One DB to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

Did you know the Koch Bros created an all-seeing Eye of Sauron-like contraption to turn its terrible, burning gaze on voters? And that the Koch Bros and RNC’s Reince Repeatus are now squabbling over the RNC’s master voter data file like a pair of horny frat boys over a bootlegged sex tape? It’s true!

Interviews with more than three dozen people, including top decision-makers in both camps, have revealed that the Kochs’ i360 platform for managing voter contacts — which is viewed by many as a superior, easier-to-use interface than what’s on offer from the RNC — is becoming increasingly popular among Republican campaigns.

The RNC is now openly arguing, however, that the Kochs’ political operation is trying to control the Republican Party’s master voter file, and to gain influence over — some even say control of — the GOP.

“I think it’s very dangerous and wrong to allow a group of very strong, well-financed individuals who have no accountability to anyone to have control over who gets access to the data when, why and how,” said Katie Walsh, the RNC’s chief of staff.

You don’t say, Katie Walsh! Imagine how much worse it would be if well-financed individuals were able to just purchase candidates outright, like so many packages of Peeps? Oh wait…

Any guesses on who wins in this scuffle over the precious data?

Bernie Sanders Hauls in $1.5 Million in 24 Hours

Maybe there’s hope for the republic after all; via CNN:

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ nascent presidential campaign announced Friday that it had raised more than $1.5 million in its first 24 hours, a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted on their first day… [M]ore than 100,000 people signed up for the campaign and 35,000 people donated money….

Bernie raised more than Marco Rubio, Rand Paul or Ted Cruz collected on their first day, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the corporate media has spent the last two years acting as if that trio of lightweights and lunatics are serious presidential contenders while treating anyone to the left of Susan Collins as a commie crank. 

The mister and I played a small part in Bernie’s surprisingly successful showing: We made our first political contribution of 2016 to Sanders’ campaign yesterday in the hope that his candidacy would drag Hillary Clinton a few centimeters leftward. Little did we guess we were droplets in a socialist cash tsunami!

Chumps, Marks, Fools And Suckers

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post notes that the right is up in arms over campaign finance reform and political action committees.  Up until now the screaming has been that the Obama administration was using the IRS to somehow “unfairly target” these groups as political motivation, something Republicans held a billion hearings about that were all smoke and mirrors.

Only it turns out Tea Party PACs actually were “legally” defrauding the hell out of their donors the whole time thanks to the Citizens United ruling.

In the last few years, political organizations of various kinds have proliferated, as all kinds of people seek to take advantage of the post-Citizens United world in which money can flow in so many directions. This has provided a splendid opportunity for the participants in an old game, one in which gullible conservatives are scammed out of their money by a seemingly limitless number of con artists.

Some of those con artists are obscure consultants and operators, but some of them are quite famous, which we’ll get to in a bit. But today, John Hawkins of Right Wing News released a report on a group of conservative PACs that took in millions of dollars in contributions in 2014, ostensibly for the purpose of electing Republicans, but spent almost none of it on actual political activity. Instead, the money went into the pockets of the people who run the PACs and their associates. Jonah Goldberg, reacting to the report, calls this the “right wing scam machine.”

Why, one would think these campaign finance groups should be targeted for increased scrutiny or something. Hawkins gives this situation:

For example, let me tell you how conservatives can be (and have been) ripped off by scam groups. Let’s say Ronald Reagan is still alive and someone starts the Re-Elect Ronald Reagan To A Third Term PAC. Because people love Reagan, let’s suppose that conservative donors pony up $500,000 to help the organization. However, the donors don’t know that Ronald Reagan has nothing to do with the PAC. Furthermore, the real goal of the PAC is to line the pockets of its owner, not to help Ronald Reagan. So, the PAC sets up two vendors, both controlled by the PAC owner: Scam Vendor #1 and Scam Vendor #2. Let’s assume it costs $50,000 to raise the half million the PAC takes in. Then, the PAC sends $100,000 to the first company and $100,000 to the second company to “promote Ronald Reagan for President.”

Each of the companies then goes out and spends $1,000 on fliers. The “independent expenditures” that show up on the FEC report? They’re at 40%. That’s because the FEC doesn’t require vendors to disclose how much of the money they receive is eaten up as overhead. The dubious net benefit that Ronald Reagan receives from an organization that raised $500,000 on his name? It’s $2,000. On the other hand, the net profit for the PAC owner is $448,000. Is that legal? The short answer is, “It’s a bit of a grey area, but, yes, it is legal.

Which is exactly what conservatives said they wanted, because when Democrats pointed out after Citizens United “Hey, we should probably then change the rules so that there’s more disclosure transparency in what PACs actually give to candidates” it’s people like Jonah Goldberg who happily called campaign finance reform (and everything else Democrats ever did) “liberal fascism” and an assault on “free speech” and went berserk when the Obama Administration turned to the IRS to try to see what the hell these PACs were up to and Democrats suggested that “Hey, we might want to bring in some regulation here.”

Mitch McConnell killed the DISCLOSE Act real quick last summer.

Now, you see, some conservatives think campaign finance reform might be a good idea.


The Protection Money Racket

Seems global number two bank HSBC has been very naughty over the years, going out of its way to providing services in “creative tax avoidance” for those who could afford it.

The private-banking unit of HSBC Holdings Plc made significant profits for years handling secret accounts whose holders included drug cartels, arms dealers, tax evaders and fugitive diamond merchants, according to a report released Sunday by an international news organization.

HSBC is among a handful of banks to face criminal prosecution in recent years for its role in a Swiss banking system that allowed depositors to conceal their identities, and in many cases dodge taxes or launder ill-gotten cash. The report, prepared by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, revealed for the first time the massive sweep of HSBC’s private-banking arm as of 2007, when it controlled $100 billion in assets and served a swath of wealthy depositors from the elite to the illicit.

A whole hell of a lot of tax money got dodged thanks to these guys, and it may be time to pay the piper very soon.

The report is based on a list of HSBC clients from around that time that a onetime employee took from the bank and turned over to European officials, sparking tax investigations from Argentina to France, Belgium and Greece. While some of the list’s names have emerged before, Sunday’s report drew from a more comprehensive list of accounts associated with more than 100,000 people and legal entities from more than 200 nations, ranging from the legitimate to the illicit.

“These revelations confirm that banking secrecy has been used to avoid taxation,” Vanessa Mock, a European Union spokeswoman for tax affairs, said Monday.

Depositors included royal families and convicted cocaine dealers, ambassadors and terror suspects, entertainers and elected officials, corporate executives and athletes. To these and other clients, the bank actively promoted its accounts as an efficient way to hide assets from tax collectors, according to the report.

Bet long on tumbrels, guillotines, and various flavored popcorn.  Suddenly these tax loopholes are looking like very tasty sources of government income, at least in Europe.

In America, well, not so much, I’d think.  We’ll see.

It’s Hard Out Here For A Player

You guys, Master of the Universe Jamie Dimon is upset and stuff.

Jamie Dimon, grappling with multibillion-dollar legal costs and rising capital requirements at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), lashed out at U.S. regulators for putting his bank “under assault.”

“We have five or six regulators or people coming after us on every different issue,” Dimon, 58, said today on a call with reporters after New York-based JPMorgan reported fourth-quarter results. “It’s a hard thing to deal with.”

Other “hard things to deal with” may also include the near total implosion of the global economy caused by Jaime Dimon’s bank in 2008.

Dimon, who was lauded during the crisis for JPMorgan’s role in buying Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual Inc.’s bank units, has criticized the government for penalizing JPMorgan for those firms’ actions.

The bank settled foreign-exchange investigations with three regulators in November, paying about $1 billion, and still faces a Justice Department probe.

“In the old days, you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue, maybe two,” said Dimon, 58. “Now it’s five or six. It makes it very difficult and very complicated. You all should ask the question about how American that is. And how fair that is. And how complex that is for companies.”

YOU GUYS KEEP PICKING ON HIM.  I mean sure, the guillotines are a nice touch and all, but he has feelings too ya know.  The best part is that the new GOP Congress completely agrees with him.  There are just too many regulators bothering Jamie Dimon dammit, and we need to put a stop to it.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), is called the Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act, but its name obscures what it would actually do. The legislation is a compilation of deregulatory bills that failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate in the last Congress. It would alter nearly a dozen provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, loosening regulation of Wall Street banks.

That seems useful, right?

Last week, House Republicans tried to force Fitzpatrick’s bill through the House using a procedure typically used for uncontroversial bills or technical fixes. This process, known as fast-tracking, requires the bill to receive a yes vote from two-thirds of the chamber, or at least 290 members. But on Friday, just 276 of the 435 members of the House voted for the measure—well short of the two-thirds majority required. Now GOP leaders have resurrected the bill, and will push it through under the normal rules, which require just a simple majority. The bill is expected to pass the House easily, although it’s unclear whether the Senate would approve it. President Barack Obama would likely veto it. But GOPers could force the legislation into law by attaching bits of it to must-pass bills—such as spending legislation—later this year.

You’ll be seeing a lot of that “attaching to must-pass bills” trick over the next two years, I think.

Republicans Are Bad For Your Health

This is just a drive-by sidelight on Richard’s brief — but its worth taking a look at this explainer from the Upshot.

The good news:  Obamacare is doing what it set out to do.  Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz write that

The biggest winners from the law include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas. The areas with the largest increases in the health insurance rate, for example, include rural Arkansas and Nevada; southern Texas; large swaths of New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia; and much of inland California and Oregon.

Each of these trends is going in the opposite direction of larger economic patterns. Young people have fared substantially worse in the job market than older people in recent years. Blacks and Hispanics have fared worse than whites and Asians. Rural areas have fallen further behind larger metropolitan areas.

Women are the one modest exception. They have benefited more from Obamacare than men, and they have received larger raises in recent years. But of course women still make considerably less money than men, so an economic benefit for women still pushes against inequality in many ways. [all links in the original]


The bad news:  it sucks to be ruled by the Republican cabal.  Or rather, it’s great if your state government actually managed to get used to the idea of Free Money! (h/t the indispensable Charles Pierce):

Despite many Republican voters’ disdain for the Affordable Care Act, parts of the country that lean the most heavily Republican (according to 2012 presidential election results) showed significantly more insurance gains than places where voters lean strongly Democratic. That partly reflects underlying rates of insurance. In liberal places, like Massachusetts and Hawaii, previous state policies had made insurance coverage much more widespread, leaving less room for improvement. But the correlation also reflects trends in wealth and poverty. Many of the poorest and most rural states in the country tend to favor Republican politicians. Of course, the fact that Republican areas showed disproportionate insurance gains does not mean that only Republicans signed up; there are many Democrats living in even the most strongly Republican regions of the country.

But for the rest…

There are still a lot of uninsured people remaining, many in the places that had high uninsured rates last year.

Where would those folk live?  Check out the last map in the piece.  No one here will be surprised.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ Preaching (Christ Healing the Sick — the hundred guilder print), 1646-50.

Hoist with His Own Teaturd

I’m not sure tribble-topped presidential aspirant Rand Paul recovers from this:

In a variety of campaign appearances that were captured on video, Paul repeatedly compared Reagan unfavorably to Carter on one of Paul’s top policy priorities: government spending. When Paul was a surrogate speaker for his father, then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), during the elder Paul’s 2008 presidential quest, his sales pitch included dumping on Reagan for failing to rein in federal budget deficits. Standing on the back of a truck and addressing the crowd at the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers picnic in July 2007, Rand Paul complained about Reagan and praised his father for having opposed Reagan’s budget…”

David Corn’s Mother Jones article linked above includes six video clips of Baby Doc slagging on Reagan as a spendthrift as the younger Paul campaigned for his daddy. What Paul says about Reagan exploding the debt is all true, of course.

And it’s not wise to underestimate the Republican base’s capacity to ignore facts and focus on shiny objects: That’s how they came to deify the folksy, addled, debt-exploding Z-grade actor as an exemplar of fiscal rectitude in the first place.

But imagine the field day Paul’s primary opponents will have parading this heresy before the cameras at every debate. The message that Reagan actually was a profligate spendthrift won’t sink in, but the fact that Paul unfavorably compared Baby Jeebus Reagan to Satan’s Valet Carter sure will.