Saturday, September 3, 2016

A scandal a day keeps the media in play ...

... and in pay.

But which scandal to print? Hmmm. Let's see. Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Trump, ... CLINTON!

The media runs with the latest Clinton scandal even when their own research comes up dry. The latest such total abdication is the recent Politico story about Clinton finances that runs dozens of paragraphs long even though nothing illegal was discovered.

This investigation, which is based on records obtained from the General Services Administration through the Freedom of Information Act, does not reveal anything illegal. But it does offer fresh evidence of how the Clintons blurred the line between their nonprofit foundation, Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and the business dealings of Bill Clinton and the couple’s aides.

And was any of that blurring of terrible consequence? Not so much.

According to several people familiar with the former president’s operation, the rationale behind the interwoven payrolls is that they allow for a small team to assist Clinton in a variety of settings without having to do logistically complicated hockey-like line changes. In a given day, Clinton might deliver a paid private speech (during which time his employees’ salaries could be paid by the executive services corporation) and a public speech in his capacity as a former president (during which his staff could be paid by the GSA funds). And he could attend events for the foundation (where staff time would be paid by the foundation) as well as his wife’s presidential campaign (staff time would be paid by the campaign).

It's only a scandal if you Hate Hillary. But we can expect to see much more in the remaining days prior to the election. A lot more is on the way.

Trump hires a political golem to smear Clinton

Rachel Maddow had the story last night and here is a report from Media Matters.

The new hire is David Bossie - I'm calling him Smeargol. He has made a career for trumped up (sorry) charges against the Clintons. His tactics are so bad that even the Clintons' political opponents, like George H. W. Bush, cut him loose. Read the Media Matters report to get a sense of what is coming our way. And lest you think of Kelleyanne Conway as some nice lady hired to soften Trump's image, consider this (quoted from the Washington Post story).

Bossie participated Thursday in strategy sessions at Trump Tower in New York where he was introduced to campaign aides and Trump associates, according to Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.

Conway said Bossie would be assisting her with managing day-to-day operations and with strategic planning.

"He's a battle-tested warrior and a brilliant strategist," Conway said. "He's a nuts-and-bolts tactician as well, who's going to help us fully integrate our ground game and data operations, and help with overall strategy as my deputy."

Bossie will also work on crafting attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, mining past controversies involving her and former president Bill Clinton, and cultivating Trump’s bond with conservative activists.

Together with Steve "Breitbart" Bannon as campaign CEO (whatever that means), Trump has assembled a stellar lineup of of political hit men (and women). As they say, buckle up. It's going to be a very rough couple of months.

Trump fined by IRS for illegal campaign contribution: Pay for play and a coverup?

Among other reports, Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) showcases Trump's illegal campaign finance actions. Basically (1) the Trump Foundation gave $25,000 to the campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, (2) after which Bondi dropped the investigation of Trump University, and (3) the Trump Foundation reported that the money was given to a Kansas organization with a title similar to that of Bondi's group. Here is Benen's coverage.

Of all of Donald Trump’s controversies from the early summer, the one about Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) was one of the toughest to explain away. As we discussed a few months ago, the Republican A.G. briefly considered joining a multi-state suit against “Trump University,” but Bondi dropped the investigation after the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution towards her re-election campaign.

It didn’t help matters that Bondi “personally solicited” the money from Trump while her office was considering a case against “Trump University.”

Also unclear was why the Trump Foundation, ostensibly a charitable entity, was making a campaign contribution. The Washington Post reported late yesterday that the questions prompted IRS scrutiny and a penalty the Republican presidential candidate paid this year.

Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump’s company said, after it was revealed that Trump’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general (...)

In [its 2013] tax filings, The Post reported, the Trump Foundation did not notify the IRS of this political donation. Instead, Trump’s foundation listed a donation – also for $25,000 – to a Kansas charity with a name similar to that of Bondi’s political group. In fact, Trump’s foundation had not given the Kansas group any money.

The prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent-sounding but nonexistent donation.

Trump’s organization blames all of this on a series of unintended mistakes, which have since been resolved.

That’s certainly possible, but let’s not lose sight of prevailing political winds.

Guy Cecil, the co-chair PrioritiesUSA, a leading Democratic super PAC, joked on Twitter yesterday, “Breaking: Presidential candidate’s foundation fined for pay-to-play scheme. Looking forward to wall-to-wall coverage.”

He has a point. There’s been intense interest from news organizations in the Clinton Foundation, and several Republicans have asked for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s ties to her husband’s charity – despite the fact that there’s no evidence she did anything wrong and no one seems able to identify the specific allegations against the Democratic candidate.

It’s now taken as a given across much of the political world that the Clinton Foundation is “controversial” for reasons that are still, at best, difficult to explain.

And yet, as of now, only one 2016 presidential candidate has been fined for misusing a charitable foundation to make an improper political donation – and that candidate isn’t Hillary Clinton.

The appearance, if not the reality, that of pay-to- play. One requirement of causation is an antecedent-consequence relationship: Bondi asks for money, gets money, and drops investigation of Trump University. But perhaps more seriously, it looks like someone at the Trump Foundation, tried to cover up the Bondi donation by listing it as a nonexistent donation to that Kansas charity.

This is just the tip of the Trumpberg. Check out this morning's post by AZBlueMeanie for much more (e.g., the suit brought by Trump's models).

Which one of the two candidates for president has a history of illegal activities? Hint: that one is not Hillary Clinton.

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