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"Trump & Friends," unprecedented "political blackmail" from the VP's Chief of Staff, and much more on Russia, taxes, and partisan gerrymandering.
Wertheimer's Political Money Report
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OCTOBER 5, 2017
A NOTE FROM FRED
 

We had a classic example this week of how big money could be used to corrupt congressional decisions, and also of arrogance and hubris at work in the White House.
 
POLITICO reported on Tuesday that Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, urged a roomful of wealthy donors to use their political money to oppose members of the Vice President’s own party in Congress who do not toe the line on supporting Administration policies.
 
According to POLITICO, Ayres told these donors to tell Republican Members of Congress that if they don’t support the Administration’s agenda that “we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”
 
To my knowledge, this was an unprecedented act: an exhortation by a White House employee to big money donors to engage in the equivalent of political blackmail of Senators and Representatives from his boss’s own party. 
 
It also shows just how naïve and out-of-touch with reality court rulings, based on Citizens United, are that hold that unlimited contributions to “independent” spending Super PACs cannot corrupt officeholders.
 
Perhaps most importantly, it showed that federal candidates need an alternative way to finance their campaigns without becoming indebted to big money funders like the ones addressed by Nick Ayres.
 
The “We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017” recently introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (S.1880) and Rep. David Price (H.R. 3848) would create such a system by providing multiple public funds to match small contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.


MUST READS

TRUMP & FRIENDS

Billionaire Robert Mercer Is Helping Pay Trump’s Legal Bills, Nearly $200K On The Day Comey Was Fired
The Mercers are just one of several billionaire couples donating heavily to the fund, via Newsweek Read more

Nixon Lawyer: Donald Trump Abused Pardon Power, “Set A Dangerous Precedent,”  When He Freed Joe Arpaio, via TIME Read more

How Ivanka Trump & Donald Trump Jr., Avoided A Criminal Indictment
For two years, the Manhattan DA’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in a Trump hotel/condo development. Then, in 2012, Trump’s attorney made a $25K donation to the DA’s reelection campaign and asked for the investigation to be dropped. It was. via The New Yorker, ProPublica, and WNYC Read more

The Corrupt White House
The pervasive abuse of taxpayer money — and trust — will make our democracy harder to repair. “Amid the chaos and dysfunction that marks Washington in the age of Trump, it can be easy to miss that this White House is corrupt.” via Slate Read more

EPA’s Scott Pruitt’s Calendar: Expensive Dinners With Corporate Execs & Several Trips Home, via The New York Times Read more

Zinke’s “Little B.S.”: Interior Sec’y Draws Scrutiny For Mixing Politics, Official Travel
Sec’y Zinke met with big donors or political groups more than a half-dozen times while on department-paid trips, raising questions about his habit of mixing official government business with political activism. He is already under investigation by Interior’s inspector general over his use of taxpayer-funded private planes for some of the trips. via Politico Read more

Hedge Fund Billionaire Flew Top Mnuchin Aide On Private Jet To Palm Beach, via The Washington Post Read more
 
BUSY AS A VEEP

VP Mike Pence Will Help the Koch Brothers Plot Their 2018 Strategy
Next week’s private retreat with the VP will help the billionaire Koch brothers & other wealthy donors in the Koch network “pick their fights” in the 2018 midterms, via TIME Read more
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“It is unprecedented – and the equivalent of proposing ‘political blackmail’ – for a high-ranking White House official to call on big donors to use their huge contributions as a weapon to threaten and oppose Senators and Representatives of his own party who do not support Administration policies.”
 
-- D21 President Fred Wertheimer

RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA

Where Is This Era’s Archie Cox?
The Watergate prosecutor, the walking definition of integrity, stood up to Nixon when it mattered most. Who will do that today? As the Russia investigation continues to unfold, “Archie Cox would tell all of us to stay on the case and put country before party,” writes Common Cause President Karen Hobert-Flynn, via The Daily Beast. Read more

Senate Intelligence Committee Leaders: Russia Did Interfere In 2016 Elections
Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC): “We’ve got to make our facts, as it related to Russia’s involvement in our election, before the primaries getting started in 2018. … You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active.”  via The Washington Post Read more

Evidence Mounts That White House Anticipates Damaging Results From Russia Investigation, via Just Security Read more

GOP Rep. Met With Kremlin-Linked Lawyer at Center of Russia Investigation
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) met in Moscow with Natalia Veselnitskaya two months before she met with Donald Trump Jr. This previously undisclosed meeting “sheds additional light on the extent to which Moscow-based political operatives sought to influence American officials in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.” via Foreign Policy Read more

“Both Sides Are Preparing For A Possible Showdown”: Mueller Is Delving Into Trump’s Pardon Power, via Business Insider Read more
 
FACEBOOK, TWITTER, & RUSSIA

Facebook’s Russia-Linked Ads Were “Highly Organized” & Came In Many Disguises, via The New York Times Read more

Russian Propaganda May Have Been Shared Hundreds Of Millions Of Times, New Research Says
, via The Washington Post Read more

Twitter & Facebook Haven’t Stopped Russia-Backed Advertising
The Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” RT continues to operate three Twitter accounts and has 4.5M followers on Facebook, via Recode Read more

The 2018 Midterms Are Coming & Russia Is Ready
“[U]nless we take the threat seriously and begin to act, Russia is likely to double down on its campaign of subversion. Moreover, other states and foreign actors may recognize that the barriers to entry and the costs of subverting our democracy are low. The time to begin strengthening our defenses is now.” Commentary via The Hill Read more
 
FACT OF THE WEEK

President Trump says his tax plan would give him “very little benefit.”  How little is “very little”?

Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, according to a New York Times analysis.
UP NEXT … TAX REFORM

More GOP Senators Willing To Tell Trump To Take A Hike
An increasing number of Republicans have nothing to lose in crossing Trump and Sen. McConnell — a warning sign for tax reform. via Politico Read more

How The Tax Plan May Help Unleash $1 Billion in Lobbying
Business and industry fears of losing valuable tax breaks “are being stoked by lobbyists, who are urging clients and prospective clients to get out in front of any changes that could eliminate or weaken sections of the tax code that benefit them.” via The New York Times Read more

Slashing Corporate Taxes Opens Floodgate On “Dark Money” Ads, Commentary via The Hill Read more
 
SCOTUS: PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING

Kennedy’s Vote Is In Play On Voting Maps Warped By Politics
A report from the Supreme Court’s “spirited arguments” in Gill v. Whitford on Tuesday. via The New York Times Read more

Ginsburg Slaps Gorsuch In Gerrymandering Case, via The New Yorker Read more

The Supreme Court Could Finally End Partisan Gerrymandering (Or Make It Much Worse), via Mother Jones Read more

By: Fred Wertheimer (@FredWertheimer), Jackie Howell, and Diane Alexander
 
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