April 20, 2023
There were a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated stories in the news that all seem to point to an important theme:
Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner of the Washington Post reported that lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who was deeply involved in Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, this weekend told Republican donors that the party must restrict access to the vote for young voters. Gen Z voters were the key element in providing the extraordinary 11-point victory for pro-choice Wisconsin supreme court candidate Janet Protasiewicz, and they are central to the movement to enact gun safety legislation.
Far from being ostracized for her attempt to overthrow our democratic system, Mitchell is advising the Republican National Committee. In her presentation she declared: “Our constitutional republic’s survival is at stake.”
Dawsey and Gardner appear to have gotten their information from someone who was there.
In Georgia, the fake electors who prepared a false set of electoral votes for Donald Trump in 2020 have begun to turn on each other while also accusing the lawyer who represented ten of them of failing to inform them of immunity offers.
An arbitration panel ordered My Pillow chief executive officer Mike Lindell, who was also deeply involved in Trump’s crusade to overturn the election, to hand over a $5 million payment to an expert who took him up on his challenge to prove that his data did not reflect the 2020 election. According to Lindell’s deposition in the case, he offered the money simply to draw attention to his accusations, and he did not expect anyone to meet his criteria.
Robert Zeidman, a software developer, did. He sued for the money and won, saying that he is a “conservative Republican” but wanted to call out election lies.
The vice-chair of the Republican caucus in the Tennessee House of Representatives resigned today, “effective immediately,” after a NewsChannel 5 investigation confronted him with the story that a secret ethics subcommittee had found him guilty of sexually harassing at least one intern, and likely two. Thirty-nine year old Scotty Campbell, who voted to expel Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson for protesting the body’s refusal to take up gun safety legislation, had not previously borne any penalties for his actions, although taxpayers have: they funded the relocation of one of the interns to put distance between her and Campbell.
For his part, Campbell said: “I had consensual, adult conversations with two adults off property.”
Meanwhile, Judd Legum’s discovery that Tennessee House speaker Cameron Sexton appears to live in Nashville although he represents a district two hours away has raised questions about whether Sexton is legally in office.
News has also broken that federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who recently tried to unwind the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the drug mifepristone, which is used for medical abortions among other things, misled senators during his confirmation process. He did not disclose that he had removed his own name from a law journal article criticizing protections for abortion and transgender people, and he did not disclose that he had given at least two interviews with Christian talk radio about his right-wing opinions about abortion, gay rights, divorce, and the sexual revolution, although he was required to.
Kacsmaryk said he did not recall the recordings, but Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said: “You want to talk about the ultimate bait and switch? I feel like I got duped. I feel like I voted for somebody based on what had been presented to me. And you do this? That is totally, totally wrong.”
On Tuesday, David French of the New York Times reports, Dominion Voting Systems won a substantial victory over the Fox Corporation that supports the Fox News Channel. Dominion sued Fox for defamation after its hosts lied about Dominion as part of their support for Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the runup to the settlement, Dominion appeared already to have proven that Fox News Channel hosts had lied, but Dominion’s claims for more than $1 billion in damages in future earnings were weak, French argued, since Dominion had earned just $118.3 million between 2017 and 2019. A $787.5 settlement was a major victory.
Meanwhile, the process of discovery badly damaged any credibility the Fox News Channel claimed, as its hosts privately disparaged the claims they made on air. And Fox is still on the hook for that discrepancy. Another voting machine company, Smartmatic, is suing Fox News, Fox hosts Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, former Fox host Lou Dobbs, and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, for $2.7 billion.
Finally, a devastating piece today by Jay Kirk in the New York Times told the story of the crime-scene investigators who documented the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, where a gunman killed twenty first graders, the principal, the school psychologist, and four teachers. It recounted the trauma the investigators endured as they cataloged the massacre. That story, along with the details of the lives and deaths of the victims, shed light on the reality of gun deaths that has usually been obscured in an attempt to protect the victims’ families.
It hit me as I read through all this news that a key theme seems to be a new shift toward transparency and accountability. It jumps out at me that people are talking to lawyers and to the press about illegalities, irregularities, and, in the Sandy Hook case, horrors that in the past they have kept quiet.
Whether it comes from disgust at the excesses of those who are attacking our democracy or from fear of the law, that transparency reminds me of the pivotal importance of McClure’s Magazine in the early twentieth century. Reformers had expressed philosophical concerns about the concentration of wealth and power at the top of American society for decades, but those concerns could be ignored until the investigative journalists working for McClure’s began to explore the specifics of political corruption and its cost to ordinary Americans. Dismissed as “muckrakers” by politicians, those journalists nonetheless helped to shift the weight of social value from keeping secrets to spilling them.
When that shift happened, the walls protecting the country’s entrenched leaders crumbled fast.