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4/6/17 Clips – Senate to vote on Gorsuch, a pileup of ethical issues

April 6, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

As the Senate prepares to vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination today, Democrats are continuing to highlight money in politics as a key reason to oppose Gorsuch. After all, as Democrats have pointed out President Donald Trump ran on a brand of populism that included taking power away from big donors and corporations, the opposite of what his chosen nominee has indicated he would do.

On the Senate floor yesterday, senators including Sens. Al Franken and Mazie Hirono mentioned Citizens United while discussing their opposition to Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to discuss the “principled reasons” Democrats have for voting against Gorsuch including that “he has instinctively favored corporate interests over average Americans” and that “Judge Gorsuch, based on his record and history, has a deeply-held far-right, special interest judicial philosophy that is far outside the mainstream. He was selected off a list developed by the very hard-right, special interest Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society.”

E.J. Dionne Jr. has a new piece in the Washington Post about how Democrats have good reason to block Gorsuch’s nomination considering that the Supreme Court has turned into a power-grabbing opportunity for Republicans: “You do not have to believe in conspiracies to see how Shelby County and Citizens United fit together. In tandem, they empowered the most privileged parts of our society and undercut the rights of those who had historically faced discrimination and exclusion. They also tilted the electoral playing field toward Republicans and the right.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Huffington Post: Dark Justice: Gorsuch’s billionaire backers know what they are getting, and the American people should too
“Judge Neil Gorsuch played a masterful game of hide-the-ball during his confirmation hearings…But Gorsuch’s signals have already been sent to—and received by—the corporate-backed groups that pre-selected him for the job and the billionaires who have spent millions to capture the current open seat on the nation’s highest court.”

Montana Public Radio: Tester, Not Daines, Sides With 75 Percent Of Montanans On Gorsuch Vote
This opinion piece points out that Senator Testor’s opposition to Gorsuch on the grounds that he would open our elections but to even more corporate and special interest influence “is consistent with the position held by 75% of Montanans when they voted on these very questions on a ballot issue in 2012.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Nearly 200k donors help Jon Ossoff net record fundraising haul in Georgia special election
“Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $8.3 million for his campaign to represent suburban Atlanta in Congress, the most significant sign yet that the political newcomer has become a national symbol of the resistance to President Donald Trump.”

Huffington Post: Democrats Are Raising Money Hand Over Fist With Trump In The White House
wow: “The Donald Trump presidency is already proving itself a boon for Democratic Party fundraising. ActBlue, the online fundraising platform for Democratic Party candidates and causes, announced on Wednesday that it has processed more than 4 million contributions totaling $111 million in the first three months of 2017.”

The American Prospect: For Feingold, “LegitAction” Is One Way to Stave Off Threats to Democracy
Former US Senator Russ Feingold’s new political advocacy group called LegitAction which plans to “educate the public about threats to ‘four pillars’ of American democracy: the Supreme Court, presidential elections, voting rights, and campaign-finance reform.”

Associated Press: Alabama Governor Could Face Prosecution on Ethics Charges
“Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama could face criminal prosecution after a state ethics panel found probable cause that he broke ethics and campaign finance laws in a sex-tinged scandal that has engulfed him for over a year.” Specifically he could face charges alledging he, “misused state resources and campaign funds, improperly accepted a campaign donation outside of an allowed fund-raising window, and lent himself campaign money when he was not a candidate.

Huffington Post: Conservative Megadonor Wrote $450,000 Check To Spread Indicted Congressman’s Fake News Across Texas, Prosecutors Say
Hmmm: “Richard Uihlein, one of the country’s biggest conservative political donors, personally wrote a check for $450,571.65 to mail a fake newspaper called The Conservative News to voters across Texas”

Center for Responsive Politics: Those prized small donors? They may not be as small as you think
A look at how “Small donations don’t necessarily come from small donors.”

Congress/Administration

Roll Call: Pileup of Ethical Issues Gives Democrats Powerful Weapon Against Trump
We’re only a couple months into this Administration and already it’s tough to keep track of the many emerging ethical questions and the Office of Government Ethics has received a flood of more than 30,000 inquiries and complaints. Kate Ackley has this great piece on what it could all mean.

Politico: Mega-donor urged Bannon not to resign
Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer has the ear of Steve Bannon. What could go wrong? “The man credited with honing Donald Trump’s populist message and guiding him into the White House has grown frustrated amid continued infighting in the West Wing, so much so that in recent weeks a top donor had to convince him to stay in his position.”

The Hill: House Dems launch new effort to force vote on Trump tax returns
Something to watch: “House Democrats on Wednesday announced that they are turning to another tool in their quest to see President Trump’s tax returns.Democrats are starting a “discharge petition” on a bill that would require Trump and future presidents and presidential nominees to disclose their returns. Bills can be brought to the House floor for a vote with discharge petitions if they are signed by a majority of House members.”

New York Times has this handy visual for tracking President Trump’s visits to Trump Properties.

CNBC: Wilbur Ross holds stake in shipping firm that could present China conflict
“One of the men leading President Donald Trump’s push to redesign trade with China owns a stake in a shipping company that does business in China and whose vessels sail under Hong Kong’s flag.”

#DrainTheSwamp news via Politico Influence: “SPG, a small lobbying firm that’s brought on several former Donald Trump staffers since the election, has signed the Czech Republic as its second foreign client”

The Hill: The wolves of Wall Street are out. What do they want? The CFPB.
Craig Holman of Public Citizen: “President Trump and the wolves of Wall Street are encircling the embattled agency for the kill. If they succeed in their long shot quest to shutter the doors of the consumer protection agency, cling tightly to your wallet, for anyone with a bank account, credit card, home mortgage, personal loan, or student loan will once again be left to fend for themselves against financial predators.”

Washington Examiner: Paying to prevent them from playing
Megadonor Sheldon Adelson is still working to kill online gambling to boost his own bottom line: “Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of the Sands casino in Vegas, has been “spend(ing) whatever it takes” — his words — to secure passage of pet legislation titled the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), but the bill has nothing to do with restoring anyone’s wires. It has a lot to do with pulling strings, though.”

With over a year and a half to the election, super PAC ads attacking US Sen. Tammy Baldwin have already begun in Wisconsin’s Senate race.

States/Other

Public New Service: “Anti-Corruption Tour” Tackles Money in Missouri Politics
“Members of Take Back Our Republic, Represent.Us, Clean Missouri, Patriotic Millionaires and MAYDAY America are traveling the state through Saturday to meet with supporters and host forums to start conversations about campaign finance reform.”

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Senate bill makes secret election money problem even worse
Julie Archer and Natalie Thompson of the WV Citizens for Clean Elections: “The West Virginia Senate passed a major campaign finance overhaul bill (SB 539) that would allow even more big money in our elections, and create new loopholes to make it harder for West Virginians to know who is trying to influence our votes.”

WCAX: Vermont officials to take input on campaign finance laws
“Vermont officials will hold public meetings to take input on changing the state’s campaign finance laws.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director