Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category
Corruption is when a person uses his official powers for private gain—for example, if Dick Cheney as Vice President had caused no-bid cost-plus contracts to be given to companies (such as Halliburton and KBR), that would be corruption. John Dunbar at the Center for Public Integrity points out one example:
A watchdog group has called for the investigation of the actions of an auto-dealing congressman who proposed an amendment that would exempt his industry from a safety requirement.
The amendment, which passed the House of Representatives, was offered just before midnight on Nov. 11. It allows automobile dealers to rent or loan out vehicles even if they are subject to safety recalls. Rental car companies, meanwhile, don’t get the same treatment under the proposed law.
It was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, a self-described “second-generation auto dealer.”
The Campaign Legal Center in a letter sent Monday urged the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics to review Williams’ actions and also recommended changes to clarify House rules concerning recusal and conflicts of interest by members.
The request was prompted by a Center for Public Integrity report posted last week. The story was also posted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Texas Tribune.
“The specific actions of Rep. Williams must be reviewed for compliance with current rules, but even if he did clear his amendment with the Ethics Committee, his actions are a prime example of why the current rules are both too weak and in need of further clarification,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director in a press release.
An email to Williams’ press aide was not immediately returned.
The rental car provision in the legislation, which is also in the Senate bill, was spurred by the deaths of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, ages 24 and 20. The two sisters were killed in 2004 while driving a rented, recalled vehicle that caught fire and crashed head-on into a semi, according to consumer groups that have backed the rental car proposal.
Williams’ amendment would make the act apply only to companies whose “primary” business is renting cars, which would effectively exclude dealerships. No such provision exists in the Senate bill.
Williams is chairman of Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM SRT in Weatherford. In his remarks on the House floor, Williams said the bill was bad for small businesses.
“Vehicles would be grounded for weeks or months for such minor compliance matters as an airbag warning sticker that might peel off the sun visor or an incorrect phone number printed in the owner’s manual,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of California didn’t agree with that reasoning, however.
“This is ridiculous. NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) does not issue frivolous recalls,” she said. “All safety recalls pose serious safety risks and should be fixed as soon as possible.” . . .
Kevin Drum has a very clear explanation, with some wrinkles new to me:
Modern conservatives are oddly fond of pointing out that it was Democrats who were the party of racism and racists until half a century ago. There’s always an implied “Aha!” whenever a conservative mentions this, as though they think it’s some little-known quirk of history that Democrats try to keep hidden because it’s so embarrassing.
It’s not, of course. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and Republicans were the face of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Because of this, the South became solidly Democratic and stayed that way until World War II. But in the 1940s, southerners gradually began defecting to the Republican Party, and then began defecting en masse during the fight over the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
But wait: the 1940s? If Southern whites began defecting to the GOP that early, racism couldn’t have been their motivation. Aha!
But it was. The Civil Rights movement didn’t spring out of nothing in 1964, after all. Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless champion of civil rights, and famously resigned from the DAR when they refused to allow singer Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939. FDR was far more constrained by his need for Southern votes in Congress, but the WPA gave blacks a fair shake and Harold Ickes poured a lot of money into black schools and hospitals in the South. In 1941 FDR signed a nondiscrimination order for the defense industry—the first of its kind—and he generally provided African-Americans with more visibility in his administration than they had ever enjoyed before. After decades of getting little from Republicans despite their loyal support, this was enough to make blacks a key part of the New Deal Coalition and turn them into an increasingly solid voting bloc for the Democratic Party.
From a Southern white perspective, this made the Democratic Party a less welcoming home, and it continued to get less welcoming in the two decades that followed. Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948, and Hubert Humphrey famously delivered a stemwinding civil rights speech at the Democratic convention that year. During the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was widely viewed—rightly or wrongly—as unsympathetic to civil rights. Conversely, LBJ was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
In other words, Southern whites who wanted to keep Jim Crow intact had plenty of reasons to steadily desert the Democratic Party starting around World War II. By the early 60s . . .
And do read the whole thing. Later:
. . . This history is what makes the conservative habit of pointing out that Democrats were the original racists so peculiar. It’s true, but it makes the transformation of the party even more admirable. Losing the South was a huge electoral risk, but Democrats took that risk anyway. That made it far more meaningful and courageous than if there had been no price to pay. . .
Astonishing. Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker:
ve years ago, when The New Yorker published my piece “Covert Operations,” about the ambitious and secretive political network underwritten by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers complained mightily about the story’s title, protesting that there was nothing at all covert about their political activities. Since then, the two have embarked on an impressive public-relations campaign meant to demonstrate their transparency and openness. But today, the Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel came out with a blockbuster scoop suggesting that the brothers, whose organization has vowed to spend an unprecedented eight hundred and eighty-nine million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, are more involved in covert operations than even their own partners have known.
After culling through the latest legally required disclosures, Vogel unearthed a new front group within the Kochs’ expanding network of affiliated nonprofit organizations—a high-tech surveillance and intelligence-gathering outfit devoted to stealthily tracking liberal and Democratic groups which Politico calls the “Koch Intelligence Agency.” The sleuthing operation reportedly includes twenty-five employees, one of whom formerly worked as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, and follows opponents by harvesting high-tech geodata from their social-media posts.
According to Vogel, the effort is so secretive that very few people know of it even within the Kochs’ own sprawling political operation. Housed with other Koch nonprofit organizations in a bland office building in Arlington, Virginia, the outfit is managed by a limited-liability partnership called American Strategies Group, LLC. The company is part of the Kochs’ main political group: a circle of ultra-conservative donors called Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as a “business league” and so claims that it can legally hide the identities of its members.
Reached for comment, James Davis, the spokesman for Freedom Partners, described news accounts comparing the organization’s operation to espionage as “inaccurate.” Davis said, “Like most other organizations, Freedom Partners has a research department that benchmarks our efforts against other organizations.”
While it’s big news that the Kochs are now running their own private intelligence-gathering operation in order to track political opponents, including labor unions, environmental groups, and liberal big-donor groups, it actually isn’t surprising, given their history.
For decades, there have been reports suggesting that Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries have employed private investigators to gather inside information on their perceived enemies, including their own brother, Bill Koch, with whom they fought over control of the family business and fortune. My forthcoming book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which will come out in January, builds on earlier reporting about this, including my 2010 New Yorker piece. In fact, again and again, those who have challenged the Kochs and Koch Industries—whether they are federal officers, private citizens, or members of the press—have suspected that they have been under surveillance.
In Daniel Schulman’s deeply researched biography of the Kochs, “Sons of Wichita,” for instance, he describes how Angela O’Connell, the lead federal prosecutor in a huge environmental-pollution case brought against Koch Industries in 1995, “began to suspect that Koch had placed her under surveillance. ‘I thought that my trash can was taken outside my house several days,’ she recalled. ‘I was upset enough about it at the time to report what I thought was a bugging and what I thought was the trash being taken—a number of incidents,’ ” Schulman writes that “the Justice Department was never able to prove that Koch had targeted one of its prosecutors, but for the first time in her career, O’Connell operated as if everything she said and did was being monitored.”
Schulman also quotes a lawyer for the plaintiff in a massive fatal personal-injury case, brought against Koch Industries in 1999, as saying that he hired a security firm to sweep his office after suspecting that his phones were bugged. The firm, he said, discovered electronic transmitters had been planted there. “I’m not saying that the Kochs did it,” the lawyer, Ted Lyon, told Schulman. “I just thought it was very interesting that it happened during the time we were litigating the case.”
Similarly, as I reported in my New Yorker piece, when a Senate committee investigated Koch Industries, in 1989, for what its final report called a “widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring,” the report noted that in the course of the probe Koch operatives had delved into the personal lives of the committee’s staffers, even questioning one’s ex-wife.
Vogel, the Politico reporter who broke today’s story, has had his own run-ins with the Kochs’ hyper-vigilance. . .
In the New Yorker Amy Davidson tries to make sense of Ted Cruz. Emphasis added:
“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”
The next day, at a middle school in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Cruz spoke even more openly about those whom he considers to be the good people in the world. He told reporters that we should accept Christians from Syria, and only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” [He did say that. Amazing ignorance. – LG] This will come as a profound surprise to the people of Oklahoma City and Charleston, to all parties in Ireland, and to the families of the teen-agers whom Anders Breivik killed in Norway, among many others. The Washington Post noted that Cruz “did not say how he would determine that refugees were Christian or Muslim.” Would he accept baptismal certificates, or notes from pastors? Does he just want to hear the refugees pray?
On Monday, President Barack Obama reacted to this suggestion with some anger. “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” Obama said. (That last bit, about “families who’ve benefited” when fleeing persecution, was an unmistakable reference to Cruz and Marco Rubio.) Obama continued, “That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.” The question is whether Obama can put that compassion to use, in this precipitous moment after Paris, when so many bad choices will seem appealing, including attacks on our fellow citizens. (On Monday, Donald Trump said that, though he’d “hate to do it,” as President he would “seriously consider” closing mosques that were viewed as centers of radicalism.) The real criticism is that the United States has taken so few Syrian refugees of any religion—just about fifteen thousand, all of whom have been screened by a process that can take up to two years.
Cruz is cruder than some, but he is not alone among Republicans. On Sunday, Jeb Bush also said that, although he isn’t entirely opposed to helping refugees who’d been screened, “I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore.” (Christians were ten per cent of Syria’s population when the civil war broke out.) . . .
Ben Carson cannot sink out of sight too soon for me. The guy seems to have as little integrity as knowledge. Kevin Drum notes in Mother Jones:
Ben Carson really, really hates medical fraud. Seriously: “There would be some very stiff penalties for this kind of fraud,” he wrote a few years ago, “such as loss of one’s medical license for life, no less than ten years in prison, and loss of all of one’s personal possessions.”
Unless, that is, the fraudster happens to be Carson’s best and oldest friend. In that case, you write a letter to the judge saying, “there is no one on this planet that I trust more than Al Costa.” And it worked. Costa was a dentist who pleaded guilty to billing insurance companies for procedures he didn’t perform, but in the end the judge sentenced him only to a year of house arrest in his 8,300-square-foot mansion.
AP has the story here. But if you want some serious details about this whole case, Russ Choma has them right here at MoJo. Carson, needless to say, insists that Costa was innocent all along and was railroaded by the justice system. That’s how things work in Carsonworld. There’s the good guys and the bad guys, and Carson knows in his heart exactly who they are. As for facts, I guess they’re just chaff thrown out by secular progressives to destroy good Christians.