Trump Can’t Put His Ego Aside, Declares Voter Fraud, Forms Unwarranted Commission at Taxpayer Expense

Trump may have won the electoral college, but he lost the popular vote by a historic margin.  That fact apparently insults his fragile ego to the effect that he’s now amplified his claims of voter fraud and formed a commission that will look for the equivalent of lightning repeatedly striking the same exact spot.  Heading that commission will be Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who championed an illegal voter suppression technique called “caging” and launched a program called Interstate Crosscheck to compare voter registration data across states and ferret out evidence of double voting.  Crosscheck, in the 30 states that took up using it, flagged 7.2 million possible double registrants, no more than four have actually been charged with deliberate double registration or double voting.  Very few actual cases of fraud being referred for prosecution.

A new investigation from Rolling Stone raises fresh concerns about Interstate Crosscheck, finding that its methodology has a built-in racial bias that puts people with African-American, Latino and Asian names at greater risk of being wrongly accused of double voting.

The Washington Post actually did a deep dive into the 2016 election looking for voter fraud:

We combed through the news-aggregation system Nexis to find demonstrated cases of absentee or in-person voter fraud – which is to say, examples of people getting caught casting a ballot that they shouldn’t – during this election. This excludes examples of voter registration fraud – the filing of fraudulent voter registration information. Those aren’t votes cast – and given that organizations often provide incentives for employees to register as many people as possible, registration fraud cases (while still rare) are more common.

The found a grand total of only four documented instances of voters attempted to cast fraudulent votes. Not four percent, literally four individuals — and most of them were Republican voters.  There are no other documented cases of voter fraud in the entire country in 2016. These four represent 0.000002% of the ballots cast, and again, they weren’t actually included in any official tallies.

But for Trump, that’s just all “fake news” and he’s now formed his very own commission using taxpayer dollars to find that elusive voter fraud …. or is it to look for ways to suppress the vote nationwide to assure his re-election in 2020.  And, Kris Kobach has now lobbed his first volley in that effort:


I thought Republicans were supposed to be “States’ Rights” advocates.  This effort by President Trump through his minions Kris Kobach and AG Jeff Sessions looks like an attempt to federally take over our voting processes so as to make it easier to suppress the vote across the entire nation.  Do you really want to give all your personal and voting information to the Republicans who just left a database of voter information wide-open and unprotected for any and all to see, including the Russians?  If you read the letter above, he wants:

  • Your First and Last Name, including Middle Name and/or initials
  • Registration/Mailing Addresses
  • Your Date of Birth
  • Your Political Party
  • Your Last 4 digits of your Social Security Number
  • Your Voter history (elections voted in since 2006)
  • Your Voter Status (Active/Inactive/Cancelled)
  • Info whether you registered in some other state
  • Info regarding your military status
  • Info regarding whether you’re an overseas citizen

But it gets worse as he states:  “Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.”  Wonderful!  Are they planning to make it easy for hackers/criminals to use your personally identifiable information to commit identity theft as a means of voter intimidation and suppression?

Apparently Nevada’s Secretary of State has no problem with complying with the request, but will at least withhold Social Security Numbers, Driver’s License Numbers, DMV-ID Card Numbers and email addresses:

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IRS Opens Up Form 990 Data, Ushering Nonprofit Sector into the Age of Transparency

— by

Making meaningful improvements to how the federal government uses the internet can take years, new laws, regulations, demonstration projects, testimony and dogged persistence by public interest advocates and reformers in the pursuit of change. Then, all at once, a dam breaks and a new resource blossoms into a commons online. June 15, 2016 was such a day, when the IRS has begun publishing electronic nonprofit tax returns online in a machine-readable format on Amazon Web Services.

Sunlight has long held that nonprofit e-file data should be open. Now it is.

“This is a huge victory for the IRS,” open government advocate Carl Malamud said in an email. “The service stepped up to the plate and has squarely faced the issue of privacy breaches in public nonprofit returns and are now releasing machine-processable XML data for those returns. This is a huge release: 1.4 million e-file returns dating back to 2011 available for free and a commitment to update the data store on a monthly basis.”

Over the past decade, however, the IRS has not embraced publishing the tax returns of charities — called Form 990s — as open data with joy and enthusiasm, despite the clear value of opening the $1.6 trillion nonprofit sector to transparency and innovation. In fact, Malamud had to win a federal lawsuit to get the tax agency to do what it should have been doing anyway.

After a federal court ordered the IRS to disclose Form 990s as open data in 2015, however, the agency subsequently announced that it would begin working to release all of the data from electronically filed nonprofit tax returns available in a machine-readable format online by early 2016.

In the months since, the agency has worked diligently to ensure that the privacy issues Malamud had found in the millions of files the IRS disclosed to Public.Resource.org. As of June 2016, the public can now access Form 990 data on Amazon Web Services for free. Notably, the datasets are hosted in Amazon’s public cloud instead of IRS.gov, offloading demand to a private sector company that’s become a global leader in hosting apps, services and data.

It’s also worth noting that this release also fulfills an element of one of the commitments in the third U.S. National Action Plan for Open Government, modernizing administration of the Freedom of Information Act, to “Proactively Release Nonprofit Tax Filings.”

Tax filings for nonprofit organizations contain data that is legally required to be publicly released. Accessing the filings generally requires a request from the public, which can include a FOIA request, and results in more than 40 million pages provided in a non-machine-readable format. The Internal Revenue Service will launch a new process that will remove personally identifiable information before releasing the public information within electronically filed nonprofit tax filings. The electronically filed tax filings will be released as open, machine- readable data, allowing the public to review the finances and other information of more than 340,000 American nonprofit and charitable organizations.

In our correspondence, Malamud hailed the work of many others to bring this moment to pass, from professor Beth Noveck, the former director of the White House Open Government Initiative who co-authored “Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data,” to the pro bono work of Thomas R. Burke of Davis Wright Tremaine on the FOIA lawsuit, to the work of Scott Klein’s team on ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer and the Internet Archive.

“Nonprofit tax returns contain tremendous amounts of information about the activities of this important sector of our economy,” Noveck said via email. She continued:

With the raw data of nonprofit tax returns, it will become possible, for example, to see who is providing social services to whom and where and more easily spot the overlaps and gaps so that government and the social sector know where more investment is needed. It will become possible to build the tools to spot waste, fraud and abuse more easily than we can today. There’s rich and useful information, which can be visualized to help donors know more about where to give. When the sector itself has better business intelligence about its own activities, it can operate more effectively.

Many thanks to everyone who has collaborated to help bring the IRS further into the 21st century, not least the staff at the agency who we need to be trustworthy stewards of our private data. Protecting privacy when releasing open data is essential, and we commend the nation’s tax collector and regulator for its due diligence.

This is far from the first time Malamud’s determined efforts has led to a watershed in useful government data going online. Back in 1993, he used a grant from the National Science Foundation to obtain and publish Securities and Exchange Commission data online. In 1995, the SEC decided to publish the data itself. Two decades later, Malamud spent years buying, processing and publishing millions of nonprofit tax filings, converting scanned images and then making the bulk data available to the public.

“This is exactly analogous to the SEC and the EDGAR database,” Malamud said in an phone interview in 2013. “If you make the data available, you will get innovation.”

I expect that to be the case, given the track record of his predictions. For instance, journalists, auditors and congressional investigators will now be able to analyze the data to look for trends and patterns, finding and flagging issues. It’s also going to empower officials and watchdogs to track and reveal influence in the nonprofit world.

“This is useful information to track nonprofits,” Malamud said. “A state attorney general could just search for all executives that received loans from their employer.

More broadly, opening Form 990 data will not only improve how services like Guidestar and Charity Navigator work, but also provide the public with more equitable access and insight insight into how well their donations are being spent.

“My hope is that this will enable us to grow the nonprofit sector by enabling people to target their donations, to help the sector know better whom to serve and how, and, ultimately, to help the people who are the recipients of the good works of those in nonprofit organizations,” said Noveck.


CC-BY-SAThis work by Sunlight Foundation, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Denouncing NSA Surveillance Isn’t Enough—We Need the Power to Stop It

— by Norman Solomon

For more than a month, outrage has been profuse in response to news about NSA surveillance and other evidence that all three branches of the U.S. government are turning Uncle Sam into Big Brother.

Now what?

Continuing to expose and denounce the assaults on civil liberties is essential. So is supporting Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers—past, present and future. But those vital efforts are far from sufficient.

At the core of the surveillance state is the hollowness of its democratic pretenses. Only with authentic democracy can we save ourselves from devastating evisceration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

imageFor a moment, walk a mile in the iron-heeled shoes of the military-industrial-digital complex. Its leaders don’t like clarity about what they’re doing, and they certainly don’t like being exposed or denounced—but right now the surveillance state is in no danger of losing what it needs to keep going: power.

The huge digi-tech firms and the government have become mutual tools for gaining humungous profits and tightening political control. The partnerships are deeply enmeshed in military and surveillance realms, whether cruise missiles and drones or vast metadata records and capacities to squirrel away trillions of emails.

The enormous corporate leverage over government policies doesn’t change the fact that the nexus of the surveillance state—and the only organization with enough potential torque to reverse its anti-democratic trajectory—is government itself.

The necessity is to subdue the corporate-military forces that have so extensively hijacked the government. To do that, we’ll need to accomplish what progressives are currently ill-positioned for: democratic mobilization to challenge the surveillance state’s hold on power.

These days, progressives are way too deferential and nice to elected Democrats who should be confronted for their active or passive complicity with abysmal policies of the Obama White House. An example is Al Franken, senator from Minnesota, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program last month: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

The right-wing Tea Party types realized years ago what progressive activists and groups are much less likely to face—that namby-pamby “lobbying” gets much weaker results than identifying crucial issues and making clear a willingness to mount primary challenges.

Progressives should be turning up the heat and building electoral capacities. But right now, many Democrats in Congress are cakewalking toward re-election in progressive districts where they should be on the defensive for their anemic “opposition” to—or outright support for—NSA surveillance.

Meanwhile, such officials with national profiles should encounter progressive pushback wherever they go. A step in that direction will happen just north of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend, when House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appears as guest of honor to raise money for the party (up to $32,400 per couple) at a Marin County reception. There will also be a different kind of reception that Pelosi hadn’t been counting on—a picket line challenging her steadfast support for NSA surveillance.

In the first days of this week, upwards of 20,000 people responded to a RootsAction.org action alert by sending their senators and representative an email urging an end to the "Insider Threat Program"—the creepily Orwellian concoction that, as McClatchy news service revealed last month, “requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

Messages to Congress members, vocal protests and many other forms of public outcry are important—but they should lay the groundwork for much stronger actions to wrest control of the government away from the military-industrial-digital complex. That may seem impossible, but it’s certainly imperative: if we’re going to prevent the destruction of civil liberties. In the long run, denunciations of the surveillance state will mean little unless we can build the political capacity to end it.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (Photo Credit: David Burnett/Contact Press Images)

Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State".

In ‘Chilling’ Ruling, Chevron Granted Access to Activists’ Private Internet Data

"Sweeping" subpoena violates rights of those who spoke out against oil giant’s devastating actions in Ecuador

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Following their guilty sentence for the dumping of 18.5bn gallons of toxic waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Chevron is amassing the personal information of the environmentalists and attorneys who fought against them in an effort to prove ‘conspiracy.’  The US government is not the only entity who, with judicial approval, is amassing massive amounts of personal information against their so-called enemies.

A federal judge has ruled to allow Chevron, through a subpoena to Microsoft, to collect the IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by over 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys.

The oil giant is demanding the records in an attempt to cull together a lawsuit which alleges that the company was the victim of a conspiracy in the $18.2 billion judgment against it for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon, causing untold damage to the rainforest.

The "sweeping" subpoena was one of three issued to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

"Environmental advocates have the right to speak anonymously and travel without their every move and association being exposed to Chevron," said Marcia Hofmann, Senior Staff Attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who—along with environmental rights group EarthRights International (ERI)—had filed a motion last fall to "quash" the subpoenas.

"These sweeping subpoenas create a chilling effect among those who have spoken out against the oil giant’s activities in Ecuador," she added at the time.

According to ERI, the subpoena demands the personal information about each account holder as well as the IP addresses associated with every login to each account over a nine-year period. "This could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email," they write, "so as to ‘infer the movements of the users over the relevant period and might permit Chevron to makes inferences about some of the user’s professional and personal relationships.’"

In their statement about the ruling, ERI notes that the argument given by presiding US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan—who was previously accused of prejudice against the Ecuadorians and their lawyers—was as "breathtaking as the subpoena itself." They continue:

According to Judge Kaplan, none of the account holders could benefit from First Amendment protections since the account holders had “not shown that they were U.S. citizens.”

Now, let’s break this down. The account-holders in this case were proceeding anonymously, which the First Amendment permits. Because of this, Judge Kaplan was provided with no information about the account holders’ residency or places of birth. It is somewhat amazing then, that Judge Kaplan assumed that the account holders were not US citizens. As far as I know, a judge has never before made this assumption when presented with a First Amendment claim. We have to ask then: on what basis did Judge Kaplan reach out and make this assumption?

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This work was published on Thursday, July 11, 2013 by Common Dreams and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License (Photo: Rainforest Action Network/ cc/ Flickr)

Dancing Around the First and Fourth Amendments

The government can keep us safe from terrorism without stifling free speech, invading everyone’s privacy, and seizing our data.
By 

Timothy  KarrWhether you think spying is OK or not depends on your relationship to the information being collected.

If you’re on the gathering end, the invasion of someone else’s privacy doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you’re the one whose private life is being pried into, this kind of surveillance seems like a very big deal indeed.

This dynamic is at work with the unfolding story about National Security Agency programs that vacuum up the telephone and Internet data of millions of people.

Free Press-Surveillance-The COM Library

To President Barack Obama, such wholesale spying is a necessary evil. “You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy,” he said. Senators Saxby Chambliss, Dianne Feinstein, and Lindsey Graham were among many in Congress who came forward to defend the programs.

Maybe they spoke too soon. Hundreds of thousands ofAmericans are responding in anger and demanding an end to Washington’s widespread surveillance.

This is why protections like the First and Fourth Amendments were enshrined in our Constitution in the first place — to shield people from such abuses of power.

But Americans aren’t being protected right now — because the people signing off on the laws are on the receiving side of the information divide. Many of them have lost touch with the privacy needs of the people they’re sworn to serve. To those in power, the intrusion into our lives is a tiny price to pay for a full-field view of the communications of all Americans.

And the range of data being mined is pretty staggering. According to reports in the Guardian and The Washington Post, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents, and phone-connection “metadata” that allow authorities to track any person’s movements and contacts over time.

This information includes data about people both abroad and at home who haven’t committed any crimes and have no connections with terrorist groups.

The Obama administration’s supposed authority to spy on all of us stems from its loose interpretation of the controversial USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act lets the government obtain a secret court order to collect “tangible things” that could be relevant to an investigation from businesses that hold user records. This vague wording has freed up intelligence officers to go after nearly any piece of information from anyone, including our Internet-search data, website-browsing patterns, telephone-contact lists, and even Facebook “likes.”

Section 215 does an official dance around the Fourth Amendment — which protects Americans from the warrantless search and seizure of property — by dispensing with the government’s burden of establishing probable cause before obtaining a search warrant. And FISA, which was reauthorized in 2012 under the FISA Amendments Act, allows the government to monitor the contents of foreign communications traffic — without showing that any particular individual is actually suspected of criminal conduct.

The resulting dragnet also threatens our First Amendment rights. People will be less likely to express themselves on popular services offered by Facebook, Google, and Yahoo if they know these companies are cooperating with government-surveillance schemes.

A coalition of privacy, Internet freedom, and free speech advocates has launched a nationwide campaign to stop the spying and clarify the laws that are supposed to keep our private lives private. The coalition has also called on Congress to launch a special investigation that would reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying program.

While keeping Americans safe from terrorism is a noble objective, it can be accomplished without stifling free speech, invading everyone’s privacy, and seizing our data. We shouldn’t have to choose between security and our constitutional rights.


Timothy Karr is the senior director of strategy for Free Press. FreePress.net.  Photo Credit to:  The COM Library/Flickr  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)