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Mueller, Manafort, K Street, and more news for 10/31/17

October 31, 2017 | Laura Friedenbach

Happy Halloween! Send me a picture of your money-in-politics costumes and I’ll link to them tomorrow.

Yesterday, Bob Mueller indicted two Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. The special prosecutor also revealed a guilty plea from George Pappadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor.

From The New Yorker: “For a decade, Manafort and Gates allegedly tried to influence American politics on behalf of a foreign government, Ukraine, without informing U.S. officials. The two men have been charged with conspiracy, money laundering, failing to file required financial reports to the government, acting as unregistered agents of a foreign power, and making false statements.”

Norm Eisen, Noah Bookbinder and Barry Berke think the president should be worried. “The fact that Mr. Mueller has found enough evidence to bring credible charges in just five months suggests that he is moving forward with determination and skill. For anyone in the path of his investigation who has committed an offense, that cannot be welcome news.”

And if you care about the integrity of our democracy, you should also be worried. From the New York Times: “Allies of the president privately raised questions on Monday about whether he might seek to fire Mr. Mueller or pardon Mr. Manafort, while Democrats immediately warned against any such move.” Also, this seems irresponsible to print. Especially in light of this.

Don’t forget a billionaire friend of Trump and fundraiser who raised millions for a pro-Trump super PAC pushed for Manafort to get on the campaign. Or Manafort’s ties to Mike Pence.

And with Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta stepping down as the Mueller investigation goes on, it’s a good reminder that this kind of shady lobbying is a systemic problem across K Street. We’ll need a total overhaul of how money flows through Washington by the time this scandal is done.

Finally, anyone who needs the calm and rational voice of Preet Bharara to explain all this to them: I’ve got you.

Today’s clips email was created with the help of Francoise Stovall and Meghan Faulkner. As always, feel free to send your money-in-politics news tips to laura@everyvoice.org.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

If you’re in New Jersey on Thursday, Every Voice’s David Donnelly, Public Citizen’s Lisa Gilbert, New Jersey politician William Schluter, and Rutgers’ Lisa Miller will be speaking about money in politics on a panel hosted by the Network for Responsible Politics and the League of Women Voters of North Valley. Check it out if you can!

Politico: Scofflaw Political Groups Are Ignoring FEC Fines
If you’re punished, but you don’t have to do the punishment, have you actually been punished? “More than 160 political committees and similar groups together owe the government more than $1.3 million worth of unpaid fines, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission and U.S. Treasury records since 2000.”

Politico: Judge Denies Menendez Mistrial Request
“Walls’ decision was expected, but the defense appears to be laying the groundwork for an appeal should Menendez and Melgen be convicted. The defense is expected to rest today — the start of the trial’s ninth week.”

Congress/Administration

Daily Beast: Swamp Things: More Than 50% of President Trump’s Nominees Have Ties to the Industries They’re Supposed to Regulate
In a normal news cycle, this would be front page news. Don’t sleep on this comprehensive reporting: “Nearly a year since he won election, the president has turned federal agencies over to the private industries that they regulate. And he has done so to a degree that ethics groups say they have never witnessed.”

USA Today: Trump Campaign Sends Out Fundraising Email After Paul Manafort Indictment
Bold move: “Less than two hours after President Trump’s former campaign manager was indicted Monday, the Trump re-election campaign decided to send out a fundraising email.” Also, the president’s in Dallas tonight for a big fundraiser.

Politico: Whitefish Energy Hires First Lobbyist as Scrutiny of Puerto Rico Contract Mounts
This story now involves both the revolving door and favors for big donors. “Whitefish Energy has retained a former House Democrat to lobby on its behalf, following numerous calls for investigations into how the small Montana firm won a lucrative contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid.” And speaking of Whitefish Energy: The Whitefish contract in Puerto Rico shows the real cost of bad government.

Newsweek: Five Ways The Trumps Have Gotten Richer Since the Election
By not divesting from his businesses, every decision Trump makes is overshadowed by how it profits his own business holdings. “New Trump-branded properties are popping up around the world, as projects that were previously shied away from are getting new energy, including a luxury beachfront resort in the Dominican Republic.”

CNN: The Ominous Absurdity of Trump’s Tax Cuts
Jeffrey Sachs does not mince words: this is a giveaway to the party’s biggest donors. “Donald Trump, Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and the key billionaire funders of the Republican Party (including the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Robert Mercer) would each reap a fortune from the proposed tax cuts. They are out to loot the kitty, and are close to getting away with this daylight robbery.”

Politico: How the Kochs are Trying to Shake up Public Schools, One State at a Time
“With school choice efforts stalled in Washington, the billionaire Koch brothers’ network is engaged in state-by-state battles with teachers’ unions, politicians and parent groups to push for public funding of private and charter schools.”

Washington Post: Conservative Megadonors Fund Populist Ads
“The ad is one of several, now in rotation, that attempts to reframe attacks on liberal politicians as cries from the populist gut. In this spot, “Chris” is identified as the president of Northwest Builders; his full name is Chris Mlejnek, and in 2015, he gave $2,500 to a super PAC created to help elect Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) to the presidency.”

States/Other

CT Post: Walker Close to Qualifying for Public Financing in Republican Gubernatorial Bid
“David Walker, who spent ten years as the U.S. Comptroller General, is close to qualifying for public financing in his bid to become the Republican gubernatorial candidate.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director