Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Perry indictment is part of campaign of harassment against conservatives

rickperryThe news of the indictment against Texas Governor Rick Perry on charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official surprised the country and shook up the early presidential race for 2016. Debate ranged from how the charges would affect Perry’s chances at winning the Republican nomination and the White House to whether Perry would be convicted. A surprising number of liberals and Democrats have broken ranks to defend what many call an unconstitutional attempt to criminalize politics as usual. This is not the first time in recent memory that prosecutors have pressed charges against Republicans on dubious grounds.

In Texas, the Travis County DA office has prosecuted other high profile Republicans. In 1993, Rosemary Lemberg’s predecessor, Ronnie Earle, indicted newly elected U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on charges of misusing her previous office of state treasurer according to National Review. Hutchison was originally elected in a special election and faced the prospect of running for reelection in 1994 with the indictment hanging over her head. She pressed for a quick resolution and, when the case went to trial, Earle told the court that he could not proceed without the admission of records seized from Hutchison’s office without a search warrant. The judge promptly ordered the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.

After the acquittal, Hutchison requested that the records be released, saying, “The case was not there. They turned around and ran because they knew the longer they went, the more embarrassing it was going to be. . . . They thought the lady would crack. Well, the lady wouldn’t crack.”

In 2010, it was Tom Delay’s turn to face the Travis County DA. Delay was convicted on money laundering charges stemming from accusations that he funneled corporate money to Republican candidates. Delay, a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was sentenced to three years in prison, but remained free on bail while he appealed. His conviction was overturned in 2013 by a three judge panel of a Texas appellate court. The decision said that evidence in the case was “legally insufficient” according to the Washington Post.

In 2008, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was indicted on felony charges of failing to properly report gifts less than four months before that year’s election. He was found guilty of making false statements on Oct. 27 and promptly lost his reelection fight to Mark Begich. A few months later in February 2009, an FBI agent became a whistleblower and revealed that prosecutors and FBI agents had withheld key evidence and witnesses that would have supported Stevens’ claims of innocence as well introducing evidence that they knew to be false. In April 2009, a federal judge vacated Stevens’ conviction. Politico reported in 2012 that a special investigator’s review of the case found that misconduct by the prosecutors and FBI had tainted the trial. Stevens died in a plane crash in 2010 and his Senate seat remains in Democratic hands.

Two other Republican governors, Chris Christie (N.J.) and Scott Walker (Wisc.), are also potentially under investigation according to Salon. In New Jersey, prosecutors are trying to tie Chris Christie to the “Bridge-gate” scandal as well as diversion of Port Authority money to New Jersey road and bridge projects and real estate deals by David Samson, Christie’s appointee to chair the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners. According to Esquire, anonymous “sources with intimate knowledge” of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s investigation say Christie’s Port Authority appointees and former chief counsel “face near-certain indictment and are being pressed to hand up Christie.”

Walker may come under investigation for illegally coordinating with outside groups in his 2012 fight against recall. Walker triumphed in the election, but, as described by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Milwaukee County prosecutor, a Democrat, launched a John Doe probe, an investigation allowed under Wisconsin law that allows the government to “compel people to produce documents and give testimony, as well as bar them from talking publicly about the investigation.” A federal judge ordered an end to the probe in May 2014, according to MSNBC, noting that no laws had been broken. Under Wisconsin law, issue ads that do not endorse or attack a specific candidate are not considered expenditures for a campaign and are not subject to laws regarding coordination with the candidate. This issue was previously decided in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland.

Republicans do not have to be prominent elected officials to attract the attention of partisan prosecutors. Since 2013, a series of articles in the Wall St. Journal have detailed how prosecutors in Wisconsin have subpoenaed 29 conservative groups in the John Doe probe. In June 2014, the Journal noted that so far prosecutors have failed to show probable cause that any crime had been committed and pointed out that the coordination in Wisconsin strongly resembled the President Obama’s 2012 campaign. Nevertheless, recent reports by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Fox News indicate that personal information from members of conservative groups such as Wisconsin Club for Growth were released by a federal appeals court and posted online, allegedly by mistake.

The John Doe probe in Wisconsin is reminiscent of the IRS harassment of conservative groups that has been ongoing under the Obama Administration. Far from targeting high profile Republicans, the IRS focused its abuse on grassroots leaders of Tea Party groups. In one instance, cited by the Chicago Sun-Times, Catherine Engelbrecht, a small business owner involved with two nonprofit political groups beginning in 2010, was suddenly subjected to more than 15 federal audits and inquiries. In addition to the IRS, she was contacted by OSHA, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, among others.

The IRS admitted to both the harassment of conservative groups and illegally leaking confidential tax information to liberal groups during the 2012 presidential election. In June 2014, the Daily Signal reported that the IRS had agreed to pay $50,000 to the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS had leaked the group’s donor list, including names and contact information to the gay activist group, the Human Rights Campaign, which then published the data. Even though leaking confidential tax information is a felony, no criminal charges have been filed against anyone at the IRS.

There are also indications that Lois Lerner, the official at the center of the IRS scandal, may have had a history of malicious prosecutions at the Federal Election Commission as well. The Illinois Review reported that Republican senate candidate Al Salvi was the subject of several FEC complaints regarding campaign finances in the last weeks of his 1996 campaign against Dick Durbin. The complaints were ultimately dismissed in 2000, but not before Salvi received a strange offer from an FEC official he identified as Lois Lerner. Salvi says that, in a conversation that included Mike Salvi, his brother and attorney, Lerner told him, “If you promise to never run for office again, we'll drop this case.” Salvi refused. Four years and $100,000 in legal fees later, the FEC case against Salvi was dismissed.

These high profile cases are likely not the only instances of malicious prosecution of conservatives. At the state and local level, it is easy for such cases to avoid national scrutiny. The Wisconsin John Doe probe has largely been ignored by the national media. (Those aware of similar cases can contact the author.) In many other instances, such as harassment of California supporters of Prop 8 and the demonization of the Koch brothers, there was no prosecution, but a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence conservatives.

It is increasingly evident that the harassment, intimidation and malicious prosecution of Republican officeholders and conservative activists, often in the name of campaign finance reform, are an integral part of the Democratic playbook. As long as such attempts at stifling free speech succeed with no consequences for the left, they are likely to continue.


Read the full article on Examiner

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Many Democrats side with Rick Perry on indictment

temporary2In the days since Rick Perry’s indictment on charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official, many prominent Democrats have condemned the move by a Texas special prosecutor. As Perry’s attorneys announced on Friday, August 22, that he would seek to have the charges dismissed on constitutional grounds according to the El Paso Times, a large number of Democrats around the country agree with Perry that the governor’s actions were not criminal and were protected under the Constitutions of Texas and the United States.

Although Perry’s indictment was initially applauded by many on the left, the flimsy nature of the charges quickly led many liberals and Democrats to condemn what USA Today called a “bid to criminalize politics.” Even the New York Times called the indictment “the product of overzealous prosecution” and opined that “bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony.”

The indictment stems from a dispute between the governor and the Travis County District Attorney. The DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving in April 2013 with a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit. While in custody, Lehmberg had to be restrained. Video of her arrest was posted online by KOKE, an Austin radio station. When Lehmberg was convicted, Perry argued that she had lost public confidence and should resign. When she refused, Perry ultimately vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for Lehmberg’s office in June 2013. Lehmberg is still serving as the Travis County DA, but is not planning to seek reelection in 2016.

The fact that Lehmberg’s office had investigated the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Rick Perry’s pet projects, for corruption muddies the waters. The criminal investigation into the cancer institute concluded in December 2013 without targeting Perry or his staff according to the Wall St. Journal. Although cited by Democrats as a motive for Perry’s veto, the indictment does not mention the cancer institute investigation.

First to break ranks was David Axelrod on August 16. In a tweet, Axelrod, a former Clinton advisor, called Perry’s indictment “pretty sketchy.” Three days later, Axelrod defended himself in a series of tweets after receiving “unhappy emails” from anti-Perry Twitter followers,

Lanny Davis, formerly the special counsel to Bill Clinton, joined Axelrod’s dissent a few days later with a column in The Hill. Davis called the indictment “shameful” and wrote that “whether Perry was right or wrong in vetoing that funding… is not relevant. The voters get to decide that issue.” Davis called the indictment “a perversion of the criminal justice system, a classic case of prosecutorial abuse, to indict Perry as a way of deciding the wisdom of his veto.”

Davis goes on to scold Democrats for the presumption of Perry’s guilt. “It is even more outrageous to anyone who cares about due process and civil liberties,” he writes, “to read the comments from local and state Democrats in the state Texas Democratic Party about the Perry indictment.”

“In fact, an indictment is evidence of nothing,” Davis continues. “It is literally just an accusation, not even close to proven facts.”

Self-proclaimed liberal Democrat and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz agrees, saying that Perry’s veto threat is “not anything for a criminal indictment” in an interview on NewsMax TV. Dershowitz called the two statutes that Perry was accused of violating “reminiscent of the old Soviet Union” and says this is “what happens in totalitarian societies.”
Mark Halperin, political analyst for Time Magazine and MSNBC and author of “Game Change,” a book about the 2008 election, called the indictment “the stupidest thing I think I’ve seen in my career” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He continued, “I hope some judge throws it out right away. It’s not just kind of funny and ridiculous; it’s an infringement on individual liberties.” Halperin noted that Perry doesn’t lose his First Amendment rights “just because he’s governor of Texas.”

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, author of the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog for the Washington Post points out several legal problems with the indictment for abuse of office. First, the Texas law requires that the public servant must have “custody or possession” of the property that was misused. Perry never had possession of the Public Integrity Unit funds since his veto prevented them from ever being appropriated. Second, Volokh notes that vetoing funds is not a misuse of funds or a violation of Perry’s oath of office. Finally, Volokh notes that vetoes are legal under the Texas Constitution, even to influence other officials, which Volokh calls “behavior that is commonplace in the political process.”

The Volokh Conspiracy also finds fault with the charge of coercion. Volokh cites the 1990 decision by a Texas court in State v. Hanson in which the Court noted that “Coercion of a lawful act by a threat of lawful action is protected free expression.” The decision also pointed out, “Freedom of speech must encompass the liberty of elected officials to discuss matters of public concern without prior restraint or fear of punishment. A vague statute that potentially could punish protected political debate violates due process because of its chilling effect on the exercise of that essential right.”

Perhaps USA Today summarized the problem with the case best: “The case rests on a highly dubious legal argument: Perry can exercise his rights of free speech to seek Lehmberg's resignation, and he can exercise his power of the line-item veto over use of state funds. But, supposedly, he can't do them in tandem.”

Read the full article on Elections Examiner

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to annoy your First Officer

My career as a pilot involved spending more than a decade as a First Officer, a copilot to those not initiated into the terms of aviation. After more than ten years and 4,000 hours of flying as an FO at four different companies, I am uniquely qualified to speak on behalf of FOs everywhere and explain to captains what rubs their second-in-command the wrong way. Read on and discover how to annoy your FO.

1. Keep your hand on the flap handle on an approach. This is a common move for both experienced and inexperienced captains. While flying an approach, when the captain feels that it is time to lower the flaps, I would often notice the captain place his hand on the flap handle, just waiting for the second when I, as the flying pilot, would call for the flaps.

I don’t know whether they thought I would forget to call for the flaps, wanted to give me a subtle reminder, or just wanted to keep themselves from forgetting. Regardless, I found it annoying and would often delay calling for the flaps just make them keep their hand in an uncomfortable position.

If the landing checklist is completed properly, the flaps will not be forgotten. As long as flying pilot complies with aircraft limitations and company standard operating procedures, the flying pilot has discretion on when to call for the flaps. If the nonflying pilot believes that the flaps have been forgotten, a better way to remind them is verbally, stating, for example, “We are still at flaps 20.”

2. Never let him fly. FOs are qualified pilots. Often, since aviation new hires typically go to the bottom of the seniority list, the FO might even be more qualified than the captain. The vast majority of FOs are more than capable of safely flying the airplane.

FOs are supposed to be able to land the airplane successfully, not just lower the landing gear and work the radios. Nevertheless, flying is a perishable skill. How can an FO improve and stay current if he never touches the controls? Your life may one day depend upon your FO’s ability to fly an approach to minimums or land in a strong crosswind.

As an instructor, I saw a number of pilots who had logged hundreds of hours in an aircraft type, but who had very little actual experience flying it. This caused difficulty and more than a few problems in simulator training when a First Officer upgraded to captain.

The captain who never lets his FO fly or only rarely throws them a bone with a short leg does his fellow pilots a disservice. The fairest way to divide legs is the way that most airlines do it, by alternating each leg. This helps both pilots to maintain proficiency and interest.

3. Don’t keep him in the loop. CRM (cockpit resource management) is not just three random letters from the alphabet. If your FO going to effectively back you up, he needs to know what’s going on. This includes planning items like changes to flight plans and weather forecasts as well as more basic things like announcing what switches you are flipping. Particularly if the captain is the nonflying pilot, it matters if you do something like switch the anti-ice on or off. Don’t just do things and expect your FO to automatically know what you’re doing and thinking.

Most FOs can’t read their wife’s mind; they certainly can’t read yours.

4. Don’t start a radio conversation and expect him to finish it. Many times, even though the FO is the pilot monitoring, the captain will initiate a radio conversation with ATC. This in itself is not a problem. Sometimes it is simply more expedient to say something yourself than relay it through your fellow pilot.

The problem comes when the captain initiates an exchange and then fails to follow through. Often the initial exchange is followed immediately by an altitude or frequency change, leaving the FO to wonder “will he respond or not?” Usually there is a pregnant pause while neither pilot answers and the FO scrambles to acknowledge the instruction. It would be much easier for the captain to respond since he was already talking to the controller.

5. Don’t share the paperwork. Typically programming the flight plan is an FO duty, but how can he put in an “as filed” route if you squirrel away the flight plan in an undisclosed location on the left side of the cockpit? Further, as mentioned earlier, the FO cannot cross check the captain if he doesn’t know what the captain’s plan is. For example, without the flight plan or dispatch release showing the amount of fuel required for the flight, the FO cannot verify that the aircraft is properly fueled.

A good captain puts the paperwork in the middle where both pilots can check it as needed. A great captain makes the FO his own copy. Captains who don’t print out flight plans make FOs want to pull their hair out.

6. Act like a check airman. The captain and FO may not be equals, but it is not the captain’s job to test my knowledge. The FO not required to let you quiz him on memory items and aircraft limitations. I have learned a lot from some great captains, but they didn’t act like instructors, let alone check airmen. If every flight feels like a checkride, the crew is going to have a miserable time together. Unless you are a check airman, don’t act like one.

7. Try to do his job. A competent FOs knows his flows. He can run a checklist. He is trained to program the FMS and work the radios. Let him do his job. Don’t try to do it for him. CRM teaches that both pilots have their role and should stick to it.

When you try to do the FO’s job as well as yours, you break his routine and increase the chance of errors and mistakes. Do you really want the FO to try to race you to retract the flaps after landing? There are very few things that need to be done quickly in an airplane and having both pilots competing to reach the same control first is a recipe for disaster.

The other extreme is the FO who will let the captain take his duties. This may work well until the first time the captain misses and item and the FO, who is now simply along for the ride, doesn’t catch it either.

8. Use nonstandard procedures. You will be captain on the next trip, but odds are that your FO will be flying with a different captain. Make it easy for him. Use standard procedures. If he spend several days getting used to your nonstandard way of doing things, he’s going to have to relearn the right way to do things next week or next month.

The whole idea of standardization is that everyone does things the same way and that any two crew members can be comfortable together without a long period of adaptation. Keep it standard. He’s an FO, not a chameleon.

9. Shut him down. Your FO your backup. His job is to question you when something seems amiss. This requires open lines of communication. Countless airplanes and lives have been lost because First Officers didn’t speak up. In some cases, captains intimidated their First Officers into silence. CRM has been around for nearly half a century, but there are still captains with this sort of god complex.

It is in your interest for your FO to speak up. It requires teamwork to safely and efficiently fly a turbine airplane. If you intimidate your crew into silence, you may both pay the ultimate price.

10. Lose his trust. Both crewmembers are professionals. Our wellbeing and careers depend upon a certain level of competence. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you repeatedly get your FO into trouble he will spend more time crosschecking you than doing his own job. This is just as bad as when the captain tries to do both jobs.

To be an effective captain, the captain must be familiar with basic knowledge items such as aircraft limitations and FARs. NOTAMs should be closely checked before each flight in addition to the weather. Before flying an arrival or departure procedure, check the plate closely and be sure to look for notes, crossing restrictions and speeds. The captain should also possess basic airmanship skills. This may seem basic, but it is the cause for many mistakes and violations.

If the crew is to be an effective team, both pilots need to be able to depend on each other. If you and your FO have a long history of filing NASA or ASAP reports, you probably need to evaluate our performance as a team.

When considering how to treat your FO, it is important to ask yourself how your actions affect safety and CRM (for more information on CRM, consult GlobalAir.com’s Aviation Directory for courses on cockpit resource management). While safety is paramount on any flight, it will normally be enhanced by making FO more involved in the decision making process and showing that your value and respect his opinion and skills.

Read the full article on Aviation Examiner

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Republican Senate majority looms likely

Three months prior to the midterm congressional elections, polling is giving Republicans ample reason to be optimistic. Prominent political analysts estimate that enough Senate seats will change hands to create a Republican Senate majority. With new polls released on August 7, polling points toward a Republican Senate majority next year. August 7 also brought the revelation that a Democratic incumbent would withdraw from his reelection campaign.

As Examiner reported in March, a total of 36 Senate seats are up for reelection this year. Democrats are defending 21 seats and Republicans 15. The majority of these seats are safe for both parties, but 16 races are competitive enough to offer a challengers a chance. Republicans currently hold 45 seats in the Senate and would need to win an additional six seats to form a majority.

Alaska is still considered a tossup by both the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, both respected political analysts. With the Republican primary not until August 19, two recent polls give Democratic incumbent Mark Begich a slight lead over two potential Republicans challengers. A Public Policy poll from August 7 showed Begich leading former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan by four points. A second Public Policy poll put Begich ahead of former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell by three points. On July 28, a CBS poll showed Sullivan trailing Begich by 12 points and Treadwell trailing by two.

Public Policy found that Sullivan leads the primary polling with 35 percent. Treadwell is close behind at 29 percent, while 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller is a distant third with 20 percent. The eventual nominee is likely to get a bump in the polls from his victory that may well boost him ahead of Sen. Begich.

Arkansas, another Democratic seat, is also a tossup. Incumbent Mark Pryor trailed Republican Tom Cotton by two points in a Public Policy poll from August 5.

Colorado leans Democrat according Larry Sabato, but is a tossup in Cook’s estimation. The most recent poll, by CBS, shows incumbent Mark Udall (D) with a narrow lead over Republican Cory Gardner.

Georgia is also a split decision with Sabato rating the seat of the retiring Saxby Chambliss as leaning Republican while Cook calls it a tossup. Two recent polls released on July 28 were also a split decision. CBS gave newly anointed Republican candidate David Perdue a six point lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn and Landmark Communications found a four point lead for Nunn. The race will likely start to solidify soon now that Republican nomination has finally been decided.

Iowa is considered a tossup by both analysts. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is retiring, pitting Democrat Bruce Braley against Republican Joni Ernst. The July 28 CBS poll found a dead heat with Ernst leading by one point.

Kentucky is rated likely Republican by Sabato and a tossup by Cook. Nominally considered a safe seat, Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell was weakened by a tough primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate. A July 29 poll in the Courier Journal showed McConnell with a scant two point lead over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The CBS poll released one day earlier gave McConnell a four point lead.

Louisiana is yet another tossup. CBS found that Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu trails Republican Bill Cassidy by one point.

Michigan is another split decision with Sabato calling the race a likely Democratic victory and Cook labeling it a tossup. The current senator, Carl Levin (D), is retiring. The most recent poll, by CBS, showed Republican Terry Lynn Land with a one point lead over Democrat Gary Peters.

Minnesota is a likely Democratic hold in the view of both analysts. Incumbent Al Franken leads likely Republican candidate Mike McFadden by 12 points in the CBS poll. The Minnesota primary will be held next week on August 12.

Mississippi is considered to be a probable Republican hold in spite of the bruising and still disputed primary campaign that left Republican incumbent Thad Cochran in the race. CBS found Cochran with a 14 point lead over Democrat Travis Childers. The wild card in this race is Cochran’s primary challenger, Chris McDaniel, who has still not conceded defeat and may challenge the primary results in court.

Montana is a likely Republican pickup according to both analysts. Democratic incumbent John Walsh trailed challenger Steve Daines by 16 points according to CBS and was unlikely to make up the deficit. He announced on August 7 that he was dropping out of the race in the midst of a scandal involving plagiarism in a 2007 research paper at the Army War College.

North Carolina is another tossup. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan trails Republican Thom Tillis by five points in the most recent Rasmussen poll on August 7. A Civitas poll two days earlier showed Tillis with a two point lead and the CBS poll showed a one point Tillis lead. The race is still very close but is trending toward Tillis.

New Hampshire is rated as a Democratic hold by both analysts. Jeanne Shaheen, the incumbent, led former Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown, by 10 points according to CBS.

South Dakota is a second likely Republican pickup. Democrat Tim Johnson is retiring and Republican Mike Rounds is favored over Democrat Rick Weiland. There are no recent polls for this race.

Virginia is a likely Democratic hold. Incumbent Mike Warner leads former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie by 23 points in a Hampton University poll.

West Virginia is a third likely pickup for the GOP. CBS shows Republican Shelly Moore Capito leading Democrat Natalie Tennant by eight points. The seat is being vacated by Democrat Jay Rockefeller, who is retiring.

In the current analysis, Republicans will almost certainly flip three Senate seats from Democrat to Republican. These seats are in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. In addition to these three seats, the GOP would need three more seats to win control of the Senate.

There are nine states still rated as tossups. Seven of these states are being defended by the Democrats, while only two are Republican. Currently, Republicans hold narrow leads in five of the Democratic tossups: Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina. It is interesting to note that three of these states, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, which may indicate an ideological change since the last Senate elections.

It is also interesting to note that several of the incumbent senators in tossup states were part of the class of 2009 that rode to victory on Barack Obama’s coattails. These senators include Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Udall (D-Col.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). With President Obama often polling with lower approval ratings than Democratic congressmen, he is unlikely to have coattails in 2014.

A final factor to consider is the rule of thumb that any incumbent who polls at less than 50 percent is in serious trouble. History has shown that undecided voters often, but not always, predominantly vote toward for challenger.

On the other side, only two seats are possible pickups for the Democrats. In Georgia, a tough primary season allowed Democrat Michelle Nunn to establish an early lead over the eventual Republican nominee, David Perdue. In Kentucky, a bitter campaign between Tea Party challenger and incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell left McConnell in a close race for the general election. Both of these races are likely to break for the Republicans.

In the end, whether the Republicans can successfully defend these two seats may well determine control of the Senate. It is a much easier proposition to win three tossup races than five. As Larry Sabato points out, Republicans have not beat more than two Democratic incumbents in any year since 1980. With the three likely pickups in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, the GOP is set to break a 30 year losing streak, but it will take more to win control of the Senate.

Many analysts believe that the GOP will overcome the odds. Sabato himself predicts a GOP pickup of between four and eight seats, which would put the chances of a Senate majority at approximately 50 percent. The comprehensive poll of Senate races by CBS also forecasted a 51-49 majority for the Republicans.

The Washington Post puts the odds even higher, giving the GOP an 82 percent chance of taking control of the Senate. The Post model calls for Republicans to win in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, a pickup of seven seats. Based on current polling and trends, Examiner agrees with this assessment and would also consider North Carolina a likely Republican pickup for a total gain of eight seats.


Read the full article on National Elections Examiner

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How the Constitution allows Obama to decree amnesty

In the wake of the breakdown of congressional negotiations on immigration reform, President Obama has announced his intention at a White House press conference to “make some tough choices to meet the challenge -- with or without Congress.” Many observers believe that this portends new executive action on the part of the president to issue an amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. While there is doubt on the part of some that Obama can issue sweeping changes to the immigration system by Executive Order, the Constitution does allow the president to unilaterally issue an amnesty and his past actions prove that he would be willing to take that step.

Red State’s Dan Spencer points out that, as late as 2011, Barack Obama eschewed the notion that he could unilaterally change congressionally enacted immigration laws. The president said, “This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true…. There are laws on the books that I have to enforce.”

Less than a year later, Obama reversed himself and unilaterally halted deportations of young illegal immigrants. According to CNN, Obama’s election policy change applied to “people younger than 30 who came to the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and [who] were successful students or served in the military.”

Law professors John Yoo and Robert Delahunty argued that Obama’s policy change was unconstitutional. Under the Take Care Clause, the president has a constitutional duty to enforce the laws. Nevertheless, the policy has gone unchallenged since 2012 and has become de facto law.

The most obvious executive action by the president would be to simply enlarge his previous policy of stopping deportations for certain illegal aliens. There is no way of knowing what the terms of such a new policy would be, but it could conceivably include any illegal immigrants who do not have criminal records.

Another option that rests on a more firm legal footing would be for President Obama to simply issue a blanket amnesty for all illegal aliens. As pointed out on the Wounded American Warrior blog, “amnesty” is defined as a pardon issued to a large group of individuals. Under Article II Section 2, the president has the constitutional authority to issue pardons to illegal aliens.

Observers ranging from Rush Limbaugh to the Huffington Post agree that issuing a blanket pardon to illegal aliens would be a constitutional course of action for President Obama. In the analysis of the Huffington Post, a pardon would not allow illegals to become U.S. citizens or legal residents, but it would remove the threat of deportation or other punishments. This would have the effect of leaving illegal aliens in a permanent legal limbo, able to continue their lives in the United States, but unable to access the rights of privileges of legal residency.

Such a blanket pardon is not unprecedented. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who were accused of dodging the draft during the Vietnam War. Another controversial presidential amnesty was Andrew Johnson’s pardon of former Confederates after the Civil War.

A presidential pardon of illegal aliens would not solve the problem of illegal immigration. It would most likely make it worse by providing a new incentive for immigrants to enter the country illegally. Any permanent solution would still require congressional action. If this is true, why would President Obama take the step of issuing a unilateral amnesty?

The obvious conclusion is that President Obama believes that executive action on immigration will help Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. Obama’s halt to deportations was widely credited with helping sway Hispanic votes in 2012. Examiner’s analysis of 2012 exit polls found that immigration was the issue that most damaged Republican candidates. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post writes that executive action in 2014 might not be as effective as it was in 2012.

Rush Limbaugh theorizes that Obama might also issue pardons in an effort to goad Republicans into an impeachment attempt. Limbaugh believes that impeachment would unite the fragmented leftist coalition in defense of the president and cement a Democratic victory in 2016. Recently, Democrats have been using the prospect of impeachment as a fundraising tool.

With Congress in recess and the Democrats increasingly desperate with regard to their chances in November, the odds are good that President Obama will follow through on his threat to act on his own. At this point, the only certainty is that such a move would sow confusion in the upcoming congressional elections and further inflame passions on both sides in the immigration debate.

Read the full article on Examiner.com

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