April 26, 2017, Reuters
Public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states have invested millions of dollars in an investment fund that owns a New York hotel and pays one of President Donald Trump’s companies to run it, according to a Reuters review of public records. That arrangement could put Trump at risk of violating an obscure constitutional clause, some legal experts say.
The Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in Manhattan is an upscale 46-story property owned by a Los Angeles investment group, the CIM Group, through one of its real estate funds. (Read the most recent amendment to the Trump SoHo’s offering plan: tmsnrt.rs/2q3HJH8)
The possible problem for Trump lies in the fact that state- and city-run pension funds have invested in the CIM fund and pay it a few million dollars in quarterly fees to manage their investments in its portfolio, which includes the Trump SoHo, according to state investment records.
In return for marketing and managing the hotel-condo, CIM pays Trump International Hotels Management LLC 5.75 percent of the SoHo’s operating revenues annually.
That payment chain merits closer scrutiny because it could put Trump at risk of falling foul of a little-known constitutional rule prohibiting the flow of money from states to the pockets of a sitting president, five ethics and constitutional law experts interviewed by Reuters said.
November 3, 2016, Reuters
When Bill McAnulty, an elections board chairman in a mostly white North Carolina county, agreed in July to open a Sunday voting site where black church members could cast ballots after services, the reaction was swift: he was labeled a traitor by his fellow Republicans.
“I became a villain, quite frankly,” recalled McAnulty at a state board of elections meeting in September that had been called to resolve disputes over early voting plans. “I got accused of being a traitor and everything else by the Republican Party,” McAnulty said.
Following the blowback from Republicans, McAnulty later withdrew his support for the Sunday site.
In an interview with Reuters, he said he ultimately ruled against opening the Sunday voting site in Randolph County because he had “made a mistake in reading the wishes of the voters.” He declined to discuss the episode further.
This year’s highly charged presidential contest between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump has stoked accusations by both parties of political meddling in the scheduling of early voting hours in North Carolina, a coveted battleground state with a history of tight elections.
In emails, state and county Republican officials lobbied members of at least 17 county election boards to keep early-voting sites open for shorter hours on weekends and in evenings – times that usually see disproportionately high turnout by Democratic voters. Reuters obtained the emails through a public records request.
September 26, 2016, Reuters
A network of more than 150 U.S. charter schools linked to followers of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric the Turkish government blames for instigating July’s failed coup, has come under growing financial and legal strain, according to school officials, current and former members of Gulen’s movement, and public records reviewed by Reuters.
The publicly financed schools, a key source of jobs and business opportunities for U.S. members of Gulen’s global movement, have sharply slowed their expansion in recent years, public records show.
The slowdown comes amid a series of government probes in more than a dozen states into allegations ranging from misuse of taxpayer funds to visa fraud. The investigations launched by state and federal officials have not resulted in criminal charges or directly implicated Gulen, whose name is not on any of the charter schools. The increased pressure on the schools also comes as the Turkish government is cracking down on Gulen supporters at home and presses hard for Gulen’s extradition.
Just three new schools were opened each in 2015 and this year to date, down from a peak of 23 new schools in 2010, according to a Reuters review of the public records of 153 charter schools and their management companies around the country.
July 19, 2016, Reuters
Tents, ladders, coolers, canned goods, tennis balls and bicycle locks are banned in the area surrounding the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
But guns are fine.
When Ohio Governor John Kasich on Sunday rejected the Cleveland police union’s request to ban the open carrying of firearms near the Quicken Loans Arena, he weighed into a national debate pitting city authorities who contend with gun violence against state lawmakers who answer to gun-loving voters.
Law enforcement leaders in several major cities say municipalities should have to the power to suspend open-carry laws when needed to protect public safety. Currently, 15 of the 45 states that allow openly carried handguns give cities power to restrict those laws, according to a Reuters review of state statutes.
July 17, 2016, Reuters
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box.
The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement.
Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box.
The Supreme Court ruling undercut a key section of the Act that requires such states to obtain U.S. approval before changing election laws. The court struck down the formula used to determine which states were affected.
By doing so, it ended the Justice Department’s ability to select voting areas it deemed at risk of racial discrimination and deploy observers there, the fact sheet said.
Eleven mostly Southern states had been certified as needing federal observers by the department.
July 15, 2016, Reuters
On Election Day in 2014, Joetta Teal went to work at a polling station in Lumberton, North Carolina. Like all poll workers, she was required to stay until voting booths closed, so she decided to cast her own vote there.
That was a mistake, she later discovered. What she didn’t know was that under a 2013 state law she had to vote in the precinct where she lived. The polling station where she voted was not in her precinct, so her vote was not counted.
A Reuters review of Republican-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules indicates as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds the 2013 law. Besides banning voters from voting outside their assigned precinct on Election Day, the law also prevents them from registering the same day they vote during the early voting period.
The U.S. Justice Department says the law was designed to disproportionately affect minority groups, who are more likely to vote out of precinct and use same-day registration. Backers of the law deny this and say it will prevent voter fraud.
June 3, 2016, Reuters
In the spring of 2014, as Islamic State seized ground in Syria, a group of 10 young Somali-American men in Minneapolis began scheming to join the battle between games of basketball at a neighborhood mosque, a jury found on Friday.
But the court case leaves larger doubts unresolved over the success of one of the U.S. government’s flagship programs to counter home-grown extremism in a city whose large Muslim population has been a focus of concern over radicalization.
It raises questions over whether the U.S. government has figured out a way to steer most young Muslims away from Islamist extremism and what the involvement of law enforcement officials should be.
With the help of an informant, FBI agents tracked the group and prosecutors charged them with trying to join Islamic State late last year, the largest such case the U.S. Justice Department has brought.