Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Last Call For The Big Con Job

It looks like our pundit class is finally asking the tough questions about Trump's financial information, questions that should have been asked 12 months ago, regarding the Trump Organization and its financial ties to Donald Trump, his family, and a number of potential national security conflicts of interest should Trump be elected to public office. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek investigates Trump's business dealings:

A close examination by Newsweek of the Trump Organization, including confidential interviews with business executives and some of its international partners, reveals an enterprise with deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals, although there is no evidence the Trump Organization has engaged in any illegal activities. It also reveals a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled. If Trump moves into the White House and his family continues to receive any benefit from the company, during or even after his presidency, almost every foreign policy decision he makes will raise serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires.

The Trump Organization is not like the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the charitable enterprise that has been the subject of intense scrutiny about possible conflicts for the Democratic presidential nominee. There are allegations that Hillary Clinton bestowed benefits on contributors to the foundation in some sort of “pay to play” scandal when she was secretary of state, but that makes no sense because there was no “pay.” Money contributed to the foundation was publicly disclosed and went to charitable efforts, such as fighting neglected tropical diseases that infect as many as a billion people. The financials audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global independent accounting company, and the foundation’s tax filings show that about 90 percent of the money it raised went to its charitable programs. (Trump surrogates have falsely claimed that it was only 10 percent and that the rest was used as a Clinton “slush fund.”) No member of the Clinton family received any cash from the foundation, nor did it finance any political campaigns. In fact, like the Clintons, almost the entire board of directors works for free. 
On the other hand, the Trump family rakes in untold millions of dollars from the Trump Organization every year. Much of that comes from deals with international financiers and developers, many of whom have been tied to controversial and even illegal activities. None of Trump’s overseas contractual business relationships examined by Newsweek were revealed in his campaign’s financial filings with the Federal Election Commission, nor was the amount paid to him by his foreign partners. (The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for the names of all foreign entities in partnership or contractually tied to the Trump Organization.) Trump’s financial filings also indicate he is a shareholder or beneficiary of several overseas entities, including Excel Venture LLC in the French West Indies and Caribusiness Investments SRL, based in the Dominican Republic, one of the world’s tax havens.

Trump’s business conflicts with America’s national security interests cannot be resolved so long as he or any member of his family maintains a financial interest in the Trump Organization during a Trump administration, or even if they leave open the possibility of returning to the company later. The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones. 
Many foreign governments retain close ties to and even control of companies in their country, including several that already are partnered with the Trump Organization. Any government wanting to seek future influence with President Trump could do so by arranging for a partnership with the Trump Organization, feeding money directly to the family or simply stashing it away inside the company for their use once Trump is out of the White House. This is why, without a permanent departure of the entire Trump family from their company, the prospect of legal bribery by overseas powers seeking to influence American foreign policy, either through existing or future partnerships, will remain a reality throughout a Trump presidency. 
Moreover, the identity of every partner cannot be discovered if Trump reverses course and decided to release his taxes. The partnerships are struck with some of the more than 500 entities disclosed in Trump’s financial disclosure forms; each of those entities has its own records that would have to be revealed for a full accounting of all of Trump’s foreign entanglements to be made public.

The problem of overseas conflicts emerges from the nature of Trump’s business in recent years. Much of the public believes Trump is a hugely successful developer, a television personality and a failed casino operator. But his primary business deals for almost a decade have been a quite different endeavor. The GOP nominee is essentially a licensor who leverages his celebrity into streams of cash from partners from all over the world. The business model for Trump’s company started to change around 2007, after he became the star of NBC’s The Apprentice, which boosted his national and international fame. Rather than constructing Trump’s own hotels, office towers and other buildings, much of his business involved striking deals with overseas developers who pay his company for the right to slap his name on their buildings. (The last building constructed by Trump with his name on it is the Trump-SoHo hotel and condominium project, completed in 2007.) 
In public statements, Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. have celebrated their company’s international branding business and announced their intentions to expand it. “The opportunities for growth are endless, and I look forward to building upon the tremendous success we have enjoyed,” Donald Trump Jr. said in 2013. Trump Jr. has cited prospects in Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Thailand, Argentina and other countries.

In other words, everything the Republican party is accusing Clinton of doing while at State: shady, backroom "pay-for-play" deals, slush fund money laundering, taking bribes from foreign nationals, all becomes instant and disturbing reality for Donald Trump should he ever take public office.  The rabbit warren of shell companies, offshore accounts, using family members as proxies, goes pretty deep in this article, and that's just from public information.

The details, as noted above, are hidden.  And there's zero reason to believe Trump will ever disclose it, in fact he's done everything in his power to hide it.  The reality is that we've never had a presidential candidate so boldly violate every concept of campaign finance law, and nobody seems to think this is a serious enough problem to immediately disqualify Trump from the White House.

Clinton on the other hand, well that's a different story it seems.  That's the problem.

As Goes Ohio, So Goes The Nation

Despite Donald Trump having no ground game in the state, Bloomberg's latest poll of the Buckeye State finds the GOP candidate with a significant 5-point lead in both head-to-head and third-party inclusive matchups against Hillary Clinton, but there's a catch: the likely voter model they are using matches the state's 2004 electoral makeup.

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points in a Bloomberg Politics poll of Ohio, a gap that underscores the Democrat’s challenges in critical Rust Belt states after one of the roughest stretches of her campaign.

The Republican nominee leads Clinton 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in a two-way contest and 44 percent to 39 percent when third-party candidates are included.

The poll was taken Friday through Monday, as Clinton faced backlash for saying half of Trump supporters were a “basket of deplorables” and amid renewed concerns about her health after a video showed her stumbling as she left a Sept. 11 ceremony with what her campaign later said was a bout of pneumonia.

Trump’s performance in the poll—including strength among men, independents, and union households—is better than inother recent surveys of the state. It deals a blow to Clinton after she enjoyed polling advantages nationally and in most battleground states in August before the race tightened in September as more Republican voters unified around Trump.

The poll also finds Sen. Rob Portman with a massive 17-point lead over former GOP Gov. Ted Strickland, 53-36%, as fully 20% of Clinton voters support Portman's re-election, and a whopping 51-38 generic congressional ballot lead for the GOP in the state.  Bloomberg admits their model is unlike anyone else's.

“Our party breakdown differs from other polls, but resembles what happened in Ohio in 2004,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, whose Iowa-based firm Selzer & Co. oversaw the survey. “It is very difficult to say today who will and who will not show up to vote on Election Day. Our poll suggests more Republicans than Democrats would do that in an Ohio election held today, as they did in 2004 when George W. Bush carried the state by a narrow margin. In 2012, more Democrats showed up.”

A higher proportion of men and older voters—groups that tilt Republican—passed the survey's likely-voter screen than typical in past election cycles, Selzer said, boosting Trump's numbers.

Party breakdown for the poll was 33 percent Republican, 29 percent Democrats, and 34 percent independents. Exit polling shows that Ohio's electorate in the 2012 presidential election was 38 percent Democratic, 31 percent Republican, and 31 percent independent, while in 2004 it was 40 percent Republican, 35 percent Democratic, and 25 percent independent

That's...a gigantic swing in just four years.  If it's true, it's no longer right to call Ohio a swing state, but a red one.  The poll also finds that nearly a quarter of voters under 35 are supporting Gary Johnson, and the rest split evenly among Clinton and Trump, which I find interesting to say the least.

But among the likely voters Bloomberg is basing this poll off of, 46% approve of President Obama and 45% approve of Donald Trump.  Considering President Obama's numbers nationally are pushing 60%, I find this likely voter model to be less reflective of the truth than most.

In other words, Bloomberg's likely voter model is crap. They get points for showing exactly why their likely voter model is crap, but it's still greatly inaccurate as far as I'm concerned.

Working For The Company Store

Voters in rural Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky are increasingly viewing Democrats and our policies on climate change as a personal affront, and long-time blue-collar blue voters are turning to Trump out of "self-preservation".

Angela LeJohn is 49, has worked at a local energy company for nine years, and loves it. A registered Democrat, she never once voted for a Republican and never expected to entertain such a thought—not even in a local election—until this year.

“The short of it is that I am looking at this election through self-preservation,” she explained. “I love my job, I love that I only live three miles from work, I love that who I work for contributes to a stable life, and I love that my community is holding on because of the trickle effect Lee Supply Company’s impact has on the region.” 
LeJohn will vote for Donald Trump for president and for incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in November, she candidly admits, not because she loves either Republican candidate but because “they have my back.” 
She was among more than 60 employees who attended an informal voter-registration effort conducted by Secure Energy for America, a non-partisan trade association that has visited energy vendors and suppliers in key counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, and Virginia. It hopes to mobilize energy-industry workers, along with their relatives and neighbors, to vote in November. Officially, the effort is non-partisan. Yet for most energy workers in Pennsylvania, voting to preserve their industry means voting for Trump and Toomey.

The registration drive gets to the heart of the election in Western Pennsylvania. Democrats in these small communities want to hold on to their way of life; they feel their communities have as much value as those of their more-cosmopolitan Democratic cousins, and they cannot reconcile themselves to a national Democratic Party that they feel is working against them. They are the voters whose simple motivation to vote outside of the party they were born into has fallen under the radar of the national press and the polls. 
But the energy industry has noticed. “This kind of endeavor is terrifically impactful with voters,” said Ron Sicchitano, the Democratic Party’s chairman here in Washington County. “I’ve got to hand it to them.” Sicchitano, a coal miner, says anti-coal statements by President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have had a “tremendously devastating” impact on voters in a county that has been reliably Democratic in the past.

The reality is that coal jobs are not coming back.  Ever.  Finding something to replace them is difficult to say the least.  At the same time, these are real people with families and bills and pets and houses and problems like the rest of us, only the industry that kept their communities going is on its deathbed.  They want to believe Trump can put $100k a year mining jobs back on the menu, when the diner is closed.

But the reality too is that these "life-long Democrats" are making the choice to turn to Trump, despite his obvious racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and other fun garbage down in that Basket of Deplorables, and at some point these folks have to be held accountable for enabling Republicans to destroy them.

Yes, I understand the impulse to say these folks are being conned, that they are the victims of Trump's rhetoric and that it's easy to blame the Dems for wrecking the industries that put food on their table. I get that, believe me.  I grew up in small-town NC when the industries that left due to NAFTA were textiles and manufacturing moving overseas in the early 90's.  Believe me, the people where I grew up immediately blamed the Democrats and the Clintons especially and have made the foothills of western NC blood red ever since.

But it's exactly the people who feel like they have the choice to support Republicans like Toomey and Trump, despite their hideous rhetoric, that are the problem in this country.  They enable the racism and hatred and look the other way because "Trump has their back".  That's a nice luxury to have, but the rest of us are going to fight these assholes tooth and nail, and if it means we have to scrap your coal mining community, well, you'll survive.  We did 20 years ago, and back home we're finally seeing more high-tech jobs move into NC (well until HB2 came along, but that's what happens when you enable Republicans because you're afraid of those people taking your jobs.)

That's the way it works here in America: the voters decide.  The electorate is changing. Technology is changing and moving forward. Fighting for "how things used to be" is never going to work.

Hasn't yet.


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