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“Why Is Trump Upset?”: It’s Because Cruz Is Schooling Him In The Art Of The Deal

Donald Trump prides himself on being able to bend arcane and unfair systems to his will.

Well, every system except one.

For years, Trump has been dogged by questions about his companies’ several bankruptcies, which are potential blemishes upon his business career.

In response, Trump has argued that there was nothing illegal, morally wrong or even shameful about restructuring debts and breaking contracts. On the contrary, these bankruptcies are a testament to his business acumen.

“I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage,” he told Forbes.

“I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera,” he echoed at the first Republican presidential debate.

And on Twitter, he argued, “Out of hundreds of deals & transactions, I have used the bankruptcy laws a few times to make deals better. Nothing personal, just business.”

He’s exercised similar rhetoric when talking about how he’s benefited from another controversial use of the law: eminent domain.

Governmental seizure of property for private commercial development, he argues, is not only good for the public and (allegedly) for the people forced out of their homes. It’s also used all the time by other prominent entrepreneurs and businesspeople, including members of the Bush family. So why not take advantage of this ripe system for himself?

Likewise, when asked why he’s donated money in the past to ideologically problematic politicians (including Hillary Clinton), he offers the same rationale: This is how the system works when you’re in business. It may not be fair or transparent, but a businessperson would be foolish not use it to his advantage.

“Maybe it’s a good system and maybe it’s not a good system, but it’s the system in which I was under and I thrived,” he boasted on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

In Trump’s world, exploiting the nation’s byzantine bankruptcy laws, or its bizarre eminent domain laws, or its opaque campaign finance rules, or any other system-rigging tools freely available to entrepreneurial types is proof not of shadiness but shrewdness — of his unwillingness to play the chump.

Which is why it’s so odd when Trump whines about Cruz behaving the exact same way.

Cruz has been quietly wooing delegates to the upcoming Republican convention, as well as the local party leaders who help select those delegates. He and his staff have traveled around California, Colorado, Arkansas, South Carolina and other states to help put sympathetic delegates in place in preparation for the possibility of a freewheeling contested election.

The upshot is, according to a Post analysis, that Cruz may already have effectively blocked Trump from the nomination should Trump prove unable to secure a majority of delegates on the first ballot.

As my colleague Marc Thiessen observed this week, Cruz is taking advantage of the peculiar, convoluted delegate system just as adeptly, and just as amorally, as Trump has taken advantage of the nation’s peculiar, convoluted bankruptcy laws.

Trump does not appear to appreciate the parallels. Instead, upon realizing Cruz’s behind-the-scenes efforts, Trump has gone apoplectic.

Having built his campaign on Twitter and free-media coverage, failed to invest much in a ground game and taken little interest until recently in how the delegate system works, Trump now indicts both a “totally unfair” system and Lyin’ Ted himself.

“It’s a rigged, disgusting dirty system,” Trump complained of a primary system whose rules have been available to him for many months.

“He’s trying to steal things because that’s the way Ted works,” Trump carped about a competitor who is cutting deals that the great dealmaker himself should envy.

There are two lessons to be gleaned from Trump’s selectively righteous indignation about unfair systems and those who exploit them.

One is that he’s a hypocrite. Obvious enough.

The other is that the main premise of his campaign — that his wiliness in the business world will translate to wiliness in politics and policy — is bunk.

Trump boasts that his whole life he’s been “greedy, greedy, greedy,” that his greed has paid off in the private sector, and that ergo he’ll be effective at being “greedy for the United States” in all its affairs. But if he can’t even figure out how to manage a primary campaign — let alone get his own children registered to vote for him — the chances that he’ll be able to seamlessly convert his monetary greed into political greed look slim.

 

By: Catherine Rampell, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 14, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s The Deal With Cruz And Kids?”: Twas The Night Before The Shutdown And All Through The House

Is there any limit to Senator Ted Cruz’s willingness to exploit small children – his own and now others – in embarrassing and peculiar ways to further his bid for the Republican presidential nomination? Based on his latest TV ad, “Playing Trump,” which features three kids playing with a Donald Trump doll and robotically mouthing Cruz campaign talking points, the answer is clearly “No.”

“Look, I got the Trump action figure,” says one adorable child, holding the doll. “What does he do?” asks another. “He pretends to be a Republican,” says the first.

The child goes on to pretend that the Trump doll is saying that he gave money to Nancy Pelosi and Anthony Weiner. Then, when one of the others calls attention to a dollhouse, the first child says in his Trump voice: “That’s a lousy house. I’m going to take your house through eminent domain.”

The three children demolish the dollhouse with the “aid” of the Trump doll, and at the end, two adults, presumably playing parents, peek in the door, shocked. Shocked! “We wouldn’t tolerate these values in our children,” the narrator says. “Why would we want them in a president.”

Well, the obvious answer is, none of those children actually have those values. They are just pretending to. And no one under the age of 10 is running for president, even though the campaign is enough to make you think so.

The kids in this ad are, I fervently hope, professional actors. But Mr. Cruz is not above using his own children in equally chilling ways to advance his candidacy.

Last year, the Cruz campaign posted a lot of “b roll” footage of the candidate and his family, intended for use by super PACs. The point was to help the groups make ads on behalf of Mr. Cruz but act as if they were not coordinating with the campaign, to avoid running afoul of the very few campaign finance laws still in effect.

In that footage, we are all privileged to watch Mr. Cruz try, with increasing impatience, to get his older daughter to say grace at a dinner table, with minimal success, until he finally does it himself.

Then, the brains of American voters were violated with an ad in which Mr. Cruz cuddled up with his wife and daughters on a couch and read them a twisted version of a Christmas favorite.

“Twas the night before the shutdown and all through the House,” Mr. Cruz says in a very creepy tone of awe. “Not a bill was stirring, not even to fund a mouse.”

There ought to be a rule against taking beloved children’s stories and ruining them for your own children and the rest of America. What did he do when the camera was turned off? Tell his daughters there was no such thing as Santa Claus?

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, February 10, 2016

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Enemy Within”: The Koch Brothers, Where Money Equals Freedom And Government Equals Evil

I love a good fight between bad entities, which is why I’m enjoying the brawl that’s taking place between the Koch Brothers and the Republican Party. Too bad they can’t both lose.

The controversy over the effort by libertarian ideologues Charles and David Koch to, in essence, buy the Republican Party provides us an opportunity to once again point out the fundamental malevolence of libertarian ideology. Libertarianism is nothing more than a shameless effort to glorify selfishness, which is why the ideology has such a narrow appeal.

In the libertarian world, the only citizen who has any actual rights is the wealthiest citizen. That citizen can pollute for free, pay people slave wages, put unsafe products on the shelves, and ignore common-sense work safety standards. Local, state and federal governments would, in essence, stand down as the tycoon abuses the population for profit.

This is the sick, dark vision of people like Charles and David Koch–a vision in which money equals freedom and government equals evil. It’s a vision in which being poor and sick means being dead and buried. It’s a vision in which severe economic inequality is considered the natural and logical order, the way things ought to be. It’s an amoral, abhorrent vision.

It was the vision that guided David Koch’s 1980 vice-presidential bid, as Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted in April 2014:

In 1980, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.

Let’s take a look at the 1980 Libertarian Party platform.

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:

“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”

“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”

“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”

“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”

“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”

“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”

“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”

“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”

“We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”

“We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”

“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”

“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”

“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”

“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”

“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called ‘self-protection’ equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”

“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”

“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”

“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”

“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

In other words, the agenda of the Koch brothers is not only to defund Obamacare. The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

Libertarian ideology is nothing less than an existential threat to America’s security, cohesion, safety and health. It seeks to undo the social bonds that tie us together. It wishes to turn rich against poor and powerful against weak. It recognizes no moral code except for that established by the self-serving billionaire.

All of us–progressives, centrists, moderates, even the handful of rational conservatives left–have a moral obligation to fight the cancer of libertarianism and keep it from growing within the body of our democracy; if we don’t fight it, our democracy will soon wind up in hospice care. We must condemn libertarianism as a radical ideology that’s every bit as pernicious as the radical ideologies of the past. We must educate our young people to understand that the end result of Ayn Rand is a social and economic wasteland. We must challenge libertarian ideologues and denounce them for their efforts to destroy the policies that have kept our nation strong since the New Deal. We must, in essence, declare war on libertarian ideology, for it is at war with America’s best values.

Since libertarianism is an assault on our country’s protections and principles, one cannot be both a libertarian and a patriot.

The Kochs have chosen sides.

Which side are you on?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 14, 2015

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Koch Brothers, Libertarians | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cheese Head Guv’s Sleazy Past”: Scott Walker, One Of The Most Divisive Governors In The Country

Tens of thousands of protesters make for much better television than court documents, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to Scott Walker’s scandal-plagued re-election bid this year—even if it is unaccompanied by the hoopla of his 2012 recall election. In that year, Walker was able to best a weak Democratic candidate in an election where some voters backed him because of concerns about whether a recall was appropriate, and not because they supported his union-busting legislation.

This year, the most recent poll has Walker trailing the Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, by two percentage points among likely voters, and the embattled GOP incumbent has faced new allegations that he illegally coordinated outside spending during his recall election with groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth. But while the 2012 recall excited liberals across the country (it seemed at times during that election that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz had moved to the Badger State), this year liberals can barely muster a shrug.

Part of this ennui, as Noam Scheiber at The New Republic points out, is that it’s not in anyone’s interest to make a big deal about Walker, despite the fact that he might be running for president in a couple years. After losing to him in 2012, liberals have a kind of political PTSD when it comes to Wisconsin, and are afraid of raising the stakes in the campaign.

Plus, Burke is a relatively moderate former business executive, which makes her a good candidate for a general election, but not exactly the best one to excite the progressive base. And without shots of hordes of protesters like the kind that swarmed the state capital in Madison two years ago, the campaign becomes far less compelling for television, and is thus unlikely to receive much national coverage.

The outrage that Walker is provoking is of a less exciting variety this time around. In 2012, there were teachers and small-town government workers made furious by Walker’s efforts to quash collective bargaining rights for public employees. In 2014, however, there is far less uproar over Walker potentially violating campaign finance laws to encourage corporations to give unlimited donations to the Wisconsin Club for Growth—and only the Wisconsin Club for Growth. In an email to a consultant for that group who also served as an adviser to the governor in 2011, a Walker aide emphasized that the incumbent wanted “all the issue advocacy efforts run thru one group to ensure correct messaging.”

These efforts are further illustrated in an email that Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker aide, sent the governor before a fundraising trip in 2011, which told him to “stress that donations to [Wisconsin Club for Growth] are not disclosed and can accept corporate donations without limits.”

Rindfleisch, who has since been convicted of misconduct in office as a result of one of the many investigations surrounding Walker, added that the governor should stress to donors that he could accept corporate contributions that wouldn’t be reported.

A national Democratic consultant familiar with the race took pains to point out what a big prize Walker would be for the left. The Wisconsin governor “is very vulnerable, in a very dangerous spot for an incumbent and the fact that he hasn’t committed to serve out his next term means that what happens in Wisconsin is likely to have an effect on ’16.” But most importantly for Democrats, knocking off Walker would be a major consolation prize if they lose control of the Senate in 2014.

With prospects of holding on to a majority in the Senate uncertain, Walker offers Democrats an enviable scalp to wave in November. After all, he has been one of the most divisive governors in the country, and serves in a key swing state. Plus, Walker evokes so much anger among parts of the Democratic base that would lessen the bite of potential losses in national races.

Although some national progressive groups are starting to focus on the race—Democracy for America announced Thursday that it was backing Burke to “put a stop to the flow of extreme right-wing legislation that has been poisoning” Wisconsin under Walker—the attention is still far less than in 2012, when outside Democratic groups flooded the Badger State with money. The result is that Walker still has a significant fundraising advantage heading into final two months of campaigning.

The question, though, is whether the incumbent can hold on and win in the swing state. Because while Walker may savor the absence of protesters demonstrating against him, his poll numbers are still worse than they were in 2012.

 

By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, August 28, 2014

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Post Office Box 72465”: A Pervasive Mess With An End Run Around Campaign Finance Laws

To grasp the clear and present danger that the current flood of campaign cash poses to American democracy, consider the curious case of Post Office Box 72465. It demonstrates that the explosion of super PAC spending is only the second-most troubling development of recent campaign cycles.

Box 72465, on a desert road near Phoenix, belongs to a little-known group called the Center to Protect Patient Rights. According to reports by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Los Angeles Times, the center funneled more than $55 million to 26 Republican-leaning groups during the 2010 midterm election.

Where is the money from? The Times found links to the conservative Koch brothers, yet because the center is a nonprofit corporation, it is impossible to know. Such groups must disclose how they distribute their money, not who donates to them.

This privacy makes sense in the context of ordinary nonprofits. But in the ­push-the-envelope world of modern campaigns, in which such groups spend millions of dollars on thinly disguised campaign ads, the result is an end run around the fundamental principle of campaign finance law: that voters are entitled to know who is trying to influence elections.

Even the Supreme Court understands this: Disclosure, it wrote in its otherwise appalling 2010 Citizens United ruling, “permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

Except when, as in the case of the Center to Protect Patient Rights, the identities — and motives — of those giving are hidden from public view. The center sent almost $13 million to the American Future Fund, a Des Moines-based group that ran campaigns against two dozen Democrats in 2010. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) was targeted with what the Times described as “a $2-million fusillade” of radio ads, robo-calls and mailers.

“It was almost a feeling of helplessness because there was no way to identify who the source of the funds was,” Braley said. He won by two percentage points, after a 29-point margin two years earlier.

The gusher of secret money that nearly toppled Braley promises to be even more abundant this year — and the groups behind the undisclosed cash remain determined to do whatever it takes to keep the sources hidden.

In March, ruling in a lawsuit brought by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a federal judge found that the Federal Election Commission was wrong to exempt nonprofits and other groups that run “electioneering communications” — advertising that names specific candidates within a short time before the election — from having to reveal their donors.

It says something about the FEC that the agency charged with overseeing campaign reporting would come out against disclosure.

Luckily, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson disagreed. “Congress intended to shine light on whoever was behind the communications bombarding voters immediately prior to elections,” she wrote. The federal appeals court in Washington refused to stay the ruling while an appeal was underway.

The response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was telling: It would switch its way of influencing elections rather than reveal its donors. The chamber, which has made itself a major political player, plans to spend more than $50 million during the 2012 campaign.

At a breakfast with reporters this week, chamber officials said that, in reaction to the ruling, the organization would conduct its political spending through independent expenditures that explicitly support or oppose particular candidates.

Such is the perverse mess that is the current campaign finance law. Under the Citizens United ruling, corporations, such as the chamber, can make unlimited independent expenditures. The upshot is that advertising like the chamber’s can be even more brutal — because it won’t have to pretend to be merely “educating” voters — and just as opaque.

Meanwhile, the American Future Fund, the organization that ran ads against Braley, has brazenly asked the FEC to approve a different end run. The group contends that if its ads merely mention “the administration” or “the White House,” they would not be attacking a “clearly identified candidate” and therefore not subject to disclosure requirements.

This would be laughable — if it were not such a scary illustration of the lengths to which these groups will go to avoid letting voters know who is trying to buy their elections, and the unfortunate likelihood that they will succeed.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 31, 2012

June 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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