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3/16/17 Clips – Divesting $1B is hard Trump’s cabinet finds, Democrats put political money in spotlight of Gorsuch fight  

March 16, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

As we learn more about President Donald Trump’s proposed budget today which would defund, among other things, Meals on Wheels’ meals for the elderly, housing assistance, and other community assistance efforts–a further blow for the most vulnerable in our country after the Republican health care plan proposed giving the wealthy a tax break while taking health insurance from millions–the Wall Street Journal reports that Trump’s cabinet of billionaire donors, who are running these agencies, is trying to divest from more than $1 billion in assets to address conflicts of interest issues.

Ah, what a problem to have! President Trump himself is still refusing to divest his assets, of course.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Roll Call: Liberals Put Political Money in Spotlight of Gorsuch Fight
“Democratic lawmakers and liberal interest groups are intensifying their pressure on senators to probe Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s views on campaign finance law during his confirmation hearings next week.”

Groups including NARAL, MoveOn, Every Voice, and End Citizens United delivered over 1 million petitions to the Senate yesterday opposing Judge Gorsuch’s nomination while Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren headlined two events criticizing Gorsuch. Elizabeth Warren said Trump “promised to help these giant corporations and their big donors out” and with Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, he “paid off on that promise.”

Watch Every Voice and End Citizens United livestream from the scene as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey rally in opposition to Judge Gorsuch.

Bloomberg BNA: Democrats to Probe Gorsuch Views on Campaign Finance
And we can expect more questions during the hearing next week: “Democrats supporting campaign finance regulation have stopped short, so far, of outright opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, but key lawmakers said the burden of proof is on Gorsuch to show he won’t help extend the line of recent court decisions that rolled back limits on money in politics.”

Washington Examiner: Pro-Trump group launches ad buy boosting Gorsuch in 5 states
“The pro-Trump Great America Alliance is launching a multimillion-dollar ad buy Wednesday boosting Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination in five states.”

Maine Sun Journal: Sen. Angus King seeks greater transparency for political contributions
Sen. Angus King and Rep. Beto O’Rourke introduced companion bills in the Senate and House that would “revise federal law to require that all campaign contributions of $1,000 or more be disclosed with the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours”

Roll Call: Ethics Watchdogs Make a Career of It
Great piece on how ethics experts Norm Eisen and Richard Painter have become in demand voices in the Trump era: “Though government ethics law may seem a lonely pursuit, leading a resistance against the Trump team’s web of potential ethics woes clearly is not.”

The ATTN: podcast interviewed Adam McKay, director of The Big Short, and discussed among other things the problem of money in politics.

Center for Responsive Politics: Self-funded candidates lose big (except when they don’t)
In 2016 the chance of a candidate winning a race in which they self-funded their campaign was just 12.5 percent. Yet, that’s still better odds of winning elected office than someone without the personal wealth or wealthy connections has.

It’s Thursday, and that means a new episode of the Every Voice Speaks podcast is available! This week Every Voice’s Jessica Washington and I talk about Supreme Court Nominee Judge Gorsuch, news out of New Mexico, and homeless political donors in Seattle thanks to the city’s democracy voucher program. Check us out on iTunes or Stitcher.

Congress/Administration

The Hill: The curious case of President Trump’s ethics executive order
Craig Holman of Public Citizen: “Trump’s ethics executive order provides a potential framework for managing conflicts of interest in the administration, but it is a real puzzle how, when, or if these ethics rules are going to be implemented and enforced — or, for that matter, whether anyone even knows about them.”

The Hill: Lobbyists finding spots in Trump administration
Trump’s “lobbyist ban” has turned out to be nothing of the sort in practice: “Drew Maloney, who led the Washington office for an oil and gas giant, has been chosen as the Treasury Department’s liaison to Congress, becoming the latest lobbyist to go into the Trump administration.”

Center for Public Integrity: Documents: Office of Government Ethics, Trump team reached détente
Would love to know what happens in these meetings between the White House and the Office of Government Ethics, which has vocally criticized the White House and the President on how they have dealt with conflicts of interest: “In the weeks leading up to inauguration, White House Counsel Don McGahn — then leading the legal efforts of Trump’s presidential transition team — met several times prior with officials from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, according to emails and calendar entries obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through a Freedom of Information Act request.”

CNBC: Donald Trump checked the box on his tax returns to support public campaign finance
“one minor detail is interesting: On this return, Trump supported public financing of elections by checking the often-overlooked box on his 1040 form.”

Mother Jones: Businesswoman Who Bought Trump Penthouse Is Connected to Chinese Intelligence Front Group
Was the purchase of Trump’s penthouse an attempt to curry favor with Trump? “Further investigation by Mother Jones has unearthed a new element to the story: Chen has ties to important members of the Chinese ruling elite and to an organization considered a front group for Chinese military intelligence.”

NPR: Murdoch And Trump, An Alliance Of Mutual Interest
“The rapport forged by Murdoch and Trump may prove handy for both men. Murdoch’s news outlets often shine a favorable light on the new president; meanwhile, his media properties have many interests pending before the federal government.”

The Hill: Club for Growth endorses Trump-aligned candidate in GA special election
“The conservative Club for Growth PAC announced on Tuesday that it will back Republican Bob Gray in Georgia’s high-profile special House election.”

States/Other

ThinkProgress: North Carolina legislature wants more control over state courts, less power for the governor
Not a positive step for democracy: “Since North Carolina voters elected Democratic governor Roy Cooper in November, the Republican-dominated state legislature has been on a mission to take away the governor’s power. The legislature’s latest power grab is a series of bills that limit the power of the new Democratic governor to appoint judges and other officials. The proposed laws could give the legislature the power to pack the state courts, including the newly liberal state supreme court, with its preferred judges.”

Denver Post: Colorado Democrats propose reforms to shed more light on political “dark money”
Bills would require political ads to disclose donors in the ads, add fundraising limits, and close a loophole that allows spending to go unreported: “Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran on Wednesday rolled out a series of bills to require that more ‘dark money’ be disclosed under the state’s campaign finance laws, calling it a necessary step to ensure that out-of-state interests can’t ‘drown out the voice of our people.'”

Las Vegas Review Journal: Casinos, developers hand out money as political newcomer outraises incumbent in Las Vegas City Council race
“Casinos, developers, law firms and other donors contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to mayoral and City Council candidates across the valley during the first 10 weeks of 2017.” Megadonor and Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam are among those backing a candidate for her support of the development of a controversial golf course.

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director