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The News for July 18, 2018 – Indicted Russian firm uses SCOTUS nominee in defense

July 18, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

A Russian company indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation used a decision written by none other than Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to try to dismiss the case. As the Washington Post reported, Concord Management and Consulting—one of the 16 Russian people and entities indicted for interfering in US elections—argued Monday that “it had broken no federal laws, that it was merely supporting free political speech and that the fraud charge against it should be thrown out.” To make their case, Concord’s lawyers cited Judge Kavanaugh’s Bluman v. FEC decision regarding the ban on foreign spending on our elections.

Every Voice’s Adam Smith: “Wow. Brett Kavanaugh’s opinion that would open the door to foreign spending in our elections is being used by a Russian company indicted as part of the Mueller investigation. Kavanaugh needs to answer for this decision at his hearing.” More in this blog post.

Yesterday, over 100 groups including Every Voice sent a letter to the Senate opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. To learn more about Kavanaugh’s record on democracy issues, check out analysis from the Campaign Legal Center and Demos and the Brennan Center for Justice.

Meanwhile, another entity accused of colluding with the Russians just got a big break. March For Our Lives founder Cameron Kasky: “Wait, hold on, this is getting lost in the fire: The NRA was LITERALLY colluding with a Russian spy and within 24 HOURS, there’s a law that saves them from having to disclose their dark money donors to the IRS. That’s a thing that happened.” Sen. Ron Wyden is also concerned.

The news that the IRS will no longer force nonprofit political groups to disclose their donors has far-reaching consequences, perhaps most significantly for the Koch’s vast network of groups working to influence our elections.

The New York Times explains how the Kochs lobbied the Trump administration to get their way: “Koch Industries began lobbying the White House on the issue after President Trump’s election, according to lobbying filings. Additionally, Americans for Prosperity and other 501(c)(4) organizations in the Koch brothers’ network of advocacy groups were among dozens of such nonprofit groups to sign onto a letter sent in May to Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin declaring a policy change ‘an issue of utmost importance.’ The letter accused the I.R.S. of ‘targeting of nonprofit organizations on the basis of ideology.’ Officials with the Treasury Department largely echoed that reasoning”. More from Sludge, Maplight, and OpenSecrets.

Campaign Finance/Election Law

New York Times: Who Needs Small Donors When You Have Friends? Ask Gov. Cuomo.
lol: “campaign disclosures on Tuesday revealed the extent to which Mr. Cuomo remains dependent on big donors — and some of the maneuvers undertaken to obscure that fact. One donor contributed 69 times to Mr. Cuomo in the final days before the deadline — 67 of them $1 donations, driving down his average donation size. The donor, Christopher Kim, shares the same address on his filing as one of Mr. Cuomo’s campaign aides, Julia Yang.”

New York Post: Winklevoss twins donate $130K to Cuomo after getting state approval
Some of Cuomo’s top donors are finding their money is well-spent: “The Facebook-famous Winklevoss twins donated $100,000 to Gov. Cuomo’s campaign — and less than a month later, state authorities approved their cryptocurrency exchange, campaign-finance filings show. And once the Department of Financial Services gave the stamp of approval, the twins chipped in another $30,000 for the governor’s re-election.” Sludge.

Houston Chronicle: Former Texas congressman Blake Farenthold shells out big dollars for legal fees — and an $860 cocktail party
“Months after quitting Congress in the aftermath of sexual harassment claims, Blake Farenthold was still racking up legal expenses — and a substantial cocktail party bill. Instead of reimbursing taxpayers $84,000 for sexual harassment claims he first said he would pay, the Corpus Christi Republican spent more than $100,000 from his still-active campaign account on lawyers since the start of the year, including $41,000 just since April, when he resigned.”

Congress/Administration

Tonight, candlelight vigils will take place in 150 locations across the country to Confront Corruption and Demand Democracy to protest recent self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and attacks on the rule of law and highlight the importance of creating a democracy that reflects, responds to, and represents all Americans. At the vigil in front of the White House, speakers will include Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley and Congressmen Mark Pocan, John Sarbanes, and Michael Capuano. Learn more at confrontcorruption.org

New York Times: Obama Warns Against Rise of ‘Strongman Politics’
President Obama delivering a speech a day after Trump’s meeting with Putin: “Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

Vox: Putin’s reference to George Soros was a dog whistle to far-right anti-Semites
Another tidbit from the Trump-Putin press conference. Putin evoked the name of a big donor as a dog whistle to the American far-right: “During President Donald Trump’s bizarre press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Putin invoked an odd name in trying to evade responsibility for the email hacking of the Democratic National Committee — Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, who happens to be at the center of far-right conspiracy theories around the world.”

Center for Public Integrity: How drugmakers sway the state system meant to protect taxpayers and patients
“A Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation found drug companies have infiltrated nearly every part of the process that determines how their drugs will be covered by taxpayers: giving free dinners and consulting gigs to many doctors on the obscure committees advising state Medicaid programs; asking speakers who don’t disclose their financial ties with drug companies to testify about their drugs; and paying for state Medicaid officials to attend all-inclusive conferences where they can mingle with drug representatives.”

Delaware Online: Why are drug prices so high? Blame big money in politics.
Retired pharmacologist and nurse and a leader of American Promise Delaware, Judith Butler: “Where do we, the American citizens, fit in this cozy relationship between Big Pharma, Congress and the President? We don’t. Big Pharma is just one of the sources of big money that fund political campaigns and lobbyists. Others include Wall Street, oil and gas industries, health insurance, the NRA, military contractors, unions, and billionaires, to name just a few. Legislators now spend half their time fundraising the enormous sums of money needed for campaigns. When our legislators rely on big money to fund their campaigns, their votes reflect the interests of their funders over their constituents’ and the common good.”

Scotsman: Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm paid £50,000 by US Government for weekend visit
Trump profiting at taxpayer’s expense: “Donald Trump’s Turnberry firm was paid more than £50,000 by his own government to cover the accommodation bill for his weekend stay at his loss-making resort”

The Hill: Why did it take so long for Trump to drain the swamp of Pruitt?
Virginia Canter of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: “By not immediately firing Pruitt once multiple ethics allegations against the former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator came to light, Trump rendered meaningless his “drain the swamp” campaign slogan, damaged his anti-regulatory environmental agenda for EPA, and indelibly imprinted his administration with a scarlet “C” for corruption.”

States/Other

Associated Press: Candidates say LePage’s hold-up of funds defies common sense
“Several candidates say the Maine governor’s latest push to hold up more than $1 million in budgeted public campaign funding ‘flies in the face of common sense’ and legal precedent.” Bangor Daily News editorial: “Don’t like Clean Elections? Try to change the law, don’t hold funding hostage.” Letter to the editor. “Legislature’s political games affirm need for Clean Elections funding”

NPR: How Dark Money, Gerrymandering And Democratic Complacency Altered Wisconsin Politics
NPR’s Fresh Air interviews Dan Kaufman about his book “The Fall of Wisconsin” detailing conservatives’ quest to rig the rules of Wisconsin’s democracy against working people.

Capital Media Services: Court rules Clean Elections measure to be on November ballot
“Arizona voters who want to preclude publicly funded candidates from buying services from political parties also will have to vote for new limits on the powers of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to get that change. And vice versa. In an extensive ruling Monday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders rejected arguments by supporters of the commission that it’s illegal to put voters in the position where they have to support both changes just to get the one they want — and even if they don’t like the other one.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director