Despite pledges, politicians fail to shed tainted donations. Surprise!

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he’ll offset $7,000 in campaign contributions he’s received from accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein by donating an equivalent amount to anti-sex trafficking and anti-violence against women groups.

Don’t count on it.

In 2017, when multiple women went public with accusations that Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed them, Democratic politicians, including Schumer, leaped to disassociate themselves from him. In particular, they promised to donate Weinstein’s now-tainted campaign contributions to charity.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer was prominent among numerous politicians scurrying to say they would make amends. Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Weinstein donated $20,700 to the Friends of Schumer campaign finance committee during 2013-2017.

“Sen. Schumer is donating all of the (Weinstein) contributions to several charities supporting women,” Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Schumer, told the Washington Post in October 2017.

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Harvey Weinstein

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel praised Schumer  for doing the right thing.

She was too quick in her praise.

FEC records reveal that Schumer’s campaign committee didn’t donate one thin dime to charities supporting women in 2017 or 2018.

During that same period, Schumer’s committee also received contributions from the DNC Services Corp (Democratic National Committee), to which Weinstein had donated $203,458.

There’s no evidence that Schumer’s committee re-distributed any of that money to women’s groups either.

To its apparent credit, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said it would donate $30,000 of the funds it had received from Weinstein to three non-profits:

  • Emily’s List, a political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office.
  • Emerge America, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network to Democratic women who want to run for office, and
  • Higher Heights, a national organization working to elect Black women, influence elections and advance progressive policies.

FEC records of the DNC’s expenditures in 2017-2018 reveal that it lived up to its promise.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the DNC sent Emily’s List $10,290.15.  (The DNC also sent $5,000 to Emily’s List on May 25, 2017, but that was before the Weinstein scandal erupted.)

The DNC also sent $10,290.15 to both Emerge America and Higher Heights on Oct. 30, 2017. It sent $1250 to Higher Heights on Sept. 29.

But there was a hitch. The DNC collected $300,000 in donations from Weinstein, not $30,000. It kept the other $270,000.

Other Democratic politicians, including some who are now running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, also had received funds from Weinstein and also made a lot of promises to send the money to deserving non-profits. The announced recipients, however, were largely organizations that would launder the money right back to Democrats and their causes.

Even then, not all the politicians followed through on their commitments.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) said she’d donate $5,000 she received from Weinstein to Casa Myrna, a nonprofit group in Massachusetts. The FEC’s records on expenditures of the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund during 2017-2018 don’t show any payments to Casa Myrna.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she would donate $10,000 received from Weinstein to RAAIN, (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization. No such donation is reported in FEC records of expenditures by Gillibrand’s 2017-2018 campaign finance committees.
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he’d send Weinstein’s donations to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. According to OpenSecrets.org, Weinstein donated a total of $17,300 to Franken and his Midwest Values PAC. None of Franken’s campaign finance committees recorded on FEC.org show a donation to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center during 2017-2018.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she would give $5,000 she received from Weinstein to a women’s rights nonprofit, Equal Rights Advocates. FEC records on Harris’ campaign finance committees do not show such a donation during 2017-2018.
  • Bob Casey (D-PA) said he’d give $2,190 he received from Weinstein to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. FEC records on Casey’s campaign finance committees do not show such a donation.
  • The Clinton Foundation’s website says Weinstein has donated between $100,001 – $250,000 to the Foundation. In Oct. 2017, the Foundation announced it had no plans to return Weinstein’s contributions, saying they had already been spent on charitable programs. According to the Foundation’s Form 990 report to the IRS, it had net assets of $323,470,879 at the end of 2017.

Looks like a lot of politicians’ promises are no more than empty public relations gestures.  Surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clinton, Trump and the housing crisis: a different perspective

Hillary Clinton and her surrogates think they have found something to damage Donald Trump, statements he has made about opportunities to profit from a housing market crash.

But have they? A deeper look suggests Trump was prescient in his analysis of the housing market.

Ten years ago Trump was recorded saying, “I sort of hope that (a housing market crash) happens because then, people like me would go in and buy” and “If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money.”

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At a campaign rally on Tuesday, Clinton jumped on the quotes, accusing Trump of wishing for a financial crash so he could “make some money for himself.”

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) piled on, saying in a press release that Trump “cheered on” the collapse of the housing market. The DNC also observed that the housing crash devastated minorities such as Hispanics and African-Americans (who happen to be a key part of Hillary’s base).

“Donald Trump’s lack of concern for the economic well-being of hard-working families shows that he doesn’t have the judgment and temperament to occupy the Oval Office,” wrote DNC spokesperson Luis Miranda.

But another way to look at it is Trump was being pretty smart and perceptive—and if the Clintons had been smart, they could have made some money, too (not that they needed any more).

The 2008 financial crisis was triggered to a significant degree by subprime mortgages, loans made to people with poor credit or with little documentation to back up their financial fitness. These mortgages were transformed into toxic financial products by investment specialists who made a bundle when the products were sold.

The danger these subprime mortgage products posed wasn’t foreseen by Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

“While a tightening of credit to the subprime sector and foreclosures on existing properties have the potential to deepen the housing downturn, I do not consider it very likely that such developments will have a big effect on overall U.S. economic performance,” Yellen said well into the foreclosure crisis. ” I say this, in part, because these mortgages represent only a small part of the overall outstanding mortgage stock.”

Yellen went on to misread the economy, saying, “I think that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable growth with a gradual ebbing of inflation over time.”

The danger these subprime mortgage products posed also wasn’t foreseen “by the chief executives of America’s premier banks,” said a New York Times book review of the best-selling book, The Big Short. “It was not foreseen by government regulators, by Treasury officials or by the Fed. It was foreseen, however, by a handful of investors, who were aghast at the madness they saw on the Street and who used their prescience to make a fortune off the financial system’s calamitous meltdown.”   

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Trump should fire back at Hillary by pointing out that she’s made some contentious allegations her supporters might resent. For example, she laid some of the blame for the housing crisis on greedy, dishonest homeowners.

“…certainly borrowers share responsibility as well,” Clinton said in a speech at NASDAQ headquarters. “Homebuyers who paid extra fees to avoid documenting their income should have known they were getting in over their heads” and people across the country “…who were busy buying two, three, four houses to sell for a quick buck don’t deserve our sympathy.”

Nothing’s simple, is it?

Hillary wants campaign finance reform….later.

Frankly, it makes me sick.

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Hillary Clinton says she wants aggressive campaign finance reform to end the stranglehold that wealthy interests have over our political system and restore a government of, by, and for the people—not just the wealthy and well-connected.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee are working arm in arm to jigger campaign finance rules to spur more donations from fat cats. Maybe they figure nobody cares.

 

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What difference at this point does it make?

In 2008, when Obama was running for president, he set in place restrictions that banned donations to the Democratic National Committee from federal lobbyists and political action committees. The Washington Post just reported that the Committee has rolled back those restrictions, opening up the floodgates for more big money to go to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee between the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.

The Victory Fund collects money from big donors and then distributes it to Clinton’s campaign and 33 state Democratic Party committees. According to the Post, a recent Clinton solicitation asked supporters to give up to $366,100 to the fund. Her campaign then received $2,700 of the total for the primary period, while the rest went to the DNC and 33 state party committees.

The largest donor to the Victory Fund to date is the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, which has donated $366,400. Portola Valley, CA philanthropist Laure Woods, president of the Lyme Foundation, has also donated $750,000 to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, according to OpenSecrets.org.

In December 2015, NPR reported that Clinton can now ask donors to give nearly three-quarters of a million dollars each. Here’s how:

According to NPR, Donors who are rich — and willing — can give $5,400 to the Clinton campaign, $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee and $10,000 to each of the state parties, about $360,000 in all. A joint fundraising committee lets the donor do it all with a single check.

On Jan. 1, the contribution limits reset for the party committees, and the Hillary Victory Fund can go back to its donors for another $350,000 in party funds.

All told, a single donor can give more than $700,000 for the election. That’s a hell of  lot more than most of us could ever afford.

OpenSecrets.org recently revealed how complicated and corrupt this whole process has become. Open Secrets noted that the Hillary Victory Fund reported taking in $26.9 million during 2015 and has transferred $7.4 million to the participants as of Feb. 19, 2016. The largest single contributions to this joint effort are not $86,000 (which would have been roughly the limit had the rules not been struck down) but rather $358,400 –including $2,700 to the Clinton campaign for the primary and $2,700 for the general along with $33,400 to the DNC and as much as $320,000 to state party committees.

These contributions would seem to have improved the financial health of many state party organizations that would never have received support from many of their donors without the JFC process.

But the way the contributions were used tells another story, OpenSecrets said. Virtually none of the $1.86 million given to state parties as of mid-February2016 spent more than one night with its designated recipient. In nearly every case, all of the funds given to state parties by the Hillary Victory Fund were immediately sent to the DNC. This structure has allowed a small number of elite Democratic donors to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DNC for the purpose of affecting the presidential campaign.

If you are a federal lobbyist, the revised DNC rules amount to a shakedown. Donate more or your failure to do so will be remembered. If you’re a regular Joe (or Jane), you’re out of luck.