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Trump’s family members, advisers registered to vote in 2 states

President Donald Trump’s sweeping preview of his plans to investigate voter fraud in the United States includes those registered in more than one state.

A number of people closest to the president fall into that category, including his Treasury Secretary nominee, Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as his younger daughter, Tiffany Trump.

Trump’s Twitter account last week said he would be asking for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, “including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

“Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” the tweet stated.

It’s not illegal to be registered in two states and just because someone is, it doesn’t mean they vote in both. Trump’s comments likely suggest a crackdown on those who actually vote in two or more states — claims that secretaries of state across the country have dismissed as baseless.

Mnuchin is registered in New York and California, according to a public voter database, and Kushner in New York and New Jersey.

Tiffany Trump is registered in New York and Pennsylvania, where she went to college, according to the database.

The president’s chief counsel, Steve Bannon, shifted his Florida registration last summer, from a former home in Miami-Dade County where his ex-wife once lived, to a beachfront home owned by a Breitbart colleague in Sarasota County on the Gulf Coast.

Last week, Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner told reporters Bannon never voted in the county and had been removed from the county’s rolls this week based on information received from New York City’s elections office.

A request for comment from the White House on how the proposed investigation might seek to address the two-state registration issue was not immediately answered.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have finalized their election results with no reports of the kind of widespread fraud that Trump alleges.

Trump has long asserted that the system is “rigged,” but he increasingly vocalized his concerns in August after courts rejected tough voter ID rules put in place for the first time in a presidential election in states including North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

The rulings cited a risk of disenfranchising the poor, minorities or young people who were less likely to have acceptable IDs — and who are more likely to vote Democratic.

Trump stands by baseless claim millions voted illegally, vows investigation

President Donald Trump stands by his belief that millions of people voted illegally in the U.S. election, the White House said, despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

“The president does believe that,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

On Jan. 25, his Twitter account said Trump is ordering a “major investigation” into voter fraud, specifically his belief that people voted in more than one state or “those who are illegal and … even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).”

Officials in charge of the Nov. 8 election have said they found no evidence of widespread voter fraud and there is no history of it in U.S. elections.

Even House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the most senior Republican in Congress, said he has seen no evidence to back up Trump’s claims.

Trump won the Electoral College that decides the presidency and gives smaller states more clout in the outcome, but he lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump has repeatedly said he would have won the popular vote, too, but for voter fraud. He has never substantiated his claim.

Also, Trump’s attorneys dismissed claims of voter fraud in a legal filing responding to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s demand for a recount in Michigan last year. “On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation,” the attorneys wrote. “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”

Secretaries of state across the country also have dismissed Trump’s voter fraud claims as baseless.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said invented claims such as Trump’s are used to undermine the advancement and enforcement of voting rights laws.

“The White House is bashing immigrants, undermining voting rights, and playing to bigotry all at once,” Henderson said. “Sen. Jeff Sessions once made up fraud charges to wrongly prosecute voting rights activists and the White House appears to be using the same anti-civil rights playbook. Peddling these lies just drives this administration farther from reality and from the people it claims to govern.”

Henderson added, “This conspiracy theory raises serious doubts about whether our new president can be trusted on anything.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool)

Obama administration announces rule to deal with illegal fishing, seafood fraud

The Obama administration on Dec. 8 issued a final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States.

This rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.

This is a statement by Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell:

Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. We applaud President Obama for his ambitious plan to require traceability for imported seafood ‘at-risk’ of illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the U.S. and extend it throughout the entire supply chain.

Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.

American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed. While Oceana celebrates today’s announcement, there’s still more to do in the fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

 

About Oceana…

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled — the product listed on the label or menu was different from what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.

In September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.

Ex-banker to plead guilty in fraud case against WEDC recipient

A Wisconsin businessman has struck a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to fraudulently obtaining bank loans for a man who was also involved in defrauding the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Paul Piikkila’s deal calls for him to acknowledge committing conspiracy to defraud his employer, Horicon Bank, of more than $700,000. The deal also requires Piikkila, of Appleton, to testify in the case, which involves De Pere businessman Ron Van Den Heuvel.

Van Den Heuvel has pleaded not guilty to a 13-count indictment. But according to the plea agreement, Piikkila will acknowledge his role in fraudulently securing more than $1 million in loans from Horicon Bank for Van Den Heuvel and his wife in 2008 and 2009.

Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Van Den Heuvel borrowed money from the bank and investors ostensibly to pay for equipment and operations of seven businesses that he claimed to operate. But the money he raised actually supported a lavish lifestyle that included a luxurious house, a Florida residence, expensive cars, a luxury box at Lambeau Field, a private plane, and a live-in nanny, who told authorities that she was never paid. She also said Kelly Van Den Heuvel ran up large debts on her credit cards.

Van Den Heuvel faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines on each count. Piikkila faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. But, in exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors have agreed not to charge him with additional offenses.

Piikkila will be sentenced July 29.

WEDC award

The fraud case is unrelated to another, higher-profile scandal in which Van Den Heuvel received $1.2 million from Gov. Scott Walker’s “job-creation” agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Critics have branded WEDC as a corporate welfare agency for giving away millions to political donors without holding them accountable for creating jobs in return for the money.

In some cases, WEDC recipients took money and shipped jobs to other states or overseas. In other cases, the loans weren’t properly recorded, tracked or repaid — with impunity.

Van Den Heuvel, a longtime Republican donor, seems in some ways typical of WEDC awardees. He received the loans just months after the agency’s creation in 2011 based on his connections. He never underwent a background check. If he had, WEDC, which was headed by Walker at the time, would have learned that Van Den Heuvel owed millions in legal judgments to banks, business partners, state tax officials and even a jeweler.

Despite Van Den Heuvel’s failure to produce jobs or repay his initial loan, WEDC officials considered giving him more money as recently as February 2015.

Van Den Heuvel’s proposed business to create jobs was called Green Box NA. He claimed the company would convert dirty napkins and plastic eating utensils into synthetic fuel and paper products, but it apparently never had either a facility or the technology to perform such functions.

Van Den Heuvel faces numerous lawsuits from investors who loaned the business money, thinking that it was legitimate.

Green Box has declared bankruptcy. The state apparently is not pursuing charges or repayment from Van Den Heuvel.

Republican admits voter ID was enacted to help his party

Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman told Milwaukee TV station  WTMJ-TV that Wisconsin’s  voter ID law will “make a little bit of a difference” in helping the GOP in November.

A link to video of Grothman’s comment has been re-tweeted hundreds of times. Viewers say it was a gaffe that shows the law was intended to suppress the Democratic vote, WTMJ-TV reported

At a Ted Cruz victory party April 5, a WTMJ reporter asked Grothman whether a Republican can win the White House.

“Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate that the Democrats have ever put up, and now we have photo ID. I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of difference as well,” Grothman said. His office didn’t immediately respond to phone or email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the voter ID in 2011 after it was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but court battles kept it from taking effect until this year. Supporters say it prevents fraud, while critics say widespread fraud doesn’t exist in Wisconsin and that the law disenfranchises young, poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats and are less likely to have the mandated forms of identification.

“At least Congressman Grothman is telling the truth,” said 10th Assembly District Rep. David Bowen in a statement to the press. “The Republican Party has been deliberately deceiving the public about the one true goal of voter ID since their voter suppression effort was first conceived. Now that they have been honest about its purpose, they should work with Democrats to repeal this anti-democratic law.

Bowen noted that Politifact recently rated “true” an assertion by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan that more people are struck by lightning than commit the type of voter fraud that voter ID was purported to prevent.

Grothman is a fringe-right leader who campaigned on his opposition to marriage equality and choice. Shortly after he took office in January 2015, he made a number of gaffes that drew national attention. Since then he’s been largely silent, leading some political observers to suspect that House Republican leaders put him under some sort of informal gag order.

Fox News commentator charged with fraud for falsifying his credentials

Federal prosecutors say a Maryland man who offered national-security commentary on Fox News has been charged with fraud for falsely claiming a CIA career.

Authorities say they arrested 62-year-old Wayne Simmons of Annapolis on Thursday and charged him with fraud against the U.S. and making false statements to the government.

An indictment states Simmons lied about having a 27-year career with the CIA as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations” officer. The indictment alleges that Simmons made the claim as he sought security clearances and in seeking work as a defense contractor.

As recently as April, Simmons was identified on air on Fox radio as a “Fox News contributor.” In a 2009 Fox News clip, he calls House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “a pathological liar” in a segment about CIA interrogation techniques.

Fox News spokeswoman Carly Shanahan insisted that Simmons was never more than a guest on the network and that the reference to him on air as “Fox News contributor” was an error. “He was never a paid commentator,” she said.

At an initial appearance Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Simmons was ordered held pending a detention hearing. No lawyer has yet entered an appearance on his behalf.

The network is infamous for presenting blatant falsehoods that promote conspiracy theories against liberals and moderates and misrepresenting facts to favor right-wing positions that benefit large corporations and the very wealthy.

For instance, Fox News is considered responsible for fueling the belief among Americans that climate change is a “hoax.” In 2013, only 28 percent of Fox News’ climate change reporting was accurate, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study found that number was a 7 percent improvement over Fox News’ rate of 7 percent accuracy in 2012.

PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking service, studied the veracity of Fox News claims in January and found: “At Fox and Fox News, 10 percent of the claims we’ve rated have been True, 11 percent Mostly True, 18 percent Half True, 21 percent Mostly False, 31 percent False and nine percent Pants on Fire.

“That means about 60 percent of the claims we’ve checked have been rated Mostly False or worse.”

The Fox News tagline is “fair and balanced.”

GOP plots revenge on Legislative Audit Bureau, taxpayers will pay for it

[UPDATED at 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, to add Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ position.]

The cheap thrill of retaliation has no place among elected officials who are paid to serve the public, not their egos. But some of Wisconsin’s Republican leaders are on a payback binge that’s noteworthy for the sweeping changes it will make to the nature of democracy in the state and the irreparable harm it will wreak on our quality of life.

The most disturbing recent Republican attack is on the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau, which has provided citizens and lawmakers alike with honest, reliable investigations of waste, fraud, abuse, inefficiencies, and cronyism in state government since 1966. Unsurprisingly, in doing so, the bureau has fallen into disfavor with Gov. Scott Walker and some of his supporters.

A series of LAB and external audits have found that Walker’s much-touted “job creation” agency — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation — lost track of $56 million worth of taxpayer-funded loans, lacked basic internal accounting controls and was staffed by unqualified Walker cronies.  LAB also found, among other shocking problems, that WEDC had written off more than $7.6 million in loans, including a $500,000 loan to an unqualified company owned by a major Walker donor.

Auditors discovered that WEDC didn’t even require the beneficiaries of its largesse to create jobs in Wisconsin and didn’t track the results of the loans that it made.

So now, in typical Walker fashion, he and his colleagues want to eliminate the bipartisan, fact-finding bureau and instead empower the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader — in other words, partisan leaders — to appoint investigators at their discretion. There’s nothing to compel those leaders to launch fair, impartial investigations that might harm their interests.

Aside from investigating WEDC, the bureau has conducted numerous other audits that have provided lawmakers with information that’s critical to budget planning and policy-making decisions.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he will never support eliminating the LAB, and we urge readers to contact him directly and support his stance — and to hold him to it.

Besides eliminating the LAB, Walker and legislative Republicans have also decided to fire scientists from the Department of Natural Resources who worked on issues related to climate change, pollution and mining. The GOP has been out to get the state’s environmental scientists ever since they refused to automatically green-light an iron ore pit mine in northern Wisconsin that could have devastated the area’s watershed and polluted Lake Superior.

Walker was humiliated over DNR scientists’ insistence on researching the consequences of the mine, because the mining company that proposed the project had given him $700,000. He’d empowered representatives of the company to rewrite the state’s mining regulations so the project could move forward.

There are numerous other examples of Walker dishing out payback lessons, possibly including his elimination of state funding for the Wisconsin Transportation Alternatives Program, which supported projects for cycling and walking paths. He also floated the idea of imposing a tax on bike sales to pay for bike lanes on roadways.

Both actions were seen as retaliation against his 2014 Democratic gubernatorial opponent Mary Burke, whose family owns Trek Bicycle.  That might sound too petty to be true, but sadly it’s not. Apparently, nothing is.

Wisconsin FoodShare fraud crackdown questioned

Under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the state of Wisconsin has seen a nearly 12-fold increase in the number of persons suspended annually from the state’s food stamp program for fraud.

The suspensions for “intentionally violating program rules” are part of a larger get-tough approach to people receiving federally funded nutrition assistance, called FoodShare in Wisconsin. Walker has also introduced new work rules for some FoodShare recipients, and proposes to seek a federal waiver to begin requiring all adult participants of the program to undergo drug testing.

Walker’s administration has long devoted energy and resources to cracking down on recipients of the supplemental food program. The efforts include a new office to fight fraud within the state Department of Health Services, which runs FoodShare, additional systems for citizens to report allegations of abuse, and new strategies to nab would-be freeloaders through stricter screening and income-verification rules.

In 2011, Walker’s first year as governor, 102 people were suspended from the FoodShare program for violating program rules, according to DHS. That number has increased each year, to 1,184 in 2014.

“We’ve shown more intention and intentionality in preventing fraud and abuse,” said Alan White, appointed in 2011 to a newly created position of inspector general within DHS. He cites more workers, better training, and new strategies for finding fraud using social media. Also, “We’ve become more aware of the types of fraud that take place.”

White thinks Wisconsin’s efforts to step up enforcement serves as deterrent to potential cheaters: “They see that we are serious about preventing and detecting fraud.” He notes that federal law requires the state to take action in cases where it believes fraud has occurred.

But advocates for FoodShare recipients say the state is being overly aggressive, punishing needy people who make innocent mistakes.

“There’s a lot of judgment going on by white, middle-class people and a lot of assumptions and disqualifications based on these assumptions,” said Pat DeLessio, an attorney with the Milwaukee office of Legal Action of Wisconsin, a federally funded nonprofit agency. The agency has successfully helped clients fight state efforts to suspend their FoodShare benefits. But in most cases, she said, “people are coming to us too late.”

Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force, a nonprofit community group, blasts the state’s crackdown. “It’s silly, it’s stupid, and it’s a way of manipulating public opinion,” she said. “Everybody needs a scapegoat and it seems like the poor are the scapegoat in Wisconsin.”

A ‘misuse’ of resources

FoodShare is Wisconsin’s incarnation of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The average monthly number of FoodShare recipients rose steadily in Wisconsin, from about 350,000 in 2005 to more than 850,000 in 2013, according to DHS. Last year it declined slightly, to 836,000, or 14.5 percent of the state’s population.

About two-thirds of last year’s FoodShare recipients were in families with children. The average monthly benefit was $112 per person and $224 per household. The total cost of the program was $1.1 billion in 2014. All of this money came from the federal government.

Under Walker, the number of FoodShare program fraud investigations has grown dramatically, from 2,098 in federal fiscal year 2010 to 6,403 in fiscal year 2014, which ended last September. These efforts have been aided by DHS’ new Office of the Inspector General and the establishment of a hotline and web portal for citizens to report suspected public assistance program fraud.

The office currently has 107 employees and an annual budget of $12.6 million. Thirty-one employees work on fraud investigation, including eight on recipient fraud. It said its fraud-fighting efforts in Medicaid, FoodShare and the Women, Infants and Children programs cost $1.3 million in the most recent state fiscal year, and generated $22.5 million in program savings, including “stopping future benefits from being fraudulently received.”

In federal fiscal year 2014, the DHS identified nearly $1.1 million in fraud-related FoodShare overpayments and collected $675,448 in overpaid benefits from current or former FoodShare recipients, said Michael McKenzie, chief of the Inspector General’s Fraud Investigation, Recovery and Enforcement Section. The overpayments accounted for 0.1 percent of the program’s total cost.

Tussler, of Hunger Task Force, calls this intense focus on ferreting out a relatively small amount of fraud “a misuse of state resources.” She said the state’s disqualifications of needy people is putting additional pressure on local food pantries.

How much fraud is there?

Nationally, the error rates for SNAP overpayments (including fraud) fell for the seventh straight year to a low of 2.6 percent in 2013, USDA numbers show. That’s the lowest error rate since the USDA began its current system of measuring in 1981.

Wisconsin’s error rate that year was 2.2 percent. In fact, Wisconsin’s error rate “has been consistently under the national average since 2008,” according to Alan Shannon, spokesman for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service office in Chicago.

“Our error rate is low, which is great,” said White of DHS. “We want to keep it low.” His office’s mission is “to protect state and federal money,” he said. “Our responsibility is to the taxpayers. Those are our stakeholders.”

DHS statistics show that fraud accounts for a small share of FoodShare program overpayments. During the past three fiscal years, from 2012 through 2014, 10 percent of the total $13.2 million in overpayments collected by the state were attributed to client fraud. A larger share of this amount, 14 percent, was blamed on agency error. And the vast majority (76 percent) was chalked up to “inadvertent” errors by recipients.

While the state’s incidence of FoodShare fraud may be slight, it remains a major talking point among conservative politicians.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin, recently urged an audience in Oshkosh to keep an eye on people they see using FoodShare at the grocery store, saying “some people are arranging their life to be on FoodShare,” according to the Oshkosh Northwestern.

And Gov. Walker, a likely presidential contender, drew what the Wisconsin State Journal called “some of his biggest applause” at an Iowa summit when he talked about requiring food stamp beneficiaries to be drug-free and seeking employment.

Beginning April 1, all able-bodied adult FoodShare recipients without dependents must work or participate in job training, or both, for at least 80 hours a month, or meet an exemption, to keep getting benefits. It has been estimated that half of the 62,000 recipients in this category could lose benefits.

Walker has also proposed, in his 2015-17 budget, to seek a federal waiver to allow the state to require that FoodShare recipients be tested for drug use, and receive treatment if they test positive. Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, on a 12-4 party line vote, added a provision to make recipients who report FoodShare cards lost or stolen, as happens about 130,000 times a year, absorb the roughly $3.50 replacement cost.

And lawmakers plan to introduce a bill to seek a federal waiver to require FoodShare recipients to use benefit cards that include their photos. The measure would cost an estimated $2 million a year.

Are rights being protected?

Hal Menendez, an attorney with Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Madison office, said most of the alleged fraud he sees amounts to mistakes on the part of those receiving assistance. “Sometimes people forget to report a change in their income or are late in reporting,” he said. In the past this might be cured simply by having the person pay back any overpayment.

“Now, oftentimes overpayments are being looked at as fraud or an intentional program violation,” Menendez said. That makes the recipient subject to benefit suspension: one year for a first violation, two years for a second and permanently for a third.

FoodShare recipients have a right to a hearing before an administrative law judge. But Menendez said many recipients are confused into signing forms sent by the state asking them to waive their right to a hearing. DHS numbers for a recent nearly 10-month period show that nearly a third of the people it sought to disqualify signed the waiver.

DeLessio, also of Legal Action, said she is representing a client with intellectual disabilities who signed the waiver terminating her benefits even though she cannot read. The woman is now without benefits.

Advocates for FoodShare recipients say when recipients contest a disqualification they often win. “The deciding factor may be whether the person appeared to explain the purchases,” DeLessio said.

If the recipient does not sign a waiver, a hearing is held. During the recent period under review, 348 hearings were held, and 311 disqualifications imposed. “We were upheld in 89 percent of the cases,” said White. This includes cases that are not contested, but White said the state still must present evidence.

Records of suspension cases provided by DeLessio show that some FoodShare recipients are targeted because they fall into a category of potential suspicion — for instance, by making unusually large or frequent purchases at a given store or having purchases that end in round numbers, like $20.00.

“We have seen people disqualified for less than $100,” DeLessio said.

White confirmed that his office looks for certain patterns, like large purchases, as “flags” of potential FoodShare fraud. And he acknowledged that “there are improvements that can be made” to the waiver form. He said that process is now under way.

According to White, the administrative law judges have “raised the bar” in terms of what evidence is required to disqualify recipients, “as is appropriate.” DeLessio still sees inconsistencies in how the cases are decided.

“The same evidence can lead to very different results depending on the judge,” DeLessio said.

‘It was very unfair’

In one case that came to hearing in 2013, a judge sustained a fraud finding against an individual who made five purchases over a three-month period from a store that was later disqualified from being a state FoodShare vendor. The purchases totaled $183.54; the store, the judge noted, was “not particularly close to respondent’s residence.” The respondent, who did not attend the hearing, was booted from the program for a year.

After another hearing, in 2014, a different judge rejected DHS’s attempt to disqualify a man for making numerous small purchases from a store that aroused suspicion in part because its owner admitted to allowing FoodShare recipients to use their cards to buy diapers, not an allowable purchase. The man appeared at the hearing and explained that the store was near where his children and their mother lived.

DeLessio represented Walter Triplett, 57, of Milwaukee, who in February 2014 was suspended from the FoodShare program for a year despite having appeared at a hearing to explain purchases that the DHS reviewer found suspicious. She filed a 25-page legal brief challenging this decision, which the state then agreed to vacate. But Triplett, who is disabled, was without Foodshare benefits for several months.

“It was very unfair,” Triplett said of the grounds for his disqualification. He got by by going to church food pantries. Also, “my family members helped me out as much as they could.”

DHS’s budget request for 2015-17 calls for the agency to “expand and improve” its fraud-fighting efforts. It sets a goal of 7,000 fraud investigations for each of the next three years.

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

ACLU seeks stay of voter ID law from Supreme Court

The American Civil Liberties Union on Oct. 8 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay this week’s final ruling from a Seventh Circuit appeals panel that concluded Wisconsin’s voter ID law is constitutional and does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.  

Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said, “Permitting this law to go into effect so close to the election is fueling voter confusion and election chaos in Wisconsin, particularly for the many voters who have already cast their ballots. Voters deserve a fair shake, but this last-minute disruption changes the rules of the game in an election that is already underway, and risks locking out thousands of voters. The stakes are extremely high.”

The motion filed with the high court by the ACLU notes factual inaccuracies in the appeals court ruling, including:

• “The Seventh Circuit also could not fathom that so many registered Wisconsin voters lack a photo ID ‘in a world in which photo ID is essential to board an airplane … pick up a prescription at a pharmacy, open a bank account or cash a check at a currency exchange, buy a gun, or enter a courthouse to serve as a juror or watch the argument of this appeal.’ Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Wisconsin fliers, patients, bank customers, gun owners, and court watchers do not need photo IDs. Only Wisconsin voters.”

• “The panel inexplicably stated that key voter witnesses ‘did not testify that they had tried to get (a copy of their birth certificate), let alone that they had tried but failed.’ But numerous witnesses testified that they tried and failed to get a birth certificate so they could get a voter ID.”

The ACLU, the ACLU of Wisconsin, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and Dechert LLP are co-counsel in this case, Frank v. Walker

At present, Wisconsin voters are required to present photo IDs in the Nov. 4 election. Wisconsinites who encounter problems obtaining an ID or voting are encouraged to contact the ACLU of Wisconsin.