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August 10, 2021

Milwaukee Bradley Foundation at Center of Attacks on U.S. Voting Rights

Filed under: Bradley Foundation,General — millerlf @ 12:47 pm

The Big Money Behind the Big Lie

Donald Trump’s attacks on democracy are being promoted by rich and powerful conservative groups that are determined to win at all costs.

By Jane Mayer August 2, 2021 The New Yorker

It was tempting to dismiss the show unfolding inside the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, as an unintended comedy. One night in June, a few hundred people gathered for the première of “The Deep Rig,” a film financed by the multimillionaire founder of, Patrick Byrne, who is a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump. Styled as a documentary, the movie asserts that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen by supporters of Joe Biden, including by Antifa members who chatted about their sinister plot on a conference call. The evening’s program featured live appearances by Byrne and a local QAnon conspiracist, BabyQ, who claimed to be receiving messages from his future self. They were joined by the film’s director, who had previously made an exposé contending that the real perpetrators of 9/11 were space aliens.

But the event, for all its absurdities, had a dark surprise: “The Deep Rig” repeatedly quotes Doug Logan, the C.E.O. of Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company that consults with clients on software security. In a voice-over, Logan warns, “If we don’t fix our election integrity now, we may no longer have a democracy.” He also suggests, without evidence, that members of the “deep state,” such as C.I.A. agents, have intentionally spread disinformation about the election. Although it wasn’t the first time that Logan had promoted what has come to be known as the Big Lie about the 2020 election—he had tweeted unsubstantiated claims that Trump had been victimized by voter fraud—the film offered stark confirmation of Logan’s entanglement in fringe conspiracies. Nevertheless, the president of the Arizona State Senate, Karen Fann, has put Logan’s company in charge of a “forensic audit”—an ongoing review of the state’s 2020 Presidential vote. It’s an unprecedented undertaking, with potentially explosive consequences for American democracy.

Approximately 2.1 million Presidential votes were cast in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and accounts for most of the state’s population. In recent years, younger voters and people of color have turned the county’s electorate increasingly Democratic—a shift that helped Biden win the traditionally conservative state, by 10,457 votes. Since the election, the county has become a focus of ire for Trump and his supporters. By March, when Logan’s company was hired, the county had already undergone four election audits, all of which upheld the outcome. Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican and a former Trump ally, had certified Biden’s victory. But Trump’s core supporters were not assuaged.

As soon as the Fox News Decision Desk called the state for Biden, at 11:20 p.m. on November 3rd, Trump demanded that the network “reverse this!” When Fox held firm, he declared, “This is a major fraud.” By the time of the “Deep Rig” première, the standoff had dragged on for more than half a year. The Cyber Ninjas audit was supposed to conclude in May, but at the company’s request Fann has repeatedly extended it. On July 28th, the auditors completed a hand recount, but they are still demanding access to the computer routers used by Maricopa County and also want to scrutinize images of mail-in-ballot envelopes. The U.S. Department of Justice has warned that “private actors who have neither experience nor expertise in handling” ballots could face prosecution for failing to follow federal audit rules. Trump, meanwhile, has fixated on Arizona’s audit, describing it as a step toward his “reinstatement.” On July 24th, he appeared in Phoenix for a “Rally to Protect Our Elections,” and said, “I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy—I’m the one trying to save American democracy.” Predicting that the audit would vindicate him, he rambled angrily for nearly two hours about having been cheated, calling the election “a scam—the greatest crime in history.”

In June, I stood in the bleachers at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the audit was taking place, and witnessed people examining carton after carton of paper ballots cast by Arizonans last fall. Some inspectors used microscopes to investigate surreal allegations: that some ballots had been filled out by machines or were Asian counterfeits with telltale bamboo fibres. Other inspectors looked for creases in mail-in ballots, to determine whether they had been legitimately sent in envelopes or—as Trump has alleged—dumped in bulk.

As the audit has unfolded, various violations of professional norms have been observed, including inspectors caught with pens whose ink matched what was used on ballots. One auditor turned out to have been an unsuccessful Republican candidate during the election. As I watched the proceedings, black-vested paid supervisors monitored the process, but their role was cloaked in secrecy. The audit is almost entirely privately funded, and a county judge in Arizona recently ordered the State Senate to disclose who is paying for it. Last week, Cyber Ninjas acknowledged having received $5.7 million in private donations, most of it from nonprofit groups led by Trump allies who live outside Arizona, including Byrne.

I was joined in the bleachers by Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state and a Republican, whom the State Senate had designated its liaison to the audit. He acknowledged that, if the auditors end up claiming to have found large discrepancies, “that will of course be very inflammatory.” Indeed, a recent incendiary claim by the auditors—that the vote had tallied about seventy thousand more mail-in ballots than had been postmarked—prompted one Republican state senator to propose a recall of Arizona’s electoral votes for Biden. (In fact, the auditors misunderstood what they were counting.) Nevertheless, Bennett defended the audit process: “It’s important to prove to both sides that the election was done accurately and fairly. If we lurch from one election to another with almost half the electorate thinking the election was a fraud, it’s going to rip our country apart.”

Many experts on democratic governance, however, believe that efforts to upend long-settled election practices are what truly threaten to rip the country apart. Chad Campbell, a Democrat who was the minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives until 2014, when he left to become a consultant in Phoenix, has been shocked by the state’s anti-democratic turn. For several years, he sat next to Karen Fann when she was a member of the House, and in his view she’s gone from being a traditional Republican lawmaker to being a member of “Trump’s cult of personality.” He said, “I don’t know if she believes it or not, or which would be worse.” Arizona, he added, is in the midst of a “nonviolent overthrow in some ways—it’s subtle, and not in people’s face because it’s not happening with weapons. But it’s still a complete overthrow of democracy. They’re trying to disenfranchise everyone who is not older white guys.”

Arizona is hardly the only place where attacks on the electoral process are under way: a well-funded national movement has been exploiting Trump’s claims of fraud in order to promote alterations to the way that ballots are cast and counted in forty-nine states, eighteen of which have passed new voting laws in the past six months. Republican-dominated legislatures have also stripped secretaries of state and other independent election officials of their power. The chair of Arizona’s Republican Party, Kelli Ward, has referred to the state’s audit as a “domino,” and has expressed hope that it will inspire similar challenges elsewhere.

Ralph Neas has been involved in voting-rights battles since the nineteen-eighties, when, as a Republican, he served as the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He has overseen a study of the Arizona audit for the nonpartisan Century Foundation, and he told me that, though the audit is a “farce,” it may nonetheless have “extraordinary consequences.” He said, “The Maricopa County audit exposes exactly what the Big Lie is all about. If they come up with an analysis that discredits the 2020 election results in Arizona, it will be replicated in other states, furthering more chaos. That will enable new legislation. Millions of Americans could be disenfranchised, helping Donald Trump to be elected again in 2024. That’s the bottom line. Maricopa County is the prism through which to view everything. It’s not so much about 2020—it’s about 2022 and 2024. This is a coördinated national effort to distort not just what happened in 2020 but to regain the House of Representatives and the Presidency.”

Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and one of the country’s foremost election-law experts, told me, “I’m scared shitless.” Referring to the array of new laws passed by Republican state legislatures since the 2020 election, he said, “It’s not just about voter suppression. What I’m really worried about is election subversion. Election officials are being put in place who will mess with the count.”

Arizona’s secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, whose office has authority over the administration of elections, told me that the conspiracy-driven audit “looks so comical you have to laugh at it sometimes.” But Hobbs, a Democrat, who is running for governor, warned, “It’s dangerous. It’s feeding the kind of misinformation that led to the January 6th insurrection.” QAnon followers have been celebrating the audit as the beginning of a “Great Awakening” that will eject Biden from the White House. She noted, “I’ve gotten death threats. I’ve had armed protestors outside my house. Every day, there is a total barrage of social media to our office. We’ve had to route our phones to voice mail so that no one has to listen to it. It can be really traumatizing. I feel beaten up.” She added, “But I’m not going to cave to their tactics—because I think they’re laying the groundwork to steal the 2024 elections.”

Although the Arizona audit may appear to be the product of local extremists, it has been fed by sophisticated, well-funded national organizations whose boards of directors include some of the country’s wealthiest and highest-profile conservatives. Dark-money organizations, sustained by undisclosed donors, have relentlessly promoted the myth that American elections are rife with fraud, and, according to leaked records of their internal deliberations, they have drafted, supported, and in some cases taken credit for state laws that make it harder to vote.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island who has tracked the flow of dark money in American politics, told me that a “flotilla of front groups” once focussed on advancing such conservative causes as capturing the courts and opposing abortion have now “more or less shifted to work on the voter-suppression thing.” These groups have cast their campaigns as high-minded attempts to maintain “election integrity,” but Whitehouse believes that they are in fact tampering with the guardrails of democracy.

One of the movement’s leaders is the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (alec)—a corporate-funded nonprofit that generates model laws for state legislators—on ways to impose new voting restrictions. Among those deep in the fight is Leonard Leo, a chairman of the Federalist Society, the legal organization known for its decades-long campaign to fill the courts with conservative judges. In February, 2020, the Judicial Education Project, a group tied to Leo, quietly rebranded itself as the Honest Elections Project, which subsequently filed briefs at the Supreme Court, and in numerous states, opposing mail-in ballots and other reforms that have made it easier for people to vote.

Another newcomer to the cause is the Election Integrity Project California. And a group called FreedomWorks, which once concentrated on opposing government regulation, is now demanding expanded government regulation of voters, with a project called the National Election Protection Initiative.

These disparate nonprofits have one thing in common: they have all received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Based in Milwaukee, the private, tax-exempt organization has become an extraordinary force in persuading mainstream Republicans to support radical challenges to election rules—a tactic once relegated to the far right. With an endowment of some eight hundred and fifty million dollars, the foundation funds a network of groups that have been stoking fear about election fraud, in some cases for years. Public records show that, since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.

It might seem improbable that a low-profile family foundation in Wisconsin has assumed a central role in current struggles over American democracy. But the modern conservative movement has depended on leveraging the fortunes of wealthy reactionaries. In 1903, Lynde Bradley, a high-school dropout in Milwaukee, founded what would become the Allen-Bradley company. He was soon joined by his brother Harry, and they got rich by selling electronic instruments such as rheostats. Harry, a John Birch Society founding member, started a small family foundation that initially devoted much of its giving to needy employees and to civic causes in Milwaukee. In 1985, after the brothers’ death, their heirs sold the company to the defense contractor Rockwell International, for $1.65 billion, generating an enormous windfall for the foundation. The Bradley Foundation remains small in comparison with such liberal behemoths as the Ford Foundation, but it has become singularly preoccupied with wielding national political influence. It has funded conservative projects ranging from school-choice initiatives to the controversial scholarship of Charles Murray, the co-author of the 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” which argues that Blacks are less likely than whites to join the “cognitive elite.” And, at least as far back as 2012, it has funded groups challenging voting rights in the name of fighting fraud.

Since the 2020 election, this movement has evolved into a broader and more aggressive assault on democracy. According to some surveys, a third of Americans now believe that Biden was illegitimately elected, and nearly half of Trump supporters agree that Republican legislators should overturn the results in some states that Biden won. Jonathan Rauch, of the Brookings Institution, recently told The Economist, “We need to regard what’s happening now as epistemic warfare by some Americans on other Americans.” Pillars of the conservative establishment, faced with a changing U.S. voter population that threatens their agenda, are exploiting Trump’s contempt for norms to devise ways to hold on to power. Senator Whitehouse said of the campaign, “It’s a massive covert operation run by a small group of billionaire élites. These are powerful interests with practically unlimited resources who have moved on to manipulating that most precious of American gifts—the vote.”

An animating force behind the Bradley Foundation’s war on “election fraud” is Cleta Mitchell, a fiercely partisan Republican election lawyer, who joined the organization’s board of directors in 2012. Until recently, she was virtually unknown to most Americans. But, on January 3rd, the Washington Post exposed the contents of a private phone call, recorded the previous day, during which Trump threatened election officials in Georgia with a “criminal offense” unless they could “find” 11,780 more votes for him—just enough to alter the results. Also on the call was Mitchell, who challenged the officials to provide records proving that dead people hadn’t cast votes. The call was widely criticized as a rogue effort to overturn the election, and Foley & Lardner, the Milwaukee-based law firm where Mitchell was a partner, announced that it was “concerned” about her role, and then parted ways with her. Trump’s call prompted the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, to begin a criminal investigation.

In a series of e-mails and phone calls with me, Mitchell adamantly defended her work with the Trump campaign, and said that in Georgia, where she has centered her efforts, “I don’t think we can say with certainty who won.” She told me that there were countless election “irregularities,” such as voters using post-office boxes as their residences, in violation of state law. “I believe there were more illegal votes cast than the margin of victory,” she said. “The only remedy is a new election.” Georgia’s secretary of state rejected her claims, but Mitchell insists that the decision lacked a rigorous evaluation of the evidence. With her support, diehard conspiracy theorists are still litigating the matter in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta. Because they keep demanding that election officials prove a negative—that corruption didn’t happen—their requests to keep interrogating the results can be repeated almost indefinitely. Despite three independent counts of Georgia’s vote, including a hand recount, all of which confirmed Biden’s victory, Mitchell argues that “Trump never got his day in court,” adding, “There are a lot of miscarriages of justice I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and this was one of them.”

Mitchell, who is seventy, has warm friendships with people in both parties, and she often appears grandmotherly, in pastel knit suits and reading glasses. But, like Angela Lansbury in “The Manchurian Candidate,” to whom she bears a striking resemblance, she should not be underestimated. She began her political career in Oklahoma, as an outspoken Democrat and a champion of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was elected to the state legislature in her twenties, but then lost a bid for lieutenant governor, in 1986. She told me that she subsequently underwent a political conversion: when her stepson squandered the college tuition that she was paying, she turned against the idea of welfare in favor of personal responsibility, and began reading conservative critiques of liberalism. When I first interviewed her for this magazine, in 1996, she told me that “overreaching government regulation is one of the great scandals of our times.”

On behalf of Republican candidates and groups, she began to fight limits on campaign spending. She also represented numerous right-wing nonprofits, including the National Rifle Association, whose board she joined in the early two-thousands. A former N.R.A. official recently told the Guardian that Mitchell was the “fringe of the fringe,” and a Republican voting-rights lawyer said that “she tells clients what they want to hear, regardless of the law or reality.”

In our conversations, Mitchell mocked what she called the mainstream media’s “narrative” of a “vast right-wing conspiracy to suppress the vote of Black people,” and insisted that the fraud problem was significant. “I actually think your readers need to hear from people like me—believe it or not, there are tens of millions of us,” she wrote. “We are not crazy. At least not to us. We are intelligent and educated people who are very concerned about the future of America. And we are among the vast majority of Americans who support election-integrity measures.” Echoing what has become the right’s standard talking point, she declared that her agenda for elections is “to make it harder to cheat.”

Mitchell told me that the Democrats used the pandemic as a “great pretext” to “be able to cheat”: they caused “administrative chaos” by changing rules about early and absentee voting, and they didn’t adequately police fraud. She denied that race had motivated her actions in Georgia. Yet, in an e-mail to me, she said that Democrats are “using black voters as a prop to accomplish their political objectives.”

Few experts have found Mitchell’s evidence convincing. On November 12, 2020, the Trump Administration’s own election authorities declared the Presidential vote to be “the most secure in American history.” It is true that in many American elections there are small numbers of questionable ballots. An Associated Press investigation found that, in 2020, a hundred and eighty-two of the 3.4 million ballots cast in Arizona were problematic. Four of the ballots have led to criminal charges. But the consensus among nonpartisan experts is that the amount of fraud, particularly in major races, is negligible. As Phil Keisling, a former secretary of state in Oregon, who pioneered universal voting by mail, has said, “Voters don’t cast fraudulent ballots for the same reason counterfeiters don’t manufacture pennies—it doesn’t pay.”

What explains, then, the hardening conviction among Republicans that the 2020 race was stolen? Michael Podhorzer, a senior adviser to the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., which invested deeply in expanding Democratic turnout in 2020, suggests that the two parties now have irreconcilable beliefs about whose votes are legitimate. “What blue-state people don’t understand about why the Big Lie works,” he said, is that it doesn’t actually require proof of fraud. “What animates it is the belief that Biden won because votes were cast by some people in this country who others think are not ‘real’ Americans.” This anti-democratic belief has been bolstered by a constellation of established institutions on the right: “white evangelical churches, legislators, media companies, nonprofits, and even now paramilitary groups.” Podhorzer noted, “Trump won white America by eight points. He won non-urban areas by over twenty points. He is the democratically elected President of white America. It’s almost like he represents a nation within a nation.”

Alarmism about election fraud in America extends at least as far back as Reconstruction, when white Southerners disenfranchised newly empowered Black voters and politicians by accusing them of corruption. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some white conservatives were frank about their hostility to democracy. Forty years ago, Paul Weyrich, who helped establish the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups, admitted, “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Like many conservatives of her generation, Cleta Mitchell was galvanized by the disputed 2000 election, in which George W. Bush and Al Gore battled for weeks over the outcome in Florida. She repeatedly spoke out on behalf of Bush, who won the state by only five hundred and thirty-seven votes. A dispute over recounts ended up at the Supreme Court.

Few people noticed at the time, but in that case, Bush v. Gore, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, hinted at a radical reading of the Constitution that, two decades later, undergirds many of the court challenges on behalf of Trump. In a concurring opinion, the Justices argued that state legislatures have the plenary power to run elections and can even pass laws giving themselves the right to appoint electors. Today, the so-called Independent Legislature Doctrine has informed Trump and the right’s attempts to use Republican-dominated state legislatures to overrule the popular will. Nathaniel Persily, an election-law expert at Stanford, told me, “It’s giving intellectual respectability to an otherwise insane, anti-democratic argument.”

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 made plain that the voting-rights wars were fuelled, in no small part, by racial animus. Bigoted conspiracists, including Trump, spent years trying to undermine the result by falsely claiming that Obama wasn’t born in America. Birtherism, which attempted to undercut a landmark election in which the turnout rate among Black voters nearly matched that of whites, was a progenitor of the Big Lie. As Penda Hair, a founder of the Advancement Project, a progressive voting-rights advocacy group, told me, conservatives were looking at Obama’s victory “and saying, ‘We’ve got to clamp things down’—they’d always tried to suppress the Black vote, but it was then that they came up with new schemes.”

Mitchell was at the forefront of the right’s offensive. In 2010, she accused the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Democrat Harry Reid, who was running for reëlection in Nevada, of planning “to steal this election if he can’t win it outright.” Her evidence was that Democrats in the state had provided “clearly illegal” free food at voter-turnout events—a negligible infraction, given that Reid won by more than forty thousand votes.

A year later, Mitchell successfully defended Trump, who had been exploring a Presidential bid, against charges that he had taken illegal campaign contributions. She had been recommended to Trump by Chris Ruddy, the founder of the conservative media company Newsmax, which was also a Mitchell client. Later, Ruddy introduced the future President to Mitchell over dinner at Mar-a-Lago. (She told me that she found Trump “gracious,” and noted that, since the 2020 election, she has talked with him “pretty often.”)

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, eliminating the Justice Department’s power to screen proposed changes to election procedures in states with discriminatory histories, one of which was Arizona. Terry Goddard, a former Arizona attorney general and a Democrat, told me that “the state has a history of voter suppression, especially against Native Americans.” Before Rehnquist became a Supreme Court Justice, in 1971, he lived in Arizona, where he was accused of administering literacy tests to voters of color. In the mid-two-thousands, Goddard recalled, Republican leaders erected many barriers aimed at deterring Latino voters, some of which the courts struck down. But the 2013 Supreme Court ruling initiated a new era of election manipulation.

Around this time, Mitchell became a director at the Bradley Foundation. Among the board members were George F. Will, the syndicated columnist, and Robert George, a Princeton political philosopher known for his defense of traditional Catholic values. By 2017, Will, who has been a critic of Trump, had stepped down from the Bradley board. But George has continued to serve as a director, even as the foundation has heavily funded groups promulgating the falsehood that election fraud is widespread in America, particularly in minority communities, and sowing doubt about the legitimacy of Biden’s win. The foundation, meanwhile, has given nearly three million dollars to programs that George established at Princeton. He has written in praise of Pence’s refusal to decertify Biden’s election, and has lamented that so many Americans believe, “wrongly,” that “the election was ‘stolen.’ ” But he declined to discuss with me why, then, he serves on the Bradley Foundation’s board.

The board includes Art Pope, the libertarian discount-store magnate, who serves on the board of governors at the University of North Carolina.​ Pope, who has also acknowledged the legitimacy of Biden’s victory, declined to discuss his role at the foundation. Another board member is Paul Clement, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, who is one of the country’s most distinguished Supreme Court litigators. He could not be reached for comment.

Mitchell argues that the right spends “a pittance” on election issues compared with the left. “Have you looked at the Democracy Alliance?” she asked me. The Alliance, whose membership is secret, distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money to many left-leaning causes. But, when it comes to influencing elections, the contrast with the Bradley Foundation is clear. Whereas the Alliance’s efforts have centered on increasing voter participation, the Bradley Foundation has focussed on disqualifying ostensibly illegitimate voters.

Like most private nonprofits, the Bradley Foundation doesn’t disclose much about its inner workings. But in 2016 hackers posted online some of the group’s confidential documents, which showed that, once Mitchell became a director, she began urging the foundation to support nonprofit organizations policing election fraud. Mitchell has professional ties to several of the groups that received money, although she says that she has abstained from voting on grants to any of those organizations.

One recipient of Bradley money is True the Vote, a Texas-based group that, among other things, trains people to monitor polling sites. Mitchell has served as its legal counsel, and hacked documents show that she advocated to the I.R.S. that the group deserved tax-exempt status as a charity. To earn such a designation, a group must file federal tax forms promising not to engage in electoral politics. In a letter of support, she asserted that “fraudulent voting occurs in the United States,” citing a 2010 case in which the F.B.I. arrested nine Floridians for election violations. But, as with many voter-fraud allegations, the details of the case were less than advertised. The accusation involved a school-board election in a rural Black community in which a campaign had collected dozens of absentee ballots, in violation of the law. The charges were eventually dismissed. The judge found “no intent to cast a false or fraudulent ballot.” True the Vote, which was granted tax-exempt status, has since been the subject of numerous complaints from voters, who have accused it of intimidation and racism.

Last year, a Reuters report characterized Mitchell as one of four lawyers leading the conservative war on “election fraud,” and described True the Vote as one of the movement’s hubs. The story linked the group and three other conservative nonprofits to at least sixty-one election lawsuits since 2012. Reuters noted that, during the same period, the four groups, along with two others devoted to election-integrity issues, have received more than three and a half million dollars from the Bradley Foundation.

It’s a surprisingly short leap from making accusations of voter fraud to calling for the nullification of a supposedly tainted election. The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a group funded by the Bradley Foundation, is leading the way. Based in Indiana, it has become a prolific source of litigation; in the past year alone, it has brought nine election-law cases in eight states. It has amassed some of the most visible lawyers obsessed with election fraud, including Mitchell, who is its chair and sits on its board.

One of the group’s directors is John Eastman, a former law professor at Chapman University, in California. On January 4, 2021, he visited the White House, where he spoke with Trump about ways to void the election. In a nod to the Independent Legislature Doctrine, Eastman and Trump tried to persuade Vice-President Mike Pence to halt the certification of the Electoral College vote, instead throwing the election to the state legislatures. Pence was not persuaded.

Two days later, Eastman spoke at Trump’s “Save America” rally in Washington, hours before the crowds ransacked the Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win. “This is bigger than President Trump!” Eastman declared. “It is the very essence of our republican form of government, and it has to be done!” He thundered that election officials had robbed Trump by illegally casting ballots in the name of non-voters whose records they had extracted, after the polls had closed, from a “secret folder” in electronic voting machines. He told the crowd that the scandal was visible in “the data.” There is no evidence of such malfeasance, however. Eastman, who recently retired, under pressure, from Chapman University, and was stripped of his public duties at another post that he held, at the University of Colorado Boulder, told me he still believes that the election was stolen, and thinks that the audits in Arizona and other states will help prove it. The Bradley Foundation declined to comment on him, or on Mitchell, when asked about its role in funding their activities.

Two other Public Interest Legal Foundation lawyers—its president, J. Christian Adams, and another board member, Hans von Spakovsky—served in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where they began efforts to use the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect Black voters, to prosecute purported fraud by Black voters and election officials. Both men have argued strenuously that American elections are rife with serious fraud, and in 2017 they got a rare opportunity to make their case, when Trump appointed them to a Presidential commission on election integrity. Within months, after the commission was unable to find significant evidence of election fraud, it acrimoniously disbanded. Adams and von Spakovsky, who are members of what Roll Call has termed the Voter Fraud Brain Trust, have nevertheless continued their crusade, sustained partly by Bradley funds. Von Spakovsky now heads the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, which has received grants from the Bradley Foundation.

At Heritage, von Spakovsky has overseen a national tracking system monitoring election-fraud cases. But its data on Arizona, the putative center of the storm, is not exactly alarming: of the millions of votes cast in the state from 2016 to 2020, only nine individuals were convicted of fraud. Each instance involved someone casting a duplicate ballot in another state. There were no recorded cases of identity fraud, ballot stuffing, voting by non-citizens, or other nefarious schemes. The numbers confirm that there is some voter fraud, or at least confusion, but not remotely enough to affect election outcomes.

Even Benjamin Ginsberg, a Republican lawyer who for years led the Party’s election-law fights, recently conceded to the Times that “a party that’s increasingly old and white whose base is a diminishing share of the population is conjuring up charges of fraud to erect barriers to voting for people it fears won’t support its candidates.”

The Voter Fraud Brain Trust lent support to Trump’s lies from the time he took office. In 2016, when he lost the popular vote by nearly three million ballots, he insisted that he had actually won it, spuriously blaming rampant fraud in California. Soon afterward, von Spakovsky gave Trump’s false claim credence by publishing an essay at Heritage arguing that there was no way to disprove the allegation, because “we have an election system that’s based on the honor system.”

More than a year before the 2020 election, Cleta Mitchell and her allies sensed political peril for Trump and began reviewing strategies to help keep him in office. According to a leaked video of an address that she gave in May, 2019, to the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative society, she warned that Democrats were successfully registering what she sarcastically referred to as “the disenfranchised.” She continued, “They know that if they target certain communities and they can get them registered and get them to the polls, then those groups . . . will vote ninety per cent, ninety-five per cent for Democrats.”

One possible countermove was for conservative state legislators to reëngineer the way the Electoral College has worked for more than a hundred years, in essence by invoking the Independent Legislature Doctrine. The Constitution gives states the authority to choose their Presidential electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Since the late nineteenth century, states have delegated that authority to the popular vote. But, arguably, the Constitution permits state legislatures to take this authority back. Legislators could argue that an election had been compromised by irregularities or fraud, forcing them to intervene.

In August, 2019, e-mails show, Mitchell co-chaired a high-level working group with Shawnna Bolick, a Republican state representative from Phoenix. Among the topics slated for discussion was the Electoral College. The working group was convened by alec, the corporate-backed nonprofit that transmits conservative policy ideas and legislation to state lawmakers. The Bradley Foundation has long supported alec, and Mitchell has worked closely with it, serving as its outside counsel until recently.

Mitchell and Bolick declined to answer questions about the working group’s focus, but it appears that Bolick’s participation was productive. After the election, she signed a resolution demanding that Congress block the certification of Biden’s victory and award Arizona’s electors to Trump. Then, early this year, Bolick introduced a bill proposing a radical reading of Article II of the Constitution, along the lines of the Independent Legislature Doctrine. It would enable a majority of the Arizona legislature to override the popular vote if it found fault with the outcome, and dictate the state’s Electoral College votes itself—anytime up until Inauguration Day. Bolick has described her bill as just “a good, democratic check and balance,” but her measure was considered so extreme that it died in committee, despite Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature. Yet, simply by putting forth the idea as legislation, she helped lend legitimacy to the audacious scheme that the Trump campaign desperately pursued in the final days before Biden’s Inauguration: to rely on Republican-led state legislatures to overturn Electoral College votes. Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, who served as an associate White House counsel under Obama, told me, “Institutions like the Heritage Foundation and alec are providing the grease to turn these attacks on democracy into law.”

Bolick has since announced her candidacy for secretary of state in Arizona. Her husband, Clint Bolick, is an Arizona Supreme Court justice and a leader in right-wing legal circles. Clarence Thomas, one of the three U.S. Supreme Court Justices who signed on to the concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore laying out the Independent Legislature Doctrine, is the godfather of one of Clint Bolick’s sons. If Shawnna Bolick wins her race, she will oversee future elections in the state. And, if the Supreme Court faces another case in which arguments about the Independent Legislature Doctrine come into play, there may now be enough conservative Justices to agree with Thomas that there are circumstances under which legislatures, not voters, could have the final word in American elections.

Months before the 2020 vote, Lisa Nelson, the C.E.O. of alec, also anticipated contesting the election results. That February, she told a private gathering of the Council for National Policy about a high-level review that her group had undertaken of ways to challenge “the validity” of the Presidential returns. A video of the proceedings was obtained by the investigative group Documented, and first reported by the Washington Spectator. In her speech, Nelson noted that she was working with Mitchell and von Spakovsky.

Although the law bars charitable organizations such as the Council for National Policy from engaging in electoral politics, Nelson unabashedly acknowledged, “Obviously, we all want President Trump to win, and win the national vote.” She went on, “But it’s very clear that, really, what it comes down to is the states, and the state legislators.” One plan, she said, was to urge conservative legislators to voice doubt to their respective secretaries of state, questioning the election’s outcome and asking, “What did happen that night?”

By August, 2020, when the Council for National Policy held another meeting, the pandemic had hurt Trump’s prospects, and talk within the membership about potential Democratic election fraud had reached a frenzy. At the meeting, Adams, the Public Interest Legal Foundation’s president, echoed Trump’s raging about mail-in ballots, describing them as “the No. 1 left-wing agenda.” He urged conservatives not to be deterred by criticism: “Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor, you’re a racist, and so forth.”

A younger member of the organization, Charlie Kirk—a founder of Turning Point USA, which promotes right-wing ideas on school campuses—injected a note of optimism. He suggested that the pandemic, by closing campuses, would likely suppress voting among college students, a left-leaning bloc. “Please keep the campuses closed,” he said, to cheers. “Like, it’s a great thing!”

Five months later, Turning Point Action, a “social welfare organization” run by Kirk’s group, was one of nearly a dozen groups behind Trump’s “March to Save America,” on January 6th. Shortly before the rally, Kirk tweeted that the groups he leads would send “80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” His tweet was deleted after the crowds assaulted the Capitol.

Turning Point, which has received small grants from the Bradley Foundation, is headquartered in Arizona, and it has played a significant role in the radicalization of the state, in part by amplifying fear and anger about voter fraud. Turning Point’s chief operating officer, Tyler Bowyer, is a member of the Republican National Committee and a former chair of the Maricopa County Republican Party. Bowyer’s friend Jake Hoffman runs an Arizona-based digital-marketing company, Rally Forge, that has been Turning Point’s highest-compensated contractor. In the summer of 2020, Rally Forge helped Turning Point use social media to spread incendiary misinformation about the coming elections. In September, the Washington Post reported that Rally Forge, on behalf of Turning Point Action, had paid teen-agers to deceptively post thousands of copycat propaganda messages, much as Russia had done during the 2016 campaign. Adult leaders had instructed the teens to tweak the wording of their posts, to evade detection by technology companies. Some messages were posted under the teens’ accounts, but others were sent under assumed personae. Many posts claimed that mail-in ballots would “lead to fraud,” and that Democrats planned to steal the Presidency.

Turning Point Action denied that it ran a troll farm, arguing that the teen-age employees were genuine, but a study by the Internet Observatory at Stanford’s Cyber Policy Center documented the scheme, along with other dubious practices by Rally Forge. In 2016, the company fabricated a politician—complete with a doctored photograph—to run as an Independent write-in candidate against Andy Biggs, a far-right Republican seeking an open congressional seat in Arizona. The ploy, evidently intended to siphon votes from Biggs’s Democratic opponent, didn’t go far, but it was hardly the company’s only scam. The Guardian has shown how Rally Forge also created a phony left-wing front group, America Progress Now, which promoted Green Party candidates online in 2018, apparently to hurt Democrats in several races.

In October, 2020, Rally Forge was banned from Facebook, and its president, Hoffman, was permanently suspended by Twitter. Undeterred, he ran as a pro-Trump Republican for the Arizona House—and won. Remarkably, the chamber’s Republican leadership then appointed him the vice-chair of the Committee on Government and Elections. Since getting elected, Hoffman has challenged the legitimacy of Biden’s victory, called for election audits, and, in coördination with the Heritage Foundation, used his position to propose numerous bills making it more difficult to vote.

This past spring, at a private gathering outside Tucson, Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action—the politically active arm of the Heritage Foundation—singled out Hoffman for praise. As a leaked video of her remarks revealed, she told supporters that, with the help of Hoffman and other state legislators, the nonprofit group was rewriting America’s election laws. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them, or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe,” Anderson explained. “We’ve got three bills done in Arizona!” She continued, “We’re moving four more through the state of Arizona right now . . . simple bills, all straight from the Heritage recommendations.” One of the bills, she noted, was “written and carried by Jake Hoffman,” whom she described as “a longtime friend of the Heritage Foundation.”

Hoffman’s bills have made the Heritage Foundation’s wish list a reality. Voting by mail has long been popular in Arizona, with as many as ninety per cent of voters doing so in 2020, but one of Hoffman’s bills made it a felony to send a mail-in ballot to residents who hadn’t requested one, unless they were on an official list of early voters. Another bill, which Hoffman supported, will, according to one estimate, push as many as two hundred thousand people off the state’s list of early voters. Opponents say that this legislation will disproportionately purge Latinos, who constitute twenty-four per cent of the state’s eligible voters. Another bill by Hoffman banned state election officials from accepting outside donations to help pay for any aspect of election administration, including voter registration. (One of the bill’s targets was Mark Zuckerberg, whose foundation helped county election officials in Arizona handle the pandemic.) In February, at a hearing of the Committee on Government and Elections, a witness from the Washington-based Capital Research Center—also funded by the Bradley Foundation—testified in support of Hoffman’s legislation. Athena Salman, the ranking Democrat, told me she was incensed that Hoffman—“a guy who paid teen-agers to lie”—was put on the election committee. “It’s the fox guarding the henhouse!” she said.

Anderson, of Heritage, declined to respond to questions about the group’s collaborations with Hoffman, instead sending a prepared statement: “After a year when voters’ trust in our elections plummeted, restoring that trust should be the top priority of legislators and governors nationwide. That’s why Heritage Action is deploying our established grassroots network for state advocacy for the first time ever. There is nothing more important than ensuring every American is confident their vote counts—and we will do whatever it takes to get there.”

Hoffman, who formerly served as a town-council member in Queen Creek, a deeply conservative part of Maricopa County, did not respond to requests for comment. Kristin Clark, a Democrat who mounted a write-in campaign against him after the news of his troll farm broke, called Hoffman an “unintelligent man who wants to be a big guy.” She told me, “The Republicans here have changed. They were conservative, but now they’ve sold out. It’s money that’s changed it. All these giant, corporate groups that are faceless—it’s outside money.” In her view, “Jake Hoffman is but a cog.”

The spark that ignited the Arizona audit was an amateur video, taken on Election Night, of an unidentified female voter outside a polling place in what Kristin Clark recognized as Hoffman’s district. The voter claimed that election workers had tried to sabotage her ballot by deliberately giving her a Sharpie that the electronic scanners couldn’t read. Her claim was false: the scanners could read Sharpie ink, and the ballots had been designed so that the flip side wouldn’t be affected if the ink bled through. Nevertheless, the video went viral. Among the first to spread the Sharpiegate conspiracy was another one of Charlie Kirk’s youth groups, Students for Trump. The next day, as Trump furiously insisted he had won an election that he ended up losing by roughly seven million votes, protesters staged angry rallies in Maricopa County, where ballots were still being counted. Adding an aura of legal credibility to the conspiracy theory, Adams, the Public Interest Legal Foundation president, immediately filed suit against Maricopa County, alleging that a Sharpie-using voter he represented had been disenfranchised. The case was soon dismissed, but not before Adams tweeted, “just filed to have our client’s right to #vote upheld. Her #Sharpie ballot was cancelled without cure.” Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, a Republican, investigated, and his office took only a day to conclude that the Sharpie story was nonsense. But, by then, many Trump supporters no longer trusted Arizona’s election results. Clark, the former Democratic challenger to Hoffman, told me that she watched in horror as “they took B.S. and made it real!”

A day after the election, the office of Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, reported that, based on a routine, bipartisan hand recount of a sample of ballots, “no discrepancies were found” in Maricopa County. Within days, the mainstream media had called the election for Biden, based on late returns from Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. But Cleta Mitchell, who had been dispatched by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to help the Trump campaign in Georgia, told Fox News, “We’re already double-checking and finding dead people having voted.” As Georgia was ratifying its results with a recount, she tweeted that the tally was “fake!!!”

Meanwhile, on the conservative Web site Townhall, Hoffman demanded “a full audit of the vote count in swing states,” adding that the election was “far from over.” He claimed that there had been “countless violations of state election law, statistical anomalies and election irregularities in more than a half dozen states,” and argued that state legislatures should therefore have the final say. By December, he had joined his friend Bowyer and other members of the state’s Republican Party in filing suit against Arizona’s governor, calling for the state to set aside Arizona’s eleven electoral votes and allow the legislature to intervene.

At the same time, another version of the Independent Legislature Doctrine argument was being mounted in Pennsylvania, by the Honest Elections Project, the group tied to Leonard Leo, of the Federalist Society. Local Republicans had challenged a state-court ruling that adjusted voting procedures during the pandemic. The Honest Elections Project filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Pennsylvania court had usurped the legislature’s authority to oversee elections. The effort didn’t succeed, but Richard Hasen, the election-law professor, regards such arguments as “powder kegs” that threaten American democracy. Leo didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Hasen believes that Leo is trying to preserve “minority rule” in elections in order to advance his agenda. Hasen told me, “Making it harder to vote helps them get more Republican victories, which helps them get more conservative judges and courts.”

In the case of Arizona, it took only a week for a federal district court to dismiss Hoffman and Bowyer’s suit, citing an absence of “relevant or reliable evidence.” The court admonished the plaintiffs that “gossip and innuendo” cannot “be the basis for upending Arizona’s 2020 General Election.” Hoffman and the other plaintiffs appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the matter, but it waited to do so until March. In the meantime, election-fraud conspiracy theories in Arizona were growing out of control.

On November 12th, Biden was declared the winner in Maricopa County. Soon after, a Republican member of the county’s Board of Supervisors, Bill Gates, was picking up takeout food for his family when the board’s chairman—one of four Republicans on the five-person board—called to warn him to be careful going home. Ninety angry people had gathered outside the chairman’s house, and Gates’s place could be next. “We’d all been doxed,” Gates told me. He and his wife are the legal guardians of a teen-ager whose father, a Ugandan, was nearly killed by henchmen for Idi Amin. “It’s chilling to see the parallels,” Gates told me. “You’d never think there were any parallels to a strongman autocracy in Africa.” Gates considers himself a political-science nerd, but, he said, “I had no concept that we were heading where we were heading.”

Gates, who moved to Arizona as a teen-ager, was a latchkey kid whose idea of entertainment was watching C-span. He is forty-nine and describes himself as a “child of the Reagan Revolution” who started a Republican club in high school. He attended Drake University, in Iowa, partly so that he could witness the state’s Presidential caucuses. Winning a Truman Scholarship opened his way to Harvard Law School, where he joined the Federalist Society, the Harvard Law School Republican Club, and the Journal of Law and Public Policy. At Harvard, membership in all three was called the “conservative trifecta.” Gates can scarcely believe how the Republican Party and the conservative movement have changed in the years since.

Over breakfast in June, in Phoenix, he apologized for his eyes welling up with tears as he described his efforts to stand up to his own party’s mob. He said that he and the other county supervisors had been “feeling great” about how well their administration of the election had gone despite the pandemic. But, as the final ballots were counted and Trump fell behind, Maricopa County became the focal point of conspiracy theorists. “Alex Jones and those guys start coming out here, and they’re protesting outside of our election center as the counting is going on,” he said. He could hear people screaming, and what sounded like a drum: “It was Lollapalooza for the alt-right—it was crazy.” He started getting calls and e-mails saying, “You guys need to stop the steal.” Gates told me, “I’d wonder, Is this a real person?” But some angry messages came from people he knew. They said they’d never support him again. “People thought I was failing them,” Gates said. “I have been called a traitor so many times in the last six months.”

Gates says that Karen Fann, the Arizona Senate’s president, confided to him that she knew there was “nothing to” the fraud charges. (She didn’t respond to requests for comment.) Nevertheless, she buckled under the political pressure and authorized a subpoena of the county’s ballots, for the “forensic audit.” At one point, county supervisors were told that if they didn’t comply they would face contempt charges and, potentially, could be imprisoned. For a time, the official Twitter account for the audit accused the supervisors, without evidence, of “spoliation” of the ballots. “I get a little emotional when I talk about it,” Gates said. “My daughter called me, frantically trying to find out whether or not I was going to be thrown in jail.” Trump supporters set up a guillotine on a grassy plaza outside Arizona’s statehouse, demanding the supervisors’ heads. Inside, Gates recalled, one Republican member after another rose to denounce the county supervisors.

A representative for the national Republican Party tried to silence Gates when he spoke out to defend the integrity of Arizona’s election. He told me that Hoffman’s ally Tyler Bowyer, of the Republican National Committee, paid him a visit and warned, “You need to stop it.” According to Gates, Bowyer made it clear that “the Republican National Committee supports this audit.” Andrew Kolvet, a spokesman for Bowyer, denied that the visit was an official attempt at intimidation, calling it instead a “personal courtesy.”

Gates said that after he received death threats he fled with his family to an Airbnb. At one point, the sheriff sent two deputies to guard Gates’s home overnight. Trump supporters, Gates said, “are basically asking Republican leaders to bow before the altar of the Big Lie—‘You’re willing to do it? O.K., great. You’re not? You’re a rino. You’re a Commie. You are not a Republican.’ It’s been incredibly effective, really, when you think about where we’ve come from January 6th.”

Part of what had drawn Gates to the Republican Party was the Reagan-era doctrine of confronting totalitarianism. He’d long had a fascination with emerging democracies, particularly the former Soviet republics. He had come up with what he admits was a “kooky” retirement plan—“to go to some place like Uzbekistan and help.” He told me, “I’d always thought that, if I had a tragic end, it would be in some place like Tajikistan.” He shook his head. “If you had told me, ‘You’re going to be doing this in the U.S.,’ I would have told you, ‘You’re crazy.’ ”

Some of the political pressure on election officials in Arizona was exerted directly by Trump and his associates, potentially illegally. Interfering in a federal election can be a crime. As the Arizona Republic has reported, the President and his legal adviser Rudy Giuliani phoned state and local officials, including Fann. The White House switchboard tried to connect Trump with the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, but, even though the chairman was a Republican, he ducked the call, lest the President interfere improperly. Giuliani called Gates’s cell phone when he was shopping at Walgreens on Christmas Eve. Not recognizing the number, Gates didn’t answer. “You can’t make this stuff up,” he told me. Giuliani left a voice mail saying it was a “shame” that two Republicans couldn’t work things out—he’d come up with a “nice way” to “get this thing fixed up.”

“I never returned the phone call,” Gates said. A week later, when news broke of Trump’s notorious call to officials in Georgia, Gates was more relieved than ever that he hadn’t called Giuliani back. A panel of judges in New York has since suspended Giuliani’s law license, for threatening the public interest by making “demonstrably false and misleading statements” about the Presidential election.

By New Year’s Eve, when Trump tried and failed to reach the chairman of the Maricopa County board, his Administration was in extraordinary turmoil. Attorney General William Barr had resigned from the Justice Department after declaring that it had detected no significant election fraud. Even so, Trump continued to demand that the department investigate a variety of loony conspiracies, including a plot to erase Trump votes using Italian military satellites. According to a leaked e-mail, a Justice Department attorney disparaged the satellite theory as “pure insanity.” A man supposedly involved in the plot issued a denial to Reuters, and Italian police suggested that the allegation was baseless. But the conspiracy theory, which became known as Italygate, had bubbled up from the same pools of dark money that were funding other election misinformation. Records show that Italygate was spread by a “social welfare organization” called Nations in Action, whose directors included von Spakovsky. When Talking Points Memo contacted von Spakovsky, he said that he had resigned from the board on January 8th. But the money trail remains. Crooks and Liars, a progressive investigative-reporting site, dug up tax filings showing that the group’s 501(c)(3) sibling, the Nations in Action Globally Lifting Up Fund, had received thousands of dollars from the Judicial Crisis Network—a nonprofit enterprise, closely tied to Leonard Leo, that also funds Turning Point Action.

While Justice Department officials were fending off conspiracy theories being spread by tax-exempt charities in Washington, the pressure was even more acute on local officials in Phoenix. Trump tweeted relentlessly about the audit. He “clearly has had a fascination with this issue, because he thinks it’s the key to his reinstatement,” Gates told me. “It’s not about Arizona. We’re literally pawns in this. This is a national effort to delegitimize the election system.” Gates predicted that, if “Arizona can question this, and show that Trump won,” the game will move on to Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia, all of which have sent Republican delegations to observe Arizona’s audit. Noting that both QAnon followers and his own state’s Republican Party chair had referred to “dominoes” in connection with the audit, Gates said, “We know what that game is, and how it works.”

It would be tempting for Gates, a lifetime Republican with political ambitions, to blame only Trump for his party’s anti-democratic turn. But he has few such illusions. What’s really going on, he believes, is a reactionary backlash against Obama: “I’ve thought about it a lot. I believe the election of President Obama frightened a lot of Americans.” Gates argues that the fear isn’t entirely about race. He thinks it’s also about cosmopolitanism, secularism, and other contemporary values that make white conservatives uncomfortable. But in the end, he said, “the diversification of America is frightening to a lot of people in my party.”

Gates believes that his party’s reaction may backfire. Polls show that, although the Arizona audit is wildly popular among Republican voters in the state, it alienates independents, who constitute approximately a third of the state’s electorate—and whose support is necessary for statewide candidates to win.

For now, though, conservative groups seem to be doubling down on their investments in election-fraud alarmism. In the next two years, Heritage Action plans to spend twenty-four million dollars mobilizing supporters and lobbyists who will promote “election integrity,” starting in eight battleground states, including Arizona. It is coördinating its effort with the Election Transparency Initiative, a joint venture of two anti-abortion groups, the Susan B. Anthony List and the American Principles Project. The Election Transparency Initiative has set a fund-raising goal of five million dollars. Cleta Mitchell, having left her law firm, has joined FreedomWorks, the free-market group, where she plans to lead a ten-million-dollar project on voting issues. She will also head the Election Integrity Network at the Conservative Partnership Institute, another Washington-based nonprofit. As a senior legal fellow there, she told the Washington Examiner, she will “help bring all these strings” of conservative election-law activism together, and she added, “I’ve had my finger in so many different pieces of the election-integrity pie for so long.”

Back in Arizona, where the auditors are demanding still more time, Gates believes that the Big Lie has become a “grift” used to motivate Republican voters and donors to support conservative candidates and political groups. “The sad thing is that there are probably millions of people—hardworking, good Americans, maybe retired—who have paid their taxes, always followed the law, and they truly believe this, because of what they’ve been fed by their leaders,” he said. “And what’s so dispiriting is that the people who are pushing it from the top? They know better.” ♦

Jane Mayer, The New Yorker’s chief Washington correspondent, is the author of “Dark Money” and the recipient of a 2021 Freedom of the Press Award.

More:Voter SuppressionArizonaDonald TrumpConservativesRepublicansElectionsVoting RightsVoting2020 ElectionElection FraudHeritage FoundationVoter FraudTurning Point USA

December 1, 2018

Wisconsin power grab bills

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 8:58 am

The Extraordinary session bills are as follows:

·         LRB-6074 Legislative Power and Duties (Vos, Robin) Legislative power and duties, state agency and authority composition and operations, administrative rule-making process, federal government waivers and approvals, unemployment insurance work search and registration requirements, and making an appropriation.

·         LRB-6073 Federal Government Waivers (Vos, Robin) Federal government waivers and other requests for federal approval; public assistance programs; waivers from work search and registration requirements for certain unemployment insurance benefit claimants; granting rule-making authority; and making an appropriation.

·         LRB-6072 Presidential Primary (Vos, Robin) Holding the presidential preference primary on the second Tuesday in March; applying for an absentee ballot in-person; and absentee ballots cast by overseas and military voters.

·         LRB-6071 State Agency Composition (Vos, Robin) Legislative powers and duties, state agency and authority composition and operations, and administrative rule-making process.

·         LRB-6070 Highway Projects (Vos, Robin) State and local highway projects; expenditure of transportation moneys received from the federal government; determining a reduction in individual income tax rates; and election of pass-through entities to be taxed at the entity level.



LRB-0396/P2. Body cameras on law enforcement officers. Approved 9/1.



DWD. Report on non-federal gift and grant expenditures. No action required.

DOA. Temporary reallocation of balances. No action required


To review today’s releases, click here to visit us at


March 15, 2017

Proposed Resolution Making Milwaukee Public Schools a Safe Haven for Immigrant and Refugee Students and Families

Filed under: General,Immigration — millerlf @ 6:43 pm

Please attend the MPS full board meeting, March 30th, where public testimony will be taken on a proposed resolution by Directors Joseph and Miller to Declare Milwaukee Public Schools to Be a Safe Haven for Its Students and Families Threatened by Immigration Enforcement or Discrimination.

WHEREAS: The United States Supreme Court held in Plyer v. Doe (1982) that no public school district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status, citing the harm it would inflict on the children and society itself and the equal protection rights of the Fourteenth Amendment;

WHEREAS, The vision of the Milwaukee Public Schools states, “Schools will be safe, welcoming, well-maintained, and accessible community centers meeting the needs of all”; and

WHEREAS, MPS Administrative Policy 1.04 states, “No person may be denied admission to or participation in the benefits of any public school in the Milwaukee Public Schools, or be discriminated against in any curricular, extracurricular, student service, recreational, or other program or activity, because of the person’s sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, creed, religion, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, or physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability or handicap, or any other characteristic protected by law”; and

WHEREAS, The aforementioned applies to all MPS students without exception, regardless of the immigration status of a student or family; and

WHEREAS, Through its policies and practices, the District has made a commitment to provide a quality education for all students, which includes a safe and stable learning environment, means of transportation to and from school sites, the preservation of classroom hours for educational instruction, and the requirement of school attendance; and

WHEREAS, It is the policy of Milwaukee Public Schools not to allow any individual or organization to enter a school site if the educational setting would be disrupted by that visit; and

WHEREAS, Parents and students have expressed to Milwaukee Public Schools fear and confusion about the continued physical and emotional safety of all students and the right to access a free public K­12 education through district schools and programs; and

WHEREAS, Numerous students whose education, safety, emotional well-being, and family relationships are at risk because of their immigration status are, and will in the future be, enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools; and

WHEREAS, Milwaukee Public Schools believes that it is in the best interests of the students, staff, families, and the community of Milwaukee Public Schools that it take action to assure all students and families that disruptions to the educational environment that the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may create will be opposed by all legal means available; and

WHEREAS, No written state or federal law mandates that local districts assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of immigration laws; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors declare Milwaukee Public Schools (the District) to be a safe haven for its students and families threatened by immigration enforcement or discrimination, to the fullest extent permitted by the law; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That as a Safe Haven the Board directs the Superintendent to:

  1. within the next 30 days create a Rapid Response Team in partnership with community-based

organizations, legal-service providers, and social services to assist students and family to prepare in the event a minor child attending school in the District is deprived of adult care, supervision, or guardianship outside of school due to a federal law-enforcement action, such as detention by ICE or a cooperating law-enforcement agency;

  1. create bilingual Know-Your-Rights presentations for students and family members to cover their rights regarding interactions with law-enforcement and immigration agents;
  2. designate a faculty or counselor in each school who is to serve as a resource for immigrant students and their families and establish at least one resource person in Central Office who is to be trained to serve as a immigrant liaison, with expertise in immigrant and undocumented populations;
  3. establish all K-12 schools, early education centers, adult schools, and parent centers as resource and information sites for immigrant students and families;
  4. work with City/County representatives to establish a Safe Haven perimeter within which families will feel safe in bringing their children to school; and
  5. create and offer professional development opportunities for Central Office staff, administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and paraprofessionals about the pathways to citizenship, opportunities available for college and training, financial aid, rights, and opportunities for immigrant and refugee students; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Superintendent, upon notification of the intent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or other immigration-law-enforcement personnel to enter a district school, shall take the following steps to provide for the emotional and physical safety of students and staff:

  • request and make photocopies of identification from the officers or agents;
  • request and make photocopies of a judicial warrant;

— If no warrant is presented, request the grounds for access, make notes, and contact

legal counsel for the District;

  • request and retain notes of the names of the students and the reasons for the request;
  • If school-site personnel have not yet contacted the student’s parents or guardians, do so;
  • do not attempt to provide information or conjecture about the students, such as their schedule, for example, without legal counsel present;
  • provide the agents with a copy of this Resolution 1617R-007;
  • contact legal counsel for the District;
  • request the agents’ contact information; and
  • advise the agents that you are required to complete these steps prior to allowing them access to any school site or student data; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That unless specifically required by a valid court order, district employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not use district resources for the purpose of detecting or assisting in the apprehension of persons whose only violation of law is or may be being an undocumented resident in the United States, or failing to produce documents authorizing residency in the United States; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That unless specifically required by a valid court order, or subsequent to receiving a signed release, district employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not report any information about a student’s or parent’s immigration status; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That district employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall refrain from requiring any student or parent to produce documentation regarding immigration status; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That district employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not, unless compelled by a valid court order, or subsequent to receiving a signed release, disclose to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or to any other person or entity any information about a student’s or family’s immigration status; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That district employees, contractors, volunteers, and representatives shall not, unless compelled by a valid court order, or subsequent to receiving a signed release, disclose to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or to any other person or entity any information about any district student that is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That no Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers or other immigration­law-enforcement personnel shall be granted immediate access to any district school for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws and shall be referred immediately to the Superintendent; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the District shall review its record-keeping policies and practices to ensure the highest level of protection of student privacy; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board direct the Administration to conduct a full review of the District’s policies, procedures, and practices to ensure complete alignment with the Safe Haven declaration in all areas of district operations; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the District shall post this Resolution at every school site and distribute it to district staff, students, and parents using usual means of communication and that the Resolution shall be translated into all languages spoken by students at home.


February 23, 2017

November 9, 2016

Trump Wins: The David Dukes of the World Prevail

Filed under: General,Trump — millerlf @ 4:58 pm


Wednesday, 09 November 2016 By John Knefel, Truthout | News Analysis

The unimaginable has happened. The Nightmare Scenario, that thing that seemed impossible, has come to pass. The United States has played Russian roulette with itself and lost. It is difficult to find the words to capture just how profoundly awful this outcome is. Trump ran on a promise of deporting 15 million people and banning Muslims from entering the country. The immediate safety of those groups is very much in question.

Donald Trump has won the office of the President of the United States. After a 19-month campaign that encompassed the worst tendencies of the United States, it seemed possible that the worst outcome would not happen. Not so. This country now has a white supremacist as its president. Although Trump may have temporarily disavowed David Duke, make no mistake: The David Dukes of the world have won the day. There is no question who Trump is, and there never has been. To his accidental credit, Trump was incapable of hiding his sexist, racist, xenophobic impulses. He showed them to America, and the country said “yes.”

What Donald Trump has shown us is that the majority of American voters want a white supremacist in the Oval Office. He ran on an ethno-chauvinist platform that always intentionally excluded people of color from the basic promises of society, by definition. That is the terrible conclusion compelled by Occam’s razor: A vast number of the people who populate the United States want to be led by a white supremacist.

Americans are confronted now with the real issue of resistance. We have to resist.

What we all must understand is that there is no longer a worst-case scenario. The nuclear technicians who endorsed Clinton mean nothing now. Whistleblowers, under Trump: Good luck. And good luck to all the media outlets Trump’s good friend Peter Thiel wants to take an axe to as well.

We are in uncharted waters. Many critics have compared Trump to Hitler, but most have missed the mark. It’s been 92 years since Hitler’s failed beer hall putsch, also on November 8 and 9, 1923. That attempt to oust the national government failed, but it showed Hitler’s prowess and ultimately established him on the national stage in Bavaria. The failed coup landed Hitler in jail, but a sympathetic judge offered a lenient sentence, and by the mid 1920s Hitler was again agitating for the power on a platform that centered the annihilation of the Jews. Not enough Germans disrupted that project. The United States may well skip the stage of the 1920s and go right to the more mechanized stage of destruction.

With Trump at the helm, who knows.

The man has promised to deport 15 million undocumented people. He has promised to impose a ban on entering the country for Muslims. Let no one forget that he bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy.” What the lessons of early 20th-century fascism tell us, though, is that a dictator can be down but not out. Regardless of Trump’s terrifying rise, liberalism hasn’t had enough to say about the appeal of right-wing fanaticism. And still, when a human tells you of their plan to carry out a project of white supremacy through deportation, as Trump has promised for the United States, we would do well to listen to him.

Grotesque fascism has won the day. Years from now, a younger candidate may well be able to generate even more support among white women, a group Trump won, and still retain Trump’s devoted base and have a shot at continuing Trump’s administration.

Donald Trump is a fanatic, and his fanaticism takes the form of extreme narcissism most prominently. It’s true that his misogyny and racism go back decades, but even as late as 2012 he was pushing for immigration reform, contrary to his central animating campaign promise. He is terrifying as an executive, but he is not a true believer, at his core. However, his victory will pave the way for the rise of fascist leaders who are more tied to their “principles” than he is.

In fact, it turned out the US was susceptible to two distinct threats, both of which Trump embodied to a certain extent. One is the threat of the shrewd fascist, and the other is that of the true believer. Ezra Klein at Vox argued that the world produces all kinds of talented fascists, and that a more skilled politician could’ve won on Trump’s promises but with toned-down rhetoric. Well, apparently the United States didn’t require a shrewd fascist to win, just a simple demagogue. Perhaps a more skilled Republican could have also won the popular vote, or won by a greater margin, but that wasn’t necessary. Trump was shrewd enough.

Trump is a true believer, too: a believer in his own entitlement and also in the correctness of patriarchy and white dominance. Whether he will pursue his campaign promises with the dedication of a fanatic remains to be seen, but we know he sees the world as one in which rich white men should rule, and the rest should follow.

The country is at risk of falling prey not only to the skilled authoritarian, but also to the true believer fanatic: someone with Trump’s thirst for vengeance and totalitarian leanings, who also believes in the messianic righteousness of their platform, as opposed to just believing in themselves (as Trump does). The true believer is someone for whom the alt-right message boards are the unchanging gospel.

And these two types, of course, aren’t mutually exclusive. The alt-right may not be yet capable of producing slick politicians, but it has no problem producing fanatics. And whether a true believer rises through its ranks or a skilled operator rides the wave of alt-right enthusiasm, the threat is the same. Stephen Bannon — the man at the helm of Trump’s campaign and the force behind the conservative site Breitbart — is a true believer. Whether Trump carries out a true-believer program of maximal pain upon The Other remains to be seen, but if I were betting I’d say he does it.

To see the harm a true fanatic can do, one need look no further than the George W. Bush administration. Torture and any number of other cruelties were carried out in the name of protecting freedom. That the population at large never reckoned with these policies was just a side benefit. Trump, for his part, has promised to bring back waterboarding and worse. He has also pledged to kill the families of suspected terrorists.

The great unanticipated threat in this election was the latent authoritarianism of the United States citizenry. Early polls showed that the best indicator for Trump support was authoritarianism. The one thing that Trump did well was combine his branding with his politics, to make essentially a brand out of a political party.

The Republican establishment spent most of the primary waiting for the Trump bubble to burst. That never happened, and now the country has to deal with President Trump. The establishment has lost control but the party will unite, begrudgingly, and the very serious party operatives will have their way. Paul Ryan’s program of austerity will likely find a friend in President Trump, regardless of his early promises to protect the social safety net.

When I went up to Manchester, New Hampshire, on October 28, I spoke with a woman who, unprompted, explained her fondness for Trump to me. “He’ll fix the inner cities,” she told me. “He’ll teach them how to help themselves.” This condescending attitude is at the heart of so much white supremacy. Racism always presents itself as rational and reasonable, not as hate but as an expression of the “natural” order of things.

Trump has said some critical things about the invasion of Iraq. So what? Does anyone think that Trump will act restrained in the face of even the most manageable of national security challenges? His entire worldview is one of maximalist dominance. That’s why he admires Vladimir Putin so much. That’s why he has no problem being associated with “interesting quotes” from Benito Mussolini. He has already repeatedly promised to take ISIS’s oil, itself a simplification of liberal criticisms of Bush and Cheney’s Iraq catastrophe. He will likely meet with conservative thought leaders — who, it turns out, don’t much determine public thought — and promise them that yes, foreigners will respect America again. Just like when Gov. Chris Christie, Trump’s first establishment endorsement, said the sheer force of his personality would have stopped Putin from annexing Crimea, Trump will likely promise what the foreign policy establishment loves most: an amplification of US military dominance abroad.

The country has laid its claim. The rich white men will die before they share prosperity. Trump has won, and at best, the republic is not lost. But maybe it is. Maybe it was already destroyed years ago.


October 30, 2016

Why I have decided to run again for the MPS school board

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 11:17 am
Filed under: MPS,Public Education — millerlf @  Edit This

I’ve been fortunate to be part of the effort in Milwaukee to improve public education and serve students and their families. MPS is seeing important gains in educating the city’s children. In a variety of areas — college readiness work, expansion of highly successful programs like Montessori, strengthening our bilingual programs, advancing rigorous curriculum in schools, advancing the BlackLivesMatter initiative, creating the foundation for ethnic studies, bringing the arts into all of our schools, improving cultural relevancy for students, and striving for academic growth in educating all students — I have been able to work with a visionary administration and a school board that puts children first.

Despite our accomplishments, the administration and school board recognize that our most difficult work lies ahead. The challenges are daunting but hope and enthusiasm are visible throughout the work.

At the same time, intentional roadblocks to serving 77,000 students keep rising to the surface. At a time when white nationalism, misogyny, and xenophobia plague our national and local politics, some of the same people supporting these undemocratic positions have MPS and the governing authority of the MPS school board in their cross-hair. Their efforts represent a diversion from supporting and educating our students; fair-minded people who care about reaching all children must oppose such attacks.

Our job is to educate every child who walks through our doors and strive to help them succeed. We will continue to do this work and we will continue to make progress.

I cannot walk away from this work at this time.

Larry Miller

I will be holding a fundraiser

on Monday November 14,

from 5PM to 7PM at:

The Art Bar

722 E. Burleigh St.

October 29, 2016

Battle at Standing Rock vs. Dakota Access Pipeline

Filed under: General,Racism — millerlf @ 3:45 pm

How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

Friday, 28 October 2016  By Kelly Hayes, Truthout | Op-Ed

Stacey Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who has been at the campsite set up to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline for five weeks, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 8, 2016. (Photo: Kristina Barker / The New York Times) Stacey Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who has been at the campsite set up to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline for five weeks, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 8, 2016. (Photo: Kristina Barker / The New York Times)

An earlier version of this piece appeared on Transformative Spaces.

The public witnessed a new level of escalation on Thursday in the Native struggle at Standing Rock, as police swept through an encampment in the direct path of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). The resulting standoff with the National Guard, and police officers from various states, led to 117 arrests. Advancing authorities attacked Water Protectors with flash grenades, bean bag launchers, pepper spray and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs). There were also numerous reports of police beating Water Protectors, and reports of live ammunition being used.

Such developments were incredibly disturbing, both to those present and to Natives who were actively watching from a distance, but the raid itself was not unexpected. In fact, there was a great deal of suspicion that the police would close in the day before, which led me to reach out to a number of my friends on the frontlines Wednesday. Amid our conversations about their feelings and recent experiences at the camps, I asked my friends if there was anything they wanted shared in writing. What follows is grounded in the substance of those conversations. These ideas are obviously not representative of all Native perspectives on the subject, because our convictions are as diverse as that of any peoples. But it’s a perspective we thought was worthy of expression.

A Shared Reflection

It is crucial that people recognize that Standing Rock is part of an ongoing struggle against colonial violence. The Dakota Access pipeline (#NoDAPL) is a front of struggle in a long-erased war against Native peoples — a war that has been active since first contact, and waged without interruption. Our efforts to survive the conditions of this anti-Native society have gone largely unnoticed because white supremacy is the law of the land, and because we, as Native people, have been pushed beyond the limits of public consciousness.

The fact that we are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other group speaks to the fact that Native erasure is ubiquitous, both culturally and literally, but pushed from public view. Our struggles intersect with numerous others, but are perpetrated with different motives and intentions. Anti-Blackness, for example, is a demonstration of power, whereas the violence against us is a matter of pragmatism. The struggle at Standing Rock is an effort to prevent the construction of a deadly, destructive mechanism, created by greed-driven people with no regard for our lives.

It has always been this way. We die, and have died, for the sake of expansion and white wealth, and for the maintenance of both.

The harms committed against us have long been relegated to the history books. This erasure has occurred for the sake of both white supremacy and US mythology, such as American exceptionalism. It has also been perpetuated to sustain the comfort of those who benefit from harms committed against us. Our struggles have been kept both out of sight and out of mind — easily forgotten by those who aren’t directly impacted.

It should be clear to everyone that we are not simply here in those rare moments when others bear witness.

To reiterate what should be obvious: We are not simply here when you see us.

We have always been here, fighting for our lives, surviving colonization, and that reality has rarely been acknowledged. Even people who believe in freedom frequently overlook our issues, as well as the intersections of their issues with our own.

It matters that more of the world is bearing witness in this historic moment. However, we feel the need to point out that the dialogue around #NoDAPL has become increasingly centered on climate change. Yes, there is an undeniable connectivity between this front of struggle and the larger fight to combat planetary warming. We fully recognize that all of humanity is at risk of extinction, whether they realize it or not. But intersectionality does not mean focusing exclusively on the intersections of our respective work. It sometimes means taking a journey well outside the bounds of those intersections.

In discussing #NoDAPL, too few people have started from a place of naming that we, as Indigenous people, have a right to defend our water and our lives, simply because we have a natural right to defend ourselves and our communities. When “climate justice,” in a very broad sense, becomes the center of conversation, our fronts of struggle are often reduced to a staging ground for the messaging of NGOs.

Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right — not simply because “this affects us all.”

So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact the residents of Bismarck, North Dakota. When Bismarck’s population — which is over 90 percent white — objected to the risks the pipeline posed to their drinking water, their concerns were accommodated, and the pipeline route was shifted into treaty lands. Please inform people of these facts, and remind them that our people are still struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts. People should not simply engage with stories related to our struggles when they see a concrete connection to their own issues — or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues. Our friends, allies and accomplices should be fighting alongside us because they value our humanity and right to live, in addition to whatever else they believe in.

Every Native at Standing Rock — every Native on this continent — has survived the genocide of 100 million of our people. That means that every Indigenous child born is a victory against colonialism, but we are all also born into a fight for our very existence. We need that to be named and centered.

This message is not a condemnation. It’s a fundamentally reasonable ask.

We are asking that you help ensure that dialogue around this issue begins with and centers a discussion of anti-Native violence and policies, no matter what other connections you might ultimately make, because those discussions simply don’t happen in this country. There obviously aren’t enough people talking about climate change, but there are even fewer people — and let’s be real, far fewer people — discussing the various forms of violence that Indigenous people are up against, and even fewer acting in solidarity with us. And while such discussions have always been deserved, we are living in a moment when Native Water Protectors and Water Warriors have more than earned both acknowledgement and solidarity.

If you have been with us in this fight, we appreciate you. But we are reaching out, right now, in these brave days for our people, to ask that you keep the aforementioned truths front and center as you discuss #NoDAPL. This moment is, first and foremost, about Native liberation, Native self-determination and Native survival.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes is a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. She is community relations associate and a contributing writer at Truthout and her photography is featured in the “Freedom and Resistance” exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Kelly’s contribution to the anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer against state violence and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States, as featured in Truthout and the blog Transformative Spaces.

May 29, 2016

Mike Ford Report: Determinants of Organizational Failure in the Milwaukee School Voucher Program

Filed under: General,Vouchers — millerlf @ 12:13 pm

Policy Studies Journal

Atlanta Black Star News Reports on MPS Black Lives Matter Initiative

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,General — millerlf @ 12:08 pm



Milwaukee Schools Forced to Justify $471K Black Lives Matter Initiative to Angry Critics: ‘All I’ve Seen is Hatred’

May 27, 2016 | Posted by Shaundra Selvaggi Tagged With: Black Lives Matter Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee public schools


Milwaukee Public Schools have proposed a “Black Lives Matter” initiative to break the school-to-prison pipeline. Courtesy MPS.

Milwaukee Public Schools officials recently initiated a budget proposal that they hope will alleviate Black students’ barriers to success. But the controversial name made national headlines, drawing the attention of conservative talking heads.

They called it the Black Lives Matter initiative.

Kyle Olson, founder of the Wisconsin-based Education Action Group, told Fox News that parents and taxpayers should be worried about the movement’s possible connection to the proposal.

“All I’ve seen from ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a fomentation of hatred against the police, increased racial division and making excuses for the combination of poor parenting and failed policies from big city liberal politicians,” he said.

Charlie Sykes, local radio talk show host and founder of, said the budget’s wording suggested funds might be allocated to the “militant political anti-cop” movement.

“The budget explicitly includes line items for “Black Lives Matter,” he wrote in a blog, though he acknowledged that a thorough reading of the document made clear that the money would not go to the organization.

“This leaves the obvious question unanswered: Why did the bureaucrats who run the system think it was a good idea to use the politically and racially charged title in the first place?” Sykes continued.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde told school board members they were the solution to breaking a harmful prison cycle, at Tuesday’s public budget hearing.

“You are the stopgap for the school-to-prison pipeline,” he said. “If I’m a young person and learning about myself in school, it sparks my ability to learn about anything and everything else in the world,” he said. “And it may keep me off a path of desperation.”

School Board Vice President Larry Miller co-authored the resolution that will devote $471,000 to adding racial and cultural studies classes and conflict-resolution techniques to the curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year.

The budget will cover salaries for three new instructors and cultural sensitivity training for current teachers.

Officials have stressed that no portion of the funds will go to the actual movement and that its name is the only connection to the organization.

Community members were invited to speak at the Board of Directors meeting. The majority of attendees were in favor of the resolution.

“I hope you take the resolution more to heart,” Khalil Coleman said, per Fox6. “It’s just a drop in the bucket to the deficit young people are dealing with every day.”

Many citizens suggested a provision to end the presence of school resource officers in local schools. In a move to reduce tensions between students and police officers, MPS partnered with the local police department to introduce Students Talking it Over with Police in 2010, Watchdog reports.

“There should be a specific provision for the STOP program to end or SROs to be quickly phased out,” Mary Watkins said. “As long as those things remain, they are directly counter to this Black Lives Matter resolution.”

Maria Peeples agreed, arguing the collaboration had negatively impacted students of color.

“While we are funding positive programs such as Black Lives Matter,” Maria Peeples said, “we also need to be brave in our resolve to defund harmful partnerships that continue to contribute to violence against MPS students.”


May 26, 2016

MPS Black Lives Matter Work Supported at Public Hearing

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,General — millerlf @ 9:46 am

by Larry Miller

The article today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showed the overwhelming community support expressed at an MPS budget hearing held Tuesday night for the Black Lives Matter intitiative.

But the article referred to me saying, the initiative was not intended to push a Black Lives Matter agenda. I did not say that. Notice this comment  is not in quotes.

The Black Lives Matter resolution and budget action proposal is an application of the Black Lives Matter movement which is a just and necessary movement. The MPS BLM resolution is an educational application of the movement and the principles of BLM movement.

Read Professor Brittney Cooper’s article in Cosmopolitan Magazine to better understand what the Black Lives Matter movement’s priniples are.

11 Major Misconceptions About the Black Lives Matter Movement

You might associate it with the fight against police brutality, but it’s simply not true that it’s a one-issue movement.

By Brittney Cooper
Sep 8, 2015 Cosmopolitan Magazine

Since the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in 2013 and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, the phrase “black lives matter” has become a rallying cry for a new chapter in the long black freedom struggle. But this new movement’s penchant for disruptive protest and impassioned public speeches about persistent racial inequality have been disconcerting to many Americans who wonder what the end-game is for this new generation of protesters. Do black lives matter more than white lives? bystanders ask. Why can’t black people simply address the crime problem in their own communities? others want to know. And if the problems are really this bad, can’t voting for new political leaders solve them? sympathizers wonder. These are just some of the many questions surrounding this new movement. But the young people taking to the streets in protest have a righteous cause. They deserve a fair hearing. And we can begin by debunking a few myths about what the Black Lives Matter movement is and what it isn’t.

1. The movement doesn’t care about black-on-black crime. The idea that black-on-black crime is not a significant political conversation among black people is patently false. In Chicago, long maligned for its high rates of intraracial murder, members of the community created the Violence Interrupters to disrupt violent altercations before they escalate. However, those who insist on talking about black-on-black crime frequently fail to acknowledge that most crime is intraracial. Ninety-three percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. Eighty-four percent of white murder victims are killed by other white people. The continued focus on black-on-black crime is a diversionary tactic, whose goal is to suggest that black people don’t have the right to be outraged about police violence in vulnerable black communities, because those communities have a crime problem. The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the crime problem, but it refuses to locate that crime problem as a problem of black pathology. Black people are not inherently more violent or more prone to crime than other groups. But black people are disproportionately poorer, more likely to be targeted by police and arrested, and more likely to attend poor or failing schools. All of these social indicators place one at greater risk for being either a victim or a perpetrator of violent crime. To reduce violent crime, we must fight to change systems, rather than demonizing people.

2. It’s a leaderless movement. The Black Lives Matter movement is a leaderfull movement. Many Americans of all races are enamored with Martin Luther King as a symbol of leadership and what real movements look like. But the Movement for Black Lives, another name for the BLM movement, recognizes many flaws with this model. First, focusing on heterosexual, cisgender black men frequently causes us not to see the significant amount of labor and thought leadership that black women provide to movements, not only in caretaking and auxiliary roles, but on the front lines of protests and in the strategy sessions that happen behind closed doors. Moreover, those old models leadership favored the old over the young, attempted to silence gay and lesbian leadership, and did not recognize the leadership possibilities of transgender people at all. Finally, a movement with a singular leader or a few visible leaders is vulnerable, because those leaders can be easily identified, harassed, and killed, as was the case with Dr. King. By having a leaderfull movement, BLM addresses many of these concerns. BLM is composed of many local leaders and many local organizations including Black Youth Project 100, the Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United, Millennial Activists United, and the Black Lives Matter national network. We demonstrate through this model that the movement is bigger than any one person. And there is room for the talents, expertise, and work ethic of anyone who is committed to freedom.

3. The movement has no agenda. Many believe the Black Lives Matter movement has no agenda — other than yelling and protesting and disrupting the lives of white people. This is also false. Since the earliest days of the movement in Ferguson, groups like the Organization for Black Struggle, the Black Lives Matter network, and others have made both clear and public a list of demands. Those demands include swift and transparent legal investigation of all police shootings of black people; official governmental tracking of the number of citizens killed by police, disaggregated by race; the demilitarization of local police forces; and community accountability mechanisms for rogue police officers. Some proposals like the recently launched Campaign Zero by a group of Ferguson activists call for body cameras on every police officer. But other groups are more reticent about this solution, since it would lead to increased surveillance and possible invasions of privacy, not to mention a massive governmental database of information about communities of color that are already heavily under surveillance by government forces.

4. It’s a one-issue movement. Although it is true that much of the protesting to date has been centered on the issue of police brutality, there is a range of issues that movement work will likely push in years to come. One is the issue of our failing system of public education, which is a virtual school-to-prison pipeline for many black youth. Another is the complete dismantling of the prison industrial complex. Many of the movement’s organizers identify as abolitionists, which in the 21st-century context refers to people who want to abolish prisons and end the problem of mass incarceration of black and Latino people. Three other significant issues are problems with safe and affordable housing, issues with food security, and reproductive justice challenges affecting poor women of color and all people needing access to reproductive care. As I frequently like to tell people, this movement in its current iteration is just over a year old. Give it some time to find its footing and its take on all the aforementioned issues. But the conversations are on the table, largely because many of the folks doing on-the-ground organizing came to this work through their organizing work around other issues.

5. The movement has no respect for elders. The BLM movement is an intergenerational movement. Certainly there have been schisms and battles between younger and older movers about tactics and strategies. There has also been criticism from prior civil rights participants. There is a clear rejection of the respectability politics ethos of the civil rights era, namely a belief in the idea that proper dress and speech will guard against harassment by the police. This is a significant point of tension within black communities, because in a system that makes one feel powerless to change it, belief in the idea that a good job, being well-behaved, and having proper dress and comportment will protect you from the evils of racism feels like there’s something you can do to protect yourself, that there’s something you can do to have a bit of control over your destiny. This movement patently rejects such thinking in the face of massive evidence of police mistreatment of black people of all classes and backgrounds. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of how one looks or speaks. If you ever have occasion to attend a protest action, you will see black people of all ages, from the very young to the very old, standing in solidarity with the work being done.

6. The black church has no role to play. Many know that the black church was central to the civil rights movement, as many black male preachers became prominent civil rights leaders. This current movement has a very different relationship to the church than movements past. Black churches and black preachers in Ferguson have been on the ground helping since the early days after Michael Brown’s death. But protesters patently reject any conservative theology about keeping the peace, praying copiously, or turning the other cheek. Such calls are viewed as a return to passive respectability politics. But local preachers and pastors like Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Starsky Wilson, and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou have emerged as what I call “Movement Pastors.” With their radical theologies of inclusion and investment in preaching a revolutionary Jesus (a focus on the parts of scripture where Jesus challenges the Roman power structure rather than the parts about loving one’s enemies) and their willingness to think of church beyond the bounds of a physical structure or traditional worship, they are reimagining what notions of faith and church look like, and radically transforming the idea of what the 21st-century black church should be.

7. The movement does not care about queer or trans lives. The opening presenter at the first national convening of the Movement for Black Lives in Cleveland this summer was Elle Hearns, a trans black woman organizer from Ohio. That she was collectively chosen to open the proceedings was a deliberate choice to center both women and queer and trans people as movement leaders. This is a clear break from prior racial justice movement politics. Not only does the Movement for Black Lives embrace queer and trans black people, but it has been at the forefront of efforts to highlight our national epidemic of murders of trans women of color. This year alone, we have had nearly 20 murders. Moreover, the movement does not merely give token representation to queer and trans people. Two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter network, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, are queer black women. And queer and trans black people are not called in merely to discuss queer and trans issues. They are at the table, on the stage, in the protests. These moves have not been without their challenges, and the movement has had to deal with queer and trans antagonism both from the broader public and within movement spaces. But there is a fundamental belief that when we say Black Lives Matter, we mean all black lives matter.

8. The movement hates white people. The statement “black lives matter” is not an anti-white proposition. Contained within the statement is an unspoken but implied “too,” as in “black lives matter, too,” which suggests that the statement is one of inclusion rather than exclusion. However, those white people who continue to mischaracterize the affirmation of the value of black life as being anti-white are suggesting that in order for white lives to matter, black lives cannot. That is a foundational premise of white supremacy. It is antithetical to what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, which is the simple proposition that “black lives also matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement demands that the country affirm the value of black life in practical and pragmatic ways, including addressing an increasing racial wealth gap, fixing public schools that are failing, combating issues of housing inequality and gentrification that continue to push people of color out of communities they have lived in for generations, and dismantling the prison industrial complex. None of this is about hatred for white life. It is about acknowledging that the system already treats white lives as if they have more value, as if they are more worthy of protection, safety, education, and a good quality of life than black lives are. This must change.

9. The movement hates police officers. Police officers are people. Their lives have inherent value. This movement is not an anti-people movement; therefore it is not an anti-police-officer movement. Most police officers are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift. This does not mean, however, that police are not implicated in a system that criminalizes black people, that demands that they view black people as unsafe and dangerous, that trains them to be more aggressive and less accommodating with black citizens, and that does not stress that we are taxpayers who deserve to be protected and served just like everyone else. Thus the Black Lives Matter movement is not trying to make the world more unsafe for police officers; it hopes to make police officers less of a threat to communities of color. Thus, we reject the idea that asking officers questions about why one is being stopped or arrested, about what one is being charged with, constitutes either disrespect or resistance. We reject the use of military-grade weapons as appropriate policing mechanisms for any American community. We reject the faulty idea that disrespect is a crime, that black people should be nice or civil when they are being hassled or arrested on trumped-up charges. And we question the idea that police officers should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities. Increasingly, the presence of police makes black people feel less rather than more safe. And that has everything to do with the antagonistic and power-laden ways in which police interact with citizens more generally and black citizens in particular. Therefore, police officers must rebuild trust with the communities they police. Not the other way around.

10. The movement’s primary goal should be the vote. Recently the Democratic National Committee endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM network swiftly rejected that endorsement. While voting certainly matters, particularly in local municipalities like Ferguson, movement members are clear that voting for policies and politicians whose ultimate goal is to maintain a rotten and unjust system is counterproductive. Thus the movement cares about national politics, and many participants have sought to make presidential candidates responsive to their political concerns. However, there is deep skepticism about whether the American system is salvageable, because it is so deeply rooted in ideas of racial caste. In this regard, the BLM movement, together with the Occupy movement of years past, is causing a resurgence of a viable, visible, and vocal (black) left in national politics. Moving some issues of import onto the 2016 election agenda should therefore be viewed as a tactic, not a goal. The goal is freedom and safety for all black lives. And that goal is much bigger than one election.

11. There’s not actually a movement at all. Until Bernie Sanders sought the attention of Black Lives Matter participants, many were wont to acknowledge that a new racial justice movement even existed. For the record, since August 2014, more than 1,030 protest actions have been held in the name of Black Lives Matter. A new generation of protest music has come forth with songs from Janelle Monae, Prince, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Rick Ross. The first national convening in July drew over 1,000 participants. There is a new consciousness and a new spirit seeking justice, and the participants carrying the torch show no signs of slowing down.

May 4, 2016

Gary Tyler Set Free! A History All Fighters for Justice Should Know.

Filed under: General,Racial Justice — millerlf @ 3:23 pm

I received this email today. I went with a team of organizers in the 1970’s to New Orleans to work to “Free Gary Tyler”. We had a division of labor. I, along with other white organizers, went into white communities while Black organizers went into Black communities. Please read the following.
Larry Miller

Dear Friends —

We’re sending this letter mostly to a group of long-time friends — people who will recognize the name “Gary Tyler”, and recall the “Free Gary Tyler” campaign in which we were all involved in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Freedom and justice for Gary was a cause we embraced for several years, long ago. We were activists on his behalf. For many of us, it was a shock to learn recently that Gary Tyler has remained in prison for 41+ years! — notwithstanding his innocence — notwithstanding that the 5th Circuit deemed his trial “fundamentally unfair” — notwithstanding that the Pardon Board three times recommended he be pardoned. We moved on, yet Gary was seemingly unable to move on with his own life. (And yet, of course, he did — against all odds! More on that later.)

Until now! A recent Supreme Court decision declared Gary’s life sentence unconstitutional. The Parish district attorney agreed to vacate his conviction if Gary would plead guilty to manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years. Gary agreed. After 41 years in prison, Gary walked out a free man on Friday, April 29! Gary, who entered prison at age 16 under threat of the death penalty, is finally a free man at the ageof 57! Can you imagine what that will be like for him?! Free at last, yes, but building a life from scratch as you approach 60 years old?

There are far too many painful stories of innocent prisoners — mostly African-American — freed after decades in prison. For Gary, there are allies who have been planning for this day for many years — lawyers and other supporters working on his behalf to ensure his smooth re-integration into the outside world — lining up jobs and other services. The plan is for Gary to leave Louisiana and settle in Los Angeles, where he has some family and a dedicated support network.

This is where we all come in! A range of job possibilities have been lined up in LA, plus some initial housing and other services. But we need to think of the longer-term as well. A Fund has been established under the auspices of the Liberty Hill Foundation to channel financial support to Gary for housing, health care, clothing, insurance, transportation, and the myriad other financial needs he will face initially and over the next few years as he builds a life having spent his entire adult life — 41 years — behind bars.

The Fund opened with $7,000; our goal is to raise $60,000. Money can’t right the enormous injustice done to Gary Tyler, but perhaps we can ease his road back to freedom.

Contributions to this Fund are tax-deductible. We hope you will give generously! (See box, below.)

A little more on Gary: Gary is a pretty amazing man — a really lovely man. A couple of years ago, a few of us had an opportunity to meet Gary and talk to him at length. Yes, of course he wanted out of prison, but in the meantime he consciously eschewed bitterness and made more of his life than many people on the outside. Angola Prison has some very unique programs, and Gary worked hard to positively impact the lives of others.

He was a founder and long-time volunteer in the hospice program (featured in the Oprah Winfrey/Forest Whitaker documentary Serving Life, and the subject of a book Grace Before Dying), served as mentor to younger prisoners, was long-time president of the Drama Club (written up in the N.Y. Times, and the subject of a film documentary), etc. He’s a good man, doing good work, and touching many lives. He’s warm and funny and smart. It was an honor to meet him and begin to know him — as a person, not a cause. (We were all on the right side of this “cause”! — we can be proud of that.) Now we need to help him in his transition.

Please help to support Gary Tyler now! Give as generously as you can! And please share this letter with a wide network to garner broad support!


Bob Zaugh, Los Angeles

Pam & Steve White, Los Angeles

Barry & Paula Litt, Los Angeles

Elizabeth Stanley, Los Angeles

Jim & Janet Fennerty, Chicago

Amy Gladstein & Jim Reif, Brooklyn, NY

Holly & Will Hazleton, Atlanta

Bob & Joan Anyon, San Francisco

Karen Jo Koonan, San Francisco

Robert Perrone, Sacramento, CA

George H. Kendall, New York

Mary Joyce Carlson, Washington, DC

P.S. For those of you needing a brief recap of the facts of Gary’s case, we’ve provided this addendum. (The “Free Gary Tyler” site contains several articles. op-eds from the N.Y. Times, and a “Democracy Now” show about Gary.):



Checks should be made payable to “Liberty Hill Foundation.” Please write “Back to Life Re-Entry Fund” on the memo line, and mail to:
Liberty Hill Foundation
6420 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90048


Use this link or call Rodrigo Guardado at Liberty Hill Foundation at (323) 556-7212. You can make a one-time donation or set up a monthly debit.

**These options will incur a fee of 3.3% for Visa/Mastercard (4% for AmEx). The fee will be deducted from the donation, so please include the amount of the fee in the total to be processed.


Set up a no-fee automatic bill-pay to Liberty Hill Foundation through your checking account, for a one-time or monthly donation. You can set the payment date and there is no fee. If set as a monthly donation, the bank will automatically send Liberty Hill Foundation a check every month (not an electronic wire).

The payee is “Liberty Hill Foundation” (address is 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90048). If there is room for notation, please indicate “Back to Life Re-Entry Fund.” Liberty Hill Foundation’s Tax ID is 51-0181191.

More about Gary’s Case

At age 16, in 1974, Gary Tyler was on a school bus with other African-American kids in rural Louisiana, involved in the integration of an all-white school. The bus was surrounded by 100-200 angry whites shouting, throwing rocks and bottles. A shot was fired from somewhere and a young white boy was mortally wounded. All black kids from the bus were searched and taken to the police station. No one in the white crowd was searched. (The bus driver and the kids on the bus maintain that the shot was fired from the crowd, toward the bus.)

The bus was searched for three hours and no gun was found. Gary (who had lived briefly in Los Angeles before returning home to Louisiana) mouthed-off a bit to the cops,

telling them that the bullet-on-a-chain around his cousin’s neck meant nothing and had nothing to do with this situation.

This “sass” apparently caused the cops to zero in on him. Attempting to extract a confession , the police beat Gary mercilessly for several hours, but he never confessed. (He continued to maintain his innocence for 41years. The recent plea deal which gained his freedom required a guilty plea to manslaughter.) He was charged with murder, tried, convicted and sentenced to death within a year.

Though no gun was found in the 3-hour search of the bus, the police later produced a gun they said was the murder weapon. It had no fingerprints. It was a gov’t-issue weapon that had disappeared from a shooting range used by the local sheriffs, and it subsequently disappeared from evidence. A few kids from the bus testified against Gary. They all later recanted their testimony and described how they had been terrorized by the police, told exactly what to say, and threatened with prison themselves if they failed to implicate Gary.

The judge instructed the jury that they could presume Gary had intended to inflict deadly harm — guilty until proven innocent, essentially. Gary was sentenced to death — the youngest person on death row in the country. He was spared the electric chair when Louisiana’s death penalty was declared unconstitutional; his sentence was commuted to life in prison. No evidence, no witnesses, but 41 years later, he was still imprisoned, until now.

Gary lived at Angola State Penitentiary — the largest maximum security prison in the country. Of the more than 5000 inmates, something like 75% are black, the average sentence is 93 years, and most men will die there — there is little hope for release. As we mentioned, Gary was three times recommended for pardon by the Pardon Board, but each time the sitting governor failed to sign. The 5th Circuit also ordered a new trial based on “fundamental unfairness” — but the state of Louisiana declined a new trial on a technicality.

Until 4/29, Gary had for many years lived a medium-security life within a maximum security prison. He lived in an honor dorm, could walk around freely, and was able to leave the prison from time to time on “honor” jobs. The Drama Club, under his leadership, left the prison grounds for widely-praised performances in schools and churches around the state. Gary’s pardon applications over the years were supported by the Warden and other prison personnel; in the final hearing resulting in his release, his Petition was supported by strong affidavits from a former Warden and Assistant Warden, among others.

Gary didn’t belong in prison — ever!. Let’s support his transition back to life on the outside!

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