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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Tweets and Violence

Friday, May 29, 2020

Trump and Riots

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of lawThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dark Money Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technologyThe 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Toby Eckert at Politico:
The Treasury Department and IRS on Tuesday finalized regulations that will excuse some politically active tax-exempt groups from having to disclose their high-dollar donors to the IRS.
The rules, which have been in the works for several years, will affect groups organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which include political heavy-hitters like the National Rifle Association and AARP; labor unions; and “dark money” groups that fly under the radar.
Those organizations have no legal obligation to publicly disclose their donors' identities, but they previously had to give the IRS the names and addresses of donors who gave them more than $5,000. Under the new regulations, the groups won’t have to provide the information to the IRS at all.

Supporters of the move say the IRS doesn’t need the information and that requiring it posed privacy risks, even though the agency kept the information confidential. But opponents say it will make political activity by tax-exempt groups even more opaque and open the door to donations from foreigners.
 Anna Massoglia and Sam Levine at Open Secrets:
A powerful new conservative organization fighting to restrict voting in the 2020 presidential election is really just a rebranded group that is part of a dark money network already helping President Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the federal judiciary, the Guardian and OpenSecrets reveal.
The organization, which calls itself the Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by right-wing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed Supreme Court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsurch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights.

The project announced it was spending $250,000 on advertisements in April, warning against voting by mail and accusing Democrats of cheating. It facilitated letters to election officials in Colorado, Florida, and Michigan, using misleading data to accuse jurisdictions of having bloated voter rolls and threatening legal action.

Calling voter suppression a “myth,” it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.
Despite appearing to be a free-standing new operation, the Honest Elections Project is just a legal alias for the Judicial Education Project, a well-financed nonprofit connected to a powerful network of dark money conservative groups, according to business records reviewed by the Guardian and OpenSecrets.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Montana Spoiler Alert

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Major parties sometimes help third-party spoilers.  Governor Steve Bullock leads in the Montana Senate race, and Republicans are trying to use the Greens to siphon votes from him.

Mike Dennison reports at MTN News:
A recently formed political action committee that’s campaigning for a Green Party candidate in Montana’s high-profile U.S. Senate race is using a communications firm with ties to Montana Republicans, records show.
The Go Green Montana PAC paid $27,000 this month to Arena, a Salt Lake City firm, for digital ads, mailings and a website to support Green Party candidate Wendie Fredrickson.
Campaign-finance records also show that the Montana Republican Party and Republican candidates in Montana, including U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, have paid Arena $1.7 million for its services over the last decade.Sandi Luckey, the executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said the Go Green Montana PAC is “just the latest escalation in the ongoing Republican effort to mislead Montanans and meddle in our elections.”
On March 25, Mike Dennison reported at MTN News:
The Montana Republican Party helped finance the effort to qualify the Green Party for the state’s 2020 elections, paying $100,000 to groups that hired or financed mostly out-of-state signature-gathers, MTN News has learned.
The party confirmed Tuesday that it was behind the effort, but had reported late last month, on documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, that it made an initial $50,000 payment in January to the Texas company that hired signature-gatherers.
Montana Republican Party Executive Director Spenser Merwin told MTN News in a statement that the GOP wanted to “provide more choice for Montanans this November,” and noted that state Democrats have worked to “limit ballot access” to minor political parties.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Trump Albatross

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

A.B. Stoddard at RCP:
If there is one thing Senate Republicans trying hard to get reelected in November can count on, it’s that President Trump will make it even harder for them. From his gross mismanagement of a deadly pandemic to the nonstop, self-absorbed grievance parade he wants Senate Republicans to indulge during a deadly pandemic, Trump seems intent on making sure the out of control virus, the powerful issue of health care, and a tanking economy aren’t their only campaign headaches.

In just this past week Trump has threatened two states with extortion of federal funds, accused them of fictional crimes, continued firing inspectors general and publicly taunted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- himself a candidate who was outraised last quarter by his challenger -- to “get tough” on former President Obama. He descended on the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday on short notice to lecture them on party unity and earth-scorching.
Andrew O. Ballard  Hans J. G. Hassell  Michael Heseltine, "Be Careful What You Wish For: The Impacts of President Trump’s Midterm Endorsements," Legislative Studies Quarterly
First published:19 May 2020 Abstract:
We analyze the effects of President Trump’s endorsements on House and Senate elections in 2018. Previous work has argued that presidential endorsements are usually positive or, at worst, neutral for the recipient candidates. We find that President Trump was more likely to endorse candidates with a higher pre‐endorsement likelihood of winning and to endorse candidates in more competitive races, suggesting the president used endorsements strategically both to try and help Republican candidates win and to boost his reputation for helping candidates win. However, while President Trump’s public endorsements provided a financial boost to endorsed candidates, they also increased donor support of opposing candidates and were ultimately detrimental to candidates’ vote shares and likelihood of winning. This work provides evidence for potential backlash effects among opposition voters in response to presidential endorsement in a nationalized political environment and expands our understanding of the impact of presidential campaigning in congressional midterm elections.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Tax Cut Politics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  --  published last year --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Don Lee at LAT:
The lower corporate tax rate, plus the elimination of taxes on most foreign business income, would make the U.S. more competitive globally, it was argued. With the tax savings, companies would ramp up domestic investments. U.S. multinational firms would repatriate cash stashed overseas and invest domestically, and it would discourage a flight of capital to offshore destinations, ultimately benefiting workers in America.
But economists widely agree that the tax cuts, while providing a small stimulus to growth particularly in 2018, failed on its core objectives.
Instead of ramping up capital spending and investments or turning away from offshoring, many U.S. companies focused on hiking dividends and buying back their own stock, which chiefly benefited high-income investors. Buybacks hit record levels in 2018 and remained strong in 2019.
As for dampening offshore investments, research has shown evidence the opposite happened. The tax overhaul included several new provisions that actually made it more desirable for U.S. multinational firms to invest in tangible assets overseas because that would give them a bigger tax break.
Nicholas Kristof at NYT:
While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one group: zillionaires. Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion — yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of wealthy real estate developers.

My Times colleague Jesse Drucker notes that Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked the Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the “Zillionaire Giveaway.”)

About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Culture of Corruption, 2020

In Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  

The American Prospect has a feature titled Mapping Corruption: The Interactive Exhibit
Yeganeh Torbati and Derek Willis at Pro Publica:
A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.
The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use. An additional 130,400, worth about $422,000, are not the type specified in the procurement data, the agency said.
Lindsay Wise and  Courtney McBride at WSJ:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted a dinner at the State Department for guests with ties to Kansas—the state where he had been urged to run for Senate—one of a series of private events that Democrats in Congress are now scrutinizing as Mr. Pompeo comes under fire for recommending the removal of his agency’s watchdog.
Democrats are examining whether Mr. Pompeo used taxpayer resources for personal purposes, and are partly focused on a series of private events, known as “Madison dinners,” sponsored by Mr. Pompeo and involving political, diplomatic and media figures.

That scrutiny has intensified in the days since Mr. Pompeo advised President Trump to fire Steve Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, while under investigation for allegedly using government staff for personal errands and for his emergency declaration to sell arms to Middle East allies, sidestepping Congress. Mr. Pompeo on Wednesday denied that Mr. Linick’s firing was retaliation for those investigations.