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March 09, 2018 | The Baffler
The Do-Nothing Discipline
In November 2008, most Americans acknowledged George W. Bush’s presidency as a failure. The Republican Party, unquestionably complicit in that failure, was down for the count; Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain, a popular war hero, decisively. Conservatism itself seemed rocked on its heels, perhaps for good. When recently inaugurated President Obama delivered an address to a joint session of Congress to tout his $787 billion stimulus package, just 8 percent of TV viewers said they disapproved of Obama’s performance. By sharp contrast, “rising star” Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana delivered a lackluster response, which featured an attack on a $140 million outlay for “something called ‘volcano monitoring’”—just a month before a volcanic eruption sent a sixty-thousand-foot cloud of ash over Alaska. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks called Jindal’s “stale, government-is-the-problem” ideology “a disaster for the Republican Party.”
January 25, 2018
Revolving Door Project’s Director Jeff Hauser Reacts to Potential IRS Commissioner Nomination
The Revolving Door Project, with the support of a host of organizations interested in promoting good government (listed below), has for several months been shining a light on the importance of the IRS being run by either a Senate confirmed head or a career staffer. This effort has included sending letters to key congressional committees, the Treasury Department, and Inspectors General in December. Politico reported Tuesday that the Trump Administration has finally identified an IRS Commissioner to replace John Koskinen, who departed at the end of his term two and a half months ago. While it is far too soon to say if Charles Rettig is a good choice, it has been clear since David Kautter’s second job was announced that it is deeply inappropriate for a political appointee like Kautter to serve both as Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy as well as Acting Commissioner of the IRS.
December 18, 2017
Steven Mnuchin’s Stealth Conflict of Interest
The only solution out of the quagmire of Trump’s National Finance Chair supervising an agency critical to Mueller’s investigation is for Mnuchin to recuse himself from supervision of FinCEN during the duration of Mueller’s investigation.
October 26, 2017
Revolving Door Project’s Director Jeff Hauser Reacts to Trump Loyalist and Tax-Avoidance Professional Installed as IRS Commissioner
Jeff Hauser runs the Revolving Door Project, an effort to increase scrutiny on executive branch appointments and ensure that political appointees are focused on serving the public interest, rather than personal professional advancement. Today’s announcement that the Trump Administration would install David Kautter as the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service on November 12th, 2017 without a Senate confirmation process marks a further erosion of the Senate’s “Advice and Consent” power and a great day for all tax evaders, past and future. Kautter, a tax avoidance professional, has no history of work at the IRS, which many people have incorrectly assumed is (as it ought to be) a precondition for an ostensibly temporary hire. However, Kautter does have experience with the IRS. When Kautter was Director of National Tax at EY (formerly Ernst and Young) National Tax practice, their practices were so abusive that they ultimately had to pay $123 million to avoid criminal indictment. Why would the American people trust Kautter to rein in tax evasion when his firm behaved so egregiously under his ineffective and/or malevolent watch?
May 25, 2017
Rep. Delaney Consistently Sides with Corporations over Constituents
On the 17th of this month, a group of House Democrats, including Representative John Delaney (D-MD.), delivered a letter to President Trump offering, essentially, a trade: A tax holiday for international corporations in exchange for the guarantee that the money from that repatriation would be used exclusively to fund the country’s long-overdue infrastructure maintenance projects. Earlier this year Rep. Delaney also authored a tax and infrastructure bill which would allow corporations with funds outside the U.S. to return that money to the country at a tax rate of 8.57 percent (instead of the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent). Delaney, in his statement, called the bill a “pro-growth reform” and his co-sponsor, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), said that it would “spur job creation”.
March 17, 2017
Trump Tax Returns: Necessary, But Not Enough
Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow and David Cay Johnston revealed Donald Trump’s 2005 two-page Form 1040 on air. Before revealing the form, Maddow made an extended argument that Donald Trump must release his complete tax returns in order to disclose all potential conflicts of interest from his business empire, including potentially income from foreign governments. We agree — but tax returns are merely a starting point for understanding Trump’s business partners. In one example, Maddow pointed to a sketchy real estate deal with a Russian oligarch. Donald Trump purchased a piece of property in Florida for $40 million in 2005. Just three years later, Trump sold the property for $100 million to a Russian oligarch (i.e., a rich Russian businessperson closely tied to Putin’s government) named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Trump’s 150% return on investment in just three years would be suspiciously large even if the real estate magnate had bought an undervalued property and improved it. However, Rybolovlev actually quickly tore down the 62,000 square foot mansion and sold it off in three pieces. How the value of the property appreciated so quickly is a mystery, especially as the Florida’s real estate market was collapsing.
December 06, 2016
Obama and Senate Can Act Against Trump's Conflicts of Interest
As I’ve noted previously, Donald Trump’s relationship with billionaire hedge funder John Paulson seems likely to be very, very good for Paulson.
Paulson, who came to fame making $4 billion personally by betting against the housing bubble, also seems about to win big on having bet against pre-election favorite Hillary Clinton.
Interestingly, it now seems clear that the relationship between Paulson and Trump is mutually profitable.
November 23, 2016
Non-Familial Trump-Era Corruption?
There is belated but considerable press attention to Donald Trump’s nearly inextricable conflicts of interest. He and his family run a complex, far-flung, non-public company that largely relies on his name as a branding asset. Entities without America’s public interest in mind, be they foreign or domestic companies, are already beginning to cultivate the Trump family. Ivanka Trump, groomed to run the family business in something that will be a blind trust only in the most Orwellian sense imaginable, is being included in with international leaders potentially useful to “The Trump Organization.”