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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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New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday filed a sweeping lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation and its board of directors — the president and his three eldest children — for engaging in “a pattern of persistent illegal conduct.”

The lawsuit claims Trump’s foundation “illegally provided extensive support” to his 2016 campaign. It also alleges that the foundation engaged in “willful self-dealing” to serve Trump’s personal and business interests.

Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the foundation entirely. She also asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities, that Trump pay at least $2.8 million in restitution, and that Trump be barred from leading any other New York nonprofit for at least 10 years.

The charity’s directors, President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump were sued in their individual capacity, putting them personally on the hook for the repayment of funds.

Trump’s children were on a board that “existed in name only” and did not meet after 1999, according to the lawsuit, leaving their father without any oversight, and allowing him effectively to do with the foundation what he wished.

“The Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said in a statement on the results of her office’s 20-month investigation.

Trump promptly responded on Twitter, insisting that he “won’t settle this case!”

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” the tweet read.

A second tweet from Trump said that Schneiderman “never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case” and that “his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”

Schneiderman initiated the Trump Foundation investigation but resigned earlier this year over reports he physically abused multiple romantic partners. Underwood, a career staffer, took over his position.

A spokesman for the Trump Foundation said Underwood’s lawsuit is “politics at its very worst.”

“The Foundation currently has $1.7 million remaining which the [New York Attorney General] has been holding hostage for political gain,” the spokesman said in a statement. “This is unconscionable — particularly because the Foundation previously announced its intention to dissolve more than a year and a half ago.”

“The prior NYAG, who was recently forced to resign from office in disgrace, made it his stated mission to use this matter to not only advance his own political goals, but also for his own political fundraising,” the spokesman added. “The acting NYAG’s recent statement that battling the White House is ‘the most important work [she] have ever done’ shows that such political attacks will continue unabated.”

The lawsuit lays out new details about coordination between the foundation and Trump’s presidential campaign. The charity raised over $2.8 million in order to influence the campaign, and senior campaign staffers, including Corey Lewandowski illegally assumed control of those charitable funds, according to the suit.

In one significant incident, Trump raised money for the foundation during a January 2016 televised veterans’ fundraiser he held instead of participating in a primary debate. Lewandowski dictated how and when five $100,000 grants would be dispersed to Iowa veterans’ non-profits just days before the Feb. 1, 2016 Iowa caucuses, an alleged violation of state and federal law.

Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director, created a website for the fundraiser, while communications director Hope Hicks helped arrange speakers for the event.

As the lawsuit notes, Trump, under penalty of perjury, repeatedly signed IRS 990 forms affirming that the tax-exempt foundation did not carry out political activity. Yet he repeatedly violated these rules, the lawsuit alleges.

In 2013, the foundation donated $25,000 to a political group working to reelect Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The foundation’s annual IRS report listed a donation to a Kansas nonprofit with a similar name, and only admitted to improperly giving money to the Bondi group after the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported on the transaction.

Trump’s staff said that accounting errors led to the donation being made from the foundation rather than from his company.

This alleged improper payment, detailed in the suit, is one of many abuses first surfaced during the 2016 presidential election thanks to Fahrenthold’s tenacious reporting.

These include Trump’s use of the charity’s money to settle legal disputes involving his for-profit businesses. In 2007, Trump used $100,000 of the charity’s money to settle a dispute with the town of Palm Beach over code violations at his Mar-a-Lago club. Five years later, the foundation doled out $158,000 to settle a lawsuit with a man angry that he did not receive a $1 million hole-in-one prize during a tournament at another golf club.

The lawsuit also notes that in May 2016, the foundation contributed to The Mission Continues, a veterans charity that had been established by Eric Greitens, who was then running as a Republican for governor of Missouri. The charity played a role in the recent scandals that forced Greitens to resign as governor: Greitens obtained the charity’s donor list and used it to fundraise for his campaign, potentially a serious campaign finance violation.

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Lawyers representing Michael Cohen in a federal criminal investigation into his financial dealings may soon jump ship, ABC News reported Wednesday.

“A source representing this matter” told ABC that Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison of McDermott, Will & Emery LLP are expected to end their representation of President Trump’s longtime fixer.

Sources also told ABC that Cohen is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors. If it happens, Cohen’s cooperation could cause problems for Trump.

Shortly after the ABC News report appeared, the Wall Street Journal, too, reported that Cohen’s lawyers were set to leave the case. But the Journal added that Cohen hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll cooperate.

Cohen, Harrison and Ryan did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment. To date, the lawyers haven’t filed anything in court suggesting they plan to end their representation.

Joanna Hendon, the attorney representing Trump in the privilege matter, also did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

This move would come at a very sensitive time for Cohen, who is being investigated for a host of potential financial crimes. Cohen’s lawyers were given a Friday deadline to finish reviewing hundreds of thousands of documents seized from his premises by federal agents to determine which should be covered by attorney-client privilege.

If they miss the deadline, a government “taint” team uninvolved in the Cohen probe will take over the review, per a ruling by Judge Kimba Wood.

Cohen’s team had gone to court to prevent exactly that outcome from occurring, expressing concern that federal prosecutors would not make appropriate privilege designations. Wood and federal prosecutors have countered that the use of a taint team was standard practice in federal criminal investigations and would be capable of carrying out the task.

No replacement counsel for Cohen has yet been identified.

Ryan has been representing Cohen in the federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s election interference since last June, as well as the hush money case involving adult film star Stormy Daniels.

A person familiar with the legal discussions told the New York Times that Ryan’s break with Cohen was primarily related to the payment of his legal bills. The Trump campaign has paid out some $228,000 to McDermott, Will & Emery to cover Cohen’s legal fees, though it’s unclear exactly what legal work those payments funded.

Federal campaign finance law would likely bar the Trump campaign from funding Cohen’s legal defense in a personal matter like the probe into his financial dealings.

This post has been updated.

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Maine voters on Tuesday night reaffirmed that they want to overhaul their state’s elections and move to a ranked-choice system.

The move is likely to increase the national momentum behind ranked-choice voting (RCV), which in recent years has seen a surge of interest amid widespread concerns about election fairness.

By 55 to 44 percent, Mainers approved a ballot referendum that does away with winner-takes-all plurality-style voting in favor of a system that reformers believe gives voters more choice and a stronger voice in selecting candidates who will represent them. Maine will use this system in November’s federal elections.

Under RCV, voters rank all of the candidates in order of preference. The candidate who earns more than 50 percent of the vote wins. If no candidate hits that threshold in the first round, an instant-runoff situation kicks in in which the candidate with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, and those votes are redistributed to the voter’s second choices.

According to the election reform group Fair Vote, which has led the fight for RCV, the system helps restore majority rule by ensuring that “candidates who are opposed by a majority of voters can never win.” Voters’ second-choice picks actually matter, making them feel like they have more of a say in how an election ends up.

Momentum for RCV in Maine grew after Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, was twice elected with under 50 percent of the vote, while more liberal candidates split the vote.

This system is already in effect in 11 U.S. cities including San Francisco and Minneapolis; Maine’s statewide Tuesday election was the first time it was used to select nominees for governor, the U.S. House and legislative offices.

The Pine Tree State passed ranked-choice voting by referendum in November 2016, but the decision got caught up in the state Supreme Court and legislature. It became mired in protracted partisan fights, with Democrats largely supporting the voting system and Republicans opposing it. The citizens’ petition passed this week stemmed from a bill passed by the legislature in October 2017 that called for the passage of a constitutional amendment by December 2021 or a permanent end to use of the system.

LePage was a particularly ardent opponent. Hours before voters went to the polls, he called the system “the most horrific thing in the world” and threatened not to certify the election results.

Democratic Sec. of State Matt Dunlap swiftly shut down LePage’s threats, saying that he, not the governor, is responsible for certifying the results.

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Despite a resounding court defeat last week, a Michigan business group is asking the state’s top court to block a sweeping gerrymandering reform initiative from getting on the November ballot.

And thanks in part to the business group’s largesse in judicial races, there’s reason to think it could yet succeed in killing the reform measure.

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), which is backed by the state Chamber of Commerce, on Monday filed a request with the state Supreme Court for immediate consideration of its complaint.

The move comes days after the state’s Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that the initiative meets the legal requirements to get on the ballot, and that the CPMC complaint was “without merit.”

The reform measure would take map-drawing responsibilities for congressional and state legislative districts away from the state legislature, which for twenty years has been controlled by Republicans. That has consistently allowed the GOP, which opposes the reform initiative, to win many more seats than its vote share deserves. For instance, in 2012, the GOP won just 45.6 percent of the vote in congressional races, but came away with 9 out of 14 seats.

Maps would instead be drawn by a citizens’ commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents randomly selected by the secretary of state. They would have to follow “accepted measures of partisan fairness” and avoid granting any one political party “disproportionate advantage.”

The measure’s fate now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court, which has a five to two Republican majority. As Bridge Magazine reported in a detailed investigation, two of the Republican judges up for election this year have received $15,000 each from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce — the same group that has pumped $185,000 into challenging the redistricting measure. The judges, Kurtis Wilder and Elizabeth Clement, also held a joint fundraiser at the Chamber’s headquarters in April. Neither judge has given any indication that they’ll recuse themselves from the redistricting reform case.

The grassroots group behind the reform initiative, Voters Not Politicians, says the new appeal is an attempt to block the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

“Our legal team will be vigorously opposing the latest effort by pro-gerrymandering groups to prevent the Voters Not Politicians proposal from appearing on the November ballot,” Voters Not Politicians executive director Katie Fahey said in a statement. “More than 400,000 registered voters signed petitions supporting a constitutional amendment to establish a fair, independent and transparent citizens redistricting commission to draw district boundaries without political or partisan bias. They deserve to have their voices heard.”

This post has been updated.

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A Justice Department investigation into whether Russians illegally funneled donations to the Trump campaign through the National Rifle Association (NRA) has uncovered a web of contacts between the gun group and allies of Vladimir Putin.

And the NRA still isn’t willing to provide any answers.

As McClatchy reported Monday, the DOJ probe has revealed that NRA executives met with Dmitry Rogozin, at the time a deputy prime minister, and Sergei Rudov, a major philanthropist, during a December 2015 trip to Moscow.

Rogozin was added to the U.S. government sanctions list in 2014 for his direct involvement in overseeing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, raising further questions about the propriety of the NRA’s contacts with him.

Overseeing the 2015 trip was Alexander Torshin, a Putin ally, lifetime NRA member, and former deputy head of Russia’s central bank. McClatchy first reported in January that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin gave money to the NRA in order to boost Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The gun rights giant has denied accepting foreign funds for election-related activities, which is against the law. But it has acknowledged taking in donations from foreign entities for non-political purposes, and has said it moves money between its various accounts as permitted by law.

Finances aside, the NRA’s interactions with Russian entities merit scrutiny, according to experts who study the region.

Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Council, told TPM it was “impermissible” for the NRA to meet with someone like Rogozin. Aslund described Rogozin as a “hardcore nationalist” and “quite a famous person in Russia,” adding that the NRA executives would surely have known who he was.

The NRA did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. A spokesman for the group told McClatchy that they had received no contact from the FBI.

Democrats in Congress are also investigating financial links between Russia and the NRA for any possible illegal activity. After exchanging a series of letters with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) the NRA’s general counsel cut off communications in April, saying they had provided all the facts needed to satisfy any “legitimate concerns.”

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The Missouri special prosecutor appointed to take over the investigation of Eric Greitens announced Friday that she won’t file any further criminal charges against the disgraced Republican former governor.

The news mean that Greitens, who was previously charged both with blackmailing his then-mistress and with a separate campaign finance violation, is now legally in the clear.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the she has “exhausted potential leads” but had not obtained sufficient evidence to pursue charges in connection with the blackmail allegations, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

At a press conference on Friday afternoon, Baker said she was “frustrated” by the outcome. She said that though there was “probable cause” for sexual assault charges against the governor in the blackmail incident, a lack of corroborating evidence and the victim’s desire not to pursue the case further helped steer her decision.

“Probable cause is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the victim in that case couldn’t bear it on her own,” Baker said.

Baker was assigned to take over the investigation last month after a case brought by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner fell apart just days before Greitens’ trial was set to begin. Greitens was accused of taking a non-consensual nude photo of a woman with whom he carried out a 2015 affair, and threatening to release it if she went public. He admitted to the extramarital relationship, and the woman’s testimony was deemed credible by a special Missouri House committee probing the allegations.

But the alleged photo never materialized, and Gardner’s case fell into disarray after she was called as a witness in her own probe. Lawyers for Greitens wanted to ask her about an interview she oversaw in which one of her investigators allegedly perjured himself.

Baker said in her press conference that she was “hamstrung” throughout her investigation because she considered Gardner’s entire office potential witnesses in the case and therefore could not confer with them on issues of legal strategy.

Greitens’ team had argued that he was innocent of criminal wrongdoing and that prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.

He resigned in disgrace last week. In doing so, Greitens signed a settlement agreement with Gardner’s office in which she agreed to drop separate charges that he illegally stole a donor list from the veterans charity he founded, a campaign finance violation.

The woman at the heart of the blackmail scandal on Friday released a statement through her attorney thanking “all who have supported her and believed her testimony.”

“As my client, and the citizens of this state, move past this difficult time in Missouri’s history we hope other women in similar situations are not discouraged by this process,” the statement from attorney Scott Simpson read. “It takes real courage to testify once, let alone six times, but that courage exposes the truth.”

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Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday secured a grand jury indictment of Konstantin Kilimnik, Paul Manafort’s former business associate on his lucrative Ukraine lobbying. The indictment also came with additional charges for Manafort; the two were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for trying to shape other witnesses’ testimony about their Ukraine work.

Legal experts say the judge overseeing the case likely will agree with Mueller’s June 4 request to revoke Manafort’s current house arrest and send him directly to jail. President Trump complained that, during his campaign, “we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on [Manafort], and he wouldn’t have been hired!”

A new lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti alleges that Daniels’ former attorney, Keith Davidson, “colluded” with Cohen by sharing privileged information about his client’s actions and trying to convince her to lie about her alleged affair with Trump. Per the complaint, Davidson served as a “puppet” for Cohen and for Trump, who was aware about the interactions between the two men.

Some of their communications were apparently included in the trove of materials seized from Cohen by federal agents. Special master Barbara Jones announced this week that, so far, only a tiny fraction of the seized materials are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Trump continued to stir the self-pardoning pot, parroting arguments his attorneys made in a letter to Mueller last January about the President’s complete authority to pardon himself. Rudy Giuliani went so far as to say that Trump could have shot James Comey and remained safe from criminal charges while President. The letter also made clear that Trump personally dictated Don Jr.’s misleading statement to The New York Times last summer about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

The Trump administration’s fierce war on leakers has yielded its first scalp: former Senate Intelligence Committee aide James Wolfe, who was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. According to his indictment, Wolfe provided sensitive information about the committee’s work to several journalists, including one with whom he had an affair. Much of the information Wolfe disclosed involved the committee’s investigation into former Trump aide Carter Page.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that a director of Cambridge Analytica met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in February 2017 to discuss the 2016 U.S. election, and funneled cryptocurrency to Wikileaks.

Simona Mangiante, wife of ex-Trump aide George Papadopoulos, went on a bizarre conservative media tour, publicly begging Trump to pardon her husband. Trump is reportedly preparing paperwork to pardon at least 30 people, and is “obsessed” with pardons.

A number of GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, broke with the President over his claims that an FBI informant who provided information on the Trump campaign to federal investigators was a “spy” installed by the Obama administration.

They also disagreed with the President’s impromptu suggestion that Russia “should be” allowed to rejoin the G-7 summit, a foreign policy negotiating group composed of the world’s leading industrialized nations.

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The last 24 hours have brought a wave of revelations about how key pieces of information from the Senate’s Russia investigation were made public, as well as the Trump era’s first indictment involving leaks to the press.

James Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, is accused of being in regular contact with at least four reporters covering national security, and providing two of them with sensitive information related to the committee’s work. Wolfe was arrested Thursday and charged on three counts of lying to the FBI about his contacts with journalists. He is expected to appear in federal court in his home state of Maryland on Friday.

We know that one of the reporters was The New York Times’ Ali Watkins, formerly of BuzzFeed and Politico, whose phone and email records were secretly seized. We also know that much of the leaked information centered on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Other details — including the names of the other three journalists — have yet to emerge.

But it’s clear that the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers is starting to collect scalps.

The clearest set of facts laid out in the indictment involves Wolfe’s interactions with Watkins, with whom he had a three-year romantic relationship between 2014 and 2017.

On March 17, 2017, Wolfe, who was tasked with protecting sensitive information shared with the committee’s lawmakers and with escorting witnesses to their testimony, received a classified document regarding “Male-1,” or Page.

That same day, he exchanged dozens of text messages with “Reporter #2,” who has since been identified as Watkins, and the pair had a 28-minute phone call.

Just over two weeks later, on April 3, Watkins published a bombshell story for Buzzfeed detailing that Page in 2013 met with and provided documents to Victor Podobnyy, a Russian intelligence operative who sought to recruit him.

Podobnyy, who was later charged by the U.S. government for his undercover spying, described Page as “an idiot” who provided him with documents on the U.S. energy business, according to a phone call transcript included in the U.S. court filing viewed by Buzzfeed.

On the day the story appeared, Watkins and Wolfe exchanged a flood of messages and spoke repeatedly on the phone.

The Times reported that Watkins had denied to the FBI that she used Wolfe as a source for classified information. In a statement to the newspaper, her personal lawyer, Mark MacDougall, called it “disconcerting” that the Justice Department had obtained a journalist’s telephone records. BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith told the Times that the site was “troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government.”

The other central incident laid out in the indictment involved the committee’s move to subpoena Page to testify in October 2017.

Per the filing, Wolfe told “Reporter #3” on Oct. 16 that he served Page with a subpoena, and the next day agreed to the reporter’s request to provide Page’s contact information. On Oct. 17, “Reporter #3” published an article reporting on the subpoena. Wolfe followed up congratulating the reporter’s work, adding, “I’m glad you got the scoop.”

The identify of that journalist has not yet been revealed, in part because multiple news organizations, including NBC News and CNN, published stories on Page’s subpoena on Oct. 17. Multiple bylines were attached to each article, and each sourced their information to “a source familiar with the matter.”

Wolfe’s apparent communication via texts, emails, calls, and in-person conversations with these journalists contradicts sworn statements he made to the FBI in December denying having contact with reporters.

Page reacted to the news of Wolfe’s indictment on Twitter, writing that it was now “more understandable” how NBC staffers always knew he’d be showing up for appearances before the Senate committee.

In a joint statement, committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) and vice chair Mark Warner (D-VA) said they were “troubled” by the charges against Wolfe but planned to move forward with their investigation.

“This news is disappointing, as the former staffer in question served on the Committee for more than three decades, and in the Armed Forces with distinction,” Burr and Warner said. “However, we trust the justice system to act appropriately and ensure due process as this case unfolds. This will in no way interfere with our ongoing investigation, and the Committee remains committed to carrying out our important work on behalf of the American people.”

This post has been updated to note that Wolfe appeared in federal court on Friday in Maryland, not Washington, D.C.

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Texas progressives have a shot at a major policy victory that would make life easier for many hundreds of thousands of working people. To stop them, state Republicans are set to try to roll back local democracy.

In February, Austin’s city council passed an ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave. Activists are poised to get similar measures on the November ballot in San Antonio and Dallas, via citizen-led initiatives.

But they’re are also girding for the next stage of the battle. If those measures pass, they expect the GOP-led state legislature, pressed by business interests, to file suit to block them after the fact. If that doesn’t work, Republicans are likely to pull out an even more potent weapon: preemption. That could expand the fight over paid sick days into a more elemental battle over the authority of local governments to set their own direction.

In recent years, in states from Wisconsin to Alabama, cities have passed progressive economic, environmental, and public health policies only to see GOP-controlled state government use preemption laws — laws that bar cities and counties from passing their own regulations — to wipe out those advances.

Texas, where progressive, racially diverse big cities are increasingly at odds with the conservative state government, has been a particular preemption hotspot. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pledged upon taking office in 2015 to use preemption laws to “limit the ability of cities to California-ize the great state of Texas.” Since then, the state has passed laws forbidding cities and counties from creating sanctuary city protections, and regulating oil and gas drilling. The latter measure invalidated a 2014 ballot initiative, the product of a grassroots campaign, that banned fracking in the city of Denton.

“The state legislature has essentially declared war on local democracy in Texas,” Mark Pertschuk, director of progressive advocacy group Grassroots Change, which has tracked the preemption trend, told TPM in a phone interview. “Folks that want a higher minimum wage, benefits like paid sick days and family leave, they have the ability to put together a very good opposition to preemption and can do it in a non-partisan way.”

The proposal, which is identical across the three cities, would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with an annual cap of six or eight days depending on the size of the business. Advocates say it would prevent workers from having to show up sick out of fear of losing wages needed to cover basic expenses like rent or groceries—or of even losing their jobs outright. The policy would also allow parents to take time off to care for sick children.

Abbott has warned that the paid sick leave measures would be “crushing” for businesses, and said the state needs a uniform set of regulations to ensure predictability for the private sector.

By waging the campaign in three of Texas’s four biggest cities simultaneously, and using ballot initiatives to show that the policy has broad popular support, progressives aim to undermine GOP opposition. The goal is to drive voters to the polls both to support a measure that directly benefits them, and to change the composition of a legislature that seems intent on reining in the power of cities to govern themselves.

One challenge activists are confronting: Texas’ dismally low levels of voter registration and turnout. This lack of civic engagement helps explain why the state’s large blue cities have little history of using ballot initiatives to try to secure policy wins — they simply can’t expect enough supporters to show up.

“It just doesn’t happen that often,” Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, told TPM of the ballot process.

State Republicans who fear-monger about the imaginary threat of mass voter fraud will also pick over ballot initiative signatures with a fine-toothed comb, activists say.

“We know its going be a contentious issue,” Zenén Pérez of the Texas Civil Rights Project, one of the coalition of organizations coordinating on the sick leave effort, told TPM, “[S]tate officials are going to be looking at every single signature to see if there was any sort of fraud committed.”

Pérez said that the team in San Antonio gathered some 144,000 signatures — almost twice what they estimate they’ll need to get on the ballot per city regulations — with the expectation that a significant number may include unregistered voters whose names will be tossed out. Activists in Dallas have a June 11 deadline to submit their own signatures.

“We have a lot of problems with accurate registration rolls in the first place,”Pérez said, citing Texas’ onerous voter registration and ID requirements.

If the measures get enough valid signatures and then are approved by voters, sick leave supporters then will likely need to fight off the GOP’s preemption effort.

Already Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has appeared to lay the groundwork, joining a lawsuit against Austin’s paid sick leave law brought by business groups. Paxton has argued that Texas law already bars cities and states from imposing economic regulations including paid sick days, and has accused Austin of trying to “usurp the authority of the state lawmakers chosen by Texas voters.”

The coalition behind the sick leave push explicitly chose to use the ballot initiative process in Dallas and San Antonio to bolster the campaign’s legitimacy, and demonstrate that the numbers are on their side. A recent study found that the lack of paid sick days affects some 4.3 million Texans — almost 40 percent of the state’s workforce.

Interference by the state will appear to be “much more a subversion of a democratic mandate than it would be if we passed it through council,” Alex Birnel, advocacy manager at MOVE San Antonio, a youth advocacy group involved in the effort, told TPM.

Birnel said that the coalition was also actively courting business groups and lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum “so that legal challenges, if they arise, look as politically and optically misguided as they are.”

Gordon Lafer, a labor expert with the Economic Policy Institute, told TPM that these sort of progressive economic initiatives “really drive voter turnout,” and that they have a decent chance of passing if they make the ballot.

But even if they fail or if a preemption bill comes on their heels, Lafer said, the effort exposes the bipartisan support behind common-sense workers’ rights measures that materially benefit hundreds of thousands at what most economists say is only a small cost to the businesses that employ them.

“It kind of opens up some fissures,” Lafer said. “It reveals some of those tensions between the donor class and the base.”

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The Missouri House committee investigating a host of allegations against former Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday dropped its effort to subpoena records from a secretive non-profit founded to support his agenda.

The move likely signals an end to the House committee’s effort to learn more about who funded the group, A New Missouri, which isn’t required to disclose its donors.

The House panel had sought documents from A New Missouri that it believed might reveal efforts to illegally get around the state’s campaign disclosure laws, as the Kansas City Star reported.

The panel’s decision comes a week after Greitens resigned from office amid separate allegations that he blackmailed his onetime-mistress and violated campaign finance laws. The former governor entered into a settlement agreement with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office that acknowledged prosecutors had “sufficient evidence” to pursue a felony computer tampering case against him involving a separate veterans’ non-profit he founded.

The special House panel said it’s continuing to pursue its probe into the governor’s conduct in the wake of his resignation. But without seeking to enforce a subpoena, it’s unlikely to pry loose much information about A New Missouri.

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