Report: Most Federal Election Safety Cash Stays Unspent

Congress allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up the country’s electoral system against cyberattacks and other threats, but about two-thirds of the money went unspent just weeks before last year’s presidential election.

A recent federal report said the states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories had spent just over $ 255 million of $ 805 million on election security grants as of September 30th last year, the latest numbers available.

States have been given leeway in how and when to spend their shares as electoral concerns and potential weaknesses in electoral systems vary widely. Several election officials cited two main reasons for the slow pace of spending: More than half of the money was not allocated until the 2020 elections were less than a year away, leaving election officials and state lawmakers little time to make key spending decisions. And the coronavirus pandemic turned last year’s election planning on its head, forcing officials to focus on election security and seek earlier voting and postal voting.

“Security was still on everyone’s lips, but it was being pushed into the background to make sure the elections go without a total collapse,” said Don Palmer, chairman of the US Electoral Commission, which published the report.

A State-by-state snapshot The commission, released last month, shows that the state’s 50 states plus the District of Columbia and five territories at the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30, when the early voting was already in the presidential election, accounted for around 31% of the funding for election security. The grant money has come in two servings since 2018 under the Help America Vote Act.


US Electoral Aid Commission

A breakdown of electoral security funds by state in the Election Assistance Commission report shows Colorado spent $ 1 million of the $ 13.5 million in federal funds it received through September 30, 2020.

Louisiana, one of the last states to deploy aging paper-free voting machines nationwide, did not spend any of its $ 12.5 million in electoral security grants prior to the 2020 presidential election. Its initial efforts to replace thousands of voting machines were halted amid controversy over the selection process.

In July, the Democratic governor of Louisiana and his Republican lawmakers agreed on a process a verifiable paper trail required for any electoral system chosen by the GOP foreign minister.

In 2017, the federal government informed election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The spread of the attempts caused concern among some electoral officials and lawmakers at the time, even though the hackers failed to break into electoral systems or manipulate voter data or results.

North Dakota – one of the target states – did not spend any of the $ 6 million it received in electoral security grants as of September 30. The state told the Election Assistance Commission in its own financial report that it did not purchase any election equipment and did not conduct any security training during the year. Instead, other funding sources with expiration dates were prioritized. North Dakota originally applied for polling bail to purchase a nationwide digital scan voting system and electronic polling books for every polling location in the state.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report says that in June 2016, Russian activists successfully compromised the Illinois State Board of Elections computer network and gained access to a voter registration database containing the information of millions of people. By September 30, however, Illinois officials had spent less than 16% of the $ 28.1 million in bail money for the federal election. EAC Commissioner Benjamin Hovland told lawmakers that Illinois spending seemed low as the state spent most of its money on a multi-year project called the Cyber ​​Navigator Program, which aims to defend, detect, and stay away from cyber attacks to recover them.

Pennsylvania, a presidential battlefield that was also one of the target states in 2016, spent nearly 90% of its $ 28.6 million prior to the 2020 elections mainly on replacing voting machines. Other politically important states that were targeted – Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin – spent about half of their money.

Hovland said the electoral grant money had no expiration date and said it was “the first real money” to come into the states for elections in a long time, and people had no confidence that there would be additional federal funding .

A review of state progress reports by Commission officials found that a “joint activity” among states was to spend the money on examining the November presidential election. The report found that Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, and many other states are planning some form of audit.

According to the agency’s 2020 report, state spending on federal grants fell into three main categories: nearly 39% went to cybersecurity upgrades; approx. 25% were invested in new voting machines; and 11% updated voter registration databases.

During the 2020 general election, only 32 constituencies across the country relied on paperless voting machines. Nine states – Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas – used electronic voting machines that had no verifiable paper trail in at least one of their territories.

Five states that had used voting machines without paper backup in 2018 had stopped using them by the 2020 general election. These were Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The lack of consistent federal money for election security is likely a reason why many electoral officials in the state don’t spend their federal grants, said Lawrence Norden, director of electoral reform at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who served as vice chairman of former President Donald Trump’s now-defunct electoral fraud commission, was the top electoral officer in the state when Kansas received the first infusion, ultimately worth $ 9.3 million. Nothing of this money was spent at the time.

Kobach said that when the federal money arrived, lawmakers did not meet to provide the necessary matching funds. Under his successor, Scott Schwab, Kansas spent only $ 19,200 on testing and training prior to the 2020 election to ensure electoral staff were using email “safely and securely”. State officials say they have since spent more than $ 3.4 million of grant funding, in part to improve the security of the Kansas statewide voter registration system and to complement cybersecurity efforts.

Some states have chosen to keep the federal money because the technology that now appears to be effective in securing elections could be out of date in 10 years, said Danielle Root, an electoral security expert with the Center for American Progress.

“Many states view the elections as a marathon rather than a race, and many states want to reserve some of that funding to update their systems as new threats and technological advances emerge,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Gasoline futures bounce as a lot of important pipeline stays shutdown following cyberattack

Signage will be displayed on a fence at the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham intersection and terminal in Pelham, Alabama, USA on Monday, September 19, 2016.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Fuel prices rose in stores on Sunday evening as much of one of the largest pipelines in the US remains closed after a year Cybersecurity attack.

Gasoline futures jumped 2% to $ 2,168 a gallon while Heating oil futures rose 1.2% to $ 2.03.

West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil FuturesThe US oil benchmark rose 56 cents to $ 65.46 a barrel. International benchmark Brent crude oil traded at $ 68.95 a barrel, for a profit of 65 cents. Natural gas futures were at $ 2.96 per million British thermal units while

Colonial Pipeline announced Sunday evening that some of its smaller side lines between terminals and delivery points are back online, but the main lines are still down.

“We are in the process of restoring service to other side panels, and will only bring our entire system back online if we believe it is safe and fully comply with all federal regulations,” the company said in a statement.

How quickly service is restored in the pipeline remains the deciding factor. While fuel depots are usually stored for a few days in tank farms, a prolonged outage can lead to an increase in fuel prices.

The Colonial Pipeline, which operates the largest pipeline transporting fuel from the Gulf Coast to the northeast, “suspended all pipeline operations” on Friday evening as a proactive measure following a ransomware cyberattack.

The pipeline is an essential part of the US petroleum infrastructure and transports around 2.5 million barrels of gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil and jet fuel every day. The pipeline is more than 5,500 miles and carries nearly half of the east coast’s fuel supply. The system also supplies fuel to airports, including in Atlanta and Baltimore.

“Without this there is no transport in the region, so it is important that the pipeline is back on stream as soon as possible,” said Patrick De Haan, Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy. “The effects will potentially increase exponentially after about day 5,” he added.

President Joe Biden was notified of the pipeline’s closure Saturday morning, and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency is coordinating with the Colonial Pipeline.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Sunday that it is “All hands on deck are trying now.”

“We are working closely with the company, state and local authorities to ensure that they are back to normal operations as soon as possible and that there are no disruptions in supply,” she told CBS ‘Face the Nation.

The pipeline failure comes as Americans start traveling again as restrictions are lifted and Covid vaccination rollout accelerates. On Friday, the TSA checked more than 1.7 million passengers, the highest figure in more than a year.

“The colonial outage comes at a critical time for the recovering US economy: the start of the summer driving season,” said ClearView Energy Partners. “Persistent disruption that causes pump prices to rise significantly could increase the prospect of domestic policy intervention,” the company added.

The national average for a gallon of gasoline was $ 2,962 on Sunday, up 60% year over year, according to AAA.

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– CNBC’s Emma Newburger contributed to the coverage.

Italian American Membership stays a Vegas leisure establishment

Courtesy of IAC

Angelo Cassaro at the Italian American Club.

Originally founded 60 years ago, the Italian American Club of Las Vegas had evolved quite a bit over the decades. It was once a private male-only social club that eventually took the giant leap of buying its current property on Sahara Avenue near Eastern Avenue and building new headquarters. Then it was expanded into a restaurant and lounge that were open to the public and became a non-profit organization that celebrates Italian-American culture and raises money for various community projects.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the club’s reputation for great music and live entertainment. In the founding years, the lounge was a hot spot for casino headliners who wanted to relax after their own shows. Today, as the club, like other restaurants, bars and lounges, has continued to operate due to COVID restrictions, it has provided refuge to Las Vegas artists whose regular performances are still being suspended.

“So many great singers and musicians live here, and we offer them a place to show their skills,” said Angelo Cassaro, who is serving as president of the club for the second time. His first term began in 1988 and he has been involved ever since. “For 99% of them this is their life, they live it and the need to entertain. And that’s why people come to us because they love to be entertained. “

Bucky Heard

Bucky Heard, who reformed the Righteous Brothers with Bill Medley in 2016 and has headlined Medley at Harrah’s for years, performed in the Italian American Club’s showroom and will return to another show on Wednesday. Harrah’s headlining act, the Bronx Wanderers, are also back on Thursday this week, and the long-running strip game Jimmy Hopper is back on Friday. Also on the program are country singer Chase Brown on February 24th, the inimitable Frankie Scinta on February 26th and Elvis tribute artist Justin Shandor on March 5th.

These are all dinner shows planned for the 300-seat showroom which, prior to the pandemic, served as a banquet hall and ballroom for weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs and other private events. That space could make the jump from 25% to 35% capacity this week, in line with the adjusted restrictions and rules announced by Governor Steve Sisolak last week.

Click here to enlarge the photo

The “Wall of Fame” in the Italian American Social Club consists of musicians like Dick Contino, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on Saturday, March 23, 2013.

The Italian American Club has almost always had live music in the smaller lounge five nights a week, long before COVID hit and other restaurants and bars began promoting ambient music.

“When the first shutdown came and everyone was closed, we had to weigh whether we could and whether we should reopen when it was safe enough,” said Cassaro. “We did this a few months after the courses opened and continue to adhere to strict COVID protocols and cleanliness. And when we couldn’t sell tickets, we put the big stage in the showroom and started doing ambient dinner shows. Now that we can [sell tickets to shows] being back and in tune there are more entertainers a way to come in and make a few bucks. “

And local celebrities still come in to enjoy the show and occasionally jump on stage to take part, he said, including comedians Rich Little and Lorraine and Dennis Bono.

“The entertainment industry has been hit so hard by all of this that we’re just lucky to have a place where we can involve different people and groups and keep their passions alive,” said Cassaro.