Patterico's Pontifications

11/24/2020

Intramural Fighting in a One-Party State

Filed under: General — JVW @ 12:05 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The excellent news outlet, CalMatters, has a pretty fascinating story about a quiet standoff between two ambitious Democrat politicians regarding taxpayer dollars and an influential and progressive public relations firm [note: all links in quote below are from the original article]:

The unpaid invoices piling up in Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had climbed to more than $34.2 million.

It was Nov. 2. Since early September, his staff had been wrangling with the staff of State Controller Betty Yee over whether Padilla’s office had the budgetary authority to pay for a $35 million contract it had awarded to public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker to run a statewide voter education campaign called Vote Safe California. The secretary of state’s office maintained that it did have budgetary authority. The controller’s office, which approves payments, maintained that it did not.

With the two agencies at an impasse, SKDKnickerbocker was left to shoulder millions of dollars in costs for a campaign explaining new pandemic voting procedures. One invoice for a month’s worth of media buys on TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat topped $11 million, and two others topped $9 million, according to documents obtained by CalMatters through a public records request.

On Oct. 20, about two weeks after the controller’s office publicly said it would not approve payment of the contract, Padilla sent an email to Yee.

“Betty,” he wrote. “To support the payment of the voter education program the Secretary of State’s office has been directed to conduct by the Governor and the Legislature, I’m attaching background materials of how similar contracting on behalf of counties has been done previously by the SOS as well as other state departments/agencies.”

“I hope this addresses any remaining questions or concerns.”

Two days later, Yee’s chief counsel sent an email to Padilla’s chief counsel. “Our position remains unchanged,” Rick Chivaro wrote. “Moreover … the (State Controller’s Office) will not be making any further considerations regarding this matter.”

According to the terms of the contract, an impasse on paying the invoice would ultimately force SKDKnickerbocker to eat the costs, now nearly $35 million. No matter how much work the firm did for the Biden/Harris and other Democrat campaigns, that is a huge chunk of change to be denied for work which you provided.

Secretary of State Padilla, as we have mentioned earlier, is in consideration for the United States Senate seat about to be vacated by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Controller Yee is running to be vice-chair of the California Democrat Party and has been mentioned as the possible first female governor of California once Gavin Newsom is through ruining the state. Though the two of them are apparently seeking different positions, the sheer number of ambitious Democrats combined with the relatively low number of prestigious offices — not to mention the jungle primary system — ensures that any election will likely be hotly contested.

In this dust up, Secretary Padilla is playing the role of the Sacramento insider, shoveling taxpayer money to a powerful agency whose help he might need down the road. Controller Yee is positioning herself as a reformist Democrat, working on behalf of the taxpayer and unafraid to take on entrenched relationships within her own party. In this battle I have to abandon my old schoolchum Alex and declare myself a part of Team Betty, since I object to the degree in which elected officeholders have seen fit to abuse their power and blithely toss around money during the pandemic. SKDKnickerbocker should learn a valuable lesson that when contracting with the Golden State you should get your fee paid before you deliver your work.

– JVW

Should Trump Be Prosecuted? A Mueller Prosecutor Says Yes

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



I have already said that I think Trump should be prosecuted after he leaves office, if prosecutors believe a case is warranted. His numerous acts of obstruction are documented in the Mueller report and include directing his White House counsel Don McGahn to prepare a false memorandum documenting a lie about whether Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller. (He had but wanted McGahn to say he hadn’t.) Trump also directed Michael Cohen to make payments to porn stars to hush them up during his campaign about his sexual dalliances with them from years before. These payments constituted campaign finance violations, acts for which Cohen was himself prosecuted. If the person who made the payment should be prosecuted, so should the person who ordered the payment. If presidents and former presidents are never prosecuted for crimes they commit, they become above the law, and are in this sense like kings.

Andrew Weissmann, one of the Mueller prosecutors, agrees in an op-ed published in the New York Times:

[A]s painful and hard as it may be for the country, I believe the next attorney general should investigate Mr. Trump and, if warranted, prosecute him for potential federal crimes.

. . . .

The evidence against Mr. Trump includes the testimony of Don McGahn, Mr. Trump’s former White House counsel, who detailed how the president ordered the firing of the special counsel and how when that effort was reported in the press, Mr. Trump beseeched Mr. McGahn to deny publicly the truth and, for safe measure, memorialize that falsity in a written memorandum.

The evidence includes Mr. Trump’s efforts to influence the outcome of a deliberating jury in the Manafort trial and his holding out the hope for a pardon to thwart witnesses from cooperating with our investigation. Can anyone even fathom a legitimate reason to dangle a pardon?

His potential criminal liability goes further, to actions before taking office. The Manhattan district attorney is by all appearances conducting a classic white-collar investigation into tax and bank fraud, and the New York attorney general is engaged in a civil investigation into similar allegations, which could quickly turn into a criminal inquiry.

Weissman says it would put the president above the law to immunize him for all his crimes, especially since some of them were committed before he was elected:

Because some of the activities in question predated his presidency, it would be untenable to permit Mr. Trump’s winning a federal election to immunize him from consequences for earlier crimes. We would not countenance that result if a former president was found to have committed a serious violent crime.

Sweeping under the rug Mr. Trump’s federal obstruction would be worse still. The precedent set for not deterring a president’s obstruction of a special counsel investigation would be too costly: It would make any future special counsel investigation toothless and set the presidency de facto above the law. For those who point to the pardon of Richard Nixon by Gerald Ford as precedent for simply looking forward, that is not analogous: Mr. Nixon paid a very heavy price by resigning from the presidency in disgrace for his conduct.

Also, that pardon was wrong — I know, an unpopular view.

Weissmann’s conclusion: “In short, being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

That has not been the case under Donald Trump, and it is one of the key reasons I voted against him. It has to change.


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