Tag: conflict of interest

Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing POSTPONED because Trump’s appointees aren’t being properly vetted

The controversy regarding Republican President-elect Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress attempting to ram through Trump’s appointees without Trump’s appointees being properly vetted by federal ethics officials is not going away. In fact, one of Trump’s appointees, Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary, has had her confirmation hearing postponed until next week because the federal Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has not been able to complete its end of the vetting process:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced late Monday that it had rescheduled the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.

“At the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule, we have agreed to move the nomination hearing of Betsy DeVos to Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a release late Monday.

While Betsy DeVos has made it clear for a long time that she wants to destroy public education in America, what is an even bigger problem than that is the fact that multiple Trump appointees, apparently including DeVos, have not been properly vetted to the legal standard, not a political standard, for vetting a presidential appointment. I’ll even add that, given the seriousness of the fact that OGE has not been able to properly vet Trump’s appointees, the letter from the OGE Director regarding the issue should have been addressed to the entire Senate, not just Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

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What do Rebecca Bradley, Robert Bentley, and Ted Cruz have in common?

All three of those far-right Republicans either have been involved in, or are alleged to have been involved in, explosive sex scandals.

First, I’ll start with Rebecca Bradley. She’s a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, having been appointed to Wisconsin’s highest bench thanks to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). She’s also extremely right-wing, believing that birth control is a form of murder (it’s not) and spewing bigotry towards LGBT people. She was also an attorney in private practice before being appointed to her first judgeship, and she represented a former co-worker who…you guessed it…she had an extramarital affair with.

Now, on to Robert Bentley. He’s the Republican Governor of Alabama, and he was recently caught on audio tape making sexual remarks about an aide that he’s accused of having sexual relations with. It’s not 100% clear as to whether or not Bentley actually had sexual relations with that aide, but it’s clear to me that he talked about his aide in a very sexual manner.

Last, but certainly not least, is Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. After a pro-Cruz PAC posted a nude picture of Melania Trump, the wife of Donald Trump, online, Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, Ted’s wife. Well, as it turns out, the National Enquirer may have spilled the beans on Ted Cruz himself. The National Enquirer is running a story about Cruz allegedly having sexual relations with five women. The story cites “private detectives” as the source for the story.

Now, I have every reason to be extremely skeptical about the “Cruz sex scandal” story. First off, it’s the National Enquirer running this story, and they’re not exactly a credible source. After all, they’ve been known to run stories that people or entities have sold them, such as the story about the knife in the mid-1990’s O.J. trial. Secondly, the fact that the National Enquirer is citing “private detectives” as their source for the Cruz story makes the story suspect. I’d love to know who the “private detectives” are. In fact, I have every reason to suspect that the “private detectives” are affiliated with the Trump campaign. I can’t confirm or disprove that, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Trump’s goons were behind the Cruz sex scandal allegations.

Does Scott Walker want to put elected officials in charge of administrating elections in Wisconsin?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The blog post includes a word, Nixcarthyism, that has, to my knowledge, never been used before. Nixcarthyism is defined as a corrupt, vindictive style of politics that combines the style of politics of Richard Nixon and the style of politics of Joe McCarthy.


Scott Walker’s Nixcarthyism knows no boundaries. As Governor of Wisconsin, he’s used a recall petition against him as a political enemies list, enacted disastrous political policies designed to make the lives of Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin a living hell, and has gotten away with blatant political corruption.

Now, he’s pushing to eliminate the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), an officially non-partisan agency, compromised of a board of six retired judges, that would be a great model for non-partisan state election administration panels across the country, and replace it with a yet-to-be-determined state government board or agency. The GAB is responsible for state-level regulation of elections, campaign finance, and lobbying in Wisconsin, as well as handling ethics complaints filed against state elected officials in Wisconsin. This is Walker’s way of retaliating against the GAB for authorizing the unsuccessful 2012 recall attempt against him and for referring the John Doe II investigation, which was recently struck down by the majority-female, far-right Wisconsin Supreme Court, to a special prosecutor and five district attorneys.

However, I do have one hint as to to what kind of entity Walker wants to replace the GAB with: Walker has stated that he wants “something completely new that is truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin” to replace the GAB.

I’m guessing that “something completely new” is Walker-speak for something significantly different than the GAB or the former Wisconsin State Elections Board that was replaced by the GAB. By “truly accountable to the people of the state of Wisconsin”, I’m guessing that’s Walker-speak for putting elected officials in charge of administrating elections, handing ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and regulating lobbying in Wisconsin, while, at the same time, allowing said elected officials to retain their elected offices and serve on whatever entity replaces the GAB simultaneously. I do not know of any state that has incumbent elected officials serving on or in a state office, board, or agency responsible for administering elections, handling ethics complaints, regulating campaign finance, and/or regulating lobbying.

If Walker wants to put elected officials in charge of state-level election administration in Wisconsin, that would be comparable to asking Cookie Monster to guard cookies. The vast majority of, if not all, elected officials in Wisconsin benefit in some way from campaign donations and/or outside spending on their behalf. Because of that, a state elections board compromised of elected officials in some form or another would be absolutely rife with conflicts of interest and would likely be very supportive of big money special interests having tons of influence over the political system.

About the only change I’d make to the Wisconsin GAB is to put the responsibility for appointing GAB board members in the hands of the Wisconsin Secretary of State (currently, the Wisconsin Governor makes the appointments to the GAB).

Apparent illegal coordination between one or more conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench and right-wing groups

The progressive website ThinkProgress is reporting that one or more of the four conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court have been involved in illegal coordination between their official campaign organizations and right-wing political organizations, according to a legal brief filed by Francis Schmitz, the special prosecutor in the John Doe II investigation into violations of campaign finance laws by Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The name(s) of the justice(s) involved in the illegal coordination, the political groups involved in the illegal coordination, and the names of other individuals implicated were redacted because of Wisconsin state laws that govern John Doe investigations prohibiting the disclosure of identities until and unless charges are filed. Schmitz has asked for two of the justices to recuse themselves from the case, but the identities of those justices were redacted in the publicly-available version of the brief.

This development comes at the same time that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is hearing a case in which the conservative majority on the bench will probably decide to strike down the John Doe II probe, which is a flagrant conflict of interest, given that all four of the conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench have benefited from money spent by right-wing groups that are implicated in the investigation. However, none of the four conservatives have shown any indication that they will recuse themselves from the case. Personally, I believe that all four of the conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench, David Prosser, Michael Gableman, Patience Roggensack, and Annette Ziegler, should recuse themselves from all cases involving the John Doe II probe that are brought before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Nation Consulting’s ties to Republican firms run even further

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This is an update to a previous blog post about Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Nation Consulting’s ties to Republican front groups.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: I have made edits to the blog post in order to ensure that the blog post is 100% accurate.

Since my last blog post about Nation Consulting’s ties to Republican organizations, I’ve had an individual point out to me via a Facebook group that Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a group that opposes government-owned broadband internet services in areas where the private sector operates broadband services, had paid DCI Group, a mostly right-wing public relations, lobbying, and consulting firm, a total of $666,957 for work that DCI Group did for CftNE as an independent contractor, per a 2012 IRS 990 filing by CftNE (you can find that filing here; the information I mentioned in this paragraph comes from page 9 of the PDF file). CftNE was led by Thad Nation at the time of the filing; Nation is also the founder of Nation Consulting, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based consulting firm.

While DCI Group supported the effort to allow openly-LGBT people to serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, something which should have been done sooner, a lot of the other things they’ve been involved with is, in my opinion, clearly against the best interests of the American people.

DCI Group has been behind anti-climate change campaigns, including an infamous YouTube video in 2006 that spoofed the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth, in which Gore, who was Vice President of the United States during the presidency of Bill Clinton, talked about how serious of a threat climate change is to this planet. While DCI Group has never actually acknowledged its role in the Gore parody, multiple media outlets reported that a Yahoo! email from the same person who uploaded the YouTube video originated from a computer registered to DCI Group. DCI Group’s officials include, among many others, Doug Goodyear, the CEO of the firm and a former political director of the Colorado Republican Party, and Craig Stevens, who worked on two Republican presidential campaigns and also worked for Tommy Thompson when he was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under Republican President George W. Bush. Perhaps the worst thing that DCI Group has associated itself with is the former military junta in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, also known as Burma. DCI Group conducted public relations work on behalf of the Burmese junta from 2002 to 2003. The Burmese junta was known for flagrant human rights violations, including the politically-motivated house imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi. DCI Group’s work with the Burmese junta became a major controversy in the 2008 presidential election here in the U.S., as Goodyear worked with the McCain campaign prior to the media publishing reports about DCI Group’s work with the Burmese junta.

It’s 100% clear to me that Thad Nation, who is the founder of Nation Consulting and either is or was the head of CftNE, plays both sides of the street politically. While their founder, Thad Nation, has at least indirectly funded right-wing organizations, Nation Consulting, which Nation himself founded, also employs Jason Rae, who also happens to be a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member and a candidate for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). That is an inconvenient truth for Rae, as it’s at least an apparent conflict of interest, if not an outright one, for Rae to be DPW chair and working for a firm led by someone who either is or was also the head of a different organization that gave money to Republican and Republican-leaning organizations simultaneously.

Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae employed by firm founded by individual that provided money to Koch-funded organizations

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.

I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:

  • $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
  • $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
  • $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
  • $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
  • $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.

That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.

Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.

Conflict of interest: Bruce Rauner appointee to Illinois Department of Natural Resources took campaign cash from coal companies

Republican Illinois State Representative Wayne Rosenthal of Morrisonville has been appointed by fellow Republican and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which, in addition to maintaining state parks and recreation areas and regulating hunting and fishing, is responsible for regulating coal mining and other forms of mining in Illinois.

This is a major conflict of interest in the Rauner Administration, since, as a candidate for state representative, Rosenthal has taken $13,000 in campaign donations from Foresight Energy and Hillsboro Energy, two coal mining companies owned by billionaire mining magnate Chris Cline:

Nearly two years ago, the Wisconsin newspaper Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that one of Cline’s coal mining companies here in Illinois, Macoupin Energy, was violating state environmental regulations designed to prevent groundwater from becoming contaminated by refusing to adequately clean up groundwater contamination at the Shay 1 mine, which is located in Macoupin County either in or near Carlinville:

An Illinois coal mine owned by the same investor who is trying to develop an iron ore mine in Wisconsin has come under fire by Illinois’ pollution control agency for failing to adequately address long-standing groundwater problems.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency formally notified Macoupin Energy in December that it believes the company is dragging its feet with the cleanup at the Shay 1 mine in Carlinville, Ill., according to government documents.

The agency said it plans to refer the case to the Illinois attorney general.

Macoupin is one of four mines owned in Illinois by billionaire Christopher Cline, who is proposing to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties if the Wisconsin Legislature rewrites mining laws to the company’s satisfaction.

To use a Sesame Street analogy, putting Wayne Rosenthal, who is a shill for coal barons, in charge of regulating the mining industry here in Illinois is like putting Cookie Monster in charge of protecting cookies. For Governor Rauner to appoint someone like Rosenthal to IDNR is a flagrant conflict of interest, and, while I’m not completely opposed to mining for coal and other minerals by any stretch of the imagination, I’m very afraid that Rosenthal’s IDNR will allow mining companies to get away with polluting Illinois groundwater and waterways.