Tag Archives: National Rifle Association

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave…NRA edition

Merciful Heavens, what a week.

Russians… connected to the National Rifle Association? [WaPo 12/13/18] [Business Insider 2/19] with Democrats beginning to investigate ties between the NRA and Trump campaign coffers. [The Hill 2/7/19] We can go back to the 2016 campaign cycle during which the NRA spent $54,378,558 on campaigns. [OS]  The top recipients of this largess in 2016 were:  The Republican National Committee ($77,185); National Republican Senatorial Committee ($75,110); National Republican Congressional Committee ($30,000); Roy Blunt ($11,900); Barbara Comstock ($10,400); Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania ($10,000), Republican Party of Tennessee ($10,000).  And, after we go back we can note other prominent Republicans who benefited from NRA contributions — Richard Burr, Charles Grassley, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.  One more time, let’s look at the contrast between pre- and post 2015 NRA campaign and political spending — In 2012 the organization spent $19,767,043 and in 2014 it spent $27,024,898.  There’s a BIG increase from those generous levels to the bountiful spending of ’16, that eye-popping $54,378,558.  Where did the “new” money come from?

There is a nugget in the Hill article which may foreshadow future events:

“The Democratic lawmakers are requesting a series of documents from the NRA by March 6, including emails with five media consulting firms and the names of employees they communicated with at the companies.

They separately noted in letters to the companies that “a payment for a coordinated communication is an in-kind contribution to a candidate,” adding, “the NRA may have violated contribution limits under the Federal Election Campaign Act by making coordinated communications in excess of applicable contribution caps.”

Watch for March 6, 2019.

This, and we haven’t even gotten to the Saudis, the American Media Inc., Trump, Pecker, and assorted slimy goings on descending down toward the bottom of the bucket into which the Southern District of NY is currently delving.

Time once again to remember the line delivered by Bette Davis in the 1950 film “All About Eve,” — “Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”  Night, day, month, quarter, year…

Comments Off on Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave…NRA edition

Filed under Gun Issues, Politics, Republicans

What’s under the underside? Illegal campaign contributions?

Tracking money and contributions in the wake of Citizens United is difficult, especially given the Super PAC swampland, but as long as we’re speculating about what could be driving the Republican opposition to the Mueller investigation, and associated assaults on the CIA and FBI, let’s add violations of campaign finance laws.

 “The Federal Election Campaign Act states in unambiguous terms that any contribution by a foreign national to the campaign of an American candidate for any election, state or national, is illegal. Likewise, anyone who receives, solicits, or accepts these contributions also violates the statute. Foreign national, in this case, means anybody not a US citizen that doesn’t have a green card.”  [UKedu]

Indeed, 52 US Code 30121 is rather specific:

(a) Prohibition  It shall be unlawful for—
(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—
(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

Again, the caveat, I’m no counselor, solicitor, lawyer, attorney, or any other synonym for a legal eagle, but it seems to me that a campaign cannot accept or solicit a “donation of money or anything of value” from a foreign national.  And, now we come to the filtration system.

For example, there are questions about NRA donations during the 2016 election season.  On February 2, 2018 it was reported that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) requested documents from the Treasury Department and the NRA concerning possible (or alleged) contributions from Russians to the National Rifle Association. [APN] The same day, PBS posted:

“News reports last month said the FBI is investigating contact between Alexander Torshin, who is the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, and the NRA. Wyden is ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, as well as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a probe into Russia election meddling.”

It would be highly irregular, if not downright illegal under 52 US Code 30121, to have money funneled from the Russian central bank to the NRA for the benefit of Republican candidates, including the campaign for the presidency.  The major reporting on this element of ongoing investigations came from McClatchy DC:

“Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference. McClatchy reported a year ago that a multi-agency U.S. law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s intervention, begun even before the start of the 2016 general election campaign, initially included a focus on whether the Kremlin secretly helped fund efforts to boost Trump, but little has been said about that possibility in recent months.

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.”

Once more the reticence (and rectitude) of the Mueller investigation precludes the unauthorized release of information regarding ongoing probes. However, we do know that Mr. Torshin’s contributions, whatever they might be, are of interest to investigators.  Nor do we know if there are other contributions or “in kind” donations from other sources under scrutiny.  There may, or may not, be revelations coming from final reports from the Special Counsel.

Another example, … that infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016.  Of all the possible violations of campaign finance rules this has been the most visible, in no small part because of the misleading (perhaps obstructionist) statement drafted and released by the administration concerning the principals in the meeting and its purpose.  And, no it wasn’t about ‘Russian Orphans’ unless of course one is speaking of the Russian retaliation for the Magnitsky Act.  One theory holds that opposition research is a valuable commodity, one of those “other things of value” under the terms of 52 US Code 20121, therefore if the Trump Campaign accepted purloined e-mails or the fruits of other opposition research against the Clinton Campaign from the Russians, then it has accepted unlawful contributions for foreign nationals.

The story ‘broke’ on July 8, 2017 in the New York Times, and has continued to inform the public discussion, even if the Mueller probe has possibly long finished with this component. CNN provides a handy timeline on the subject.

Once more, I think it’s important to note that we do not know what the Mueller investigation is placing under its microscope, these two publicized examples may be the only elements of campaign finance law violations about which questions have been raised, or there may be other shoes dropping.  Patience is required as the investigation continues toward its conclusion.

What we do know is that the administration is expending a significant amount of time and energy (not to mention political capital) trying to tamp down discussion of these possible violations, and questioning the motives underpinning the investigations.  Frankly speaking, if there’s “no there there” (Thank You Gertrude Stein for this enduring phrase for all occasions) then the question becomes WHY all this exertion?

And yes, come for the Obstruction of Justice, and stay for the possible violations of US campaign finance laws.

Comments Off on What’s under the underside? Illegal campaign contributions?

Filed under campaign funds, Citizens United, Politics

Who’s Heck Representing? A Look At The Advertising

Heck Trump Hat

A bit of time spent watching local television in the wilds of northern Nevada yields a real bundle of political advertising – much of which comes from the campaign to elect Representative Joe Heck to the U.S. Senate, but the fine print is almost more interesting than the ads themselves.

For example, during one broadcast of one network show, we’re treated to advertising from (1) the National Republican Senate Committee, two ads, (2) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, (3) the National Rifle Association, (4) two ads from the American Chemistry Council, (5) two ads from the State Leadership Fund, (6) the National Association of Realtors, and 7) one ad from Heck’s campaign.

There’s nothing unusual about the NRSC running ads in a battle ground state, especially this season.  The others raise some questions.  For example, the US Chamber of Commerce isn’t a bit shy of publicizing its policy priorities.

There’s some interesting rhetoric therein, but the translations are fairly simple.  The Chamber wants:

“Regulatory Overreach—Guard against senseless regulations that wrongly attempt to eliminate all risk taking and innovation from the capital formation process. Work with regulators and Congress as they implement the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulations to ensure a more prudent approach to oversight and enforcement.”

Notice that the “risk” part of the equation isn’t clear – whose risk?  In the case of the Dodd Frank Act the idea was to reduce the risk to the American tax payer who was previously on the hook for Wall Street transgressions.  And that “innovation in capital formation” were those very creative, if highly dubious, financial ‘products’ Wall Street created in the run up to the last big collapse.   If we want a more ‘prudent approach’ to oversight then we need to keep to the spirit of the Dodd Frank Act and oppose any efforts on behalf of Wall Street casino operators who wish a return to the bad old days of rampant financialism.  Let’s look at something else the Chamber would like Representative Heck to support:

“Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance—Ensure careful and sensible rulemaking and implementation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) where needed and preserve the state-based system allowing decisions to be made through directors and shareholders. Reasonable policies must permit pay for performance and promote long-term shareholder value and profitability but not constrain reasonable risk taking and innovation.”

Shorter version:  Let the states with the least corporate regulation set the standards for determining the process for corporate management pay.  Notice the part about promoting “long term shareholder value?”  It’s not too hard to decipher this one.  Let the states with the lowest standards of regulation be the models, and executive compensation should be based on “shareholder value,” – the model which gets us pharmaceutical executives explaining blooming increases in drug prices – and “profitability,” not necessarily corporate investment in research and development.   Even shorter version: Let the corporations do what they want about executive compensation.   Let’s look at another source of support for Representative Heck.

The American Chemistry Council.  The ALEC associated trade organization is worried that Americans will take environmental warnings entirely too seriously.  Like having the Toxic Release Inventory not compiled or reported to the public as often – after all what we don’t know won’t hurt us?

“While promoting the chemical industry as vital to the economic health of the nation the ACC simultaneously lobbied against the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a public right-to-know program. Under TRI, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency annually reports on what industries release into the air, water and land. The ACC “has urged less frequent reporting since 1999.” ACC’s Michael Walls said, “Just because we’re used to doing something doesn’t mean we should accept the inherent high costs or burden of doing it.” The Bush administration supports changing the TRI so that fewer releases are reported, less frequently. EPA officials say they will “likely spend another year weighing the pros and cons” of the proposed changes, after the public comment period ends on December 5. According to federal records, the EPA “previously solicited comments from industry groups.” [SWatch]

In essence, the ACC is telling Nevada voters — “Vote for Joe Heck, and you won’t have to worry about toxic releases into our air and water – because you won’t know about them, and as a bonus, you can keep on using those plastic shopping bags to your heart’s content.”  And now we have the …

National Association of Realtors, who would like to remove:

“Overly stringent lending standards have continued to limit the availability of affordable mortgage financing for credit worthy consumers. Federal policymakers are weighing a number of proposals aimed at creating healthier housing and mortgage markets.”

Remember that time when lending companies were writing mortgages hand over fist over elbow, often to very tenuously credit worthy customers? The NAR would like very much to return to that scenario.   The result was the Housing Bubble, and we don’t need a repetition  of that debacle in Nevada.  We’re barely past the last version of exploding ARMs.

And then there’s the ubiquitous NRA, what more can we say but that any regulation of firearms is anathema to these radicals – even question One in Nevada which merely calls for the implementation of background checks to every gun sale. No, it doesn’t apply if your girl friend want to borrow a gun. No, it doesn’t apply to trading guns with your hunting partner! No, it doesn’t mean you can’t share your arsenal with family members! And, no it doesn’t mean the downfall of the democracy… that’s NRA hyperbole and most Nevadans know it.  The NRA hysteria is costing Americans 30,000+ lives every year, countless injuries, untold tragedy, and more suicides than we’d care to consider.  Who’s NOT in favor of limiting access to firearms to felons, fugitives, the adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers, and unsupervised juveniles??

So, the next time there’s a wave of Pro-Heck advertising on the TV screen, read the small print at the end …. Who is supporting Representative Heck and what do they want?

Comments Off on Who’s Heck Representing? A Look At The Advertising

Filed under financial regulation, Heck, Nevada politics