Monday News: Three thousand, four hundred forty one


CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC RAGES ON IN NORTH CAROLINA: At least 207,380 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 3,441 have died, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday reported 1,290 new COVID-19 cases, down from 1,759 the day before. The state began counting antigen test results, which backdate to May 20, last week. Positive results from the tests account for 2% of detected cases in North Carolina. About 5.1% of tests were reported positive on Sunday, nearly in line with health officials’ goal of 5% or lower and up from 4.5% on Saturday. At least 917 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday, up from 914 on Saturday, with 92% of hospitals reporting.

LT.GOV. CANDIDATE MARK ROBINSON THINKS HOLLYWOOD IS DEMONIC: On Facebook, the Republican nominee for North Carolina lieutenant governor says Hollywood is demonic. He bashes Black people for giving their "shekels" to satanic or Jewish movie producers. He insults famous women and sees cultural acceptance of homosexuality as part of a slide toward pedophilia and "the end of civilization as we know it." He apologizes for none of this. “Absolutely," Mark Robinson, a Greensboro man making his first run for public office, said this week. "I’m not ashamed of anything that I post.” In his posts, Robinson, who is Black, often lashes out at other Black people. In one from 2018, he said "half of black Democrats don't realize they are slaves and don't know who their masters are. The other half don't care." Robinson also said during the show that he doesn't believe systemic racism exists. During a Spectrum debate earlier this month, he talked about the "unproven science" and "wild ideas of climate change," despite widespread scientific agreement on the issue.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST NCBOE OVER SETTLEMENT OF ANOTHER LAWSUIT: President Donald Trump’s campaign committee, the Republican National Committee and North Carolina GOP leaders filed lawsuits Saturday to block state election officials from enforcing rule changes that could boost the number of ballots counted in the state in November. Trump campaign lawsuit claims a new system adopted by the State Board of Elections will allow for absentee ballots to be cast late and without proper witness verification, “which invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting.” NC House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Republican leader Phil Berger also filed a lawsuit seeking to block the elections board from implementing the changes. The elections board on Tuesday issued new guidance allowing mail-in absentee ballots with deficient information to be fixed without forcing the voter to fill out a new blank ballot for November’s general election. Issues with deficient witness information on mail-in ballots have disproportionately affected Black voters. Ballots cast by African Americans account for about 43% of those classified as having incomplete witness information, according to state elections data earlier in the week. Yet Black residents account for 16% of overall ballots returned.

NOT ONLY IS TRUMP A DRAFT DODGER, HE'S ALSO A TAX DODGER: President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and the same amount in 2017, and paid no taxes at all in several previous years, largely because his business empire has reported losing more money than it made, according to a new report in the New York Times. In a story posted Sunday afternoon, the Times said it had obtained tax-return data for Trump and his businesses covering much of the last two decades. Trump has refused to release his tax returns — making him the only president in recent history to do so — and he went to the Supreme Court earlier this year to stop Congress and the Manhattan District Attorney from accessing them. The Times story shows what Trump would not: that the business empire he brags about has struggled, with keystone properties like the president’s Doral resort and his D.C. hotel steadily losing money. And that, in the next few years, Trump will be required to pay about $421 million in loans and other debts. The Times story said Trump is still fighting the IRS over a $72.9 million tax refund that he was granted in 2010. The IRS is trying to determine if that refund, granted after Trump claimed extensive business losses, was legitimate: If Trump loses that fight, the paper said, he could have to pay more than $100 million. The Times said that the documents do not show Trump’s total net worth. The paper said they also did not show any previously unknown business connections to Russia. But they do chart the arc of Trump’s business over the last 15 years, and show that the future president seems to have squandered a windfall from his TV show “The Apprentice.” That show brought Trump $427 million in cash, the Times said, but Trump spent it on a string of cash-only purchases of golf courses and resorts — most of which have bled money steadily.

TRUMP PAID HIS DAUGHTER IVANKA AS A "CONSULTANT" TO REDUCE HIS TAX EXPOSURE: Mr. Trump reduced his taxable income by treating a family member as a consultant, and then deducting the fee as a cost of doing business. The “consultants” are not identified in the tax records. But evidence of this arrangement was gleaned by comparing the confidential tax records to the financial disclosures Ivanka Trump filed when she joined the White House staff in 2017. Ms. Trump reported receiving payments from a consulting company she co-owned, totaling $747,622, that exactly matched consulting fees claimed as tax deductions by the Trump Organization for hotel projects in Vancouver and Hawaii. Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business. When asked about the arrangement, the Trump Organization lawyer, Mr. Garten, did not comment. The I.R.S. has pursued civil penalties against some business owners who devised schemes to avoid taxes by paying exorbitant fees to related parties who were not in fact independent contractors. A 2011 tax court case centered on the I.R.S.’s denial of almost $3 million in deductions for consulting fees the partners in an Illinois accounting firm paid themselves via corporations they created. The court concluded that the partners had structured the fees to “distribute profits, not to compensate for services.” There is no indication that the I.R.S. has questioned Mr. Trump’s practice of deducting millions of dollars in consulting fees. If the payments to his daughter were compensation for work, it is not clear why Mr. Trump would do it in this form, other than to reduce his own tax liability. Another, more legally perilous possibility is that the fees were a way to transfer assets to his children without incurring a gift tax. A Times investigation in 2018 found that Mr. Trump’s late father, Fred Trump, employed a number of legally dubious schemes decades ago to evade gift taxes on millions of dollars he transferred to his children. It is not possible to discern from this newer collection of tax records whether intra-family financial maneuverings were a motivating factor.



Crooked as an old river

If you or I tried to pull such tricks on the IRS, we would be stripped of all possessions and living in a lean-to under the bridge.