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In the Hillary Clinton Era, Democrats Welcome Lobbying Money Back Into the Convention

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Debbie Wasserman Schulz actively recruited lobbyists to join the DNC, and Hillary Clinton’s praise and support of DWS indicates Clinton’s own predilections: a very accommodating attitude toward lobbyists (cf. her speaking fees that she personally accepted from Goldman Sachs). This is one big drawback to Clinton: business as usual with respect to lobbyists, Wall Street, and big corporations.

Just to be clear: Clinton is worlds better than Trump, but she is totally a part of the system and is way too accommodating to special interests. She has feathered her nest, so she doesn’t see anything wrong with nest-feathering. I support her in this election, but I do not for one minute think she has a progressive outlook.

Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons report for The Intercept:

By quietly dropping a ban on direct donations from registered federal lobbyists and political action committees, the Democratic National Committee in February reopened the floodgates for corruption that Barack Obama had put in place in 2008. [This was Debbie Wasserman Schulz’s doing. – LG]

Secret donors with major public-policy agendas were welcomed back in from the cold and showered with access and appreciation at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Major donors were offered “Family and Friends” packages, including suites at the Ritz-Carlton, backstage passes, and even seats in the Clinton family box. Corporate lobbyists like Heather Podesta celebrated the change, telling Time: “My money is now good.”

What was going on inside the convention hall was also reflected outside, at costly events sponsored by the  fossil fuel industrytechnology companiesfor-profit collegespharmaceutical companies, and railway companies, to name a few.

Craig Holman, an elections financing expert at Public Citizen, said that the end of the lobbyist contribution ban as well as Congress’s 2014 terminationof all remaining public financing of the party conventions has served to undermine democracy. “The implications of these changes are that we have opened up access to the parties and the conventions to just the very, very wealthy,” he said.

He pointed out that Congress originally passed the law to publicly finance presidential conventions after a 1972 scandal where President Richard Nixon terminated an anti-trust investigation eight days after the telecommunications company ITT donated heavily to that year’s Republican convention.

For the more than 1,900 Bernie Sanders delegates at the convention, the dependence on high-roller lobbyists was particularly galling. Sanders’s campaign was built on a simple promise: he would shun big-ticket fundraisers and corporate lobbyists in favor of a legion of small donors. And it worked. By the end of April 2016, Sanders’s campaign was actually raising more money than Clinton’s, which was welcoming support from corporate lobbyists and bundlers.

But an overwhelming majority of Democratic lawmakers we spoke to at the convention didn’t seem troubled by the rule change at all.

At a posh event hosted by The Atlantic and paid for by the American Petroleum Institute oil lobby, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, shrugged off concerns about the influence of special interest groups.

“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the DNC on that,” he said in response to a question whether lifting the ban was the right move.

“Do you think that lobbyists have undue influence?” we followed up.

“I don’t know.”

“What about energy lobbyists? What about oil lobbyists?”

“What about ’em?”

“Do you think they have undue influence in the United States?”

“I think they’re just like teachers, like firemen, like everybody who contributes.”

“What about the Koch Brothers, who spent $400 million on an election?”

“You’ve gotta go talk to the Koch Brothers,” he replied, ending the conversation.

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia offered a Willie Sutton justification for lifting the lobbying ban. “The lobbyists, that’s where the money is,” he said.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley made . . .

Continue reading.

This selling out the Federal government is exactly what Bernie Sanders was running against. Hillary Clinton thinks it’s just fine. (She, after all, was happy to accept money personally from the likes of Goldman Sachs.)

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2016 at 6:55 pm

Trump asks Russia to hack classified information

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Donald Trump is a very unusual presidential candidate, the first on record of asking a foreign power to hack into government files and take information. Trump’s request is made in hopes that Russia will release information from the hack that will enable Trump to win the election.

So his reason for the request is clear, but it is still a big step—amounting to treason—to ask a foreign power to violate the law and steal government information.

Ashley Parker reports for the NY Times:

Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially sanctioning a foreign power’s cyberspying of a secretary of state’s correspondence.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which researchers have concluded was likely the work of two Russian intelligence agencies. . .

Continue reading.

And see also this article by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine.

I can’t recall the GOP being so friendly toward Russia in general and toward Putin in particular.

On another front, Trump continues to lie quite openly about not being able to release his tax returns because he’s being audited. As has been repeatedly pointed out to him (and as the IRS has publicly stated), being audited does NOT prevent the release of the tax information. Either Trump has a very serious learning disability (which I think is a definite possibility) or he is knowingly lying even though he knows that his listeners know he is lying. Neither is a good characteristic in a president.

And people are now pointing to Trump’s attacks on Mitt Romney in 2012 because Romney did not release his tax returns fast enough. Romney did release them, though, and Trump still refuses to release his own returns. One can speculate as to the reason, but this is the first time in decades that a presidential candidate has refused to release his returns.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 July 2016 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election, GOP

An example of why people admire and support Bernie Sanders

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Margaret Talbot has an interesting column on Bernie Sanders in the New Yorker. It concludes:

. . . [W]hen I asked him how he’d decided to run for President, he gave a long and forthcoming answer, which showed that his sense of what his campaign was about was both realistic and idealistic.
“I thought about it for a long time,” he began. “No. 1, most importantly for me, it was not ego. You’re looking at a guy who ran for statewide office and got one per cent of the vote. So losing per se is not something that I worried about.” But, Sanders continued, “it was important to me to know that I could run a good campaign, in which I carried the banner and carried the ideas that meant a lot to millions of people. So it wasn’t about losing personally or not doing well. It was about carrying the banner for family and medical leave, for a massive jobs program, for climate change, for campaign-finance reform.” Sanders was concerned that, if his campaign did not have some success, “you’d have some people saying, ‘Oh, Bernie Sanders talked about campaign-finance reform and overturning Citizens United, and he got two per cent of the vote. I guess that’s not a serious issue.’ You understand what I’m saying? So I wanted to do it well. And I had to determine that I could.”
He did do it well. As he emphasized last night, Sanders and his movement helped produce a much more progressive platform than Clinton alone would have. More important, he may have energized a grassroots movement that could reduce the influence of corporate money in American politics and keep issues like the minimum wage, affordable college, and income inequality alive. That’s something he’s said all along, too: that no President, no matter how well-intentioned or progressive, can make any real change without the moral and pragmatic pressure of a grassroots movement. And he said it again last night, because Sanders is nothing if not consistent. “Election days come and go, but the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one per cent . . . that struggle continues.”

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2016 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

If Russian Intelligence Did Hack the DNC, the NSA Would Know, Snowden Says

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Robert Mackey has an interesting report in The Intercept:

As my colleague Glenn Greenwald told WNYC on Monday, while there may never be conclusive evidence that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by Russian intelligence operatives to extract the trove of embarrassing emails published by WikiLeaks, it would hardly be shocking if that was what happened.

“Governments do spy on each other and do try to influence events in other countries,” Glenn noted. “Certainly the U.S. government has a very long and successful history of doing exactly that.”

Even so, he added, given the ease with which we were misled into war in Iraq by false claims about weapons of mass destruction — and the long history of Russophobia in American politics — it is vital to cast a skeptical eye over whatever evidence is presented to support the claim, made by Hillary Clinton’s aide Robby Mook, that this is all part of a Russian plot to sabotage the Democrats and help Donald Trump win the election.

The theory gained some traction, particularly among Trump’s detractors, in part because the candidate has seemed obsessed at times with reminding crowds that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said something sort of nice about him (though not, as Trump falsely claims, that the American is “a genius”). Then last week, Trump’s campaign staff watered down a pledge to help Ukraine defend its territory from Russian-backed rebels and the candidate told the New York Times he would not necessarily honor the NATO treaty commitment that requires the United States military to defend other member states from a direct attack by Russia.

Since Trump has refused to release his tax returns, there are also questions about whether or not his businesses might depend to some extent on Russian investors. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son Donald Jr. told a real estate conference in 2008, the Washington Post reported last month. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Paul Manafort, who is directing Trump’s campaign and was for years a close adviser of a Putin ally, former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine,called the theory that Trump’s campaign had ties to the Russian government “absurd.” (On Monday, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reported that a DNC researcher looking into Manafort’s ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine in May had been warned that her personal Yahoo email account was under attack. “We strongly suspect that your account has been the target of state-sponsored actors,” the warning from the email service security team read.)

Unhelpfully for Trump, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2016 at 1:59 pm

Bernie Sanders Left Delegates With No Way to Fight But Boo

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Zaid Jilani makes an interesting point in The Intercept:

The first night of the Democratic National Convention featured rousing tributes to Hillary Clinton, blistering critiques of Donald Trump – and a chorus of boos from Bernie Sanders delegates at invocations to vote for Clinton, even when it came from Sanders himself.

Many commentators wondered why the Sanders delegates persisted in their protest, weeks after their nominee had conceded the election to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.

The answer may rest in a step that Sanders himself took.

In the lead-up to the convention, the Sanders campaign worked with both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to help write the party’s platform. Those meetings featured debates between the Sanders and Clinton teams, and while there was progress on many issues, there were many more where Team Sanders suffered defeats – including opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, banning fracking, and enacting a carbon tax. [In my mind, those are all key issues that deserve to be in the platform. – LG]

Throughout this process, Sanders openly considered bringing key issues where he was stymied to the convention floor itself, by submitting what is called a “minority plank.” That would have allowed his campaign to submit platform proposals to the floor for a vote among all delegates.

This is a process that has been used before, with some success. In 1948, Hubert Humphrey forced the Democratic Party leadership to add support for civil rights to the platform by using the minority plank procedure, which ended up boosting black turnout for the Democrats in the following election. In 1984 and 1988, the insurgent Jesse Jackson campaign mobilized its delegates to stage floor fights on a whole host of issues.

Fighting over the platform on the floor would have offered Bernie delegates the chance to continuing doing what they do best — organize and make change. They would have had an opportunity to argue over issues they movement cared deeply about, and possibly even move the Democratic Party in ways that Bernie’s inside negotiations with the DNC failed to.

But on July 10, Sanders’s campaign released a triumphant statement, calling the platform the “most progressive” in the Democratic Party’s history. On July 12, the Sanders campaign then abruptly ended its talk of a convention fight over the issues. “As a result of our success and the realization that further platform fights would be portrayed in the corporate media as obstructionist and divisive, the senator made the very difficult decision not to file minority reports,” Sanders policy chief Warren Gunnels wrote to key supporters. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2016 at 10:54 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

The DNC needs a serious make-over and some ethics training

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens of Wall Street on Parade review new findings about the Democratic National Committee and how it operated under the direction of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The problem with conspiracy theorists is that, quite frequently, the theorists lack adequate imagination. That seems to be the case when it comes to the Democratic National Committee’s behind-the-scenes machinations to muscle Hillary Clinton into the White House while plotting against her main challenger, Bernie Sanders. That conclusion stems from the trove of 20,000 DNC emails dumped into the public sphere by Wikileaks last Friday.

The leaked emails have cost Debbie Wasserman Schultz her job as Chair of the DNC but other top DNC officials captured in devious plots against Sanders in the email exchanges still have their jobs – or at least no official firings have been announced. This makes the conspiracies seem more like a DNC business model.

The DNC’s own charter demands that it treat all Democratic primary candidates fairly and impartially, but top DNC officials made a mockery of that mandate. In addition to conjuring up ways to smear Clinton challenger Bernie Sanders during the primary battles, the leaked emails show a coordinated effort to cover up what the Sanders camp called “money laundering” between the Hillary Victory Fund and the DNC.

Despite the fact that the Sanders campaign had no such active arrangement with the DNC, the DNC agreed to participate in the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that sluiced money to both Hillary’s main candidate committee, Hillary for America, as well as into the DNC. To a much tinier degree, funds also went to dozens of separate State Democratic committees.

On May 2 of this year, the Sanders campaign released a statement charging Clinton with “looting funds meant for the state parties to skirt fundraising limits on her presidential campaign,” and exploiting “the rules in ways that let her high-dollar donors like Alice Walton of Wal-Mart fame and the actor George Clooney and his super-rich Hollywood friends skirt legal limits on campaign contributions.”

Despite Clinton’s promise to rein in tax dodges by hedge funds, Wall Street On Parade reported in April that major hedge fund titans were also big donors to the Hillary Victory Fund. We wrote at the time:

“Federal Election Commission records show that S. Donald Sussman, founder of hedge fund Paloma Partners, gave $343,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund while also donating $2.5 million to Priorities USA, the Super Pac supporting Hillary. Hedge Fund billionaire George Soros donated $343,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund while sluicing a whopping $7 million into Priorities USA to enhance Hillary’s efforts to move into the Oval Office.”

Today, reporters Ken Vogel and Isaac Arnsdorf of Politico have provided significant new details from the leaked emails to show how the DNC worked behind the scenes to control the media’s handling of revelations involving the Hillary Victory Fund.

Vogel was criticized by some media outlets when the Wikileaks emails revealed he had allowed a DNC official to review one of his articles critical of the joint fundraising operation prior to publication. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post has provided some necessary clarity to that issue here.

The Clinton camp and the DNC had attempted publicly to defend the joint fundraising operation as providing critical help to State Committees in order to help down-ticket candidates. But today, Vogel and Arnsdorf report the following:

“Between the creation of the victory fund in September and the end of last month, the fund had brought in $142 million, the lion’s share of which — 44 percent — has wound up in the coffers of the DNC ($24.4 million) and Hillary for America ($37.6 million), according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC filings. By comparison, the analysis found that the state parties have kept less than $800,000 of all the cash brought in by the committee — or only 0.56 percent.”

Vogel and Arnsdorf also detail how the DNC attempted to stonewall reporters on the topic, writing: . . .

Continue reading.

Just to be clear: I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, in my mind, represents and clear an imminent danger to American democracy. But that does not mean that Democrats and Democratic organizations are without fault. I think these faults should be faced squarely and cleaned up, not ignored and hidden.

Apparently no one was keeping track of what Wasserman Schulz was doing, and the DNC itself seems to lack an ethical compass.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2016 at 10:43 am

Posted in Democrats, Election, Law

A Bernie Voter, From Ukraine, on the Putin Story

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A very interesting report from a James Fallows column in the Atlantic:

I think this is very interesting: a reader who knows Russia and Ukraine, on how he reads the unfolding “Putin angle” news.

I’m a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, now a naturalized citizen of the United States. I also was a Bernie Sanders voter in the primary, who will be voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election.

This is probably the weirdest year of my life politically. On the right, the anti-immigrant and antisemitic fervor is really a choice cut of hate. The apparent mutual interest of Russia and the Trump campaign has meant that on both the right and left, there is legitimate critique. However, it has also meant there’s a home for a very familiar panic about Eastern Europe and, honestly, people using the critique as cover for rank bigotry who were interested in that bigotry long before Trump and Russia were even a story. Lastly, the DNC e-mails specifically regarding Sanders’ religious views and raising it as an issue with voters WITHIN the Democratic electorate, was a dispiriting reminder that despite what has been a pretty nice life, given enough opportunity bigotry can have a house anywhere, even among friends.

However, I’m writing today to provide context for Russia’s actions, from my own experience. When Russia invaded Ukraine, they did it while putting their arms up and saying it wasn’t them, even as it was clear to everyone that it was. There were the anecdotes, of course, about the Russian military insignia of the people coming into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine being torn from their uniforms. Regardless of the truth of those anecdotes—of basically Russians barely modifying their own uniforms, doing the least amount of work to seem not like the Russian army—they got at what is a reality: the transparent cynicism of Russia, the tendency to do the terrible thing and tell the whole world they’re not doing it until they’re years deep into a conflict they can’t escape.

I wanted to mention that because in the recent stories, there’s been this emerging picture of Russia as a legitimate threat to the United States, run by a chessmaster. Russia is not a legitimate threat, and Putin is not a chessmaster. Russia is a transparently desperate country. The sanctions and financial freezes have spread Russia thin. They’ve impacted the oligarchs that run the country. They’ve impacted its long-term capacity to use war as an economic plan and perpetually hold sovereign states as territories on a whim. They’ve reduced its capacity to control its client states.

The well is running dry. And what they’re doing is the same thing they did in Ukraine. The world was getting away from them, they had something they could not control or overwhelm, so they went in to Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and tried to take it through brute force—all the while putting their hands up in the air and denying they had anything to do with it. Even now, in Putin’s speeches, it is clear he is coming not from a position of strength, but one of great weakness, asking essentially for a mercy that he does not currently deserve, seeing things like the banning on the basis of doping as signs of additional punishment.

So Russia may be behind the DNC hack. We may be seeing this fight because they’re desperate to elect the man they resemble the most, because it’s the only way out of it they see for themselves. It’s not prowess or intelligence though; it’s desperation and lashing out. Putin took the spirit of the Russian people and defaced it for years, replacing it with militarism and the use of the church as a prop for the state. This was sustained by capital, by investment. And it just isn’t there any more. Robbing the people of their spirit, the rulers of the country now have lost the capacity to fund the things that occupied the void. Their enterprises in Ukraine and Syria look more like past recipes in Chechnya, Georgia and elsewhere for forever war. It’s only a matter of time before the client states, the installed rulers, are once again challenged but do not find the support they once had. It is just history cycling.

But to be clear, Russia is not a danger to us so much as it is a danger to itself. A smarter government would have figured out a way other than the invasion of Ukraine, other than perpetually hostile acts such as this hack. A smarter government would not be in a position where it basically has to cut all its own domestic programs to fund wars that will go on forever. A more gifted politician wouldn’t be in a position of accumulating strikes against themselves while demanding mercy. I think this is already the view President Obama holds, as documented in his statements on Russia with Jeffrey Goldberg.

I think this election was and remains a choice between being governed by fear and being governed by perspective, between seeing monsters all over and understanding where we all really are respective to one another. Russia’s latest transparent ploy, even as its consequences are currently being felt deeply, will eventually be seen for the desperate and unsophisticated acts they are. Donald Trump’s series of transparent ploys, his perpetual financial and moral bankruptcy, will be seen the same way, the desperate, angry flicker of a flailing movement unable to navigate a changing world. And we will live this coming January in the same country as this past January—a fractured place working to rebuild itself, to be better than its past, and hopefully a little smarter. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2016 at 8:04 pm

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