American Elephants


Vote Fraud? Perish the Thought — Please! Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! by The Elephant's Child

I got a little curious today, about the prospects for vote fraud in the upcoming election, so I did what we all do when we’re curious, I went to Google for a cursory search. What I found was fascinating. The websites I consider reliably Left, reliably said— nothing to see here, move right along. No such thing, proclaimed large numbers. Republican claims of vote fraud are untrue. Real but rare, they insist. Oh come on. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Chicago? In two elections, Barack Obama fortuitously managed to get court-sealed divorce records of his opponent opened just before the election. My next door neighbors for many years were from Illinois, and they had some remarkable stories. We had some real vote fraud here in Washington State. Military ballots gone missing. Documented. The arguments will continue — there’s a great deal at stake, and Democrats will continue to insist it is all figments of the Republican imagination.

The Washington Post asked a few days ago “Could non-citizens decide the November election?” They went to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) for answers.

How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.

Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.

Estimated Voter Turnout by Non-Citizens
2008 2010
Self reported and/or verified 38 (11.3%) 13 (3.5%)
Self reported and verified 5 (1.5%) N.A.
Adjusted estimate 21 (6.4%) 8 (2.2%)

The study did not indicate any advantage coming from Photo ID, because illegals were able to vote anyway. The researchers say that perhaps the United States should move to legalize some electoral participation by non-citizens as many other countries do—though they offer no justification for so doing. Election rules in Kansas and Arizona are set to bar thousands of people in coming weeks from casting ballots in state primaries even as the federal government allows some of them to vote in congressional races. The comments in the article are about what would be expected:

“There is a very real problem with aliens being registered to vote,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who said about a dozen states are likely to pass such measures in coming years.

Democrats have countered that there are few examples of fraud at the polls and that such steps suppress the vote of such groups as minorities and women.

So there you go. The more things change, the more they stay the same.



Some of the Costs and Perks of the Presidency by The Elephant's Child

A new book Presidential Perks Gone Royal by Robert Keith Gray, points out that American taxpayers spent $1.4 billion on everything from staffing, housing, flying and entertaining President Obama and his family last year. In comparison, British taxpayers spent just $57.8 million on the royal family.

Obama is not the first president to take advantage of the expensive trappings of his office, but the amount spent on the first family, Gray argues, has risen tremendously under the Obama administration and needs to be reined in.

The $1.4 billion is the total cost of the presidency, factoring in the cost of the biggest staff in history at the highest wages ever, a 50 percent increase in the numbers of appointed czars, and an Air Force One “running with the frequency of a scheduled airline.” When a trip on Air Force One is deemed political, it is customary for the president to pay the equivalent of a first class commercial ticker for certain passengers, but that hardly covers the taxpayer’s cost of flying the president and his staffers around on campaign trips.

Gray argues in his book that Americans want their president to be safe and comfortable, but argues the system should be reformed. Aside from his salary, the president gets a $50,000 a year expense account, a $100,000 travel account, a $19,000 entertainment budget and an additional million for “unanticipated needs.”

The president has 469 senior staffers, and 226 are paid more than $100,000 a year. Seventy-seven are paid as much as $172,000. He has also appointed 43 czars.  All are appointed without Senate confirmation.

He can vacation for free at Camp David. Each round trip made to Camp David costs the taxpayers $25,350. It is estimated that the combined transportation and personnel costs for a Camp David visit are $295,000 per night.

The president has a full-time movie projectionist in the White House theater. The projectionists sleep at the White House so they can be on call 24 hours a day . The president’s family gets travel and security expenses paid while vacationing. Michelle Obama drew some flack from the media when it was disclosed that, not counting weekends, she spent 42 days on vacation in the span of one year.

Bo has his own highly paid staffer at $102,000 last year, and roused some criticism when he got a separate flight to join the president on vacation in Maine.

Up until 1958, the federal government provided no pension or other retirement benefits for former U.S. presidents. In 1955, former President Harry s. Truman’s limited financial resources for an office staff prompted legislation to provide benefits to former presidents. President Eisenhower was the first to fall under the Act.

By law, former presidents are entitled to a pension, staff and office expenses, medical care or health insurance, and Secret Service protection. The pension begins immediately after a president’s departure from office. Bill Clinton will have lifetime Secret Service protection, but George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and following presidents will have it for only ten years.

There is a presidential townhouse reserved for former presidents when they come to Washington. What happens when several former presidents turn up all at once is not clear.




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