executive council chairman Gerry O’Connell opened the event by urging members to bring the message that it must be organised for an election back to their constituencies.

“The time for preparation is now over the message to take back to your constituencies is to prepare for a general election whenever it happens,” he said.

He said whenever an election is called the party will be ready to defend its position in Dáil Eireann.

Party chairperson Martin Heydon said critics of the party can’t stop talking about “our Leo” but said the party’s strengths lie in its depth and the quality of its sitting elected reps and upcoming General Election candidates and not just in its leader.

Mr Varadkar is due to address the party shortly.

In his opening address Mr Varadkar told members that the party can be proud of its record building a State which cares for families.

In his opening address at the event which sees rank and file members from across the country gather to debate key elements of the party’s platform, Mr Varadkar said he wants four new values to be adopted by the party.

He called for the ratification of four new values at an upcoming special conference in March: personal liberty, Europe and openness, the environment and compassion.

“We are a compassionate party and throughout our history we have believed that the State has a role in offering a helping hand to those that need it,” he said.

“I believe that today Fine Gael can look proudly to its record and the many steps we have taken to build a state that cares and in particular one that cares for families.

 “One that is standing up for our interests abroad, and building a better society at home.

Mr Varadkar called special attention to the area of gender equality and said Fine Gael has introduced policies that make it easier for women to work outside the home, including extending maternity leave.

He also called for the party to re-endorse and strengthen its position as a European party.

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Federal Liberals holding two-day convention in Kelowna

Politicians from across British Columbia will be in Kelowna this weekend, along with a smattering of their national counterparts, for a federal Liberal convention.

The two-day event will feature Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr plus federal ministers Melanie Joly, Francois-Philippe Champagne and Mary Ng. The convention will touch on several topics, including organizing to elect and mobilize more women, protecting B.C.’s economy and the legalization and regulation of cannabis.


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In part, a federal Liberal press release said “Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are focused on a strong plan for British Columbians: to strengthen our middle class and grow the economy, to protect a healthy environment for our kids and grandkids, and to invest in new affordable housing and better roads, transit, and bridges. More than 12,000 British Columbians having registered as new Liberals in the last two years alone – and that grassroots support is growing every day.”

Champagne is the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and was slated to make a funding announcement Friday afternoon in Sicamous. Joly is the Minister of Tourism and Official Languages while Ng is the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion.

The convention will feature opening ceremonies on Friday at 7 p.m., with panels and discussion dominating the agenda for Saturday and Sunday.  The convention will take place at the Delta Grand Hotel.

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