The New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board issued an Advisement yesterday that limits most Donations to a Public official's Legal Defense Fund to less than $50. The Decision could preclude Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to raise enough money, ...


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NYC Conflicts Board Throws Wrench into Mayor's Defense Fundraising Plan

The New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board issued an Advisement yesterday that limits most Donations to a Public official's Legal Defense Fund to less than $50.

The Decision could preclude Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to raise enough money, through crowd-sourcing, to cover a Seven-Figure Legal Bill he incurred dealing with Investigations into his Fundraising Activities.

State and Federal Investigations of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Fundraising will not result in Criminal Charges against him or others acting on his behalf, Prosecutors said as they eliminated an Election-year obstacle for the Mayor.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the facts were insufficient to successfully argue a provable Violation of State Election Laws, in part because the Parties relied on the Advice of Attorneys. But he said the actions appear to be "contrary to the intent and spirit of the law."

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said a "thorough investigation" was conducted into Complaints about circumstances in which de Blasio and others Solicited Donations from individuals who sought Official Favors from the City. The Investigation looked into allegations of Misconduct by and on behalf of the Democratic Mayor for his 2013 Election Campaign and the 2014 State Senate effort to get a Democratic Majority.

The Board's opinion would severely restrict the number of Donors de Blasio could appeal to in order to pay those bills. It bars donations greater than $50 per person from almost every kind of Donor, including anyone who has Business before the City, any Subordinate City Employees and any City Employee or Constituent whose familiarity with de Blasio comes from his or her awareness of the fact that he's the Mayor.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Gov. Cuomo's Public-Private Legal Defense Fund For Immigrants Has Zero Public Funding

In November 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to protect the State’s Immigrants from the Trump Administration—metaphorically offering to sacrifice himself before he’d let a single Immigrant get Deported, he was widely praised for standing up to the President.

“If there is a move to deport immigrants, I say then start with me!” he declared in the November 20th speech. To back his rhetoric, the Governor also introduced a “first of its kind public-private legal defense fund” to provide Immigrants in the State with Legal help, regardless of whether or not they’re documented or could pay.

The Fund made another appearance in the Governor’s State of the State address, with Cuomo promising to “launch Empire State Immigrant Defense Fund to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to representation and due process, regardless of citizenship status.”

Immigration Advocates hoped the Governor would invest substantial State Funds into the initiative, but there was no mention of the Defense Fund in the Governor’s Budget, suggesting that a large Public investment was not forthcoming.

The Administration finally unveiled the program, now called the Liberty Defense Fund. The initiative would spend “more than $1 Million” in “Public and Private investment” to “provide services to meet the urgent legal needs” of New York Immigrants. In fact, the program is budgeted at $1 million and the money comes from two Private Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford Foundation.

The Fund will work with some 182 “Advocacy organizations and Legal entities,” according to the announcement “to provide pro bono Legal and additional resources for Immigrants threatened by recent changes in immigration policies.”

At present, there will be no large Public Funds directed exclusively towards the program, the “Public-Private” set-up refers to the fact that the Foundation money will be Administered by the State’s Office for New Americans.

Estimates from Advocates and Immigration Experts vary on how much it would take to really cover the Legal costs of Immigrants facing Deportation, but tend to exceed $1 million dollars, and Private Foundation money is not guaranteed to last. The New York Immigrant Coalition, which has officially partnered with the Governor’s office, said the State needed to invest at least $15 million to meet demand. Make the Road New York estimates that $19.1 million is needed to supply Immigrants with adequate Legal services.

Public investment in Immigrant Defense is hardly unprecedented, with Los Angeles County allocating $3 million dollars in Public funds to a Public-Private partnership, and the State of California is considering a $12 million investment in an Immigrant Fund.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” says Stephen Yale-Loehr, an Immigration Professor at Cornell, of Albany’s plan. “It’s a good first step, but we have a long way to go towards legal representation at all immigrant proceedings.” Yale-Loehr says there are worthwhile elements in the program, like a “know-your-rights” Campaign that would send Volunteer Lawyers around the State.

But Advocates hoped for more.

The New York Immigration Coalition, listed as an Official Partner of the Liberty Defense Fund, issued a scathing critique of the lack of Public funds in a press release, noting, "There looks like there’s not a single public dollar that goes to legal defense, which stands in sharp contrast to other states that are leading the way against the anti-immigrant onslaught from the federal government. It’s simply not enough to rally private law-firms and foundation support: this project will not succeed without significant public investment.”

Steve Choi, Executive Director of NYIC, says that the group will continue to work with the Governor to implement the program and make sure it succeeds: "We will also continue to fight hard for a major public investment."

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Hawaii Federal Judge Halts Travel Ban Indefinitely

A Federal Judge in Hawaii granted the State's request for a longer-term halt of the Revised Travel Ban Executive Order Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson blocked the Core Provisions of the Revised Executive Order two weeks ago, concluding that the Order likely Violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by disfavoring Muslims.

But Watson's earlier Decision was only a limited freeze of the Executive Order through a temporary Restraining Order.

As a result, the Plaintiffs asked the Judge to convert that Decision into a longer-term Preliminary Injunction and Watson agreed Wednesday night, meaning that the President's 90-day ban on Foreign Nationals from six Muslim-Majority Countries and the 120-Ban on all Refugees entering the Country are now Blocked Indefinitely unless any Higher Court changes Watson's Order or the State's Lawsuit is otherwise resolved.

One of the practical implications of Wednesday's Decision is that the Justice Department (DOJ) may now immediately Appeal the Ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, should it choose to do so. But how long it will take for any Appeals to be completed remains unclear.

The reasoning in Watson's Decision Wednesday largely follows his Decision from two weeks ago, which used Supreme Court Precedent to conclude that Trump's statements about Muslims during the Presidential Campaign speak to the Constitutionality of the Executive Order.

"The Court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has," Watson wrote Wednesday. "The Court concludes that, on the record before it, Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim."

DOJ has separately Appealed a different Federal Judge's decision to halt the 90-day Travel Ban to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Seattle Sues Trump Over Sanctuary Cities

Seattle filed a Lawsuit against the Trump Administration Wednesday, charging that President Trump’s Executive Order threatening Funding for “Sanctuary Cities” is “Unconstitutional and Ambiguous,” and Violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.

Mayors and Police Chiefs from around the Country gathered in Washington on Wednesday to meet with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly and complain about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ warning that Cities that do not fully comply with Immigration Laws could see tens of millions in Federal Funding disappear.

Pulling Funding would lead to a spike in Crime, Mayors have argued, and would be a Punishment for not breaking any Laws, they say the Law does not require Municipal Authorities to report Immigration Status to the Federal Government, and that anyway, the term “Sanctuary City” is too broad to account for each City’s individual approach to Undocumented Immigrants.

They argue that the chilling effect has already led to Immigrants being too scared to report Crimes and instilled unnecessary Fear.

“Seattle will not be bullied by this White House or this administration, and today we are taking legal action against President Trump’s unconstitutional order,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, announcing the Suit. “We have the law on our side: The federal government cannot compel our police department to enforce federal immigration law and cannot use our federal dollars to coerce Seattle into turning our backs on our immigrant and refugee communities. We simply won’t do it.”

Murray did not attend the Mayors’ meeting with Kelly in Washington, D.C. But after that meeting on Wednesday, DHS spokesman David Lapan said the Administration is aware that Lawsuits might be coming, but hadn’t done advance preparation for them, despite expectations of being taken to Court. “As you’d imagine, every day there are potential suits against the department for any number of things, so we generally wait to see the facts as they come forward,” Lapan said.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, the Republican President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said he believed that DHS is starting to understand the problems with attempting the kind of crackdown the Executive Order seems to project. “Police chiefs and police departments are pretty much in alignment in how things have been going and the way things are executed today, and I think Secretary Kelly is in alignment with that,” Cornett said after the meeting.

But he said he’s open to joining Lawsuits, either as the Mayor of his own City or the Conference President, depending on what the Administration demands in terms of Detainment. “Yeah, there might be constitutional issues, especially on the containment side,” Cornett said.

The Lawsuit charges: “The City of Seattle and our welcoming city policies do not violate federal law. The Executive Order calls for localities to cooperate with the federal government and share information. City employees are directed to cooperate with, not hinder, federal actions; however, City employees are prohibited from inquiring into immigration status. The City doesn’t prohibit information sharing, but instead limits the collection of information.”

But City officials appear to be reveling in taunting Trump.

“I hope,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement, “the president will refrain from tweeting his legal opinion before our Courts have an opportunity to do so.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Montana Tribe Sues Trump Administration For Lifting Coal Moratorium

A Native American Tribe in Montana filed a Lawsuit against the Trump Administration on Wednesday, challenging its decision to lift a Moratorium on Coal Leases on Public land without first consulting with Tribal Leaders.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, located in Southern Montana, said the Administration lifted the Moratorium without hearing the Tribe’s concerns about the impact the Coal-Leasing program has on the Tribe, its Members, and Lands.

Earlier this month, the Tribe sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who signed the Order lifting the Moratorium on Tuesday, asking to meet with him to discuss the issue. Zinke did not respond to the letter.

“It is alarming and unacceptable for the United States, which has a solemn obligation as the Northern Cheyenne’s trustee, to sign up for many decades of harmful coal mining near and around our homeland without first consulting with our Nation,” Tribal Chairman Jace Killsback said.

Although Coal Leasing can resume on Federal Lands, Killsback said the Tribe, which filed the Lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Montana, will bear the brunt of the impact.

“The Northern Cheyenne rarely shares in the economic benefits to the region generated by coal industry and other energy development projects,” he said.

Approximately 426 million tons of Federal Coal are located near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at the Decker and Spring Creek Mines in Montana, the Tribe said.

Neighboring Tribe, the Crow, rely on Coal production to support their Local economy and have called for the relaxation of Coal Regulations for years.

In a press call on Wednesday, Zinke said the new Executive Orders are a boon for the Crow people, who rely on Coal as their predominant industry.

“A war on coal is a war on the Crow people,” he said. He did not respond to a query about the Northern Cheyenne Lawsuit.

In a separate lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Environmental group Earthjustice, a Coalition of Conservation groups challenged the Administration’s Moratorium decision, arguing that it imperils Public Health for the benefit of Coal companies.

“No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business,” Earthjustice Attorney Jenny Harbine said in a statement.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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