On the heels of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) indictment on charges he stole campaign money to fund personal luxuries, yet another GOP congressman stands accused of ripping off donors as well.
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is the subject of complaints to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) questioning almost $50,000 in campaign spending on items like civil war memorabilia, coins, and other collectibles.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the complaint says Culberson spent the funds on items reported as “books,” “research materials,” and “gifts” that were in reality antiques, military collectibles, Civil War memorabilia, and even “a $309 purchase at the Black Hills Institute, which sells and rents fossils.”
“It is very unlikely that a congressional campaign committee needs to buy or rent fossils to win a federal election,” the complaint reportedly said.
Culberson’s campaign says the spending was legitimate, and the purchase from the fossil company in particular was to help him “understand climate science,” which Culberson does not understand. He rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming.
Earlier this month, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was indicted for insider trading after he passed private information to his son to make stock trades of Innate Immunotherapeutics. Culberson was an investor in Innate Immunotherapeutics, and sold all of his shares 10 days before Collins tipped off his son, but Culberson claimed he’d heard about the stock from a newspaper article, not from Collins.
The complaint against Culberson comes hot on the heels of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) indictment for stealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in campaign cash for personal expenditures, including a plane ticket for a pet rabbit.
All three of these men were supporters of Trump. Collins and Hunter were the first two members of Congress to endorse Trump, while Culberson endorsed Trump after the convention, and has since voted with Trump 97.8 percent of the time.
But with Trump abusing his office to enrich himself since day one, it’s little wonder that congressmen like these feel emboldened to steal from their donors.
Trump scraps raises for federal workers so the rich can have tax cuts
The uber-rich are getting even richer, thanks to the GOP tax scam, but now Trump says there is no money left for folks like park rangers to get a modest raise next year.
Right before Labor Day, Trump has decided government workers shouldn’t get a pay raise.
In a letter to Congress, Trump cited a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” as his rationale for denying a 2.1 percent raise to federal employees starting in 2019.
That wasn’t a concern for Trump last December, when he signed the Republican tax scam, which will explode the deficit by nearly $2 trillion, into law.
One Bloomberg reporter notes that the GOP tax scam costs the Treasury an average of $190 billion every year for the next decade, while the pay raise for federal workers would have cost about an eighth of that ($25 billion).
Democrats immediately blasted the idea. DNC spokesperson Daniel Wessel called Trump’s move “yet another slap in the face to American workers.”
Of course, the GOP tax scam was always about making the rich richer, whereas most government employees are solidly middle-class workers.
In a review of SEC filings, Politico found wealthy corporate executives “have been profiting handsomely by selling shares since Trump signed the law on Dec. 22 and slashed corporate tax rates to 21 percent.”
Big banks are also joining the celebration, as Trump’s tax giveaway fueled record-breaking second quarter profits of more than $60 billion. According to Reuters, that’s a 25 percent increase over last year.
While Trump lavishes corporate America with deficit-financed kickbacks, regular workers are left out in the cold.
Wages, adjusted for inflation, are lower in July 2018 than they were a year ago, before the tax scam became law. And now Trump is determined to leave another set of working-class families, including park rangers and social workers who help veterans, without a pay raise.
In Trump’s America, CEOs, bankers, and Wall Street millionaires come first and take the most. Workers — whether in the private sector or toiling for Uncle Sam — are consistently left behind.
The tabloid that’s been protecting Trump lost $72 million last year
Being in bed with Trump has not been good for business at the National Enquirer.
It turns out the National Enquirer’s decision to become a work for Trump, attacking his enemies and trying to silence women from his past, isn’t paying off financially.
In fact, the Associated Press reports, “The Enquirer’s privately held parent company, American Media Inc., lost $72 million for the year ending in March.”
The collapse comes “despite AMI chairman David Pecker’s claims that the Enquirer’s heavy focus on Trump sells magazines,” according to AP.
Pecker now finds himself deeply enmeshed in scandals and investigations, after the tabloid served as a conduit for Trump’s presidential campaign, arranging payments for women who had affairs with the Republican.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pecker and Dylan Howard, AMI’s chief content officer, have received immunity from prosecutors who are investigating Trump’s payoffs to the tabloid.
The payments were made so the Enquirer could buy the exclusive rights to the stories of former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Trump’s personal attorney and longtime fixer Michael Cohen arranged for the six-figure payments to the Enquirer, which then never published the damaging stories, using a tactic known as “catch and kill.”
AMI also paid a Trump Tower doorman $30,000 for his story about Trump fathering a child out of wedlock, and then made sure not publish it.
Pecker, a longtime Trump ally, has always made sure the Enquirer protected his friend.
“For the better part of two decades, Mr. Pecker had ordered his staff at American Media to protect Mr. Trump from troublesome stories, in some cases by buying up stories about him and filing it away,” the New York Times reported this week.
It turns out that when Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Pecker and the National Enquirer were sitting on a large stash of previously unpublished gossip items about the Republican.
In fact, the sensitive information was reportedly kept in a safe at the magazine.
Instead of putting that information into the tabloid, which could have produced headlines and likely would have increased newsstand sales, Pecker ordered staffers to withhold the embarrassing information.
“That meant that American Media, the nation’s largest gossip publisher, did not play a role during the election year in vetting a presidential candidacy — Mr. Trump’s — made for the tabloids,” the Times notes.
In other words, the Enquirer was willing to lose out on sales revenue in order to protect Trump.
And according to the AP, that’s exactly what happened—the Enquirer’s circulation dropped 15 percent during the presidential campaign, a time when there was intense news consumer interest in Trump.
Covering up for Trump is never good.
Pence loves Trump’s attacks on the free press: ‘He’s a fighter!’
Trump is waging an increasingly dangerous war on the free press, and Mike Pence is a fan.
Trump’s non-stop attacks on the free press have become increasingly hostile and dangerous, but to Mike Pence, it just shows what a “fighter” Trump is.
Pence made his comments in an interview with the conservative religious network CBN, owned by Pat Robertson.
Reporter David Brody asked Pence if he thinks the “mainstream media” is “the best thing that Donald Trump has going for him because they work as a foil for him.”
“Well, all I know is for a lot of the liberals in the national media, they met their match in President Donald Trump,” Pence said.
He added that “the American people elected this man because he had a right vision for this country but also because he’s a fighter.” He did not mention that Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
Pence added that Trump fights for jobs and military strength, as if calling the press “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” as Trump so often does, is somehow in the same category.
Noting Trump’s ability to “to be able to take on his critics, one after another,” Pence concluded, ” President Trump is going to keep on fighting and we’re going to keep on winning for the American people.”
It isn’t “winning” for Trump to attack the free press the way he does, no matter Pence’s attempt to rationalize it on Trump’s behalf.
When Trump falsely says the press is “the enemy of the people,” it sends a message to his true believers.
One of those supporters, Robert D. Chain, was recently arrested for threatening to kill reporters at the Boston Globe for what he called their “treasonous” coverage of Trump. The criminal complaint quotes Chain echoing Trump in the harassing phone calls that were recorded: “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every fucking one of you.”
Trump’s regular assaults on the free press have nothing to do with job creation or strengthening the military, and everything to do with undermining the First Amendment.
But instead of standing up for the First Amendment, Pence dismissed Trump’s dangerous rhetoric as merely standing up to “the liberals in the national media.”
For all his attempts to portray himself as the calmer voice of reason in the Trump administration, Pence once again proved himself complicit in Trump’s ugliness.