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The News for June 8, 2018 – Emoluments case gets day in court, chemical industry scores win

June 8, 2018 | Laura Friedenbach

Yesterday was a big day for the emoluments clause case brought by nearly 200 Democrats in Congress, suing President Trump over his continued ties to his profit-making businesses: BuzzFeed reports, “Lawyers representing Democratic members of Congress sparred with the Justice Department in court on Thursday over whether Democrats can move ahead with a constitutional challenge to President Donald Trump’s ongoing ties to his business empire.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the lead plaintiff, listed a few of his concerns:  “The trademarks from China to him, the deals with the Trump organization around the world, the pattern of dealings by the Trump Hotel here in Washington with foreign governments, and in fact the appointment of a sales manager to deal with those foreign governments specifically.”

Watch this space because it’s unlikely Congress alone can address the president’s massive conflicts of interest. Brianne Gorod of the Constitutional Accountability Center, the lawyer arguing the case, explains: “Congress could pass legislation, Gorod said, but Trump would need to sign it — which was unlikely to happen since it would restrict his own behavior — or members would need a supermajority to override a veto. Requiring that kind of affirmative action by a supermajority of Congress would ‘flip the foreign emoluments clause on its head,’ Gorod said. The foreign emoluments clause was meant to stop the president from accepting emoluments unless Congress approved them, not the other way around, Gorod argued — the inertia of Congress, or the lack of it, should be an obstacle to corruption, not an ally, she said.”

Campaign Finance/Election Law

Daily Beast: The Original Donald Trump Super PAC Just Announced a Curious Reimbursement
After the Make America Great Again super PAC started receiving scrutiny for supporting a candidate who derided big-money donors they ceased operations with more than $157,000 in the bank and the FEC is still trying to get them to come clean by sharing what they did with the money: “The PAC now says that it refunded $50,000 to one of its donors, Florida real-estate developer Michael Dezertzov”. “We still don’t know what Make America Great Again did with the remaining $60,000 that disappeared from its balance sheets”

Center for Responsive Politics: Failing to disclose finances did not hurt all primary candidates
“Half of the candidates who advanced in Tuesday’s eight-state primary did not have personal financial disclosures publicly available to voters ahead of the election. Congressional candidates who raised or spent at least $5,000 were required to disclose their assets and liabilities in a report to the House or Senate ethics committees by May 15. Of the 304 candidates in Tuesday’s primary who were required to file disclosures, however, more than a third did not have the reports publicly available, an OpenSecrets analysis found.”

CREW: Shadow Governors: How Nonprofits with Anonymous Donors Influence Politics and Policy in the States
New report on how donors secretly exert influence over state politics through dark money groups: “Why influence politics and policy publicly when you can do it in secret? Increasingly, nonprofit groups funded by anonymous donors are doing just that, and not just at the federal level — significant sums of untraceable money are being spent in states, both to elect governors and to push their agendas.”

Congress/Administration

New York Times: The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A.
Let’s not forget, a chemical industry lobbyist now runs the EPA’s toxic chemical unit: “The Trump administration, after heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, is scaling back the way the federal government determines health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency show.”

Politico: Trump learns to love megadonors
Big donor Paul Singer actively bankrolled an effort to stop Trump from becoming president, and now: “at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel in midtown this May, Singer amicably chatted with the president and a dozen other high-dollar donors during a fundraiser for Trump’s reelection campaign, according to a person in the room. And he gave $240,000 to the Republican Party this spring shortly before the event. It was a sign of success for a monthslong charm offensive by the president and his allies toward establishment Republicans who were wary of him during the 2016 campaign.”

Guardian: Sheldon Adelson: the casino mogul driving Trump’s Middle East policy
Although, Trump has always been friendly with some megadonors. A look at the billionaire and Trump’s biggest big donor: “Adelson’s influence has never been greater. The imprint of the 84-year-old’s political passions is seen in an array of Donald Trump’s more controversial decisions, including violating the Iran nuclear deal, moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and appointing the ultra-hawkish John Bolton as national security adviser.”

USA Today: Cozy land deals meant big money for Trump family and friends
“The purchase of three properties by President Trump’s son-in-law on the banks of a toxic Brooklyn canal triggered a series of unusual real estate deals and a windfall profit from transactions financed by a bank tied to the Trump family. The property transactions totaling more than $150 million began in late 2014 and early 2015 and included sales prices well above the assessed value of the parcels, as well as high-risk loans that experts said raise red flags. At the center of each deal is either Jared Kushner or Michael Cohen, whose business dealings have attracted close scrutiny from prosecutors and regulators since Trump’s election.”

Roll Call: Trade Groups in Turmoil in the Trump Era
Industry associations are shifting with the times to try and keep their influence game up: “These multimillion-dollar organizations are clamoring for ways to boost membership, and sometimes even keep their doors open, as they work to stay relevant amid the political and policy uncertainty of Washington during the era of President Donald Trump.”

MapLight: Seven Candidates-Turned-Trump Cabinet Members Continue Spending Campaign Funds
“Seven current or former members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet have spent almost $450,000 in political campaign funds since being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to Federal Election Commission records. A MapLight analysis found that about $175,200 has been spent by Cabinet members for bills that include meals, airfare, cell phones, storage units, credit cards, and political software consulting.”

American Prospect: Missouri’s Greitens Guts Public-Sector Unions on His Way out the Door
The disgraced governor who is out the door following potential charges of campaign finance violations and allegations of sexual misconduct, but didn’t miss an opportunity to weaken workers ability to organize: “In the waning hours of his tenure as governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens delivered on his campaign pledge to kneecap the state’s labor unions.”

TPM: ‘We’ve Set A Deadline’: Moderate R’s Demand DACA Deal By Tuesday, Or Else
As the immigration debate continues in Congress, a reminder to you: one of the few times in recent history that there was a bipartisan revolt against leadership in Congress to pass something in the interest of the American public was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002.

Washington Post: Oil lobby seeks to boost support for offshore drilling despite bipartisan opposition
“Top oil and natural gas lobbyists are attempting to breathe life into a Trump administration plan to expand offshore drilling across U.S. coasts despite vocal opposition from Democrats and even many Republicans in seaside states. The American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S. oil and gas lobbying group, launched an initiative Wednesday called “Explore Offshore” that attempts to boost public support for offshore development.”

Politico: Spare the Rod
Should Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recuse himself from the Russia probe? Norm Eisen, Virginia Canter, and Conor Shaw: “As watchdogs and experts on government conflicts who have advised on thousands of them over a combined half-century of legal practice, the answer is a resounding no. Any suggestion of a disabling conflict at this stage is contrary to ethics rules.”

BuzzFeed: Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting
“Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump’s inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump’s name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.”

States/Other

Florida Politics: Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin named finance chair for Rick Scott’s super PAC
“Kenneth Griffin, billionaire leader of a Chicago-based hedge fund and a big-time contributor to Republican political committees, has been appointed national finance chair for the New Republican PAC fueling Gov. Rick Scott’s election campaign for the U.S. Senate”

Wisconsin Public Radio: Democrat Mike McCabe Runs ‘People Powered’ Campaign In Bid For Governor’s Office
Sarah Wilson, supporter of Mike McCabe who is running for governor of Wisconsin while only taking donations of $200 or less: “Because we’re not taking big money donations, it really has to be a group of volunteers going out, talking to people, instead of just sending out mailers or putting on ads”

Santa Fe New Mexican: Voters fought big money in politics, PRC nominee says
In New Mexico: “Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, who campaigned on a shoestring, said Wednesday her primary election win for a seat on the state Public Regulation Commission was the result of voter backlash against big money in politics.”

Oklahoma Watch: Oil and Gas Industry Flexes Its Financial Muscle in Governor’s Race
” The oil and gas industry is playing an early major role in deploying financial resources to try to influence the outcome of the Oklahoma governor’s race… Campaign reports through March – the latest available – show candidates took in more than a half-million dollars from donors with oil and gas ties this election cycle. Republicans claimed 97 percent of the money.”

San Antonio Express-News: State needs to revisit fundraising limits
“A big part of being a politician in Texas is wrapping your mind around the incomprehensible discrepancies in our campaign finance laws. For example, Joaquin Castro, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, can’t accept an individual contribution of more than $2,700. When Castro served in the Texas House, however, there was no limit to the amount of money a donor could contribute to his campaign.”

Associated Press: Former Arkansas lobbyist pleads guilty in bribery scheme
“An ex-lobbyist admitted taking part in a multimillion-dollar bribery and embezzlement scheme in a set of federal court documents Thursday that detailed $500,000 in payments benefiting an Arkansas state senator believed to be the governor’s nephew.”

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.