Tag Archives: Catherine Cortez Masto

The Ladies of the Senate Scrape Facebook

The Zuckerberg Apology tour (Version 2018) continues today in Washington, DC. Yesterday, Nevada Senators Heller and Cortez-Masto had their opportunity to ask questons. Heller’s questions were well intentioned, but reduced in impact because his premise included the notion Facebook sells user information. It doesn’t. It sells advertising.(1)  [NVIndy] Understanding the questions from Cortez-Masto requires a bit of background.

Senator Cortez-Masto referred to the 2011 Consent Decree between the FTC and Facebook.

“I appreciate you being here, I appreciate the apology, but stop apologizing and make the change,” she said. “The skepticism that I have, and I’m hoping you can help me with this, is over the last seven years…I haven’t seen really much change in ensuring that the privacy is there and that individual users have control over their data.” [NVIndy]

She has reason for her skepticism, here’s what the FTC required as of November 29. 2011:

Specifically, under the proposed settlement, Facebook is:

  • barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information;

  • required to obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent before enacting changes that override their privacy preferences;

  • required to prevent anyone from accessing a user’s material more than 30 days after the user has deleted his or her account;

  • required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information; and

  • required, within 180 days, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying that it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure that the privacy of consumers’ information is protected.

It doesn’t require too much mental effort to comprehend that Facebook’s response to the provision that it is “required to establish and maintain a comprehensive privacy program designed to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information;” to see there’s been precious little progress made by Facebook in terms of a comprehensive privacy program. (2) Although Zuckerberg described his company’s response as “robust.” (3)  Robust is not a term I might apply to Facebook’s efforts since November 29, 2011, especially in regard to the implementation of comprehensive privacy policy development and subsequent audits.  Senator Cortez-Masto is correct in assuming we would not be discussing Cambridge Analytica had Facebook complied fully with the 2011 settlement terms.

There are deeper weeds to explore, a trail launched by Senator Maria Cantwell’s inquiry about Palantir. [BI]

“One of the oddest and most uncomfortable moments in the questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by the Senate on Tuesday was when Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) started asking about Palantir.  “Do you think Palantir ever scraped data from Facebook?” She asked. Zuckerberg, looked nonplussed and answered. “Senator, I’m not aware of that.”  She asked, “Do you know who Palantir is?” Zuckerberg admitted that he did. And he should. Palantir is a company that was founded by his early investor and long-time board member Peter Thiel. [BI]

There was nothing “odd” about the moment, if one assumes Senators had done some homework.

A connection between Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Palantir is strongly suggested by this reporting in Business Insider:

“We learned today that an employee, in 2013-2014, engaged in an entirely personal capacity with people associated with Cambridge Analytica,” Palantir told The Times. “We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action.”

The employee was Alfredas Chmieliauskas, according to The Times. His LinkedIn shows that he is a business-development staffer at Palantir in London. He suggested that Cambridge Analytica create a personality-quiz app to harvest data from Facebook users, The Times said. Cambridge Analytica eventually used a similar method to obtain data from about 50 million Facebook users it could then sell.

Sure enough, Cambridge Analytica appropriated the idea, and the collections began.

“Cambridge ultimately took a similar approach. By early summer, the company found a university researcher to harvest data using a personality questionnaire and Facebook app. The researcher scraped private data from over 50 million Facebook users — and Cambridge Analytica went into business selling so-called psychometric profiles of American voters, setting itself on a collision course with regulators and lawmakers in the United States and Britain.”  [NYT]

That 50 million number keeps increasing. Given Facebook wants to sell advertising based on access to people, their friends, the friends of their friends, and the friends of the friends of their friends — it isn’t too difficult to assume the number of those affected will move upward.  It would have been helpful if Facebook user’s were advised before they took the little “quiz app” that the information from their account would be “scraped” for use by psychometric efforts.  Little wonder, then, that Mr. Zuckerberg was nonplussed by Senator Cantwell’s questions.

A couple of efforts seem to be in order.  The first is an investigation into Facebook’s compliance with the terms of the November 2011 settlement with the FTC; the second is a thorough investigation into the links between Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, Palantir,  CubeYou, and similar data accumulation and analysis entities. (4)

In short, it’s time to have some follow up questions from the ladies in the Senate.

(1) See Sheryl Sandberg’s explanation and comments in this INC article.  (2) The original FTC complaint [PDF] can be found here. (3) To see the precise terms of the 2011 settlement with the FTC see this PDF document. (4) For additional information on CubeYou, see CNBC.

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Filed under Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, privacy

Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill Passes Senate and Other Folks Are Stalking You

What human beings are capable of doing to one another can be supremely egregious, but what we’re capable of doing to the rest of the animal kingdom defies comprehension at times, and March 21, 2017 was one of those moments.  The Senate of the United States of America voted in favor of HJR 69, otherwise known as the Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill, or more exquisitely politely the “non-subsistence take of wildlife in Alaskan wildlife refuges.”  For the record, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voted in favor of the bill, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against it. [Vote 92]  The bill makes it perfectly AOK to track down and slaughter bear cubs and wolf pups in a Wildlife REFUGE.

As if stalking cubs and pups isn’t bad enough, the self-same Senate voted in favor of Senator Jeff Flake’s bill to allow Internet Service Providers to sell your information to whomever. SJRes 34 “disapproves” a rule protecting our privacy as customers from whomever for whatever purposes.  Thus we may be stalked to our lairs by advertisers unknown for the purpose of targeted messages and other forms of commercial relations. However, it might not end there. Who knows?  Once more, Senator Dean Heller voted in favor of Customer Hunting (that would be US with targets on our backs) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against this form of hunting. [Vote  94]  Senator Bill Nelson commented:  “With today’s vote, Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission,” he continued.” [Hill]

At this rate it won’t be too long before we can empathize with bears and wolves?

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Filed under Congress, Heller, Interior Department, Internet, Nevada politics, Politics

Gorsuch’s Record Invites Some Phone Calls

The 45 Administration would very much like to have Judge Gorsuch confirmed as a member of the US Supreme Court. The judge for his part has been loathe to offer any more than Name, Rank, and Serial Number during his confirmation hearings. Not that this tactic is anything new in the process.  Famous for his Hobby Lobby decision, his dissent in TransAm Trucking v. ARB-DOl, (PDF) is attracting attention.  This is the now infamous Frozen Trucker Case in which Judge Gorsuch opined that taking such things as common sense, and legislative intent, were extraneous and if to operate a truck means to drive a truck (and its trailer with the frozen brakes) then that’s all there is to say on the subject. It’s interesting to note that Judge Gorsuch was dismissive of reinterpreting the wording of a statute, while interpreting the wording of a statute in such a way as to defend the indefensible actions of the trucking company.  In less complimentary terms, the Gorsuch rule appears to be an interpretation is acceptable if and only if that reading agrees with his interpretation.

There is still time to reach Nevada’s Senators, Heller (702-338-6605) (775-686-5729) and Cortez Masto (702-388-5020) (775-686-5750) (202-224-3542) on this subject.  Little wonder that Democratic Senators interviewed on the topic have said things like “his answers are unacceptable,” and “his answers are evasive,” and “his answers have been less than forthcoming…”

Judge Gorsuch needs to supply more than the Alito/Roberts song and dance routine to the Judiciary Committee, and the Senators need to attend to the fundamental problems with his nomination to the highest court in the land. His responses so far have been noncommittal and apolitical, but his decisions have been those of an activist ultra conservative. Actions do, indeed, speak louder than words.

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Filed under conservatism, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Supreme Court

Warning: Republicans Are Hazardous to Your Bank Account, and this includes Rep. Heck

Dem Rep Job Creation These are some of the most dangerous words ever spoken – with regard to your bank account:

“After eight years of the Obama economy, Americans are struggling with stagnant wages, reduced hours, and decreased economic opportunity. The policies of this Administration, from the Affordable Care Act to the Dodd Frank financial reform legislation, have hurt economic growth and make it more costly and burdensome for businesses to expand and add workers.” [Heck]

Heck tries to waffle a bit in the last segment: “I will continue to support reasonable regulations that protect the consumer, employees, and the environment while working to reduce burdensome federal regulations so that businesses can thrive and create good-paying jobs.”

First, it’s fact check time. As the chart above indicates the ACA and the Dodd Frank Act have not “decreased economic opportunity,” (whatever that might mean) and in light of what’s been happening with Wells Fargo Bank we need to talk about the “burdens of regulation.”  We also need to talk about a piece of legislation that just passed the House Financial Services Committee.

The “Financial Choice Act” —

“The Financial Choice Act split the banking panel with a vote of 30 to 26, with just one Republican, Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine, siding with the committee’s Democrats against it.

Mr. Hensarling has been a prominent critic of Dodd-Frank and other changes after the 2008 financial crisis, including the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to regulate the consumer finance industry.

“It has been six years since the passage of Dodd-Frank. We were told it would lift our economy, but instead we are stuck in the slowest, weakest, most tepid recovery in the history of the Republic,” said Mr. Hensarling at Tuesday’s session. “The economy does not work for working people.”

The legislation, which was unveiled in June, calls for numerous changes to Dodd-Frank. One provision would allow some of the largest banks to exempt themselves from some regulatory standards if they maintained an important ratio of capital to total assets at 10 percent or more.” [NYT]

There’s more. The Financial Choice Act (comprehensive summary pdf) reads like the American Bankers Association Christmas Wish List and Birthday Party requests combined with everything a banker would want from a Financialist Santa Claus.

However, let’s start with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about which the House Republicans have several complaints:

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not accountable to Congress or the  American people. The Bureau’s policies often harm consumers or exceed its legal authority because the Bureau is not subject to checks and balances that apply to other regulatory agencies.” [House pdf]

This is another iteration of the initial whine the GOP wheezed out when the idea of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was suggested which would not be subject to the corporate/financialist tastes of Republican Congressional representatives.  The ones who want government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub – and the CFPB along with it.   At this point it might be instructive to ask: What harm has been done to consumers of, say, Wells Fargo Bank, by the CFPB?

“When news first broke that Wells Fargo would pay the largest fine in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau history for routinely opening unauthorized accounts that clients didn’t want or need, CEO John Stumpf put blame squarely on his worst-paid workers.

He’s changed his tune since, as political pressure over the years-long scandal mounted and evidence depicting the high-pressure sales culture at the bank got more attention.

And now, the bank’s board is reaching into Stumpf’s own pocket to discipline him. The CEO will forfeit $41 million in past compensation — all of it in the form of investment holdings that hadn’t vested yet — and the woman who ran his firm’s retail banking unit will give back $19 million of her own.” [TP]

What harm was done by this agency in fining Wells Fargo for its “cross selling scam” that created phony accounts to boost sales figures?  And, what is wrong with this result?

“By clawing back a large chunk of Stumpf’s roughly $100 million in compensation over the past decade, though, the board is hoping to signal that it’s taking the scandal seriously. The day news of the $185 million fine broke, Stumpf portrayed it as an issue of some bad apples at junior positions and said responsibility started and stopped with the 5,300 people fired in response.

That holier-than-thou response first started to crack in front of the Senate Banking Committee last week, when senators including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) bounced the bank head off the walls of a hearing room for hours.

Wednesday’s announcement of clawbacks comes a day before Stumpf returns to Capitol Hill to face the House’s version of the same inquisition.

Clawbacks are a hot-button concept for finance watchdogs and Wall Street critics. Many of the industry’s sins stem from compensation policies that incentivize executives to break whatever rules they have to keep the company stock rising, knowing they’ll walk away rich even if the company gets caught. Clawbacks, observers and policymakers say, are an important tool in reversing that deviant cycle.” [TP]

So, how do the House Republicans mean to “improve” the CFPB? The CFPB that caught Wells Fargo? Made the Bank pay fines and restitution? Made the Board of Directors claw back the ill-gotten gains of the bank executives and not lay the whole scam on the lower level employees?

The House Republicans want to (1) replace the head of the CFPB with an awkward “bipartisan” board; that should facilitate logjams and obstructionism. (2) Make the CFPB budget subject to specific Congressional control – meaning the Congress can cut the budget until there is no way the agency can do its job. (3) Require a cost benefit analysis of every rule promulgated by the agency – which means if the regulation “costs too much” for the preservation of bank profits the rule dies. (4) Prohibit the CFPB from cutting off “access” to fraudulent or abusive bank practices and products.  In other words, the bankers have the CHOICE to offer any product they wish and if you buy in and get scammed that was your choice as a consumer.

Now it’s time to return to Representative Heck’s own words: “…Dodd Frank financial reform legislation, have hurt economic growth and make it more costly and burdensome for businesses to expand and add workers.” 

Does Representative Heck believe that they current structure of the CFPB as an independent agency is a weakness?  Does he believe that it should be subject to Congressional pressure to weaken its enforcement activities?  Is CFPB protection from fraudulent practices and products really denying Americans “choices” in financial products?

If the “Financial Choice Act” (essentially a repeal of Dodd Frank) came up for a vote in the House today would Representative Heck vote in favor of it?

And how does he feel about the House GOP charges that the CFPB was late to the game and didn’t handle the Wells Fargo case adequately?

“Where was the CFPB? Why did they come in so late to the game?” he continued. “They have immense powers and this is their job to enforce these basic consumer laws and it appears they were asleep at the switch.”

Hensarling also has criticized regulators for the $185-million settlement with the bank, which allowed Wells Fargo to avoid admitting any wrongdoing. 

The controversy over the San Francisco-based financial institution has become the latest flash point in a bitter battle between Republicans and Democrats over the fate of the CFPB, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulations.

The legislation passed with almost no GOP support. Ever since, House and Senate Republicans have been trying unsuccessfully to reduce the power of the bureau, arguing it was designed to avoid congressional oversight and has limited consumer’s access to credit through over-regulation.” [LATimes]

Interesting that the very Republicans who were trying to reduce the power and capacity of the CFPB to regulate lending practices are now trying to blame the agency for not doing enough, fast enough.

“Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said Republicans are pushing “a false narrative” about the CFPB’s role in the Wells Fargo case in order to discredit the agency.

“The fact is the CFPB and OCC were investigating before the L.A. Times story came out,” he said. “But that does not mean that the leading congressional opponent of the CFPB won’t try to pitch that narrative again at this hearing because it plays to his base. But it’s simply false.” [LATimes]

Nice try, Rep. Hensarling, but there’s an ample record of Republican opposition to the creation, organization, and implementation of the CFPB to make any contention that the 1,600 man/woman agency wasn’t trying to do its job in regard to the egregious practices of Wells Fargo. As the old saw goes: That dog won’t hunt.

So, the next question to Representative Heck (and Hardy and Amodei too) is: In light of the Wells Fargo scandalous behavior and the bilking of its own customers, what are you advocating to increase the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to actually protect PEOPLE and not the bankers who have been scamming them?  No one chooses to get bilked, and no one should have to tolerate banks who chose to bilk their customers.  Period.

** On the other hand Nevadans who want adequate protection from illegal, illicit, and otherwise unethical banking practices have an advocate running for the U.S. Senate – Catherine Cortez Masto, who has a track record of taking on the big banking interests on behalf of us “little people who pay taxes.”   A candidate with an endorsement from the woman who fought for the CRPB, Elizabeth Warren:

“I’m so grateful to have Senator Warren’s support,” said Cortez Masto. “Senator Warren and I are both committed to taking on the big banks, protecting consumers, homeowners and helping to grow the middle class – issues I championed as Attorney General and hope continue doing in the U.S. Senate with her. Unlike my opponent Joe Heck who has voted to keep tax breaks for big corporations and billionaires like the Koch brothers, I will fight for policies that help hard working Nevadans, not hurt them.”

“Catherine’s race is critical to restoring our Democratic majority,” said Senator Warren. “During her two terms as Nevada’s Attorney General, Catherine held big banks accountable and fought predatory lending, cracked down on sex trafficking and got tough on elderly, child, and domestic abusers. Catherine knows who she’s fighting for and I need her fighting alongside me in the Senate.” [Link]

And there’s the choice – let the banks make the choices? Or, protect people from the banks’ bad choices.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Heck, koch brothers, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans

Short Shots: Race and other matters in America

newspapers 1

It has now been 190 days since Judge Merrick Garland was nominated for a position on the US Supreme Court.  This is the longest wait for any nominee, and the U.S. Senate has not even had the courtesy to hold a hearing on his nomination.  Senator Majority Leader McConnell has a very strange idea of what it means to do his job.  McConnell has also refused to schedule votes on two nominees for the federal bench who are African American, over Senator Cory Booker’s objections. [NorthJersey]  Partisanship and racial bias at play? Why else would a perfectly qualified nominee for the Supreme Court nominated by an African American president, and two African American district court nominees not get a vote?

newspapers 1

How’s this for a howler?

“Donald Trump’s campaign chair in a prominent Ohio county has claimed there was “no racism” during the 1960s and said black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame.

Kathy Miller, who is white and chair of the Republican nominee’s campaign in Mahoning County, made the remarks during a taped interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere but Washington series of election videos.”

But Wait! Ms Miller wasn’t finished:

“Miller also dismissed the racial tensions of the 1960s, when she said she graduated from high school. “Growing up as a kid, there was no racism, believe me. We were just all kids going to school.”

Asked about segregation and the civil rights movement, she replied: “I never experienced it. I never saw that as anything.”

Miller added: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this … Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.” [Guardian]

This from quite possibly the most self referential self absorbed individual available for the County Trump Campaign committee?

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Let’s put this canard to rest – there is NO widespread voter fraud; there isn’t even any widespread potential for voter impersonation fraud.

      • “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a longtime proponent of voter suppression efforts, argued before state lawmakers that his office needed special power to prosecute voter fraud, because he knew of 100 such cases in his state. After being granted these powers, he has brought six such cases, of which only four have been successful. The secretary has also testified about his review of 84 million votes cast in 22 states, which yielded 14 instances of fraud referred for prosecution, which amounts to a 0.00000017 percent fraud rate.” [Brennan Center]

That isn’t statistically significant in any rational analysis, so let’s just call this what it is – a fraudulent campaign to reduce the number of legitimate Democratic voters.

newspapers 1

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) is still running to be Division commander, with an ad that compares himself going to “put his boots in the sand with soldiers” while Cortez Masto took “vacation days.”  All 174 of them in eight years.  If we were being tacky we could say Heck was paid for those 460 days he was deployed – so it was at taxpayer expense, but we’re not being tacky we’d just notice that he’s really dragging out the militarism for this campaign.   By the way, had Cortez Masto not attended national conferences he’d probably be whining she didn’t represent Nevada when she had the opportunity.

newspapers 1

Here’s a nice shot! Compliments of Astrid Silva – 795 new U.S. / Nevada citizens taking the oath at Cashman Field.  Welcome to America!

New Nevada Citizens Have a good day!

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Filed under Heck, McConnell, Nevada politics, Politics, racism, Republicans, Vote Suppression

Some Assembly Required, but Cortez Masto Can Win

Masto Flip It Dem My Lord How The Money Rolls In!  On behalf of Representative Joe Heck from his friends the Koch Brothers and their associated efforts.  The result?

“I had a feeling this US Senate race would be hard fought, but I didn’t think it would turn this nasty this quickly. We’ve seen these Republican & Koch groups play quite fast & loose with the facts (to put it very politely) this summer, and it looks like they crossed a line about two weeks ago. Former Nevada Attorney General & long-time Republican George Chanos condemned this line of attack against Cortez Masto last week. And now, we see this.

Will this be enough? Or will Cortez Masto & Nevada Democrats need to do even more to counter these attack ads? As I’ve said before, it’s always a tough tightrope walk that’s necessary to counter attacks like this. One must find a way to quash the narrative and not amplify it. Can Cortez Masto & her allies pull it off?” [LTN]

Heck Trump Hat

Not that there isn’t a strong tie between Representative Heck and the Koch Brothers Money Machine. It’s well documented here, and here, as well as here.  The Las Vegas Sun covered the connections, so did the Huffington Post.  The next questions is: Have the Koch Brothers gotten their money’s worth for the donations and support to Heck’s campaigns? That would be yes:

“… he has joined his fellow Republicans in Congress to consistently advocate for a special interest, self-serving agenda at the expense of Nevadans. This point is exemplified by Heck consistently voting for the Koch Brothers agenda in Congress, where in 2013 alone Heck voted with the Kochs 100% of the time.” [SMPac]

Indeed, Representative Heck has been part of the Kochtopus for some time, and remains so today.  (also here)

Can former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto meet the challenge from the Koch Brothers and their ever-so-willing puppet Representative Heck?  Possibly.

Heck’s gone hat and all into the Trump Camp.  This means writing off a significant portion of the Nevada electorate – that portion of Hispanic voters who come from 27% of the total state population, 59% of whom are native born. [PewHisp]  Persistent immigrant-bashing and a surrogate who warns that if Trump isn’t elected “there’ll be a taco truck on every corner” (as if that wouldn’t be a very nice and convenient thing to have) aren’t going to impress Nevada’s Hispanic citizenry.

Then there’s that Women’s Thing.  Heck is anti-choice and his record demonstrates that position.  Was Catherine Cortez Masto correct in calling this out?  The response from Politifact was “mostly true.”  Representative Heck was pleased to vote to defund Planned Parenthood – despite the FACT that most of what the organization does is to provide preventative, prenatal, and women’s health care in underserved communities.  By voting to defund the organization Heck is essentially saying that contraception, women’s cancer screening, healthy child check ups, vaccinations, and other services provided by Planned Parenthood are less important than demonstrating that he’s a good little GOP soldier in an obstructionist misogynistic Congress.  49.8% of Nevada’s population is comprised of women.

The numbers.  The voting registration numbers aren’t a clear advantage for Cortez Masto, but they do lean Democratic.  As of August 2016 there were 531,104 registered Democrats in the “active column,” and 459,467 in the active voter Republican column. She would still need to get a chunk of the 261,750 non-partisan registered voters.

Again using the active voter count,  Cortez Masto has the most potential support in the region with the most Democratic voters – Clark County, with 398,951 registered Democrats and 275,920 registered Republicans.  The next largest area in terms of population is Washoe County which by comparison brings only 89,770 active Democrats and 94,767 active Republicans.

The key to this election will be what it always turns out to be – Turn Out.  A depressed turn out like the 2014 midterm elections with a dismal 45.55% participation rate benefits Heck, a turn out similar to the 80.81% 2012 election benefits Cortez Masto.

Phone banks, canvassing, and well organized support could put Cortez Masto into the U.S. Senate.  For all the expense associated with the media side of campaigning, the election results are often a function of good old fashioned neighbor to neighbor political talks.

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Filed under Nevada politics

Read the Fine Print: Heck and the Kochtopus

Heck Kochtopus

If you strain just a little you can read the fine print at the end of the ads being run by the Heck Campaign against Catherine Cortez Masto.  The ads telling you she hates old people, etc… are from “Freedom Partners.”

A word about that outfit. First we’ll return  to a September 2013 article in Politico

“An Arlington, Va.-based conservative group, whose existence until now was unknown to almost everyone in politics, raised and spent $250 million in 2012 to shape political and policy debate nationwide.

The group, Freedom Partners, and its president, Marc Short, serve as an outlet for the ideas and funds of the mysterious Koch brothers, cutting checks as large as $63 million to groups promoting conservative causes, according to an IRS document to be filed shortly.”  (emphasis added)

Now, let’s bring this back home to Nevada – as of June 2016 the Koch Brothers had some hefty plans for the Silver State:

“The group announced last week that it plans to spend $1.2 million on advertising in Nevada, where Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is running against Republican Rep. Joe Heck to replace Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.” [Roll Call]

And Representative Heck is no stranger to the Koch Brothers and their deep pockets:

“Between 2011 and 2014, Koch Industries gave $30,000 to the Republican. During his re-election campaign in 2014, Americans for Prosperity made a $200,000 ad buy for Heck, “praising” his opposition to the ACA. Since announcing his run for Senate, Heck has received $2,500 from the Kochs.” [RKF]

More recently, Heck received $2,500 (March 31, 2016), to add to the $2,500 he’d already received on November 30, 2015, directly from the Koch Industries PAC. (FEC reports)

What do the Koch Brothers want in return for all this largess? 

Social Security and Medicare “Reform”

Freedom Partners is happy to tell us that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are “entitlements.”  However, NOT as in “we are entitled to these benefits because we paid payroll taxes for them” – no, it’s as in we’re bankrupting the government with these “entitlements.”

One of the questions in a candidate survey conducted in 2015 by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce is:

“Question #18: Do you support Social Security and Medicare reform that would increase the age of eligibility and reduce benefits for wealthier retirees?”

Translation: Do you support raising the age at which a person is eligible for Social Security benefits, and do you supports ‘means testing’ for Social Security benefits?

Questions #19 and #20 are also instructive:

Question #19: Do you support expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act?  (the preferred answer is NO)

Question #20: Do you support capping federal spending on Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by allowing states to control those funds in the form of federal grants? (the preferred answer is YES)

Tax Break for the Wealthy Tax Increases for Everyone Else

Then there was this question: “Question #13: Should tax reform eliminate all preferential treatment and credits for individuals, industries and activities in order to lower marginal tax rates?” Sounds nice, BUT there’s always a kicker.

Flat taxation schemes overwhelmingly favor the top 0.01% of income earners, and those in what are now the upper income brackets. [USNWR] [WaPo] [CNBC]  We can probably conclude with some reasonable certainty that while Representative Heck will likely not come out in favor of a flat tax scheme, he’ll no doubt stay close to the “no new taxes on anyone wealthy” line the Koch Brothers find appealing.

Oh, The Irony!

There’s no small amount of irony involved in trying to argue that Catherine Cortez Masto is tied to “special interests,” when the Heck Campaign is entangled in the Koch Brothers Very Special Interest money.  And, no doubt more of it is on the way, such that we can get even more extremely misleading ads like the Uber Debacle

Those interested in preserving Medicare and Social Security, and in maintaining a healthy economy (one not predicated on the GOP Trickle Down Hoax) would be better served by having Catherine Cortez Masto in the U.S. Senate.

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Filed under Heck, koch brothers, Nevada politics, Politics