Thursday News: Milking the donors


BERGER USES CAMPAIGN FUNDS TO PAY HIS MORTGAGE: Berger bought the townhouse in question for $250,000 in 2016, property records show. In a copy of his complaint shared with The News & Observer, Hall said that since then Berger has taken, via an LLC he controls, more than $55,000 from his campaign to pay for the house. Berger “is using his campaign fund like a piggy bank,” Hall said at the news conference. “Unless the State Board of Elections takes action, politicians will continue to profit handsomely by funneling campaign contributions to themselves, directly or indirectly, to pay for inflated expenses and subsidized assets,” Hall wrote in his complaint. The complaint also says Berger has charged his campaign more than $100,000 in recent years for rent and other expenses at his law firm in Eden, through a different LLC he controls. Campaign finance records show Berger typically pays himself $3,000 a month in rent from his campaign — $1,500 each for his law office and his Raleigh townhouse.

GOVERNOR COOPER VETOES BILL USING JURY INFO TO BLOCK VOTERS: Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have forwarded jury excuses to election officials, who would potentially remove from the voting rolls people who got out of jury duty by saying they weren't citizens. Cooper said in his veto message that only citizens should be allowed to vote, and the bill "creates a high risk of voter harassment and intimidation and could discourage citizens from voting." The governor also signed six bills into law Wednesday, including one written as a response to the absentee ballot fraud issues that came to light following last year's 9th Congressional District election and another that was a hotly debated electricity regulation bill until the controversial sections were stripped out a few weeks ago. Senate Bill 683 makes a number of changes to the state's absentee ballot rules, increasing penalties and tightening the rules in an effort to prevent ballot fraud. It also delays a state ban on certain types of touchscreen voting machines, and it restores, long-term, the final Saturday of early voting, which is something the Republican majority toyed with deleting last year.

STUDENTS PROTEST REPORT THAT EXONERATES UNC POLICE: About two dozen UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty members gathered Wednesday afternoon to protest a recent review of how UNC police officers handled a number of incidents over the past year. The review, released Tuesday, said that in most cases police officers acted appropriately in arresting students and other anti-racist activists at protests and showed no favoritism toward neo-Confederate groups during the incidents. The UNC students who hosted the event said the report is filled with factual errors and unjustly defends the actions of UNC police officers. They held hand-painted signs criticizing police and called for the abolition of the UNC police department while standing at Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill, across the street from where Confederate statue Silent Sam once stood on UNC’s campus.

RUDY GIULIANI IS EVEN SLEAZIER THAN YOU THOUGHT: It has been one of the enduring mysteries of the impeachment drama: Where did a cash-strapped Ukrainian-born American businessman get $500,000 to pay President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani? It turns out that the money came from a Long Island lawyer named Charles Gucciardo, a Republican donor and supporter of Mr. Trump. The payment was part of a deal in which Mr. Gucciardo would become an investor in a company started by the businessman, Lev Parnas, according to Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Gucciardo’s lawyer and other people familiar with the arrangement. The money, paid to Mr. Giuliani’s firm in September and October 2018, cemented a relationship between Mr. Parnas and Mr. Giuliani. Within months that relationship would evolve into a critical front in the campaign by the president and Mr. Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to start investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump politically. The disclosure that Mr. Gucciardo provided the money that put Mr. Giuliani in business with Mr. Parnas fills in some blanks in a story that has left Mr. Giuliani under federal investigation for possible foreign lobbying violations, and Mr. Trump facing the likelihood of impeachment by the House.

TWITTER EMPLOYEES SPIED ON DISSIDENTS FOR SAUDI CROWN PRINCE: The Justice Department has charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia by accessing the company’s information on dissidents who use the platform, marking the first time federal prosecutors have publicly accused the kingdom of running agents in the United States. One of those implicated in the scheme, according to court papers, is an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year. The case highlights the issue of foreign powers exploiting American social media platforms to identify critics and suppress their voices. And it raises concerns about the ability of Silicon Valley to protect the private information of dissidents and other users from repressive governments. “The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson. “We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law.”



Republicans are inherently corrupt

Misusing campaign funds to pay for your house and office? Totally legal, you're just grabbing at straws. Giving a half-million to a middle-man so he can turn around and give it to the President's personal lawyer? It's a sound investment, leave me alone. Using the state Chairman of the Republican Party to facilitate the bribery of an elected official? There was no quid-pro-quo, I just like the cut of his jib.

And of course Trumpism is leaking down into state politics, turning the General Assembly into a pig-sty. Here's Berger's spokesbot defending his misuse of campaign money:

“This is just another example of Bob Hall being a bottom-feeder and a scumbag,” Watts said.

Nice. Do you talk to your mom with that mouth?