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Senators keep opposing Gorsuch over money in politics, and more news from 4/4/17

April 4, 2017 | Adam Smith

She Sells Secrets By the Seychelles. To note in this wild Washington Post story about Erik Prince’s secret meeting in the Seychelles with UAE officials to set up back-channel communications with Russia: “Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.”

Neil Gorsuch will give big donors more power, a key reason to oppose his nomination. Senators continue to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, in part because of his views on money in politics. In his remarks before the Judiciary Committee vote yesterday, Sen. Pat Leahy said Gorsuch, “misstated the holding of Citizens United in an attempt to evade my question about Congress’s ability to enact campaign finance legislation.” Sen. Mark Warner said Gorsuch refused “to answer questions regarding his views of cases like Roe v. Wade and Citizens United…”

In fact, at least 20 Senators have raised the issue in their statements.

And, as we wait for Sen. Angus King to weigh in on his position, a Republican in Maine has this op-ed urging him to oppose Gorsuch: “I’m glad King is taking on this important issue through legislation, but if he wants to act right now to make sure our elections are transparent and accountable, his best opportunity is to oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court and support a 60-vote standard for his approval.”

If Gorsuch is unable to reach this 60-vote threshold, Trump should pick a mainstream, consensus nominee more in line with the majority of Americans who oppose decisions like Citizens United and believe the wealthy already have too much influence in our elections.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Teen Vogue: The Big Thing That’s Keeping Women Out of Politics
Love this op-ed from Issue One’s Gab Schneider: “Money doesn’t determine who can successfully win, but it is a major barrier that keeps many women from stepping up.

Bloomberg: Ballot Selfies Allowed as U.S. Supreme Court Rebuffs New Hampshire
“Voters in New Hampshire are free to take selfies with their election ballots and post the photos online after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive a state ban on the practice.”

AP: Vermont’s Campaign Finance Law Survives Legal Challenge
“A challenge to Vermont’s campaign finance laws has been struck down in federal court.”

Congress/Administration

Yahoo: President Trump’s personal attorney is now working with the Republican Party and a top law firm
Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has entered into a “strategic alliance” with Squire Patton Boggs, “one of the country’s biggest lobbying firms.” The swamp draining continues.

New York Times: A Peek Into the White House Swamp
Donald Trump doesn’t care about conflicts, but his staff have a different standard to abide by: “Unlike the president, for whom conflict of interest laws don’t apply, staff members could go to jail for actions that affect their financial interests.”

AJC: Super PAC doubles down on attacks linking Jon Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi
2006 called and it wants its TV ads back: “Congressional Leadership Fund is doubling down on attack ads linking Democratic front-runner Jon Ossoff to the House minority leader in Georgia’s special election to replace health secretary Tom Price.”

The Hill: Dem super PAC hits GOP senators over internet privacy repeal
“A super PAC aligned with Democrats will run digital ads attacking Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) over their support for a bill that would eliminate Obama-era internet privacy protections.”

ProPublica: Tom Price’s $150,000-Plus Stock Windfall
“Tom Price doesn’t appear to have suffered a financial hit when he fulfilled his pledge to sell off some assets as the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services. On one transaction alone, Price made a profit of more than $150,000 on shares he held in a tiny Australian biotech company, according to his financial disclosures.”

The Mercer-backed Make America Great group is up with a new ad boosting Neil Gorsuch, someone who’ll give the family more ability to influence our political system.

Reuters: Prior to his SEC nomination, Clayton communicated with SEC contractor
Welp: “Before Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton was nominated to be head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, he communicated with more than a half dozen of President Donald Trump’s transition representatives, including one whose company has a multi-million-dollar contract with the SEC, according to documents seen by Reuters.”

Politico: Trump faces test mixing Mar-a-Lago with difficult diplomacy
“Trump being Trump, his initial meeting with a fellow leader of a global superpower means they’re likely to be surrounded by dues-paying members, daily bridge games and, if the club’s weekly dinner menu stays the same, a Thursday night all-you-can-eat roast beef buffet.”

Politico: Democrats recruit veterans early for 2018 battle
Where do the House party committees stand? “Republicans have led Democrats in fundraising each month of 2017, helped by the $30 million brought in by Trump’s appearance at their dinner at the National Building Museum last month, but the NRCC declined to detail its online fundraising, which Democrats say is a measure of enthusiasm: They raised $13.68 million online from 750,000 separate donations in just the first quarter, compared with $19.7 million in all of 2015 — though money from both committees will likely be dwarfed by super PAC spending.”

New York Times: At Kushners’ Flagship Building, Mounting Debt and a Foundered Deal
While the Kushner’s deal with Chinese firm Anbang fell through, it’s worth watching to see who else comes long–being nice to family is always a great way to buy influence.

Politico: Paul Ryan’s million-dollar day
Paul Ryan isn’t going anywhere: He is “is distributing $1.2 million from his personal political accounts to roughly half the House Republican Conference today.”

Politico: White House acknowledges Trump can withdraw money from businesses
“White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged on Monday that President Donald Trump can withdraw money from his businesses at any time, but he declined to say whether Trump would make such withdrawals public.” Here’s ProPublica’s response to Sean Spicer’s ridiculous claim about the news organization.

States/Other

Rewire: Companies Protesting Texas’ Anti-Trans Bill Helped Elect Its Sponsors
In Texas, a lack of regulations and tax breaks are more important than trans kids: “Despite their public stance against this anti-trans legislation, however, representatives of some of these same companies—including Dow Chemical, Hewlett Packard, and United Continental—have given hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last two decades to the campaigns of the very lawmakers pushing the bill.”

Southern Coalition: Federal Judge Overturns Legislature’s Greensboro Redistricting Scheme
Another good win: “A judge in the Middle District of North Carolina has found that the 2015 legislative redistricting of the Greensboro City Council districts was unconstitutional. Individual Plaintiffs represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the maps on the grounds that the redistricting scheme:”

Times Free Press: Tennessee Senate votes to double the ceiling on campaign cash
“The Tennessee Senate on Monday amended a House campaign finance bill to allow doubling the campaign cash that individual donors, special interest political action committees and political parties can give senators during their four-year terms.”

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.