By Doug Porter
Another would-be Trump administration official fell by the wayside yesterday, as recently exposed serial plagiarist Monica Crowley backed out as senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council. She joins former CIA Director James Woolsey and Jason Miller on the list of those who didn’t make it to January 20th.
Nominees for various cabinet positions, including Andy Puzder (Labor), Dr. Tom Price (Health & Human Services), Betsy Devos (Education), and Steven Mnuchin (Treasury) are all in for a rough ride as Republicans rush to get as many as possible lined up for quick confirmation votes after Trump’s inauguration.
And then there is the inauguration, which should serve as a warning for just how dysfunctional and sad the next four years will be. Active resistance at each step of the way is our best hope.
A “Truly Horrifying” Choice
A CNN report on Monday claimed Andy Puzder, CEO of the company that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., was having second thoughts about becoming Labor secretary. “He may be bailing,” said a Republican source close to the Trump transition team. “He is not into the pounding he is taking, and the paperwork.” The word this morning is administration official have talked him off that ledge.
— Jobs With Justice (@jwjnational) January 17, 2017
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations, has called Puzder “unfit” for the position. A letter sent to Senator Lamar Alexander, Chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions cites failure to enforce and update labor laws and regulations by CKE Restaurant Holdings, parent company of Carl’s Jr., Hardees, and other fast food restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, organized labor has also been vocal in opposition to the nomination of Puzder. An AFL-CIO petition calls him a truly horrifying choice:
Puzder’s anti-worker views are no secret. He’s railed against a meaningful increase in the minimum wage, opposed expanding overtime pay and advocated replacing working people with machines. Of his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants that were investigated for labor law complaints, 60% were found to have violated the law. Most of these complaints were for failure to pay workers minimum wage or overtime.
And, while working people at his fast food chain sometimes were making below minimum wage, Puzder was taking big compensation packages. In 2012, he made 291 times as much as workers at his restaurants.
Now, he could be in charge of enforcing our nation’s labor laws—from ensuring workplace safety to investigating wage theft.
Corruption Charges Dog HHS Pick
Orthopedic-surgeon-turned-Congressman Tom Price’s aren’t looking good as he heads into hearings on his fitness to be Secretary of Health & Human Services. Four incidents calling into question his ethics have emerged.
Last year Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer, just days before introducing legislation directly benefiting the company. Records show, the company’s political action committee donated to the congressman’s reelection campaign, shortly after the legislation was introduced, according to CNN.
- A small Australian biotech firm called Innate Immunotherapeutics sold nearly $1 million in discounted shares to two American congressmen sitting on House committees with the potential power to advance the company’s interests. Price, according to Kaiser Health News, “paid 18 cents a share for a stake in a company that was rapidly escalating in value, rising to more than 90 cents as the company promoted an aggressive plan to sell to a major pharmaceutical company.”
- Rep. Tom Price received $2,000 for undisclosed services rendered in 2014 (even though he wasn’t practicing medicine at the time) by Daiichi Sankyo Inc, a Japanese pharmaceutical company then under investigation by the Justice Department. In January 2015 the company settled with the Federal Government, paying $39 million for “improper kickbacks in the form of speaker fees.”
- Kaiser Health News also reports Rep. Price received $40,000 in support from Georgia-based MiMedx, whose CEO was accused of shaking down company employees for contributions to a Political Action Committee. With those combined PAC and individual donations, the company was ranked as Price’s top contributor for 2015-2016 by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Building God’s Kingdom with Your Tax Dollars
Questions about ethics have delayed Senate hearings for Billionaire GOP donor Betsy DeVos. The New York Times Editorial Board said her finances were “a tangle that could take weeks to investigate.”
She and husband Richard have investments in 250 companies registered to the same Grand Rapids, Mich. address. These include a Michigan charter school and an indirect interest in online student lending company.
Her political group, All Children Matter, still owes the State of Ohio for a $5.3 million fine for breaking campaign finance laws in 2008.
*wow* -> Trump’s education pick Betsy DeVos omitted $125,000 anti-union donation from disclosure form https://t.co/PUTWCIILU8
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) January 17, 2017
Beyond the financial questions, there are serious worries about the agenda DeVos will bring to her job.
Chicago teacher Erika Wozniak’s widely reprinted open letter gets to the heart of the matter:
Betsy DeVos has never gone to public schools. Her children have never attended public schools. She has never taught or served as an administrator in public schools. She has made a career out of funding schemes to cripple or destroy public schools. And now Donald Trump has a new way to put Betsy DeVos and public schools in the same sentence: Let Betsy DeVos help shape the future of public schools as head of the Education Department.
Mother Jones explains how this just might be a bad idea:
DeVos is married to Amway scion Dick DeVos (whose father, Richard DeVos, is worth more than $5 billion, according to Forbes) and is seen as a controversial choice due to her track record of supporting vouchers for private, religious schools; right-wing Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values, which has pushed to soften the separation of church and state; and organizations like Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has championed the privatization of the education system.
A Foreclosure Machine at Treasury
Never mind that Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Treasury is (Yet another) Goldman Sachs alumni. Or that his most recent work was amongst those effete liberals in the movie industry. It’s Steve Mnuchin’s legacy as an investor in what was left of IndyMac following its collapse in 2009 that counts.
From Think Progress:
Mnuchin and his colleagues subsequently named the bank OneWest. And under their supervision, the bank foreclosed on 36,000 home loans, according to the California Reinvestment Coalition, which has called the bank a “foreclosure machine.” Meanwhile, the bank was getting payments from the FDIC to cover a portion of the bank’s business losses that came to $1 billion.
In particular, the bank’s Financial Freedom unit, which issued reverse mortgages mostly to elderly homeowners borrowing against their home’s equity, has foreclosed on at least 16,200 of these loans since 2009, according to other data obtained by the California Reinvestment Coalition. That makes up nearly 40 percent of all foreclosures on reverse mortgages in that time period even though it served just 17 percent of the market. The unit has caught the eye of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General, which has launched an investigation into it.
OneWest was also implicated in the robo-signing controversy, with one employee testifying she signed 750 such affidavits and documents a week, spending just 30 seconds on each foreclosure without verifying information. And there also allegations of redlining practices via a recent complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the California Reinvestment Coalition.
Nice guy, huh?
Tara-ra-boom-di-ay, It’s Donald Trump’s Day
Then there are the inauguration events. Although more than $90 million has been raised for events surrounding the transition of power, the incoming administration’s festivities will be “workmanlike,’ according to Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The incoming President’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue is expected to be among the shortest on record–roughly 90 minutes. President Obama’s first inaugural festivities lasted five days. Donald Trump is spending three days celebrating.
The day after the inauguration it may pay to recall this bit of advance cheerleading via the Washington Examiner:
But perhaps no other element of the week’s festivities will more clearly signal Trump’s intentions than his inaugural address, which he is said to be writing with the help of policy visionary Stephen Miller. Free of the political limits imposed on him by the current president, Trump’s seminal speech will give him the opportunity to reframe the priorities of his administration at a moment when the entire country will pause to listen to what he has to say.
Douglas Young, professor of political science and history at the University of North Georgia, said he senses Trump wants to use the inauguration to put the acrimony of the 2016 campaign firmly in the past.
“My impression is that President-elect Trump really wants to impress people with how he can be a man of dignity, that he’s capable of avoiding being the kind of person who seems obsessed with tweeting, and often about trivial matters,” Young said. “My sense is that he’s going to try to strike a bipartisan tone.”
Welcome to what the press may end up reading like in the Glorious Leader Trump era.
Protests & Boycotts
From the Washington Post:
Meanwhile, city officials have indicated that far more charter buses have sought parking permits in the city’s biggest lot on Saturday, when a protest Women’s March on Washington is scheduled, than for the inauguration the day before.
Thomas J. Barrack Jr., an international financier who is leading Trump’s inaugural committee, told reporters last week that the president-elect is seeking to avoid a “circuslike atmosphere” with his festivities.
The participants haven’t been entirely of his choosing. For weeks, Trump has been dogged by headlines about A-list entertainers turning down offers to join the celebration. Until Friday, the only acts that had been announced were the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockettes — both veterans of previous inaugurals — and Jackie Evancho, a classical singer who was runner-up on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2010.
According to Roll Call, more than 40 Congressional Democrats have decided to avoid Friday’s swearing-in ceremony. That number increased rapidly in the wake of Donald Trump’s tweets calling Rep. John Lewis all talk and no action.
People are pouring into Washington in record numbers. Bikers for Trump are on their way. It will be a great Thursday, Friday and Saturday!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
Locally, Congressman Juan Vargas told the Los Angeles Times he hasn’t decided yet, but will spend the day in prayer should he opt not to go. Congressman Scott Peters issued a press release saying he was planning on attending both the inauguration ceremony and the Women’s March the following day.
On Thursday, according to the Washington Post, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and a group of celebrities including SNL Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin, actors Mark Ruffalo and Rosie Perez, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and documentary maker Michael Moore will protest outside the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan. MoveOn.org and Greenpeace, who are among the organizers of the event say they are expecting thousands of attendees.
Activism Alert: San Diego welcomes Standing Rock’s water protectors
Tuesday, January 17, 5pm
Lincoln High School, Room 554
For more information
San Diego is honored to have Standing Rock’s Water Protectors…Myron Dewey, William Hawk, Ernesto Burbank, and many more. Please join us from 5-7pm at Lincoln High School’s Social Justice Department, room 554. There will be a suggested donation of $10 at the door, all proceeds will benefit Standing Rock.
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