Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rep. Brady Under Investigation for Election Corruption

Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Bob Brady is under investigation for corruption:
The FBI is investigating Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Bob Brady for conspiracy, false statements and campaign fraud in relation to payments his campaign allegedly made to 2012 primary opponent Jimmie Moore in order to persuade him to drop out of the race, court documents reviewed by The Daily Caller show. 
FBI special agent Jonathan R. Szeliga filed a search warrant request on November 1 in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for all emails associated with Brady’s campaign email, 
Szeliga asserted he had “probable cause to believe that Kenneth Smukler, Robert Brady, Donald ‘D.A.’ Jones, Jimmie Moore, and Carolyn Cavaness and others known and unknown have committed violations” including charges of conspiracy, false statements, producing false records, causing false campaign contribution reports and violating limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.
This is the latest in a string of corruption allegations and charges against Democratic members of Congress, but what is striking about the election-related allegations against Rep. Brady is that he is the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration, which is the House committee that handles election legislation and issues.  Rep. Brady has been outspoken against concerns about vote fraud and is a leading proponent of mandatory voter registration (a.k.a. automatic voter registration) in Congress.  Also ironic is that Rep. Brady represents the Philadelphia area, which is notorious for election corruption.  RNLA will follow this story as the investigation develops.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

ABA Is Blackballing Trump’s Judicial Nominees for Their Beliefs

RNLA Vice President for Judicial Affairs Eric Lycan wrote today in The Daily Caller about how the American Bar Association (ABA) is showing bias in its evaluations of President Trump's judicial nominees:
[The ABA's] biased reviews of Trump’s judicial nominees are increasingly showing that the qualifications and accomplishments of Republicans, conservatives and libertarians do not outweigh political views which are distasteful to the ABA.
Mr. Lycan describes the signs of bias in the ABA's review of Steven Grasz, a well-respected nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit who has had a distinguished career.  Just two examples of inappropriate questioning by reviewers who are supposed to be, and claim to be, neutral:
While ostensibly reviewing his professional qualifications as a lawyer, the ABA reviewers questioned why Grasz’s children attended a religious school. . . . [T]he reviewers began referring to Mr. Grasz as “You people.” When Grasz asked what they meant by “You people” — an ambiguous, exclusionary, and outright derogatory term — the reviewers said they were referring to conservatives and Republicans.
Mr. Lycan concludes by questioning whether the ABA's true goal is excluding conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans from the practice of law:
Any effective lawyer — not just judges — must separate personal opinions from what the law requires as a fundamental part of the practice of law. . . . Under the ABA’s standard, no conservative or libertarian would be able to serve as a judge, or maybe even practice law. The ABA thinks that a conservative’s or libertarian’s views take over a person’s thinking to such an extent that the person cannot think objectively about anything.  And the person cannot even recognize his or her lack of objectivity. 
This may show the ABA’s endgame: to eliminate conservatives and libertarians from the legal profession. There are other ways the ABA, in cooperation with state bar associations, is moving toward that goal, from suppressing speech by lawyers that the ABA disagrees with to different ethical standards being applied to conservative and liberal lawyers. As is starting to happen in other fields, Republican, conservative, and libertarian lawyers may soon need to fight for the right to engage in their chosen profession without abandoning their deeply held beliefs. And that is truly disturbing.
We are grateful to Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley for not allowing the ABA's shameful rating of Mr. Grasz to prevent his consideration by the Senate.  Chairman Grassley has scheduled a hearing for Mr. Grasz for next Wednesday, November 29.  As Senators Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse pointed out last week, the ABA's actions demonstrate that it is a liberal advocacy group advancing a liberal agenda on judicial nominations, and the Senate leadership is wise not to allow the ABA to veto qualified nominees.

Monday, November 20, 2017

FEC Should Let the Internet Remain a Haven for Free Speech

RNLA Advisory Council member Dan Backer cautioned against further regulation of political speech on the Internet in The Hill.  He noted that FEC Democrats are using the allegations of Russian interference in last year's election to call for regulatory changes, but paid political communication on the Internet is already regulated by the FEC:
Broadening Internet regulations is a bureaucrat’s solution in search of a problem. As outlined in the Federal Register, the FEC already requires a disclaimer for any “public communication” that is “placed for a fee on another person’s website.” This includes paid express advocacy — any paid communications “advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate." Whenever an individual, corporation, labor union, or political committee “pays a fee to place a banner, video, or pop-up advertisement” on another’s website, they are engaging in “public communication” that requires a disclaimer.
But an individual's ability to speak and disseminate his or her message for free on the Internet has made it into a bastion of free speech that amplifies individual voices, and the FEC should not destroy it through regulation:
This consideration alone has compelled the FEC to allow the “vast majority of Internet communications” to “remain free from campaign finance regulation.” And our public debates have been better off for it. 
For good reason: Everyone can watch television or listen to the radio, but only those with money can use these mediums to communicate. The shift from receiving information to conveying information was a quantum leap, and the Internet enabled that. Today, we’re all essentially media entities, since we can all disseminate our ideas to the general public. This is a powerfully democratizing force. The FEC’s rulemaking would turn the clock back to the 20th century. 
The Internet must be left largely unregulated to preserve it as a convenient, inexpensive, and easily accessible tool for the robust exercise of free speech. The Internet’s unregulated nature is, at least in part, its charm. Even the FEC has recognized as much, describing the Internet as “a bastion of free political speech, where any individual has access to almost limitless political expression with minimal cost.”
We thank the Republican FEC commissioners and free speech advocates like Mr. Backer for fighting against the FEC Democrats' and the "reform" community's harmful urge to regulate core political speech.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Don McGahn Summarizes Trump Administration's Work on Judicial Nominations and Regulatory Reform

This evening, White House Counsel and 2017 Ed Meese Award winner Don McGahn addressed the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention.  RNLA live-tweeted the speech, and all the tweets can be viewed here.  Mr. McGahn focused on the rule of law, due process, the administrative state, and the role of judges.  Here are some highlights:

The entire speech can be viewed here.  We are deeply indebted to Mr. McGahn and his team in the White House Counsel's office for their vital work helping President Trump select excellent judicial nominees and to the Trump Administration for its efforts to roll back the regulatory overreach of the Obama administration and make the federal government more responsive to the people.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chairman Grassley: President Trump's Judicial Nominees Entitled to a Fair Shake, too

Chairman Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been discussing his blue slip process over the last couple days. He penned an opinion article yesterday in The Hill. In the article, Chairman Grassley discussed the origin of the blue slips and the real history of their use:

Nearly a century ago, Sen. Thomas Hardwick sent a blue sheet of paper to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee claiming that a nominee from his home state of Georgia was “personally offensive and objectionable.” Nonetheless, the committee proceeded on the nomination and reported the nominee to the Senate floor. . . That blue sheet of paper [the “blue slip”] was a part of a newly-adopted courtesy to get insights on federal court nominees from home-state senators in an era when such information was hard to come by. . .
Chairman Grassley went on to explain why this controversy has only recently arisen and is the fallout from the so-called "nuclear option" being invoked by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2013.

Fast forward to today. Some of my Democratic colleagues are attempting to rewrite history, falsely claiming that the blue slip courtesy is meant to give a single home-state senator veto power over the president’s judicial nominations . . . Democratic senators’ recent calls for a historical interpretation of the blue slip courtesy stem from a decision they made in 2013 to end the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominees. This move, often referred to as the “nuclear option,” effectively silenced half of the Senate during confirmation votes. At the time, many Democratic senators argued it was unfair for a minority of senators to block nominees with majority support . . . But now that they are in the minority, Democrats are scrambling to cope with the fallout from their decision to deploy the nuclear option. . .
Republicans never abused this process in the same way under President Obama or any other Democratic president. In fact, what Democrats are doing is unprecedented obstructionism, which sadly has been effective so far:

As the minority continues its campaign to block President Trump’s nominees, some are looking to the blue slip as a way to halt judicial nominees before they are even considered in committee. To justify this move, they argue that few nominees have been confirmed since 1979 without support from both home state senators. But this talking point ignores the fact that nominees without two positive blue slips were often filibustered on the Senate floor after a committee hearing.
[A]ny suggestion that Republicans abused the blue slip under President Obama is simply untrue. . . Republican senators did not block any circuit court nominees during the first two years of the Obama administration via the blue slip. Meanwhile, Democrats have already attempted to block three of President Trump’s circuit court nominees by not returning blue slips. . . President Obama’s judicial nominees received a fair shake by the Senate. President Trump’s nominees are entitled to the same.

Today, Chairman Grassley made some more news regarding blue slips. Politico is reporting the Senate Judiciary Committee will schedule hearings for two of President Trump's judicial nominees. Chairman Grassley clarified his move by stating, “I’m less likely to proceed on a district court nominee who does not have two positive blue slips from home-state senators... But circuit courts cover multiple states. There’s less reason to defer to the views of a single state’s senator for such nominees.”

The RNLA applauds Chairman Grassley for his leadership and his efforts to get President Trump's well-qualified judicial nominees through the confirmation process.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sen. Cruz on ABA's Biased Review of Judicial Nominees

Today, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on nominations, Pamela Bresnahan, Chair of the American Bar Association's (ABA) Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, testified on the ABA's role in evaluating judicial nominees and in particular, the committee's troubling finding of "not qualified" for Eighth Circuit nominee Steve Grasz.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas co-chaired the hearing and gave opening remarks strongly critical of the ABA (starting at 3:35:30):
But I think the notion of a non-ideological organization has been belied by the conduct of the ABA over years.  The ABA today is an openly liberal advocacy group. . . . Groups are entitled to advocate their political positions.  But if an advocacy group is pressing for a certain desired outcome, they should not be treated as a fair or impartial arbiter of merit. . . .
Sen. Cruz described examples of the ABA’s “political positions [that] are left of center” and went on:
That bias has, in turn, been seen in the evaluations from the ABA.  In 2012, Political Research Quarterly published a careful statistical analysis of the ABA’s ratings over the years and found that “holding all else equal, individuals nominated by a Democratic president are significantly more likely to receive higher ABA ratings than individuals nominated by a Republican president.”  And the authors specifically control for objective qualifications, rejecting the argument that Democratic presidents somehow selected more qualified nominees. . . . And the authors concluded that “systematic bias exists against Republican nominees.” 
 We’ve seen that over and over again, and in fact, one doesn’t have to look too far back to see how many times the ABA has gotten it wrong.  Judicial nominees that the ABA has opined were not qualified to be judges include Justice Clarence Thomas, include Judge Mike Luttig, Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, Judge Janice Rodgers Brown, Judge Bill Pryor, Judge Thomas Griffith, Judge Steve Colloton, Judge Tim Tymkovich.  What’s notable is that these are not just federal judges; it is literally a who’s who of some of the most widely respected, most outstanding federal judges in the country.  The ABA said they weren’t qualified, and their actual performance on the bench demonstrated that judges across the country follow their opinions, respect their opinions, that they are leading jurists in the country.  But yet, the ABA’s political bias stood in the way of a fair and objective assessment.
Sen. Cruz later clarified that, for the list he gave, at least one member of the ABA’s committee voted to find the judge not qualified, even if a majority voted the judge qualified.  And he added Seventh Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook to the list.  

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska agreed with Sen. Cruz and emphasized one of his points:
The ABA is a liberal advocacy organization.  That’s not a bad thing.  You can be a liberal advocacy organization.  You have First Amendment rights and you should use them.  What’s not ok is being a liberal advocacy organization and be masquerading as a neutral evaluator of these judicial candidates.
We thank the Republican senators for calling the ABA to task over its biased review of Mr. Grasz.  Such "systematic bias" against conservatives and Republicans should not be allowed to persist unchallenged.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AG Sessions Testifies Before House Judiciary; Highlights Promotion of Rule of Law at DOJ

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee.  In his opening statement, he shared how the Department of Justice has advanced the rule of law since he took office:
After careful review, we have established a reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhood program, as the foundational policy for public safety. . . . We have seen a 23 percent increase in gun prosecutions in the second quarter of this fiscal year. . . . We are making it clear that we stand with our law enforcement partners 100 percent. . . . We have also protected the rule of law in our own Department. We have prohibited so-called third party settlements that were being used to bankroll outside interest groups.

We have settled civil cases regarding the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate and settled the cases of many groups whose tax-exempt status was significantly and wrongly delayed by the Internal Revenue Service. We have also provided legal counsel to this administration in favor of ending several other unlawful policies. . . . We have filed briefs defending properly enacted state voter identification laws, lawful redistricting plans, religious liberty, and free speech on college campuses. In short, it is our mission to restore the American people’s confidence in the Department of Justice by defending the rule of law and enforcing the laws as you have passed them. And it is a mission we are honored to undertake. 
Attorney General Sessions was testifying in part on his previous testimony concerning contacts of the Trump campaign with agents of the Russian government.  He noted that, while it would be difficult for anyone to recall a conversation had in passing with someone a year ago, he has always answered questions truthfully to the best of his recollection:
In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory. But I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.

Let me be clear: I have at all times conducted myself honorably and in a manner consistent with the high standards and responsibilities of the Office of Attorney General. As I said before, my story has never changed. I have always told the truth, and I have answered every question to the best of my recollection as I will continue to do today.
Attorney General Sessions has been a lightning rod for controversy and accusations particularly because he has conducted himself so ethically and led the Department of Justice so effectively.  His leadership in turning the DOJ back to the rule of law is especially remarkable considering the number of Obama-appointee holdovers and acting department heads that remain at the DOJ due to Senate Democrats' delays and the liberal leanings of most of the career staff.  We thank Attorney General Sessions for his service and his willingness to go before Congress yet again to testify and help Congress fulfill its role of oversight of DOJ.