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Tax bill benefits big donors, Trump club members get jobs, and more news for 11/3/17

November 3, 2017 | Meghan Faulkner

The Republican tax bill was released yesterday, and as expected, the big winners are corporations and the super wealthy. What a coincidence that the wealthy donors who have been calling for tax reform all along are set to get big cuts! In addition to lowering the highest business tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, the bill would also eliminate the estate tax, a tax only paid by the mega-rich, over the next 7 years.

Also a big winner – Trump himself! The bill would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would have saved Trump $31 million in 2005, the one year of his taxes we’ve seen.

As expected and feared, the tax bill repeals the Johnson amendment entirely, which would open up the possibility for churches to become sources of secret money in elections. As the Kansas City Star notes, this would mean wealthy Americans potentially getting a tax break for political donations.

Wealthy donors aren’t going to leave Trump and GOP leaders to push tax reform through themselves – America First Action, a super PAC closely affiliated with Trump, plans to spend $100 million to push tax reform and elect Republicans in the midterms next year. The group met with White House officials last week, and Vice President Pence is headlining a fundraiser soon.

In an exhaustive cover story, Newsweek lays out the case that the Trump administration is the most corrupt in history, citing Trump’s own violations of the emoluments clause, Manafort’s money laundering indictment, Kushner’s undisclosed billion-dollar loan, and a plethora of cabinet secretaries under fire for travel expenses and business dealings. Historian Robert Dallek puts it in historical perspective: “Dallek says that in terms of outright corruption, Trump is worse than both Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding, presidents who oversaw the most flagrant instances of graft in American political history…In both cases, the fault of the president was in his lack of oversight. As far as Dallek is concerned, something more nefarious is at work in the White House of Donald Trump.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Free Speech for People: Top New York Lawyer to Defend Ordinance Abolishing Super PACs and Foreign Corporate Money In Elections, Pro Bono
“David Boies, and his firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, have agreed to represent the City of St. Petersburg, Florida pro bono if a lawsuit is filed to try to stop the city’s Defend Our Democracy ordinance from going into effect. Starting January 1, 2018, the new law will prohibit foreign-influenced corporations from making expenditures in local elections. The law will also establish limits on contributions to political action committees, thereby abolishing super PACs in local elections.”

Congress/Administration

USA Today: Trump nominates some club members to plum government jobs
Trump continues to reward people who pay his companies with government jobs: “A USA TODAY review finds that Trump has installed at least five people who have been members of his clubs to senior roles in his administration, ranging from Bernstein and Callista Gingrich, the nation’s new ambassador to the Vatican, to Adolfo Marzol, a member of the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Washington, who serves as a senior adviser at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

Politico: House Democrats file lawsuit over access to Trump hotel documents
“The complaint notes that Trump ‘has refused to divest his ownership interest in the Trump Old Post Office LLC’ and alleges that his refusal to divest ‘ownership interest in a company that contracts with the federal government raises numerous issues requiring congressional oversight.’”

Center for Responsive Politics: How much influence does Bannon wield among big donors?
“In the wake of Moore’s win in September’s runoff, Stephen Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist and current executive chairman of Breitbart News, has said he intends to challenge every Republican incumbent other than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the 2018 midterm elections. Declaring “a season of war” on the GOP establishment, Bannon has made it his mission to oust McConnell from his role as Senate majority leader.”

Bloomberg: Breitbart Money Man Mercer Steps Back From RenTech, Not Politics
GOP Megadonor Robert Mercer announced yesterday that he was stepping down from his role as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies – but that doesn’t mean he’s stepping back from politics: “Mercer is limiting his duties to research at the firm partly to allow him to increase his political involvement unencumbered by his business responsibilities, said a person familiar with the matter.”

Washington Post: Japan is all abuzz about the arrival of a Trump: Ivanka Trump
Ivanka’s official trip to Japan is also benefitting her business: “Likewise, Japanese companies that import her clothing label say they’ve had a surge in sales.”

PC GamesN: Brianna Wu is raising money for her election campaign by streaming Wolfenstein 2
Seems like a creative way to keep up with your hobby while running for office: “Usually, when it comes to political fundraising, politicians will approach potential donors by cold-calling, emailing, and hosting meet and greets. Game developer Brianna Wu is going about it differently: she’s streaming herself playing Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.”

States/Other

The Southern Illinoisan: Big money ripple effect: Expensive Illinois governor race spills down the ballot
Five months before the primary, the Illinois governor race is seeing unprecedented levels of spending, with the top candidates already raising more than $100 million: “Big money in the 2018 election cycle isn’t confined to the top of the ticket, either. Last year’s elections saw 23 state legislative races top $1 million, with five going higher than $5 million, according to Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, who tracks campaign spending.”

Ashland Daily Press: Battle against big money must go on
Great letter pointing out what average people are up against: “The working poor to upper middle-class voters cannot compete with big money in politics. We should be angry as hell about having our voices silenced by some of the 1 percent.”

Bethesda Magazine: MoCo’s New Public Financing Law Has Dispensed $851,000 To Candidates Since Mid-Year
Participation in Montgomery County’s new system is strong: “Montgomery County’s public campaign financing law, adopted three years ago, has allocated more than $851,000 to 2018 candidates for county executive and County Council, according to monthly reports from the county’s Department of Finance.”

Meghan Faulkner

Meghan Faulkner is the digital manager at Every Voice.