The nation faces an unprecedented threat to voter turnout in this fall’s elections according to civil rights advocates speaking at a National Press Club News Conference May 13 in Washington, DC.

“This is the first presidential election cycle to be conducted without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The heart of it [the law] is preclearance for voting rights changes in states with a long history of voter suppression.”

The news conference was part of an ongoing series by the press club's Newsmakers Committee of about two topics a month regarded as especially important. 

Clarke (shown in a photo by Noel St. John) and others alleged that the Supreme Court’s 2013 party-line 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder voiding the law has made it possible for partisan election officials to reduce voting by likely opponents.

In a suit by Alabama Shelby County officials, the high court’s Republican majority overturned as unconstitutional congressional requirements that the Justice Department preclear major changes in voting law by localities with a history of bias.

The court said preclearance could be legal if Congress renews its data. But GOP majorities have shown scant support for hearings and otherwise updating the law.

The stakes are high said Leadership Conference on Civil Rights President/CEO Wade Henderson. “In the United States, voting is the language of democracy,” he said. “If you don’t vote you don’t count.”

He and Clarke agreed that new requirements for photo identifications “are Public Enemy Number One” to those who would like to see the nation’s voting turnout rise from its current position of 31st in a global survey of 34 advanced industrial nations.

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Three journalists who helped break the "Panama Papers" secret asset scandal last month described May 12 at the National Press Club their year-long secret investigation of hidden assets, as well as innovative methods and future implications.  

ICIJ at NPC May 12, 2016 Noel St. JohnIn the largest leak probe in journalism history, some 376 investigative journalists from 80 countries worked collaboratively to report stories beginning April 3 on 11.5 million financial records from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The firm is one of the world's top creators of shell companies that hide the assets of the wealthy. The probe has prompted official resignations and ongoing investigations in several nations.

Also, the probe coordinated by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has created hope that a new model can augment traditional investigative reporting, which is so expensive and otherwise difficult that most news organizations have curtailed ambitious projects.

"Collaboration is the way to go," said ICIJ deputy director Marina Walker Guevara, "not the 'lone wolf' model." She is shown with her ICIJ colleagues Will Fitzgibbon (at left) and Kevin Hall (at far right), the chief economics correspondent for McClatchy chain of newspapers. Panel moderator Thomas Burr, press club president and Washington correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune, is at center in the photo republished courtesy of photographer Noel St. John.

"The Panama Papers," she said, "show an array of behavior far beyond tax evasion," and include traffic in drugs, arms, and people (for sex).

Burr opened the discussion by noting that one of ICIJ's first meetings on its scoop occurred in secret nearly a year previous at the club in the room right behind where the panel was sitting. "Honestly," he said,"we at the club had no idea what they were talking about. Until now. That was one of the first meetings of the consortium of journalists who are investigating what we now call 'the Panama Papers.'"

Charles "Chuck" Lewis (American University)ICIJ began breaking its story, Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption. April 3 on its site. Charles Lewis (shown in a file photo), an American University journalism professor, best-selling author and former ABC and CBS News producer, founded ICIJ in 1997.

Partner news organizations around the world published or broadcast their own versions under a plan whereby ICIJ controlled the timing, but participating outlets controlled the subject and approach.

ICIJ's story began:

A massive leak of documents exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies. The leak also provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.

The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.

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Donald Trump's explosive claim May 3 that Rafael Cruz may have known Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans before JFK's assassination in Dallas has since provided a case study in news coverage of sensitive issues.

Regardless of what one thinks of Trump, the reaction to his comments illustrate how he threatens the Washington establishment, including reporters and pundits who slant important news regarding the presidency. Trump showed also that he is careless at best in his commentary. He initially said the man in the photo below was Cruz, father of Texas senator Ted Cruz. Later, Trump falsely told CNN that he had merely wondered whether the man was Rafael Cruz.

Lee Harvey Oswald, Aug. 16, 2016 Johann Rush/WSDU-TVPerhaps even more important, Washington insiders are beginning to share a view that candidates risk unprecedented exposure of their darkest secrets in a campaign that will be far more ruthless, unpredictable and momentous than the public can expect from controlled media. This is indicated by, among other things, a report May 5 by the experienced commentator Pepe Escobar, accessible via his Facebook account: How Trump Did It; The Outside The Box Gambit.

Update: Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after Trump trounced him in Indiana's primary by a 53-37 percent margin. Trump was winning also the vast majority of the 57 delegates at stake. In the Democratic race, Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton 52-48 percent with most votes tabulated.

Escobar asserted that a major reason Cruz suspended his campaign was to stop criticism of his family's past. "Of course," added political commentator Joe Lauria, "Cruz also realized that after losing Indiana he would not be able to force a contested convention."

Let's start decoding this situation. In response to campaign efforts by Cruz on behalf of his son before the crucial GOP Indiana primary May 3, Trump said Cruz helped Oswald distribute pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans three months before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being — you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said during a phone interview with Fox News, referring to the man in the necktie at center in the photo. “What is this, right prior to his [JFK] being shot, and nobody even brings it up? They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.”

"This is nuts," Ted Cruz responded in defending his father from Trump's charges as voting began during Indiana's crucial primary May 3. "This man [Trump] is a pathological liar....The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him."

With the stakes so high both in the JFK probe and the current election, the facts and reporting are worth exploring here in a report updated May 5 from our original coverage two days previous:

Federal authorities and the major media have always argued in essence that Oswald acted alone to kill JFK on Nov. 22, 1963. True, the establishment occasionally floats also oddball theories attributed to cranks and "conspiracy theorists."

Ted Cruz Father Linked To JFK Assasination (National Enquirer)But their core conclusion, right from the start, has been that Oswald killed JFK alone, as we reported in Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory. Yet many serious researchers, law enforcement and scientific whistle blowers, and other suppressed voices have long argued that Oswald was a scapegoat who acted with others at a minimum, and may even have been innocent of killing either JFK or a Dallas policeman that day.

Critics of the 1964 Warren Commission draw on a vast array of evidence to show involvement, often compartmentalized by those who did not know the ultimate result of their actions, by rogue elements of government, business, the mob, and Cuban refugee community, with the result that Kennedy was replaced.

To hint at such a monstrous concept means career oblivion even now for prominent officials, pundits and academics. That has long been the case. Declassified 1960s documents show that the CIA orchestrated a campaign to discredit as "conspiracy theorists" those who suggested government misconduct in the JFK case and subsequent mysterious events extending to the present. We summarized the evidence in a 2014 column: Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears.

That pattern helps explain the instant attacks on Trump May 3 and absence of virtually any commentator willing to explore whether his comments might have a basis in fact worth exploring.

In contrast, investigative reporter Wayne Madsen first reported April 7 evidence strongly suggesting that Rafael Cruz was the mystery man photographed handing out literature on Aug. 16, 1963 in New Orleans. This as outside the International Trade Mart, a significant gateway to Caribbean and Latin America business.

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison later unsuccessfully prosecuted the trade mart's leader, Clay Shaw, on claims that he was an intelligence asset who conspired to murder the president in a plot involving the president's opponents, including rogue elements of intelligence agencies, other federal authorities, and police.

Nonetheless, Madsen was careful not to conclude definitively that the mystery man in the photo was the elder Cruz. After Madsen's story was published he appeared on a New Orleans radio station that week to ask listeners for help in an ongoing investigation on the mystery man's identity. Similarly, Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes aptly told a CNN audience that Trump was raising questions about the photo and related research, and not accusing Ted Cruz's father of plotting murder.

By contrast, dishonest commentators are fudging all distinctions to ridicule and thereby suppress any further inquiry.

In the photo above by the late Johann Rush of WSDU-TV in New Orleans, Oswald is at front left in a white shirt and necktie. He stands next to man never publicly identified by the Warren Commission, center, and also in white shirt. They were handing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee outside the trade mart. The National Enquirer reported that it determined through photo analysis by experts that the man is Rafael B. Cruz, father of GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

The mainstream media -- major newspapers, wire services and broadcast networks -- have always been virtually unified in denunciations of Garrison and his team. Their message remains largely in place until today. Why? The reasons relate to a hidden history encompassing the CIA's empire-building and anti-Communist goals. These serve the agency's Wall Street and other elite controllers. Willing allies with the agency include the major media (whose ownership is, of course, part of "Wall Street"), the Cuban exile community, organized crime, and military contractors, all of whom are occasional allies, as we know know from declassified documents and books.

Thus Madsen's reporting represented a remarkable challenge to the government and media establishment and all who hope for career success within those career paths. He has not been alone in this, of course. More than two thousand books have been written about the JFK death building on the revelations of many whistleblowers, including from the CIA and law enforcement community. More recently, those amplifying questions about a possible Cruz connection to Oswald have included Indiana blogger and attorney Gary Welsh (found dead earlier this month, ruled suicide at age 53). The National Enquirer raised the profile in a cover story last week, and the McClatchy News Service published a balanced news story, and then came Trump's interview on Fox May 3.

We still do not know whether Rafael Cruz was passing out literature in New Orleans with Oswald. The circumstances suggest that Oswald and his fellow leaflet distributors were government assets, including natives of Cuba. Rafael Cruz has lived his life in largely mysterious fashion, despite publishing a memoir this year and many public appearances both on the campaign trail and as a pastor.

Our own Justice Integrity Project reporting through the years and more intensively since Madsen's scoop suggest compelling evidence that the elder Cruz was indeed part of Oswald's effort in New Orleans. Yet major media are now nearly unanimous in continuing the cover up of any thorough inquiry, which could readily be accomplished with in-depth interviews of surviving participants, release of suppressed documents or even a grand jury investigation.

Instead, Madsen (shown in a file photo) and the National Enquirer are now the targets of venom by both the mainstream media and those on alternative website whose chose tool is snark, not any demonstrable knowledge of the JFK or other political assassinations or sex scandals.

By contrast, Madsen with a three-part series in 2006 broke the story that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was a gay pedophile hiding his past as a lecherous high school wrestling coach. The mainstream ignore the series and now never gives him credit despite Hastert's guilty plea and sentencing. Similarly, the Enquirer has broken many major scandals covered up elsewhere and yet is automatically ridiculed even though it has almost never had to pay a verdict for defamation for wrong reporting.

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Bernie Sanders at National Press Club May 1, 2016. JIP Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at an-invitation-only press conference at the National Press Club on May 1, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig)

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders vows to remain in the race by persuading Democratic super-delegates to switch support to him from rival Hillary Clinton.

Conceding that he faces a tough road to win 65 percent of pledged delegates remaining in state contests, the Vermont senator said May 1 that he expects nonetheless to continue winning the contests so strongly that superdelegates will renounce the overwhelming support most of them have previously conferred on his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a steep hill to climb,” Sanders admitted at the National Press Club Sunday in Washington, DC. “But, at the end of the day the responsibility that superdelegates have is to decide what is best for the country and what is best for the Democratic Party.”

On May 3, Sanders and other remaining candidates face off in another big primary contest in Indiana, where most polls show Clinton with a significant lead over Sanders in the Democratic race and businessman Donald Trump leading his remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the GOP primary. With the stakes especially high for Republicans, Trump continued to mock the Texas senator Cruz as "Lyin' Ted" and the Cruz camp responded in kind with a TV ad denouncing Trump as a "phony." 

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Police state tactics, propaganda, and election fraud were several of the democracy disruption scandals that reformers studied last week in separate meetings that the Justice Integrity Project attended.

Justice Integrity Project

We address them in summary to illustrate the many important but often under-reported news events occurring in the nation's capital. Also, the scope of a week of sample activity helps show our project's day-to-day research efforts.

Our most recent two columns before this focused on sex scandals that we had studied intensely for years before writing about them, as here. One theme in those columns was that political sex scandals sometimes have a blackmail and/or intelligence component and are thus far more important and complex than they may seem.

The same kinds of complexity sometimes is apparent in the events and people reported below. Most ostensibly fight for the public interest and in favor of pro-democracy, human rights, and similar civic-betterment reforms.

Yet any such goals deserve at least some appraisal, which is not possible to complete here and now in depth. Therefore, these meetings are best regarded as building blocks for additional research, both by our project and by interested readers. 

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Beginning March 23, the National Enquirer published two major stories claiming that 2016 presidential contender Ted Cruz had had affairs with five women, thereby undermining his claims of conservative, moral leadership.

Today’s column provides an approach to understanding such allegations, which are increasingly common against high officials and candidates. Targets include Alabama Gov. Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who faces vast public pressure to resign or face impeachment. Bentley is shown below at left in a collage via WKRG-TV with his purported lover and top aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier, whom the governor fired after Collier protested what he called a scandal costing taxpayers huge sums.

Claims of sex scandal are increasingly common regarding high officials and would-be officials, as we reported this month here.

Our recommended approach, as voiced in a talk this month at the National Press Club, is for those in the public to remember four factors:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Top Strategist Rebekah Mason and former Alabama law enforcement chief Stephen Collier WKRG

  1. First, recognize that a shockingly high percent of such allegations are likely true, as shown via books, confessions and documents that are typically available years after the fact. But such evidence may be augmented by a Supreme Court decision later this spring regarding the records of the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, dubbed by the media as “The DC Madam.”
  2. Second, however, any specific individual — including Cruz and his five alleged lovers cited by the Enquirer — may be completely innocent and smeared solely as part of the often vicious, effective, and highly paid “opposition research” operations of major candidates. Cruz has vigorously denied the allegations.
  3. Third, sex scandals involving important government officials are often tied to efforts to disgrace them and their causes, or to blackmail them into favorable government actions. Government contracts or tax policies for favored businesses and foreign policy intrigues are often involved. These involve such high stakes that the costs of escorts and secret video equipment are relatively modest; and
  4. Finally, valid and important accusations can come from tabloid and other alternative publications, in part because the mainstream publications often suppress or fail to investigate valid allegations for political or "national security" reasons implicating CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies.

Those were the core points of my talk April 13 before the McClendon speaker society at the press club, which amplified the April 8 column DC Madam Attorney: Client Revelations This Week; Cruz News?

it described how Palfrey's attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, threatened April 8 to release the government and business names of her clients unless federal courts grant a hearing on his request to release at least one customer name he describes as vital to the 2016 presidential race.

The Supreme Court, after initially rejecting via Chief Justice John Roberts Sibley's request to consider lifting a 2007 gag order on client names and phone numbers, reconsidered the matter via a separate appeal to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

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