Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Wisconsin connections to yesterday's Mueller indictments

As I digested the information from Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russians and 1 American for taking part in psy-ops, wire fraud, and illegal campaign contributions for the 2016 elections, I flashed back to this New York Times story that came out 2 weeks after that election.
Wisconsin, a state that Hillary Clinton had assumed she would win, historically boasts one of the nation's highest rates of voter participation; this year's 68.3 percent turnout was the fifth best among the 50 states. But by local standards, it was a disappointment, the lowest turnout in 16 years. And those no-shows were important. Mr. Trump won the stat by just 27,000 voters. (later revised down to 22,000 after canvassing and recounts).

Milwaukee's lowest-income neighborhoods offer one explanation for the turnout figures. Of the city's 15 council districts, the decline in turnout from 2012 to 2016 in the five poorest was consistently much greater than the drop seen in more prosperous areas - accounting for half of the overall decline in turnout citywide.

The biggest drop was here in District 15, a stretch of fading wooden homes, sandwich shops and fast-food restaurants that is 84 percent black. In this district, voter turnout declined by 19.5 percent from 2012 figures, according to Neil Albrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. It is home to some of Milwaukee's poorest residents and, according to a 2016 documentary, "Milwaukee 43206," has one of the nation's highest per-capita incarceration rates.

At Upper Cutz, a bustling barbershop in a green-trimmed wooden house, talk of politics inevitably comes back to one man: Barack Obama. Mr. Obama's elections infused many here with a feeling of connection to national politics the had never before experienced. But their lives have not gotten appreciably better, and sourness has set in....

All four barbers had voted for Mr. Obama. But only two could muster the enthusiasm to vote this time. And even then, it was a sort of protest. One wrote in Mrs. Clinton's Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The other wrote in himself.
I also agree that Obama didn't do enough for the inner cities of this country, as he still trusted states and locals and corporations to do the right thing, and many didn't. I also fault Obama for not speaking up more on behalf of minority communities, out of fear of being portrayed as the "angry black man" - a wrong move because right-wing trash called him that anyway, so he may as well have stepped up and taken more action.

But maybe the disillusionment of those African-American barbers in Milwaukee might have stemmed from "things that they'd read." And as we discovered yesterday, those "things" may well have come from Russian troll farms who had a specific goal in mind.

And as I've mentioned before, there is no question that a drop in voters in Democratic cities with sizable minority populations were a big reason behind the GOP victories of Donald Trump and Senator Ron Johnson in the state.

A side order of Scott Walker-WisGOP voter suppression also helped lead to this lower turnout in pro-Dem places. I'll leave it up to you as to whether that suppression and the Russian propaganda program were related.

Not only did suppressing the enthusiasm of minority voters help the GOP in 2016, but so did driving up the interest of scared white guys. And let's not forget that Johnson got a lot of support from the NRA, who sent out numerous digital and over-the-air ads encouraging people to vote for Johnson so "Hillary wouldn't take your guns." (hell, I saw plenty of these ads online, and I don't own a gun and the sites I visit aren't exactly NRA-friendly).

Now, put yesterday's indictments together with this story that we saw from McClatchy last month.
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.....

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Lastly, remember that Johnson was in the room with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when President Obama told them that Russians were interfering with the election in September 2016. And Johnson went along with McConnell's complaints to keep that knowledge from the public.

Which sure makes Johnson's "secret society" talk to try to disrupt Mueller's investigation of Trump-Russia all the more interesting, doesn't it? Maybe there is a reason (mo)Ron doth protesteth so much.


  1. I truly dislike thinking this way because I know it only makes the Russian campaign more effective, but we need to determine the extent of the interference and just how much cooperation, studied indifference or lying went on among Americans. Let's clean it up with a law enforcement rather than a political attitude. Whether the person has an R, a D, an I or something else behind his name, if he lied, aided or even turned a blind eye to problems, the public deserves to know and have a shot at justice.

    Turning to 2018 - there should be a way for individual citizens to easily see exactly how their own ballots were counted and whatever public information should be available at least in their own precinct. Millions of sets of eyes will provide much better security than anything the government can do from the outside.

    That said, we should be auditing the vote at a government level too. Better minds than mine can be tasked with what level of checking would result in effective fraud auditing, but it seems to me that at least some percentage of a precint's votes should be subject to rigorous checking - the sort of checking that would reveal any issues with the process as opposed to a simple recounting of ballots or re-running of electronic tallies.

    The Democratic Party should get off it's ass and put in a sustained effort to assist anyone who is still having trouble voting. Votes lost to suppression are as bad a problem as fraud.

  2. All of this is on the money. And I agree that caring about foreign interference in our elections shouldn't be something that is a partisan issue.

    Which goes back to my premise- Why ARE so many Republicans unwilling to look into this, if not outright obstructing the probe? And the possible answers seem damming.