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Eviction Crisis On Tap

As the U.S. dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of cans got kicked down the road. Some will be dealt with this year, some this decade, and some will probably take generations to be fully addressed. This weekend, one of the "this year" situations came due, as the federal moratorium on evictions has expired. It's estimated that as many as 10 million people could find themselves tossed out of their homes, and just as the coronavirus is in the middle of another surge.

Who is to blame for this? Well, there are plenty of places where you might point the finger. Among them:

  • The Supreme Court: The Court has already heard a case on this exact subject, and the swing vote was cast by Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote that he didn't think the moratorium was kosher, but that he was going to allow it to remain in place because the window was nearly closed anyhow (this was back in May). It is clear that the next time the Court hears a case on this issue, there will be five votes to strike it down, unless it is rooted in a bill passed by Congress (as opposed to an executive order).

  • Congress: It appears that the deadline snuck up on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her leadership team, which left them scrambling at the end of last week. Pelosi and her whips tried to get the votes to pass an extension on the moratorium, but couldn't do it. And, of course, there's no way such a bill would get 60 votes in the Senate.

  • The White House: Joe Biden has spent much of his time, energy, and political capital working on infrastructure. He's spent very little of these things working on evictions. The administration insists it's looking for legal justification to issue a new extension, but says it has not found one so far. Of course, he could choose the approach used by the last administration, do whatever he wants, and thus buy himself some time while the courts catch up. But clearly the President does not want to do that.

  • State Governments: There was a sizable chunk of money set aside in the COVID relief bills to help renters and borrowers who are in trouble. Much of that money has not been distributed, and it appears the bottleneck is that state governments are sitting on the cash.

At the moment, there is much finger-pointing going on, with Pelosi pushing Biden to do something, and Biden insisting that it's out of his control, and that Congress will have to follow SCOTUS' instructions and pass a bill. This sort of Democratic infighting is unusual these days. It is also odd that everyone involved seems to have been basically caught flat-footed. Maybe this is a little political theater designed to light a fire under state governments, and to get them to start distributing the money that has been set aside for this purpose.

Ultimately, although there may be plenty of blame to go around, people who lose their homes are mostly going to point the finger at whichever party is in power. And that, as you may have heard, is currently the Democrats. The Blue Team has a little time to work with, here; eviction proceedings usually take a couple of months, and many landlords may choose to be flexible as opposed to declaring the unpaid rent a loss and having to find new tenants. But presumably, Biden & Co. will eventually come up with something. It wouldn't be too much a surprise if we start to hear talk next week of how maybe this can be rolled into the reconciliation bill. (Z)

Well, This Was Entirely Predictable, Part I: Red State/Blue State COVID Gap Is Widening Quickly

Yesterday, we noted that COVID-19 is running rampant in Florida. They've just set multiple daily records for both new cases and for hospitalizations. And Texas is not doing much better, such that those two states have had one-third of all new COVID cases in the last week.

Despite this, the governors of the two states are continuing to stick to their guns. Texans, especially, as you may have heard, love their guns. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), for his part, signed yet another executive order yesterday, one that basically just took all the EOs from last week and combined them into one, for ease of reference. And so, the new order reiterates that no Texas government official can mandate vaccines or masks and that local governments may not impose limits of any sort on private businesses. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and several of his underlings held press conferences in which they did so much spinning that they must have needed Dramamine afterwards. They said that they would not support mandates—mask or vaccine—and said that the reason that so many young people are getting sick is that the state has had so much success vaccinating older residents.

Of course, the Biden administration, and the blue states, are taking a rather different approach. And thanks to that, the nation finally crossed a key milestone yesterday, as 70% of adults have now gotten at least one shot of vaccine. That means that the July 4 goal set by the President, while not met, was missed by a little less than 4 weeks. Not bad; sometimes you gotta aim a little too high.

In any event, we spend a lot of time around here trying to understand the thought processes of politicians, but we concede we are confounded by the DeSantis/Abbott approach. There is one very clear case study of a chief executive who downplayed the pandemic, resisted mask/vaccine mandates, and otherwise adopted a "freedom first, public health second" attitude. That case study would be Donald Trump. And while our staff accountant is still checking the numbers (we hired her from Cyber Ninjas—oops!), we are pretty sure Trump lost last year's presidential election.

And the polling that has come out since the Delta variant emerged, and the pandemic began to surge again, tells the same story. For example, the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll says that, despite generally good performance on pandemic-related issues, Joe Biden's approval rating has dropped a few points in the last month. More importantly, in June, respondents said the most important issue facing the country was the economy. Now, they say it is COVID-19.

In any event, everyone—us included—thought that 2020 was the "COVID election." But maybe 2022 will be "COVID election, part II." And remember, two of the three occasions in the past century where the president's party picked up seats in the midterms were during and after crises (1934/The New Deal, and 2002/9-11). (Z)

Well, This Was Entirely Predictable, Part II: Trump Will Fight Release of Tax Returns

Over the weekend, the Biden administration announced that it would comply with a 1924 law, and hand over copies of Donald Trump's tax returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA). The Department of Justice pointed out, quite correctly, that the statute does not place any limits on Neal's right to make the request; he can ask for them for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Due to a previous decision by a federal court, the Department of the Treasury has to wait 72 hours before doing the actual handover, so as to give Trump time to sue to stop the release, if he wants to do so. Well, of course he wants to do so. On Monday, Trump lawyer Ronald Fischetti—who got his fee up front, if he's smart—issued a statement in which he declared: "There is no evidence of any wrongdoing here and I object to the release of the returns not only on behalf of my client but on behalf of all future holders of the Office of the President of the United States."

That is some very fine spin by Fischetti, but there are two problems here. The first is that, as noted, evidence of wrongdoing is not required for Neal to make the request. The second is that of course there is evidence of wrongdoing. There are indications that Trump has engaged in tax fraud, that he has violated the emoluments clause, and that he might be in hock to Russia. Even if Neal, or anyone else, had to have cause to ask for the returns, there practically couldn't be more cause than there is with Trump. Also bad news for the former president is that he's already waged this particular fight in New York state court and lost.

That said, there is one bit of good news for The Donald. The original lawsuit filed by Neal is still active, and is currently on the docket of Trevor McFadden, who is a Trump appointee, and has thus far been very much in the bag for his benefactor. Presumably, Trump's lawyer will try to get an injunction from McFadden, and presumably he will be successful. So, the odds are good that Neal doesn't get his mitts on the returns quite yet. That said, there are layers of the court system above McFadden, and one of those judges is going to read the 1924 statute and conclude Trump has no leg to stand on. The clock is ticking, it's just a matter of how long it takes to reach 00:00. (Z)

Well, This Was Entirely Predictable, Part III: Maricopa, Dominion Tell Cyber Ninjas to Pound Sand

Clearly, Cyber Ninjas' "audit" of the 2020 Maricopa County presidential ballots is not going well. And so, the "auditors" have latched onto a new red herring: the routers that were in use in Maricopa on Election Day. Cyber Ninjas and its allies say that if only those routers could be examined, then proof would be found that the machines made by Dominion Voting Systems were connected to the Internet, and thus allowed votes to be changed remotely from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The careful reader will notice that if Cyber Ninjas had found what they claimed they would find in the paper ballots, there would be no need to start kvetching about routers.

Anyhow, last week, the Republican-controlled Arizona state Senate issued subpoenas to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and to Dominion in which they demanded the surrender of (1) the routers used on Election Day, (2) the passwords to all voting machines made by Dominion, and (3) a bunch of additional paperwork. And on Monday, both Maricopa and Dominion responded: No.

Maricopa, for its part, said that the paperwork that was demanded has already been turned over, while surrendering the routers would compromise security in other areas. The county's statement on this point was a little vague, as tends to be the case when discussing security, but it appears that the network equipment used that day is part of the county's regular infrastructure, and so also handles privileged network traffic related to law enforcement and health care. Dominion, meanwhile, said that surrendering the passwords would require it to yield up its intellectual property, and would violate its constitutional rights. And Maricopa and Dominion both referenced a Department of Justice directive, issued last week, that warns that these ongoing state-level election audits are possibly violating federal law.

So, the ball is now in Cyber Ninjas' court. Again, it seems clear that they haven't been able to come up with the goods, even with a willingness to play fast and loose with the truth. They could fall back on "we couldn't get the routers; clearly Maricopa and Dominion are hiding the truth." That would keep the conspiracy alive and would save face, but wouldn't be terribly satisfactory to the Arizona Senate or to the Dear Leader. Or, they could really get cookin', and fake evidence of fraud on a massive scale. That would give the Arizona Senate (and the private donors) what they paid for, but would risk being exposed, and could come with criminal penalties. The least likely option, we presume, is announcing "Well, we looked, and we just didn't find anything!" Presumably, all will be revealed soon, since the recounts actually concluded already. (Z)

Two More MPD Officers Take Their Lives

This is very unhappy news. On Monday, two more of the police officers who helped restore order at the Capitol on January were revealed to be suicide victims. The deaths of Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida were announced yesterday; already on the list were Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood, thus running the overall total to four.

Few details are known, and we wouldn't presume to speculate about the causes of this distressing trend. However, it does argue that, beyond politics, there is a tragic and destructive incident here that needs to be unraveled and prevented from ever happening again. Meanwhile, the notion that the 1/6 perpetrators were just tourists paying a visit to the "People's House" (a spin-laden term that has become rather popular among right-wing media figures recently) continues to strain credulity. (Z)

Ohioans Head to the Polls

Today, there is another interesting election. Actually, there are really two of them, as Ohioans will hold primaries for candidates aspiring to replace House members who departed for greener pastures. Since both districts are fairly partisan, we will effectively know the identities of the two new representatives once the ballots are counted.

To start, OH-11 is deep, deep blue (D+30); the seat opened when Marcia Fudge accepted appointment as Joe Biden's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Fudge is herself a Black woman, and she is going to be succeeded by a Black woman. The question is: Which one? Nina Turner is very progressive, is closely aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and initially seemed to be running away with the election. However, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) rallied its forces around the more moderate Shontel Brown. CBC members have campaigned hard for Brown, touting her as someone who would honor "the rich history" of their group, and who would not rebel against the group while "trying to make a name for themselves." Turner and her surrogates have fired back, arguing that the CBC has grown myopic and is hostile to new ideas. In other words, it's been ugly. There was a time when Turner led Brown by 30 points in the polls, but the latest has Turner up just 5 points (41% to 36%), with 5% favoring other candidates, and 18% undecided. So, it could be either candidate's race.

Meanwhile, OH-15 is red, but nowhere near as red as OH-11 is blue; it's R+9. This seat came open when Steve Stivers jumped ship to run the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The thing that everyone will be watching for is how well the candidate backed by Donald Trump, namely lobbyist Mike Carey, does (especially since other prominent Republicans have backed other candidates). The good news for Carey is that the only poll of the race had him leading the field, with 20% of the vote, and several competitors lurking in the neighborhood of 10%. The bad news is that the poll was done by the pro-Trump polling firm of Fabrizio Lee & Associates, was conducted back in June, and found that 44% of respondents were undecided. So, who knows how big Carey's lead is, or even if he has a lead at all?

Another wild card, which even a good pollster would have trouble accounting for, is Democratic voters, as Ohio has open primaries. A Democratic voter could decide that in a R+9 district, and a special election, that just maybe the right candidate could shock the world in the manner of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and claim the seat. On the other hand, they could decide that's foolhardy, or that the two Democrats are equally acceptable (or unacceptable), and could decide to invest their ballot in a little ratf**king. In any case, if Carey does not win comfortably, it will reflect badly on the significance of Trump's endorsement. And if Carey doesn't win at all, then that will be a real poke in Trump's eye.

This will be the end of the election fun for a while; after Ohioans have had their say, the next big date on the calendar is the California recall (Sept. 14), followed by the general election on Nov. 2, which will also be the day of the primary for the Florida seat that Alcee Hastings (D) vacated when he passed away. (Z)

California Crazy

Technically, "California Crazy" is a term for a style of architecture developed in the 1950s, as businesses found a need to catch the eye of drivers on the newly constructed freeways (and in time for them to pull over and exit). Possibly the most famous example, just off the 405 Freeway in Inglewood:

A one-story, plain, basically square-shaped,
fairly small donut shop, but with a giant donut on top--at least 50 feet tall--that says 'Randy's Donuts.'

Still, we're going to borrow the term to describe the gubernatorial recall election that the state is undertaking right now, because it's taking all kinds of twists and turns.

To start with, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) knows full well that the Trumpy elements of the Republican Party are driving the recall effort, and that Trump is not popular in the Golden State (he lost to Joe Biden by 29 points and Hillary Clinton by 30). So, as part of the candidate statement that he is entitled to include in the paperwork sent to voters, Newsom is giving Trump and his allies lots and lots of credit for the recall. It would seem the California Republicans also know the score, as they have gone to court to ask a judge to force Newsom to revise his statement. The first rule of Fight Club is "You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB," and the first rule of a Trumpy recall is "You do not talk about DONALD TRUMP." The judge in the case will have to rule soon, but since California law places relatively few limits on candidate statements, Newsom is likely to win this one.

Meanwhile, the Quarter 2 fundraising totals for the various candidates are in:

Candidate Total
Gavin Newsom (plus PAC) $43,448,997
John Cox $7,982,622
Kevin Faulconer $3,044,099
Larry Elder $629,860
Jenny Rae Le Roux $419,200
Caitlyn Jenner $409,805
Doug Ose $277,900
Edward Moore Gaines $264,300
Kevin Kiley $140,770
Kevin Paffrath $127,749
Samuel L. Gallucci $112,200

One of these things is not like the others. Newsom, beyond having the much larger Democratic base all to himself to hit up for donations, is technically not considered to be a candidate. He is considered, in effect, to be a ballot proposition. So, well-heeled friends can write checks for any amount without worrying about campaign limits. In any case, he's clearly not going to have money issues, since he can outspend any of his rivals 6-to-1. In fact, he can outspend the whole lot 3-to-1.

Meanwhile, Caitlyn Jenner continues to insist that she is going to win, but her finances are grim. Not only has she taken in a (relative) pittance, but she's spent more than she's collected, meaning the campaign is in debt. Jenner might be doing better, had she not spent much of the past month in Australia, appearing on the reality show "Big Brother VIP." It's also worth noting that Jenner could easily blow past Cox (and even Newsom) by getting out her checkbook, since she's got a net worth north of $100 million. She could also tap her kids, some of whom have net worths approaching $1 billion. It all speaks to a candidate who was looking for a little free PR, and not to actually mount a real campaign. (Z)

Democrats, Republicans Follow Each Other's Fundraising Leads

As long as we're on the subject of fundraising, we had an item about the Republican take so far this year across various fundraising platforms. They've collected over a quarter of a billion dollars since Jan. 1, which is quite a lot to anyone who is not now, and has never been, named Bezos.

A big part of their success is due to the online fundraising platform WinRed, which was modeled on the Democrats' ActBlue, and allows for lots of small donations to be collected from lots of donors. In fact, quite a few outlets are saying that the Republicans have "caught up" to the Democrats when it comes to online fundraising (see here for an example). We wouldn't go that far quite yet; the Republicans are still figuring things out, and there are fewer GOP voters (and fewer GOP voters with computers) than there are Democratic voters. Just so we're comparing apples to apples, the WinRed haul for Q2 2021 was $131 million. The ActBlue haul for the same period was $289 million. If you want the totals for the entire year, then it's $255 million for WinRed and $602 million for ActBlue. The difference between $255 million and $602 million is pretty substantial, almost as large as the difference between the valuation for a Trump property that the IRS gets and the one the bank gets.

That said, just because the Democrats are pros at this doesn't mean they can't learn a few new tricks from the Republicans. The Blue Team didn't like too many of Trump's ideas, but it would seem they were quite impressed by the "make it a recurring donation, unless you uncheck a hard-to-see box" scheme that Team Trump pioneered. And so, the Democrats started doing that, too. Clearly, it worked for them, since $602 million is a record for an off-cycle year. However, the parties' party is likely to come to an end pretty soon. Four different state AGs—the ones from Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York—have launched investigations. And once you're on the radar of Tish James (New York's AG), you know the fire and brimstone are nigh upon you. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug02 McConnell Supports Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Aug02 Manchin: No Guarantee the Reconciliation Bill Will Pass
Aug02 Trump Brought in $56 Million for Republicans in First Half of 2021
Aug02 Treasury Dept. Must Give Congress Donald Trump's Tax Returns
Aug02 Kinzinger Wants to Subpoena McCarthy and Jordan
Aug02 McCarthy Says He Wants to Hit Nancy Pelosi If He Gets the Speaker's Gavel in 2023
Aug02 Georgia Republicans Start a Formal Review of Fulton County Election Officials
Aug02 COVID-19 Is Running Rampant in Florida
Aug02 GOP to Herschel Walker: Stay on the Bench
Aug01 Sunday Mailbag
Jul31 Saturday Q&A
Jul30 Half-Measures are Better than No Measures
Jul30 Schumer Says He "Has the Votes" for $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill...
Jul30 ...Meanwhile, Trump Hates the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Jul30 Abbott, Garland Headed for a Showdown
Jul30 What Is Kinzinger Up To?
Jul30 Californians Want Recall Rules Changed
Jul30 This Week's Schadenfreude Report
Jul30 Carl Levin, 1934-2021
Jul29 Bipartisan Deal Is Back on Track
Jul29 Republicans Are Going after Cheney and Kinzinger
Jul29 Too Little, Too Late
Jul29 Pelosi Calls McCarthy a Moron
Jul29 Biden Is in Pennsylvania--Again
Jul29 The Republicans Are Testing Out a 2024 Theme: Racism
Jul29 Vaccine Mandate Could Give Biden a Pain in the...Arm
Jul29 Trump Spins Texas
Jul29 Dept. of Justice Declines to Defend Mo Brooks
Jul29 Nancy Pelosi Will Be President in 2 Weeks
Jul28 Let's Get This Show on the Road
Jul28 Biden to Mandate Vaccines for Federal Employees
Jul28 TX-06 Pokes Trump in the Eye
Jul28 Newsom's Margin for Error is Shrinking
Jul28 The 2022 Election Cycle Looks to Be Officially Underway
Jul28 Mike Enzi, 1944-2021
Jul27 Arizona Audit Is a Train Wreck
Jul27 Trump Will Mess with Texas
Jul27 Yes, But Can DeSantis Govern?
Jul27 Of Course, DeSantis Is Not the only Republican Eyeing 2024
Jul27 Crime Might Not Pay
Jul27 Fox Gets Socked
Jul27 Broom and Rug, Meet 4,500 Tips about Brett Kavanaugh
Jul26 Biden Tests His 2022 Strategy
Jul26 Kinzinger Will Join the 1/6 Select Committee
Jul26 Trump Is Hard at Work Trying to Unseat Liz Cheney
Jul26 Mark Warner: Infrastructure Bill Will Be Ready Today
Jul26 Eighteen States Have Already Passed New Voting Restrictions
Jul26 A Possible New Front in the Culture Wars: the Draft
Jul26 Herschel Walker's Turbulent Past Emerges
Jul26 Republicans Are Flocking to the OH-15 Special Election