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The News for June 21, 2018 – Bloomberg pledges $80M, private prisons profit from immigration crisis

June 21, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

The USA Today has a fascinating story about the ‘rage giving’ that has fuelled a viral campaign which raised a record $15 million in donations for immigrant children and their families: “These small acts of armchair resistance are a release valve for pent-up feelings of helplessness, despair and fury with the Trump administration, Fisch says. Tapping a button to donate to a nonprofit on the front lines makes her feel, at least for a moment, more involved and more in control.”

The humanitarian crisis that unfolded over the last several weeks may not have occurred if our government had been more responsive to the will of the vast majority of Americans who oppose the Trump Administration’s decision to separate immigrant children from their families. It’s worth noting that while the Trump administration defied popular opinion, it was benefiting private prisons companies that run immigration detention centers and have spent millions to elect politicians including President Trump. In fact, as the crisis unfolded, private prison stocks rose. Just this May, GEO Group, one of the country’s largest operators of private immigration detention centers, gave $40,000 to the NRSC and Protect the House to help elect Republicans to Congress. Dallas News reports that GEO Group “has made significant contributions to several Texas members of Congress” and is the top donor to two of them.

Imagine if we had a political system in which corporations and wealthy individuals couldn’t exert boundless influence and small donors and their small acts of armchair activism mattered more.

The New York Times reports that billionaire and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg has decided to spend $80 to help Democrats take control of the House of Representatives this year, potentially making him the biggest single donor exceeding pledges from Sheldon Adelson and Tom Steyer: “By siding so emphatically with one party, Mr. Bloomberg has the potential to upend the financial dynamics of the midterm campaign, which have appeared to favor Republicans up to this point.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Bangor Daily News: Maine public campaign funding hangs in limbo as lawmakers keep squabbling
Lawmakers in Maine are still squabbling as an important date nears that could leave public financing candidates in limbo: “Enough money for the Maine Clean Election Fund to support this fall’s elections was allocated in last year’s biennial state budget bill, but a technical error in that bill leaves the Maine Ethics Commission unable to spend any money from its own accounts after July 1.”

Yesterday, the Fair Elections Fund bill which would pave the way for bringing small-donor public financing to Baltimore passed out of committee with unanimous support. Every Voice’s Jenn Linn was there to testify in support!

Washington Post: Nonpartisan-redistricting measure makes Michigan ballot
Great news: “Michigan voters will decide this year whether to let a citizens redistricting commission draw state legislative and congressional maps, a victory for anti-gerrymandering campaigners who fought in court to keep the measure on the ballot.”

Congress/Administration

Politico: Public Citizen seeks probe of Zinke connection to Halliburton chairman
“A nonprofit watchdog group is asking for a conflict of interest investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s connection to a land deal with the chairman of Halliburton. Public Citizen is asking the Interior Department’s top ethics officer to determine whether the arrangement violates any federal laws. A foundation Zinke launched to build a park in his hometown is aiding a proposed mixed-use real estate development backed by Halliburton Chairman David Lesar”

Associated Press: Kobach sought pardon for VP of corporate donor
This story is crazy and somehow unsurprising from a man who seems hellbent on lending a hand to the wealthy and well-connected: “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach unsuccessfully sought a governor’s pardon for a corporate campaign donor’s vice president whose crime, police said, involved threatening a cab driver by putting a gun to his head.”

ABC News: Michael Cohen resigns from RNC committee post, sources say
Surprised it took this long: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime confidant and former personal attorney, has resigned from his post as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee’s Finance Committee”. Related: The Wall Street Journal reports, federal authorities subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer as prosecutors look into whether the company coordinated with Cohen to break campaign finance laws and bury a Trump affair allegation with hush money.

USA TODAY: Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits cost Coast Guard nearly $20M
The President gets publicity for his profit-making business at taxpayers’ expense: “Taxpayers have paid nearly $20 million for extra Coast Guard patrols that protected President Donald Trump by land and sea during 16 winter and spring trips to West Palm Beach since his inauguration, according to records obtained by USA TODAY.”

Intercept: Scott Pruitt Has Spent a Total of $4.6 Million on Security, New Disclosures Show — Including $1,500 on “Tactical Pants”
lol: “The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”… The expenses eclipsed spending by Pruitt’s predecessors… EPA administrators are not typically provided with 24-hour protection, but Pruitt has received the service. The EPA defended the move by pointing to an increased number of threats. Yet Senate Democrats claim that they have reviewed an internal EPA security assessment and that no actual credible threats have been received. “

Center for Public Integrity: Democratic super PAC hits jackpot with Chinese company stock
A look at FEC filling highlights: “New filings with the Federal Election Commission, due Wednesday night, shed new light on last month’s campaign money battle — from Democrats cashing in on Chinese corporate stock to President Donald Trump’s comedic doppelgänger donating to a Democrat to private prison interests opening up their wallets to lawmakers.”

The Intercept: Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, Facing Progressive Challenge, Turns to GOP Lobbying Firm for Cash
“House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., is raising last-minute campaign cash from a corporate lobbying firm famous for its ties to the Republican Party. Faced with a surprisingly strong challenge from progressive first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s Democratic primary, Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, is slated to appear at the offices of BGR Group on 13th Street in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon for a fundraising reception”

Tampa Bay times: Super PAC reserves $23 million in air time for Bill Nelson
“The super PAC helping Bill Nelson withstand an avalanche of money from Rick Scott has reserved $23 million in air time, a significant boost for the outspent Democrat.”

Center for Responsive Politics: Primary preview: Voters head to the polls in seven states on June 26
“Here’s a look at the money being spent in New York, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Carolina ahead of Tuesday’s primaries”

Idaho Statesman: $192,000 for his wife. 81 uses of a lobbyist’s home. Crapo election funds draw scrutiny
“Lax campaign finance reporting and ongoing payments to family have prompted new scrutiny of Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s election funds. In 9 of the past 11 years, Crapo’s elections staff failed to properly report certain campaign spending or donations — for an employee’s loan, an annual fundraising event and the use of a lobbyist’s Washington, D.C., townhouse, federal records show. And over the past two decades, Crapo’s campaign has paid nearly $200,000 to his wife, Susan Crapo, for work that included creating gift bags for that yearly fundraiser.”

States/Other

Washington Post: California’s net neutrality legislation just got watered down in a big way
Internet activists are accusing California lawmakers of corruption after they accepted campaign checks from AT&T and Comcast and bowed to their will by weakening a net neutrality bill: “The level of corruption we just witnessed literally makes me sick to my stomach,” said Evan Greer, a spokeswoman for Fight for the Future, an Internet advocacy group. “The actions of this committee today are an attack not just on net neutrality, but on our democracy.”

Associated Press: Convicted Republican businessman’s company targets Democrats
Geez: “An Ohio company whose Republican owner spent more than a year in prison following a campaign finance probe has organized employees and suppliers in a retaliatory effort to bring down two prominent Democrats, The Associated Press has learned. An explosive memo posted online lays out The Justice Association LLC’s strategy for an investigation, lawsuit and ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach”

Intelligencer: West Virginia Supreme Court justice Allen Loughry indicted, arrested
Yikes: “FBI agents have arrested West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry and taken him to the federal courthouse in Charleston to face a 22-count federal indictment. U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart today said that Loughry is charged with 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements to a federal agent.”

Connecticut Mirror: Boughton, Herbst granted $1.35M in public financing
Candidates from both sides of the aisle are running free of big money in Connecticut thanks to the Citizens’ Election Program: “The State Elections Enforcement Commission approved public financing grants Wednesday for Republicans Mark Boughton and Timothy Herbst, two of the three gubernatorial candidates participating in the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program in 2018.”

Tulsa World: Kevin Stitt leads fundraising, spending in governor’s race; $1.3 million of his own money into campaign
It’s a problem when only wealthy people can afford to run for elected office: “Jenks businessman Kevin Stitt put almost $1.3 million of his own money into his Republican gubernatorial campaign in the past two weeks, according to the latest filings with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission.”

Hub-City Times: Citizens United referendum to appear on Wood County ballot
In Wisconsin: “Wood County may be joining a growing list of local government entities seeking a constitutional amendment on the Citizens United Supreme Court decision regarding campaign spending by organizations and corporations.”

Laura Friedenbach

Laura is Every Voice's Deputy Communications Director

Every Voice and Every Voice Center have recently come under new leadership. We will be expanding and diversifying our efforts to promote a democracy that works for all of us and responds to the voices of everyday people. Watch this space for specifics later in 2019.