(The Center Square) – If you are starting to believe or have committed certainty to the notion that anything and everything is open to politicization in the final few weeks ahead of the presidential election, welcome to the game.
Within a few hours of news that an apprehended right-wing militia group had intended to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of a larger antigovernment plot that may have included the targeting of law enforcement officers, the instigation of a civil war and an attack on the capitol in Lansing, Whitmer spoke at news conference. She associated the group with President Donald Trump and called Trump “complicit” for sparking the insurrection. Whitmer said, “Hate groups heard the president's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, a call to action.”
In the days that have followed, former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden and other Democrats have played into Whitmer’s narrative.
There is an anachronistic issue with these assertions: The plot to kidnap Whitmer was hatched in June, and at least one of the men arrested openly discussed his dislike of Trump.
The FBI said Thursday the investigation had been ongoing for months. FBI field intelligence and covert infiltration into the group that called itself the Wolverine Watchmen thwarted the group’s efforts.
On Friday, it became known accused conspirator Brandon Caserta previously posted a video in which he called Trump a “tyrant” and said, "Trump is not your friend, dude. It amazes me that people actually, like, believe that when he’s shown over and over and over again that he’s a tyrant. Every single person that works for government is your enemy, dude.”
Before that video’s release and perhaps before it was known to exist, Trump responded to Whitmer via Twitter on Thursday, posting: “My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist—while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities.”
Trump also shifted the militia group’s action back on Whitmer, who has been criticized widely for overstepping her executive powers amid COVID-19 and last week was ordered by the Michigan Supreme Court to unwind all executive orders dating to April 30. In another tweet, Trump said Whitmer had done a “terrible job” and “locked down her state for everyone.”
Trump said Thursday he does not “tolerate any extreme violence” and called on Whitmer to “open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches” in a subsequent post to Twitter.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, condemned the plot Thursday.
“A threat against our Governor is a threat against us all,” Shirkey said. “We condemn the actions of the group of individuals that plotted against Governor Whitmer and state government. These people are not patriots. There is no honor in their actions. They are criminals and traitors, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf told Fox 17 West Michigan on Friday “a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested,” and the Watchmen may have been attempting a citizen’s arrest of Whitmer rather than a kidnapping.
“I have to look at it from that angle, and I’m hoping that’s more what it is, in fact, these guys are innocent till proven guilty, so I’m not even sure if they had any part of it,” Leaf told the Fox affiliate.
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Election watchers often say Pennsylvania, as a key swing state, could decide who will be the next president – but what will the next president mean for Pennsylvania? The James Madison Institute sought to answer that question in a report that looked at how the stated policy positions of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden might be expected to effect the Keystone State. What the report found is that over the next 10 years, a Biden-Harris presidency would be expected to add $10,605 in tax for every resident, or $42,419 for a family of four. “Projected job creation under the Biden-Harris platform would be 28,000 per year, compared to 110,000 under Trump,” the report stated.
In September, Maine’s Democratic governor, Janet Mills, issued a set of “curtailment orders” that called for cuts amounting to $525 million from the state budget in an attempt to deal with massive revenue shortfalls. Those cuts will begin to chip away at what the Maine Policy Institute described as $800 million in added spending in the state’s current budget. But in the face of strict guidelines as to what can and cannot be cut, analysts at the institute are wondering how those cuts will be realized. “The governor has instructed her department heads to propose up to 10% in cuts from their budgets, but she has also said she doesn't want to fire any state employees, cut education spending or end any programs,” the institute’s Jacob Posik told The Center Square.
Requesting public records from public bodies in Georgia could cost residents nothing or it could cost thousands of dollars. It all depends on which public bodies you ask. The Center Square sent the same records request to the city of Atlanta, Fulton County and Gwinnett County. While Gwinnett County provided the data at no charge and Fulton County sought a nominal fee, the city of Atlanta's price tag for the data was $1,146. Georgia First Amendment Foundation spokesperson Richard T. Griffiths said Atlanta's fee for the records was "ridiculous." Griffiths told The Center Square: "Transparency is absolutely key to public trust, and when public officials make it difficult to get information, it undermines trust in those institutions."
The Center Square was the only outlet in the state that reported on a Civitas Institute and Reason Foundation study that said a statewide school-choice program could improve educational and socioeconomic outcomes for North Carolinians. The study estimated a child who completes 12 years of private school could make over $249,000 more over a lifetime than a child educated in public school. The study also said the state would save more than $2,400 for each student who enrolled in private school.
Republicans in the Tennessee House are prepared to introduce legislation to curtail power at Tennessee’s six Metro Health Departments. Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, is working on a bill that would change the authority of Metro Health Departments to an advisory role to the county’s legislative power and remove the boards’ unlimited authority to issue public health orders. “This is not a partisan issue at all. Whether Republican or Democrat, I do not want an unelected board making decisions and issuing criminal penalties for anything, because there's no accountability,” Zachary told The Center Square.
A public finance watchdog said the latest report on Illinois’ finances from Fitch Ratings is evidence the state is on the verge of having a junk credit rating. That could mean substantial interest payments that fall on taxpayers in Illinois. While neighboring Indiana can borrow money at 1.5 percent with a good credit rating, Illinois’ near junk status has the state paying 5.5 percent. That adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars each year in debt service alone – money that can't be spent on schools or public safety.
Also in Illinois, supporters of a progressive income tax are distancing themselves from any talk about taxing retirement income. Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois won’t tax retirement income and dismissed critics who said changing the flat income tax to one with progressive rates on higher earners would make that easier. Despite a proposal from the Civic Federation and a bill Pritzker’s revenue director proposed when he was in the Illinois Legislature in 2017, there is no legislative effort underway to tax retirement income.
Already world-renowned for auto racing, Indiana took another step forward in the world of motorsports and business when Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced it has plans to invest $1.2 million, create 73 jobs and create its global headquarters outside of Indianapolis.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a lawsuit filed by The Buckeye Institute that could have ended the practice of public employees being forced to accept a union as its exclusive bargaining agent.
Washington state businesses continue to push back on Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 orders in court. The latest lawsuit alleges the governor's "heavy-handed response" has disproportionately burdened families and businesses in rural Skamania County. “Gov. Inslee’s draconian response has been disproportionate to the threats caused by COVID-19,” said Caleb Jon Vandenbos, an attorney for the Freedom Foundation, which is representing the plaintiffs. Inslee required all businesses statewide to refuse service to customers who are not wearing a mask, per a declaration issued July 7. In Skamania County, one resident has died of the virus and five more have been infected. “Nothing about COVID-19 has been extraordinary except the panicked and panic-inducing response from the government and the media,” Vandenbos said. “And, of course, the unprecedented strain this over-reaction has placed on thousands of Washington families and individuals.” Skamania County has a population of about 12,000 people spread over 1,683 square miles.
More than 160 Colorado businesses are backing a ballot measure to establish a paid family leave insurance program that effectively would mean higher corporate income taxes for employers and higher payroll taxes for employees. The Center Square reported that under Proposition 118, state revenue from premiums would increase by $1.2 billion in the program's first full year. The measure is included on the Nov. 3 ballot.
CALIFORNIA, COLORADO & NEW MEXICO
As Democratic governors around the country announced aggressive plans in recent months to revert to 100 percent renewable energy in the near future, The Center Square detailed what that would mean for consumers in California, Colorado and New Mexico, and also reported on potential conflict of interests. In California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in California by 2035, The Center Square reported less than 6 percent of cars sold in California in 2019 were zero-emission vehicles, and that the policy would have a greater effect on lower income families that wouldn't be able to afford the more expensive vehicles. In Colorado, the plan could lead to a ban on natural gas appliances, including gas-fired stovetops, which would be replaced by electric appliances, costing residents more money in electric bills and buying new appliances. In New Mexico, the third-largest oil producing state in the U.S., the plan could lead to more than 200,000 job losses and a dramatic cut in tax revenue
Days after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Gov. Whitmer’s exercise of executive authority was illegal and unconstitutional, the libertarian Cato Institute issued its biennial governor report card. Whitmer received an F grade, placing her among a group of seven Democrat governors that included New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Virginia’s Ralph Northam, New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, Illinois’ Pritzker, Oregon’s Kate Brown and Washington’s Inslee. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, whose state was given a D grade – the lowest for a Republican-led state – pushed back on the study’s methodology. The governors were graded on their respective tax and spending records. Those governors of states able to rein-in spending and limit tax increases received higher grades. Governors at the other end of Cato’s spectrum of spending and taxing received lower grades.
Chris Krug is publisher of The Center Square. Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, and regional editors J.D. Davidson, Derek Draplin, David Lemery, Brett Rowland, Jason Schaumburg and Bruce Walker contributed to the column.