Late Night “Some Politics More Local Than Others” Open Thread: Jared Kushner, Grifter Icarus

Jared and his family are about to have it explained to them why smart slumlords keep a low profile. “Nobody cares” if a sharp operator hustles the schvartzes in some beat-down burb far from the Big Apple. But New Yorkers take their rent control codes seriously — not necessarily sincerely, but seriously — and NYC prosecutors are always looking for a rich, tender would-be wiseguy of whom to make an example. MarketWatch reports:

A New York City Council member and a tenant’s rights group are launching an investigation into the real-estate firm controlled by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, over a report that it regularly falsified building permits.

Politician Ritchie Torres and Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a tenants’ rights watchdog, made the announcement at a press conference outside Kushner Cos. New York headquarters on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, according to media reports. The news comes a day after the Associated Press reported that Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with New York City, declaring it had no rent-regulated tenants in buildings it owned, when it actually had hundreds.

That allowed the company to move in and conduct extensive construction and renovation that tenants claimed was targeted harassment aimed at driving them out to clear the way for higher-paying renters, said the AP…

In one instance, the Kushner Cos. purchased three buildings in Queens in 2015, in which most of the tenants had some protection that barred developers from evicting them or raising their rents in an effort to turn a quick profit, the AP reported.

But the company ticked a box on construction-permit applications that said the buildings had no rent-regulated tenants, according to an AP review of the documents. Tax records filed a few months after that showed the buildings actually had 94 rent-regulated units. The Kushner Cos., which at the time was headed by Jared Kushner, sold the buildings two years later for $60 million, or nearly 50% more than it had paid.

“It’s bare-faced greed,” said Carr. HRI compiled the work-permit application documents and shared them with AP. “The fact that the company was falsifying all these applications with the government shows a sordid attempt to avert accountability and get a rapid return on its investment.”…

Filing false documents to the city’s Department of Buildings carries a misdemeanor fine of up to $25,000, but it is regularly flouted. Landlords can receive a demand to file an “amended” form with the correct numbers. HRI found that the Kushner Cos. filed dozens of amended forms for the buildings in the documents, many of them a year or two later…

Even apart from the legal danger, imagine the humilation for Big-Time Global Operator Jared Kushner to be exposed in front of his new downtown “friends” as just another chisler sending thugs to intimidate old ladies out of their homes. If only he’d had the sense to keep a low profile!

Late-Night Speculation Russiagate Open Thread: Was North Carolina in 2014 A Trial Run for Cambridge Analytica?

From North Carolina’s own WRAL, “Tillis may have benefited from Facebook data breach”:

The data firm accused of stealing the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users may have used that information to help U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis win his seat in 2014.

North Carolina voters were among the first in the U.S. to be targeted by Cambridge Analytica, which boasted that its cache of “psychographic data” could be used to build personality profiles of voters and target political ads at them to influence their behavior…

n 2014, Tillis’ campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $30,000, and the North Carolina Republican Party paid $150,000, making the GOP the company’s fourth-largest client that year. The party also paid the firm $65,000 in 2015.

Cambridge Analytica now features Tillis’ successful campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as a case study on its website…

Tillis defeated Hagan by fewer than 50,000 votes following a campaign marked by one negative ad after another on both sides.

Cambridge Analytica’s third-largest client in 2014, the John Bolton SuperPAC, was also highly active in the Tillis/Hagan race, spending nearly $1.5 million to benefit Tillis and damage Hagan. The super-PAC spent $341,000 with the company for messaging consulting.

Tillis didn’t respond Monday to repeated requests for comment on the allegations against Cambridge Analytica’s methods. Republican 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry, whose campaign also spent $15,000 on Cambridge Analytica’s services in 2014, also didn’t respond to requests for comment…

Still, North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said the new revelations raise a lot of questions about what the GOP, Tillis or McHenry knew about Cambridge Analytica, what they asked the firm to do and when they found out about its connections to Russia…

Meanwhile, per the Daily Beast

Billionaire heiress Rebekah Mercer is standing by embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica––at least for now. A person close to Mercer, who sits on the firm’s board, told The Daily Beast she has no immediate plans to leave her post there, despite a bombshell report alleging the company used Ukrainian sex workers to try to get compromising material about its clients’ political opponents.

“She is working to be part of the solution,” said the source, of one of American conservatism’s most powerful mega-donors.

“She has always worked to make sure she observes and abides by all established norms and legal mandates,” the source added.

The source said Robert Mercer, who co-founded America’s most lucrative hedge fund, is just a passive investor in Cambridge Analytica and has never been on its board. Rebekah Mercer is his daughter, and conducts broad business oversight as a board member…

The Mercers were among Trump’s most generous supporters, spending millions to support his campaign.

Wouldn’t it just be the rancid cherry on this shit sundae, if it turned out that Rebekah threw millions of Daddy’s money down a Russian rathole just for the chance to feel like she was a Serious Important Political Macher, someone “in the room where it happened”? And not just another dumb heiress like Ivanka?

“Progressive Independent” Open Thread: Death Wish

… AWAY & SHUT UP, if I get my wish.

If we Democrats do as well as projected in 2018, St. Bernie will be scrabbling for figurehead position on the bandwagon. If we, Goddess forbid, don’t, he’s all set to work the “Buy my book, and make a token $27 contribution to my exploratory committee” circuit, right across the aisle from Newt Gingrich. Except, as ever, the man’s timing is impeccable…

Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller’s assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders’ campaign.

The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.

In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.

“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.
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Open Thread: Professor Krugman vs. Buck-Fiddy Ryan

“Speaker Ryan”‘s press secretary, y’all. Note the timestamp: HE’S NOT GIVING UP HIS BIG LIE!

Though, despite “presidential” precedent, looks like the Grey Lady *still* won’t let Krugman use the word bullshit on its website…

Should we keep giving Ryan grief over that tweet? Yes, we should – and not just because it shows how out of touch he is. By highlighting the tiny tax cut some workers will get as if that were the point and main result of a bill that blows up the deficit by more than $1 trillion, he helps illustrate the bait-and-switch at the core of the whole G.O.P. agenda.

For tax cuts aren’t free. Sooner or later, the federal government has to pay its way. Even if you don’t think the budget deficit is currently a big problem, except under very special circumstances anything that reduces revenue will eventually have to be offset by later tax increases or spending cuts…

So Ryan is patting himself on the back for giving a schoolteacher some French fries. What’s he planning to take away?

Well, we know the answer: Republicans constantly use the alleged dangers of budget deficits to argue for sharp cuts in social programs. You might have thought they’d lay off that rhetoric for a while after passing an unfunded $1.5 trillion tax cut, but in fact they barely paused; even at the height of the tax “reform” debate, people like Orrin Hatch declared that we can’t “spend billions and billions and trillions of trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves.” Right now they’re dragging their feet on funding for community health centers, complaining about the cost…

It’s such an obvious scam that you might think either that its perpetrators would get embarrassed or that the public would get wise. But the first won’t happen. The second – well, we’ll see in November.

Open Thread: Trial Buffoon Balloon


Mamma needs a new grift! Per CNN:

“I’ve had people contact me and urge me to run for that Senate seat,” Bachmann said. “The only reason I would run is for the ability to take these principles into the United States Senate,” she said, later adding, “The question is should it be me? Should it be now? But there’s also a price you pay. And the price is bigger than ever because the swamp is so toxic.”

“We’re trying to be wise,” Bachmann continued, suggesting that Franken was dropped by Democrats because the party wants to be able to hurl false accusations against Republicans in coming elections…

Bachmann has been accused of employing gay conversion therapy at her Counseling Care clinics over the years, and the clinics have been hit with health inspector violations in 2005, 2009 and 2017, according to NBC News. In her interview with Bakker, she referenced the clinics, claiming that false allegations had left her clinics nearly bankrupt twice.

“My husband and I aren’t money people,” Bachmann said, suggesting that political candidates are now even larger targets for “frivolous lawsuits.”

“If you’re a billionaire, you can maybe defend yourself,” she said, later adding, “If you’re trying to go against the tide in DC, if you’re trying to stand for biblical principles in DC and you stick your head up out of the hole … the blades come whirring and they try to chop you off.”…

I suspect that about-to-be-appointed replacement Senator Tina Smith will be duly grateful for Ms. Bachmann’s timely announcement. Because there’s “not exactly the most riveting candidate”, and then there’s “ongoing national punch line”

Late Night Open Thread: The Grifter-in-Chief


Once Trump has been removed from office, I vote we charge the RNC back for every bloody penny.

Mr. Charles P. Pierce takes the long view:

All of this, and so much more of which we are probably unaware, is nakedly, blatantly unconstitutional. It’s not even a close call. When the president* turned the presidential coin into an advertisement for himself, it was only the most literal example of his coining the presidency into gold. And Judge George Daniels has dumped it right in Paul Ryan’s lap. He has challenged Ryan’s patriotism to Ryan’s face. And Ryan has shirked his constitutional duty to his country in this as he has shirked it in so many other areas. He also has dumped it in the country’s lap as well. If you don’t want to be represented by people who don’t give a damn about the Constitution, his decision says, vote them out of office—or else join them in sad complicity.

Sidebar: Note the Democrats consistently take less time off than the Repubs…

Tax Bill Protests Open Thread: “A Corrupt, Cruel, Budget-Busting Hairball”

John Cassidy, in the New Yorker:

Grant the Republican Party leaders one thing: their tactics in passing their hugely unpopular tax bill have been consistent—consistently evasive. A few weeks ago, the Senate version of the bill was passed in the middle of the night. This weekend, the final iteration of the legislation was made public on Friday evening—a traditional dumping ground for bad news. The Republicans intend to hold votes on the bill early next week in both houses of Congress, and it seems certain to pass.

It is hardly surprising that Republicans don’t want to give anyone too much time to look closely at their latest handiwork. The final tax bill is the product of a conference committee that was tasked with reconciling the different bills passed in the House and the Senate. Almost eleven hundred pages long, the final bill is just as regressive and fiscally irresponsible as either of the two earlier bills, and it is arguably more so. At its center is a huge tax cut for corporations and unincorporated business partnerships—such as the ones that Donald Trump owns—while arrayed around the edges are all sorts of carve-outs and giveaways to favored industries and interest groups…

As for fairness, that principle was junked a long time ago. The final bill reflects the same principle as the previous two G.O.P. bills: Dom Perignon for the plutocrats, cheap swill for the masses. The bill is also cruel. In abolishing the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase health insurance, it will make individual plans even more costly and more difficult to obtain, especially for sick people. This isn’t just a tax bill. It is a backdoor effort to overturn the principle of universal access to health care.
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