Tag Archives: Campaign Finance

Democratic Lawmakers Urge Barrett to Recuse Herself From Koch Dark Money Case

The members of Congress note that Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded advocacy group, mounted a “full-scale campaign” in support of the justice’s confirmation.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-20-2021

Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing. Screenshot: C-SPAN

Three Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday urged U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from a pending case revolving around the nonprofit arm of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded political advocacy group that spent heavily to ensure Barrett’s confirmation to the bench last October.

In a letter (pdf) to Barrett, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) argue that Americans for Prosperity’s big spending campaign in support of the newest justice’s confirmation casts serious doubt on whether she can be impartial in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez. Continue reading

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‘A Big Deal’: Lawmakers Reintroduce Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

“We cannot allow the wealthiest individuals and corporations to flood our elections with cash through complex webs of super PACs and dark money groups that put special interests above the will of the American people.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-21-2021

Occupy Tampa displays signs at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Photo: Liz Mc/Wikimedia Commons/CC

n a bid to reverse the outsize influence of corporations and the wealthiest Americans over the nation’s electoral process, a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers on Thursday reintroduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

The reintroduction of the Democracy for All Amendment in the 117th Congress—led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), John Katko (D-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)—occurred on the 11th anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commissiona 5-4 ruling which affirmed that corporations are legal persons and that they, labor unions, and other outside groups could spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of U.S. elections. Continue reading

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‘The Corruption Is Bottomless’: Documents Reveal Chair of Postal Service Board Is Director of McConnell-Allied Super PAC

“Can the GOP’s takeover of USPS be any more blatant?”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-1-2020

Robert Duncan, former chairman of the Republican National Commiteee, was appointed to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors by President Donald Trump in 2017. (Image: Rep. Carolyn Maloney/Screengrab of Republican National Convention)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s deep and longstanding ties to U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors chairman Robert Duncan are coming under heightened scrutiny after corporate paperwork filed Monday listed Duncan as a director of a major GOP super PAC closely aligned with the Kentucky Republican.

The new filing (pdf) with Virginia’s State Corporation Commission—an independent regulatory agency that oversees political action committees—names Duncan as one of three directors of the Senate Leadership Fund, a massive super PAC that has spent nearly $18 million in support of Senate Republicans thus far in the 2020 election cycle. Continue reading

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‘A Conspiracy to Steal the Election, Folks’: Alarms Sound After Postal Worker Reports Removal of Sorting Machines

The removal of key equipment from Post Offices should be viewed as nothing less than “sabotage,” said one observer.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-12-2020

Flat sorter machine. Photo: USPS

The head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union alleged Tuesday that mail sorting machines are “being removed” from Post Offices in her state due to new policies imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor to President Donald Trump whose operational changes have resulted in dramatic mail slowdowns across the nation.

Asked by NPR‘s Noel King whether she has felt the impact of DeJoy’s changes, Iowa Postal Workers Union President Kimberly Karol—a 30-year Postal Service veteran—answered in the affirmative, saying “mail is beginning to pile up in our offices, and we’re seeing equipment being removed.” Continue reading

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As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs Donating to Trump ‘With Greater Zeal’ Than 2016

“We’ve seen a pretty huge transformation in Biden’s climate plan,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-3-2020

ExxonMobil facility near Chicago. (Photo: Richard Hurd, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

With presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s climate platform becoming increasingly ambitious thanks to nonstop grassroots pressure, fossil fuel executives and lobbyists are pouring money into the coffers of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in the hopes of keeping an outspoken and dedicated ally of dirty energy in the White House.

The Houston Chronicle reported Monday that oil and gas executives “are writing checks to President Donald Trump with greater zeal than they did four years ago, as Biden campaigns on a climate plan that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by mid-century.” Continue reading

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Watchdog Groups Demand Probe Into ‘Voter Suppression Tactics’ by Postal Service Chief—and Major Trump Donor—Louis DeJoy

“In his first month on the job, the postmaster general has already taken steps that could undermine efficient voting by mail in November.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-31-2020

Screenshot: YouTube

Government watchdog groups are demanding that the Senate launch an investigation into “potential voter suppression tactics” by recently appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor whose operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service have slowed mail delivery across the nation and sparked concerns about mail-in ballots in upcoming elections.

“In his first month on the job, the postmaster general has already taken steps that could undermine efficient voting by mail in November,” wrote Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Common Cause Wisconsin in a letter (pdf) to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has jurisdiction over USPS. Continue reading

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Trump Friends and Family Cleared for Millions in Small Business Bailout

Beneficiaries of the PPP included a lettuce farming venture backed by Trump’s son, Kushner companies, and a dentist who golfs with the president. The figures were released after a lawsuit by several news organizations, including ProPublica.

By Jack GillumIsaac ArnsdorfJake Pearson and Mike Spies  Published 7-6-2020 by ProPublica

Businesses tied to President Donald Trump’s family and associates stand to receive as much as $21 million in government loans designed to shore up payroll expenses for companies struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal data released Monday.

A hydroponic lettuce farm backed by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., applied for at least $150,000 in Small Business Administration funding. Albert Hazzouri, a dentist frequently spotted at Mar-a-Lago, asked for a similar amount. A hospital run by Maria Ryan, a close associate of Trump lawyer and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, requested more than $5 million. Several companies connected to the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, could get upward of $6 million.

There’s no ban on businesses connected to Trump’s orbit receiving money. Democrats added a provision to the CARES Act excluding government officials and their family members from receiving some bailout funds, but not those from the PPP.

The firms sought funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, one of the Trump administration’s sweeping pandemic relief efforts. Created in late March by the CARES Act, it allowed small businesses — generally, those with fewer than 500 employees — to apply for loans of up to $10 million. The loans can be forgiven if used to cover payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

The program paid out $521 billion to almost 4.9 million companies in an effort to provide relief for small businesses and their workers amid the sudden economic shock brought on by the pandemic. As applications slowed after the initial rush, $132 billion remained unspent, and Congress voted to extend the program.

After resisting releasing the names, the government bowed to pressure from critics and watchdog groups. On Monday, the administration disclosed only those entities that were approved by banks for loans over $150,000. A consortium of news organizations, including ProPublica, has sued the administration under the Freedom of Information Act to release the full list of recipients and loan details.

The program has been criticized for including some loan recipients, particularly large, publicly traded companies, and for favoring wealthier businesses that had existing relationships with banks. In some cases customers could essentially skip the line. Overall, however, many economists praise the PPP for having gotten billions to companies relatively quickly.

The New York Observer, the news website that Kushner ran before entering the White House and is still owned by his brother-in-law’s investment firm, was approved for between $350,000 and $1 million, data shows. A company called Princeton Forrestal LLC that is at least 40 percent owned by Kushner family members, according to a 2018 securities filing, was approved for $1 million to $2 million. Esplanade Livingston LLC, whose address is the same as that of the Kushner Companies real estate development business, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million. The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Febo, responded, “Several of our hotels have applied for federal loans, in accordance with all guidelines, with a vast majority of funds going to furloughed employees.” The loans to Kushner-related companies were first reported by The Daily Beast.

In addition, up to $2 million was approved for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, a nonprofit religious school in Livingston, N.J., that’s named for Jared Kushner’s grandfather and supported by the family.

In April, a bank approved a loan of between $150,000 and $350,000 for the Pennsylvania dental practice of Albert Hazzouri, who golfs with Trump and frequents Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2017, Hazzouri used his access to the president to pass him a policy proposal on club stationery on behalf of the American Dental Association. He addressed the note to Trump “Dear King.”

Hazzouri also leaned on his relationship with Trump in an unsuccessful bid to obtain a dentistry license to expand his business in Florida. Hazzouri didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.

Firms tied to the president’s children also stand to benefit from the program. A small indoor lettuce farming business applied for funds between $150,000 and $350,000, SBA data show. Trump Jr. had invested in Eden Green Technology, a vertical farming company just south of Dallas, whose co-chair, Gentry Beach, was a Trump campaign fundraiser.

Trump Jr. purchased his shares as Beach sought Trump administration funding for his other global business interests, ProPublica first reported in December 2018.

The company has said Trump Jr. played no role in running Eden Green and was brought in during “U.S. friends and family fundraising efforts.” A spokesman, Trevor Moore, said that the company “followed the standard procedure” in applying for the PPP loan and that “receiving it has provided for the preservation of 18 jobs.” It’s not clear how much Trump Jr. invested or whether he’s been paid any dividends since purchasing his shares. Neither Trump Jr. nor a spokesman returned a message seeking comment.

Monday’s list included a Manhattan law firm whose marquee attorney has fiercely defended Trump for almost two decades. Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP — whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was at one point the president’s top lawyer in the special counsel’s Russia investigation — was set to receive between $5 million and $10 million from Citibank, data show. (The largest loan a company could seek was $10 million.)

Once dubbed the “Donald Trump of lawyering” by The New York Times, Kasowitz represented Trump in the Trump University fraud lawsuit. and during the 2016 campaign he helped keep Trump’s 1990 divorce from being unsealed. ProPublica reported three years ago that Kasowitz bragged to friends that he made between $10 million and $30 million per year.

A law firm spokeswoman said its employees have maintained their full salary and benefits thanks to the PPP loan and “substantial cost-saving measures and greatly reduced partner distributions.” The firm has about 400 employees, data show. She said neither Kasowitz nor the firm had any conversations with anyone in the administration about the loan. Other major law firms, such as Boies Schiller Flexner and Wiley Rein, also received loans.

The loans helped a hospital executive tightly linked to another Trump attorney and confidant, Rudy Giuliani. Cottage Hospital, a 25-bed critical access facility in Woodsville, New Hampshire, received between $2 million and $5 million in PPP loans. The hospital’s CEO, Maria Ryan, is a longtime close associate of Giuliani’s.

During the last few years, Ryan has accompanied Giuliani on trips to Jerusalem, where the two visited the Hadassah Medical Organization, and to London, where they attended a two-game series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Last September, Giuliani brought Ryan to a state dinner at the White House.

Ryan currently co-hosts a talk radio show with Giuliani called “Uncovering the Truth.” She has referred to Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as her “business partner.” Cottage Hospital’s annual revenues typically exceed $30 million, according to its most recent publicly available federal tax return. Ryan’s salary, the last filing shows, is nearly $300,000.

“Mr. Giuliani has nothing to do with the PPP loan,” Ryan wrote in an email to ProPublica. “We applied like any other small business through our bank.”

The loan data released Monday does not reveal the $30 billion in loans that have been canceled. Nor does it provide specific dollar amounts, but instead ranges of loan amounts. Businesses that spend the money according to key provisions of the program, which mainly involve continuing to pay workers, will have the loans forgiven.

Last week, Trump signed legislation to extend the program until early August.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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With Election Just 4 Months Away, FEC Essentially Defunct as GOP Member Leaves for Koch-Funded Group

The White House announced it would nominate Allen Dickerson, a proponent of Citizens United, to the elections board

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-26-2020

After 10 months, the Federal Elections Commission in May regained a quorum with the confirmation of Republican appointee Trey Trainor—and promptly lost it just over five weeks later on Friday when commissioner Caroline Hunter resigned to join the Koch-funded group Stand Together, leaving the regulatory body again essentially powerless as the November general election draws closer.

“The FEC’s brief period of functioning appears to be over,” tweeted Public Integrity reporter Carrie Levine. Continue reading

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Leading US Retirees ‘Like Lambs to the Slaughter,’ Trump Labor Dept. Quietly Offers Up 401k Plans to Private Equity Vultures

“Private equity firms will now be allowed to access—and skim fees off of—the $9 trillion in 100 million workers’ 401(k) plans and IRAs.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-16-2020

Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of Blackstone, at the Annual Meeting 2018 of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Photo; World Economic Forum/flickr/CC

With the American public’s attention consumed by the Covid-19 pandemic and mass protests against police brutality, the U.S. Labor Department earlier this month quietly gave corporate sponsors of retirement plans something they’ve been agitating over for years: a government green light to invest workers’ savings into funds managed by notoriously predatory private equity firms.

The move, announced on June 3 by Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, allows large managers of 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to put workers’ retirement savings into private equity investments that offer the possibility of huge returns—and devastating losses. Continue reading

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Trump-Connected Fossil Fuel Companies Permitted to Delay Payments of $56 Million in Pollution Fines During Pandemic

“People are struggling to find rent money for next month, but thank god the Trump administration is providing relief for the millions these poor, vulnerable corporate polluters owe.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-27-20220

The Sherburne County (Sherco) Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant owned by Xcel Energy and located in Becker, Minnesota, shown in 2016. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/cc)

Corporations with close ties to Trump administration officials are among 10 companies being permitted to delay payments of millions of dollars in fines for pollution they caused, according to The Guardian and government watchdog Accountable.US.

The companies had agreed to pay a collective total of $56 million in civil penalties for contributing to pollution in communities across the country, but they were informed in April by the Department of Justice that they can pause their payments during the pandemic. Continue reading

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