Voter suppression, Julie Brixie on vaccine passports, Craig Mauger on transparency and money

May 10, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, May 10, 2021

  • GOP voter suppression – The Big Lie never ends
  • COVID-19 – Vaccination and benchmark updates
  • Julie Brixie on the Republican fear of imaginary vaccine passports
  • Personal data protection
  • Following the money with Craig Mauger
  • Governor Whitmer: More criticism and a new opponent
  • Political notes
  • Transcript

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GOP voter suppression – The Big Lie never ends





COVID-19 – Vaccination and benchmark updates

Vaccination Outreach Shifts as Demand Drops in Some States

Julie Brixie on the Republican fear of imaginary vaccine passports

Personal data protection

Following the money with Craig Mauger

Governor Whitmer: More criticism and a new opponent


Political notes




Ruth Johnson  00:03

Right now we have over half the people in the state that believe that our elections don't have the integrity that they need to.


Walt Sorg  00:11

The chair of the Senate Elections Committee says we have to act on voter suppression because a lot of voters believe the big lie that we were telling them. I Walt Sorg


Jeff Timmer  00:20

Ruth Johnson seems like a great one to put in the recall crosshairs


Christine Barry  00:24

And a pair of power politicos say her upcoming decisions on voter suppression could land her in a bitter recall fight. I'm Christine Barry.


Walt Sorg  00:33

Also this week on the Policast the State House Oversight Committee has another conspiracy kotula this time over the specter of COVID passports. We'll talk with committee members deal Brexit and we'll follow the money with Craig Mauger, The Detroit News, the pseudo financial disclosure bill, which provides fog instead of sunshine, fundraising for Congress during reapportionment. Here are the ongoing budget battles between the governor and legislators.


Christine Barry  00:59

And we'll update the latest outrages from Senate Majority Leader Mike shirkey. And also attract President Biden's plans to transform our lagging economy through the American family and infrastructure plan.


Announcer  01:14

This is Michigan Policast with Walt Sorg and Christine Barry, Michigan politics and policy and the National stories impacting our pleasant peninsula's


Walt Sorg  01:24

state senate Elections Committee continued its Sham public hearings. On the 39 bills the GOP has already decided to ram through the voter suppression package. The committee share Ruth Johnson is also former Michigan secretary of state the state's top election official. She had to concede during one hearing that the actual voter fraud cases are very rare. But because it happens a handful of times at elections, legislators have to fix a problem in a way that makes it harder for literally hundreds of 1000s of voters to cast their ballot.


Ruth Johnson  01:56

Unfortunately, there are very few people that will cheat. However, they do exist. Right now we have over half the people in the state that believe that our elections don't have the integrity that they need to. It is incumbent upon this committee in this body to make sure people have confidence and they can feel like their vote will count that their voices will be heard and it will be honest and secure and easier to vote.


Christine Barry  02:25

Johnson's statement drew a quick response from political activist and former Republican Party executive director Jeff Timmer



cheer Ruth Johnson kept repeating that half of Michigan's voters don't trust election integrity. The big surprise since she and others spent six months telling them not too so this is arsonists saying hey, look, there's a fire we need to put out we started it let's put it out. You know, that's their excuse to limit voting and maybe if Republicans didn't keep repeating this big lie, they wouldn't feel this compulsion to satisfy their their mob of angry voters to you know, they've armed them with the pitchforks. They've given them the torches and Gee, they're storming the castle thing surprise,


Christine Barry  03:08

Speaking on the podcast, a republic if you can keep it, Timmer was joined by former Michigan democratic party chair Mark Brewer in suggesting that continued support for voter suppression bills could prove costly to Johnson's political health.


Mark Brewer  03:21

Ruth Johnson seems like a great one to put in the recall crosshairs. The district she represents is one that has recalled legislators before Paul Scott, the last successful legislator recall back in 2011. His house district was in Ruth's Senate District. She was an anemic underperforming candidate in her election in 2018. Again, after having been Secretary of State for two terms, she limped into the State Senate with a very unimpressive vote total. If I was her, I would be real nervous about recall petition showing up in my district. Yeah, and that's a district that Democrats wants to represent it in the prior redistricting. There was a democratic state senator who hail from Romney. Yes, yeah. And down into the Oakland County portion of that district. And I know there's a lot of democratic activists in both the Genesee and Oakland County portions of that district I think would be eager to have a contest I'm give Ruth Johnson a real run for the money and a recall election.


Walt Sorg  04:24

Christie, we've talked a lot about in general terms voter suppression in these bills the republicans put in but let's talk about some of the specifics in there. One that I find just amazing is one of the bills would make it illegal for the secretary of state or any other public official to tweet anything about the election. It would prohibit the name or likeness of an elected official or appointed official from appearing on or being used in any communication that was paid for with public money and involved election related activity and provide criminal penalties. for violations of this this could easily be interpreted Secretary of State benefit effective said This would make her Twitter account illegal, even if you tweeted through her state, Secretary of State's account, go out and vote.


Christine Barry  05:08

And not only that, but by making that illegal and silencing the people who are, you know, they have the blue check or their their official accounts of state or county, election agencies, whatever. You open up the possibility that so many people, so many impersonators and fake accounts will be out there saying, again, the old trick, you know, Republicans vote on Tuesday, Democrats vote on Wednesday. And that one's a little bit. You know, that's the old one they used in the 90s, I suppose. But, you know, just false information in general, and there'd be nothing in that same space to counteract that. Except for other people, like, you know, the parties, for example, the political parties, and advocacy groups saying, No, this is the real information go to this website. It's just not as effective. You know, and plus, if you're looking for election information, where do you go generally, you know, if you wanted to look on Twitter, you would go to the Secretary of State, or maybe Jocelyn Benson's personal account, or maybe, you know, your county clerk, your city clerk, whatever, or that's


Walt Sorg  06:21

State's website, there's a whole election section on the website. And a lot of that would be made illegal by this bill, so that you couldn't go on there and find out when the polls are open, you couldn't go on there and get a an application for an absentee ballot, you couldn't go on there to find out who the candidates are, right now you can go on the Secretary of State's site before an election and get a sample ballot for customized for it for you. You can go on there and find out if you're registered to vote, all of those things would become illegal. And that's just one of the bills, they got another one on dropboxes, which first of all would require that they be shut down before the polls close, which would really confuse the hell out of voters. And they change that. So instead of liking them the day before, and that would be like three hours before the polls close, which is a little bit better. But that's the peak time for people voting anyway, especially the ones that are using dropboxes. But also it turns over to the county boards of canvassers, the decision on whether to approve the lock boxes and the locations for each for their county. Typically, the Board of canvassers has not historically the board of canvassers at local level have not approved equipment for elections that's been done at the state level by the Secretary of State's office. And for smaller counties, it can be cost prohibitive. And if you're in a county where the republicans simply don't want dropboxes, say, Wayne County, all it takes is a deadline vote on your board of canvassers and you've got no drop boxes all of a sudden.


Christine Barry  07:46

Yeah, we all know what this is it just throwing a whole bunch of unnecessary tools and rules at a problem that does not exist. And any way that the Republicans can suppress the vote, they're going to pursue that they lost the gerrymandering war, it appears, and now they have to go after the reforms that were voted in, along with the redistricting commission. So it's, it's just surprising how in your face it is, though. I mean, it's so blatant, they're not even trying to hide it. I mean, they will say, Oh, that's not what we're trying to do. It's all about election integrity. It's not about it. There's nothing providing integrity about, you know, closing a lockbox or a ballot box yet, but would it be five instead of eight, when people have maybe an hour to get home to their kids? You know,


Walt Sorg  08:42

they're working two jobs, which a lot of people are,


Christine Barry  08:45

yeah, it's, it's, it doesn't provide any integrity, and I will give Trump credit. He knew what he was doing when he attacked voting by mail months earlier. You know, really early on in the election season, his base, ate it all up, and they decided that it was true as soon as you set it, just unbelievable what has happened to our elections, because of his ego.


Walt Sorg  09:10

Yeah, one more. On that point. Trump may have bitten himself, though, because I know the republicans in Florida, I've seen several articles indicating they're very worried about absentee voting going down in Florida, because historically, it has been older, more conservative voters in that retiree heavy state that have voted by mail because they don't want to go to the polls. They certainly don't want to stand in line for four hours in the Florida Senate in November, which is still pretty darn hard, and to cast their ballot. And so it could actually hurt republicans in the long run down there. Another aspect of this, which is just absolutely insane. They've got a 39 bill package allegedly improving elections. It doesn't include the one thing courts are unanimous in saying they need which is more time ahead of the closing of the polls to pre process evidence. ballots, they've been asking to go like what Florida has done in other states, where you have to three weeks before the polls close so that as those absentee ballots come in, maybe you don't count them, but at least you can get them ready to count and save a lot of time. So we get results faster after the polls do close. That's not included in the package.


Christine Barry  10:18

No their answer to that is to shut down the ballot boxes early. They specifically say that, you know, this will help them start to process earlier and get things counted earlier. It gives them a lead time. That is totally the wrong way to solve a problem.


Walt Sorg  10:37

Meanwhile, it is Donald Trump, who is still pressuring the Michigan legislature to do a review of the election that he lost in Michigan by 154,000 votes. He said in a statement that was issued on Friday, has the Michigan State Senate started that review of the fraudulent presidential election of 2020 yet, or are they about to start? That of course was on the wonderful blog, give Donald J Trump money, I think it's called. And then when you're done with that, give him more money. And Trump added if they have not started, they should be run out of office. So he's continuing his the drumbeat admittedly, not without the help of Facebook or Twitter anymore. But he's still got that wonderful blog, which looks like it's right out of the early 2000s. Maybe, maybe what did you start your first blog


Christine Barry  11:25

1998, I think on a platform called grey matter.


Walt Sorg  11:30

I think that doesn't look like that. Yeah, he's probably he's probably having it hosted by AOL, using the dial using right or something.


Christine Barry  11:39

Because geo cities is no longer available. There's a CNN poll that shows that about a third of the respondents believe that Biden did not legitimately win enough votes. The poll that I'm talking about was from April 21, to April 22, compared to January nine through 14 65%. said, Yes, Biden legitimately won, and that number did not change between the two polls. But the people who believe that Biden did not legitimately win, went down from 32 to 30%. You know, and then the other numbers shifted over to no opinion.


Walt Sorg  12:21

Interesting, there's a little progress.


Christine Barry  12:23

But, but 29% of those people say it's suspicion only.


Walt Sorg  12:28

So because there's no facts to back it up. It's just a sign.


Christine Barry  12:31

Now it is well, but sadly 69% say they have solid evidence, but I'm afraid the solid evidence comes from the drunk and blonde. That was with Rudy Giuliani, I don't remember her name, Melissa Karone. Anyway, have a link to the poll in the show notes.


Walt Sorg  12:49

Also, you've got the actions in other states right now, the big three right now or Texas, Florida. And that crazy, crazy Republican Party recount in Arizona, no need to dwell on that lots of links on the website if you want to get caught up on that. But it is just a nationwide fervor to basically kind of repeal democracy and return to a one party rule one party minority rule of this country. Meanwhile, in Michigan, what they're going to do, of course, and we've said this for winks is after these bills are passed by the legislature and vetoed by the governor, the Republican Party will lead a petition drive statewide to just get in front of the legislature using citizen signatures that they basically go out and buy, they will use professional signature circulators, they'll have all the money they need. And if you've got enough money, you can get any position signed with enough signatures eventually, that is going to launch some anti petition drives, opponents of voter suppression aren't going to just roll over and play dead for the petition drive. The head of voters not politicians made it very clear that that was their situation, on a recent call with the volunteer members of that organization. So we have an opportunity then to be out in the streets as well, in educating the public who are being asked to sign these petitions exactly what you know, they're being asked to sign because we know from a month Michigan that a lot of the petition signatures are paid. They'll just, you know, flat out misrepresent and lie about what goes on the petition. So we can mount a grassroots nonpartisan statewide effort and we really are in a unique position to be able to do that. That counters their signature collection efforts. And I did advise my friend Nancy Wang, who I've worked with ever since our 2018 efforts on redistricting. Please tell your people to be careful because these professional signature gatherers are paid by the signature and if somebody is trying to convince people not to be a customer of theirs, they are likely to get very angry and I would hate to see any physical confrontations over what is going to be a very heated battle.


Christine Barry  14:56

I think that people who are sort of countering and push Back on this ridiculous petition thing, need to not do it alone. They need to have somebody with them and have their phone out and be recording things. If I'm assuming that's illegal.


Walt Sorg  15:11

If they're on public property, it's legal. Okay? And if they're not property illegal to be collecting?


Christine Barry  15:18

Well, at any rate, just, you know, just be cool, no matter how strongly you feel, and don't get yourself into any trouble and don't give them any video to work with. That's the big thing.


Walt Sorg  15:29

Let's move on to the COVID War, we still have a pandemic, or Yes, it's getting better at least what are the numbers?


Christine Barry  15:35

Yes, we are making progress. The numbers are continuing move in the right direction. hospitalizations are down cases are down quite a bit from 3431. A week ago to 1825 on May 8, that's a pretty good jump there. Our current vaccination rate is 54.5%. Again, as of May 8, our next benchmark wealth is 55%. And that's going to take us another 39,000 people getting the first shot of their vaccine. And by the way, that was a republican idea, using the first shot as the metric rather than the second. Governor Whitmer kind of compromised on that after their input. Anyway, two weeks after we hit that 55% number, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will permit in person work for all sectors of business, which effectively lifts the miosha requirement for remote work when feasible. So things are moving in the right direction, for sure.


Walt Sorg  16:36

Yeah. And then when we get to 60%, the bar curfews go away, larger crowds of doors at 65%, restaurants can go back to 100% capacity. And it's 70%. We get rid of all the restrictions, although people will still be encouraged to wear masks, obviously. But you know, like I'm planning a barbecue right now for my condo association in June. And given the fact that most of all my neighbors are older, I'm pretty sure we've all been vaccinated, I'm going to take extra precautions in the food handling. But other than that, it's going to be a situation pretty normal unless we've got some people there that aren't vaccinated. So we are headed in the right direction. The problem though, is getting to the 70% because there's still so much reluctance on the part primarily of conservatives or political conservatives, and some evangelicals to get vaccinated, the impediments a combination of vaccine reluctance and for some in both rural and urban areas access to the vaccine 2018 Gubernatorial Candidate Abdul el Sayed, who was also former public health director in Detroit, and an expert in epidemiology, noted this week that the political pushback on vaccinations from maga land is part of a much bigger attack, though and objective facts of all kinds and attack led, of course, by the mar-a-lago mango himself.


Abdul El-Sayed  17:55

The pushback stems from this almost assault on science and scientific integrity as a means of ascertaining truth. And I worry about the way that a particular brand of conservative really wants to conserve it as a pseudo conservative populism has rejected science wholly. And I think part of that honestly, is in line with a full on rejection of any system of truth telling or truth ascertainment that is not you know, what your leader says, It is part of the playbook of of autocracy that you tear down any other system of truth that is independent of you. And I think that's what trumpism has done. And it has left a lot of people very sick and unnecessarily dead as a function of it, we are going to get to a point where we have largely controlled this pandemic, because of the worry that I have, though, is that because COVID denialism and anti vaccine resistance run together, that you're going to keep having pockets of outbreaks in traditionally conservative communities and as a scientist and the humanitarian, like, that's a terrible thing. And none of us should be okay with that. But the hard part is that, what do you do when you give in folks, I mean, you can lead lead the horse to water, but you can't force them to drink. So what do you do?


Christine Barry  19:09

Well, adding to the misinformation on the vaccine wars, a bill in Lansing to outlaw government at the state or local level from being a part of COVID passports, some sort of verifiable electronic record, you could call up on a smartphone to prove that you've been vaccinated?


Walt Sorg  19:26

Currently, the only proof of vaccination is that paper card that you get, which is very easily forged, but there's a right wing fear of anything electronic. And the hearing held this past week by the House Oversight Committee on a bill to ban any proof of vaccination quickly evolved into a forum for some of the state's top conspiracy proponents. In fact, it was so bad Christine after a listen to it. I made the unilateral decision which I hope you will support not to use any of the audio from that hearing because it was just it was awful. Absolutely. Legendary and state representative Julie Brixie, she's a democrat on the committee and she had to endure this latest legislative circus. I caught up with her on zoom afterwards.


Walt Sorg  20:07

Representative Julie Brixie, I had thought that the House Oversight Committee couldn't top itself after the Rudy Giuliani hearing. But they sure tried with this hearing on COVID vaccine passports. What was your take on this bill? This it seems like it was one conspiracy theory after another blended in with a little throwback to the Holocaust.


Julie Brixie  20:29

Right. It was it was a pretty disturbing hearing while no experts were consulted in developing the bill. And it is so flawed, that the medical professional who administers your vaccine could actually be fined $1,000, for giving you your vaccination card. And it's even possible, one could interpret the language of the bill, that having a vaccination card could be a violation based on how poorly this bill is written. And it's very clear that the bill would dramatically impair our ability to administer the vaccine and, and the pandemic. Because the the language and definition of the passport is so broad that it would render the state's vaccine database and the vaccine cards as passports, thus making them illegal.


Walt Sorg  21:32

It also seems to run contrary to the standard republican philosophy of deregulating business to the greatest extent possible. There are a lot of businesses out there that want vaccine passports, so that they can regulate who comes into their establishment. And they basically want to tell these businesses, you can't do that.


Julie Brixie  21:51

Right. And we're seeing, you know, we're seeing the cruise industry travel, you know, this, this has huge implications regarding travel. So anybody who has traveled out of the country knows that you might need to have certain vaccinations in order to be able to go into that country. And in fact, Michigan has our large largest trading partner is Canada, and you need to be vaccinated in order to travel. And so the, you know, the, the idea that we're not going to allow anyone to use proof of vaccination for anything is really quite ludicrous. Now, having said that, the state isn't considering using a state vaccine passport, that isn't something that's being considered. And it isn't being considered on the federal level, either.


Walt Sorg  22:53

Well, the question that arises in my head about that fact, which is true of the government's are not considering doing this is if they don't somebody else is going to? And do we really want Facebook or Google or Microsoft or whatever to be in charge of this information? Because there are going to be vaccine passports of some kind somewhere,


Julie Brixie  23:15

you know, if somebody wants to participate in that, if, if I wanted to, if there was a sports stadium that said, Okay, we're gonna open it full capacity, but only if you're vaccinated. I think that I am probably married to a sports fan of such rigor, that he would gladly give that information to whoever wants it. I put in my Twitter bio that I'm Pfizer vaccinated. Pfizer is Michigan company that is producing the vaccine that is saving lives right here in Michigan. And I'm proud of the fact that I'm vaccinated. And I don't have any problem with anybody knowing that information. So I'm not concerned about that. That isn't a concern that I have. But if a business wants to require proof of vaccination, you don't have to go there. And you don't have to go on the cruise and you don't have to go overseas and you don't have to participate in a Facebook vaccination passport, although so many people I know are broadcasting it very widely, proudly and with joy that they're getting their vaccine. So most people I think, aren't really worried about the privacy of whether or not they've been vaccinated.


Walt Sorg  24:40

You have in your district three of the largest entertainment venues in the state on the MSU campus Spartan Stadium, the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts, which is the largest theater in the state, and also the Breslin center. And I would assume that some sort of verification that their patrons have been vaccinated are important to I'm getting people inside the doors.


Julie Brixie  25:02

Yeah, I'm not, you know, I don't think we're at the point yet where they're they're talking about that I certainly haven't heard anything from MSU or read anything that they're proposing that I know that they're some of the sporting venues are doing different amounts of capacity in order to provide social distancing. And I haven't heard, nor do I know what MSU intends, although I do know that Wharton is selling tickets and planning on opening up in the fall. And I know I'm excited about it. I've really missed the cultural venues. During COVID, I've really, really missed that opportunity to go and see those productions. That's something I very much enjoyed doing with a family and friends.


Walt Sorg  25:53

I was really taken with the amount of conspiracy theories that were floated at your committee hearing. Is that typical for Republicans in the legislature these days? Or was that an anomaly?


Julie Brixie  26:05

You know, the, the Oversight Committee, sadly, has had a lack of I want to say this diplomatically. There, there really hasn't been any attempt to provide any kind of balance at the hearings. None of the people that I've asked to have come and testify have been allowed to testify, and I'm the ranking them on the committee. I asked. We've we've had several COVID related hearings, and I've asked to have different experts, I've asked Lynn tab, Linda Vale come and testify and have been denied. Having experts testified I've had been denied having people testify about their experiences or receiving the vaccine. And there hasn't really been any kind of a focus on trying to have equal coverage. So the Although I will say that I think this particular hearing, probably had some of the most egregious statements that I've heard, presented at it. And and, you know, the the people who were, who were testifying really went beyond what I would consider appropriate testimony, there were multiple situ multiple references to the Holocaust and genocide and segregation, and comparing those things, those terrible things, to vaccines, vaccinations and vaccine passports. There's been quite a bit of outcry from the Jewish community about the statements that that were made.


Walt Sorg  28:19

You really were very stand up at that hearing, and you kept your composure throughout. And I commend you for that. Julie Berkeley. Thanks so much for joining us.


Julie Brixie  28:27

Happy to be here. Well, thanks for having me on.


Walt Sorg  28:29

Come back anytime you want.


Christine Barry  28:31

Chair Steve Johnson, a Republican out of Wayland says he wants to put the passport legislation up for a vote next week. And his reason for it is that it will prevent the government from creating two tiers of citizens based on personal medical decisions. And I'm just going to say to you all to our listeners, to anybody our listeners talk to, if that's true, and he doesn't want to tears of citizens based on personal medical decisions, then he can support house bills, 4297 and 4556, which protect gender expression, gender identity, and any other house bills that protect transgender people, and he can come out and he can oppose Senate Bill 218. And that's the one that says that you have to, you know, be born. I don't know if it's the sports one. So let's see what he does there. And and look, I don't know this guy, and I don't know, I didn't find anything tying him to an opinion on transgender people. But I have looked at everything else he's done, and he's completely gone along with the shirkey agenda of stupidity. So I am quite confident that his to tiers of citizens based on personal medical decisions really doesn't apply to all people


Walt Sorg  29:50

on the issue of passports themselves. This is an issue that has cuts both ways. In Florida. The governor's issued an executive order prohibiting business Even from using passports to discriminate against their customers or to require them of their employees, and in response, Norwegian Cruise Line says they're probably going to pull their operations out of Florida, because they are required by federal law to check all of their passengers for vaccines. And given the process of boarding passengers have so quickly when they leave, they swap them out every weekend, you just can't do it. If everybody's going to fill out a paper form. And you've got to review a paper form, it's much more efficient to do it using an app or using some form of electronic verification. I don't see what the problem is a lot of people have electronic verification right now to go through the TSA check lines at airports. Of course, when it comes to proving that you've been vaccinated, you need that to get into public schools for kids. This is not unusual to say the least. And once again, it's the paranoid about the only thing that didn't come up with the hearings I pointed out with Representative Brixie was the Bill Gates is putting microchips in your vaccine so we can track you conspiracy, which is probably the stupidest thing that's going around, although there is a lot of stupid right now.


Christine Barry  31:11

And the way that the republicans are using the Oversight Committee is just embarrassing. I mean, it's it's truly humiliating. Beneath the dignity of the Office of State Representative you know, first you have Rudy Giuliani farting on his drunk friend. Now we have Naomi wolf talking about spontaneous menstruation caused by someone else being vaccinated. It's just awful. Oh, my gosh. So, but what I and I want to talk about her conspiracy theories, but we have an opportunity to talk about something legitimate. So what I wanted to emphasize right now, is that these conspiracy theories about the vaccines generally break down into two camps. One is about privacy and being tracked by the microchip,  the other has to do with side effects of vaccine. Both are foolish. However, if you are concerned about your data privacy and being tracked, it you're already screwed in that department, and so are your children. Because there have been thousands of data breaches of organizations that collect your personal information. Millions of people have been compromised in these data breaches. And the information stolen in those data breaches is now for sale, that it's been bought and sold over and over and over again, criminals are using that information. Right now, in a variety of ways. Over 1.7 million children in the United States have had their identity stolen. And these are little kids, you voluntarily give up your information on a regular basis, either because you have to, for example, to get a mortgage, or enroll in college or something, or because you want to participate in something like LinkedIn, or some other, you know, networking platform that lets you share your interest and, and so on,


Walt Sorg  33:00

or you want to have a cell phone.


Christine Barry  33:01

Yeah, you have a microchip in your pocket. Right now, yes, that you signed up for when you bought your phone when you turned on GPS, or you installed a weather application, or even a restaurant app that wants to help you find the location, closest to where you are. So here's why I bring this up. People need to be aware of how much privacy they do not have. And if conspiracy theorists want to talk about microchip tracking, this is the perfect time to remind you that we have no general Privacy Act in Michigan, we have a patchwork of protection, but no comprehensive legislation. If you're really concerned about your data and protecting yourself, then contact your legislators about that. And start paying attention to what kind of permissions you're giving out to applications on your phone. And pay attention to what kind of data you're giving people on websites so that you can get some software a free download or something like that.


Walt Sorg  33:59

on my phone, I've got the find application, which is an apple application, my wife and I can find each other 24 seven, based on where our phones are. And if she can find me electronically 24 hours a day, I'm pretty sure that the government could do the same thing using the very same app by hacking into it if they wanted to. So if I was really concerned about people tracking electronically, my iPhone would be in the trash.


Christine Barry  34:26

But besides that, you know, businesses, there's no comprehensive law, like I said, requiring businesses to collect and secure your data in any particular way. So contact your legislators look into it, you know, contact Dana Nessel, if you want to she's an advocate for this, by the way, you know, maybe something good can come out of all this silly chatter about microchips that track you.


Walt Sorg  34:49

Let's move on to some other issues that are going out in Lansing right now.


Walt Sorg  34:53

One of the great lines from the movie all the President's Men, the Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman classic about the Watergate info The question was deep throats advice to reporter bob woodward. Follow the money. In Michigan. Nobody is better at following the money than detroit news reporter Craig Mauger.


Walt Sorg  35:11

We are joined on the Policast by Craig Mauger, Capitol reporter for The Detroit News. And I should point out prior to joining the detroit news, you were the head of the Michigan campaign finance network, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the funding of politics and politicians across the state of Michigan. We probably should begin, Craig with the legislation passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives, a so called sunshine bill, which deals with conflicts of interests involving state legislators and legislative staff. But it seems as though the bill in reality rather than training sunshine, on conflicts of interests, just fog the mirror.


Craig Mauger  35:50

Yeah, that's a it's a it's a great point. It's a great point of debates in Lansing as well. And it's kind of one of those issues, I would say where, you know, there is some agreement among a lot of the lawmakers and Lansing especially in the house that Michigan finally has to do something to prevent conflicts of interest in the legislature. Because right now, for your listeners who don't know, many do know, likely we are one of two states in the country that don't require these lawmakers to file any type of personal financial disclosure about you know, who they're entering into financial transactions with on the outside, who pays them salary on the outside of their time in the legislature, you know, a lot of these individuals, it's a full time legislature, supposedly in Michigan, but a lot of these individuals continue to have jobs and work in private industry as they're serving in the legislature. What are they doing in private industry? Who are they working with? Do those people have matters before the legislature right now, we have no way of knowing when it comes to the US Congress and what happens in 48 other states, at least some type of information has to be released publicly about what's going on. When it comes to Congress, you know, you can look up your member of Congress, his financial disclosure, and it is really detailed about the information in terms of information about where their income outside of Congress is coming from, what investments they have, what personal transactions they're making, while they are there. It's really detailed. And if you haven't looked at those, they're easy to find, just Google US House financial disclosure, and you'll find them.


Walt Sorg  37:34

What I find even more frightening is that if there is a conflict of interest, there's really no mechanism to stop it.


Craig Mauger  37:40

Yeah, there there is not I mean, some of the some of the lawmakers will point to the House and Senate rules, and there are in the Senate, at least there's kind of a vague rule that you are not supposed to vote on something that, you know, has a personal conflict of interest. However, it's basically a self policed issue. You know, the Senate leadership is the one who is navigating this and figuring out who actually has a conflict and who's voting on something that has a conflict. And the fact of the matter is, the Senate leadership might not even know under current policy, what financial interests that particular lawmaker has, I mean, there's no way to know what Senate leadership knows about their members. And there's no way to know what kind of discussions are happening about, you know, what, what's happening with them personal wit, about these areas there, there are gray areas where someone's personal interest intersects with the legislative interests, and we just don't know what's going on there.


Walt Sorg  38:38

Another area that you track quite closely is campaign finance and fundraising. And let's turn to the congressional races, it would appear that all of the incumbents in Michigan are very, very well funded, much more so than potential opponents.


Craig Mauger  38:53

This is a fascinating, fascinating time in politics, especially in Michigan to watch what's going to happen. As you know, as you've been involved in this, you know, you have redistricting happening right now, we don't know what these districts are going to look like, which just off the top that makes it very difficult for a challenger, someone who wants to unseat a sitting member of Congress to start a campaign and start raising money, because their decision will be impacted by what the district looks like. That will also you know, decide who they're running against. I mean, there's certain people in this state who might make a good candidate for the US House who are sitting there saying, well, would I be in this district or that district and that could decide whether that person is going to run? And we're not going to know exactly what these districts look like for a long time now, that that makes it hard to run against someone. It also gives the incumbents a huge financial advantage in terms of fundraising. I mean, members of Congress are often raising money almost constantly raising money. And we're seeing that in Michigan, the members of Congress that are that are the incumbents have raised a lot of money. I mean, look at a list of Slotkin. One of the Democratic members in Michigan, she had raised as of the last reports more than any other member of the delegation 848,000. In this cycle, I mean that that is a tremendous amount of money. And she's got a couple of million dollars banked away already. Yes, yeah. And then you have Haley Stevens, she raised 588,000. I mean, these are two individuals who have won tough races before, but republicans are still hoping to unseat them, the republicans are likely going to be at a huge disadvantage when it comes into comes to the fundraising. The X Factor in all of this, the X Factor that's important to underline is a lot of our campaign finance in this day and age is defined by these outside groups, outside groups that can, you know, take in unlimited amounts of money from individual donors and spend unlimited amounts of money in races. So those outside groups are still raising money, and they'll have a stockpile of money to help, you know, democratic challengers or republican challengers in any of these districts. But I mean, there's a huge advantage for the incumbents forming right now, not just at the congressional level. But at the state legislative level. If you look at the amount of money the Senate Republican caucus and the House Republican caucus are raising right now, they have massive advantage over the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate who are in the minority. I mean, just up and down the landscape of state politics, the incumbents have the advantage of holding an office currently and being able to raise a lot of money. And they have I mean, they they don't truly know where they're going to be running next year. I mean, some of them have better ideas than others. But at least they have this ability that I'll probably be running for something. And I need to raise a lot of money for my campaign. And I'm able to do that right now.


Walt Sorg  41:41

When you talk about X Factor being money. The y factor, of course, is redistricting, which you alluded to earlier. Yeah, especially for those members of Congress in Oakland County. In the case of Elissa Slotkin, who's a electoral base is Ingham County, even though she lives in Oakland, there's a good possibility at least she'll find herself needing to move to Ingham County for the next cycle.


Craig Mauger  42:03

Yeah, it's a great point. And that's one of the things people in in state politics are watching closely. I mean, the fact of the matter is that, you know, we there are four Democratic members of Congress in Michigan, that all live in Oakland County, right. And the expectation is that their districts are going to look a lot different. You don't have to live in the district that you're running, and of course, at the US House level. So I mean, that could impact this, but Slotkin specifically has this weird district. I mean, I'm gonna call it weird that reaches from Oakland County over to Lansing. So it's got Livingston County, a portion of Oakland County, and then it's got Ingham County. So the base of the as you're, as you're noting very astutely that the base of the democratic vote in that district, the vote that that helps keep her in office and help power her is in Ingham County, of course we're Lansing is. So if the district map is redrawn, and there is there are many people in Lansing hoping this occurs, there is a Lansing based district that is more, you know, I floated this idea that there might be a district that looks more like the Lansing media market that is like Lansing and county, and it reaches down to Jackson and some of the surrounding areas of Lansing. You know if that happens, that would be a district that that Slotkin would do very well. And she just doesn't live in a county right now. So who knows how that will be handled.


Walt Sorg  43:25

two other incumbents who have interesting races, to say the least are the two republicans from Southwest Michigan, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer, who both voted as Republicans to impeach Donald Trump, Trump, a man of never ending revenge desires, has said he's going to come in and campaign against both of them. But it looks like at least both of them will be very well funded going into the next election campaign.



Yeah, I mean, they've both been raising lots of money, and they've been successful on the fundraising path. So far, which is something that, you know, our congressional reporter, Melissa Burke has been all over reporting on. But at the same time, while they're raising money, I mean, there's this internal push within the Michigan republican party to try to censure them. There are lots of Michigan republican activists who are furious with Peter Meijer and Fred Upton. There are challengers just lining up basically down the street to try to run against them in the primary, even though we don't know what their districts are going to look like. And we don't even know a Fred Upton is going to run for reelection. That is always a question mark right now, because he's been in Congress, basically, since the 1980s. There's every cycle. Now there's a question if he's going to run again, you have that murkiness of what his district would look like his district is one that could become more democratic, it could become more Republican, and we don't know, that could impact his ultimate decision. And who knows. Fred has been in politics a long time and he might say, the congressman might say, I don't want to hand my district over to someone who is you know, a hardcore Trump supporter. This time I'm gonna fight this out. Again. We don't know what's going on in his head, but there's a lot of potential Have candidates that can run if he if he doesn't run? And that's when I think that's one of the top questions going into 2022. In Michigan politics, what happens with Fred Upton?


Walt Sorg  45:10

And on top of that, with redistricting in the Grand Rapids based district of Peter Meijer could change politically, it's been trending more and more towards the blue, although it is still a slightly republican district. But that can change. Yeah, adding even more to the complicated equation, the fact that Peter Meijer's father is one of the two or three richest people in the state of Michigan, a multi billionaire, one of the heirs to the Meijer of Meijer store fortune, and they can put as much money into this campaign as they feel is necessary.



Yeah, and I think I think that's a great point, I mean, that the questions for Meijer are somewhat, somewhat out of control in terms of, you know, like everyone else, what's the district gonna look like? And then how big is that wave? Next August when the primary takes place? How big of an influence is Trump going to be in next August when primary voters go to vote? And you know, I think, you know, he, he, he won in 2020, with Trump at the top of the ticket, and there's, you know, a lot of signs that Trump had problems in his district, specifically in Kent County. I mean, you had this situation in King County, where Trump lost King County, but john James, won King County, which is a huge red flag for something going on there. And if there's a potential in a general election, that Trump not being on the ballot will help Peter Meijer, but he's got to get to that general election. He's got to get through the primary. And that's going to be the that's going to be that could be a hurdle.


Walt Sorg  46:39

One very important money issue in the legislature, of course, is the ongoing battle between the governor and the legislature over allocating the literally billions of dollars in federal aid that are due to come into the state if they can reach agreement. But they've been playing this legislative tennis match, where the legislature passes a bill that's unacceptable to the governor, she vetoes it sends it back, they pass it again. And it's unacceptable. She vetoes it and on and on. Are they ever going to reach an agreement so that the people of Michigan can put to use this federal money that was intended to help everybody during the pandemic? There are some



There are some signs that as of last week, that the republicans who control the legislature, legislature and governor Whitmer the Democratic governor, were reaching some type of compromise that would have been wide ranging and touching upon the governor's plan to tie easing restrictions to vaccines, the federal funding, the republicans were, you know, looking into giving her a larger say, and what happens with all that money in the budget. And then a third thing being what happens down the road if you know, COVID flare stuff again, and the governor is back in the position where she was going to be making unilateral decisions. Again, the legislature was trying to negotiate for some type of say, in those decisions, this deal was, was being discussed, it crumbled kind of the last moment, and there are questions now going forward about where we are, is this deal framework still kind of floating out there? And can they still come together to figure out these things in a in a in a bipartisan way? Or are we going to go back to what we've been in the situation, we've kind of been frozen in for a while where the republicans are doing the budgeting, the governor is doing the response to COVID-19. And they're both just constantly at loggerheads over those two things. And they're both constantly looking for ways to wield their powers to kind of, you know, throw sand in the eyes of the other.


Walt Sorg  48:41

My opinion and not necessarily your opinion, is that a big part of the problem is term limits. You've got a bunch of legislators in very important positions, including Speaker of the House Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives, who have virtually no legislative experience, and they have yet to learn the skills of forging bipartisan compromise. That's a skill set, like anything else in a difficult job, and really about the only people that have a lot of legislative experience, who are part of the process of the governor. And the senate majority leader and the some of the leading Democrats, including Curtis Hertel been around the Earth seemingly forever. But


Craig Mauger  49:20

my my I think that's a valid point. My pushback and question to you on that as you've been around for a long time as I mean, look at DC right now, I mean, there are lawmakers in DC that have been there for decades, and they can't get anything done.


Walt Sorg  49:32

I'd attribute a lot of those problems in DC to gerrymandering in the House of Representatives, or you've got the minority party, having undue numbers of members because of the gerrymandering and Republicans have a built in electoral advantage. And of course in the Senate, because of the way it is designed with two senators per state, regardless of their population. The Senate is geographically gerrymandered as well, so that it is non representative. It's a simple fact that the Democrats in the United States Senate represent far more people. I think it's 40 more than 40 million more people than the republicans in the senate yet right now. They're kinda at 50-50. But that is a discussion for another day.


Craig Mauger  50:12

This is fun. Now, that's a fun discussion.


Walt Sorg  50:14

We could go on for hours, but that we shed, Craig Mauger from The Detroit News. Thanks so much for being a part of the Policast. See you soon.


Craig Mauger  50:22

Appreciate you. Thank you. Well,


Christine Barry  50:23

well, Governor Whitmer is coming under increased criticism and not just from Republicans from what appears to be an unforced error. Now, Walt, as you remember, Governor went to Florida in April to visit with her father because he was ill. At the time she went, there were no restrictions, but she had discouraged people from traveling in order to reduce community spread. So the governor didn't violate any public health orders or anything like that. But she did go out of state for what we understand is a family emergency, which is something that just looks bad because of the timing. Now, it's coming out the news that she traveled to Florida on a private plane that is owned by three of Michigan's top republican donors. And, you know, I'll, I'll let the links provide the details of who these people are. But the private plane is actually part of a private charter company. So anyone can charter it. Well, you, me anyone who can afford it, which actually excludes me. I don't know about you. But so I don't know how this trip was arranged or paid for. And there are some legitimate public interest questions there, I think. But the really loud voices around all of this are coming from the people who hate her, you know, like Charlie luff at deadline Detroit, who is speculating on her father's health, he's citing anonymous sources. Some of the people in the Republican Party are trying to make sound bites about her quote, unquote, sick daddy. And that kind of thing just sort of obfuscates the whole issue. And I understand why she doesn't want to say anything more about it. But I do think and I don't know, if you agree, I do think it's legitimate to question how the trip was paid for


Walt Sorg  52:08

my guesses. It was paid for by her father, her father's very wealthy use the retired CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where he made millions of dollars a year in compensation. So if he wanted to charter a jet for his daughter to keep her safer, he certainly could afford it. And given their relationship, I think he'd want to he wouldn't want her on an airline flight because of the increased health risks and the increased security risks. Now, why she charted this particular jet, I don't know it was way too big, much larger than she needed. She could have simply gotten a smaller Jetta would have cost less because they're saying this round trip was probably a $40,000 charter, which sounds about right. The problem she's got is she's letting the information drip out. It's the old way that they used to call the Chinese water torture before that became politically incorrect. And that's the first rule of public relations. If you've got some bad news, there's some things that can go bad. Get it all out there at once, take the hit and then move on. This is going a little bit a little bit week by week. And she's giving the republicans something to whine about week after week, and that is the unforced error. It's not what she did. It's how she's handling the aftermath of it. And I think she really needs to live up to her pledges during the campaign to open things up, rather than to obfuscate what is going on in her own office. Whoever paid for it paid for it. If it was illegal, which I sincerely doubt an illegal campaign contribution. I can see why she wouldn't want to release that. But I sincerely doubt that it wasn't illegal contribution. it more likely as a matter of privacy. She doesn't want to talk about the fact that her dad's really wealthy and can afford to fly his daughter to Florida on a private jet. He doesn't want to be compared to Ivanka Trump apparently,


Christine Barry  53:49

as long as she doesn't talk about it, someone else controls the narrative. And that's not good for her. But if it wasn't paid for with taxpayer dollars, then I don't care who paid for it. I don't know why anybody would care. If it didn't run afoul of any of our laws or ethics, then I don't care if it was her dad, or if it was her foes or like, I just don't care about that. And I don't really care why she got a big plane that if her dad paid for it, maybe he's the one who picked up the plane. Maybe they wanted a plane so that people traveling with her could be farther apart. Maybe it was the only one available on her terms of what she could do. I mean, there's just so many things in play here. That allowing someone else to control the narrative is just a very big mistake on her part, I think. And by the way, the speculation on her father's father's health is really uncalled for it, you know, saying that he miraculously recovered or, or making fun of him calling him her sick daddy. That's really beneath even the worst of you.


Walt Sorg  54:54

And her father's have been a longtime friend of mine. I know what the situation is. And I'm not going to say a word about it. Cuz I respect his privacy as well, there is no reason why this needs to be out in the public. There is no conspiracy there or anything like that. It's simply a matter of an 81 year old man who's having some medical issues and his daughter is very concerned, and wants to be of assistance to her father, in his time of need, he needs that he needs her support. And beyond that, it's nobody's business. It's really nobody's business at all about the equipment is healthy, so private individual, he's very quietly private individual. And that's the way it should be. But meanwhile, the governor's got a new opponent possibly on the Republican side. And this guy, actually, it looks like a credible contender in the thing. Christine is the chief of police of Detroit, James Craig, who is reputedly going to be retiring this week as police chief in Detroit after about 15 years in that position, and announced that he's running for governor as a Republican and African American republican from the city of Detroit.


Christine Barry  55:55

Yeah, I don't know how well, that's going to go in a Republican primary. I don't know where John James will be. I do think that this police chief is probably more popular in Detroit than John James is. But in a statewide primary, I'm not sure he's more popular than John James, in that regard. But I don't know if Yeah, I don't know if john James is going to be in another statewide race right now. So who knows? But I do think that a black man out of Detroit, who's been a police chief there who is arguably charismatic, but it's still out of Detroit. It's probably just not going to do that well, in a republican primary


Walt Sorg  56:36

is very popular in Detroit, although there's nothing recent. But my friend Bernie porn over at epic Mr. Ray, Public Opinion Research did a poll on various issues in the city of Detroit back in 2015. Again, this is six years old, and but he'd already been police chief at that point for about a half dozen years. And in that poll, back then 68% gave Governor Snyder a negative rating. This is among Detroit voters. That is not a surprise. 60% gave Mayor Mike Duggan a positive job rating. I suspect that's lower now because of all the problems they've had relating to the virus and related issues. And then the police chief, he got a 75% approval rating for the job he was doing. So James Craig, at least in that survey was had 15 points up on the mayor and he was a solid 50 points up on the city council, Detroit city council the negative rating of total negative of 66%. And pretty good or excellent or pretty good was a total of 26%.


Christine Barry  57:38

I would like to see a black republican out of Detroit do well, to an extent I don't want him to win, obviously, I think it would be a good indication of you know where Michigan is going. If you can get somebody like that out of Detroit to get a lot of statewide support.


Walt Sorg  57:55

You've got to remember there's only been two African Americans elected to statewide office in the state's history. Richard Austin was the very popular Secretary of State also out of the city of Detroit. And of course, now you've got garland Gilchrist from Detroit, who's our lieutenant governor.


Christine Barry  58:08

And I'm sure that he'll put together a very articulate case as to why this Detroit police chief should not be running the state. Well, you want to talk about the national level,


Walt Sorg  58:18

you all to national jobs.


Christine Barry  58:20

All right at the national level, President Biden and Congress are following the money. The latest jobs report show a surprisingly low number of new jobs last month 266,000 non farm jobs well below the 1 million that analysts had predicted. for President Biden it drove home the point that there is still a need to pump the economy through his American jobs and infrastructure plan.


Joe Biden  58:46

We came to office. We knew we were facing a once in a century pandemic, and a once in a generation economic crisis. And we knew this wouldn't be a sprint, it'd be a marathon. Quite frankly, we're moving more rapidly than I thought we would. But when we pass the American rescue plan, I want to remind you what it was designed to help us over the course of a year, not 60 days a year. We never thought that after the first 50 or 60 days everything would be fine. Some critics said that we didn't need the American the American rescue plan that this economy would just heal itself. Today's report just underscores in my view, how vital the actions were taking our checks to people who are hurting. Support for small businesses for childcare and school reopening support help families put food on the table. Our efforts are starting to work. But the climb is steep and we still have a long way to go.


Walt Sorg  59:50

The President has proposed paying for his infrastructure plan through restoring taxes on corporations and the very wealthy and he wants to keep to his pledge made during the game. Paying that he would not raise taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year. I think that's a line in the sand that he's unwilling to cross. The President says it's a matter of simple fairness. And the reality is it would do nothing to change the Lifestyles of the very wealthy,


Joe Biden  1:00:17

It's about growth. not studying growth. Like I said, not too long ago, the average CEO of the Fortune 500 companies made like 36 times with the average employee that Corporation made over 450 times as much now, as my mother would say, who died lift them boss? No, seriously, what rationale, tell me what benefit flows in that you're not going to private, these executive effects second or third home, travel privately by jet, that's not gonna affect your standard living at all. Not a little tiny bit. This is this not makes no sense to me. It's fair to say this is about making the average multimillionaire pay just a fair share.


Walt Sorg  1:01:12

And the new jobs report pointed out something Christie that I think is very damaging. And that is that the participation rate amongst women in the job pool has gone down drastically. And I think this is a reflection of the problems we're having with daycare, the combination of schools either being closed completely, or on a hybrid schedule, so that single parents have to stay home. And as a result, a lot of the service industries, especially the hospitality industry, they're complaining, they can't hire people. And they blame it on unemployment benefits. But I think a bigger factor is that single parents simply can't leave the home. And since they can at least muddle by a little bit on unemployment benefits, they continue to do so. So they can take care of their kids.


Christine Barry  1:01:55

So it's another example I think of valuing the the money over the people. I mean, there are people who did lose their vehicles during the pandemic, you know, though, it's going to be harder for those folks to re enter the workforce, if they are out of it. There are people like you said, who have to stay home because they don't know what's happening with school, and they've got school kids, people who are for whatever reason, unable to go work at a restaurant or someplace else? And the answer doesn't have to be to take away the extra $300. And nationwide, I don't know unemployment laws. You know, I'm not an expert in that. But in Michigan, we have different incentives to get you back to work, right? you're required to show that you're looking for employment and answer questions. No,


Walt Sorg  1:02:44

That's not true right now,


Christine Barry  1:02:45

not right now. But they want to reinstate it by the end of the month. So if you have rules like that, why not reinstate those rather than take that money away? Like why not use all the tools in your toolbox and not just look at this one thing and say, people are just being they're just being given an incentive to stay home and not work with this $300 a week.


Walt Sorg  1:03:08

It's another example of penalizing the many, because of the abuses of a few no doubt there are some people out there are simply refusing to work, because they're getting these unemployment benefits. And it's easier to just stay home and collect the unemployment. But I would posit, and I think the studies have shown that is not the overwhelming majority of people on unemployment, most people on unemployment, either don't have the skills to get a job anymore, or they simply can't afford to have both take care of their kids and to reenter the workplace. We have talked too much already. And we've still got a bunch of political notes to get into. So if we can do it quickly, your first one today is your old buddy, Mike shirkey, the Senate Majority Leader,


Christine Barry  1:03:51

Man, he is the worst he is saying. Alright, so we talked earlier about the COVID numbers going down. We're close to our 55% benchmark. He is saying we're already at 70%. At our, at our top benchmark, when you count all of the people who have had COVID. And so they're now immune, and you count all of the people who have not been confirmed to have had COVID. That means we've already hit the benchmark. And I don't even know what to say, to that kind of stupidity. You can't just go and count people who haven't been confirmed to have something and say that they count toward herd immunity and your benchmarks and everything. I mean, he's uh, he's a loon.


Walt Sorg  1:04:39

A friend of mine once said, you become the average of the five people you hang out with the most. Well, if that is true Mike shirt, he's got to start hanging out with a better class of people. This photo that was on the social media during the last week, show him hanging out with one of the people who's under indictment for trying to kidnap him. Until the governor, his name is William nali faces 22 years in prison for felony domestic terrorism charges, providing material support for terrorist acts and plotting to take multiple hostages while in Lansing. And there he is with a smiling happy Mike shirkey. Just hanging, Mikey got to come up with a better class of friends.


Christine Barry  1:05:21

Well, and the republicans complain, you know, why isn't governor Whitmer more friendly towards us? Why doesn't she include us in more things? She has taken their input, like I mentioned earlier on the benchmarks, but they are hanging out with and providing at least a little bit of support. In this case, I guess, publicity and I don't know, to these people who want to kill her. You know, they complained about the fencing around the Lansing residence, remember that for weeks they complain, they said, I don't have this much money for fencing. And then, you know, it comes out people are trying to kill her. And then we're, they were like, well, what did they tell us that you know, that people are out there trying to kill but I mean, these guys are all over the place. And the only thing that's constant is their hatred for governor Whitmer, on a personal level, personal to the point of making, making fun of her father,


Walt Sorg  1:06:15

couple of issues with government benefits for people who are most in need of them being slowed down by the system. One is through Michigan's unemployment insurance agency, which has really slowed down processing of people who had run out of benefits and reapplied when they were extended, or new to applying for benefits. And that is proving the identity of people that are filing so many people are filing new proofs of identity, that they're just backed up beyond belief, to the point where some claims aren't being paid for months on end. And that can be a real problem for people that are relying on those benefits to get by right now. But the alternative is to continue to give in to all the fraud that's been going on. And a lot of people see this as an easy way to steal money and steal identities. And they've been applying for unemployment benefits using somebody else's identity. And if they don't do a really good job of checking the identity of people who apply, then the state's gonna get taken for a lot of money as well, the federal government, right now what they're requiring, you got to provide things like your driver's license, or state ID, or your birth certificate, a picture of you holding both of those in a selfie. So they can see that you are the person who's in those documents. Right now, it's taking weeks and weeks and weeks for them to get through the backlog and people just waiting for their benefits, Time after time. Add to that people that are waiting for their federal tax refund. And you've been looking into that


Christine Barry  1:07:45

the IRS is substantially understaffed. I think we mentioned that last week or the week before. And they're just not able to process refunds in a timely manner. Not only are they not able to audit and go after and do all of the things that they want to do, for Joe Biden's plan to close that tax gap, they can't even do their their normal tax refund work because there's just not enough staff. And right now, even the Where's My Refund online tool is backlogged and millions of people are waiting on their 2019 and 2020 returns. The W-2 scam is one of the most successful scams for cyber criminals. And that's where they file on, you know, a tax return in your name. Even if that hasn't happened to you, or you haven't had your identity stolen or whatever. This is, again, part of what happens with these data breaches. People get names and login credentials and so on. And these criminals are just posing as other people. So the unemployment backlog, at least is certainly reflective of of all these data breaches.


Walt Sorg  1:08:57

Shall we say Bye bye.


Christine Barry  1:08:58

Let's wrap it up for this week. You can get more information on our topics on our website, We welcome your feedback on our podcast, you can email us at, or comment via our Facebook page or Twitter.


Walt Sorg  1:09:14

And make sure you subscribe to our sister podcast a republic, if you could keep it with longtime Michigan political insiders jep number and Mark Brewer. Their guest this week is going to be somebody whose name you know, but I can't confirm that because I didn't find the confirmation of that. But let me just say he's one of the most famous lawyers who ever graduated from Cooley Law School. And with that, we'll say bye.


Christine Barry  1:09:36

Yeah, that's it for this week on the Michigan Policast. Thank you so much for listening, and we'll see you next week.


Announcer  1:09:42

The Michigan Policast with Christine Barry and Walt Sorg as a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.

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