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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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The handful of states under Democratic control in the Trump era are going all-in. As I reported today, in the bluest states, legislators are pushing big-ticket progressive legislation with a clear focus: increasing access to the ballot.

Democrats, after all, can’t push back against Republican policy priorities if they can’t vote, or if their votes don’t count.

Washington state, whose state government was shifted fully within Democratic control thanks to a state Senate special election victory last November, is the best example. The state’s “Access to Democracy” package of legislation included such measures as same-day registration, pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds, enhanced campaign finance disclosure requirements, and, most critically, automatic voter registration (AVR).

Through AVR, anyone who obtains a driver’s license or state ID from the DMV will automatically be eligible to vote. Research by New York University’s Brennan Center has found that AVR “boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs.”

The impact of this legislation is expected to be immediately felt. Activists estimate that nearly a million eligible Washington state voters aren’t registered. Washington state Senate President Karen Keiser (D) told me the package will be “tremendous in terms of turnout and participation in our elections.”

Progressive activist and writer Sean McElwee credited grassroots activism for the push towards securing these sort of laws.

“It’s not happening executively,” he stressed, pointing to a survey he conducted that found voting rights to be “the single most popular issue” among Democrats’ active base. “What we’re seeing across the country is progressive activists getting this stuff on the ballot.”

AVR may soon be coming to a state near you. Ten states and Washington, D.C., have already approved it, and 19 states introduced AVR proposals in 2018.

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In the year and a half since President Donald Trump’s victory, progressives have sprung into action at the state level, scoring a string of special election victories and triggering widespread expectations of a blue wave—or even a tsunami—in the 2018 midterms.

In some blue pockets of the country, we’re already seeing what that wave could yield.

Washington state has passed some 300 bills since securing full Democratic control of the legislature in a special election last November. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has signed many of those into law, including a voting rights package that includes same-day registration and pre-registration for teenagers. Meanwhile, New Jersey, which attained trifecta Democratic control of the statehouse and governor’s mansion after Democrat Phil Murphy succeeded Chris Christie, is poised to enact the nation’s most sweeping equal pay legislation.

Still, Republicans maintain an overwhelming advantage at the state level. They have trifecta control in 26 states compared to just eight for Democrats, with significant supermajorities in many of those legislatures. The focus for most national progressive groups this year is simply chipping away at those numbers and, where they can, flipping chambers or governorships to break the GOP’s hold.

Automatic voter registration is the dream for blue states in the Trump era. Read a reporter’s notebook from Allegra Kirkland on this topic »

But the undeniable momentum on the Democratic side has activists and lawmakers dreaming of more than just reversing Republican policies. In blue strongholds, progressives are using this moment to pass legislation they’ve long wanted and create bulwarks against Trump administration policies.

Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, called Washington’s 60-day session “historically incredible” and vowed that Democrats would continue to “raise hell” on voting rights and other core progressive issues wherever possible.

“I think for us it showed what can happen when we flip a Dem chamber,” Post told TPM in a phone interview. “They went into session in 2018 banning bump stocks, banning LGBT conversion therapy. There’s so much progress that can be made in the states when you flip these chambers—and fast.”

Karen Keiser, Washington state Senate President Pro Tempore, agreed that “the Senate’s hair was on fire this year.” State Senate Democrats spent the five years they were “shut out in the minority” perfecting key pieces of legislation, and, as soon as the chamber flipped, “decided we were going to go for the gold and get it done” on issues from equal pay to net neutrality to sexual harassment.

Like the Democratic attorneys general who pledged to fight against Trump’s agenda after his election, Keiser sees it as the responsibility of states like Washington to work in conjunction with likeminded legislatures to “protect our citizens from the deconstruction of the federal system of standards.”

With Trump ally Christie out of office, New Jersey has taken steps to do so, joining other legislatures in a multi-state program to counter the Trump EPA’s decision to weaken rules reducing carbon pollution from cars. Though power struggles between Gov. Phil Murphy and senate leadership have reportedly impeded the sort of wholesale reforms seen in Washington, the Garden State has vastly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program, will soon enact stringent protections against pay discrimination, and is moving forward with a slew of bills to firm up the state’s already-strict gun laws.

New York appears to be next in line. Democrats are expected to prevail in special elections scheduled for the end of April, securing trifecta control by winning a majority in the state Senate. The DLCC’s Jessica Post is hopeful that the end of a power-sharing agreement between state Republicans and the breakaway faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), who caucused with them, will allow truly progressive legislation to be enacted.

Activist, journalist and No IDC New York steering committee member Sean McElwee told TPM he was skeptical of the “turncoat” IDC legislators and is still backing primary challengers to unseat them. But he feels “confident” that Democrats will take control of the Senate, and that same-day and automatic voter registration will be at the top of lawmakers’ priority list once they do.

“You’re going to see, in every state where Democrats gain, these major pushes for voting rights,” McElwee said, noting the work of grassroots activists on this issue. “That’s something that can really only be won at the state level.”

This true-blue push in certain states is far from the norm. As Ben Wexler-Waite, communications director for Democratic super PAC Forward Majority, pointed out, the majority of resources and funds from national groups is going toward simply making “significant inroads on the overwhelming Republican control of state legislatures,” where Democrats “just have so much ground to make up.”

But the Republican State Leadership Committee, which did not respond to TPM’s request for comment, has signaled alarm about the “elevated threat level” in places like Washington and Virginia.

“We must be prepared for the Democrats’ enhanced organization and spending abilities,” RSLC President Matt Walker said in a November 2017 statement after Democrats won big in those states.

The DLCC’s Post said that it’s possible to imagine trifecta Democratic control in states like Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire. Even New Mexico and, eventually, Minnesota and Virginia, could be in play, she said.

The midterms are unlikely to see a mass consolidation of Democratic power. But in the places where they’re able, expect them to dig in.

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Twice this spring, lawmakers in the Tennessee Assembly have tried to promote resolutions condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Both times those efforts have failed.

The second attempt was abandoned just this week, after a Republican lawmaker unsuccessfully tried to alter the motion’s language to make it more palatable to his caucus.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Rep. Ryan Williams’ resolution reworked one put forth by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, which died in mid-March after the three Republican members of a House subcommittee declined to offer motions to discuss it.

At the time, State Government Subcommittee member Rep. Bob Ramsey (R) told TPM that his panel supported the “intent and philosophy” of the measure but had concerns about language asking law enforcement to consider the groups “domestic terrorist organizations.” Such requests may “seem simple” but have sparked tense debate among lawmakers, Ramsey told TPM.

Williams stripped that language from a second version of the resolution introduced last week that was otherwise nearly identical.

But on Monday night, the day it was set to go before the Delayed Bills Committee, Williams asked that the measure be withdrawn from consideration. Williams told the Tennessean he’d received “additional feedback” from his fellow Republicans that needed to be incorporated into the resolution, which was “too narrow.”

Williams did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for additional information on their outstanding concerns, but told the Tennessean he was committed to hammering out wording acceptable to all parties.

If passed, the resolution would require the House to “strongly denounce and oppose” the racist, violent bigotry of these groups, and to send a copy to President Donald Trump, Congress, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, according to the Tennessean.

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All eyes will be on Wisconsin Tuesday, where a typically lackluster state Supreme Court election has blossomed into an object of national curiosity.

A win for Rebecca Dallet, a Democrat endorsed by big names like former Attorney General Eric Holder and former Vice President Joe Biden, would be interpreted as further evidence of building progressive momentum in the state. A victory for Republican Michael Screnock, meanwhile, would prompt a sigh of relief from Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled legislature.

Both sides desperately want to secure the 10-year seat on the ostensibly non-partisan, powerful court. Conservatives hope to maintain their current 5-2 advantage, while Democrats hope to nudge the balance down to 4-3, giving them more of a voice.

Stakes are particularly high thanks to Democrats’ surprise win in a January special state Senate election, and Walker’s failed effort to block two other special election races from taking place.

This national attention has prompted predictable attacks from both sides.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party has lashed out at Screnock as a tool of Walker’s GOP, criticizing his endorsement by the National Rifle Association and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s received from “right-wing special interest groups and the Republican Party.”

Republicans have highlighted the endorsement and donations from Holder’s redistricting group as evidence that Washington, D.C. interests are trying to interfere in Wisconsin’s affairs.

Brandon Scholz, a longtime GOP consultant based in Madison, told TPM in a recent interview that Holder was just trying to “gain a little notoriety” and “get a higher profile in Wisconsin” by involving himself in the race.

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This week, we got yet another indication that the President has tried to intervene in and change the outcome of the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. The New York Times reported that last year, while the special counsel’s team was building its case against Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, then-Trump attorney John Dowd reached out to both men with promises of a presidential pardon. The timing suggests Trump’s team was trying to influence their decision on how to plead.

Following Dowd’s exit, Trump’s legal team remains ensnared in chaos. The President has reached out to a number of big-name D.C. attorneys to try to fill the void created by Dowd’s departure, but they’ve turned him down either because they’re uninterested in retaining such an unmanageable client or because they have conflicts of interest.

Without new additions to Trump’s legal team, Andrew Ekomonou has been elevated to a lead role. In addition to his legal work, Ekomonou is a medieval historian who, Josh Marshall reported, built his practice by seizing assets from mini-marts and now mostly works on murder prosecutions on contract for a Georgia district attorney.

Meanwhile, Bob Mueller appears to be drilling into some key events from the 2016 campaign. In a court filing this week, he alleged that cooperating Trump associate Rick Gates knowingly communicated with a former Russian intelligence officer while he was working for the Trump campaign. Mueller has also been questioning witnesses, including Carter Page, about Russia-related events at that year’s Republican National Convention, including then-Sen. Jeff Sessions’ meeting with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S. and changes to the GOP platform to soften language supporting Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s military intervention in that country.

Also this week, Sessions announced he is turning down congressional Republicans’ request for a second special counsel to probe alleged anti-Trump bias among the agents handling the FBI’s Russia probe.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign’s data firm, has remained in the headlines, keeping the pressure on Facebook. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly planning to testify before Congress about the company’s privacy practices following reports that Cambridge Analytica improperly used the social media giant’s data to try to influence elections.

The NRA acknowledged for the first time this week that it accepts donations from foreign entities — including one from Russian banker and reported FBI target Aleksandr Torshin. It claims to never have received foreign money in connection with a U.S. election.

And a simmering diplomatic crisis continues. Two dozen countries, including the U.S., expelled Russian diplomats this week in a show of solidarity with Britain, where an ex-Russian spy and his daughter were recently poisoned. Russia said it would retaliate by ousting an equivalent number of diplomats from each of those nations.

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A student group at the University of Alabama’s flagship campus has invited prominent white nationalist Jared Taylor to campus to give a speech about diversity.

“They’ve asked me to talk about whether diversity is a strength,” Taylor, publisher of long-running white nationalist publication American Renaissance, told TPM in a Friday morning phone call. “I think you can imagine the position I will take on that question.”

Taylor has publicly promoted his views on the genetic inferiority of black and Hispanic people for some three decades. Recent headlines under his byline on the American Renaissance site include “How To Achieve Racial Separation” and “Send Them Home,” a reference to undocumented immigrants.

“I assume they have researched me and have some idea of who I am,” Taylor said.

The invitation to speak on April 19 came from Students for America First, an organization that claims to be dedicated to “dealing with the challenges American and Western ideals face in our country.” The group’s red logo features the hissing rattlesnake of the Gadsden Flag—an image that gained popularity with the tea party movement.

In a statement provided to TPM on Saturday by Lincoln Egbert, America First’s vice president, the group described Taylor as “a noted Right-wing intellectual and editor of American Renaissance.”

“SFAF neither endorses nor condemns Mr. Taylor’s work: our sole motivation in deciding to host him is to ensure that all social and political views, regardless of how offensive they may appear to the generic public are accounted for in the free marketplace of ideas that ought to exist on the university campus,” the statement reads.

“We believe that [it] is our right as Americans to decide for ourselves what ideas are right and which wrong, not to have that decision made for us by the media and our universities,” it continues, adding that the members “look forward” to hosting Taylor.

University president Stuart Bell has condemned the invitation in a public statement, emphasizing that Taylor’s ideology “is counter to our institutional values” and that “hate and bigotry have no place” at the school. Bell said that as a public institution with a “commitment to free speech,” the university cannot prevent the event from taking place.

Taylor’s visit threatens to reignite an ongoing debate about hosting white nationalist speakers on college campuses. The difficulty of preemptively proving that a speaker poses a violent threat and the strong First Amendment protections in public spaces like state school campuses makes it hard for schools to stop such events from happening.

A handful of universities were sued by the graduate student who booked white nationalist Richard Spencer’s college tour after they refused to let Spencer speak, citing concerns about violence and disruption to campus life. Spencer recently quit the tour, saying the events were no longer “fun” because they were often derailed by large counter-protests by anti-racist activists.

Taylor, who is less prone to courting the media than Spencer, acknowledged that such mass protests were possible at his upcoming event.

“Anyone who speaks as a white person in the name of the legitimate interest of whites is going to attract an enormous amount of opposition,” he claimed.

Bell said in his message to the student body that “other events and activities are in the planning stages” but did not elaborate on what they entailed.

This post has been updated to include comment from Students for America First.

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Outlandish former Texas congressman Steve Stockman resurfaced last spring when he was arrested by federal agents while trying to board an international flight and subsequently slapped with a 28-count felony fraud indictment, which he said was the work of the “deep state.”

Stockman’s trial is currently in its second week in a federal court in Houston. And it’s a doozy.

The far-right Republican firebrand is accused of using hundreds of thousands in charitable donations from two conservative mega-donors for personal expenses in what prosecutors call a “white-collar crime spree.” They say he’s used the money to spy on political rivals with Inspector Gadget-style tools, to pay off his credit card debt, to go on dolphin boat rides, and to buy up copies of pop-up Advent books published by his brother.

Stockman, who served in the U.S. House from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2013 to 2015, earned a reputation as a tea party favorite eager to buck his party’s establishment. He invited Ted Nugent to President Obama’s State of The Union speech, and his campaign once produced a bumper sticker saying: “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.”

Stockman is facing multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to make false statements, and money laundering, among other charges. Federal prosecutors have compiled reams of evidence, including texts, emails, and records of bank transactions and wire transfers. Their case has been aided by cooperation from two of Stockman’s former aides, who struck plea deals with the government.

But Stockman is fighting the charges while free on $25,000 bond. An anonymous private benefactor is ponying up the funds for his trio of defense lawyers after he told a judge last year that he had only $17 in his bank account.

Stockman enlisted ‘sting’ operatives to spy on political rivals

Among Stockman’s wildest expenditures: $50,000 he shelled out to hire a conservative “sting” outfit to spy on his political rivals in amateurish, ultimately fruitless ways.

The main target of this campaign was James White, a black member of the Texas House who Stockman feared might primary him in 2014. Stockman fretted in a text to an associate: “Republicans love black conservatives.”

Conservative activist Ben Wetmore carried out the three-month surveillance campaign against White on Stockman’s behalf, according to the Houston Chronicle. Wetmore installed Shaughn Adeleye as a plant in White’s office, where he served as an intern, kitting him out with a watch and pen equipped with audio equipment.

Adeleye and another amateur sleuth testified that they were tasked with tracking White’s movements, trying to “catch him cursing” and uncover damning evidence like whether his car was messy, per the Chronicle.

Adeleye and Wetmore are onetime allies of another conservative operative who fancies himself a skilled practitioner of the dark arts: James O’Keefe. Wetmore worked with O’Keefe on several hidden camera projects in the late 2000s, while Adeleye was involved with O’Keefe’s infamous sting against NPR.

Wetmore declined a request for comment, citing TPM’s coverage of his past undercover work.

“I’ve had bad experiences in the past with TPM’s attribution of my quotes and dishonesty with what I’ve said, so I won’t be accepting your kind offer,” Wetmore wrote in a Facebook message. “I hope you know it’s not about you, but once you see substantive dishonesty from an outlet, you don’t go back for more.”

“I hope you do research and report honestly about Stockman, he deserves a lot better reporting than he’s currently receiving,” Wetmore added.

Stockman went to Egypt to try to get money from a cement company

Stockman sought funds far and wide, even soliciting assistance from top officials from the Egyptian defense ministry.

In a bizarre twist detailed by the Chronicle, Stockman used some of his donors’ funds to pay for a trip to Egypt to try to coax officials there into helping him secure a $30 million donation from international cement company CEMEX.

The Texas Republican reportedly told Egyptian officials that the money would go either towards “educating Americans about the historic importance of Egypt” or “toward shipping medical supplies to Egypt and Africa.”

The pitch failed.

Other expenses related to this gambit included paying Tera Dahl, a former Breitbart News writer who served as deputy chief of staff on the National Security Council, to arrange the meetings with Egyptian leaders. Dahl, who left the NSC shortly before her ally Steve Bannon was fired from the White House, testified that she believed Stockman did “care about the cause” of improving Egypt-U.S. relations, per the Chronicle.

“Freedom House” to train interns never materialized

Stockman pledged to use the huge donations he secured to create a nerve center of sorts for conservative interns working on Capitol Hill. He described plans to renovate a large home where interns would live and be instilled with “the ideas of liberty.”

This vision for the so-called “Freedom House” never quite panned out.

Instead, as Stockman’s short-lived fundraising director Sean McMahon testified, interns worked out of a lobbying firm making up to 2,000 fundraising calls a day.

McMahon, who the Chronicle reported quit after just four days, testified that working conditions were “horrific” and that interns had to scramble to find their own housing.

Some $82,000 of the money Stockman received for the training center evaporated within a week, going towards storage fees, credit card debt, and campaign costs, as the Chronicle reported. The funds were also diverted to expenses including $11,000 for a friend’s 30-day rehab treatment and $24,000 for 500 copies of pop-up Advent books published by Stockman’s brother.

Stockman lawyers say donor was fine with the spending

Stockman’s mysterious donor, left anonymous in the indictment, turns out to be billionaire Illinois shipping magnate Dick Uihlein, one of the largest benefactors of the political far right.

Uihlein testified that he gave Stockman one $350,000 check to refurbish the “Freedom House” and another for $450,000 to cover costs for a tabloid newspaper intended to boost Stockman’s unsuccessful 2014 primary campaign against Texas Sen. John Cornyn. The bulk of that $800,000 went towards other purposes, prosecutors say.

Stockman’s defense hinges on the claim that Uihlein didn’t object to the way the funds were used.

“Our position is the donor didn’t care what the money was used for,” Sean Buckley, one of Stockman’s three lawyers, has argued, per the Chronicle.

But Uihlein’s testimony didn’t seem to support that. “I felt they were trustworthy,” he said in court. “And I trusted that they would spend the money the way they said.”

The low-profile billionaire is certainly not short on funds. Politico reported that Uihlein and his wife are the biggest GOP donors of the 2018 midterm elections so far, having shelled out $21 million to federal candidates and super PACs and an unknown amount toward state candidates.

Another donor’s money went to dolphin tours, airline tickets

Stockman’s other major backer was revealed to be Stanford Rothschild, Jr., a Baltimore money manager and art collector who gave $450,000 to Stockman’s various pursuits between 2010 to 2012, according to the Chronicle.

That money went towards a slew of personal expenses including tanning salon visits, dolphin boat rides, airline tickets to Sudan, and a new dishwasher, per the newspaper.

Rothschild passed away shortly before Stockman’s indictment came down in early 2017, so he can’t testify as to whether that was how he preferred his charitable donations to be spent.

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Gov. Scott Walker’s scramble to avoid holding special elections for two open seats Wisconsin’s state legislature has been thwarted. And he’s pointing fingers at Eric Holder.

In a Thursday morning tweetstorm, the Republican governor blamed “liberals from Washington, D.C.” and Holder, whose national redistricting group sued Walker to force him to schedule the races.

“Obama Attorney General Eric Holder and his Washington, D.C.-based special interest group are behind the legal push to force Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for special elections for seats that will be filled in a few months in the normal elections,” Walker wrote.

In subsequent tweets, Walker claimed Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation had only intervened to boost its profile and raise money ahead of the fall midterms.

Holder fired back, noting that a “WISCONSIN judge” on Wednesday ordered the races to move forward, and that Walker had “undermined and diluted” the voting rights of his own constituents.

The Twitter volley brings a dramatic conclusion to a whirlwind series of events.

For months, Walker has argued that there’s no need to hold the elections, because scheduling them so late in an election year would be a waste of taxpayer money, and confusing for voters. Democrats have accused Walker of being afraid that the GOP might lose the contests. In January, a Democrat won a Wisconsin assembly seat in a heavily Republican district, an upset that Walker called a “wakeup call” for the GOP.

After Holder’s group sued, a district court judge ruled last week that Walker had to schedule the elections as ordered by state law.

In response, the GOP-controlled legislature said they would call an extraordinary session, with the aim of changing Wisconsin law determining when special elections are held, so that the races would not go forward.

In a rapid-fire series of decisions, an appeals court on Wednesday rejected Walker’s request that it block the lower court order. Walker had argued that the issue was moot since the legislature planned to change the law.

But shortly after, lawmakers announced it was dropping the plan to hold an extraordinary session to change the law.

The legislature’s GOP leadership did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on that what prompted that decision.

Like Walker, the Republican House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader have argued that the timing of the special election races doesn’t make sense because it will overlap with the process of scheduling the fall elections.

Holder’s group and Wisconsin Democrats have countered that the calendar would have made more sense if Walker had scheduled the races when the seats were first vacated in late December 2017, and that there was no justification for leaving two districts unrepresented for over a year.

In a statement provided to TPM, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling cheered the sudden turn of events, saying, “There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote.”

“Despite Gov. Walker’s best attempt to block elections and deny 200,000 voters their constitutional right to representation, justice prevailed and the courts correctly ruled that Republicans can’t ignore the law,” Shilling continued.

The special elections will now be held on June 12.

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The National Rifle Association is claiming it received only one donation from a Russian between the 2012 and 2018 election cycles.

Steven Hart, the NRA’s outside counsel, told ABC News that Russian banker Aleksandr Torshin paid less than $1,000 to become a lifetime member of the gun rights group.

Hart denied to ABC that the funds went towards election-related activities, and said that the membership application was not part of “a major donor program.”

TPM has previously reported on Torshin’s lifetime membership, which the Russian politician confirmed in a 2014 Washington Times op-ed.

The FBI is investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the NRA to benefit Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a January report in McClatchy.

That reported probe has sparked questions about the kind of foreign funds the gun lobbying giant pulls in. Earlier this week, NRA General Counsel John Frazer acknowledged in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that the NRA accepted foreign donations and moved money between its various accounts, but said the group did not use foreign funds for election-related purposes.

Campaign finance experts told TPM that murky campaign finance laws make it difficult to know the truth. Because money is fungible, the NRA could legally receive foreign money into its general accounts and then transfer the same amount to its political advocacy arm.

Hart told ABC that the entire FBI probe is “imaginary” and that the NRA’s political arm never illegally accepted foreign contributions.

“This all comes off one report. We’ve been trying to be polite. How do you prove a negative?” Hart asked in the interview.

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A Wisconsin appeals court on Wednesday rejected Gov. Scott Walker’s emergency bid to delay a deadline to call special elections for two open legislative seats.

But with the GOP now planning to change state law on special elections, the decision may not constrain Walker for long.

“Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are, as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow,” Judge Paul Reilly wrote in the ruling.

A lower court in Madison had given Walker until noon on Thursday to schedule the two races.

Lawyers for the state argued that the governor should be granted an eight-day extension. They said the issue is moot because lawmakers plan to reconvene next week to rewrite state law, and effectively block the special elections from being held.

Judge Reilly said he was “not persuaded” by the arguments, noting that: “The Governor understands he has an obligation to follow the law as do we.”

The issue now moves to the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court. As the Associated Press reported, state attorneys notified the justices that they will be asked to issue an order before noon on Thursday granting Walker his requested extension.

Doing so would clear the path for an extraordinary session of the state legislature scheduled for next Wednesday by GOP leadership. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and House Speaker Robin Vos have, like Walker, argued that holding the two special elections at this point in the year would be a waste of tax dollars and resources, given that the regularly scheduled elections are already on the books for the fall.

They have filed a bill that would prohibit special elections for vacancies that occur 11 months before a general election. Walker has said he’d sign it.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party and national Democratic groups have called the proposed move an “attack on democracy” that would disenfranchise the two districts’ voters.

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