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How the ‘Citizens United’ decision paved the way for Giuliani’s pals to buy influence in America

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- Commentary

As I pointed out last week, the most powerful intervention in US politics allowing foreign influence in US elections, which contributed to Trump’s victory in 2016, was the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) decision. Like Michaelangelo’s God creating Adam with a pointing finger, SCOTUS created out of thin air a doctrine the corporations are persons. They added to this ridiculous conclusion their previous creatio ex nihilo, the terminally stupid argument that money is speech and so money in politics can’t be regulated. The result is that corporations can now donate on their own to Super-Pacs. Since corporations are often opaque as to ownership and since foreigners can be prominent on their boards, SCOTUS has allowed foreigners to donate to and influence US elections

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Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman associates of Rudy Giuliani, were arrested attempting to leave the US with one-way tickets to Austria, after they had been subpoenaed to testify before the House.

One of the charges on which they were arrested was that they set up a dummy corporation, represented as a gas and oil enterprise but which did not actually exist, calling it Global Energy Producers. GEP then made a donation of $325,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump political action committee, in May of 2018,

They donated big sums to other PACs via their corporate personhood, funneling money from the Ukraine and $1 million from one Russian businessman alone. Citizens United allowed them to operate anonymously and to give as much as they liked (or as their foreign patrons liked).

They also used GEF to influence Republican congressman Pete Sessions to write a letter to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, demanding that he fire the US ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

They also did illegal fundraisers for Florida governor Ron DeSantis, helping him win the governorship.

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I wrote last week:

  • “A series of pro-corporation Supreme Court decisions and the latter’s disingenuous equation of money with speech, including “Citizens United”, have turned the United States from a democracy to a plutocracy. It is not even a transparent plutocracy, since black money (of unknown provenance) has been allowed by SCOTUS to flood into elections. These developments are not only deadly to democracy, they threaten US security. It is increasingly difficult to exclude foreign money from US political donations. We not only come to be ruled by the billionaires, but even by foreign billionaires with foreign rather than American interests at heart.”

At The Intercept, Jon Schwarz and Lee Fang explained that Citizens United (2010) changed everything, allowing corporations to contribute their own money to Super-PACs, with the only restriction that they not directly coordinate with the candidates’ campaigns (a vague restriction, the contravention of which is almost impossible to prove).

Citizens United, by bestowing political personhood on corporations, opened US elections to foreign money in several ways, they point out.

Ghost corporations, the ownership of which is opaque, can be set up precisely for the purpose of contributing to super-PACs. The FEC is underfunded and castrated and lacks the resources and the will to look into the actual owners of the ghost corporations.

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Further, some 25% of securities in US corporations are owned by foreign nationals, and it is absolutely impossible to squester foreign and US interests within these corporations or the super-PACs they support.

Non-profit foundations can also contribute to super-PACs. They write,

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  • “Want an example? Consider, for instance, that the American Petroleum Institute is partially financed by the U.S. subsidiary of Aramco, the state-owned Saudi oil company. In the 2010 midterm elections, API was one of the funders behind attack ads that helped the Republican Party take back the House of Representatives from the Democrats and stop most of Obama’s plans in their tracks.”

Nor is there any prospect of this situation improving. When Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed on the Supreme Court, I wrote,

    • “Big Money Dominating Politics. Citizens United (2010) and other recent Supreme Court cases allowing the super-rich to saturate the airwaves with advertising for the candidate they back, with full knowledge that they thereby ingratiate themselves with the candidate and can expect to call in favors– all this has made money king in the American electoral system. It isn’t that most Congressmen are personally bribed. It is their campaigns that receive the money. But a big war chest is job security for congressmen and senators.

Richard L. Hasen explains

    • that “Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Supreme Court in 2010 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” rejected the idea that it is corruption for large donors to the campaign of a politician is corruption. Rather, the donor receives only “Ingratiation and access” which is permissible. In a case decided in 2014, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Chief Justice John Roberts went even further, celebrating the idea of politicians responding to the wishes of big donors and spenders. Not only are “ingratiation and access” afforded those making large campaign contributions not corruption, Roberts explained. Donors

“embody a central feature of democracy — that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

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    • In a democracy, Roberts tells us, we should want politicians to be responsive to big donors.Citizens United was … a fragile 5-4 decision that could have been weakened or ultimately overturned. Now, it is 6-3 and likely become set in stone to the vast detriment of our democracy.”

So arguably if you’re upset about soliciting or permitting foreign interference in US elections, John Roberts is somebody you should look at impeaching.

I think I nailed it.


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Florida outbreak is ‘much worse’ than Gov. DeSantis is letting on: Former COVID-19 data chief

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Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist who in May claimed that she was fired for refusing to manipulate state coronavirus data to meet the Republican governor's reopening criteria, has issued a new warning: The ongoing outbreak is "much, much worse" than it has been painted by the administration.In a Monday interview with MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, Jones, who built the state government's coronavirus data portal, identified a number of failures since she left her state job. Florida recently posted the highest daily caseload in a single day across all 50 U.S. states.
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2020 Election

Jeff Sessions’ fate is a warning for us all

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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions lost his primary race to be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama on Tuesday night in a landslide, according to Decision Desk HQ. Early returns showed him losing the shot to win back his old seat by more than 20 points to opponent Tommy Tuberville, who will face off against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.

It wasn't a surprising loss for Sessions, though it is a brutal one. He gave up his seat in the Senate to become President Donald Trump's attorney general, and he lost his big chance to return because his one-time benefactor turned against him. Trump enthusiastically endorsed Tuberville while viciously and repeatedly denouncing Sessions.

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2020 Election

Trump Jr. blasted for dragging Barron Trump into 2020 campaign: ‘You are messing up his mind’

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President Donald Trump's eldest son on Tuesday dragged his 14-year-old half brother Barron into the 2020 presidential campaign -- and it did not end well.

Barron is the son of first lady Melania Trump from the president's third marriage, while junior's mother is Ivana, from the president's first marriage.

"In all fairness, Joe Biden is not capable of debating Barron Trump let alone Donald Trump," Trump, Jr. tweeted.

He was quickly blasted for bringing a minor into a presidential race.

Here's some of what people were saying:

https://twitter.com/AdamParkhomenko/status/1283190894401859584

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