Three Things: More Like a Dozen

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

When I started writing this there were only three things I was going to address here. Now there are many more — as in more GOP rats fleeing the sinking ship, more problematic GOP  members surfacing. And a special election to fill a seat in the wake of voter fraud by a GOP candidate’s campaign.

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GOP Rep. Sean Duffy (WI-07) announced this past Monday he’s resigning effective September 23rd for family reasons. His district is very rural and rated R+7. Hard to say if this is a potential flip in a continuing blue wave.

Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15), a +20-year member of Congress, announced today he’s not running for re-election. Interestingly he did not notify the White House or members of the GOP conference leadership before he made this announcement.

Equally interesting is that no reason was given for Shimkus’ retirement. He won in 2018 taking 70.9% of the vote in an R+21 district.

What’s up with that?

Shimkus is the tenth GOP member of Congress who is leaving after 2020 and not running for another office. The other reps exiting in 2020 so far besides Duffy and Shimkus:

Rob Woodall (GA-07) R+9

Susan Brooks (IN-05) R+9

Paul Mitchell (MI-10) R+13

Pete Olson (TX-22) R+10

Martha Roby (AL-02) R+16

Rob Bishop (UT-01) R+26

Mike Conway (TX-11) R+32

Will Hurd (TX-23) R+1

Kenny Marchant (TX-24) R+9

As you can see by the numbers the only one truly at risk in a blue wave is Will Hurd; Hurd might have been able to resist given he is one of a few non-white GOP House members in a district which is nearly 71% Hispanic/Latinx. But he’s throwing in the towel.

Woodall’s and Olson’s races were much, MUCH tighter in the 2018 blue wave than the partisanship ratings suggest. Did they have internal polling suggesting it would be a waste to run in 2020?

A couple of these exiting Republicans are also ranking members on committees. Are they struggling to raise adequate campaign donations commensurate with their position on committees?

Another kicker is Susan Brooks’ departure as she is the NRCC’s recruiting chair. Hmm.

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The other house of Congress is not immune from departures. Sen. Johnny Isakson announced he is retiring for health reasons later this year. This means Georgia has both an open seat and a competitive Senate seat currently filled by GOP Sen. David Perdue who is up for re-election in 2020.

Isakson’s retirement was characterized as a surprise by POLITICO; this is odd since 74-year-old Isakson was diagnosed four years ago with Parkinson’s and uses a wheel chair.

Perdue won his race in 2014 over Michelle Nunn, 52.89% to 45.21%. Nunn is the daughter of former Georgia senator Sam Nunn; if she were to run a second time she might stand a better chance, particular if she paid heed to criticisms of her first run against Perdue.

Will be interesting to see who cheating dirtbag former secretary of state now-Governor Brian Kemp appoints to fill Isakson’s seat for the year left in Isakson’s term. Appointed senators don’t typically do well in their first race after appointment.

~ ~ ~

All these exits suggest a sea change in Congress after Election Day 2020. The bellwether maybe the still-open seat in North Carolina for which a special election will be held on September 10th.

You’ll recall the 2018 race was contested after it was learned the Republican Mark Harris may have won only because absentee ballots completed by Democrats had been retrieved and discarded by campaign operative working for Harris.

Candidates on the ballot this time are the same Democrat, Dan McCready, who’d run against Harris in 2018, and NC state senator Dan Bishop.

The district, NC-09, was rated R+10.

~ ~ ~

Less likely to be a bellwether but worth watching: special election for NC-03, to fill the House seat left vacant by the sudden death of incumbent Walter Jones this past February.

The candidates are Greg Murphy, a Republican doctor currently serving in the state house, and Allen Thomas, Democrat and former mayor of Greenville NC.

Not as much controversy here; the district is on North Carolina’s coast, though, and may yet be affected by Hurricane Dorian should the storm turn north and follow the coast from Florida after landfall.

~ ~ ~

And I’ll close this up with the Republican West Virginia state senator who was picked up in a prostitution sting. Mike Maroney, a radiologist, was arrested and arraigned this Wednesday for solicitation.

Read up all the squicky family values details here.

Should we take bets on this guy running for federal office in the near future? Goodness knows he’ll fit in with the Trump crowd. I feel sorry for whomever has relied on his services as a medical professional.

Wonder how many more Republicans will leave office as of 2020 both at state and federal level.

Treat this as an open thread.

NC Election Investigations and the Yard Sale at the 18th Hole

[NB: Not Marcy if you check the byline. /~Rayne]

Earlier this week a friend pointed me to an article in a local Raleigh, North Carolina news site. I knew there had been an investigation into the 9th Congressional district because of election fraud; absentee ballots had been picked up, altered, and changed for the benefit of a Republican candidate.

But I didn’t realize there was federal investigation in the same state looking into fraud related to the 2016 election and earlier. The shared article noted the State Board of Elections had instructed 32 county elections boards to voting histories, signed poll books and redacted ballots. The scope of the investigation covers multiple election cycles. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EDNC) subpoenaed elections records in August 2018.

Apparently the EDNC initially requested a much broader range of voting records for the same period from these counties. Since August the state attorney general has pushed back against the EDNC on behalf of the State Board of Elections. The May 3 request represented a substantially pared down number of records — under 900 records across 32 counties.

The counties involved in this request include Wake County in which capital city Raleigh is located.

U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon, a Trump appointee, appears to be focused on votes by non-citizens.

Of course — let’s indulge white nationalist dark urges and chase rare voter fraud while real fraud at much larger scale nearly seated a Republican in the House.

~ ~ ~
The EDNC’s investigation isn’t related to one in the 9th Congressional District along North Carolina’s southern border. A Republican political operative, hired in 2016 by then-candidate Mark Harris, committed election fraud by collecting, altering, or destroying absentee ballots. After investigation by the State Board of Elections, operative Leslie McCrae Dowless was indicted by the state for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and possession of absentee ballots.

The State Board of Elections refused to certify the election’s outcome and has now rescheduled a primary election for next Tuesday, May 14. Depending on the outcome of the primary race, the final election may be September 5.

Mark Harris said he will not be a candidate.

Rather amusing now because Harris thought there was voter fraud on the Democrats’ part, according to emails produced during the investigation.

~ ~ ~
When I went poking around to compare the two investigations, another interesting investigation popped up in my search results for “wral federal investigation raleigh.”

Not a lot was published about the case of Leonid Teyf, arrested last year in a murder-for-hire case. This is odd given the fact Teyf is Russian and a business crony of Yevgeny Prigozhin. You’ll recall Prigozhin, often referred to as ‘Putin’s chef’, was indicted along with the Internet Research Agency for their role in interfering with the 2016 general election.

North Carolina’s local news, The Daily Beast, and Maddow, and the Wall Street Journal covered this case in December last year and January this year after the feds conducted a raid on one of the most expensive residential addresses in North Carolina.

Do read the Daily Beast piece — it’s the most detailed. Maddow outlines how Teyf’s case was used as a means to collect information on the federal investigative process and the Special Counsel’s Office. Based on a protective order issued this week, it looks like the court is concerned that information is still being passed on.

You can find the court filings at Courtlistener under United States v. Teyf (5:18-cr-00452).

What interested me — besides the fact Teyf bought a MASSIVE home on the 18th hole of the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh — is the timing of events here in the U.S.

2010 — Teyf came to the U.S., moving his family to North Carolina. He continued to work in Russia and traveled back and forth between the two countries through 2013.

2011 — Teyf and associates began activities chargeable under 18 USC 1957 – Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity

2012 — 16,865 square foot 8-bedroom French Country mansion built for Dean and Wendy Painter in 2000 was listed in April at $4,850,000; it sold for $4.2 million in September. The Painter family said the buyers were Russian though the paperwork showed the buyer was New Market LLC.

2014 — Residence was listed for sale at $7.8 million, a price well above original purchase price. The owner was still listed as New Market LLC; the realty firm representing the seller posted a listing on a website in Russian and Arabic.

201X — A quit claim deed was executed transferring ownership of the residence to Leonid and Tatyana Teyf.

2018 — Seal indictment was filed November 8 against Leonid and Tatyana Teyf and Aleksander Timofeev.

2018 — Residence was raided by FBI on December 5.

2018 — Indictment was unsealed on December 12.

If you read The Daily Beast’s article, you’ll note that the kickbacks skimmed off Russian Federation contracts to military vendors didn’t result in prosecution by Russia.

One can only infer that Teyf came here with the implicit blessing of Russian leadership.

And he came here the same year that the Illegals Program spies were booted out of the country.

Teyf’s been here with Prigozhin’s implicit blessing, too.

He bought a huge house with a bullet- and fireproof safe room, bought several millions in art, cars, furnishings — all of this from $150 million obtained through kickbacks.

Mind you, the feds must have been watching him since it was federal personnel he tried to pay to kill the Russian housekeeper’s son who he believed was having an affair with his wife Tatyana.

But how closely were the feds watching what Teyf was doing if he was able to open 70 banking accounts with millions of dollars over the course of a couple years’ time?

What might Teyf have been doing for Prigozhin in the U.S.? And why was he located in North Carolina?

And on a golf course of all places — in the biggest house on the 18th hole. Might even be visible from space.

~ ~ ~
It was kind of a long trip to get to this question: how many other Russians are there like Leonid Teyf in the U.S., going about their business in plain view of the American public?

One other thing bothers me about this situation. If you come across local TV news video or one of the local news outlet’s articles about the raid, you’ll see someone quoted who looks like the average Joe who lives in a nice neighborhood. This person makes remarks to the effect that the folks at 6510 New Market Way were down to earth, they were good folks, even went to their yard sale.

Leonid Teyf maintains he doesn’t speak English. It’s been a point of contention during the court case. How does average Joe know Teyf is down to earth and good folk?

Why does average Joe, in December 2018, not feel at all suspicious about a Russian who can’t speak any English living just down the street in one of the state’s most expensive houses?


This is an open thread.

Thursday Morning: Two Too Good

I would post this video every week if I could get away with it. It’s a favorite in my household where three of us play string instruments. I’ve blown out speakers cranking these guys up as far as I can (shhh…don’t tell the dude in charge of speaker maintenance here).

You’ll note this post is pushed down the page as Marcy’s last two posts about #AppleVsFBI (here and here) have been picked up by several news outlets. Let’s let new readers have the rail for a bit.

NC and GA state legislatures wreaking bigoted havoc
Regressive bills allowing open practice of anti-LGBT bigotry have been working their way through states’ legislatures in the wake of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Indiana and Arizona are two examples where bills using a template based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) have been passed. Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer made an unusually rational move and vetoed the bill. Indiana did not, and many organizations protested until an amendment was passed modifying SB 101‘s worst component.

Georgia’s legislature passed their own spin on RFRA, The Free Exercise Protection Act; the bill is now in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal, who has until the first week of May to sign it into law. The state has an emerging film and TV production industry, home to popular shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead. Disney and its subsidiary Marvel yesterday announced they would yank production out of Georgia if Gov. Deal signed the bill. AMC followed suit and announced it too would pull out of Georgia. Other corporations with business interests in GA, like The Dow Chemical Company, are also unhappy. How many more companies will it take before Deal wises up and vetoes the bill or demands amendment?

Sadly, North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature rushed through a bill yesterday with a slightly different spin — like a proof-of-concept for the rest of the states where RFRA bills have been unable to gain traction while avoiding the potential for boycotting leveraged against the governor. Anti-transgender fear-mongering was used to force HB2-Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act through while avoiding “religious freedom” as a promotional feature. It was signed into law yesterday by NC’s jackass governor, Pat McCrory, who tweeted,

Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance. That’s why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it.

I signed bipartisan legislation to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms.

Except that HB2 not only overturns local ordinances protecting LGBT persons, it prevents transpersons from using the facilities appropriate to their transgender, and it allows businesses to post notices they will not serve groups. Welcome back, Jim Fucking Crow.

The bill was not truly bipartisan, either. Although 14 idiotic state house Democrats voted for the bill, the entire Democratic state senate caucus walked out in protest rather than vote on the bill at all. Methinks NC Dem Party discipline needs a little work, and state house members need a little less bigotry.

Speaking of which, DNC was typically ineffectual, offering a bunch of jargon instead of straight talk about NC’s discrimination. Are there any groups at all the DNC under its current leadership will really extend any effort except for corporations?

The speed at which the bill passed through NC’s legislature during an “emergency” session — because making sure the body parts align with the identity on the bathroom door is an emergency! — may have prevented the state’s largest employers from responding appropriately. Let’s see if NC’s largest employers, including University of North Carolina, Time Warner Cable, Duke Energy, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, and the many sci-tech companies of Research Triangle, will wise up and demand an end to the ignorance and bigotry of Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

Finished digging out here after a late season snow storm, now serving up a hot dish brunch casserole made with a mess of oddments.

  • Diebold buys German competitor Wincor Nixdorf (Bloomberg) — wonder how this industry shakes out as mobile payment systems become more popular and more widely accepted.
  • Speaking of mobile payment systems: Apple Pay expected to expand to apps and websites before Christmas shopping season (FastCompany) — expected to take a bite out of PayPal’s market share, but if transactions are conducted online, this could eat into other payment processing systems. Need the importance of encryption be pointed out yet again, too?
  • Apple’s new, smaller iPhone SE available for pre-orders today (BusinessInsider) — also iPad Pro. Already hearing strong interest from a lot of women about the smaller phone; they’ve been unhappy with the increasing size of iPhones.
  • Nielsen TV ratings data will begin tracking streaming equipment brands (FastCompany) — their data will be based on 40,000 households, though. Apparently sales of streaming equipment like Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku aren’t granular enough for firms acquiring content consumption data. Wonder how long before Nielsen itself is replaced by network sniffing?
  • Related? Funny how Iran is the focus of the first, but not mentioned in the second:
  • AI-written novel survives first round in Japanese literature contest (DigitalTrends) — and you thought it was just the news that was generated by robots.

That’s a wrap, catch you tomorrow morning!

Carrier Classic, Veterans, Lions and Huskers Trash Talk

Alright, as you may have heard, there has been a bit of excitement in college sports this week. We first hit on it last Saturday as we slid into another seemingly routine weekend of trash talk. But it has indeed mushroomed into an oxygen consuming goliath and, quite frankly, it has that level of significance in many respects. Marcy has done a couple of very good posts on the background and why Penn State is special in her life and that of so many others, and a more detailed post on timing and charging details. There is a little of my input in the latter, but I will be along, in a separate post, with some thoughts and observations on the legal status of the overall Penn State matter.

I will also be along with the college football rundown for the weekend as an update to this post in a little bit and, likely a separate post for the NFL Sunday slate, because there are some great games, including Jets and Pats.

But, for now, the first ever Carrier Classic is starting on ESPN and, I have to say, this thing looks freaking cool. They have a first rate court set up, with stands and all the hoopla, on the USS Carl Vinson, a 1,092-foot-long, 244-foot-high floating battle city. It is still on the water though, and it is outdoors in the port at San Diego. That is going to affect the shooting and play of the teams a little, just how much we will see. Oh, and Mr. and Mrs. Obama are there. It is a really great gig for Veteran’s Day. Gotta love it.

Tonight’s classic pits the Spartans of Michigan State and Tom Izzo against the Tar Heels of North Carolina and Roy Williams. Seriously, college basketball does not come much more steeped in tradition than that. Carolina has owned MSU lately, winning seven of the last eight and the Heels are pretty much a consensus preseason number one in the land. Hard to pick against them. But never count out any team coached by Tom Izzo, even though the Spartans are looking at a rare rebuilding year. Magic Johnson, Mr. Sparty himself is in the house as is the Tar Heels’ Big Game James Worthy. Guess Michael Jordan is too busy trying to screw current players now that he is ownership in the NBA.

Anchors Aweigh mateys! See you in comments and will add in college football later tonight, but feel free to trash on any, and all, subjects you can think of. Drink sailors!

Saturday’s College Football: Okay, the Carrier Classic was pretty cool and the shots looking out over the court and off into the ocean sunset were simply stunningly beautiful. But we are on to football. The Gulf coast Pirate’s Houston Cougars have already done their work and moved to a remarkable 10-0 after rolling up 73 points on woeful Tulane; the Cougs need to be rewarded with a substantial bowl game. Similarly Virginia Tech has already dispatched the Rammblin Wreck of Georgia Tech and looks good for the ACC championship game.

The most important game today is not the Penn State game against Nebraska; no, the most important game is the Oregon Quackers at the Home of the Tree, Stanford. Stanford is number 4 in the BCS and Oregon number 7; the implications are simply huge for both the national championship picture as well as the North division berth in the Pac-12 championship. Both teams have good defenses and fast, wide-open offenses. Both have extremely good ground games (nobody notices this about Stanford, but they really do). Everybody knows about the Duck’s LaMichael James, but Sethfan Taylor is a killer too. There are going to be a LOT of points scored here, but Stanford is at home in Palo Alto and I will take Andrew Luck over Darron Thomas; a hard fought win for the Tree is the prediction.

TCU and Boise State is always a good game, but TCU is not the team it has been the last few years, the Broncos should roll again. Auburn versus Georgia will be a great SEC game; I’ll take Georgia this year. Oklahoma State is in Lubbock. Texas Tech has had an up and down year; here’s hoping they get it together for an upset of OSU. Florida at South Carolina will also be a pretty good game. I would have taken the Gamecocks easy before Marcus Lattimore went out for the year, but now it is a tossup.

That leaves the game that will, for mostly all the wrong reasons, hold the nation’s attention today, Nebraska at Penn State. Obviously there is a situation going down in Happy Valley. It is not so happy these days. Comments discussion in Trash Talk is always wide open, but I am not going to go into substantive analysis of the facts and legal analysis here in this main post body. There are already three substantive posts where we have done that (here, here and here) and I will likely be along with something more later today or tomorrow.

But the game itself is very notable as the Nittany Lions are 8-1 and undefeated in Big-10.2 play. Their last three games of the year are, however, starting today, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsinl the last two on the road. Both have pretty solid defenses and spotty offenses. Despite being without Paterno and the assistant coach who was effectively offensive coordinator, Mike Mcqueary (who claims to be in protective custody and double fisted drinking), my guess is the team is way more focused and motivated under interim coach Tom Bradley. Bradley has been there a long time and can run the team just fine, in fact he was already doing a lot of that when Paterno was still there. McQueary may actually be more of a loss during the game. But it is Senior day and the last home game these players will play at Penn State. If Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, who was very close to Paterno, can put together a decent game, then I think the Nittany Lions surprise a whole lot of people and pull off the win. Say what you will about the mess roiling PSU, the kids on the current team did not do that; I will be rooting for them today.

There you have the rundown. Lots to jaw about today, we will do a separate post for the pros and tomorrow, and there are some good games there too. Let the trash flow!

Notice of Errata: Um, I actually did mean to mention the Mighty Ephs versus the Jumpin Jeffs. Yes, today it is the official “Biggest Little Game In America” and they will be playing for all the NESCAC marbles. Amherst rolls in undefeated at 7-0 and Williams right behind at a respectable 5-2. The Lord Jeffs are led by super running back Evan Bunker, while the Ephs seem to have a last minute question at QB between Chris Cleary and Adam Marske. This is gonna be a real barnburner humdinger as Keith Jackson would say!

Dean: Is McCain a Puppet … or a Racist?

I taped a MI political talking heads show this morning–if I don’t suck too badly, I should have a link to it tomorrow (just as a preview, though, the cameramen were apparently upset that I said "pissed" so often, six times … and here I was congratulating myself I avoided "fuck"). One of the Republicans was "pissed" that I brought up that McCain, a guy who married into a $100 million fortune, suggested that our economic problems were "psychological" so often.

One regret I have, though, is that we didn’t start talking about the NC Republicans’ race-baiting ad until after the cameras had stopped rolling. NPR had done a story on it while I was driving–and they credulously, sheepishly, accepted McCain’s and the RNC’s claims that they had asked the NC GOP not to run the ad. "Chumps!" I said to myself in the car. "Only chumps would believe the presumptive head of the Republican Party couldn’t get the NC GOP to withhold the ad if he wanted to." Digby says it better:

St McCain has written one of his patented sanctimonious letters saying that he doesn’t approve of these awful ads. He’s very upset and wants them to take them down. (Isn’t he awesome?) Sadly, they told him no. It’s really too bad the presumptive head of the Republican party he really can’t control what those terrible people are doing. C’est la vie! At least we all know where St. McCain stands on the issue and that his heart is totally in the right place.

So I was glad to see Howard Dean channeling Digby:

This is a test of leadership for John McCain. If he can’t pick up the phone and make members of his own party stop airing a television ad he claims to oppose, how can he lead our country through an economic crisis or the war in Iraq? After shifting his positions on gun control, immigration and tax cuts throughout this campaign, McCain should not equivocate on this issue. Making a show of releasing your emails to the press is not leadership. If he is serious, he will get this ad pulled.

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