republican corruption

Too big to regulate: Facebook's manipulation of Congressional review

Using opposition research to undermine government:

“At the same time that Facebook was publicly professing their desire to work with the committee to address these issues, they were paying a political opposition research firm to privately attempt to undermine that same committee’s credibility,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement. “It’s very concerning.”

The documents obtained by The New York Times provide a deeper look at Definers’ tactics to discredit Facebook’s critics. The Times reported on Wednesday that Definers also distributed research documents to reporters that cast the liberal donor George Soros as an unacknowledged force behind activists protesting Facebook, and helped publish articles criticizing Facebook’s rivals on what was designed to look like a typical conservative news site.

You almost have to be a professional conspiracy theorist to even understand the machinations involved. But that complexity might just be an integral part of the program, and not just a by-product. Because it introduces an element of uncertainty for lawmakers, especially those who have a few skeletons in their closet. They might be on the verge of a career-ending sudden release of damning information, if they push too hard on his royal majesty Mark Zuckerberg, who has mastered the art of strategic denialism:

Former GOP County Chair accuses Senator Michael Lee of "influence peddling"

Sometimes swinging your weight around makes you fall over:

The complaint was filed by William R. Shell and Terry Reilly, both of whom spoke during public hearings for The Avenue development on Military Cutoff Road. Sent to the North Carolina State Ethics Commission, the complaint alleges, in short, that Lee uses his position as a state senator to implicitly pressure New Hanover County and Wilmington boards when he appears before them in his private role an attorney for developers.

“There is nothing illegal about lawyers who are members of the General Assembly representing private clients,” the complaint reads. “However, the problem here is that Lee is representing those clients before local governmental boards and commissions which are dependent upon the North Carolina General Assembly for things they wish to have done and funding and frankly, for even their existence … the members of the governing boards of counties and cities cannot afford to cross a local senator.”

If you don't think local government officials worry about getting on the "wrong side" of General Assembly members, especially those in the NC Senate, think again. Not only because of grants and earmarks that municipalities are desperate for, but there's always the aura of the stick, as well. And with our weird "local bill" rules that preclude a Gubernatorial Veto, if you piss off the wrong person, all of a sudden your zoning and taxing authority evaporates. This is most definitely a conflict of interest, and I am not (one tiny bit) surprised that Tom Fetzer is right up in the middle of it:

Libertarian candidate drops out, endorses Republican opponent

And his state party is not very pleased with this decision:

Members of the Libertarian Party expressed disappointment after Ethan Bickley, a Libertarian candidate running for the District 9 seat in the North Carolina Senate, announced Wednesday he has decided to endorse the incumbent in the race, Sen. Michael Lee, a Republican seeking re-election to a third term representing most of New Hanover County.

Brent DeRidder, the vice chairman for North Carolina’s Libertarian Party, expressed his disappointment at Bickley’s decision. “We fight hard against the idea that we’re Republican-light or Conservative Democrats,” DeRidder said in an emailed news release. “Libertarians have a distinct ideology. It’s disappointing when any Libertarian endorses big government, but it’s particularly painful when it comes from a Libertarian candidate.”

Yeah, I'm not so sure about that "distinct" ideology. Every Libertarian I talk to seems to have a different idea of what the party stands for. They used to talk about open borders, but I haven't heard that in a while, probably because they know it won't play with Trumpites. They also used to talk about marijuana reform, but now that everybody else seems to be talking about it, it's not fun anymore because they're supposed to be "different." Back to Bickley, and a comment that got my conflict-of-interest antennae waving:

Word of Faith cult adds unemployment fraud to list of crimes

These are actually RICO violations:

Prosecutors say Covington and McKinny decided to lay off employees at one of Covington's businesses so they could collect unemployment benefits in 2008 when the company was struggling financially. But the employees continued to work at the company, Diverse Corporate Technologies. They later put the scheme into place at Covington's other business, Integrity Marble & Granite. Covington then implemented a variation of the scheme at Sky Catcher Communications Inc., a company he managed, prosecutors say.

After starting the scheme at Diverse Corporate Technologies, Covington, McKinny, Whaley and others "promoted variations of the scheme to other businesses," the court filing said. "These conspirators promoted the scheme as a way for (the church) community businesses to weather the financial downturn," the document said.

Seriously, this is straight out of a Soprano's episode. The only thing missing are the dead bodies of those who either betrayed the family, or were so crazy they jeopardized the smooth operations of the scam. But I have no doubt that once this religious house of cards collapses, bodies will be found somewhere on the premises. This is actually election-related, too, because Ralph Hise has been providing cover at the state level for this criminal cult, and David Wheeler has been dogging his and the cult's footsteps for months now:

Tillis' NRA ties are coming back to haunt him

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That's why they call it "illegal" coordination:

In a joint letter to FEC Chair Caroline Hunter and Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub, the lawmakers — led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — asked the FEC to “open an investigation into a potential campaign finance violation” alleged by the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, in two complaints that are currently before the commission. The complaints claim that the NRA uses a company called Starboard Strategic Inc. to circumvent laws prohibiting election-related coordination between campaigns and outside groups who support them.

Prior to the creation of Starboard in 2013, the NRA used OnMessage as a vendor to place political ads. Beginning in the 2014 election cycle, the group shifted to Starboard, spending millions of dollars for ads supporting the campaigns of three Republican Senate candidates: Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Tom Cotton in Arkansas. All three campaigns paid OnMessage as a consultant, and all three won.

Keep in mind, this was going on at the same time Tillis (and drunken Dallas) were using Russian-backed Cambridge Analytica to conduct a personally-targeted and invasive propaganda scam to trick voters into voting for one of North Carolina's emptiest of suits. Since Tillis is not running in this cycle, it might seem like an issue that could wait. But they're pulling the same shenanigans in a couple of 2018 Senate contests:

Why Barbara Jackson is not fit to serve on NC's Supreme Court

Her complete obeisance to Republicans in the General Assembly is distressing:

The General Assembly can waive its common law rights in addition to its statutory rights, and whether it chooses to do so is not within the purview of this Court. Nevertheless, we will not lightly assume such a waiver by a coordinate branch of government. Therefore, without a clear and unambiguous statement by the General Assembly that it intends to waive its attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine, we are compelled to exercise judicial restraint and defer to the General Assembly‟s judgment regarding the scope of its legislative confidentiality.

In a nutshell, Justice Jackson blocked the plaintiff's discovery of e-mails associated with the GOP's gerrymandering plot after they took over the General Assembly in 2011. And she did this because she knew that during the back-and-forth between lawmakers and mapmakers and consultants, the true nature of their racial gerrymandering would be revealed. It was not about "complying" with the VRA, it was about abusing those Federal guidelines in order to pack African Americans into districts and greatly reduce the value and impact of their votes. In the absence of such damning proof, Republicans were free to keep their little charade afloat. Read the whole decision and you will see Jackson dug up the worst collection of Precedent I've seen in a while to back up her argument. Irrelevant and inappropriate don't even cover it. But at least read Robin Hudson's dissent, because it demonstrates why the GOP worked so hard to steal her seat:

Don McGahn's crusade to entrench Republican power

Running interference for Brett Kavanaugh is only part of a broader strategy:

An exasperated President Trump picked up the phone to call the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, last Sunday. Tell the F.B.I. they can investigate anything, he told Mr. McGahn, because we need the critics to stop. Not so fast, Mr. McGahn said.

Mr. McGahn, according to people familiar with the conversation, told the president that even though the White House was facing a storm of condemnation for limiting the F.B.I. background check into sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding — and Mr. Trump was suggesting — would be potentially disastrous for Judge Kavanaugh’s chances of confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Not to take away from Trump's disgusting and contemptible behavior during this fiasco, but this particular issue reveals the machinations behind the GOP's supposed "kow-towing" to the President. That is a façade, a way for them to get unethical things done while appearing to keep their hands clean. For almost two decades, Republican leaders have been pushing a mostly clandestine effort to entrench their power via corporate money and voter suppression, and Mitch McConnell's fingerprints are all over that:

Tim Moore forces us to create new political corruption term: Nepo-Patronage

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That's when you get your girlfriend a cushy job in government:

The day after our story that asked about a newly created, high-paying job given to North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore’s girlfriend, Jennifer Gray, was published, we received a call from an official at the Department of Insurance (DOI). “We can see how you were confused,” said Marla Sink, deputy commissioner for communications, who proposed a conference call to clear things up.

Information previously provided by DOI officials was conflicting as to whether the job given to Ms. Gray was a political patronage position. And they had refused to explain themselves.

There are a lot of questions that need answering on this issue, including why the NC GOP felt the need to give Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey $10,000 in the middle of his four-year term. You would think with all 170 seats in the Legislature being contested, that money would have been better spent elsewhere. But setting that pile of unnecessary money aside, this conference call did anything but "clear things up.":

Trump's attack dog Mark Meadows gunning for Rosenstein

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The very definition of a traitor:

House Republicans plan to privately question the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, about discussions last year where he suggested secretly taping President Trump to expose a chaotic White House and removing him from office under the 25th Amendment.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump’s, said that if Mr. Rosenstein does not comply with their latest request, he will be subpoenaed to appear before lawmakers.

It's important to understand the gravity of what Meadows and others are attempting to do. They're not just defending Trump against an adversary (Mueller), they are putting our national security at risk by trying to undermine an investigation into a foreign (super)power's efforts to manipulate not only our elections, but also our foreign policy. We have been compromised, repeatedly, and because of Trump's many (many) intellectual shortfalls, and Congress' inability and/or unwillingness to balance that, the only defense we have against these attacks is the Mueller probe. We need to stop calling Meadows' little cabal the "Freedom Caucus," and start calling them what they are, the "Happy To Be Ruled By Russia Caucus":

Trump whines about NC Gerrymandering ruling during Charlotte visit

He can't understand it of course, but it seems wrong for some reason:

President Trump suggested Friday that there is “something wrong” with a recent decision by a three-judge federal panel in North Carolina that ruled the state’s congressional map was an illegal partisan gerrymander.

“I think it’s unfair with this whole redistricting thing they’re doing in North Carolina,” Mr. Trump told supporters in a Charlotte ballroom. “It’s very unfair you have an election in a little more than 60 days, and they change the district on you? And you’ve gone through primaries.” North Carolina’s population is closely divided between the parties, but the map drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature produced a 10-to-3 Republican advantage among its U.S. House seats. The court raised the possibility that the state’s 13 districts could be redrawn for the midterm elections. “There has to be something wrong on this,” he added. “I know you guys are working on it.”

Okay, first of all, only one of those "guys" is actually in Congress, the other is a bible-thumping wannabe. But even the guy in Congress really has no standing, because redistricting is done by the state, not the federal government. You know what, I'm just going to stop right there, because arguing with Trump is about as pointless as predicting which way the squirrel will dash when he senses a car approaching. Even when he's almost all the way across the road, that doesn't mean he won't change his mind and run right under your wheel.

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