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Democratic super PAC unleashes wave of opposition research against Starbucks and Howard Schultz

Democrats screamed “spoiler!” when former Starbucks CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz said more than a week ago that he was thinking about running for president as a centrist independent.

While some of these settlements noted by the super PAC did not take place when Schultz was either CEO or chairman, the group is clearly trying to convince voters that under his leadership, Starbucks took advantage of employees. The messaging campaign comes as Democratic leaders and donors have slammed Schultz for even considering running as an independent because, they argue, it will split the vote in 2020 and give President Donald Trump a second term.

“The country deserves to know the truth about Howard Schultz’s real record,” Andrew Bates, a spokesman for American Bridge, told CNBC. “The last thing the American people are hungry for is another arrogant billionaire who takes advantage of anyone he can, just like the man currently sitting in the Oval Office. Schultz can’t win the presidency – all he can do is ensure that Donald Trump stays in the White House for another disastrous 4 years.”

A spokesman for Schultz, Tucker Warren, said the super PAC’s attacks serve as proof for the former coffee CEO’s criticism of the two-party system.

“This attack is a perfect illustration of how broken the system is and how the Washington attack machine has corrupted our politics,” Warren said. “The small group of individuals who fund this effort should spend their energy advancing their ideas, not just tearing people down.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Starbucks referred CNBC to a memo sent by current CEO Kevin Johnson to employees last week and highlighted part of the message that emphasizes the company does not take part in political campaigns.

“As a company, we don’t get involved in national political campaigns. And nothing changes for Starbucks,” Johnson said. “As we have for the past 48 years since Starbucks was founded, we will continue to live Our Mission and Values and create a great Starbucks customer experience in each of our stores. … And as Starbucks partners, we have a responsibility to always recognize and respect the diversity of perspectives of all customers and partners on these topics.”

The spokesman also provided an outline of the extensive benefits Starbucks employees receive and their diverse hiring practices.

The PAC’s research lists a suit filed in California Superior Court in 2001, when a Starbucks employee claimed they were not paid sufficient overtime expenses that were owed to them based on state law. In April 2002, Starbucks settled the case and a similar class-action lawsuit for $18 million.

“Given the unique aspects of California wage and hour laws, which differ significantly from federal and other state laws, we believe this settlement was the best solution for all parties involved,” Jennifer O’Connor, Starbucks’s legal counsel at the time of the agreement, said in a press release.

Another settlement the PAC focuses on took place in Massachusetts, where a former barista claimed the coffee chain broke state law by forcing him to share tips with his direct supervisors. The former employee, Hernan Matamoros, and at least three other former baristas, won a settlement of $23.5 million in 2013 after a five-year court battle. The payout, according to the court filing at the time, compensated “all baristas who worked at Starbucks from the beginning of the class period, March 2005, until January 2013.”

Schultz, who said he is no longer a Democrat, sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party when he told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” in an interview aired last week, that he was seriously considering an independent campaign for president in 2020.

Top Democratic donors in New York ripped Schultz for looking to run as an independent and megadonor Haim Saban told CNBC that he believes the former coffee chain executive should run as a Democrat instead. Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who may run as a Democrat for president in 2020 and in the past has considered an independent bid, appeared to warn his fellow billionaire that an independent run would split the ticket, giving an advantage to Trump. He did not specifically name the former Starbucks executive in his statement.

Still, there are others who argue that Democrats are overplaying their hand with their attacks on Schultz and that it’s too early to say what impact an independent run may have on the 2020 election.

John Weaver, a senior strategist for former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who also is considering running either as a Republican or independent in 2020, recently told CNBC that people shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Schultz’s potential candidacy.

“I think all of these attacks, with everybody’s hair on fire, are the same people who reassured us that Hillary Clinton would win,” Weaver said. “Ten months from now, I don’t know if Kamala Harris will still be in the race. I don’t know if Howard Schultz would be in the race. We’ll see if consumers will buy into any of these people’s efforts.”

On a possible independent candidacy, Charlie Black, a senior advisor on Sen. John McCain’s and Kasich’s runs for president, agreed that Schultz would likely take votes away from the Democratic nominee. But he also stressed that it’s too soon to know what impact he will have in the next election.

“Schultz probably pulls more votes from the Democrats, but there are a few upscale Republicans he might attract. Hard to say until he mounts his campaign for a while and there is a Democratic nominee” Black said in an email. “I doubt he can break 10%, even with a good campaign,” he added.

Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to Trump, argued that Democrats are “bullying” Schultz, and that their tactics make them appear “desperate and overdone.”

Read the opposition research file below:

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Alphabet drops after revealing declining advertising prices and rising costs

Alphabet reported fourth-quarter results Monday that beat expectations across the board. Still, the stock fell 3 percent in extended trading, on continuing pressure on advertising prices and decreasing margins.

capital expenditures just north of $7 billion for the period, posting a much more expensive quarter than the $5.63 billion in capex that was projected.

The company reported an operating margin of 21 percent for the fourth quarter, lower than the 22 percent margin that was expected and the 23 percent margin it reported this time last year.

Full-year operating margin for Alphabet’s core Google segment fell by more than 2 percentage points from the previous year, representing a more drastic decline than the overall business.

“Everything we do at Google is united by the mission of making information accessible and useful for everyone. Providing accurate and trusted information at the scale the Internet has reached is an extremely complex challenge and one that is constantly getting harder,” CEO Sundar Pichai said on the company’s earnings call.

The company’s core advertising business has hit something of a plateau. Advertising revenue grew 20 percent from last year’s fourth quarter, to $32.6 billion, the same rate of growth as last quarter.

Traffic acquisition costs — the fees Google pays to companies like Apple to be the default search engine — rang in at $7.44 billion, up 13 percent from $6.58 billion during the third quarter of this year and up 15 percent from $6.45 billion during the year-ago quarter.

TAC as a percent of advertising revenue came in at 23 percent, matching analyst estimates and falling right in line with previous quarters.

Google continues to grow its “other revenues” segment, which includes its cloud business and hardware sales. The division accounted for $6.49 billion during the quarter, narrowly beating Wall Street estimates of $6.43 billion.

That marks a 31 percent increase year over year. The company declined to break out Cloud revenues for the quarter, but said it remains “one of the fastest growing businesses across Alphabet.”

“Last year we more than doubled both the number of Google Cloud Platform deals over 1 million as well as the number of multiyear contracts signed,” Pichai said. “We also ended the year with another milestone passing 5 million paying customers for our Cloud collaboration and productivity solution G Suite.”

Google announced in November it was replacing its head of Cloud, Diane Greene, with former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian.

“One of the things that was evident towards end of last year is now our ability to win very large customers, global 5000 companies with multiyear contracts. And so that’s definitely something we want to focus on,” Pichai said. “I think Diane and Thomas have been working closely under transition with a lot of continuity.”

Alphabet’s “Other Bets” category, which houses Alphabet’s other companies, like health venture Verily and self-driving start-up Waymo, came in shy of revenue estimates at $154 million in revenue. Wall Street had been looking for $187.4 million, according to StreetAccount.

Still, the segment posted an 18 percent year-over-year increase.

Alphabet is now just 2,000 employees of 100,000-person headcount, up from 80,000 employees at the same time last year. Headcount grew primarily in the company’s cloud segment, Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said on the company’s earnings call.

WATCH: Amazon and Google are becoming omnipresent whether you like it or not

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Google’s capital expenditures doubled in 2018, the fastest growth in at least four years

Google’s capital spending is growing much faster than its revenue.

Alphabet said in Monday’s earnings report that Google’s capital expenditures, which include the costs of data centers and other facilities, more than doubled in 2018, that fastest expansion in at least four years.

While the vast majority of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, the company has been picking up more business from cloud applications and cloud-based infrastructure, which requires data center equipment. Google also continues to hire rapidly across the globe, requiring it to buy and lease more space for people to work.

Google’s capital expenditures in 2018 increased 102 percent to $25.14 billion, up from a growth rate of 34 percent in 2017. In the fourth quarter, spending surged 80 percent to $6.85 billion, while revenue rose 21 percent to $39.1 billion. (Alphabet reported total sales of $39.3 billion.)

Alphabet spent much more last year than rival Microsoft, which shelled out $16 billion in capital expenditures, up less than 39 percent year over year.

Data center expansion is critical for Google as is builds out its cloud computing capacity. Additionally, the company bought Chelsea Market in New York and has made real estate investments since in places including Texas.

“With respect to capex [capital expenditures], we continue to invest in both compute requirements and for office facilities, although we expect the capex growth rate in 2019 to moderate quite significantly,” Alphabet’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, told analysts on a conference call following the earnings release.

Alphabet’s headcount in 2018 rose 23 percent to 98,771. Porat said headcount growth will moderate in 2019.

WATCH: Watch these two big metrics in Alphabet’s earnings report

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Google has a ‘very high bar’ for M&A targets, CEO Sundar Pichai says

With more than $109 billion in cash and marketable securities on hand, Google is often at the center of M&A speculation — who the company should buy, who it missed out on. But CEO Sundar Pichai says the company has a “very high bar” to do a deal.

Q4 earnings call. “To me it’s been more about us finding the right fit rather than being constrained by anything in particular.”

Google had a shot at open source software companies GitHub and Red Hat last year, but ultimately lost out to Microsoft and IBM respectively. CNBC reported in October that Google held talks with both companies, but was ultimately outbid or walked away. The company has also previously looked at Twitter and Snap, according to media reports.

With former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian replacing Diane Greene as Alphabet’s new head of cloud, rumors are swirling about possible big acquisitions in the enterprise software space.

“It’s always an important part of our strategy, and we have done great acquisitions in the past things like YouTube and Android Wear — big acquisitions for us,” Pichai said. “And so we continue to look for opportunities ahead.”

WATCH: Loup Ventures Gene Munster gives instant reaction to Alphabet earnings

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Friday Is Going to Be a Huge Day for Stock Traders

Friday Is Going to Be a Huge Day for Stock TradersTwo major market events that have the potential to send U.S. equity volumes sky-high will collide Friday. The first is the quarterly event known as “quadruple witching” — when futures and options on indexes and individual stocks expire. The anticipated spike in turbulence will hit a market already roiled by rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China.


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Amazon just accidentally leaked details about 2 new Alexa devices ahead of an event today

  • Listings for an Amazon Echo Sub subwoofer and an Amazon Smart Plug were leaked ahead of a company event on Thursday.
  • The subwoofer is designed to work with Amazon’s Echo speakers, which would also get stereo sound functionality, according to the leaked listings on Amazon UK first spotted by the website Pocket-lint.
  • The Amazon Smart Plug would give basic Alexa functionality to devices plugged into it.
  • The devices could become available on October 11, according to Pocket-lint.

Two new Amazon devices were leaked on Amazon’s UK website ahead of a company event in Seattle on Thursday.

Echo Sub and a £95 (about $125) smart plug called, well, the Amazon Smart Plug.” data-reactid=”17″>The devices, whose listings were first spotted by the website Pocket-lint, are a £75 (about $100) subwoofer called the Echo Sub and a £95 (about $125) smart plug called, well, the Amazon Smart Plug.

The Echo Sub is designed to accompany Amazon’s Echo and Echo Plus smart speakers for a fuller, deeper sound. Indeed, a subwoofer would add much-needed bass to Amazon’s Echo range of smart speakers, which critics say have a relatively thin sound compared with speakers like the Alexa-powered Sonos One.

View photos

Leaked Amazon Sub image

Amazon UK via PocketLint” data-reactid=”39″>Amazon UK via PocketLint

The listing also notes a new feature that enables two compatible Echo speakers to pair together and deliver true stereo sound. Currently, Amazon’s Echo speakers can be paired, but not in stereo — the sound isn’t separated into left and right channels, but simply duplicated. Adding stereo functionality could allow Echo speakers to deliver a more dynamic sound and better position Echo devices as primary sound systems rather than only smart speakers.

The Smart Plug is a wall-power-outlet adapter designed to give basic Alexa functionality to any device plugged into it. For example, a lamp plugged into the Smart Plug could be controlled with Alexa using your voice at home or the app while you’re away, or you could set a schedule to turn it on and off.

View photos

Leaked Amazon Smart Plug

Amazon UK via Pocket-lint” data-reactid=”62″>Amazon UK via Pocket-lint

other smart plugs sold on Amazon that also work with Alexa and cost $10 to $30. We might find out during Amazon’s event why the Smart Plug is so expensive.” data-reactid=”63″>The Smart Plug’s price tag seems a bit steep compared with other smart plugs sold on Amazon that also work with Alexa and cost $10 to $30. We might find out during Amazon’s event why the Smart Plug is so expensive.

Both device listings showed availability on October 11, according to Pocket-lint.

previously rumored products, like a smart microwave, could also be announced.” data-reactid=”65″>We’re likely to get the details of these new devices on Thursday — if Amazon plans to announce them during the event. Other previously rumored products, like a smart microwave, could also be announced.

the Tech Insider homepage after 1 p.m. ET for the latest.” data-reactid=”66″>Business Insider is at the event, so head over to the Tech Insider homepage after 1 p.m. ET for the latest.

Google, Apple, and Amazon are in a war that no one will win” data-reactid=”67″>NOW WATCH: Google, Apple, and Amazon are in a war that no one will win

  • Amazon just announced a $60 smart Alexa-powered microwave you can control with your voice
  • Amazon is releasing four new products to make your speaker system way smarter — including a subwoofer
  • Amazon’s brand-new $150 Echo Plus is an easier way to make your home smart
  • Amazon will reportedly release its own Alexa-enabled microwave, plus a bunch of other gadgets, later this year” data-reactid=”73″>SEE ALSO: Amazon will reportedly release its own Alexa-enabled microwave, plus a bunch of other gadgets, later this year

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    How Pepsi-Co, Tesla and Michael Jordan are helping the Carolinas

    Anheuser-Busch and other beverage makers donated cans of drinking water to victims of Hurricane Florence.

    Early estimates show that Hurricane Florence has left a $22 billion path of devastation in its wake, with $2.5 billion in insured losses so far. At least 33 people have died in storm-related incidents. Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power in North Carolina, and flooding remains at dangerous levels.” data-reactid=”22″>Early estimates show that Hurricane Florence has left a $22 billion path of devastation in its wake, with $2.5 billion in insured losses so far. At least 33 people have died in storm-related incidents. Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power in North Carolina, and flooding remains at dangerous levels.

    Corporations have stepped up to stem the pain and are donating tens of millions of dollars to the Red Cross and other nonprofits to help with recovery efforts. Here’s a snapshot of some of the ways companies, celebrities, and athletes are helping those affected by Florence.” data-reactid=”23″>Corporations have stepped up to stem the pain and are donating tens of millions of dollars to the Red Cross and other nonprofits to help with recovery efforts. Here’s a snapshot of some of the ways companies, celebrities, and athletes are helping those affected by Florence.

    Sports industry” data-reactid=”24″>Sports industry

    Basketball legend Michael Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina and now owns the Charlotte Hornets, is using his star status to get fans to donate via an NBA micro-site. He is also donating $2 million of his own cash — $1 million for the American Red Cross and $1 million to the Foundation for the Carolinas Florence Response Fund. ” data-reactid=”25″>Basketball legend Michael Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina and now owns the Charlotte Hornets, is using his star status to get fans to donate via an NBA micro-site. He is also donating $2 million of his own cash — $1 million for the American Red Cross and $1 million to the Foundation for the Carolinas Florence Response Fund.

    Jordan isn’t the only athlete to step up. Major League Soccer’s’ Atlanta United and the owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons have each pledged $1 million. University athletes are also pitching in. After its football game with South Carolina’s Furman Paladins got canceled because of the storm, Colgate Raiders coach Dan Hunt released its hotel rooms to those affected by the storm and donated the scheduled team meals.” data-reactid=”26″>Jordan isn’t the only athlete to step up. Major League Soccer’s’ Atlanta United and the owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons have each pledged $1 million. University athletes are also pitching in. After its football game with South Carolina’s Furman Paladins got canceled because of the storm, Colgate Raiders coach Dan Hunt released its hotel rooms to those affected by the storm and donated the scheduled team meals.

    Auto industry” data-reactid=”27″>Auto industry

    In anticipation of Florence’s landfall, many auto plants in the Carolinas — including those of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo — shut down production for days. But now that the storm has passed, Toyota and GM are offering some relief on car payments for affected residents. Consumers struggling with car leasing and financing can seek extensions and deferred payments. And Tesla is allowing drivers to charge their cars for free at all of its express-charging stations in Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.” data-reactid=”28″>In anticipation of Florence’s landfall, many auto plants in the Carolinas — including those of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo — shut down production for days. But now that the storm has passed, Toyota and GM are offering some relief on car payments for affected residents. Consumers struggling with car leasing and financing can seek extensions and deferred payments. And Tesla is allowing drivers to charge their cars for free at all of its express-charging stations in Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

    Beverage business” data-reactid=”29″>Beverage business

    Access to safe drinking water is critical to survivors faced with potentially contaminated water from heavy rainfall at various industrial sites. The EPA reports that 16 community water treatment facilities in North Carolina are unable to supply drinking water and that seven publicly owned sewage treatment works are non-operational as a result of flooding. More than 600,000 customers have been warned not to drink tap water as North Carolina’s flooded hog farms; waste lagoons are under scrutiny for contamination.” data-reactid=”30″>Access to safe drinking water is critical to survivors faced with potentially contaminated water from heavy rainfall at various industrial sites. The EPA reports that 16 community water treatment facilities in North Carolina are unable to supply drinking water and that seven publicly owned sewage treatment works are non-operational as a result of flooding. More than 600,000 customers have been warned not to drink tap water as North Carolina’s flooded hog farms; waste lagoons are under scrutiny for contamination.

    With its birthplace in New Bern, North Carolina, Pepsi-Co was eager to help. The soft drink giant is donating $1 million to relief agencies and $350,000 in meals to help the Carolinas. Beer distributor MillerCoors sent over more than 2 million cans of drinking water to the region, and  Anheuser-Busch trucked in more than 300,000 cans of fresh water.” data-reactid=”31″>With its birthplace in New Bern, North Carolina, Pepsi-Co was eager to help. The soft drink giant is donating $1 million to relief agencies and $350,000 in meals to help the Carolinas. Beer distributor MillerCoors sent over more than 2 million cans of drinking water to the region, and  Anheuser-Busch trucked in more than 300,000 cans of fresh water.

    Big banks” data-reactid=”32″>Big banks

    The big banks are also donating millions to organizations helping victims. Wells Fargo donated $1 million, with $500,000 going to the Red Cross and the other $500,000 to other organizations in affected areas. Struggling customers can also seek the bank’s help for refunding certain late fees for personal, credit card, auto, and other lines of credit. Bank of America, Capital One, HSBC Bank, Morgan Stanley, Mastercard, Northwestern Mutual and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation are among the financial institutions making major contributions to the Red Cross.” data-reactid=”33″>The big banks are also donating millions to organizations helping victims. Wells Fargo donated $1 million, with $500,000 going to the Red Cross and the other $500,000 to other organizations in affected areas. Struggling customers can also seek the bank’s help for refunding certain late fees for personal, credit card, auto, and other lines of credit. Bank of America, Capital One, HSBC Bank, Morgan Stanley, Mastercard, Northwestern Mutual and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation are among the financial institutions making major contributions to the Red Cross.

    @chasingsibile ” data-reactid=”34″>Sibile Marcellus is an on-air reporter covering the day’s top stories in business for Yahoo Finance’s three daily live shows. Follow her on Twitter @chasingsibile 

    Soledad O’Brien on #metoo: ‘Every single industry has a big freaking problem’” data-reactid=”36″>Soledad O’Brien on #metoo: ‘Every single industry has a big freaking problem’

    Why keeping the business in the family pays off” data-reactid=”37″>Why keeping the business in the family pays off

     

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    Women supporting Kavanaugh find themselves in storm’s center

    FILE – In this Sept. 4, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. Both parties are grappling with tremendous political risks in the midst of an increasingly messy Supreme Court fight. Republicans risked alienating women, particularly in the nation’s suburbs, by embracing President Trump’s hand-picked nominee even after allegations surfaced of decades-old sexual misconduct. Democrats, who want to delay the high-stakes nomination, risked energizing complacent Republican voters should they play politics with the sensitive allegations.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) — It started as a series of phone calls among old high-school friends and ended up embroiling 65 women in the firestorm over a sexual assault allegation that could shape the Supreme Court.

    In a matter of hours, they all signed onto a letter rallying behind high court nominee and their high school friend Brett Kavanaugh as someone who “has always treated women with decency and respect.” And they signed up, whether they anticipated it or not, for becoming a focus of scrutiny themselves.

    The powerful strength-in-numbers statement, offered to bolster Kavanaugh’s denial of a claim that he attacked a girl at a party during their high school years, has drawn questions from journalists, social media skeptics, even Hollywood figures.

    How well did the women know him? How could a statement and 65 signatures come together so fast after outlines of the allegation first surfaced publicly? And after subsequently hearing the details and learning that his accuser was a woman some of them knew, do they stand by their declaration?

    Yes, say more than a dozen signers who have since spoken to The Associated Press or other media outlets.

    “Brett wouldn’t do that in a million years. I’m totally confident. That would be completely out of character for him,” said Paula Duke Ebel. She said she interacted with Kavanaugh hundreds of times while they were students in a close-knit constellation of single-sex Catholic schools around Washington in the 1980s.

    Christine Blasey Ford, 51, now a psychology professor in California, said a very intoxicated Kavanaugh cornered her in a bedroom during a party in the early 1980s. She said he pinned her on a bed, tried to undress her and clamped his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. She escaped only when a friend of his jumped on the bed and knocked them all over.

    The letter was released the morning after the allegation first got wide public attention. The letter and its roster of supporters seemed to come at supersonic speed and out of the blue.

    Women who organized and signed it say it was a rapid response by a social network that endures decades after they graduated. They say it was easy to mobilize: a chain of friends calling, texting and emailing friends from a Washington-area world where many still live and see each other.

    Meanwhile, hundreds of alumnae of the secular private girls school that Kavanaugh’s accuser attended have signed a letter supporting her and calling for an investigation of her allegations.

    “We believe Dr. Blasey Ford,” they wrote.

    One of the signers, Cristina King Miranda, tweeted Wednesday that the alleged attack “was spoken about for days afterward in school” and that Kavanaugh “should stop lying.” But in a Facebook post hours later, she said she had no firsthand knowledge of the matter and wouldn’t comment further amid a media “circus” and a barrage of interview requests.

    While that letter is signed by a mix of Ford’s peers and students from before or after her time at her school, the letter backing Kavanaugh is from women who vouch that they knew Kavanaugh, now a federal appeals court judge, personally as a high school student.

    Several said they interacted with him extensively through sporting events, dances, parties and other socializing or the phone calls that occupied teenage weeknights in the pre-texting era.

    One worked with him at a summer camp. A second sought his help with homework. Two dated him. Some still see him at social functions.

    At least one, though, hadn’t spent time or talked one-on-one with him but still felt comfortable attaching her name based on the social situations they shared.

    Others who signed declined to comment or didn’t respond to inquiries. The AP left messages for all 65.

    Some have been taken aback by the attention. Many have stayed mum to avoid “the media frenzy,” signer Maura Kane told Fox News, the outlet of choice for several who have given interviews.

    Julie DeVol told the AP she didn’t really anticipate the letter would provoke such intense interest, though she sensed Kavanaugh’s critics “would do anything” to delay his confirmation vote.

    Kavanaugh, 53, seemed to be cruising toward that vote before the sexual misconduct allegation became public.

    Kavanaugh has called Ford’s allegation “completely false.” The Senate Judiciary Committee has invited him and Ford to testify at a hearing Monday, although Ford’s lawyers say she wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she testifies.

    The Kavanaugh friend who she said was in the room at the party, conservative writer Mark Judge, has said he doesn’t remember any such incident.

    When word of a high-school-era sexual misconduct allegation against Kavanaugh emerged last Thursday afternoon, Meghan McCaleb and her husband, Scott, thought they and other high school friends of the nominee needed to speak out. Meghan McCaleb said she launched the letter-writing effort after discussing it with some of Kavanaugh’s former law clerks.

    She said she contacted friends, who contacted more friends, and they had 65 signatures by the next morning.

    The rapid-fire response sparked a flare of tweets, including from actresses and liberal activists Debra Messing and Patricia Arquette, questioning how anyone could line up so many high school pals so quickly to speak up for someone they didn’t actually go to school with. McCaleb says the answer is simply “how strongly all of us believe in Judge Kavanaugh and his integrity.”

    Some of the signers are conservative, such as podcaster and former Republican National Committee spokeswoman Virginia Hume. Others are Democrats.

    “This has nothing to do with politics,” said one of the signers, Megan Williams. “It’s just about character.”

    But it is also, inescapably, about whether they credit another woman’s account of sexual assault.

    The question is sharpened by the #MeToo movement, which seeks to change what supporters see as a history of doubt and dismissal of women who speak up about sexual misconduct. The question also is all the more pointed for women who traveled a similar teenage social path as Ford, and in some cases met her along the way.

    McCaleb said “I’m not certain” when asked on Fox News whether she believed Ford, a friend of a friend who went to the same local pool Ford did. “She alleges that she had this traumatic event, and I feel like it is not the Brett Kavanaugh that we know.”

    Sharon Crouch Clark didn’t know Ford and feels fine about having signed the letter, notwithstanding the allegation.

    “If it happened to her, that’s horrible,” Clark said. But she questions whether the incident occurred as Ford described it, noting that Ford said she was unable to recall certain details about the date, place and other aspects of the alleged attack.

    “I feel like I would know all that,” said Clark, who socialized with Kavanaugh amid groups of friends at parties.

    Women who signed the letter said they didn’t know about or recall the party Ford described, and they said her account of a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh didn’t jibe with their memories of a boy who drank some beer alongside them but never lost control or crossed a line with girls.

    “There were kids who did act kind of crazy. … He just wasn’t that guy,” said Williams, who recalls hanging out with Kavanaugh mainly in groups but sometimes one-on-one. “He was the kid who always did the right thing.”

    That’s why six dozen women were willing to put their names on that letter, said signer Missy Bigelow Carr, who worked at a summer camp with Kavanaugh and coached girls basketball against him as an adult.

    “If there was any indication that he didn’t treat even one of us with respect or acted in a manner that disrespected girls/women,” she wrote in an email, “that would not be the case.”

    ___

    Kunzelman reported from Silver Spring, Maryland. Associated Press writers Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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