The firefighter union—a top Biden ally— confronts a federal probe + Trump's pardon power

And a prosecutor race that could usher an end to the death penalty in Ohio

I have a new story today at The Intercept about some escalating drama at the International Association of Fire Fighters—the union representing 320,000 firefighters and paramedics across the U.S and Canada.

Their longtime president, Harold Schaitberger, is close ally to Joe Biden. The firefighters union endorsed him for president almost immediately after he announced his candidacy, well before any other labor group got behind him.

Donald Trump didn’t like this. At the time this is what he tweeted:

Earlier this year, the second most powerful person at the IAFF, General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly, came out with allegations against Schaitberger of financial misconduct. Schaitberger and the union denied any wrongdoing, but still opened an internal review to look into the accusations, which largely revolve around pensions and shoddy accounting.

Members of the union then watched as more leaks of board-level deliberations were shared with right-leaning media outlets, and some pointed to Kelly’s COO, Matthew Golsteyn, who was pardoned last year by President Trump for war crimes. In December of 2019 Golsteyn appeared on stage with Trump and another pardoned war criminal—Clint Lorance—at GOP fundraiser in Florida. Kelly, Golsteyn, and Lorance all had lunch together four days later, according to business receipts.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department, a federal agency that over the last four years has gone after the president’s enemies, opened a criminal investigation into Harold Schaitberger. Hanging over all this is an upcoming union election in January and the race for the White House. You can read the story here!


I also had a piece at The Appeal earlier this week about an upcoming prosecutor election in Hamilton County, Ohio (which includes Cincinnati.) Hamilton County has had the same prosecutor, Joe Deters, for more than two decades, and Deters has sent more people to death row than any other prosecutor in the state.

His opponent, Fanon Rucker, is running on repealing the death penalty — a major shift not only for Hamilton County but also for prosecutors, as prosecuting attorney associations have historically been one of the most organized and powerful groups fighting criminal justice reform.

Death penalty opponents have raised many objections to capital punishment, including that it’s a failed crime deterrent, that too many innocent people have been sentenced to death, that it’s immoral, and that people of color are disproportionately sentenced. 22 states have abolished the death penalty so far, including New Hampshire and Colorado in the last two years. If a right-leaning state like Ohio were to repeal it, advocates think that could really have a domino effect on the region.

You can read about that election here.

Thanks as always for reading, and supporting independent journalism.