On any normal year, thousands of Marylanders would dive into the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay around this time as part of the Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the plunge to go virtual, but the organization still needs your support. Special Olympics Maryland super star athlete Adam Hays explains how SOMD has impacted his life for the better.
A third woman has accused influential Democratic politician Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
- The Daily Beast
Ben Birchall/WPA Pool/GettyMeghan Markle has denied detailed accusations of “bullying” her former Buckingham Palace staff and accused opponents of conducting a “calculated smear campaign” in advance of her much-hyped CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey this Sunday.If Meghan and Prince Harry had anticipated an open field to criticize the royal family and/or air various grievances, certain Buckingham Palace sources seem determined to torpedo their ambitions prior to Sunday night.Harry and Meghan Are Begged to Delay Oprah Broadcast While Prince Philip Is Gravely IllRoyal aides told The Times of London that Meghan was the subject of an official bullying complaint made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, Meghan and Harry’s former communications secretary. The Times reported that the complaint detailed how Meghan allegedly “drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.” Prince Harry asked Knauf not to pursue the complaint, a source told the paper.“Staff would on occasion be reduced to tears” because of the duchess, The Times reported. One aide, anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, told a colleague: “I can’t stop shaking.” Another aide claimed it felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying.”Knauf, in an email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, said the palace’s head of HR, Samantha Carruthers, “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious.” He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”Knauf, who is now chief executive of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Foundation, said in his email: “I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable… The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y.”Sympathetic sources around Harry and Meghan relayed their frustration and hurt with the attitudes of palace officials in Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.However, palace sources told The Times that the bullying allegations had not been investigated by the palace and that officials had made Meghan more “welcome” than the couple’s supporters have long claimed. One source said of the bullying complaint: “I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, ‘How can we make this go away?,’ rather than addressing it.”Another source told The Times: “Senior people in the household, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, knew that they had a situation where members of staff, particularly young women, were being bullied to the point of tears. The institution just protected Meghan constantly. All the men in grey suits who she hates have a lot to answer for, because they did absolutely nothing to protect people.”The paper said the sources were speaking out now in advance of Meghan’s Sunday night interview to give their view of Harry and Meghan’s royal life, presumably anticipating that it may be very different from what the couple may relay to Winfrey. The broadcast of the interview—the result of a reported two years’ worth of planning by Meghan and Winfrey—is being criticized as ill-timed given the illness and hospitalization of Prince Philip.Buckingham Palace declined to comment to The Times.The paper also details how Meghan wore earrings to a formal dinner in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA concluded last week had ordered the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The dinner took place three weeks after Khashoggi was killed. At the time Meghan said the earrings were borrowed. “The duchess does not deny this was what she said, despite being aware of their provenance,” The Times reported.In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said of the various allegations: “Let’s just call this what it is—a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet. It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.“In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to The Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to The Duchess by The Crown. The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Independent
5,000 National Guard troops remain in DC amid QAnon frenzy that Trump will be inaugurated again this week
QAnon followers believe that on 4 March, which was once the inauguration date of US presidents, Donald Trump will become president again
The Kremlin on Wednesday played down the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Moscow's treatment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, but said it would retaliate with reciprocal measures. In President Joe Biden's most direct challenge yet to the Kremlin, the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions to punish Russia for what it described as Moscow's attempt to poison Navalny with a nerve agent last year.
- The Telegraph
The Duchess of Sussex wore earrings given to her by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, against advice from palace aides, The Telegraph understands. The Duchess, 39, had been given the Butani earrings as an official wedding present from the Saudi Royal Family. When she wore them to a formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018, during a royal tour, the media were told that they were “borrowed” but unusually, declined to offer further information or guidance. The dinner took place three weeks after Mr Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Duchess’s lawyers insisted that at the time of the dinner, she was unaware of speculation that the crown prince was involved in the murder of the journalist. However, a royal source claimed that palace staff had advised the Duchess not to wear the jewellery. “Members of Royal Household staff sometimes advise people on their options,” one said. “But what they choose to do with that advice is a very different matter.” The earrings were accepted as a wedding gift by the prince, known as MBS, in March 2018, when he had lunch with the Queen during a three-day visit to London. They were among a series of wedding gifts that were then transferred to Kensington Palace in June, the month after the wedding, which was when the Sussexes first knew of their existence. A source close to the Duchess said members of her staff were aware that the earrings had been chosen as part of the Duchess’s tour wardrobe. Saudi Arabia admitted on October 20, three days before the dinner in Fiji, that its officials were responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Staff in London were concerned when they saw the Duchess’s earrings in the media and alerted Kensington Palace, according to The Times. But it was claimed they decided not to take it up with the Sussexes while they were on tour “for fear for what their reaction would be." The following month, the Duchess wore them again to the Prince of Wales's 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace and at that point, an aide is said to have confronted the Duke about the issue. He reportedly looked "shocked" when approached about the concerns. Lawyers for the Sussexes’ denied he was questioned about their provenance, which they said was well known.
- National Review
Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) reportedly plans to force Senate clerks to read out the entire $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill on the Senate floor, potentially delaying the vote by as much as 10 hours. Johnson told News/ Talk 1130, a local radio station in Wisconsin, that he plans to “make them read their 600-700 page bill” to ensure “Every member of the Senate has time to read” the bill and “highlight that this is not relief and that it’s a Democratic boondoggle.” The delay will come in addition to the 20 hours of debate time already scheduled for the legislation. Unanimous consent from all 100 senators is needed to waive a read-out on the Senate floor — most bills bypass a reading by unanimous consent in order to save time. Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) said he is “told it’s going to be more like 10” hours. “It’s going to occur at the beginning so it would be before the clocks starts so it doesn’t go against the 20 hours, it’s on top of the 20,” he said. Johnson said it is not his intention to “make it hurt,” but instead he hopes to highlight “how gross this is and how unnecessary this is.” Republicans have criticized the bill as being too large and wasteful and have been frustrated by Democrats’ use of budget reconciliation to pass the bill without bipartisan support. “Their bill costs about $2 trillion. That’s roughly the same size as the entire CARES Act that saved our health system and economy through months of shutdowns,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on the Senate floor. “Even liberal experts admit this is far out of proportion to what’s needed now, with vaccines going into arms and the economy already primed to roar back,” he said. “Amazingly, Democrats managed to allocate less than 9 percent of their massive bill to the entire healthcare response, and less than 1 percent to the vaccinations that will finish this fight.”
- NY Daily News
NEW YORK — Jets GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh haven’t quite tipped their hand for their plans at quarterback yet, but those plans are becoming increasingly clear. Sam Darnold is on the block. Trading for Deshaun Watson is unlikely. Perhaps the clearest statement came from Douglas when he was asked a leading question about trading the Jets’ boatload of picks for a player. ...
- The Week
During the campaign for the two Georgia Senate races, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to pass $2,000 stimulus checks if the Democrats won. After they did, the administration argued that $2,000 really meant $1,400 in addition to the $600 that had already gone out in the December rescue package. Whether that is true or not, now Biden is inarguably breaking his promise. Under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats, he has reportedly agreed to cut down the formula under which the checks will be sent out. In the previous packages, the amount started phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and vanished entirely at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively (as of 2019). Now the phase-out will start start in the same place but end at $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples. The $1,400 promise clearly implied at least that the checks would go out according to the previous formula used under Trump. But now singles making between $80,000-100,000 and couples making between $160,000-200,000 will get nothing. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that roughly 17 million people who previously got checks now will not. The supposed justification here is that moderates want the aid to be more "targeted." In fact this formula is horribly inaccurate, because the income data the IRS uses is from the year before the pandemic (unless people have already filed their taxes — and by the way, if your income decreased in 2020, you should do that immediately). This formula is therefore doubly wrong — there are no doubt millions of people who have lost jobs and should qualify but won't, and a smaller number that have gotten raises and shouldn't qualify but will. And this change will only save a pitiful $12 billion. The survival checks are one of the most popular government programs in American history. Polls have them at something like 4-1 approval. "Moderation," for Senate Democrats, apparently means breaking their party's promises in the service of unpopular, pointless actions that make their president seem less generous than Donald Trump. More stories from theweek.com7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump's CPAC appearanceProgressives argue Biden's compromise on stimulus checks is 'completely deranged'The lost art of being reasonable
- The Telegraph
Nicola Sturgeon chokes back tears as she rejects 'absurd' claims she was out to destroy Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon today choked back tears and insisted "I would never have wanted to 'get' Alex Salmond" as she rejected as "absurd" his claims of a plot among senior SNP figures to destroy him. The First Minister told a Holyrood inquiry the "simple" truth was that several women made complaints about Mr Salmond's behaviour and "I refused to follow the usual pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants." In an appearance spanning more than eight hours, against the backdrop of calls for her resignation, Ms Sturgeon insisted she had seen "nothing that comes within a million miles" of backing Mr Salmond's conspiracy claims. Although she reiterated it was "beyond question" that Mr Salmond had been cleared of all criminal charges, she said his behaviour was still "deeply inappropriate" and "there was not a single word of regret" from him during his six hours of testimony last week. Ms Sturgeon appeared on the verge of tears, with her voice breaking, as she was invited to apologise to the Scottish people for arguing for years they could trust Mr Salmond to take them to independence. Murdo Fraser, a Tory MSP, pressed her when she had decided he "was no longer the Charles Stewart Parnell of Scotland, and was in fact a liar and a fantasist?’"
- Business Insider
Court docs reveal Saudi wealth fund courted by Hollywood and Wall Street owned planes used in Jamal Khashoggi's killing
A Saudi investment fund courted by Hollywood and Silicon Valley owns two planes used to fly Jamal Khashoggi's killers to and from Istanbul.
- Business Insider
The Trumps are trying to sell a Florida home for $49 million after buying it from the former president's sister for $18 million in 2018
Eric Trump tweeted a listing for a home that the family is trying to sell through a limited liability company for more than twice its 2018 value.
Trevor Lawrence is widely expected to be selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. After that, things get interesting.
- Business Insider
Dr. Fauci has a stunningly simple way to explain how Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine differs from Pfizer's and Moderna's shots
All three of the COVID-19 shots authorized for use in the US train the body to recognize the coronavirus, but J&J's uses a cold virus instead of mRNA.
- The Telegraph
Buckingham Palace is to investigate claims that the Duchess of Sussex bullied several members of her staff, it has been announced. A spokesman said they were “clearly very concerned” about allegations that Meghan, 39, had forced out two PAs and undermined the confidence of a third during her time as a working royal. Aides had expressed concerns about how such matters were handled by the palace, expressing concern that nothing was done at the time to investigate the situation, and that nothing had been done since to protect staff against the possibility of bullying by a member of the Royal Family. Buckingham Palace confirmed that its HR team would now look into the circumstances outlined in various allegations leaked to The Times. It said: “Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.” While the palace did not reveal a timetable for its investigation, it is understood that HR staff hope to begin soon. Any resulting change in policy or procedure will be shared in its annual Sovereign Grant report, which highlights significant changes in operations. The provenance of the leaked allegations caused the battle between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal Household to escalate as palace aides branded allegations they had leaked the claims as “untrue” and “disingenuous”. The revelation that Meghan faced several complaints of bullying from members of her own staff also thwarted hopes of a reconciliation between Prince Harry and Prince William. Instead, the disclosures about the Duchess’s behaviour provoked another bitter war of words, as palace aides sought to distance themselves from the leak and staff on both sides scrambled to establish who was responsible. The claims are thought to have been carefully and deliberately collated, with multiple sources briefing against her. Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ communications secretary at the time, submitted a formal complaint in October 2018, describing her treatment of one employee as “totally unacceptable.” He added: “ The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights.” The Sussexes are convinced that senior Buckingham Palace aides leaked the allegations as part of an orchestrated defence because they are “nervous” about revelations made in their forthcoming Oprah Winfrey interview, to be broadcast in the US on Sunday. A source close to the couple said they had “no doubt” it was part of an orchestrated smear campaign. They added: “It’s not possible for this to have happened without the acknowledgement or understanding, perhaps a gentle nod or a wink, from someone pretty central or senior at the palace. “How could a junior member of staff have pulled this altogether? This was a clear collaboration. There is a motive and it is connected to Sunday.” One source noted: “There are very few people who would have had all of the information that is in this story.” The Duchess, while not denying that she did face bullying complaints, was said to be “devastated” by the revelations. Aides said that although there was no desire to deny how other people felt, the fact that former colleagues felt compelled to compile “a whole list of terrible things” that took place over two years, was understandably distressing. As furious briefings and counter briefings were made, a senior palace aide branded the allegation that Buckingham Palace had been “pedalling a wholly false narrative” as “untrue and disingenuous.” They said: “There are far more important things we have been focused on than the circus around a media interview.” The source pointed out that the leak did not reflect well on the palace, adding: “It made uncomfortable reading and we can’t deny that.” Questions were also being asked about palace employees being asked to sign non disclosure agreements. The atmosphere at Kensington Palace was said to be so "febrile" that the Cambridges chose to accelerate the planned split between the two households. One member of the Sussexes’ staff acknowledged that life at Kensington Palace at the time was “frantic” and “a bit of a pressure cooker”. In a statement released in response to the allegations, a spokesman for Meghan said: “The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good." The Duchess has vowed to donate the damages from her recent legal victory against the Mail on Sunday to an anti-bullying charity. The amount she will receive has not yet been decided but, in respect of the breach of copyright claim, will be linked to the newspaper’s “account of profits” made from the publication of extracts of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle. However, it will now create a dilemma for whichever charity is chosen as the recipient will be forced to decide whether it could accept the money from someone who had herself been the subject of such accusations.
- The Telegraph
North Carolina mocked after prioritising anyone who has smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime for a vaccine
North Carolina is offering priority vaccination to anyone who has smoked 'at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime'. The roll-out plan, announced on Tuesday, was mocked online as residents claimed they would immediately chain-smoke their way to the top of the queue. Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said that all frontline essential workers can have their vaccine now while giving three weeks' notice for those who are obese, in jail, pregnant, homeless - or who have smoked just five packets of cigarettes in their life. The cohort including smokers will be called forwards on March 24, and is designed to include adults at higher risk of virus exposure or who are at an increased risk of having a severe illness Smokers are defined as “current or former” having “smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.”
- The Telegraph
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s autumn 2018 tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga was “stressful” for staff, with at least one aide visibly upset after a discussion with the Duchess. One engagement in particular has long been shrouded in mystery, with no credible explanation given as to why the Duchess was abruptly whisked from a market in Fiji’s capital Suva, cutting short the visit. At the time, even palace aides appeared confused about what had happened, with a succession of contradictory briefings. The engagement was organised to allow Meghan to learn more about a UN Women's project called Markets for Change, which promotes women's empowerment in marketplaces throughout the Pacific. Sources have now claimed that the Duchess was upset when she saw branding for UN Women, an organisation she had worked with before. Meghan had allegedly said she would only go to the market if there was no branding for the organisation, a source told the Times, although the reason behind it is unknown.
- Business Insider
The data is in: COVID-19 vaccines are proving crucial in curbing the pandemic by slashing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths
The first real-world data shows coronavirus vaccines can help us forge a path out of the pandemic.
- The Daily Beast
Seth Wenig/GettyAt his first press conference since three women accused him of unwanted sexual advances, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized while insisting he didn’t know his alleged actions—grabbing a woman’s face, bringing up an aide’s sexual assault, giving an aide a kiss on the cheek—made people uncomfortable.“I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable. And if I did, I apologize for it. But let’s let the attorney general’s office decide the facts,” he said Wednesday, adding that he has no plans to resign.Cuomo discussed the most recent allegation, from former Biden campaign worker Anna Ruch, who said that the governor had grabbed her face and asked to kiss her shortly after they met at a 2019 wedding. She provided a picture and texts to corroborate her story.My Cuomo ‘Crush’ Turned Out to Be Stockholm SyndromeHe said the face-grabbing and kissing-on-the-cheek was a greeting habit he picked up from his father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who served from 1983 to 1994.“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making this gesture,” Gov. Cuomo says. “It was my father’s way of greeting people. You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable.”“But it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter my intent. What matters is whether anybody was offended by it. I could intend no offense but if they were offended by it it was wrong."Beyond that, however, the governor was short on specifics. When asked by a reporter whom specifically he was apologizing to, Cuomo did not provide a name.“I am apologizing to the young woman who worked here who said I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace,” Cuomo said. “I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration.”Two aides, Lindsay Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, both came forward in February describing repeated propositions from the governor. Boylan wrote in a Medium post that she resigned after Cuomo gave her an unwanted kiss on the lips; Bennett told The New York Times that Cuomo repeatedly brought up a past sexual assault of hers.Following news of Bennett and Ruch’s allegations, some Democratic lawmakers have called on Cuomo to resign, including one member of Congress, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY). Cuomo, however, said Wednesday he didn’t plan on resigning, with no mention of whether or not he would run for a fourth term in 2022, as he has previously said he would do. In a statement following Wednesday’s news conference, Bennett’s lawyer Debra Katz—who also represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after she alleged she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—wrote that Cuomo lied.“My client... reported his sexually harassing behavior immediately to his Chief of Staff and Chief Counsel. We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint,” Katz wrote. “We fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations.”She pointed to reporting from Politico on Wednesday, detailing how two Cuomo aides—senior adviser Gareth Rhodes and deputy press secretary Will Burns—had resigned in the wake of the scandal. “As reports are emerging of other staff resigning from the Governor’s office in the wake of his scandals, the people charged with helping him execute the duties of his office are once again bearing the consequences of his actions,” Katz wrote. “If they know anything or have experienced this themselves, we call on them to come forward and report this misconduct.”Boylan also expressed her frustration with Cuomo on Twitter, shortly after the conference. “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you ‘don’t know’ when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” she wrote. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- The Daily Beast
Susan Walsh-Pool/GettyThis week, the campaign committee for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), received ten notices from the Federal Election Commission flagging discrepancies on its books totaling nearly $3 million and dating back over two years. The campaign claims that the errors slipped through the cracks amid a record fundraising surge and that it actually has more money on the books now, but experts say that the dollar amount—errors totaling some $2.87 million—may trigger an FEC investigation.The errors also appear connected to newly developed, largely hidden payment systems in the murky world of Republican digital advertising, where vendors not only receive direct spending but take cuts from fundraising as well.The notices, sent in batches between Feb. 28 and March 2, come in reply to more than a dozen amended reports correcting errors that the campaign caught in a sweeping review of filings, going as far back as 2018. One of the filings discloses errors in spending and fundraising totaling $1,470,286.48.The commission gave the campaign until early April to reply, and the letters say that a failure to “adequately respond” could draw an audit or enforcement action.Campaign spokesperson Kevin Eichinger provided The Daily Beast with a statement spinning the corrections as a positive sign and laying the blame on the campaign’s longtime treasurer, Ohio-based tax and business law specialist James Kordik, who was replaced when Jordan hired Republican operative Thomas Datwyler as campaign treasurer last July.“The campaign has filed an amendment with the FEC to correct its campaign finance reports going back to 2018. There was never any money missing from the account,” Eichinger said. “In fact, the campaign’s cash balance is actually higher than previously listed on the campaign finance reports. The error occurred when the former campaign treasurer inadvertently double-reported certain fundraising expenses. When the error was discovered, the campaign hired an outside expert to conduct a comprehensive audit and file the appropriate amendments.”Kordik did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The campaign did indeed ramp up its fundraising in 2020. In the 2016 cycle, before Donald Trump was elected, the Jordan campaign received a little over $733,000 and spent about $423,000, according to FEC records. Jordan’s congressional district has long been considered solidly Republican, a seat he has won by at least 60 percent for several cycles. But his profile rose in the Trump years as Jordan regularly appeared in conservative media to burnish his brand as a fierce critic of the Democratic agenda, a strategy that opened the fundraising floodgates.His numbers increased for the 2018 cycle, pulling in $1.24 million and paying out about $1.8 million. But in 2020, they soared: he raked in $18.6 million and spent $13.2 million, and now sits on a $6 million stash. Jordan shelled out more than $12.4 million to finance his own operation, transferring only $180,000 to other committees, mostly to the Ohio GOP.Campaign finance experts say that the errors are significant enough that, if the rising conservative star can’t offer a sound explanation, the FEC will likely refer the matter to its enforcement arm. Such a move would not be publicly disclosed.“Jordan's campaign appears to have had systemic reporting problems over multiple years, and these amendments represent substantial shifts in the campaign's disclosed fundraising and spending,” Brendan Fischer, director of reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Daily Beast. “I suspect that the FEC will closely review discrepancies of such a significant amount.”Brett Kappel, campaign finance attorney at Harmon Curran, said that the reports appear “so substantially incorrect” that the FEC may order an audit.“The legal standard to trigger an FEC audit is high: whether filings meet the threshold for ‘substantial compliance’ with the law,” Kappel explained. “Jordan’s FEC reports were so substantially incorrect over such a long period of time that they may meet the standard.”Jenna Grande, press secretary for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a D.C.-based nonprofit watchdog, said, “This is a very large amount of money in discrepancies. While there is still much to learn about this situation, Rep. Jordan’s campaign needs to provide a full accounting of what happened and why."The campaign’s current explanation is incomplete and somewhat contradictory. For instance, it mentions spending errors but doesn’t explain significant errors in the campaign’s fundraising, which the FEC says was off by a total of $1,280,852.36—nearly half of it in the campaign’s July 2020 quarterly report, Kordik’s final filing. Some amendments show increases in receipts, and some show decreases.Jim Jordan Refuses to Admit Biden Won, Gets Blasted by House ColleagueThe statement also doesn’t appear to account for the appearance of a $20,000 transfer to the Ohio Republican Party made in October 2018, according to one of the amended reports.The confusion may be tied to backdoor vendor payments in GOP digital fundraising setups. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that shady consulting firms have been taking payments out of fundraising. It amounts to a sort of royalty arrangement: The more money that candidates raise, or the more viral they go, the bigger the cut for the media vendor who made that happen.Those fees were hidden via payments to WinRed, according to the report, which features consulting firm Olympic Media, a vendor that would get a portion of fundraising proceeds collected via the WinRed platform. Some campaigns only reported the WinRed fees but didn’t separately itemize Olympic’s “royalties” on that fundraising.The report specifically mentions Jordan, who, according to WinRed, “misreported expenses paid to vendors." Indeed, one of Jordan’s amended reports details more than $200,000 in payments to Olympic Media that the original report had not itemized. The campaign’s statement to The Daily Beast points out that Kordik had double-counted “certain fundraising expenses.”According to that statement, Jordan’s massive digital marketing push overwhelmed the 65-year-old Kordik, who appears to have filed a number of erroneous reports in his final two years with Jordan. Those errors appear to overlap directly with the hiring of two firms—WinRed, and Campaign Solutions, a Republican-aligned consulting firm based out of Arlington, Va., also specializing in digital strategy and fundraising. Founded in 2003, the firm pulled in nearly $37 million from Republicans last year, with Jordan accounting for about a third of that amount—that’s about two-thirds of his own fundraising totals.Campaign Solutions also accounts for a number of spending discrepancies.For instance, Jordan tapped Campaign Solutions in the 2018 cycle, paying a total of about $279,000 over about six months, according to OpenSecrets. The FEC flagged around $253,000 combined in two of Jordan’s amended reports from that year: one of them, coverings the weeks after the 2018 election, introduces an extra $109,000 in disbursements to the firm; the other, which accounts for the last five weeks of the year, says that the campaign had actually paid Campaign Solutions $130,000 less in that period than originally reported. That amended year-end report also adds the $20,000 transfer to the Ohio Republican Party.At the time, Datwyler worked at Campaign Solutions as an accountant. He appears to have left sometime in early 2020, before he took up with Jordan, but while he was employed at the fundraising firm he also acted as treasurer for dozens of political committees. His current portfolio comprises 165 committees, nine formed this year, including groups backing high-profile conservatives Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rep. Mike Lee of Utah. In 2020, Datwyler’s firm, 9Seven Consulting, pulled in more than $1 million for FEC compliance services.Notably, Datwyler joined the campaign last July and was there to receive an FEC notice flagging a number of inconsistencies in Kordik’s final filing. The letter told the campaign that it risked an audit if the FEC did not get a reply by September 8, but fillings indicate that Datwyler never responded. The amended version of that report ended up being by far the most egregious of the bunch, with raising and spending errors of more than $1.47 million.It’s possible that the prospect of that review was too much to undertake at the time, but that would not explain why the campaign appears to have failed even to reply. Datwyler was singled out in a report about so-called “pop-up PACs,” fundraising groups created in the weeks before an election, allowing them to avoid disclosing their donors to the public until the election is over.Caleb Burns, a campaign finance specialist at Wiley Rein, explained that the mistakes can stack up over time. “FEC reports carry-forward financial information to subsequent reports,” he said. “An error detected in an old report can require a fuller accounting and amendments to numerous additional reports.”The FEC regained its quorum—and its ability to take enforcement action—in December. “The FEC commissioners themselves must, ultimately, approve any enforcement action,” Brown said. “The lack of a quorum of commissioners until the end of last year meant that FEC enforcement had stalled. That is no longer the case, though the commissioners have a significant backlog of enforcement matters to address.”An FEC spokesperson declined to comment for this article, citing its policy of not publicly addressing specific matters “for the potential that they may come before the agency in an enforcement capacity.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate will be lifted and businesses can operate at 100% capacity.