C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: The McConnell-Chao Marriage Is *Mutually* Profitable

Guess it’s nice for the GOP senators who’ve handed their balls over to Mitch to know that, should his Russian funding ever dry up, he won’t be reduced to peddling his memoirs to support his lifestyle:

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.

Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications…

The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.

Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other…

(Much more at the link. As with so many similar one-man pork projects, the money seems to have drained away on ‘showpiece’ architectural projects that benefited a small cadre of connected businessmen without providing much assistance to the voters who really needed some help.)

The power couple isn’t particulary covert about their money-spinning prowess. Bess Levin, at Vanity Fair:

Last week, the New York Times reported that the secretary tried to bring family members to government meetings with Chinese officials, despite said family members having major financial entanglements in China. Last month, the Wall Street Journal found that she’d made a $40,000 profit on her stake in Vulcan, the nation’s largest construction materials supplier, despite having promised—over a year ago!—to divest from the company, on whose board she sat…

Cole linked to the NYTimes article when it appeared, but seriously: Can you imagine the outrage if a Democratic Senator’s wife did anything like this?

Ms. Chao is the top Trump official overseeing the American shipping industry, which is in steep decline and overshadowed by its Chinese competitors.

Her efforts on behalf of the family business — appearing at promotional events, joining her father in interviews with Chinese-language media — have come as Foremost has interacted with the Chinese state to a remarkable degree for an American company.

Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government, whose policies have been labeled by the Trump administration as threats to American security. The company’s primary business — delivering China’s iron ore and coal — is intertwined with industries caught up in a trade war with the United States. That dispute stems in part from the White House’s complaints that China is flooding the world with subsidized steel, undermining American producers.
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Late Night Open Thread: Nice “Work” If You Can Get It…

Jon Chait, NYMag, “Why Are Republican Small Donors So Easy to Swindle?”:

Republicans have long complained, usually in private, that their fundraising apparatus is overrun with fraudsters. National Review’s Jim Geraghty has a column, “The Right’s Grifter Problem,” saying what many of them have been whispering. Many of President Trump’s most publicly strident loyalists are in the business of raising money for political projects that spend virtually all their funds on operating expenses…

Grifters go where the marks are:

A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $400,000 by the group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training. Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum.

The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members — the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances.

In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.

The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members…

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Cold Grey Pre-Dawn Open Thread: Ignorants Abroad

The good news, so far: Nobody threw punches, or milkshakes. And the (Inter)National Embarrassment my have nodded off during the big dinner, but at least he didn’t faceplant into his food. From the Washington Post:

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S visit to Britain this week represents a final miscalculation by the country’s hapless prime minister, Theresa May. Having repeatedly failed to win parliamentary approval for the terms for Britain’s departure from the European Union, deepening what has become the country’s worst political crisis since World War II, Ms. May was forced to announce her resignation last month. She nevertheless chose to press ahead with what promised to be a polarizing visit by Mr. Trump, whom she invited to become only the third U.S. president to be treated to a state visit…

Ms. May described the visit as “an opportunity to further strengthen” the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States. In fact, it will serve to put on display the widening cracks Mr. Trump has introduced into one of America’s closest alliances. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to cram central London Tuesday to reject the U.S. president, beneath a huge orange balloon portraying him as a baby in a diaper. They will be joined by leaders of the opposition Labour Party, who along with other prominent politicians boycotted the banquet for Mr. Trump hosted by Queen Elizabeth II…

… What’s clear is that the special relationship is under the same strain as other foundations of the Western liberal order buffeted by the Trump presidency. Most likely, it will survive, given the powerful cultural and economic bonds between the two countries and the enduring overlap of their security interests. But this week will be remembered as a low moment.


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Friday Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Laura Ingraham, Queen of the Nightcrawlers

Per the Washington Post:

The controversy stems from a Thursday night episode of “The Ingraham Angle,” in which the host lamented recent comments made by Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), criticizing Facebook’s refusal to take down an altered video of Pelosi.

Speaking with conservative activist Candace Owens, Ingraham likened the altered video to a work of satire. Clinton’s and Pelosi’s complaints, she said, were simply a coordinated effort from the left to “silence conservative voices” ahead of next year’s election, a common accusation by conservatives, including President Trump.

“Facebook now, what do they monitor, hate?” Ingraham asked. “That sounds good until you realize hate — and these are some of the people that they’ve shunned.”

Fox then displayed a graphic featuring Owens and seven other “prominent voices censored on social media.” Among those silenced, Ingraham said, were “people who believe in border enforcement, people who believe in national sovereignty.”…

Sen. Warren’s decision not to give them a media-friendly town hall looking pretty good right now…


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C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: Investigators Circling In, Trump Spiraling Down

Backup plan:


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