Tag Archives: lobbyists

Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s “Big, Beautiful Tax Cut”

Billionaire business owners deployed lobbyists to make sure Trump’s 2017 tax bill was tailored to their benefit. Confidential IRS records show the windfall that followed.

by Justin Elliott and Robert Faturechi. Published 8-11-2021 by ProPublica

Image: Pixafree.org/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Series:
The Secret IRS Files

Inside the Tax Records of the .001%

 

In November 2017, with the administration of President Donald Trump rushing to get a massive tax overhaul through Congress, Sen. Ron Johnson stunned his colleagues by announcing he would vote “no.”

Making the rounds on cable TV, the Wisconsin Republican became the first GOP senator to declare his opposition, spooking Senate leaders who were pushing to quickly pass the tax bill with their thin majority. “If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson declared. Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’ Secret Footage of ExxonMobil Lobbyists Sparks Calls for Action by Congress

“We demand Congress immediately investigate Exxon and fossil fuel companies’ climate crimes, and make polluters pay for their destruction,” said a 350.org campaigner.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-30-2021

Keith McCoy, a senior director in ExxonMobil’s Washington, D.C. government affairs team, was secretly recorded by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm. (Photo: Screenshot/Unearthed via Channel 4 News)

While ExxonMobil’s decades of sowing public doubt about climate science and the impact of fossil fuels have provoked various lawsuits, secretly recorded videos released Wednesday expose how the company continues to fight against U.S. efforts to tackle climate emergency.

Published by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.’s investigative journalism arm, and the British Channel 4 News, the footage of ExxonMobil lobbyists sparked new calls for congressional action to hold the oil and gas giant accountable. Continue reading

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‘A Fitting End’: Hours Before Leaving Office, Trump Quietly Revokes Order Restricting Lobbying by Former Federal Officials

“Great summary of Trump’s many farcical ‘drain the swamp’ betrayals.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-20-2021

Photo: Palácio do Planalto/flickr/CC

Making one final mockery of his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” President Donald Trump early Wednesday quietly revoked his own executive order barring administration officials from lobbying the agencies for which they worked for five years after leaving government, freeing up a potential line of employment for outgoing White House staff.

While riddled with loopholes and deficiencies, the executive order represented one of the few concrete actions Trump took during his four years in office to rein in the corruption that has long been a hallmark of the U.S. federal government. On the whole, Trump contributed massively to that corruption during his tenure, which one watchdog group argues was “marked by self-interest, profiteering at the highest levels, and more than 3,700 conflicts of interest.” Continue reading

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Pelosi Support for Corporate Lobbyist Bailout Denounced as ‘Dumbest Political Maneuver You Could Possibly Make Right Now’

“Pelosi has run the House of Representatives by fiat for close to two months, and there hasn’t been a single word of protest as she locks every other member of the Democratic caucus out of policymaking.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-7-2020

Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has thrown her support behind a proposal to allow corporate lobbying groups to receive bailout money from a Covid-19 relief program meant for small businesses, a move one critic bluntly described as the “dumbest political maneuver you could possibly make right now.”

During a webinar with small business representatives on Tuesday, Pelosi said the next coronavirus relief package will include a change to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that would permit 501(c)(6) organizations to receive forgivable taxpayer loans. Continue reading

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These Trump Staffers — Including an ex-NRA Lobbyist — Left Their Financial Disclosure Forms Blank

The Interior Department acknowledges that many of its employees’ forms “were not reviewed and certified properly.”

By Gabriel Sandoval. Published 6-28-2018 by ProPublica

Before accepting a position at the U.S. Department of the Interior last October, Benjamin Cassidy championed gun rights for nearly seven years as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, collecting a peak annual salary of $288,333 for his work on Capitol Hill.

The public wouldn’t know that by looking at Cassidy’s government financial disclosure report. The form, which he filed soon after taking a job as senior deputy director of the office of intergovernmental and external affairs, doesn’t list his old job at the NRA — or any past job, for that matter. Cassidy’s form was nearly blank, save for his name, title and some bank holdings and investments. In the space allotted to show his income, it incorrectly stated “None.” Continue reading

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Recognizing Powerful Interests Running the Joint, More Than 75% of Americans Back Campaign Finance Reform

“Let’s turn opinion into action by overturning #CitizensUnited and enacting public financing of elections nationwide,” says Public Citizen in response to new Pew survey.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-27-2018

New findings from the Pew Research Center reveal widespread support for campaign finance reform. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

Amidst a widely-shared recognition that the country is effectively being run by powerful special interests, a new poll out Friday shows that more than 3 out of 4 Americans now support serious campaign finance reform as a way to mitigate the corrupting influence of money in the nation’s democracy.

The results of the extensive Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, reveal Americans “see the country falling well short in living up to” democratic ideals and values, and believe core changes are needed in the political system. Continue reading

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Watchdog Files Ethics Complaints Targeting 30 Lobbyists in Trump Administration

One expert estimates that “the real number of potential violations is fourfold.”

By  for CommonDreams. Published 3-26-2018

One ethics expert at Public Citizen said Monday, “These 30 apparent violations of Trump’s own ethics rules are only the tip of the iceberg.” (Photo: jackandfred/imgur)

Underscoring allegations that “ethics do not matter in the Trump administration,” a watchdog group on Monday filed complaints against 30 lobbyists whom President Donald Trump has appointed to his administration without ethics rule waivers—and experts warn this is only the “tip of the iceberg,” positing that the actual number of violations is likely much higher.

The advocacy group Public Citizen has identified at least 36 former lobbyists in the administration who are working on issues for which they recently lobbied, and only six of them have waivers from the ethics rule that Trump issued just days after taking office. Continue reading

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What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders

 

By Derek KravitzAl Shaw and Isaac Arnsdorf. Published 3-7-2018 by ProPublica

When the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once lobbied or whose work they once opposed.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, an authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees, including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and senior officials within the government, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. Trump Town is the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists; and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial disclosure reports. Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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New Report Finally Exposes Congress’ Secret Weapon for Insider Trading

By James Holbrooks. Published 9-27-2017 by The Anti-Media

Photo: Kevin Hutchinson (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s rare that we get a glimpse into how the machine actually operates, but POLITICO just gave us one. The findings of an investigation by the news agency, published Monday, reveal that congressional staffers may play a far larger role in greasing the engine of American government than one might assume. From the article by Maggie Severns:

“A POLITICO review of federal disclosures for 2015 and 2016 found that some senior aides regularly buy and sell individual stocks that present potential conflicts of interest with their work. A smaller number of staffers trade in companies that lobby Congress and the committees that employ them. In all, approximately 450 aides have bought or sold a stock of more than $1,001 in value since May 2015.

“That’s likely just the tip of the iceberg, since most congressional aides aren’t required to report their trades. Only those in positions earning more than $124,406 per year must reveal their investments. Of the 12,500 staffers working for lawmakers, committees and leadership offices, only about 1,700 make that much, according to data compiled by Legistorm and the Brookings Institution.” Continue reading

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