Why It’s Important to Vote in Mid-Term Elections!

I don’t know what Sen. Dean Heller has done (or not done) in Washington, but clearly, he’s not just disliked at home in Nevada. On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon let the world know that he has put Heller first and foremost on his “Enemies List” pretty much making him the #1 most vulnerable Senator in the 2018 race for re-election.

While a number of Democrats are considering a run for the seat, including Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Jacky Rosen, Nevada’s perennial candidate, Danny Tarkanian has stepped up to the plate yet again.  If anything, Tarkanian has proven yet again WHY it’s important that every single Democrat makes it to the polls in 2018 to vote for someone who will actually represent Nevadans, not every whim of President Trump.

Tarkanian appeared on “The Beat with Ari Melber” on MSNBC on Monday, 9/11/2017.  Take a moment to watch his performance.  I don’t know about you, but that’s NOT who I want representing my interests in the U.S. Senate:

NV GOP Apparently Believes — When You Can’t Win, Stoop to Gutter Politics!

— An “ask” from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

What Nevada Republicans are doing right now is disgusting. Truly an all-time low.

The people of Nevada made their voices heard loud and clear last November. In fact, Nevada was one of the few bright spots on Election Day. Because of your hard work, you sent me to the U.S. Senate – which I am eternally grateful for – and you also flipped both chambers in the state legislature back to a Democratic majority, including winning key battleground districts.

But right now, Republicans in Nevada are so desperate to gain control back, they have stooped to an all-time low by completely disregarding the will of Nevada’s hardworking families. Republicans have filed recall petitions against three women in the Senate Democratic caucus: Joyce Woodhouse, Nicole Cannizzaro, and Patricia Farley – all in extremely competitive districts. And now, I need your help to fight back.

At this very moment, right-wing special interests are funneling incredible amounts of money into Nevada to pay folks to collect the petition signatures they need to get these recalls on the ballot.

Let me be clear: This recall effort is a scam. It is pathetic and it is wrong. The election was nearly 10 months ago, and the people of Nevada have spoken. They want a Democratic majority in the state legislature.

If Nevada Republicans get the number of signatures they need, Democrats will have a tiny window to challenge it in court. This is not good. And we’re running out of time. Please consider stepping up and giving $25 or more to the Nevada State Democratic Party right now so we can fight back against this Republican scam to roll back our Democratic majority?  If you can’t afford giving funds, consider calling NSDP headquarters (702-737-8683) and giving of your time to participate in phone-banking southern Nevada residents in the affected districts and asking them NOT to sign the GOP’s recall petitions.

Thank you for your support and for standing up for our hard-fought Democratic majorities. We will not let Nevada’s Republicans fool us.

¡La lucha sigue!
The fight continues!


Note: The citizens of Nevada are granted the authority to perform a recall election by Section 9 of Article II of the Nevada Constitution, which says:

“Every public officer in the State of Nevada is subject, as herein provided, to recall from office by the registered voters of the state, or of the county, district, or municipality which he represents.”

This broad right of recall in Nevada applies to all elective “State” officers (not Members of Congress, as they’re Federal officers) after the first six months of the term to which the incumbent was elected and does not require a “reason” in order to start a recall petition. For the GOP to get to a recall election, they need gather signatures from 25% of those people who actually voted in the election for that member of the legislature.

  • For Farley — Need to gather more than 7,100 signatures from people who voted in Nevada’s 8th Senate district in 2014 (a low turnout mid-term election) by Nov. 9.
  • For Woodhouse — Need to gather more than 13,000 signatures from people who voted last year in the Senate District 5 race by Oct. 31.
  • For Cannizzaro — Need to gather more than 14,975 of the people who voted in District 6 in 2016 by Nov. 14.

You should also note that GOP “conservatives” are attempting force the State to pay for a repeat election at taxpayer expense for “no stated good reason.” It is NOT “conservative” to force an election just because they don’t like the fact that the voters chose Democrats to represent them in the State Legislature.  Such actions consume vital tax dollars that should be spent on vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc.

Also worthy of noting is that should the GOP be successful in a recall, it would shake up the powerful Nevada Legislative Commission. That commission handles the Legislature’s business when it is not in session and when constituents have little input into decisions being made.

Mid-Term Senate Races Matter: Heller’s High Water

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) released the below statement after a right-leaning federal judge in Texas nullified the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor overtime rule.

“The former Obama Administration’s expansion of the federal overtime rule would have devastated Nevada’s business owners and job creators. Since the rule was issued last year, I have been strongly concerned about its impact because it would fundamentally change how employers compensate their workers, reducing Nevadans’ work hours and benefits. I’m pleased to see that a federal judge acknowledged the regulation’s harmful consequences and ruled it invalid today,” Heller said. “Today’s news is a relief for countless Nevada businesses and employers, and I commend Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for his leadership in this fight.”

Heller has worked tirelessly at undermining the Obama-era overtime rule aimed at leveling the playing field for workers. Instead, he’s worked to bolster the bottom line of his corporate benefactors. Don’t believe me?  As evidence —

  • In February 2016 he wrote to Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez about this rule and what he claimed would be its negative impacts on corporations in the state of Nevada.
  • In March 2016, he followed up with yet another letter highlighting his concerns over the new policy change.
  • In the Senate, Heller expressed concerns with his Senate colleagues by writing to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related Agencies Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Heller also cosponsored S. 2707, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in the 114th Congress, legislation that would have cancelled the proposed DOL regulation to increase the salary threshold for workers eligible to receive overtime pay and require impact studies for future proposals of related rules.

Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act

S.2707 declared that the proposed or the final rule of the Department of Labor entitled “Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees” shall cease to have any force or effect. The rule revises the “white collar” exemption of executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees from minimum wage and maximum hour, or overtime, requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).

If the proposed rule is a final rule on the date of enactment of S.2707:

  • the Dept of Labor would have been prohibited from enforcing it based on conduct occurring before that enactment date,
  • an employee would not have any right of action against an employer for the employer’s failure to comply with the final rule at any time before that enactment date,
  • any regulations that were amended by the final rule would have been restored and revived as if the final rule had never taken effect, and
  • nothing in S.2707 would have been construed to create a right of action for an employer against an employee for the recoupment of any payments made to the employee before the enactment of this bill that were in compliance with that final rule.

It also specified that the Dept of Labor could promulgate any substantially similar rule only if it had completed certain required actions; but any new rule could not contain any automatic updates to the salary threshold for purposes of exemptions to minimum wage and maximum hour requirements under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The requirement that definitions applicable for such exemptions be defined and delimited from time to time by Labor regulations would have been construed to:

  • require Labor to issue a new rule through notice and comment rule-making for each change in any salary threshold it has proposed (creating more expensive and elongated rule-making processes); and
  • exclude any rule that would result in changes to any salary threshold for multiple time periods, including through any automatic updating procedure.

The Dept of Labor was also prohibited from promulgating any final rule that included any revision to duties tests for exemption from minimum wage and maximum hours requirements unless specific regulatory text for the provision was proposed in the proposed rule.

For clarity, here is the background on that “Final Rule” and what it did for WORKERS:

In 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Labor to update and modernize the regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative, and professional (“EAP”) employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”). The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking on July 6, 2015, and received more than 270,000 comments. On May 18, 2016, the Department announced that it will publish a Final Rule to update the regulations. The full text of the Final Rule will be available at the Federal Register Site.

Although the FLSA ensures minimum wage and overtime pay protections for most employees covered by the Act, some workers, including bona fide EAP employees, are exempt from those protections. Since 1940, the Department’s regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the FLSA’s EAP exemption to apply:

  1. the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (“salary basis test”);
  2. the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (“salary level test”); and
  3. the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (“duties test”).

The Department last updated these regulations in 2004, when it set the weekly salary level at $455 ($23,660 annually) and made other changes to the regulations, including collapsing the short and long duties tests into a single standard duties test and introducing a new exemption for highly compensated employees.

This Final Rule updates the salary level required for exemption to ensure that the FLSA’s intended overtime protections are fully implemented, and to simplify the identification of overtime-protected employees, thus making the EAP exemption easier for employers and workers to understand and apply. Without intervening action by their employers, it extends the right to overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt. It also strengthens existing overtime protections for 5.7 million additional white collar salaried workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

* Key Provisions of the Final Rule *
The Final Rule focused primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for EAP workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South, which is $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-year worker;
  2. Set the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, which is $134,004; and
  3. Established a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amended the salary basis test to allow employers to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. The Final Rule made no changes to the duties tests.

Effective Date
The effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Senator Heller espouse and promote a nationwide move such as that just made by the Missouri GOP-led legislature which lowered the minimum wage from $10/hr to $7.70/hr (or, from $20, 800/yr to $16,016/yr for Missouri citizens.

Afterall, Senator Heller has made it exceedingly clear that he represents only his corporate benefactors and is a firm believer and double-downer in a failed trickle-down philosophy.

“Congress is ready to address tax reform, and that’s why I’m encouraged by the President’s comments today about bringing tax relief to all Americans. Nevada’s hardworking families and small business owners have been waiting for a simpler, fairer tax code for years now, and Congress and the White House are poised to make that happen,” Heller said. “I was honored to host Secretary Mnuchin earlier this week in Las Vegas for a meeting with Nevada employers and the message we received from these business leaders was clear – lowering rates will help boost the economy, create jobs and increase wages. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m looking forward to working with the Administration on this issue and having a seat at the table to make sure that the final product is what’s best for Nevada.”

Mid-term elections matter and we cannot let Dean Heller get re-elected to the Senate, nor can we let AG Laxalt get elected to the Governorship of Nevada.

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House GOP Quietly Moves to Kill Commission Charged with Securing Elections

House Committee also voted to abolish public financing for presidential elections

— by Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

Tuesday’s votes by GOP committee members, as The Nation’s Ari Berman put it, are “more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote.” (Photo: Keith Ivey/cc/flickr)

Amid national outrage over possible foreign interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s own lies about so-called voter fraud, House Republicans on Tuesday quietly advanced two bills that “could profoundly impact the way we administer and finance national elections,” watchdogs are warning.

The GOP-dominated Committee on House Administration voted along party lines to approve the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Termination Act (HR 634), which would abolish the only “federal agency charged with upgrading our voting systems” and “helping to protect our elections from hacking,” as Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, put it.

During the same session, the committee also reportedly voted to abolish public financing for presidential elections, passing the Eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act (HR 133).

According to USA Today reporter Fredreka Schouten:

Tuesday’s votes were seen by advocacy groups a direct attack on democracy. Ahead of the hearing, the Brennan Center and a separate coalition of 38 pro-democracy groups sent letters urging members to oppose both measures.

“At stake is the survival of the public financing system for presidential elections and a commission that plays a vitally important role in standardizing and modernizing election administration,” wrote (pdf) the coalition, which includes Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, NAACP, U.S. PIRG, and Public Citizen, among many others.

The Brennan Center letter, signed by Weiser as well as the center’s director and counsel Nicole Austin-Hillery, cites the “impending crisis” in voting technology, identified by a bipartisan commission in 2014 and outlined in a subsequent Brennan Center report, and warns that the EAC is “the only federal agency which has as its central mission” the improvement of elections.

It states:

Among that report’s key findings were that the vast majority of voting machines in use today are either perilously close to or exceed their expected lifespans; that policymakers have not been responsive to election officials’ calls for new equipment; and that more problems may arise the longer we delay purchasing new equipment. Those problems include increased machine failures, and security and reliability flaws. When these vulnerabilities are coupled with credible reports that Russian cybercriminals already attempted to access state voter registration systems, insecure voting machines can place our democracy at serious risk, at the very least of a loss of public faith in our elections.

Further, Weiser and Austin-Hillery describe the now-threatened presidential public financing system as “one of the few remaining tools to increase the voice of everyday Americans vis-à-vis the rising tide of special interest money that has flooded the political system since the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United.”

While acknowledging that the current financing system is out of date, the coalition similarly warned, “Now is the time to upgrade our presidential public financing system to empower small donors. Eliminating the presidential public financing system will ensure  that the presidency is in the hands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals and special interest groups.”

Reporting on the vote, The Nation‘s Ari Berman on Tuesday observed, “It’s particularly ironic that the Trump administration is preparing to launch a massive investigation into nonexistent voter fraud based on the lie that millions voted illegally while House Republicans are shutting down the agency that is supposed to make sure America’s elections are secure. It’s more proof of how the GOP’s real agenda is to make it harder to vote.”

#trump said he had $315M in debt — he left out $1.5B

A new report reveals the breathtaking scope of Trump’s conflicts of interest.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Trump filed documents with the FEC over the summer that revealed he owed at least $315 million to ten entities. This debt, some of which is personally guaranteed by him, was a clear conflict. As president, Trump will be responsible for regulating entities that he also owes money to. Worse, these debts are frequently renegotiated, giving these companies leverage over Trump in the regulatory process.

A report this afternoon from the Wall Street Journal, however, revealed that Trump’s disclosure was the tip of the iceberg. The FEC required Trump only to report debt from entities he fully controls. The disclosure left out “more than $1.5 billion lent to partnerships that are 30%-owned by him.” That debt has been securitized and is owed to at least 150 financial entities.

From Trump’s 2016 FEC financial disclosure form

These financial institutions include many firms that are under the scrutiny of the federal agencies that Trump will soon control. Wells Fargo, for example, which services over $900 million in loans connected to Trump, “is currently facing scrutiny from federal regulators surrounding its fraudulent sales practices and other issues.”

Trump will soon appoint the top regulators who will be responsible for scrutinizing the bank’s conduct.

A press conference that was scheduled to address Trump’s numerous conflict of interest was scheduled for December and then canceled. Another press conference has been scheduled for January 11, although it appears not to be exclusively focused on his business activities.

Thus far, Trump has pledged to retain full ownership over his business empire. His plan to simply hand control over to his sons has been derided as glaringly insufficient. The Office of Government Ethics and other ethics experts have said that the only way for Trump to avoid conflicts is to sell his businesses and place the proceeds in a blind trust.

Instead, Trump is actively soliciting foreign governments to patronize his new Washington DC hotel. Receiving payments from foreign governments is unconstitutional, and Trump currently receives such payments from a number of sources. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle believe that, absent full divestment, Trump will violate the constitution on his first day in office.

Schiff on Actions Against Russia in Response to Election Meddling

— by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Ranking Member, Intelligence Committee Ranking Member

“Today’s actions begin the important process of holding Moscow accountable for its blatant meddling in
our democracy. The personnel and economic sanctions announced by the Administration and other steps it
should take without acknowledgement are vital to imposing costs on the Kremlin and ensuring that any
nation that contemplates interfering with our democracy will know that they will pay a heavy price for
doing so. By targeting the Russian’s intelligence services and the companies that support them specifically,
the Obama Administration is sending the correct message that diplomatic niceties will not dictate our
response to an overt cyber attack now or in the future. We must evaluate the success of our response using
only one critical metric — has it dissuaded Russia from further interference and bad conduct– and I
believe that other, more punitive measures will need to be undertaken.

“The decision by the Russian leadership to steal and then dump emails damaging to the Democratic
National Committee and the Presidential campaign of Secretary Clinton was an unprecedented effort to
interfere in our democracy. We can never know if the Russian dirty tricks campaign was decisive in
tipping the outcome of the Presidential election, but make no mistake — Putin’s real target was not the
Clinton campaign or one political party, but our entire system of governance. And in the absence of a
forceful and unified response, Russia, and other malicious actors, will be emboldened to take further
malign action.

“Today’s sanctions and other steps also reinforce our nation’s commitment to democracy, civil liberties and
the rule of law across the globe. The accountability of western leaders to their citizenry is something that
the people of Russia can only dream about. In the absence of genuine political freedom and representative
democracy in their own country, Putin has resorted to undermining the confidence of others in their
governments and institutions. Germany, which holds national elections next year, and other countries that
Russia deems hostile to its interests, must be protected from the cynicism and creeping authoritarianism
emanating from the Kremlin.

“In coming days, the Administration will make public their report to the American people about the
Russian cyber actions during our elections. It’s my hope that this report will spur my colleagues to join
efforts to conduct a bipartisan and bicameral investigation through the Intelligence Committees, so we can
uncover and make public the full scope of the Russian activities and the motivations behind them. Only
through a truly nonpartisan and comprehensive investigation can we ensure that we are not victim to such
pernicious foreign interference in our elections.”

Heller Announced He’ll Run to Retain His Senate Seat in 2018

Today, on his Facebook page, Senator Dean Heller announced:

“My family and I have put much thought and prayer in considering the best way to serve the state that we love. I believe serving and running for re-election as Nevada’s senior Senator is where I can do the most good and have the biggest impact for Nevada. Serving as governor would be an enormous honor, but I am looking forward to being Nevada’s strongest voice on Capitol Hill.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange released the following statement on Republican Senator Dean Heller’s announcement that he will attempt to win re-election in 2018:

“Dean Heller has no core, and he’s shown over and over again that he will always say whatever’s politically expedient and change positions to suit his audience. He may have been too chicken to run for governor, but he’ll be coming home either way after he loses re-election in 2018. The reality is that as Senator, Dean Heller has skated by as a sub-par and lazy Washington politician with the lack of work product to show for it. He toes the Republican line of gridlock and obstruction at the expense of Nevada, and his approach to the incoming Administration has been no different. Senator Heller has been cravenly silent on Donald Trump’s rigged Cabinet picks and the disturbing conflicts of interest to make Trump and his family rich. Nevada families deserve a champion who will fight for them in the U.S. Senate, not a coward.”

“Dean Heller is the only Republican Senator up for re-election in a state where Democrats won decisively this year.  Nevadans just elected a new Democratic Senator in 2016, and we’re going to do it again next cycle.”

So, that takes Heller out of consideration for Nevada’s 2017 Gubernatorial race, leaving it open for a rumored run by Rep. Mark Amodei for Governor, if he’s able to make through the primary where Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison are also rumored to have an eye on winning that seat.

So Much for Trump’s 400-lb Guy Theory

Today, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a joint report detailing how federal investigators linked the Russian government to hacks of Democratic Party organizations.  The documentation clearly references the hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, though it doesn’t mention either victim by name.

Their 13-page report (below) provides technical details regarding tools and infrastructure used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services to “compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities.”

Looks to me like they concluded it wasn’t some 400 pound guy on a bed in his mommy’s house.