Doubts about McDowell’s auditor candidacy

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At last week’s forum for Republican candidates for Missouri state auditor, all four  candidates made very credible appearances, and all four also practiced Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any other Republican candidate. Unfortunately, this welcome display of civility deprived Republican primary voters of information about how one of them could be especially vulnerable to Democrat attacks in the general election.

An internet search uncovered a Columbia Tribune article about candidate Saundra McDowell that makes me wary of her candidacy.  The article states that Mrs. McDowell has $55,000 in judgments against her and that her Missouri residency may fall short of the ten years required to hold the office.

The judgments, according to the article, are for unpaid rent and failure to pay a promissory note from  a private law practice she and her husband conducted from 2010 to 2014. Two months after the article was published (and shortly after the deadline for filing for office), another repercussion of that law practice materialized when the Missouri Supreme Court suspended the license of her husband and law partner, Jonathan McDowell, indefinitely, with no right to apply for reinstatement for one year. The St. Louis Record, a legal newspaper, reported that the suspension was due to his failure to timely file in state court, costing an airline pilot his employment discrimination case.

Incurring judgments for debt speaks poorly of a candidate’s financial acumen, which is important for a financially-related office like auditor. The licensure problems apparently belong solely to Mrs. McDowell’s husband, and apparently involved negligence and malpractice, not dishonesty. Nevertheless, these facts would sound terrible when packaged in a vicious Democrat attack ad that could cripple Republican chances to win the office if she would become the nominee.

The residency issue is more complex.  Mrs. McDowell first registered to vote in Missouri in 2010, only eight years ago. According to the Tribune,  Mrs. McDowell claims that her Missouri residence began earlier when she met her St. Louis husband in law school and decided that they would marry and make their home in Missouri after school. She cites the “intent” element of residency that the Missouri Supreme Court relied on in upholding Kit Bond’s right to be a candidate for governor in 1972, after having attended law school and then been employed outside the state. Bond, however, had been a Missourian prior to going away to school and maintained his voter registration in Missouri the entire time. Mrs. McDowell had been a resident of Oklahoma when she went away to school, residing temporarily in Virginia when she met her husband and formed her intent to move here. While one can arguably self-identify as a woman to use the women’s rest room in Target, self-identifying as a Missourian two years before moving here may not satisfy the residency requirements. In any case, valuable campaign resources and time would be wasted by the inevitable post-primary challenge to her residency.

Other than the Tribune article, which appeared in February, before filing for office had even begun, I can find no main-stream media coverage of these issues concerning Mrs. McDowell. That’s not surprising. Pro-Democrat media have no desire or intention to inform Republican voters prior to a primary election. For example, in 2002 the St. Louis Post Dispatch made no mention of a Republican primary candidate’s felony conviction until the day after the primary, which the flawed candidate won. Then it became front-page news. The timing made it clear that the Post knew and consciously concealed the damaging information until it was too late for Republican primary voters to react.

With voters in the dark, Mrs. McDowell could win the primary. She is photogenic, personable, and has relevant experience to be a qualified candidate. But Republicans should not risk subjecting their ticket to the vicious attack ads that her nomination would foster, especially when there are better alternatives: all three of her three primary opponents (in ballot order, Kevin Roach, David Wasinger and Paul Curtman) are quite capable and, to the best of my knowledge, lack that kind of baggage. I think one of those candidates stands out above the others, and I will write about that in my next post.

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Auditor Galloway whitewashes food stamp fraud

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Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) issued a report this week criticizing (sort of) how the Missouri Department of Social Services tracks fraud in the food stamp program (SNAP). While noting that thousands of SNAP dollars had been spent by people who were apparently dead or incarcerated, as well as millions spent out-of-state, and that the state often had not properly reviewed the transactions, she graded the department’s system for detecting fraud as “fair.”

The audit covered 2015 and 2016, during the administration of fellow Democrat Jay Nixon, who had appointed Galloway to her position.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services (under the current Republican administration) had written that the department had already reformed its system for evaluating out-of-state transactions earlier this year and was working to improve several other areas cited in the report.

Ms. Galloway’s report did not mention that the period investigated was entirely during the prior Democratic administration or any of the changes already put in place by the current Republican administration.

Porn star’s lawyer tied to Democrat establishment

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It is the mission of the mainstream media to take Trump down, often by legitimizing and even glorifying any and all Trump accusers. That gets challenging when the accuser has her own credibility problems, such as performing in pornography. The MSM outlet in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, addressed that challenge by trying to make the accuser’s lawyer seem warm, cuddly, and therefore believable.

The Post  published an intended puff piece on Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stephanie Clifford (a/k/a Stormy Daniels), the porn star seeking to dish dirt about her alleged relationship with President Donald Trump. The Post sought to embellish the credibility and likeability of the porn star by pointing out how her Hollywood lawyer is actually a local boy. He loves the Cardinals and eating on the Hill – very important, of course, in assessing the credibility of the President’s accuser.

But columnist Joe Holleman was too thorough in digging up Avenatti’s local roots. He inadvertently exposed the lawyer’s deep contacts with the Democratic Party establishment, notably its opposition research operation.

Holleman notes that, during Avenatti’s only year at St. Louis University, local politico Joyce Aboussie hired him to work in the campaigns of then House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Democratic County Executive Buzz Westfall. Contacts made during his Gephardt stint got him a later, longer gig with a political opposition research firm run by now Chicago mayor (and former Obama chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel.

The porn star’s representation by a veteran of Democrat Party opposition research tells you what you need to know about the motivation behind this legal attack on President Trump.

Thoughts on the Greitens indictment

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A grand jury in the City of St. Louis, at the behest of Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner (D), has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) on a single Class D felony count of invasion of privacy, arising out of Greitens’ alleged non-consensual photograph of consensual extramarital sex play in 2015, prior to his campaign for governor. The indictment apparently beat the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations by less than a month.

 If Greitens photographed the woman, without her consent, while she was in a state of full or partial nudity, he is in violation of Missouri’s invasion of privacy law passed in 2002. If he transmitted the photo in a manner that allowed access to that image via computer, the offense was upgraded to a Class D felony (a Class E felony since 2017) instead just a misdemeanor.

Greitens has admitted the extramarital affair involving this sexual encounter, but has denied photographing the woman.

The matter came to light because the woman’s husband at the time of the incident secretly recorded her confession of her infidelity to him. (Am I the only one to see the irony and hypocrisy of an invasion of privacy charge based on the secretly recorded private conversation of the victim?) Press coverage to date has indicated that the woman wishes to maintain her privacy and (apparently) not testify. Even if Greitens took such a photo, the prosecution may be hard pressed to establish that she is the woman in the photo and that she did not consent, unless she testifies. I believe that the hearsay rule would exclude the ex-husband’s testimony, and the constitutional right to cross-examine adverse witnesses would preclude admission of the recording. Establishing that the photo was taken (and presumably its content) could probably be proven with subpoenaed phone records (if it was taken with a cell phone). The felony upgrade would seemingly be satisfied if the photo were transmitted to the phone’s cloud, even if done automatically without further action by Greitens. It would not matter if Greitens never let anyone see the photo or if his cloud was accessible to no one but himself, because the poorly drawn statute only requires that the photo be transmitted in a manner that allows access to it (not necessarily by anyone else) via computer.

So it pretty much comes down to whether the victim will testify that Greitens took such a photo and that she did not consent. If she is unwilling, the state could conceivably seek to compel her testimony, enforceable if necessary by incarceration for contempt of court. But what prosecutor is willing to do that to a victim? If Gardner were willing to do that to this victim, why hasn’t she been using that tactic in any of the city’s unsolved murders that have taken place during her tenure?

Legal mumbo jumbo aside, the politics of this case stinks. A politically ambitious prosecutor from one party seeks to take down the state’s governor from the other party, pursuing a case over the apparent objections of the alleged victim, using a grand jury drawn from a jurisdiction that voted against the governor by 5-to-1. If the case goes to trial, the jury will be selected from that same jurisdiction, unless the governor seeks and receives a change of venue. Greitens’ attorney, well-respected Democrat Edward Dowd, charged that the statute has never been used like this, and that Gardner had circumvented the local police force and hired her own investigators to get the desired result. What a star chamber!

In the justice system, Greitens has the same right as any other defendant to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. In politics, not so much. “Indictment” is merely a formal accusation, but it sounds terrible to the average voter. Even worse is the word “felony.” Never mind that this is the lowest level of felony, that the likely punishment for a first-time offender would be a fine and maybe probation, or that what made it a felony might simply have been the phone’s automatic transmission to the cloud. In politics, perception is more important than fact, and the perception here is really bad. Even if Greitens’ lawyers succeed in getting charges dismissed, the damage is done. Absent conviction, I doubt that Greitens would be impeached or removed; but his reelection prospects in 2020 are now bleak.

But Gardner’s trophy may come at a steep price for the city (and perhaps for increasingly Democratic St. Louis County as well). If a Republican governor can be taken down on minor charges by grand juries and juries stocked with political opponents, people known to be Republicans or conservatives should and probably will refrain from residing, transacting business or doing anything else that could subject them to the jurisdiction of such courts. Quite an economic price for Gardner’s political opportunism.

UPDATE (3/1/2018): The legal minds working for Gov. Greitens have a more nuanced reading of the statute than my very literal interpretation above, and they might be right. They claim that the legislative history of the statute would preclude its application to this case. The law was adopted in response to clandestine photography of unsuspecting customers in a tanning salon. Attorney Jim Bennet says that the law only applies to situations such as voyeurs or peeping toms who take photographs in locations such as restrooms, tanning beds, locker rooms, changing rooms and bedrooms, not to consensual sexual activity.

Greitens’ lawyers also deny that the alleged victim would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy, a seemingly obvious element of the crime I didn’t even mention. While sexual activity in a private home enjoys a reasonable expectation of privacy vis a vis the rest of the world, they suggest that is not the case as between the participants themselves, who expect and want the other party to see them undressed.

None of this may matter, though, because prosecutors have now admitted that they don’t even have the alleged photograph, buttressing Greitens’ contention that it doesn’t exist.

McCaskill wrong on sex trafficking

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U. S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tried to score political points against her likely Republican challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, by claiming that his remarks about the sexual revolution’s impact on the sex trafficking crisis was somehow anti-woman. The opposite is true.

What Hawley said was that in the 1960s and ’70s (a period of loosened sexual mores that has come to be known as the sexual revolution), it became socially acceptable for Hollywood and the media to treat women as objects for male gratification, and that such demeaning view of women helped fuel current harassment, inequality, and sex trafficking. He criticized the cultural elites for, in Hawley’s words, “denigrat[ing] the biblical truth about husband and wife.” His audience was a gathering of clergy at an event hosted by the Missouri Renewal Project.

McCaskill distorted Hawley’s remarks into an attack on birth control, which Hawley never mentioned and, in fact, supports. She went on to claim that the sexual revolution had created more freedom for women by expanding their access to birth control. As a Boomer who experienced the sexual revolution in real time, Claire should know better. The sexual revolution didn’t cause advances in birth control; it was the other way around. Advances in birth control caused (or at least fueled) the sexual revolution. And this was not empowering to women, because it shifted the perceived responsibility for birth control from men wearing condoms to women taking pills, at least in the minds of many men initiating sexual contact. Eventually, as portrayed in HBO’s Sex in the City, women now routinely protect themselves by carrying condoms for men in their purses.

Note that Hawley cited the sexual revolution as an influence, not the proximate cause, of the current crisis in sex trafficking. He was in fact siding with women against sexual predators. He lamented today’s exploitation of women, which he said was “on a scale that we would never have imagined.”

Beyond rhetoric, Hawley’s record speaks for itself. Shortly after being sworn in as Missouri Attorney General, he created an anti-sex-trafficking unit in his office and sued Backpage.com for allegedly promoting the practice.

McCaskill, though, has justifiable confidence that mainstream media outlets will spin the situation to fit McCaskill’s narrative. Indeed, right on cue, both of the state’s liberal urban dailies, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Kansas City Star, headlined that Hawley “blame[d]” sex trafficking on the sexual revolution.

St. Louis prosecutor joins war on cops

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St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner (D) wants to control all investigations of police “use of force” incidents, including officer involved shootings. Her proposal would seize these proceedings from the Police Department’s existing Force Investigation Unit, and she has requested $1.3 million of scarce city funds from the Board of Aldermen to set up her own shop to go after cops.

Riding a wave of discontent following a not guilty verdict in the bench trial of Jason Stockley, an officer charged with first-degree murder in the death of an African American alleged heroine dealer, Gardner claims that people — “especially people of color” — feel that the current system is rigged against them. The current system involves investigation and discipline by the police department and, in this case, trial on criminal charges in which the charged officer has the same rights as any other criminal defendant. Stockley’s exercise of his right to waive trial by jury and be tried instead by a circuit judge is the focus of public protests that have lasted three weeks and counting.

Gardner wants to provide what she calls “unbiased” investigations that “promote confidence in the criminal justice system.” She believes that the Force Investigation Unit cannot be trusted because that is just police passing judgment on their own “brothers.” That’s a fair criticism. Yet, the St. Louis Police Officers Association opposed its initial creation, fearing that investigators who were out of touch with real-life police work would be second-guessing  officers’ split-second decisions in the field. The SLPOA now favors the Unit’s continuation, facing the prospect of Gardner’s draconian proposal.

Gardner’s investigations would be anything but “unbiased.” I wrote shortly after Gardner’s election (actually her primary victory that left her unopposed in the general election) that she appeared to be a protege of Marilyn Mosby, the controversial cop-hating Baltimore state’s attorney. Gardner’s election had been opposed by both the predominantly white SLPOA and the predominantly black Ethical Society of Police. I observed then that Gardner owes her office to the black community and owes law enforcement nothing but payback. Within the past week, Gardner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she had been entrusted by residents to hold police accountable, especially in officer-involved shootings. However, it is clear from the ongoing protests of the Stockley verdict that the only acceptable form of police accountability is finding the charged officer guilty. Gardner even publicly belittled a charged officer’s constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, stating, “If you’re telling the truth, you have nothing to fear.” Such a statement about any other criminal defendant could result in professional discipline, and should in these cases as well. With that mindset and mission statement, Gardner’s office’s investigation would have an anti-police bias from start to finish. Gardner would provide revenge, not justice.

Gardner’s proposal would empower her investigators to guide all witness interviews and the collection of evidence. That often determines the outcome of the case. Tea Partiers recall how the office of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch (D) insured that the brutal attackers of vendor Kenneth Gladney outside a Russ Carnahan town hall in 2010 would walk scot-free by not calling (or even interviewing) key witnesses.

There is more to this issue than just giving Gardner a pile of money. The Post Dispatch reports that Alderman Terry Kennedy, chair of the aldermanic public safety committee and a Gardner ally, has suggested that creating a team giving Gardner the authority over police shooting investigations would probably require a new ordinance or even a charter amendment requiring a city-wide vote of the people.

Gardner’s proposal is just the latest hit on police morale. Mayor Lyda Krewson (D), perhaps intimidated by protesters who had earlier stormed her home with bricks and red paint, called out police for chanting the protesters’ own chant ‘Whose streets? Our streets!” while arresting protesters for vandalism on the third night of protests. Police stress, she said, was no excuse. She also dressed down her interim police chief for saying that police had “owned the night,” claiming that it was inflammatory. The mayor had little or no criticism of the vandalism itself.

Police perform a great public service that is both difficult and dangerous, but their actions are not beyond scrutiny. They need to be held accountable, just like the rest of us, but not by the star chamber Gardner envisions. A truly unbiased (or balanced bias) investigation of alleged police misconduct would include representation from both police and a cross section of the citizenry. Existing civilian review boards could either perform the function or serve as a model for a separate investigative unit. The only proper role of the prosecutor would be to prosecute any offenses documented by the independent investigation.

Sanctimonious bipartisan grandstanding

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State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City)’s ill advised late-night Facebook response to a friend, expressing a desire for the assassination of President Trump, has presented politicians of all stripes a golden opportunity to lay claim to the moral high ground. They uniformly criticize her, which is fair and proper, but most also take the extra step of calling for her resignation and/or expulsion from the state senate.

Before getting to a rational discussion of the senator’s post, I want to call out those who are opportunistically piling on. Republicans calling for her resignation and/or expulsion, including Gov. Eric Greitens and Lt. Gov. Mike Parsons, are acting partisan, seeking to deflect some of the negative press coverage aimed at President Trump over to a high-profile Democrat. Some might say they also want to remove a Democrat vote from the senate for a while, but Republicans already hold a prohibitive senate majority even with Sen. Chappelle-Nadal in place.

Democrats calling for the senator’s ouster, including U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and U.S Rep. Lacy Clay (both D-MO), emit a different, but equally foul, odor. McCaskill, whom CNN (I know, fake news) has tabbed as the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection next year, is desperately trying to portray herself as a fair, even-handed, moderate, even bi-partisan public servant. Her record, especially her repeated votes to block debate on even the most sensible changes to the fatally flawed Obamacare legislation, contradicts that phony image. She sees piling on the controversial, outspoken Chappelle-Nadal as a low-risk high-reward ploy. From Claire it’s a cheap shot.

Clay has payback on his mind. Chappelle-Nadal challenged Clay unsuccessfully for renomination to his otherwise safe congressional seat last year, and Clay is jumping on the opportunity to destroy her credibility in case of a rematch.

The bipartisan piling on worsens a trend that is harming political discourse. Bullies on the left insist that everyone criticize President Trump’s inclusion of the alt-left in blame for the Charlottesville incident, identifying anyone who applies even the slightest nuance, or even remains silent, to be a Nazi! Now politicians are acting similarly towards anyone who dares to defend Chappelle-Nadal. This process intimidates rational discussion.

Nuance is good.

Now the promised rational discussion of Chappelle-Nadal’s post. What should happen is already in progress. The U.S. Secret Service is investigating the incident. They will examine her intent and the possibility that her post might inspire others to take action. I personally believe that Chappelle-Nadal’s post was merely an emotional outburst of hyper-partisanship with no intent either to cause or inspire actual harm to the President, but that’s not my call. If the Secret Service determines that her post is worthy of charges being brought against her, then her resignation and/or expulsion becomes appropriate. Opportunistic politicians jumping the gun and calling for such actions before then are wrong.

Yes, Chappelle-Nadal is being justifiably criticized for her remarks. But calls for her resignation and/or expulsion are not justified at this point.