One Helluva Check On trump

— by Catherine Cortez Masto

CatherineCortezMastoIt’s been almost a month since the election, and I still feel incredibly grateful for everything this team did to help us win. After meeting my future colleagues in the Senate a few weeks ago, I’m more eager than ever to head to Washington and fight for our values.

Our government is built on a system of checks and balances, and I promise you this: I will be one hell of a check and balance on President Donald trump. 

Our fight is one for our future and the America we know it should be. And nobody is going to take that away from us. It is our voices, our mass, our people, and we are going to continue to fight:

  • Hate has no place in the White House. If trump is serious about being a president who brings this country together, he must set an example.
  • Enough with the tax breaks for corporations. Enough with the tax breaks for Big Oil. How about we give a tax break to working families?
  • Dark money is a threat to our political system. Overturning Citizens United is only the first step to ridding politics of money. Climate change is real. We must protect our precious resources, including the air we breathe and the water we drink.
  • Social Security and Medicare are promises. I will oppose any attempts to cut or privatize Social Security and to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
  • Our diversity is our strength. As the first Latina senator, I will use my seat at the table to fight for diversity.
  • Building walls is NOT the answer. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Until we do, I will do everything in my power to keep families together and protect important programs like DACA.
  • We are union strong. Working men and women built this county.
  • The fight for pay equity is not over. Women should earn the same as men for performing the same job.

I am so honored to have been chosen to fight for you in the United States Senate, and we have a lot to fight for. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and be that warrior for you, but I’ll need you standing by me every step of the way.

If you haven’t already, join me on FacebookTwitter and Instagramand then add your name to say you’re all in for the fights ahead.

¡La Lucha Sigue!  The fight continues!

To Defend Democracy, We Must Demand Financial Transparency from Trump

From executive appointments to policy, understanding Trump’s personal financial interests will be essential to judging his adminstration

— by Jeff Hauser
_whereareyourtaxes

As we hear of a settlement in the “Trump University” civil fraud case brought in part by New York State Attorney General and learn more and more about potential Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the phrase “personnel is policy” takes on an unfortunate new meaning.
Will Trump’s appointees to high government office ensure Donald Trump does not use control of the executive branch to enrich himself and his family?

Trump enriching himself as president is not an idle or libelous question. Trump himself raised the prospect in 2000 to Fortune Magazine, telling them that “[i]t’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.”

Matt Yglesias puts the threat to the rule posed by Donald Trump and the “Trump Organization” in stark language, arguing “Trump’s first 100 days could also be the last 100 days in which America’s system of republican government can be saved.” Yglesias fears that the potential for corruption is so great that “political favor” might become “the primary driver of economic success.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial page employs less ominous language to come to a surprisingly similar conclusion, noting problems posed by the fact that “The President is exempt from federal conflict-of-interest law.”

As Bloomberg put it, the Trump family business poses an “unprecedented potential conflicts of interest.”

The last line of defense against the installation of a kleptocracy is the U.S. Senate, which can insist that President Trump meet the same standards for public disclosure and avoidance of conflict of interest as past presidents and presidential candidates of both political parties.

The U.S. Senate can and should demand transparency into Trump family finances. Moreover, the U.S. Senate can and should demand an end to the inherent conflicts of interest posed by the ongoing existence of “The Trump Organization.”

The Senate can do so by refusing to confirm any nominations until Trump takes the following steps to promote faith that a Trump presidency will not enrich himself and his family:

  1. Releases his tax returns;
  2. Releases a detailed and current financial disclosure that includes beneficial ownership information on all “shell companies”* that are part of the Trump Organization;
  3. Follows the advice of the The Wall Street Journal editorial page that “Mr. Trump’s best option is to liquidate his stake in the company” via “a leveraged buyout or an initial public offering”; and
  4. These disclosure requirements should be treated as annual requirements.

Having President Trump and his children reconstitute a “Trump Organization” to receive payouts from foreign countries and rent-seeking businesses is a serious concern that cannot be prevented merely by an ensuring initial clean post-liquidation start. The Saturday Washington Post includes an article suggesting that diplomats understand the advantages of spending money at Trump’s DC hotel.

There should be particular concern about all non-publicly traded assets he and his children might hold. Trump and his children cannot be allowed to use “shell companies” to hide his actual business partners, creditors, and assets, including dealings with foreign governments or companies with significant potential dealings with the executive branch.

Without these comprehensive actions, Senators have no way to know what conflicts of interest they should be concerned about.

Does the Trump Organization have business dealings with, for example, Japan? If so, that suggests a line of questions for a potential Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Is a Trump company being investigated by the SEC? That matters for potential SEC Commissioners.

Even a Trump infrastructure bill raises questions. Would Trump follow the Dennis Hastert precedent and put forward highway projects designed to increase value of Trump family owned properties?

Trump announces a tax plan – would it benefit him?

Trump Energy Department actions – would they boost Trump family energy investments?

And assets are not the only issue. Senators need to know if any appointments constitute Trump repaying literal debts.

Every part of the federal government can be used to benefit private interests, and thus for all positions, the Senate requires clarity into Trump’s financials.

That goes for Trump-era law enforcement as well. David Dayen has wondered if the Trump win provides “a massive lifeline to Deutsche Bank, the German financial firm that has been rocked recently by rumors that they would have to pay a $14 billion fine to the Justice Department over crisis-related mortgage abuses.”

What’s the basis of Dayen’s curiosity? The fact “that one of Deutsche Bank’s biggest borrowers – Trump – will soon be sitting in the White House.”

Senators need to know how to provide oversight of the executive branch. To have confidence in Trump appointments and governance, Senators must demand both transparency and an end to conflicts of interest. Otherwise, it is all too likely he and his family will make money off control of the executive branch.


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Jeff Hauser runs the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, an effort to increase scrutiny on executive branch appointments and ensure that political appointees are focused on serving the public interest, rather than personal professional

Trump Infrastructure Plan a ‘Corporate Tax Break Scam’ Democrats Should Reject

Former Obama aide calls Trump’s Infrastructure Plan a ‘mistake in policy and political judgment [Democrats] will regret’
—by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Public infrastructure projects that don’t appeal as much to private contractors “get no help from Trump’s plan,” Kain wrote. (Photo: AP)

A former Obama aide is calling on Democrats not to support President-elect Donald Trump‘s so-called infrastructure plan, saying it’s a “trap” and a “mistake in policy and political judgment they will regret.”

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to invest $1 trillion into repairing America’s crumbling roads and bridges, creating new jobs along the way—an investment which the nation clearly needs. Over the weekend, influential Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer of New York pointed to it as a bipartisan issue that could help unite a bitterly divided country.

But a closer look at his proposal shows the plan may just be a smokescreen for corporate tax cuts that might not build anything new at all.

Ronald A. Klain, who served as an assistant to President Barack Obama and led the team implementing the American Recovery and Renewal Act, wrote in the Washington Post last week, “I’ve got a simple message for Democrats who are embracing President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan: Don’t do it. It’s a trap.”

Klain, who also served as an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, explained:

First, Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.

Meanwhile, public infrastructure projects that don’t appeal as much to private contractors—such as repairs to city water systems, existing roads, and non-toll bridges—”get no help from Trump’s plan,” he added.

And Trump’s planned tax break windfall for businesses, combined with a “10 percent pretax profit margin” included in the infrastructure plan, would add up to an $85 billion profit for contractors, after taxes, and “underwritten by the taxpayers,” he continued.

There’s more.

Because the plan prioritizes investors and tax breaks, rather than subsidizing projects and repairing public infrastructure, “there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring,” Klain wrote. “Investors may simply shift capital from unsubsidized projects to subsidized ones and pocket the tax breaks on projects they would have funded anyway.”

Those warnings were echoed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who writes in the New York Times on Monday, “Progressives should not associate themselves with this exercise in crony capitalism.”

Krugman says:

If you want to build infrastructure, build infrastructure. It’s hard to see any reason for a roundabout, indirect method that would offer a few people extremely sweet deals, and would therefore provide both the means and the motive for large-scale corruption. Or maybe I should say, it’s hard to see any reason for this scheme unless the inevitable corruption is a feature, not a bug.

Now, the Trump people could make all my suspicions look foolish by scrapping the private-investor, tax credits aspect of their proposal and offering a straightforward program of public investment. And if they were to do that, progressives should indeed work with them on that issue.

But it’s not going to happen. Cronyism and self-dealing are going to be the central theme of this administration—in fact, Mr. Trump is already meeting with foreigners to promote his business interests. And people who value their own reputations should take care to avoid any kind of association with the scams ahead.

In his op-ed for the Post, Klain compared the plan to former President Ronald Reagan’s disastrous tax cuts in the 1980s, which, he noted, led to massive deficits that were used to justify slashing funding to social programs.

“Thus,” Klain wrote, “Democrats should know that every dollar spent on the Trump tax scheme to enrich construction investors and contractors is a dollar that will later be cut from schools, hospitals, and seniors.”


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Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote for Jill Stein

“At a time when a third of Sanders supporters still haven’t committed to backing Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump in the general election, where every percentage point will matter, Stein’s candidacy looms larger. Many good people are only just discovering her campaign, and wondering if she might be worthy of their vote. Which is why it’s time for responsible political observers to say what has been commonly understood among those who have followed Stein for years: Friends don’t let friends vote for Jill Stein.

Read the full article here: Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote for Jill Stein