Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Redefining Political Correctness to Include Criticism of Appointments of Wall Street, Banking and Fossil Fuel Insiders to Regulatory Bodies

And Extreme Pro-Corporate Lawyers and Judges to the Supreme Court and the Lower Federal Courts. Seriously.

So far, the Trump transition team does not seem particularly concerned, for instance, about a transition team staffed heavily with lobbyists from energy, agriculture, transportation, and banking.

“Frankly, one of the refreshing parts of it about the whole Trump style is that he does not care about political correctness. From a practical standpoint, I have heard lots of people say, ‘Why would we box ourselves out of the most knowledgeable policy people in the country?'” said one source close to the transition team.

Donald McGahn II, a partner at the firm Jones Day and Trump’s lawyer, is expected to play a central role in vetting nominees. So is Arthur Culvahouse, Jr., a partner at the firm O’Melveny & Myers, who helped vet vice presidential candidates and, according to a source, has been helping the campaign organize its White House picks.

Culvahouse declined a request for an interview. None of the lawyers in the political law practice at Jones Day returned POLITICO’S calls. Culvahouse has faced backlash from colleagues at his firm for working with Trump, according to people familiar with the situation, with one person saying the decision was “amazingly controversial” within the firm. Many top partners at O’Melveny, including Tom Donilon, were vocal Clinton backers.

Trump advisers steamroll Christie’s transition: The new, top-down approach is likened to how Dick Cheney ran the Bush transition., Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook, Politico, today

Just so you know, Culvahouse played a large role in turning the Supreme Court and lower federal courts into a proxy arm of the far-right Chamber of Commerce, including in Citizens United but also in ways most people have no idea about but would really care about.  These are not pro-union justices and judges, nor are they pro-employee, pro-consumer, pro small-business, anti-financial-industry-fraud, or ant-securities-fraud.  Nor anti-fossil-fuel-industry.  For starters.

So.  From a practical standpoint, who do you think are all those people who are saying to this source close to the transition team, “Why would we box ourselves out of the most knowledgeable policy people in the country?”  And might that source close to the transition team be Mike Pence, who is so close to the transition team that he heads it?

And how likely do you think it is that among the many people who are saying this to the source is, say, a blue-collar voter from Toledo or Youngstown?  Or any region of Michigan?  Or Erie, Pennsylvania?

Or anywhere?

We’re extremely close to down-the-rabbit-hole language of the Arbeit macht frei variety, folks—something I saw last Saturday and mentioned in the update to this post.

George Orwell and Lewis Carroll are laughing.  Really hard.

Good god.  This is the most successful Trojan Horse since the original one. And every bit as sinister.  But also funny, in that this is what’s now called a top-down approach. Always great to see a new euphemism for insider corruption.

They’re not gonna box themselves in, folks.  But massive, intensive publicity might.

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The Mad Hatter Columbia U. Law Prof. Who Advised Comey That He Needed to Destroy the Village In Order to Save It* – UPDATED (His name is Daniel C. Richman.)

Daniel C. Richman, an adviser to Mr. Comey and a Columbia University law professor, argued that despite the backlash, Mr. Comey’s decision to inform Congress preserved the F.B.I.’s independence, which will ultimately benefit the next president. “Those arguing that the director should have remained silent until the new emails could be reviewed — even if that process lasted, or was delayed, until after the election — give too little thought to the governing that needs to happen after November,” Mr. Richman said. “If the F.B.I. director doesn’t have the credibility to keep Congress from interfering in the bureau’s work and to assure Congress that a matter has been or is being looked into, the new administration will pay a high price.”

Former senior law enforcement officials in both parties, though, say Mr. Comey’s decision to break with Justice Department guidelines caused these problems. Had he handled the case the way the F.B.I. handled its investigations into the Clinton Foundation and Mr. Manafort over the summer, the argument goes, he would have endured criticism from Republicans in the future but would have preserved a larger principle that has guided cases involving both parties. …

F.B.I.’s Email Disclosure Broke a Pattern Followed Even This Summer, Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman and William K. Rashbaum, New York Times, today

Gotta say, Comey comes off in this Washington Post article today as dumber than a rock.

— Me, here, yesterday

The particular part of that Washington Post article yesterday, by Ellen Nakashima, that I had most in mind was this:

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John McCain Says He’s Glad a 5-4 Supreme Court Majority Fabricated a Constitutional Ground to Strike Down Most of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law as Unconstitutional

ANTITRUSSSSST! (Dear Hillary: In a well-received economics-themed speech in Toledo on Monday, you mentioned ANTITRUST LAW and ARBITRATION CLAUSES. Please, please do so also at Sunday’s debate.)

Clinton also said she would push for new steps to crack down on “forced arbitration” fine print that prevents workers and consumers from suing companies, proposals aimed at reducing market concentration and increasing competition, and curbing tax rules that gave corporations and the super-wealthy, like Trump, tax breaks not available to ordinary taxpayers.

After Trump’s tax-return leak, Clinton accuses him of protecting a ‘rigged system’, Abby Phillip and David Weigel, Washington Post, Oct. 3

Yes, Monday was economic-policy day for the Clinton campaign.  Tuesday was, well, not.  And while Tim Kaine is taking the brunt of the criticism for that, he is not the one who made that decision.  Clinton and her campaign gurus are.

Abby Phillip reported last night in a blog post titled “Clinton debate prep is focused on what happens once the debate is done”:

Sen. Tim Kaine may have awakened Wednesday to poor reviews after the first and only vice-presidential debate, but his acerbic performance in Farmville, Va., revealed that the Clinton campaign’s strategy for these debates extends far beyond the stage.

Armed with pre-planned Web videos, television ads and tweets, the campaign has used key debate moments this week and last as a cudgel against the Republican ticket, showing a level of discipline and organization largely absent from Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s campaign.

“Kaine had a very clear and simple plan for the debate: remind a national televised audience of all of the offensive things Trump has said and done in this campaign,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama. “The Clinton campaign was smart enough to know that who ‘wins’ or ‘loses’ the VP debate doesn’t move votes. Instead it’s an opportunity to communicate a message to a very large audience.”

“I don’t see a single thing that Pence did that moved the needle for Trump in any way,” he added.

Both Hillary Clinton and her running mate showed up on their respective debate nights well rehearsed. At moments, they seemed over-rehearsed. At one point Tuesday, Pence shot back at Kaine: “Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.”

But Clinton and Kaine had a larger goal in mind than winning the debates themselves: to create a series of compelling sound bites that they planned to weaponize for the reminder of the campaign. They logged scores of hours of preparation. They recited laundry lists of Trump’s faults. Their clear objective: to record him and his running mate embracing, denying or evading controversial positions that Trump has taken in recorded speeches.

That pattern is likely to continue Sunday at the next presidential debate, Democrats said.

“[Pence] claimed over and over and over again — he claimed, ‘He never said those things!’ ” exclaimed conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Wednesday. “We’re not living in the 1800s. We can go back to the clips on YouTube.”

And that’s exactly what the Clinton campaign did. Shortly after the debate Tuesday, the Clinton campaign tweeted out a glossy new site at hillaryclinton.com/literallytrump. The site highlighted dozens of moments “mentioned at the debate,” most of them by Kaine, with citations to back them up and the “share” button never too far away.

By Wednesday morning, a new video was blasted: a 90-second super-cut of Pence’s denials.

Here’s the problem with that strategy: It’s only half of what the Clinton strategy should be.

The other half?  Illustrating that on his fiscal, economic, and regulatory policy agenda—all of it intricately related—Trump and Pence are exactly the same.  It’s a Mercers/Kochs/Tea Party agenda.  Yet Kaine at the debate—at the orchestration of the Clinton campaign’s strategists—allowed Pence to get away with the more important of the Trump campaign’s two new lines.

The less-important line was the one that everyone knows is preposterous: that it is Clinton rather than Trump who is running a campaign based on insults.  Greg Sargent, linking to a Washington Post video clip of Trump’s rally in Nevada yesterday, writes this morning:

A new, self-effacing version of Donald Trump appeared on the campaign trail late yesterday. In Nevada, Trump said this:

“A vote for me is a vote for change, and common sense, and a strong military, and great veterans’ care, and Second Amendment rights, and good health care….But it’s also a vote directly for you. Because I am a reflection of you.

“You’re voting as people who believe in yourselves. You are voting to believe in your future. You are voting to believe in your great country. All together, we are going to make our country wealthy again….And we are going to make America great again.”

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you” is standard political boilerplate, of course. But in Trump’s case, it may signal a closing strategy.

The Post titled that video clip “Trump to supporters: ‘I am a reflection of you.”  And this time he wasn’t talking only about those who are in the basket of deplorables.

He also wasn’t talking about those who wouldn’t be assisted by the tax policy drafted for him at the Mercer-funded Heritage Foundation, nor to those who would be forced to make up some of the lost income and estate tax revenue in order to pay for the massive buildup in military defense and border security (among other things).  Although he, like Pence on Tuesday night, was claiming that is the “you” who he is talking about, and talking to.

I’ve written two or three posts here at AB in the last few months in which I’ve pleaded with Clinton to discuss antitrust law and also forced-arbitration clauses.  Antitrust law is the more important of the two, and truly implicates the very workings of the larger economy.  In a post several months ago, I recalled that it was a regular part of Bernie’s stump speech, and mentioned an article from back in the summer of 2015 in which the reporter sat not in the press section but instead amongst the crowd at a yugely enthusiastic rally in Iowa and reported that the young woman with long blond hair sitting next to him would rise from her seat and, cheerleader-like, punch the air to shout one or another subject line that Sanders was mentioning—and that one of those things was: ANTITRUSSSSST!!

But forced-arbitration clauses in consumer, employment, securities, mortgage and other loan, and various other types of contracts—as the Supreme Court, in a series of 5-4 opinions, has rewritten (er, “interpreted”) the Federal Arbitration Act to permit in breathtakingly sweeping form, also is important.

The two subjects, along with labor-law issues and campaign-finance law, get at the very heart of what so much of the public means when they say they want change: they want a major recalibration between the profoundly powerful and everyone else.  They want to regain some real power over the private and public institutions that have such a stranglehold on life in this country.

That’s what Bernie understood, and his policy proposals reflected that, and to the extent that they are incorporated into the Democratic Party platform, they still do. Trump understands this, too, and that’s why there has been that other basket—the one without the deplorables.

Trump began his campaign as both a racist and xenophobe and an economic populist.  But last October, in an attempt to fend off a threatened torrent of Koch spending to try to kill his campaign, he quietly switched to Paul-Ryan-on-steroids on fiscal and financial-industry-regulatory matters.  And when not long after that, after the Kochs made clear their continued hostility toward Trump’s candidacy, the hedge-fund-billionaire father-daughter duo Robert and Rebekah Mercer took up the slack.

And then some.

I had expected, naively, before Tuesday that Kaine would get this across at the debate, especially in the wake of the Trump 1995 tax return publication and its (momentarily, I guess) resulting attention to Trump’s tax plan.  And also because Pence is Paul Ryan with gray hair.

I had thought, although it was only wishful thinking, that Clinton and her campaign actually finally recognized that millennials, Rust Belt blue collar voters, and middle-class suburbanites all would be as repelled by Trump’s Heritage Foundation fiscal-and-regulatory-policy agenda.  And that, contrary to what Clinton clearly had believed throughout her campaign from its inception, middle class suburbanites, in large numbers—including many independents and moderate Republicans, like most of the genuinely progressive fiscal and regulatory agenda that Sanders had forced into the party platform.

But I was wrong. Clinton believes, apparently inalterably,  that moderate suburbanites, millennials and racial minorities care only about Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, vulgarity and such—and his obvious mental instability, which is why reportedly internal polling by both Trump’s and Clinton’s campaigns are showing an en masse movement toward Clinton among independents and moderate Republicans, and third-party-candidate-fan millennials in the last week—more so than the public polls are showing.

But Clinton could wrap this up and tie a bow on it—and significantly help Dem Senate and maybe even House candidates—if she talks about what she talked about on Monday in Toledo.

I also want to say this: For me, what mattered a lot about that speech was that she ventured away from the usual and discussed—mentioned and explained—two tremendously important aspects of the economic-power status quo in the current age: massive consolidation of, and massive control over the legal system by, large corporations, hugely increasing the power of mega-corporations over small and midsize businesses and individuals.

And a big part of what mattered to me is that Clinton trusted that her audience would understand what she was talking about, even though these things required some explanation.

Finally, I want to note that the Phillip and Weigel piece I quoted from above was the only report among the (I believe) three I read about Clinton’s Toledo rally that noted her mention of antitrust and forced-arbitration-clause law.  Neither the NYT report nor Politico did.

I’ve said a couple of times recently that in my opinion the Washington Post’s campaign coverage throughout the primaries and general election campaign has been far superior to any other that I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned John Wagner, who covered Bernie’s campaign and now helps cover Clinton’s, for its straight and thorough reporting on campaign events.  Jenna Johnson’s reporting and David Weigel’s as well have been terrific.  And then there is David Fahrentold’s Pulitzer-caliber investigative reports on the Trump Foundation.

As of right now I expect Clinton to win reasonably comfortably.  But she can win with a fairly clear mandate for the types of change that the Dem platform proposes, if she campaigns on them and—relatedly—on the specifics of Trump’s, and Ryan/Pence’s, actual fiscal and regulatory agenda.

As for Tim Kaine, my heart sort of goes out to him.  And the way that Clinton can make it up to him is not by claiming that he did great at the debate, but instead by pointing out this: Mike Pence built his name as a far-right but studiedly-smooth talk-radio host.  Tim Kaine built his career as a civil rights lawyer.

This matters.  And it favors Kaine, not Pence.

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The Most Effective Ad for Clinton and Congressional Dem Candidates?

One showing Trump’s plane taking off or landing, and a voice and written message saying: You help pay the salaries of the air traffic controllers who ensure Donald Trump’s safe travel in his private Boeing 747 (or whatever it is). BUT DONALD TRUMP DOES NOT.

Okayyyy. Since you haven’t been living in a cave the last few days—and even if you have been—you’re aware of the news events of the last 48 hours.  And of the reaction to them among, say, blue-collar whites in Toledo.

The reactions are three-fold: that Trump was a really awful businessmanAnd that Trump is the Ultimate Welfare King.

And that the U.S. Tax Code is really, really, really appalling.  And that Trump proposes to change the tax code to further increase his and his children’s wealth.*

But, still.  With a very effective ad campaign, the Dems could with the Whole Game.  So here’s my entry for what would be the coolest ad ever (okay, in a long time):

One showing Trump’s plane taking off or landing, and voice and written message saying: You help pay the salaries of the air traffic controllers who ensure Donald Trump’s safe travel in his private Boeing 747 (or whatever it is).  But Donald Trump does not.

The ad should end with: Help end the Citizens United campaign-finance regime.  And help force the restructuring of the Tax Code. VOTE DEMOCRATIC FOR SENATE AND HOUSE.

In Ohio: How would Ted Strickland vote on these?  And how would Rob Portman vote on them?

In Florida: Ever check out Marco Rubio’s suggestions for changes to the Tax Code—and which way those changes would go?

Etc.

Etc.

Bernie and Elizabeth could accomplish this, I think.

Go. For. It. Dems.

There’s no time like the present to start THE REVOLUTION.

____

*I’ve been pleading with Clinton for many months now here at AB to campaign intensely on the specifics of Trump’s tax plan.  She’s finally doing that, thanks to the NYT’s weekend revelation. 

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Okay, so today at a rally in suburban Detroit…

“By the way, I’m spending a lot of money on my campaign. And why isn’t she spending some money on hers? I’m spending a hundred million dollars,” Trump said, after criticizing Clinton for accepting donations from Wall Street bankers and special interest groups. “… I think I’ll be over a hundred million dollars.”

Trump tells Obama not to pardon Clinton, even though she hasn’t been charged or convicted of anything, Jenna Johnson, Washington Post, today

Look, folks.  It’s way, way, way past time that Clinton shout from the rooftops that there are three billionaires who are writing extremely large checks to Trump’s super PAC, two—father-daughter hedge-fund duo Rebekah and Robert Mercer, and oil and gas billionaire Harold Hamm—who are determining Trump’s fiscal and regulatory policy proposals and prospective court and agency-head appointees.

No. One. Knows. This.

She also needs to say, and say again, and again, that the aggregate amounts of “Citizens United money” that will have gone respectively to support her, and Trump’s, campaigns by November 8 is far less important than the amounts one or two or three billionaires are donating to each campaign, and the percentages of the total donations to the respective campaign that these billionaires’ donations comprise.

Earlier today, in the Comments thread to my post from earlier this week titled “What Clinton and her surrogates need to get across to millennials, racial minorities and union members,” I exchanged these comments with reader Eric377:

Eric377 / October 1, 2016 8:57 am

Well it seems to me that Trump got and used a lot less “Citizens United” type money than his Republican opponents and Clinton. The deep suspicion – conviction for many, really – is that voting for Clinton is voting to leave the current elite structure completely unchanged.

Me / October 1, 2016 9:57 am

Here’s the problem with looking only at the aggregate amount each candidate has received in Citizens United money: As I’ve written in AB posts here seemingly ad nauseam since early Aug. when I learned of it, sometime late in the primary season two hedge fund father-daughter billionaires, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who had been funding Cruz, began instead funding Trump to the tune of many millions of dollars. They live in the Hamptons and began meeting with him and effectively controlling his fiscal and regulatory policy proposals as well as his selections of nominees for the Supreme Court and for agency chiefs. These people are the main funders of Breitbart–thus, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway–and of the Heritage Foundation, thus Stephen Moore and other ostensible economics experts.

The other billionaire who’s been funding Trump–some oil-and-gas billionaire named Harold Hamm–to the tune of many, many millions of dollars is–surprise–recommending appointments as Interior and EPA chiefs.

If Clinton actually wants to energize millennial progressives, all she has to do, I think, is tell them this. She doesn’t–for fear of, y’know, alienating all those moderate suburban Republicans who would be thrilled to see the oil-and-gas industry control Interior and the EPA, and extreme rightwing hedge fund billionaires and the Heritage Foundation make fiscal and regulatory policy.

Meanwhile, today CNN Politics is reporting, in a story reported by Theodore Schleiffer titled “Trump finally hits the big-money jackpot,” that Trump is now also funded by Republican billionaires Sheldon and Marion Trump and the Ricketts family—two of the uber-funders of far-right Republican campaigns, and of Republican candidates who are far-right mainly because Adelson, the Rickets and the Kochs are. About the Adelsons, Schleiffer writes:

Despite only publicly committed $5 million to what is likely to be the de facto Trump super PAC, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are pledging at least $25 million to pro-Trump presidential efforts, according to multiple people briefed on their donations. That sum includes giving to nonprofit group that will never be required to disclose his donations.

As for the Ricketts, their wealth comes from TD Ameritrade, which the current Mr. Ricketts, Thomas, joined at age 30.  His father founded the company, but it was entirely a merit hire.  In any event, Trump apparently doesn’t know that it is a financial institution.  (It’s a large one, Donald.)

Which brings me to a post that was in follow-up to my earlier post, in which I mentioned that there really, truly, honestly is a difference between Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Anyone know who Gary Johnson would name to the Supreme Court?  It doesn’t matter, cuz he won’t be naming anyone to the Court.  Trump or Clinton will.

So, so much about Clinton’s campaign has just completely missed the mood of a huge swath of voters in this election cycle.  Not least is that moderate Republican suburbanites—to whom she’s directed her campaign almost exclusively—would be less likely rather than more likely to vote for Trump if they knew that he indeed has billionaire puppeteers, who they are, what they want, and the extraordinary influence they’re having on his policy proposals and will have on his court and agency-head appointments.   It’s way, way, wayyy past time for Clinton to tell the public about this.

Also at that rally today, Trump suggested that he be indicted for his serial criminal fraud, bribery, and tax and other laws related to his charity.  Wire fraud, for sure.  Johnson reports in that article:

NOVI, Mich. — Donald Trump called on President Obama on Friday to refuse to pardon Hillary Clinton and her associates, even though they have not been charged with any crimes, let alone convicted of any crimes.

“Mr. President, will you pledge not to issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators for their many crimes against our country and against society itself?” Trump said to a cheering audience in this Detroit suburb on Friday evening.

He added: “No one is above the law.”

One of the very many thoroughly disorienting characteristics of Trump’s in this campaign is his routine tactic of accusing others of what he is accused, with supporting evidence, of doing.  I do think, though, that on this he’s playing with fire.  That quote of his will support demands for criminal investigations and civil fines.

Although, I suppose he could assert the defense that he is no one, and therefore is above the law.

I’m guessing that the starkness of Trump’s manic conduct in the last two days—and, really, you don’t need any formal knowledge about severe bipolar illness to recognize that, apart from other obvious mental illness, he is severely manic—will, finally, finish off this candidacy.  But the answer to why Clinton isn’t far ahead in the polls is not just the malpractice nature of so much high-profile journalistic coverage of these two candidates—the obscenely overblown emails-and-related-matters obsession, to cited the most obvious news media indulgence.  It’s also that Clinton has run as an outdated moderate Republican, almost throughout her campaign dating back to its inception.

There’s really no time like the present for her to start campaigning like it’s 2016.  Since, after all, that’s what it is.

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Oh, God. Why does Clinton refuse to run on the Democratic Party platform? And against pro-Citizens United justices?

The Clinton campaign today made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late last night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

“One upside to Hillary Clinton’s break from the trail was having time to sharpen the final argument she will present to voters in these closing weeks.  So when she rejoins the trail tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will deliver the second in a series of speeches laying out her aspirational vision for the country: that we are “Stronger Together.” Tomorrow’s remarks will focus on what has been at the core of who Hillary Clinton is as a person and the mission of her campaign — how we lift up our children and families and make sure that every child has the chance to live up to their God given potential.

“Our campaign readily admits that running against a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump means it is harder to be heard on what you aspire for the country’s future and it is incumbent on us to work harder to make sure voters hear that vision.”  [Boldface in original.]

Hillary Clinton’s campaign just admitted she has a real problem, Greg Sargent, yesterday morning

 

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Mission Accomplished! (Wow. Thank you, Matea Gold.)

In, I’m guessing, four or five posts here at AB in the six weeks or so, since hedge fund billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer were profiled in two or three articles because they’re providing substantial funding to Trump’s campaign and for the last few months have served as his puppeteers—steering both his campaign and his fiscal and regulatory policy plans (and therefore whom he will nominate to the federal bench and to the relevant slew of administrative agency officials)—I’ve pleaded for some real attention to this from political news and commentary journalists.

And from Clinton and her campaign.

It’s finally happening.  Clicking on the Washington Post site just now and seeing as featured article Matea Gold’s piece there today titled “The rise of GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer” had the feel of an out-of-body experience.  I couldn’t believe it.

As I’ve said repeatedly in my references to this duo, their capture of the Trump campaign and fiscal and regulatory policy plans explains why so few Establishment Republicans (Paul Ryan, for example) are renouncing support of Trump.

Also as I’ve said repeatedly, all Clinton has to do to win the Rust Belt (and, I believe probably Florida, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, too) is run a few ads apprising the public that Trump indeed has billionaire puppeteers—two of them.  And exactly who they are and what they want.  And where and how they live.

Clinton’s obsessive focus on Trump’s two most obviously scary traits—his dangerousness in foreign-policy matters and his alt-right mania—have been, in my opinion foreseeably, insufficient.  Everyone already knows these things about Trump, which is why so many independents and moderate Republicans won’t vote for him.  Incessantly reminding Republicans and independents of this, and repeatedly saying that these aspects of Trumpism isn’t traditionally Republican, gains her nothing, or close to nothing.

And presumably it was her fear of losing Republican support that caused her and her campaign to remain silent—throughout the summer and well into September—about Trump’s puppet-puppeteer relationship with billionaire far-right donors, and these two billionaire far-right and alt-right donors in particular.  Wouldn’t wanna risk causing Meg Whitman to rescind her support for Clinton, I guess.

But now, finally, ridiculously belatedly … no more. I’m guessing that Gold’s piece today was prompted by a very legitimate request from the Clinton campaign.  How legitimate?  Can anyone really say in good faith that the public is not entitled to learn of this information through in-your-face political news media attention?

I’m thrilled.  And I also want to say this: My main sources of news are the New York Times and the Washington Post; I have online subscriptions to both.  And throughout this campaign season, dating back to the truly wonderful coverage of the Sanders campaign by the Post’s John Wagner and certainly continuing through the general-election campaign to date, the Post’s straight political and political-analysis reportage has been excellent, and the Times’ has been, in my opinion, subpar.

In any event, I sure welcome a finally-enlightened Clinton campaign.  And some real news emphasis on the Mercers.  Normally, when I read a commentary or a statement by a major pol, or some such, that appears to reflect a recent AB post of mine, I joke here that, say, “Obama reads Angry Bear!”, or the like.  But this time I think maybe my posts here imploring Clinton and the news/commentary media to tell the public, very loudly, about the Mercers and their puppet/puppeteer role in the Trump campaign and what that would mean in a Trump administration.

I mean, who knows?  Clinton’s taking a few (very entitled) sick days right now and maybe has happened upon this awesome blog called Angry Bear.  If so, she should take up a related suggestion of mine: asking rhetorically what the Mercers think about Citizens United.

And about Citizens United.  Which the Mercers apparently fund (as they do Brietbart).  And whose founder and president for the past 16 years is now, at their suggestion, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As a native Rust Belter I’m sorta thinkin’ that maybe some on-the-fence voters in the upper Midwest would like to know that.  So tell them, Hillary Clinton.

Tell. Them.

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Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Gets It Right About the Clinton Foundation (in my opinion)

Back when I worked for the claims department of a major insurance company, I got stuff. Some of the stuff consisted of tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events, and sometimes I got bottles of booze, Canadian Club being a popular choice for some reason. These items were tendered to me by auto appraisers, repair shops and other firms, large and small, that wanted the business my company could offer. Corrupt souls that they were, they offered these items as bribes. Pristine young man that I was, I accepted them as gifts. I was, in my own modest way, Hillary Clinton before her time.

The pattern established by the vaunted Cohen of Claims is similar to the one later copied by Clinton of Chappaqua. You may note that when it came to these matters — these matters being the acceptance of ethically dubious gifts — Hillary Clinton was lots of quid and little quo. The mountains of money that came into the Clinton Foundation, some of it offered by otherwise heartless men, apparently got the donors nothing. They came from parts of the world where a man’s bribe is his word, and yet money offered in New York to the foundation did not open a door in Washington at the State Department.

Clinton Foundation alchemy — turning bribes into gifts, Richard Cohen, Washington Post, today

Cohen’s column today triggers memories for me.  My father, too, turned bribes into gifts.

As a journalist for a major local newspaper, he and his colleagues were inundated with gifts of the sort that Cohen was as an auto insurance claims adjuster.  Free passes to movies, to the annual auto show (fun), boat show (also fun), flower show (pretty), big-deal movie premiers (very occasionally; this was not NYC), and the latest hit play touring after (or before) its Broadway run.  Glamorous cocktail parties called “press parties”.   (Clothes, especially ones for fancy gatherings, were expensive, and my mother would always have two “dressy” dresses, both of them that “went with” black heels (also expensive back then) that she would alternate, depending on who she thought would be attending the particular event or gathering.

During the winter holiday season, the doorbell was ringing often.  There were bottles of French designer perfumes and colognes for my mother, bottles of high-priced alcohol (my mother would just call them “bottles,” as in, “It’s a ‘bottle,’ from so-and-so,” usually said with a sigh; “so-and-so” being a “press agent,” these days known as people in “public relations”).  Our living room was filled with poinsettia plants; we were Jewish, but enjoyed the colorful displays.  The tops of my parents’ bedroom dressers looked like a perfume counter at Saks; almost all the bottles remained in their unopened boxes, for years.  The basement had a mini upscale liquor section, the bottles unopened, also for years.  And years.

One night when I was 10, my father came home gingerly carrying a lovely roughly-200-year-old Japanese woodcut that he’d been sent by the someone at the public relations office at the local art museum.  The museum was having a special exhibit of antique Japanese art, and my father’s newspaper had run a lengthy picture-filled article about it in the Arts section before the exhibit opened.  The exhibit was one of the most successful in memory, and my father had played a role in the article’s prominence and length in the Arts section.  The museum’s PR person sent my father the woodcut, along with a note of appreciation, attributing the popularity of the exhibit largely to that article.  The paper’s art editor, George, himself an artist and art collector, and a close friend of my father’s, had chosen the pictures for the article, and wrote the article.  My father asked him if he could place a value on the woodcut.  He did, and my father paid the museum for it.

My father not long before had asked him if he could find an affordable large painting for the main wall, behind the couch, in our living room, and George suggested instead that my parents by a set of Japanese woodcuts from the same era that would look nice with the museum woodcut that would be on another wall.  George found a set of four that told a story, and framed them in narrow, plain wood frames that he covered with rice paper he died a light blue, with natural-colored rice paper matting.  They were beautiful, and, I’m quite sure, the most valuable things my parents ever had in their home.

That was my father’s foray into quid pro quo—an antique Japanese woodcut he received as a gift and then paid for.  My father, George, and a few others at the paper had received free passes for two to the exhibit before it opened, along with a lengthy press release about the upcoming exhibit.

In an addendum to this recent post of mine here at AB, I wrote:

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCainwho obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

The post was titled “Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration.  And Eric Trump agrees!

And a few days earlier, in a post titled “Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)”, I wrote:

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

What followed that colon detailed enough about Robert and Rebeka Mercer to disabuse the reader of any conception that a Trump administration would be pro-blue-collar worker and, to borrow from Bernie Sanders, anti-the-billionaire class.   A purpose of the post was to express dismay that neither the Clinton campaign, nor the DNC, nor most of the mainstream news media had deigned to try to educate the public about who is financially propping up the Trump campaign, and what they hope to accomplish in a Trump administration.

Another purpose was to try in my tiny-readership way to illustrate the absurdity of Trump’s claimed equivalency of his billionaires’ financial backing of his candidacy and the fundraising assistance to Clinton from Hollywood multimillionaire progressives like Timberlane and Biel and other extremely wealthy people whose financial interests are counter to their support of Clinton and of progressive down-ballot candidates, especially for the Senate and House.

Clinton wants to see the demise of Citizens United, and presumably her Supreme Court nominees do, too.  Trump has promised Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Antonin Scalia.  Progressive Democratic members of Congress will attempt to enact new, sweeping campaign-finance-reform legislation.  Clinton will sign it if it makes it that far.  Trump would veto it, and Republican members of Congress will do whatever they can to thwart it.

This media focus on Clinton Foundation donors, while certainly legitimate, seems to hold a monopoly on news media dissection of presidential-campaign financial backing.  Why?

Seriously.  Why?

Cohen writes in that column:

“The fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as Secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation,” said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman. Apparently, this is true, and it no doubt breaks the hearts of Republicans everywhere who think that Clinton is both a crook and a fool. She is possibly only a bit of the former and certainly none of the latter.

Let us take the case of Casey Wasserman. He runs the Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent-management agency. According to The Post, Wasserman’s charitable foundation contributed between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and his investment company also hired Bill Clinton as a consultant, paying him $3.13 million in fees in 2009 and 2010. For this, aside from a warm feeling, it seems Wasserman got nothing. When he tried to get the State Department to approve a visa for a British soccer star with a criminal record, he got nowhere — so much quid, so little quo.

As Cohen of Claims, I followed the same M.O. Not only did I treat every bribe as a gift, but also I never demanded anything from anyone and went out of my way to award my business on the basis of competence alone. In fact, on the rare occasion that someone complained that I was not sending enough business their way and wondered if a little cash would help their cause, I cut them off completely. I insisted on good work, promptly done. I could not be bought.

My father could not be bought, either; he was not bought.  Which is not to say that none of his colleagues, or his counterparts at the other local newspapers, were, but it is to say that most were not and that the ones who were were bought cheaply and that the quo, while important to the one who offered and gave the quid, surely was pretty trivial to the larger public.

It also is not to say that $3.13 million in, um, consulting fees directly to Bill and Hillary Clinton, not to their foundation, in the space of two years—those two years being the depths of the financial crisis and recession—is trivial.  It’s not.  Nor did it go to a good cause, as donations to the Foundation at least did.  Cohen writes:

But just as I knew that the gifts I got were intended as bribes, and just as only I knew that the bribes were buying nothing, so did Hillary Clinton know that the huge amounts of money raised by the Clinton Foundation were coming from donors who thought they were buying something — access, a favor down the line, even a choice seat at some glitzy Clinton event with the requisite selfie to be sent to clients, spouses and interested others. And just as I never spelled out my rules — never said that the gift/bribe would buy nothing — I, like the Clintons, understood what might be the expectations of the donors. Some of them, probably, felt more strongly about taking a picture with Bill Clinton than about AIDS in Haiti.

The same pattern repeats itself over and over. Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of huge philanthropic endeavors — he is a benefactor of the Louvre in Paris, for instance — donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Yet, when he contacted the foundation for help in meeting with a State Department official regarding Lebanon, where he has business and political interests, he got nowhere. Still, like the occasional tycoon from anywhere, he might have expected otherwise.

There is precious little that’s charitable about the world of charity. Raising money, like sausage-making, ain’t pretty to see, and it would be just criminally naive to rely on the big hearts of big donors. Much is bartered — access, recognition, social standing, proximity to the star at a dinner, a call afterward and, unspoken, the promise of influence if influence is needed. The Clintons knew exactly what was happening — a kind of alchemy in which potential bribes were turned into innocent gifts, leaving everyone with clean hands and, inevitably, the noxious odor of scandal.

What matters at this juncture, in this particular presidential campaign, isn’t what the Foundation or even the Clintons personally received, but instead what, if anything, they gave in return, and what, if anything, Hillary Clinton as president would actually give as quo.  And what Trump as president would, and to whom, and to what extent.  And what the quo’s importance to the public would be.

I’ll quote myself here:

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Please, no false equivalencies on this.  Okay?

Neither of my two recent posts from which I quote received any attention.  I hope this one does.

____

UPDATE: Reader Zachary Smith and I just exchanged these comments in the Comments thread:

Zachary Smith / August 30, 2016 2:24 p.m.

As part of the murder process of Muammar Gaddafi, he was sodomized with a bayonet. Out of respect for any children reading this blog, I’m not going to spell that out any further. What was Hillary’s RECORDED reaction?

“We came, we saw, he died,” followed by a laugh and gleeful hand clap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgcd1ghag5Y

Under my definiton of “sociopath”, Hillary Clinton qualifies on that one alone. Of course there are others….

*** My father, too, turned bribes into gifts. ***

I know some saintly people myself, and have no difficulty accepting this claim at face value. Stretching the analogy to the Clinton Foundation is, in my opinion, a stretch too far. If Hillary was as pure as the driven snow, why did she work so hard to ensure her communications were beyond the reach of the Freedom Of Information Act? Why has the State department refused to release her meeting schedules until after the election?

Finally, using Richard Cohen as an source for anything is beyond the pale. This shill for Israel was all-in for the destruction of Iraq. He was a big fan of the destruction of Libya. He’s a huge booster for the destruction of Syria. And he most definitely wants somebody in the White House who will finish off Iran.

That person is Hillary Clinton.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 3:04 pm

Well, first of all, my father was never a movie critic, a theater critic, never covered the auto industry or the pleasure boating industry, or, really, anything else that could have involved him in a quo on anything like a regular basis, so maybe that wasn’t a good line for me to use and maybe this wasn’t a good analogy after all. I was never really sure what these folks were after from my father, but that was the era of “press parties” and free passes to this and that, and there certainly were a lot of those. (Maybe these still are; I have no idea what the ethical aesthetic for journalists is these days.)

Still, not a truly apt analogy, as you’ve now illustrated, even though Cohen’s trip down memory lane did evoke incidents from my childhood.

But the point of my post is that the heavy media focus on Clinton’s conflict-of-interest-type transgressions, and the near-total lack of it regarding Trump, the Russian connection being the lone exception, is inappropriately asymmetrical, and does the voting public a major disservice.

As for Libya, you may well not know that the civil war there was quite well underway when this country intervened in order to fend off the imminent slaughter by Gaddafi of about a quarter-million people trapped with no defenses in a particular Libyan city. It was intended as, and was, a humanitarian intervention. And it was considered so throughout much of the Middle East. The problem came afterward, after Gaddafi’s fall, when this country did nothing to assist the rebels, and they were overtaken by ISIS.

As for Syria, here too I’m not sure why you think this country caused its civil war, but it did not.

I’ve hardly made a secret here at AB of my near-virulent distaste for Hillary Clinton and, these days, Bill Clinton. I’m, suffice it to say, not a shill for her. I really, really dislike her personality. But she’s running against Robert-and-Rebeka-Mercer-and-Paul-Ryan’s-legislative-agenda (believe me, and I don’t mean in the Trump sense). I’m sorry that that’s the case. But it is the case.

And about my father, he wasn’t a saint, but he wasn’t that far from one, in my opinion and that of almost everyone who knew him. He was a very good person.

R.I.P., Daddy.

Update added 8/30 at 3:24 p.m.

 

____

SECOND UPDATE:  I’m adding this exchange of comments between reader Nihil Obstet and me because my response to him clarifies a key point about my post that, judging from the Comments thread, some readers did not understand:

Nihil Obstet /August 30, 2016 4:08 pm

The problem with corruption in Washington these days is that they don’t know it’s corruption — it’s the atmosphere they breathe, the ocean they swim in.

People who want something from you give you gifts? Well, the gift-giving has nothing to do with what they want you to do. They just like you. And you aren’t at all influenced by the gifts and their presumed affection. Unlike the rest of humanity, you aren’t at all affected by your perception of others’ valuing of you. Really?

In a criminal trial, potential jurors who know anyone who will be involved in the trial are dismissed. Silly courts? I don’t think so. That level of ignorance between the governed and their representatives is neither possible nor desirable, but its requirement where government will act is, I think, an accurate indication of the probability of conscious or unconscious influence of relationships.

If gift giving to those in power isn’t corrupt or corrupting, what’s the problem with Citizens United again?

In short, this pabulum about the real purity of backscratching is the crony justification of corruption. It’s not corruption. It’s just the way nice honest grownup people with favors to give live.

____

Me / August 30, 2016 5:55 pm

The thing here is that when there has been no action by the recipient of the gift, there is no backscratching. That’s Cohen’s point, and mine.

The problem with Citizens United is that extremely wealthy individuals, and corporations, are funding candidates who as elected officials will be making policy decisions that serve the financial interests of the people who funded those elected officials’ campaigns.

With Clinton, these people were doing what they were doing because she was Secretary of State and they wanted certain things from her as Secretary of State. If she didn’t oblige them, then the issue is one of access–they were able to get through to Abedin or whoever to request these things. That’s not pretty, but it’s not the same as actually getting what they’d requested.

There are big problems, of course, with potential conflict of interest concerning these past Foundation donors and consultant payments to Bill Clinton and speech payments to him and her. Big problems. But my post, and Cohen’s column, addressed only the issue of quid pro quos when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

Judging from the comments, I think several readers of my post missed that fact.

And here’s another comment of mine in the thread, this in response to a comment by Mike Kimel:

“It won’t affect my judgment” is different than “It can’t affect my judgment, because I have no judgment to exercise on this.” Which was true for my father and most of his colleagues.

But it also is different than “It didn’t affect my judgment, as you can see. I didn’t do what the gift-giver wanted, and in fact did nothing.” Which is what Cohen did as a claims adjuster. And, with the exception of trivialities, appears to be what happened at State.

If there eventually is evidence of instances in which something really did happen, that would be a big, big problem. But Trump is a walking conflict-of-interest machine, and his funders/puppeteers are far, far worse than Clinton’s, in almost every respect, not least on climate-change matters.

What this election has done is expose the awfulness of the Democratic Party’s nomination process. Every single day, when I click on the internet, I think, yet again, what a tragedy it is that Clinton so wrapped up the Party before the election season even begun that no progressive other than Bernie challenged her. Not Sherrod Brown, not Elizabeth Warren. No one but Bernie, whom the political news media insisted month after month could never actually win the general election, if nominated.

It makes me sick. and I think this will be the last Dem presidential primary season in which that will happen. But we’re faced with a contest between Trump and Clinton. We each have to choose whom we will support.

Hope this clarifies my post.  Especially since it’s my final comment about it.  I think.

Added 8/30 at 6:22 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (59) | |

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel vs. Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer (i.e., the meaning of TRUE CHANGE)

In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s recent fundraising along the East and West coasts, the Republican National Committee has released a new web ad claiming the Democratic presidential nominee is out of touch with “everyday Americans.”

The 19-second video, titled “Hillary Clinton’s Liberal Elite Summer Tour,” begins with an image of an airplane bearing Clinton’s logo. A voiceover resembling an announcement from a flight attendant names some of the stops on Clinton’s schedule, including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Martha’s Vineyard.

“Please use caution in opening the overhead bins, as Hillary’s baggage may have shifted during flight,” the “flight attendant” says as the ad ends.

Clinton spent her weekend on Martha’s Vineyard and held a fundraiser in Nantucket. On Tuesday, Clinton is headlining a $33,400-per-guest event being hosted by Justin Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel.

“Hillary Clinton claims she’s running to be a champion for ‘everyday Americans,’ but her busy week of fundraisers with her friends in the wealthy liberal elite show who she’s really fighting for,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Rather than visit flood-ravaged Louisiana or end her more than 250-day streak without a press conference, she’s taking her private jet from coast to coast raking in piles of campaign cash to fund her status quo campaign.

“Donald Trump is the candidate of true change in this election, and he is leading a grassroots movement to put an end to business as usual in Washington and make a difference in the lives of all Americans.”

New RNC ad attacks Clinton’s fundraisers, Rebecca Morin, Politico, yesterday

Amid the widespread media focus last on the Trump campaign’s shakeup that ended Paul Manafort’s reign there (such as it was) and brought in Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as campaign CEO (interesting title, but whatever) and elevated Trump pollster Kellyann Conway to campaign manager, a critical aspect of this, though reported in-depth by the New York Times and a couple of other major news outlets, has, clearly, not made it mainstream: that Trump’s actual current puppeteers are the father-daughter duo of Robert Mercer and Rebeka Mercer.  And who they are.

So let me introduce them to y’all, by borrowing heavily from an in-depth article by Nicholas Confessore titled “How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign,” published in last Friday’s New York Times:

Last week, as Donald J. Trump endured one of the most tumultuous stretches of his presidential campaign, a few longtime allies in New York conservative circles met for dinner and a drink. As the evening progressed, the conversation turned to an inevitable topic: What would it take to give Mr. Trump his best shot at winning?

A few days later, one of the guests, Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, would become Mr. Trump’s campaign chief in a sudden shake­up. But it was a guest without a formal role in the campaign, a conservative philanthropist named Rebekah Mercer, who has now become one of its most potent forces.

Mr. Bannon’s ascension on Wednesday — urged on Mr. Trump by Ms. Mercer, among others — shows how a cadre of strategists, “super PACs” and political organizations quietly nurtured by her family have emerged to play a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Over more than half a decade, Ms. Mercer’s father, the New York investor Robert Mercer, has carved an idiosyncratic path through conservative politics, spending tens of millions of dollars to outflank his own party’s consultant class and unnerve its established powers. His fortune has financed think tanks and insurgent candidates, super PACs and media watchdogs, lobbying groups and grass­roots organizations.

Many of them are now connected, one way or another, to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a veteran Republican pollster who previously oversaw a super PAC financed by the Mercers. Mr. Bannon oversaw Breitbart, an outlet that has often amplified Mr. Trump’s message and attacked his perceived enemies. Mr. Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in Breitbart several years ago, and most likely still has a stake: A company sharing an address with Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Mercer helps lead, remains an investor in Breitbart, according to corporate documents filed in Delaware.

Mr. Trump is also relying on Cambridge Analytica, a voter data firm backed by Mr. Mercer, whose staff members are working with Mr. Trump’s vendors to identify potential Trump supporters in the electorate, particularly among infrequent voters.

A Mercer-­backed super PAC supporting Mr. Trump is now being shepherded by David Bossie, a conservative activist whose own projects have been funded in part by the Mercers’ family foundation, according to tax documents.

Mr. Bannon has worked particularly closely with the family in recent years.

“I think they have complete confidence, and rightly so, in Steve Bannon’s decisions and what he brings to the table politically,” Mr. Bossie said. “He has been smart and successful in running these different political operations. And those things have come to the Mercers’ attention.”

The Mercers, who rarely grant interviews, declined through a spokesman to comment. Mr. Mercer, 70, a mathematician and competitive poker player who spent his early career at I.B.M., joined Renaissance in the 1990s and rose to become the co-­chief executive, earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.

Today, he and his wife, Diana, live on a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore where, according to court records, he installed a $2.7 million model railroad set (and later sued the vendor for overcharging him).  [Italics added.]

Like many elite donors, the Mercers shun mainstream media attention — even while financing alternative outlets that provide content for conservative activists. That includes not just Breitbart, but also the self­described watchdog organization Media Research Center and the Government Accountability Institute, home to Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book examining the Clinton family philanthropies. (Mr. Bannon co­founded the institute and Ms. Mercer, 42, has served on its board; she also co­produced a documentary based on the book and released last month, just before the Democratic National Convention.)

They have given to libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, and political organizations like the Club for Growth, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle in Republican primaries, hoping to promote orthodox conservative policies on taxes and spending. The Mercers are also significant donors to the sprawling political network overseen by the political activists Charles G. and David H. Koch, which is also libertarian-­leaning.  [Italics added.]

But unlike the Koch brothers, who remained neutral in the Republican primary and have said their organizations will focus on congressional races this fall, the Mercers were deeply involved in the Republican nominating battle this year. And they have shown a taste for more bare-­knuckled and populist politics than most of Mr. Mercer’s fellow hedge fund magnates.

The family originally backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a more traditional conservative but one who, like Mr. Trump, is disliked by much of the party establishment. During the early phase of the campaign, Mr. Mercer donated $13 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Cruz. In doing so, he broke with many peers in the elite donor world, who looked to candidates like Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The Mercers maintained close control over the group’s purse strings, installing Ms. Conway to oversee the group and coordinate with several other pro-­Cruz groups, an unusual move for a super PAC. During the Republican primary, the group ran ads questioning Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials, hoping to outflank Mr. Trump.

But the Mercers moved to support Mr. Trump after he won the nomination. They were helped in part, according to a person who asked for anonymity to describe the family’s thinking, by Mr. Trump’s growing emphasis on traditional conservative ideas, such as tax cuts. [Italics added.]  And the family broke with Mr. Cruz in highly public fashion after his speech at the Republican convention, when the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump and instead suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

In an extraordinary rebuke, the Mercers issued a rare public statement, calling themselves “profoundly disappointed” in Mr. Cruz. In late June, the Mercer­-financed super PAC quietly re­formed as Make America Number One, now a pro-­Trump entity. Mr. Bossie, a longtime conservative activist who has produced documentaries about the Clinton family and illegal immigration, is leading the group, which is likely to raise more money from the Mercers to pay for attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Yeah, yeah, okay, I didn’t borrow heavily from the Confessore piece; I borrowed the whole thing.  But the italics are mine, so … fair use?  In return, I will say that Confessore’s reporting is, in my opinion, unfailingly awesome.

What matters here is, I would hope, obvious: Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, George Clooney, and the folks who attend their, and other Hollywood types’, fundraisers, for Clinton, for the DNC, for Senate and House candidates, for other down-ballot candidates, are donating to politicians whose platform—and in the instances of Dem incumbents running for reelection, their actual legislative votes—run counter to their financial interests.  Sometimes very significantly.

That likely also is true of many of those Martha’s Vineyard fundraiser hosts and attendees.

In any event, I’m not sure why the funds raised by the liberal elite in Hollywood and Martha’s Vineyard, in the service of reducing their own fortunes, is more pernicious than the tens upon tens of millions of dollars provided by two people transferring the money from a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore that, according to court records, features an installed $2.7 million model railroad set, and from other homes owned by one or another of the two, in the service of propping up campaigns for president and Congress whose explicit tax, expenditures, and regulatory plans—not to mention quieter federal legislative proposals—would directly and dramatically increase their already-exorbitant wealth and enable the fully tax-free passage of that wealth from themselves to their heirs.

Heirs, here, being a legal term of art, but it does double duty here as in “heir to the [fill-in-the-blanks] fortune” of common parlance.

Although presumably Ms. Conway can explain it, since yesterday, according news reports, she said in a TV interview that she’s chomping at the bit to see Trump campaign on his tax plan, which, she said, lowers taxes for … the middle class!  Who are in the tax bracket that will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars each year under Trump’s income tax proposal and who will be relieved to know that their wealth in excess of $5 million (or whatever the current level is above which is subject to the estate tax) will pass to their heirs (both uses of the term here) tax-free.

And while Trump is campaigning in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania on his tax plan, maybe he’ll discuss also who will have his ear when it comes time to fill such positions as National Labor Relations Board members, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Commerce, head of the Federal Communications—and Attorney General.  As well as chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

To name only a handful of appointees that, y’know, maybe could matter to some of those Rust Belt blue-collar workers, former and present.

And then there is the matter of Trump’s promise, repeated time and again, to appoint Supreme Court justices who will ensure the continued viability of Citizens United issued, 5-4, in 2010.  And of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, a bizarre 5-4 opinion fabricating a constitutional ground on which to strike down Arizona’s matching-campaign-funds statute that applied to elections for state office.  This issue is dead only if Trump wins and does as he’s promised: Nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

Yesterday’s NYT Opinion section featured a lengthy piece by former Times Washington Bureau chief Hedrick Smith that made that clear.  Titled “Can the States Save American Democracy?”, Smith writes:

In the pushback against Citizens United, 17 states and more than 680 local governments have appealed to Congress for a constitutional amendment, either through a letter to Congress, referendums, legislative resolutions, city council votes or collective letters from state lawmakers.

In the most prominent case, California’s 18 million registered voters get to vote in November on whether to instruct their 55­ member congressional delegation to “use all of their constitutional authority” to overturn Citizens United. Washington State is holding a similar referendum. In 2014, a Democratic amendment proposal to allow regulation and limits on electoral spending won a 54­42 majority in the Senate, strictly along party lines, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. Now bills calling for a 6­ to­ 1 match of public funds for small campaign donations up to $150, or requiring disclosure of funders for campaign ads, have wide Democratic support, but are blocked by Republican opposition.

Yet out in the country, even in some reliably red states, reform movements have sprouted. South Dakota is one, thanks to three petition drives. One seeks to make primaries nonpartisan and another calls for an independent redistricting commission. A third is for a ballot measure, similar to one in Washington State, that would create a $50 tax credit for each voter to donate to a political candidate; ban campaign contributions exceeding $100 from lobbyists and state contractors; and mandate that independent groups speedily disclose the top five contributors to political ads and electioneering communications made within 60 days of an election.

In April, Nebraska’s Republican-­dominated Legislature voted 29­15 to set up an independent redistricting commission. Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, vetoed the bill, but reformist legislators promise a revised proposal in the next session.

Everyone, of course, knows about Citizens United, but no one knows about that Arizona matching-funds opinion.  Nor does anyone know about the string of 5-4 Supreme Court opinions rewriting, for example, the Federal Arbitration Act to provide what the Act does not provide, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), the statute that delineates key aspects of access to federal court, to provide the diametric contrary to what it actually says and had been accepted as saying since it was enacted in about 1970.

There are other critical rewritings of “codified” law—provisions of the Constitution and legislative enactments, including the very wording of the Constitution’s Eleventh Amendment—also regarding threshold access to federal court, as part of the Supreme Court’s makeover of American law in the vision of the Conservative Legal Movement.

To which Trump’s two funders/puppeteers aggressively subscribe.

And here’s what really matters: Trump himself will not win; that train has left the station and will not be returning.  And in recognition and acceptance of that, the RNC apparently plans to soon start trying to sell their Senate and House incumbent and new candidates a check on Clinton.  Which would seem to raise the issue of what policies she would propose that a majority of voters want checked.

Well, either that or what policies the Republican donors want checked.  And what policies they want to force as part of, say, the annual appropriations bill, including those quietly inserted during the night before the bill comes to a floor vote.

I’ve repeatedly argued here at AB, including here last week, that a fatal problem with Senate and House campaigns for Dems is that they think that “nationalizing” elections for Congress is something that works against rather than for Dems.  I’ve said that this is so only to the extent that Dems think triangulating on economic issues and running entirely on culture-wars issues—running a campaign that, to borrow from Mitt Romney, is an apology tour, albeit with such things as legitimate -rape matters thrown in.  And of course that extent has been pretty darn broad.  Until this cycle—at least to some extent.

But not to a large enough extent.  After Labor Day, Bernie Sanders will begin campaigning around the country, holding rallies not just in support of Clinton but also with—withsome Dem Senate and House candidates.  So this will change, I would think.

But as for the Clinton campaign itself, which has the creativity and guts of the chair I’m sitting in, I offer a suggestion: How about an ad featuring Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in which they compare their financial gain or loss that of Robert and Rebeka Mercer under Trump’s plan and then under Clinton’s?  (Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager, could put together something attention-grabbing, informative and funny; I know he could. And I’ve read that he’s now working informally with the DNC.)

Change? You say you want change, Rust Belters?*  Be careful what you wish for.  Or at least hope you don’t get it.

True change.  The lady promised true change.  She wasn’t kidding.

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*Look, I’ve said roughly 800 times here (rounding out the figure) that Trump will not come close to winning Rust Belt blue-collar workers.  But it’s critically important also to turn both houses of Congress blue.

For roughly that same number—800 (rounding out the figure)—of reasons.

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I’ll insert a couple more links, regarding Supreme Court opinions I describe here, tonight.  I don’t have time now, and I want to get this posted as early as possible. Because, well … I think it contains darned important information.

 

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