republican corruption

Separation of Powers: Appeals court rules against Trump diverting funds for border wall

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Congress does not give the President a blank check:

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco agreed with a lower court ruling that prevented the government from tapping Defense Department counterdrug money to build high-priority sections of wall in Arizona, California and New Mexico.

"As for the public interest, we conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution's assignment of the power of the purse to Congress, and by deferring to Congress's understanding of the public interest as reflected in its repeated denial of more funding for border barrier construction," wrote Judges Michelle Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee, and Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee.

Keep in mind, every time the President pulls one of these stunts, he's actually slapping Congress in the face twice. He's spending money on something they didn't want him to, and he's not spending money on something they wanted and authorized. As far as this dissenting opinion:

Judge sets September date for Robin Hayes' bribery trial

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The Karma Wheel rolls slowly but surely:

The criminal trial against North Carolina mega-donor Greg Lindberg and state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes is tentatively slated for September.

Lindberg, who is far and away North Carolina's largest political donor, Hayes and two Lindberg associates were indicted in March and accused of trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey by funneling campaign donations through the state GOP. All four men have pleaded not guilty.

For now they've all pleaded not guilty. But see, that's the thing about conspiracies; the weakest link always snaps under pressure. I just had the weirdest mental image, of Robin Hayes lifting weights in the exercise yard and getting prison tats...

Trump's tax giveaway for the wealthy is squeezing poor college students

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Whether it's a flaw or a feature, it needs to be fixed asap:

A little-noticed provision in President Trump’s sprawling new tax law is treating middle- and low-income college students as if they are trust-fund babies, taxing sizable financial aid packages at a rate first established 33 years ago to prevent wealthy parents from funneling money to their children to lower their tax burdens.

Students with large financial aid packages are finding their nontuition assistance for items such as room and board taxed by as much as 37 percent, even if their family income tax rates are much lower.

Do the math. A poor kid receiving $11,000 a year for room and board is coughing up $4,000 of that in taxes. If that's "winning" I'd hate to see what happens when we start losing. This should not have come as such a surprise to lawmakers, because they've already been raked over the coals for over-taxing survivor benefits for Gold Star families:

Burr vs. Trump Jr: Subpoena ignites a firestorm in the GOP

Russiagate may be far from over:

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. has ignited an internal Republican firefight over the fate of the committee’s Russia probe, as the panel’s GOP chairman showed no signs of backing down despite fierce criticism from many of his colleagues that it was time to move on.

Much of the backlash against the decision by Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) to subpoena President Trump’s eldest son came from GOP senators who are up for reelection next year and from those closely aligned with the president. The outrage was partially fueled by Trump Jr. and his own allies.

Much like his father, Trump Jr is simply not clever enough to understand the pros and cons. He could put this issue to bed pretty quickly by showing up and giving a few hours of testimony, but (just like dad) he's too arrogant to do that. And the end result is more focus on the Russia meeting, not less. Say what you will about Richard Burr, he's wholly invested in the reputation of the Intel Committee, and he's not going to leave any questions unanswered. Here's some whining from the peanut gallery:

NC GOP in hot water with FEC over Mark Meadows spending

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Being a money launderer can be complicated:

This letter is prompted by the Commission's preliminary review of the report referenced above. This notice requests information essential to full public disclosure of your federal election campaign finances. Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in enforcement action. Additional information is needed for the following 1 item(s):-

The limitation on making coordinated party expenditures on behalf of a House candidate in the State of North Carolina for the 2018 general election is $49,700. Your reports, however, disclose apparent coordinated party expenditures made on behalf of "Meadows, Mark" totaling $85,512.30, which appear to exceed the limitations under 52 U.S.C. §30116 (d) ( formerly 2 U.S.C. §441a(d))

Those expenditures were made in several lumps over a two day period, and it looks like they were for television ads. Which of course he didn't need, because his District (11) had been gerrymandered into an R+14 nightmare. Meaning, this money was likely given to the NC GOP specifically for Meadows, by somebody trying to dodge campaign contribution limitations, giving us one more good reason to totally revamp that system.

Richard Burr warned Trump lawyer about Mueller targets

Robin Hayes indicted on bribery and corruption charges

Fifty thousand barrels: Craft brewers (finally) win their struggle

Of course this should have happened years ago:

Ending a two-year battle, North Carolina’s biggest craft brewers have reached a compromise with the state’s wholesale distributors that would let them and other large brewers at least double their annual production. The effort pitted the fast-growing craft beer industry against wholesale distributors, a group that reinforced its clout with nearly $1.5 million in political contributions in the last four years.

The compromise announced Wednesday would create a new category of “Mid-Sized Independent Breweries” such as NoDa, Olde Meck and Red Oak. Their ability to self-distribute would be raised to 50,000 barrels. The new law would allow mid-sized breweries to distribute “up to” 50,000 barrels a year. Breweries would not lose that authorization if they exceeded 50,000 barrels. However, this new authorization would be limited only to those breweries that sell less than 100,000 barrels of beer per year.

This is really good news, especially for people like me who would love to have a craft brewer set up shop in our small towns. Something like that can be a major catalyst for economic revitalization, but that previous cap had held many craft brewers back. Cheers!

Two-Faced Tillis strikes again, waffling on Trump "emergency" vote

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Give him a back door, and he will bolt right through it:

Four Republican senators have publicly said they will support a House-passed resolution of disapproval when it comes up for final passage in the Senate on Thursday. That would be just enough to ensure passage of a measure overturning the national emergency that the president declared to secure border wall funding over Congress’s objection.

But that near certainty appeared to shift on Tuesday as Vice President Mike Pence pressed Senate Republicans at a closed-door meeting before their weekly policy lunch.

If I'm reading this correctly, the Senate would be revising the law on future emergency declarations, but not the Wall issue. Which would almost be worth it, just to keep Trump under control going down the road. But what if Trump Vetoes that bill? Can we count on enough Republican Senators to have the intestinal fortitude and personal integrity to override? That was a rhetorical question, because that fantasy creature doesn't exist. As for Tillis, he's just blowin' in the wind, as usual:

Gentrification on steroids: The Opportunity Zone program

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Making money and dodging taxes is the American way:

Developers have a new reason to build in already-booming Durham. A new federal incentive will encourage investors in certain parts of the city, including East Durham, west of Duke University and in Southwest Durham. But the “opportunity zones” could also lead to private investors tearing down existing houses to build big, new houses and getting tax breaks on their returns, Durham County Commissioner James Hill said Monday.

“This is why this has been called the Kushner bill,” he said, referring to Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law.

Personal anecdote time, try not to yawn too much: Every year my town throws a "business social," wherein we invite dozens of movers and shakers to a hoity-toity gathering in the hopes of attracting investments. Last year, one of the speakers was a lady simply giddy with the prospect of Opportunity Zones. She's a banker, but in the investment division, and while I was waiting patiently to hear about how this might improve our town, she spent the entire time (much more than any other speaker) talking about dodging Capital Gains taxes. In short, the more the merrier. Meaning, the really high-dollar projects are preferred, and result in the best "return" on said investments. Not much room for affordable housing in that formula. Here's more from the people who really understand this:

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