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Pa. voting machine breaches eyed in Trump probe

Plus, Philly's police commissioner is stepping down.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Election inquiry, Outlaw's out, tax levies, Medicaid cuts, legal lines, plastic policies, and Geraldo does Lake Erie. Thanks for checking in.
2020 FOCUS

CNN reports special counsel Jack Smith's probe into former President Donald Trump's 2020 election meddling continues with a focus on fundraising and voting machine breaches in states like Pennsylvania.

According to the network, a former employee of Lehigh Valley businessman and fake pro-Trump elector Bill Bachenberg said Bachenberg worked with Sidney Powell and other Trump lawyers to access voting systems in Pennsylvania, namely Fulton County, and several other states. 

A $10 million civil lawsuit filed in July accuses Fulton County officials of allowing a third-party inspection of 2020 voting machines in defiance of an order from Pennsylvania's highest court and says the inspection, which uncovered no irregularities, was funded by Bachenberg himself.

Read CNN's full report: Special counsel election probe continues with focus on fundraising, voting equipment breaches.

THE CONTEXT: Bachenberg, owner of Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays and an NRA board member, was subpoenaed by the U.S. House select committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol riot, but CNN reports "there is no public indication he testified." It is unclear if Bachenberg has been contacted by Jack Smith’s team or the FBI. CNN failed to reach him.

The former employee, Mike Ryan, says he told federal investigators in April that Bachenberg was in direct contact with Trump and his allies on strategy calls about efforts to overturn the election results in multiple states.

Emails obtained by the "Freedom of Information Act litigator" American Oversight indicate Bachenberg was involved in discussions about funding for a partisan Arizona election audit and pushed for a similar review in Pennsylvania that Republican state lawmakers took up here. 

"PA will be one of the next domino’s [sic] to fall," Bachenberg wrote in a September 2021 email before the Pennsylvania effort stalled.


  • Special counsel's focus shifts to people outside of Trump's circle; Here's why, via CNN
  • Appeals court limits special counsel’s effort to access Rep. Scott Perry’s phone, via Politico
  • The election-meddling indictment against Trump is sprawling. Here's a breakdown of the case, via the AP
  • Why Trump’s ‘fake electors’ in Pennsylvania are likely to avoid prosecution, via Spotlight PA

"Sensitive government research and national security information is at the very least at risk."

—A lawyer for Penn State whistleblower Matthew Decker, who alleges lax cyber security and falsified government compliance reports at the school
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» How Shapiro slashed wait times for state licenses, via Inky (paywall)
» Shapiro's small business state contract push, via PennLive (paywall)
» Bill would end mandatory life sentence for 2nd-degree murder, via WHTM
» Pa. Republicans resist hypothetical COVID restrictions, via WITF
» U.S. Rep. Joyce (R., Pa.) running for reelection, via Politics PA
» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps people with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.
A sketch done by Juliet Z. in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood. Have a photo or artwork you want to share with the whole state? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A drawing of a cityscape with powerlines and trees around a red brick building.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.OUTLAW RESIGNS: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is resigning the post effective Sept. 22 to become a deputy security chief at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The first Black woman to lead the city's police force, The Inquirer (paywall) says Outlaw's "often-tumultuous tenure" is ending months before a new mayor is to be sworn in. Outlaw stressed that her departure is voluntary.
  • RELATED: Who is John Stanford, the PPD veteran replacing Outlaw as interim Philly police commissioner?, via Billy Penn.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
TAX ASSESSMENTS: Property taxes are on the ballot in Allegheny County this November. On the candidates for county executive, PublicSource reports GOP nominee Joe Rockey is against a countywide reassessment while Democrat Sara Innamorato is for it with one caveat: protections against large hikes for certain groups, the kind of protections Philly used in its last rate check with mixed results.
  • RELATED: Philadelphia still has roughly 8,000 property assessment appeals to review, via WHYY.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
MEDICAID PURGE: More than 184,000 Pennsylvanians have now lost their Medicaid coverage after the end of a federal policy that kept people enrolled automatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. WESA reports: Health care advocates are especially concerned about the more than 80,000 people who could still be eligible for Medicaid, but are being disenrolled from the program for paperwork-related reasons.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.JUDGE SUED: Black attorney and former NFL player Walter Bernard is suing Allegheny County Judge Philip Ignelzi, saying Ignelzi wrongfully had him arrested and pressured him to settle a case while he wore handcuffs, via Law & Crime. Bernard says the underlying matter, a landlord-tenant dispute involving his and his brother’s escape room business, wasn't Ignelzi's jurisdiction either because the case was on appeal.
  • RELATED: The Allegheny County district attorney’s office will use AI to streamline digital evidence management, via Technical.ly.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.BAG BANS: More Pennsylvania municipalities are banning single-use plastic bags following the end of a state preemption law that barred them from doing so. Pittsburgh and Lancaster Township already have. Edgewood in Allegheny County is considering it. But while the bags made up less than 1% of litter collected in 2019 in Pennsylvania, one ban advocate told WITF the impacts come in other forms.
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LOCAL NEWS: The first cohort of Point Park University’s online Citizen Reporting Academy begins next week to train a new wave of community journalists. It's $300 per course or $2,500 for a nine-course certificate.

CAPTAIN RIVERA: What did longtime TV personality Geraldo Rivera do after his abrupt exit from FOX News? The New York Times (paywall) reports he explored Lake Erie and Erie, Pa.'s "unexpectedly rowdy party scene."

'UNSUNG HERO': Ron Fountain ventured into the guts of Three Mile Island during the 1979 nuclear accident there to unlock a valve and avoid a meltdown, York Daily Record reports, via Yahoo News. 

JAWN JOBS: A list of the 10 most Philly jobs, according to Philadelphians, includes the Phanatic’s hot dog cannon driver and knockoff championship T-shirt vendors, via The Inquirer (paywall).

FOUL BALLS: Speaking of Philadelphia ... TikTok has discovered the story of Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn, who in 1957 hit the same fan with a foul ball twice during the same at-bat.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Equivocation

Congrats to our daily winners: Stacy S., Wendy A., Eric F., Barbara F., Don H., Beth T., Kimberly D., Elaine C., Julie K., Judith D., Karen W., Jane R., Jon W., Richard A., Carol S., Bruce B., John F., James B., Susan N.-Z., Tracy S., Ben P., Tish M., Nancy S., Tom M., Stephen K., Starr B., Dan A., Doug W., and Joel S.
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