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February 21, 2019
NYT’s Whitewash of Revolving Door Figure, Robert Khuzami
In this widely read article on President Trump and the Justice Department, the New York Times characterized the Deputy US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Robert Khuzami, in an entirely inaccurate manner. Not only was the characterization factually wrong, meriting a correction on its own, but it also gives readers unwarranted confidence in Khuzami’s independence. Indeed, Khuzami’s actual professional history merits serious scrutiny from the Times. The February 19, 2019 article stated that, “The inquiry is run by Robert Khuzami, a career prosecutor who took over after Mr. Berman, whom Mr. Trump appointed, recused himself because of a routine conflict of interest.” (emphasis added)The phrase “career prosecutor” conveys to a reader that Khuzami was a nonpolitical appointment who had spent the vast majority of his career in nonpolitical public service jobs prosecuting alleged criminals. Neither meaning is close to accurate, and the distance from truth actually elides the reason why Khuzami’s central role ought to stoke fear rather than generate calm.
January 29, 2019
How the Trump Team Might Make Some Hedge Funds Solvent Again
Eleanor Eagan and Jeff Hauser
Immediately following President Trump’s election, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s future generated renewed and robust interest. The Government Sponsored Entities’ (GSE) shares rallied on expectations that the Trump administration would take both entities out of conservatorship in a manner that rewarded all shareholders, including hedge-fund speculators. In the intervening two years, however, those expectations faded and shares in the GSEs underwent a slow decline.
January 28, 2019
Richard Neal Doth Protest Too Much
Jeff Hauser and Eleanor Eagan
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) has been criticized by many, including us, for his failure to pursue Trump’s tax returns in a timely manner. In an article in the Berkshire Eagle with the friendly title, “Neal lays groundwork on push for Trump tax returns,” Neal gave his constituents his side of the story.
Below, we annotate Neal’s claims.
January 16, 2019
One Trump Appointee, Two Jobs, Too Many Causes for Concern
Eleanor Eagan, Jeff Hauser, and Adewale Maye
You have likely not heard of Joseph Otting, as he has generated comparatively little attention amidst the circus that is President Trump’s executive branch. However, he is a deeply problematic official who has quietly amassed power in critical agencies that receive far too little attention given their impact on the economy and housing. Amazingly, Otting seems to be using these agencies to act upon resentments he developed as a “controversial,” at best, banking executive, making him a perfect representative of why we are concerned by the revolving door problem in our federal government.
November 13, 2018
How Goldman Sachs Still Holds Sway at SEC
With the departures of Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, and Dina Powell from the White House, has Goldman Sachs’ initial influence on the Trump Administration dwindled?
CNN asked that question this spring, noting that “one by one, almost all the high-profile Goldman Sachs alums have left the White House.” But as CNN, to its credit, also noted that while who is up and who is down in the Trump White House changes, leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been more stable — and Goldman Sachs’ former lawyer, Chairman Jay Clayton, runs that key agency.
November 05, 2018
Building An Agency Tracker to Monitor Government Appointments
The Independent Federal Agencies Leadership Tracker monitors appointments to agency leadership positions through the confirmation process and beyond. The initiative is part of the Revolving Door Project’s effort to even the playing field by empowering ordinary people with information previously hoarded by special interest groups.
November 02, 2018
Want Transparent Government? Answer These Questions
At first glance, the contentious Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and the Trump Administration’s response to the apparent brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi have very little in common. But there is one disturbing commonality — a shocking lack of transparency into the motivations of key players.
July 27, 2018 | American Constitution Society Blog
Trump-Russia Issue Helps Highlight Exactly What’s At Stake In Kavanaugh Fight
The most important battleground of the Kavanaugh confirmation fight is not a specific issue, but whether people pay attention to the nomination itself. To some, the focus on Trump and Russia is a distraction from the Supreme Court fight. But, in reality, the focus on Trump and Russia helps highlight exactly what’s at stake in this fight.
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.”