Journalists Treated to Luxury Resort Vacations by Electoral College Bypass Group

Ah! Life is good. Just luxuriating poolside in a tropical setting at a four star resort while sipping on an endless supply of mai tais while munching on ceviche. All that is required is to listen to a five hour pitch. Not for time share condos. Instead this pitch is made to journalists about how and why the Electoral College can be bypassed. 

This revelation about how an obviously well-funded group called the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections is providing vacations for journalists comes to us via reporter Tim Alberta of Politico Magazine.  Alberta relayed the posh pitch in Is the Electoral College Doomed?

...the most viable campaign to change how Americans choose their leader is being waged at booze-soaked junkets in luxury hotels around the country and even abroad, as an obscure entity called the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections peddles a controversial idea: that state legislatures can put the popular-vote winner in the White House.

It was mid-February, inside a four-star resort in a third-world country, when I heard the pitch to transform American democracy. The institute flew 11 political journalists to Panama for an “educational seminar” on election reform. (My peers included reporters representing outlets ranging from Breitbart to U.S. News & World Report.) The trip presented a bargain: three days of sunshine, sightseeing, fine dining and free cocktails on the institute’s dime, in exchange for being educated by seminar coordinators in the pool, at the bar, overlooking the Panama Canal—and most aggressively, during the five-hour workshop in a windowless conference room—about the history and weaknesses of the Electoral College, and the potential of a radical alternative.

The radical alternative is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact—call it the “Compact,” for short. The most concise explanation: Rather than abolishing the Electoral College via constitutional amendment, state legislatures would change their laws to award their electoral votes to whoever wins the most votes nationwide, regardless of state-by-state results.

Yeah, your humble correspondent has already heard about this scam to bypass the Electoral College. However, if this group flies me to one of their tropical resorts I will actually feign interest and pretend it is a viable idea between sips of heavily fortified swizzle stick drinks. Five hours of listening to their liberal pitch is a long time but the benefits are certainly much better than just a one-day pass to Disney World.

In Mr. Alberta's favor, he was honest in revealing all the goodies journalists received from the group. I sure hope that all the rest of the legislators and journalists that also indulged make the same revelation when they pitch the Electoral College bypass scam to the public.

'The seminars initially targeted state lawmakers—whose votes back home will shape the Compact’s fate—but beginning last fall they have also been organized for journalists and opinion leaders in an attempt to gain broader recognition. (I attended to report on the Institute’s tactics as well as its ideas; I was not asked, nor did I offer, to write about the Compact in exchange for attending the seminar.)

Tens of millions of dollars have poured into the popular vote movement, and until recently, those investments appeared to be paying off.

...And then Trump won the White House, while losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million.

Advocates of the Compact suddenly find themselves on the defensive, no longer bullish about picking off their first red state this year. They will be content, at this point, to persuade Republicans not to abandon the idea altogether—to keep this experiment in reshaping American democracy alive where others before it have perished.

So in an indirect way, President Donald Trump is responsible for all those journalists getting buzzed at the pool bar in a tropical luxury resort.

...the proposal grew real legs in 2006, when John Koza—a California Democrat who made his fortune by inventing the scratch-off lottery ticket—got behind it, co-writing a book, Every Vote Equal, and founding the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections. This is the “education” arm, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group; Koza also started a sister organization, National Popular Vote, which is registered as a 501(c)(4) to lobby legislators.

Koza has bankrolled most of the pro-Compact efforts since 2006, including the Panama excursion. In an interview, Koza says he has spent more than $14 million on the project so far and has budgeted at least $2 million per year moving forward—and is hunting for new benefactors.

Thanks, Mr. Koza. Oh, and I need a refill on my drink as I try not to laugh at your Electoral College bypass effort.

Koza isn’t coy about being a partisan. But he claims the Compact is about fairness rather than political gamesmanship.

No, it's about political gamesmanship. Another drink please!

None of this drama will unfold anytime soon. Koza’s project, he concedes, is “a long, hard haul” dotted with near-victories and lopsided defeats. He is 74 and hopes to see a national popular vote in his lifetime, but he knows it might take much longer. All his troops can do is take it one seminar at a time—buying steaks and margaritas and beachfront hotel suites for legislators and journalists—and presenting them, at the outset, with the most compelling argument of all.

At least they are making a compelling pitch with all those steaks and margaritas by the beach.

Oh, and a little more blue agave fortification in the margarita, por favor.

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