FOLLOWING MONEY IN 2016 PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sen. Flake Deciding Vote On New Obamacare Repeal Effort?

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake (R) - up for re-election next year, not coincidentally - is in the glare of the national spotlight today as the possible deciding vote on the latest Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Politico splashed his photo on their lead story this morning (below)

"I'm still digesting it," the Senator told reporters this morning after the new version was released. "I'll be doing that for awhile," he added.

Flake is facing mounting pressure from both his right and his left. Texas Senator Ted Cruz singled him out for praise this morning on KFYI this morning, after Flake told the station that he would be supporting Cruz' amendment permitting non-compliant plans to be sold alongside Obamacare-compliant health insurance policies.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

BREAKING: Godfather Paul Manafort's Arizona Campaign Contribution To Family Friend Winds Up In Trump/Russia Investigation Filing

In 2012, former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker accepted campaign contributions from close
friends who also happen to be the godparents of his son. This week - in 2017 - one of those donations was listed in godfather Paul Manafort's long-delayed filings of his work on behalf of the pro-Russian political party that controlled Ukraine's government.

Manafort was Donald Trump's Campaign Manager for a period in 2016, and is a key figure in the ongoing investigations into ties between Trump (and his campaign), and Russia (and Russian interests). This week, he belatedly filed required Foreign Agents Registration Act ("FARA") documents with the U.S. Department of Justice, indicating that he had received more than $17M in two years from the Ukrainian client.

Buried in one of those filings (also, reproduced below) is the surprising entry that Manafort donated
$2,500 on August 24, 2012, to Vernon Parker for "Arizona State Office". (That is materially incorrect - Parker was running for U.S. Congress from Arizona's 9th Congressional District; he was the Republican nominee, but lost to now-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.)

Sure enough, the contribution shows up in Parker's FEC (Federal Election Commission) report, as being a personal contribution from Manafort.

As it turns out, over the years, Parker has received more contributions (nearly $10,000) from Manafort and his wife Kathy than any other candidate for federal office received (including Trump, McCain, Bush, and the few Congressional candidates the Manaforts supported).

Parker told Arizona's Politics this afternoon that the contributions had nothing to do with Manafort's work with the Ukrainian party. "At no time have I ever discussed Ukraine, Russia or any other foreign entity with Paul... our relationship has always been personal."

Parker explained just how close the Parkers & Manaforts have been:
"I met Paul Manafort through his wife Kathy Manafort. I was editor-in-chief of the Georgetown University "American criminal law review": Kathy was on the law journal. We have been family friends of theirs for nearly 30 years. We had our wedding reception at their home 26 years ago. Paul and Kathy Manafort are our son's God Parents."
Arizona's Politics - which has reported on Parker several times through his two runs for Congress and one for the Arizona Corporation Commission - asked Parker whether he had any thoughts about the investigations that Manafort now finds himself embroiled in. The local business consultant stated. "Theoretically, we are always presumed innocent until proven guilty...my wife and I have known Paul and his wife Kathy on a personal level. They have been friends for many years and will remain our friends."



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Monday, June 26, 2017

READ: CBO's Report On Senate Healthcare Reform Bill





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Thursday, June 22, 2017

READ: Senate's Bill To Repeal and Replace Obamacare

Here is the draft bill that the Senate will be moving forward on to repeal and replace Obamacare. They are calling it the ‘‘Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017’’.

No word yet on reaction from Arizona's Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. (to be updated)




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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WATCH: McCain Publicly Takes Trump Nominee To Woodshed For Being Wishy-Washy Re: Ukraine/Russia

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) took President Trump's nominee for Deputy Defense Secretary in front of the Congressional woodshed this morning, for being too non-committal about providing defense weaponry to Ukraine.
 Former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan verbally agreed today that the U.S. should assist Ukraine as the tensions between that country and Russia continue to be high. His change from his written responses caught McCain by surprise, but that did not prevent the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee from finishing the scolding and threatening to stop his confirmation process.

McCain: "Your answer was, I'd have to look at the issue. That's not good enough, Mr. Shanahan. I'm glad to hear you have changed your opinion from what was submitted. But, it is still disturbing, it is still disturbing to me that after all of these years, you would say that you would have to look at the issue....Have you not been aware of the thousands of people that have been killed by Vladimir Putin. Have you missed all that...?"
Shanahan: "No, Chairman, I am aware of that."

The rest of the three minutes is just as testy, and it ended thusly:

McCain: "Not a good beginning. Not a good beginning. Do not do that again, Mr. Shanahan, or. I. will. not. take. your. name. up. for. a. vote. before. this committee.  Am I perfectly clear?
Shanahan: "Very clear."



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Saturday, June 17, 2017

WATCH: Arizona Rep. McSally: "We Need To Look Within Our Hearts And Make Sure We're Not Being Facilitators Or Bystanders"

Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) took to the Saturday airwaves from Tucson on both Fox News and MSNBC to try to get everyone to "ratchet down" the record-approaching political temperature. She included herself in preaching that "we need to look within our hearts and make sure we're not being facilitators or bystanders."

This is the 4th day in a row that Arizona's Politics has featured Arizona officials searching for civility in the wake of both the shooting of five people - including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise - at a Republican baseball practice and the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson that took the lives of six and wounded 13 others. Among the seriously wounded at the latter were Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her replacement Ron Barber. (McSally defeated Barber on her second attempt, in 2014.)

We spoke with Barber on Wednesday, covered Rep. David Schweikert's national comments on Thursday, and an interview with Rep. Trent Franks yesterday after it was learned that he may have been an eventual target of the Congressional baseball practice shooter.

As we said yesterday, such a streak will likely have to continue for many more months before it might start to really make a difference in the current political climate and next year's elections. Here's to hoping.

Here are McSally's interviews on both networks.

***


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President Trump's New Personal Lawyer Very Familiar To Arizonans

President Donald Trump has hired big name attorney John Dowd to join his personal legal team as he battles various investigations focusing on possible ties to Russia, obstruction of justice, and related issues. Dowd is well-known to Arizonans, as he previously served as counsel for Senator John McCain and former Governor Fife Symington in the 1990's.

Dowd, now 76, joins Trump's longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz and Jay Sekulow as the most senior members of the growing legal team. He has been both prosecutor and defense attorney over the years.

He represented Sen. John McCain in the Arizona-centric Keating Five scandal in the early 1990's. Of the five Senators, McCain was personally closest  to the land developer/S&L CEO, Charles Keating, Jr. However, after a lengthy Senate Ethics Committee, McCain was cleared, with only official criticism of his poor judgment for intervening for the large campaign contributor (and personal vacation-sharer).

Former Arizona  Governor J. Fife Symington was not quite as fortunate. Dowd defended him in the trial for extortion and bank fraud. He was convicted on several counts of the latter, and resigned from office. The conviction was then reversed on appeal and he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton before any retrial could occur.

Arizona's Politics has asked the Senator for comment on Trump's hiring of his former counsel, and will update as warranted. McCain has fretted publicly about the President's comments and actions concerning the investigations and fiercely criticized any friendliness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? President Earns Increased Income From Defunct Trump University While Fmr Students Wait For $25M Settlement

The President filed his updated his personal financial disclosure statements and one item jumped out at me: somehow, Donald J. Trump made some money on his long-defunct Trump University last year while the former students waited for their refunds from the $25M court settlement.

In fact, the $38,542 in declared income almost matches the amount that former student Boyce Chait was owed* when he passed away this past January.

How the President was able to extract any money from the long-gone and under siege Trump U (later renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative) is a mystery, although one that might have been explained in the class-action litigation that was settled shortly before it was to go to trial.

Equally concerning is why Trump would allow any money to be taken out when the case was pending (and, when he knew it would have to be disclosed). Through his entities, Trump owns all but 8% of the entity. (Jonathan Spitalny and Michael Sexton own 3.5% and 4.5%, respectively.)

In his previous financial disclosure statement, filed in 2015 after he announced his candidacy, indicated that he had received $11,819 in income from Trump University.

The settlement was approved in March, although payments are on hold because of an appeal by one of the former students.




*The USA Today report indicates that he had paid $34,995 in "tuition", and that the settlement would pay back some "90 cents on the dollar".

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Friday, June 16, 2017

WATCH: Rep. Franks Confirms FBI Contacted Him, Probably Was On Shooter's Hit List

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD8) carefully confirmed that he has been contacted by the FBI about the investigation into Wednesday's mass shooting at a Republicans-only baseball practice. "And yes, that I might be involved in that investigation." Fox News and other media are reporting that the FBI found a list of six GOP Congressmen on the shooter's body, and that Franks is one of those.

Franks spoke carefully with Fox News' Martha MacCallum (below), and preached that "we have to speak to the issues facing us with a principled persuasion rather than just screaming at each other."

"We solve our problems by ballots, not with bullets," he added.

This is the 3rd day in a row that Arizona's Politics has reported on Arizona Congressmen or former Congressmen opining about the political rhetoric. Former Congressman and a victim from the most recent political mass shooting (in Tucson) aimed at a Member of Congress Ron Barber spoke with us eloquently on Wednesday, and Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) spoke on NPR about bins of hate referencing his young daughter yesterday.

Such a streak will likely have to continue for many more months before it might start to really make a difference in the current political climate and next year's elections. Here's to hoping.



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BREAKING: New Lawsuit Seeking Trump Administration Plans/Analyses/Etc For Arizona's Portion of Border Wall

The new watchdog group American Oversight filed a FOIA lawsuit today to obtain government plans and analyses regarding the border wall that President Donald Trump made a cornerstone of last year's campaign. The suit is partly focused on Arizona's portion of the border that would be on land that is part of the Tohono O'odham nation.
(NBC News)

The news release from American Oversight highlights the Freedom of Information Act requests that it is seeking to enforce, including these regarding the sovereign Tohono O'odham portion:

  • DOI: Communications and analysis from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) related to the wall’s impact on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
  • DHS: Communications from DHS with, and related to, the Tohono O’odham Nation.
  • DHS: Analysis of the impact of the border wall on the Tohono O’odham Nation.
The communications include any contacts the federal government has had with the Tohono O'odham Nation or its lobbyists. The Nation has one of the largest lobbying contracts in Washington, although until recently, much of that was focused on the battle to open up the heavily contested casino west of Phoenix.

Here is the specific part of the Complaint dealing with the Tohono O'odham portion. (The rest of the complaint can be found here):

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

LISTEN/READ: Arizona Rep. Schweikert's Received "Bins...Of Vile Hate...Going At My Little Girl"

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) said today that he has received "bins" of hate messages directed at his daughter. Earlier in the same interview, he said that President Donald Trump has not learned "the disciplined use of language and what certain words mean in (political) context."

(The interview is embedded below and the transcript is below the jump.)

Schweikert "sort of" acknowledged that his comments about the President seem "sort of odd coming from sort of a conservative libertarian", but that he thinks it is reasonable for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be looking into possible efforts to obstruct justice.

Schweikert made his remarks on NPR's Morning Edition program today, and noted that he was supposed to be at the practice where the mass shooting injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others took place.*  He went on to note that he and other GOP House members have been talking about "the ocean of sort of vile sort of hate that has come running into our social media, into our mailboxes and taped to our doors and even mailed to home."

The eye-opening part of that is that Schweikert stated that his recently-adopted young daughter has not been immune from the vitriol.  "we have bins where they they're even going at my little girl."
INSKEEP: You've received messages referring to your daughter?
SCHWEIKERT: Yeah. And it just shows you there's something that's become toxic in the souls out there.

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics reported on comments from former Rep. (and mass shooting victim) Ron Barber, calling on everyone to stop the "political rhetoric and harsh vitriol" that has created such an environment.

Schweikert was elected to Congress in 2010, defeating Harry Mitchell in a campaign that focused on the passage of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). However, he typically personally refrains from the incendiary rhetoric that others engage in - both supporting and opposing him.

* In a funny flip from Arizona Sen. John McCain's explanation last week, Schweikert says he missed baseball because he overslept due to time zones.



(Transcript below the jump)