NEW YORK — Bernie Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme, died in a federal prison early Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. He was 82.
Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, apparently from natural causes, the person said. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.
Last year, Madoff’s lawyers filed court papers to try to get him released from prison in the coronavirus pandemic, saying he had suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions. The request was denied.
Madoff admitted swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.
A court-appointed trustee has recovered more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion that investors put into Madoff’s business. At the time of Madoff’s arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion.
For decades, Madoff enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose Midas touch defied market fluctuations. A former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, he attracted a devoted legion of investment clients — from Florida retirees to celebrities such as famed film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.
But his investment advisory business was exposed in 2008 as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities and foundations. He became so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.”
After several months living under house arrest at his $7 million Manhattan penthouse apartment, he was led off to jail in handcuffs to scattered applause from angry investors in the courtroom.
“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice told the judge at the sentencing. “He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife … could live a life of luxury beyond belief.”
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin showed no mercy, sentencing Madoff to the maximum 150 years in prison.
“Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead … one that takes a staggering human toll,” Chin said.
The Madoffs also took a severe financial hit: A judge issued a $171 billion forfeiture order in June 2009 stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and $80 million in assets his wife, Ruth, had claimed were hers. The order left her with $2.5 million.
The scandal also exacted a personal toll on the family: One of his sons, Mark, killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010. And Madoff’s brother, Peter, who helped run the business, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012, despite claims he was in the dark about his brother’s misdeeds.
Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died from cancer at age 48. Ruth is still living.
Madoff was sent to do what amounted to a life sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex, about 45 miles northwest of Raleigh, N.C. A federal prison website listed his probable release date as Nov. 11, 2139.
Madoff was born in 1938 in a lower-middle-class Jewish neighborhood in Queens. In the financial world, the story of his rise to prominence — how he left for Wall Street with Peter in 1960 with a few thousand dollars saved from working as a lifeguard and installing sprinklers — became legend.
“They were two struggling kids from Queens. They worked hard,” said Thomas Morling, who worked closely with the Madoff brothers in the mid-1980s setting up and running computers that made their firm a trusted leader in off-floor trading.
“When Peter or Bernie said something that they were going to do, their word was their bond,” Morling said in a 2008 interview.
In the 1980s, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities occupied three floors of a midtown Manhattan high-rise. There, with his brother and later two sons, he ran a legitimate business as middlemen between the buyers and sellers of stock.
Madoff raised his profile by using the expertise to help launch Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange, and became so respected that he advised the Securities and Exchange Commission on the system. But what the SEC never found out was that behind the scenes, in a separate office kept under lock and key, Madoff was secretly spinning a web of phantom wealth by using cash from new investors to pay returns to old ones.
Authorities say that over the years, at least $13 billion was invested with Madoff. An old IBM computer cranked out monthly statements showing steady double-digit returns, even during market downturns. As of late 2008, the statements claimed investor accounts totaled $65 billion.
The ugly truth: No securities were ever bought or sold. Madoff’s chief financial officer, Frank DiPascali, said in a guilty plea in 2009 that the statements detailing trades were “all fake.”
His clients, many Jews like Madoff and Jewish charities, said they didn’t know. Among them was Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who recalled meeting Madoff years earlier at a dinner where they talked about history, education and Jewish philosophy — not money.
Madoff “made a very good impression,” Wiesel said during a 2009 panel discussion on the scandal. Wiesel admitted that he bought into “a myth that he created around him that everything was so special, so unique, that it had to be secret.”
Like many of his clients, Madoff and his wife enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. They had a $7 million Manhattan apartment, an $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Florida and a $4 million home on the tip of Long Island. There was yet another home in the south of France, private jets and a yacht.
It all came crashing down in the winter of 2008 with a dramatic confession at Madoff’s 12th-floor apartment on the Upper East Side. In a meeting with his sons, he confided that his business was “all just one big lie.”
After the meeting, a lawyer for the family contacted regulators, who alerted the federal prosecutors and the FBI. Madoff was in a bathrobe when two FBI agents arrived at his door unannounced on a December morning. He invited them in, then confessed after being asked “if there’s an innocent explanation,” a criminal complaint said.
Madoff responded: “There is no innocent explanation.”
As he had from the start, Madoff insisted in his plea that he acted alone — something the FBI never believed. As agents scoured records for evidence of a broader conspiracy and cultivated DiPascali as a cooperator, the scandal turned Madoff into a pariah, evaporated life fortunes, wiped out charities and apparently pushed some investors to commit suicide.
A trustee was appointed to recover funds — sometimes by suing hedge funds and other large investors who came out ahead — and divvying up those proceeds to victims. The search for Madoff’s assets “has unearthed a labyrinth of interrelated international funds, institutions and entities of almost unparalleled complexity and breadth,” the trustee, Irving Picard, said in a 2009 report.
The report said the trustee has located assets and businesses “of interest” in 11 places: Great Britain, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas. More than 15,400 claims against Madoff were filed.
At Madoff’s sentencing in June 2009, wrathful former clients stood to demand the maximum punishment. Madoff himself spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes. At various times, he referred to his monumental fraud as a “problem,” “an error of judgment” and “a tragic mistake.”
He claimed he and his wife were tormented, saying she “cries herself to sleep every night, knowing all the pain and suffering I have caused.”
“That’s something I live with, as well,” he said.
Afterward, Ruth Madoff — often a target of victims’ scorn since her husband’s arrest — broke her silence that same day by issuing a statement claiming that she, too, had been misled by her high school sweetheart.
“I am embarrassed and ashamed,” she said. “Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.”
About a dozen Madoff employees and associates were charged in the federal case. Five went on trial in late 2013 and watched DiPascali take the witness stand as the government’s star witness.
DiPascali recounted for jurors how just before the scheme was exposed, Madoff called him into his office.
“He’d been staring out the window the all day,” DiPascali testified. “He turned to me and he said, crying, ‘I’m at the end of my rope. … Don’t you get it? The whole goddamn thing is a fraud.’”
In the end, that fraud brought fresh meaning to “Ponzi scheme,” named after Charles Ponzi, who was convicted of mail fraud after bilking thousands of people out of a mere $10 million between 1919 and 1920.
“Charles Ponzi is now a footnote,” said Anthony Sabino, a defense lawyer specializing in white collar criminal defense. “They’re now Madoff schemes.”
Йога для начинающих для похудения.22 минуты. buckshee
2 сезон 4 серия, Рик и Морти, Вспомнить Вэ Сэ Йо, Total Rickall 2015г
30 сезон 4 серия Симпсоны, Маленький домик ужасов на дереве XXIX, Treehouse of Horror XXIX 2018г.
2 сезон 12 серия Американцы, Операционная хроника, Operation Chronicle 2014г
2 сезон 14 серия, Пациенты, Неделя III, Уолтер, Week III, Walter 2009г
- 3 недели, 2 дня назад 15.04.2021Politics
In an effort to push through its agenda, the Biden administration is attempting to redefine basic political concepts. Is the strategy working? This week RYAN breaks down the words that have defined Biden’s presidency so far: bipartisanship, crisis and infrastructure. The administration is even pushing back over what should be the marker for Biden’s 100 days in office, which is technically April 29. The president’s supporters might think we are being pedantic, but allowing people in power to redefine certain words for their own benefit is a slippery slope.
One of the first things on the agenda this year for Kentucky Republicans was figuring out how to kneecap Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. They dropped legislation in January that placed new limits on the governor’s emergency executive powers, quickly passed the bill, overrode his veto and then fought him in court.
In the months that have followed, lawmakers across the country — from Maine to California, Oregon to Florida — have proposed and, in many cases, passed similar measures to curtail the sweeping powers bestowed on their state executives.
The tug-of-war between legislators and governors has the potential to shape the boundaries of gubernatorial authority for years to come and raises substantive questions of how much leeway the state leaders should have during prolonged crises.
Fiery debates over things like mask mandates and other economic restrictions were frequent last year, particularly in battleground states and those with divided state governments, as public health debates were imbued with election year considerations. But the conflict over the power of the executive transcends ordinary politics, playing out in states both red and blue, and even where one party controls both branches.
Lawmakers are only now realizing how much power they cede to the executive — and are attempting to reassert themselves in blunt ways. If 2020 marked the rise of the authoritarian governors, 2021 may be the beginning of their fall.
Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, frustrated with Gov. Tom Wolf, will ask primary voters next month to consider constitutional amendments granting the state’s General Assembly the power to end gubernatorial disaster declarations and require legislative approval for declarations that extend longer than 21 days.
In Kansas, GOP lawmakers already pushed through a law to sunset Covid-19 executive orders issued by Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and used their new power to reject a statewide mask mandate. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has likewise signed a bill giving the legislature more power to check his and future governor’s emergency authority.
In New York, the Democrat-controlled Legislature limited Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ability to issue new Covid-related diktats — one of the earliest signs of the Democrat’s diminished standing in Albany amid multiple scandals. Lawmakers even denied Cuomo political cover by rebutting his claim that he played a role in brokering the legislation.
And in Ohio, Republicans last month successfully overrode party-mate Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that gave lawmakers say over numerous emergency and health orders.
“We can’t leave it up to one person — no matter how much we like him or her — and everyone else who was elected has to sit on our hands,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, who made the issue a priority after assuming the top leadership spot in January, said in an interview. “That’s not how it’s supposed to work in a republic.”
As former President Donald Trump took a hands-off approach to the pandemic, bristling at any sort of forceful restrictions on public life, governors across the country flexed their muscles and exerted themselves in ways unprecedented in recent memory as they battled Covid-19.
Many state leaders have long had extraordinary powers to respond to crises, in some ways exceeding the domestic reach of the president. The pandemic won them even more authority — and exposed the limits of their existing powers — as state leaders took steps that reshaped the lives of their constituents.
Most governors insisted throughout the crisis that they were being guided by evolving science and trying to navigate uncertain terrain as best they could. But patience appears to have worn out for many legislators consigned to the backseat.
Lawmakers in nearly every state in the country have introduced a combined 300-plus bills this year related to governor’s emergency authority or executive action taken during the fight against Covid-19, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only a fraction of those measures are likely to ultimately move out of committee, let alone be enacted into law, but the bills nevertheless reflect the considerable interest in recalibrating governors’ emergency authorities.
In some states, it has been a continuation of philosophical differences that have played out over the course of the still-ongoing pandemic. That dynamic has been particularly evident in places sporting Democratic governors contending with GOP-controlled statehouses like Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan, where conservative outrage over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic mandates put her in physical danger last year.
But for other governors, it has been members of their own party who have been the ones trying to wrestle back control and deliver emphatic rebukes of their state’s leadership, as was the case in New York and Ohio last month. The move against DeWine marked the first successful override since the Republican took office in 2019 — and it came despite his pleading that the legislation “jeopardizes the safety” of residents and “handcuffs” the state’s capacity to respond to crises.
“It’s a bit of hyperbole to say people are going to die because of this because that presumes the legislature will collectively ignore that kind of risk,” Huffman said.
DeWine last week consolidated into one more than a dozen public health orders in order to “simplify” the rules for people, though he denied the changes had any connection to the newly empowered legislature.
A number of governors and their legislative allies have fended off efforts to pare back their authority, though lawmakers are still in session in most states and could still act.
Virginia’s General Assembly wrapped without taking up the issue as lawmakers head into an election year, and Connecticut legislators recently extended Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency powers another month, to May 20.
Max Reed, Lamont’s communications director, attributed that extension to the sense of collaboration between the two branches of government, both of which Democrats control in Connecticut.
“Maybe there is a different understanding in states about what they’re facing when it comes to these emergencies,” Reed said. “We’ve had a mutual understanding about what’s been going on with our response and the economy.”
Many governors saw their standing rise and fall — sometimes more than once — in the minds of their constituents as they charted through uncertain terrain over the past year. At times, they enraged religious leaders, business owners, public health officials and even members of their own political party.
The battle between legislators and governors was a major factor in the varying ways that different parts of the country responded to the pandemic. It has been somewhat overshadowed as states begin to lift restrictions — occasionally against the advice of public health experts — and national headlines are dominated by Republican-driven efforts to overhaul election laws and target how transgender youths are treated.
After Democrats failed to break GOP majorities in a single legislative chamber, and Republicans failed to supplant Democratic governors in places like North Carolina, the focus quickly shifted to altering the balance of power in state capitals with regards to pandemic policymaking.
“We all want to make sure that the governor is able to act quickly in emergency situations, but we need to think about what constitutes an emergency,” said Massachusetts state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Democrat who has introduced legislation to limit the powers of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. “The governor has not signaled any intention of giving up his powers and the legislature has to be the check on the administration.”
Generally speaking, however, the GOP has tilted far more toward limiting what governors are allowed to do by law than Democrats to date.
Take the moves in Kentucky, where Beshear remains popular and last week signed a GOP-blessed bill to loosen early voting laws. Among other things, the laws passed by Republicans — which the governor’s office quickly challenged in court — place a 30-day limit on executive orders issued during a state of emergency unless ratified by the General Assembly, requires permission of the separately-elected attorney general before suspending existing statutes and bars the governor from altering election laws during an emergency.
“If he were a Republican, he would have been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge, who previously served as an adviser to Beshear’s father, a former governor. “There is a time and a place to have those conversations, but with a little bit of time passed to assess the utilization of those powers.”
The courts have also struck down some of the ways that governors have tried to wield their powers. In some cases, top lawmakers were the ones leading the legal effort against the executive branch and local health departments.
At the end of March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nixed Gov. Tony Evers’ ability to impose a statewide mask mandate in voting 4-3 that he ran afoul of state law by stringing together emergency declarations to prolong the mandate without approval from the GOP-run legislature.
And Michigan lawmakers cleared the way for a potential legal showdown after Whitmer vetoed legislation yoking new time limits on emergency orders issued by the state health department to nearly $350 million in Covid-19 testing funding. Earlier in March, legislative Republicans authorized Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to sue the Whitmer administration if it attempted to spend money tied to such legislation.
“Executive fiat has not worked for Michigan,” state Sen. Lana Theis, who sponsored the vetoed bill, said in an interview. “We are supposed to be the voice of the people and we were elected to be that voice. How long do you get to go with a unitary executive?”
Whitmer has said the Republican legislature is playing a “dangerous game” by trying to leverage the money against her.
Similarly, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, on Friday vetoed a bill that would allow the legislature to call itself into special sessions during emergencies as a way to revoke gubernatorial edicts. Holcomb said he believed the provision was unconstitutional.
The situation has not always been so contentious, even though governors are instinctively reluctant to cede to any encroachment on the powers vested in their offices.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who had been second-in-command to the term-limited Republican Gary Herbert before winning the governorship in the fall, managed to negotiate with Republican lawmakers on a timeframe to lift mask mandates and pare back the governor’s emergency powers going forward.
Rather than attempt to stymie the legislation wholesale, Cox’s office kept in close contact with lawmakers throughout the legislative process and helped secure several changes to the final bill language, Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers said.
“There’s reasonable allowance to let the governor operate on a daily basis, so we didn’t interrupt anything on things like tornados or a chemical spill, and even on long term stuff they have room to operate,” Vickers said prior to the bill being signed into law.
Vickers said the negotiations helped head off moves by some lawmakers to further restrict the governor’s powers to combat the present crisis and engendered Cox some goodwill early in his term.
“The governor was working along with us even if he didn’t always agree with us,” he said. “I think we landed in a good spot.”
There’s nothing quite like a dust-up between two prominent members of the same party to stir the blood. Whether it’s New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lobbing insults at each other, or President Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy barely concealing what one book called their “mutual contempt,” it catches the eye the way a scrap between people wearing the same uniform enlivens any sport.
But if you want to know why Donald Trump’s public insult to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is different, look at the response of McConnell’s fellow Republicans, who dispatched Senator Rick Scott to fly to Florida to placate Trump with the coveted—and heretofore nonexistent—“Champion for Freedom” award.
In another time, fellow members of the world’s greatest deliberative body would have rallied round their colleague, or at least held their tongues, secure in their positions. Now, however, they look warily at the political fate of Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and Mark Sanford—and the potential fate of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, John Thune and other Republicans who have incurred the wrath of Trump.
In part it’s the source of his anger that marks his attack on fellow Republicans unique—and in part, it’s because he doesn’t mind what kind of damage he does to the party. Disputes between fellow party members are hardly new, but they’re usually limited (on both sides) by an understanding of the collateral damage. When one side really doesn’t care, all bets are off.
Intra-party disputes have historically taken place during the election process, unlike this one, and they’ve usually been driven by major political arguments, a clash of personal ambitions, or both. Theodore Roosevelt tried to unseat his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, for the GOP nomination in 1912—and when Taft won, he then ran a third-party campaign arguing that Taft had betrayed the Republican agenda. In 1936, Al Smith tried to deny President Franklin Roosevelt a second term, based in part on FDR’s aggressive use of federal power to fight the impact of the Depression. Eisenhower and Robert Taft (son of William Howard) staged a Pier Six brawl in 1952 over the direction of the Republican Party. Robert Kennedy ran against LBJ in 1968 with the Vietnam War as his cause; Ronald Reagan was the conservative challenger to the incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976; Ted Kennedy was the liberal challenger to President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Once that battle is over, there’s powerful pressure to shake hands, or at least coexist, and take the fight to the other team. Bob Kerrey held his 1992 primary rival Bill Clinton in minimum high regard—“He’s an exceptionally skillful liar,” he said of Clinton at one point—but he cast the deciding vote for Clinton’s economic package in 1993 because he didn’t want to effectively cripple a Democratic presidency before it had begun. It takes a special kind of animus for a member of one party to actually defeat a key goal of his or her party’s president, as John McCain did in July, 2017, when he walked into the well of the Senate and dramatically cast a thumbs-down “no” vote to kill Trump’s attempt to repeal Obamacare; perhaps Trump’s sneer that he “liked heroes who weren’t captured” may have had something to do with that vote.
But then, there’s always been something different about Donald Trump and the Republican Party—in part because he seems to have a stronger connection to its voters than the party leadership does. Even after he won the nomination in 2016, four of the five previous GOP presidential nominees refused to endorse him, as did fully a fifth of the Republican senators…and he won a higher percentage of Republican voters that November than did Ronald Reagan. This past January, seven senators of his own party voted to convict Trump of high crimes and misdemeanors, and Trump’s support among rank-and-file party members was effectively unshaken.
Once Trump survived, the party found itself having to pay respects again, and not just with the silver bowl Rick Scott handed him earlier this week. The same Republican Senate leader who denounced Trump for a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and held him “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the January 6th Capitol riot duly said he would support him as the 2024 nominee. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and presidential wannabe Nikki Haley have executed even more breathtaking pirouettes, from condemnation to supplication. They and other Republicans seem to have looked at January 6th as the final straw—the climax of behavior so egregious that it finally gave them free rein to call out the president—and then watched, to their horror, as Trump, like Freddy Krueger, emerged whole and ready to inflict fatal political wounds on those who defied him.
Nor did Republicans need to call Trump out for his behavior in order to draw his anger. The standard for Republican heresy went far beyond a vote to impeach or convict. The simple willingness to follow the plain commands of the law, as did Kemp, or acknowledge that Joe Biden had won, as did Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, was enough.
For Republican leaders, the urgent call is to find some way toward a truce of sorts. If the party can manage to hold itself together, they know full well that history will be on their side as they seek to retake the House and Senate, given what normally happens to a president’s party in the midterms.
They also know what happens when a headline figure who becomes power-hungry, or really doesn’t care about the collateral damage, goes after members of his own party. When FDR tied to “purge” Democrats in 1938, the party lost 72 House seats and seven Senate seats. Theodore Roosevelt’s third-party run against his chosen successor William Howard Taft doomed the Republican to a humiliating third-place finish in 1912.
Trump, too, took down the Republican establishment in 2016, and seems completely unchastened by his loss in 2020. Any plea to Trump to turn down the heat ignores a lifetime’s worth of behavior. Asking Trump not to insult those who have offended him is liking asking him not to exhale.
- 3 недели, 3 дня назад 13.04.2021Politics
The mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minn., announced on Tuesday that he had asked Gov. Tim Walz to reassign the case of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man shot and killed by police during a traffic stop, to the state attorney general.
The request from Mayor Mike Elliott is the latest local development since Wright was killed on Sunday, sparking two consecutive nights of unrest in the Minneapolis suburb — a short distance from where George Floyd was killed by police last May and where former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is now standing trial on murder and manslaughter charges.
At a news briefing on Monday, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon released video of Wright’s traffic stop obtained from Officer Kim Potter’s body camera, which showed Potter shooting Wright. But Gannon said he believed that the shooting was an accident and that Potter meant to deploy her taser when she discharged her gun instead.
Elliott had said he supported Potter’s removal from the force, but Gannon and City Manager Curt Boganey declined on Monday to go as far as the mayor in calling for her firing. Later Monday, Elliott announced that Boganey had been relieved of his duties, expanding the mayor’s control over the police department.
By Tuesday afternoon, both Gannon and Potter had resigned, while Elliott indicated that Potter would face court proceedings for her role in the shooting — which Gannon previously said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating.
“There’s going to be a process where the officer is going to be in court and is going to go through the legal system to determine guilt or innocence,” Elliott told “CBS This Morning.”
- 3 недели, 4 дня назад 13.04.2021Politics
A group of top Demoratic Party pollsters are set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” in their 2020 polling — errors that left party officials stunned by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November.
In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong last year and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Joe Biden well ahead of former President Donald Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.
“Twenty-twenty was an ‘Oh, s—‘ moment for all of us,” said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. “And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right.”
That’s about where the answers end. The collaboration’s first public statement acknowledges that their industry “saw major errors and failed to live up to our own expectations.” But the memo also underscores the limits of the polling autopsy, noting that “no consensus on a solution has emerged.”
According to Democrats involved with the internal review, Tuesday’s statement marks the beginning of a years-long process to examine why, since 2012, most major elections have tilted against the party, despite favorable polling data before the vote. Up and down the ballot, Democrats have been, more often than not, shell-shocked by defeats in races they thought to be competitive, or narrower-than-expected, victories in contests they thought they led comfortably.
Democrats are not alone in reviewing what went wrong last year. The polling industry is engaged in multiple reviews of its 2020 performance, including a forthcoming report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s task force that is expected to address the overestimation of Democrats’ performance, from the presidential race down to races for Congress and state offices.
The previously undisclosed Democratic polling review is not being replicated by Republicans, who ultimately lost the presidency and the Senate, and won fewer House seats than Democrats. While some in the GOP were also surprised by the party’s competitiveness last November and are studying their methods, there is no similar, organized effort moving into the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election.
There’s no simple answer for why the polls have missed the mark in recent elections. But one likely culprit for some of the errors is the deteriorating public trust in institutions, like government and the news media — and the correlation between that wariness and voting for Trump. Between his public statements and Twitter account, the former president cast doubt on polling specifically, which the Democratic consultants suggested led to his supporters refusing to participate in surveys.
“Trump went after the polls,” said another Democratic pollster involved in the partnership. “He was really pretty overt to those that were listening about some of his distrust of polls or media.”
The 2020 election shattered turnout records — and since November, pollsters have been eagerly awaiting official information from the states about who voted, and who didn’t. That data is now almost entirely available, and there are clues hidden within.
The Democratic pollsters, who typically compete against each other for business, acknowledge that Trump was able to activate large numbers of voters who had turned out less reliably in the past. Looking at one state where the polls were off — Iowa, where Trump beat Biden handily and what had been seen as a toss-up Senate race went decisively for incumbent GOP Sen. Joni Ernst — Republicans classified as “low-propensity voters” turned out at four times the rate of Democrats in that category, according to the Democratic memo.
“This turnout error was clearly one factor in polling being off across the board, but especially in deeply Republican areas,” the memo reads. “It also meant, at least in some places, we again underestimated relative turnout among rural and white non-college voters, who are overrepresented among low propensity Republicans.”
But sky-high turnout for Trump among irregular voters only explains a small slice of the problem, the pollsters concluded. Even if the polls conducted last year were properly adjusted for future turnout, they still would have been biased toward Democrats.
The memo floats at least three possible causes: late movement toward Trump and Republican candidates that polls conducted in the run-up to the election failed to catch, the Covid pandemic causing people who stayed home to answer the phone at a greater rate than those who did not follow restrictions, and the decline of social trust and faith in institutions.
But there’s little clarity about how significant each of those hypotheses was.
“While there is evidence some of these theories played a part, no consensus on a solution has emerged. What we have settled on is the idea there is something systematically different about the people we reached, and the people we did not,” the memo reads. “This problem appears to have been amplified when Trump was on the ballot, and it is these particular voters who Trump activated that did not participate in polls.”
Some Democrats believe these errors are a direct Trump effect — that he is a singular force in politics, engendering extreme opinions on both sides — and it will fade if he’s no longer a candidate.
“I don’t think we know what it is. I think we still have a lot of work to do to figure it out,” one pollster said. “I’m marginally optimistic that if Trump is on the ballot in ’24 that we can fix it. I don’t know. If he’s not, I do think a lot of it could resolve itself.”
The Democratic effort stands in contrast to the last major review of a party’s polling practices. Following the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee’s so-called “autopsy” — best known for its recommendation that party leaders moderate their views on immigration and other social issues — included a list of best practices for pollsters, who were also summoned to party headquarters for discussions.
The five Democratic firms that signed onto the memo are ALG Research, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, GBAO Strategies, Global Strategy Group and Normington Petts. Together, they are five of the top six polling firms working for the Democratic Party apparatus, along with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, according to financial disclosure reports. ALG Research was Biden’s lead pollster in last year’s election.
Participants in Democrats’ review said the process — which, unlike the GOP’s 2012 effort, was not dictated from party officials — was collegial, despite the fact that the five firms compete against each other for business.
“One should feel comfortable talking to your competitors because, ultimately, we all want the same thing,” said a third participant. “We all want a useful way to help give guidance to Democratic candidates and progressive causes.”
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