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Is Maggie Hassan Fundraising With A Koch Brothers Lobbyist?

This morning, this headline came across my desk: Hassan Raises Money with Koch Lobbyist

After seeing this, and reading the article, I was still not convinced that our Maggie would be taking money from a Koch brothers lobbyist.  So I decided to dig a little deeper.

The entire article is based on the fact that Maggie attended a fundraiser hosted in part by David A Castagnetti. The Free Beacon connected the fact that Castagnetti’s lobbying firm lobbied for Koch Industries from 2007-2013.  The also say that Castagnetti was named as the Koch Industries’ lobbyist, but offer no proof of the claim.

The fact is that lobbying firms like Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, are major players in Washington and lobby for dozens of groups every year.  In 2011, Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, lobbied for nearly sixty different corporations, including Koch Industries.  More recently Castagnetti’s firm has lobbied for Everytown For Gun Safety and Sandy Hook Promise.   

Another fact that the Free Beacon conveniently omitted is that Castagnetti has been Chief of Staff to Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont),  Rep. Norman Mineta (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).  Casagnetti describes himself as a “Democrat who understands how to talk to business.”

Castagnetti also has a long history of working with, and for, prominent democrats.  This includes fundraising.  Open Secrets notes that in this cycle Castagnetti has given $80,000 in campaign donations and $75,000 of that to democrats.

Let me just recap this a little more accurately than the Free Beacon.

Maggie Hassan attended a fundraiser, hosted by proven and prominent democrat, who also happens to one of top lobbyist in Washington D.C., and has lobbied on behalf of hundreds of different groups from Adobe to Yahoo.

If anything this highlights the convoluted nature of our political lobbying system and how it is intertwined with campaign fundraising.

Guinta $$ for Settlement: “What got promised in return?”

By Paul Brochu, Stamp Stampede Lead Organizer

Not2BUsed_NHRebellionI’ve had a lot of interesting conversations while working for the Stamp Stampede.  Last week, one of them was with a woman who used to do political fundraising for a US congressman.

She gave me an “insider’s view” of the recent settlement between Congressman Frank Guinta and the Federal Election Commission. After a four-year investigation, the Guinta campaign agreed in April to pay a $15,000 fine and refund a $355,000 loan.

The former fundraiser’s first point was that Guinta really benefitted from the timing of the announcement.

She said that under normal circumstances, the FEC investigation should have been a career-ender.  The $15,000 “administrative penalty” is a high fine, by FEC standards.  Only six other House campaigns have ever received higher fines – and only one of those candidates is currently a Congressman.

But the agreement was released early in Guinta’s two-year term of office.  Yes, there was a flurry of media coverage after the announcement, but that’s already beginning to die down.  And New Hampshire is in the throes of a #FITN primary season featuring two dozen presidential candidates.

“If I was Frank Guinta and I couldn’t persuade the FEC to drop their investigation,” she said, “then I would take an enforcement agreement and get it public using exactly this same timing.  It’s basic campaign strategy: we call it ‘inoculation.’  If you can’t make a problem go away, then you get it out in the press early so it will be old news by the time the election rolls around.”

Her second point was more troubling.  At the end of last year, Guinta’s campaign had a cash-on-hand balance that was just barely enough to pay the FEC fine – and not anywhere near enough to pay back the $355,000.  Then there was a flurry of high-dollar fundraising in the first quarter of this year.

“It looks to me like that $300,000 in Q1 fundraising made it possible for the Guinta campaign to sign the FEC agreement and get the investigation over with,” she said.  “But I have to wonder.  What got promised in return for all those donations?

“Political fundraising is like hunting, it has seasons,” she explained.  “You don’t usually fundraise right after an election.  Donors have just given; and you don’t want to seem greedy, you don’t want go back to the same well so soon.”

After the 2012 election, Guinta’s campaign didn’t report any contributions at all until nine months into the next election cycle.  But this time around, donors were “maxing out” almost immediately after the 2014 election – and they were giving the maximum donation not just for next year’s primary, but also for the 2016 general election.

“What were all those donors thinking?  Or, rather, what did they know?” she sked me.  “These are sophisticated donors.  They didn’t just wake up the last week in March and all decide to send large sums of money to the Guinta campaign.  It’s pretty obvious that the campaign solicited the money, and the timing of that solicitation must have raised some eyebrows.  If you’re fundraising out-of-season, there’s a reason.  And I can’t believe that no one asked what that reason was.”

Did former New Hampshire Governor Craig Benson know about the then-pending FEC enforcement agreement?  On March 31st, he “maxed out” for a general election that was still 18 months away.  The previous cycle, Benson made his general election contribution just three weeks before the election.

What about the folks at the Koch Industries PAC?  They donated $5,000 on March 27th.  Last time, they didn’t start contributing until much later in the election cycle.

Did the “Friends of John Boehner” question the timing?  The Guinta campaign reported receiving donations on March 20th for both the 2016 primary and the 2016 general election.  Last time around, the Friends of John Boehner didn’t donate anything at all until two weeks after the primary.

“I just wonder what was behind all those super-early donations,” the woman told me.  “I’ve done the ‘Dialing for Dollars’ thing during the off-season, myself.  Donors asked ‘What’s going on, why are you calling me now?’

“And after I answered,” she said, “they’d tell me what they wanted my boss to do.”

She’s had enough of political fundraising and, like tens of thousands of other Americans, she’s now part of the Stamp Stampede.  She’s working to #GetMoneyOut of politics by legally rubber-stamping anti-corruption messages on US currency.  Her favorite stamp says “Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians.”

“It’s just crazy,” she said.  “You’re there in your little cubicle making notes on the call sheet, what the donors care about, even the specific bill numbers. And you don’t ever tell them ‘no’.”

————————

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Same question, different problem: WHERE did the money come from?

truth-257159_640It’s not just the questions about the Federal Elections Commission investigation and where the money came from.  It’s actually worse than that.  It’s what happened afterward – because like so much else in government these days, it involves political fundraising.

At the end of last year, Rep. Frank Guinta’s campaign reported less than $19,000 cash-on-hand.

Yet the FEC enforcement agreement signed by Guinta’s lawyer last month obligated the campaign to pay a $15,000 administrative fine and repay $355,000 in loans dating back to 2010. (Hat-tip to the Union Leader for posting the agreement online, where we can all read it.)

Like most Congressmen, Rep. Guinta is a practiced fundraiser.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Guinta raised about $4.5 million dollars during his last three campaigns.

And just in the first quarter of this year – presumably while his lawyer was negotiating the FEC settlementGuinta’s campaign raised more than $300,000.  

Koch Industries PAC gave $5,000.  The Chicago Board Options Exchange PAC gave $5,000.  Independent Insurance Agents PAC gave $5,000.  New York Life Insurance PAC gave $5,000.  National Beer Wholesalers PAC gave $5,000.  The Boeing Company PAC gave $1,000.  The Turkish Coalition PAC gave $1,000.

Jeb Bush’s brand-new “Right to Rise” SuperPAC gave $5,200 — before the PAC was even two months old.

The Leadership PAC affiliated with House Speaker John Boehner gave $5,000, and Boehner’s campaign committee gave another $4,000.  The Leadership PAC of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave $5,000; his campaign gave another $4,000.  Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Leadership PAC gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Oregon Rep. Greg Walden gave $5,000.  The Leadership PAC of Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling gave $5,000.  Ribble for Congress gave $1,000.  Latta for Congress gave $1,000.  Jeff Miller for Congress gave $1,000.  Andy Harris for Congress gave $1,000.  Rick Allen for Congress gave $1,000.  Friends of Sam Johnson gave $1,000.  Rep. John Kline’s Leadership PAC gave $1,000.  Rep. Steve Stivers’ Leadership PAC gave $1,000.  The Leadership PAC of Rep. John Shimkus gave $1,000.

And the list goes on, for almost 75 pages.

Sort of like “Go Fund Me” – except that the money is coming from special interests and Guinta’s fellow congressmen, who also have an interest in how he votes.

Given that list of donors, would Rep. Guinta consider fighting House Leadership over the latest raid on Medicare?  Or is he going to vote exactly how the Speaker wants him to?

What does Jeb Bush expect, in return for the SuperPAC contribution?

What does Koch Industries expect?  The Chicago options traders?  Boeing?  The Turkish Coalition?

And what can Guinta’s constituents expect, after the campaign solicited almost enough money to pay the cost of the FEC agreement?  

How many of these donors knew that the FEC agreement was coming?  

Solicit more campaign contributions, to meet the conditions of a campaign finance enforcement agreement.  It’s so ironic, it should be funny – except, it’s not.  It’s totally screwed up.

When politicians go begging to big money donors, everybody else loses.

That’s why two-thirds of New Hampshire voters want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

It’s why hundreds of people have been walking across the state with the New Hampshire Rebellion, drawing attention to the need for campaign finance reform.

It’s why tens of thousands of people across the country are legally stamping US currency with messages like “Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians.” Every stamped dollar bill is seen by about 875 people.  Get a stamp at StampStampede.org.  Stamp four bills each day for a year, and you’ll help convince a million people that it is possible to take our government back – if enough of us work together to do that.

It’s why small businesses are hosting Stamp Stampede stamping stations – more than 100 of them across New Hampshire – so their customers can stamp money and learn more about money in politics.

It’s why grandmothers and middle school students and people from every political persuasion are working together to reclaim our government from Big Money campaign donors.

Because when you read about a FEC enforcement action, you shouldn’t have to wonder whose money will be used to pay the fine, and what they’re going to expect in return.

And you really shouldn’t have to worry whether all the fundraising that happened, just before the agreement was signed, is going to do more damage to our democracy than the original violation.

 

What happens in Detroit WON’T stay in Detroit.

8easystepsIt’s amazing, the stuff you can find on the Internet these days.

Step-by-step instructions for all sorts of things, including – oh, yeah – how public employers can relieve themselves of retirement obligations through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process.  Like they’re trying to do in Detroit, right now.

And reading through Ice Miller’s description of the process – right here, if you’re interested – it sure doesn’t seem all that hard.

Ice Miller, by the way, is a nationwide law firm that has provided services to the New Hampshire Retirement System for years.   Here’s how they summarize the bankruptcy process that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has just started:

“A proceeding under Chapter 9 is very different than under other chapters of the Bankruptcy Code.  [Under Chapter 9,] the court must determine whether the petition was properly filed and then, at the end of the case, must determine whether a plan for the adjustment of debts is confirmable. Between those two points, a bankruptcy court cannot require the sale of assets; does not oversee the use of funds; does not interfere with political or governmental powers; cannot require tax increases; and generally does not take an active role.”

Whoa.  Doesn’t look like there’s much protection for city workers, in that process.  And according to Ice Miller, during bankruptcy a public employer can:

  • try to reject their obligations under existing collective bargaining agreements;
  • try to reduce pension contributions and retirement benefits.


Which sounds pretty much like what they’re trying to do, out in Detroit right now.

Starting to feel a little queasy here?  Let’s look a little closer.

 

Will of the voters?

Yeah, right.  The “emergency financial manager” who filed Detroit’s bankruptcy petition last week was appointed under a law passed by the Republican-led state legislature in December 2012.  Trouble is, that law is almost identical to a law rejected by voters barely a month before, in a referendum vote.  (Whatever happened to democracy?)

And then there’s the timeline.

I’m not even going to try to figure out which chicken came before which egg.  The newest emergency manager law became effective in March.  The law firm Jones Day was awarded a $3.35 million contract as Detroit’s “restructuring counsel” in March.  Jones Day partner Kevyn Orr was named Detroit’s emergency financial manager in March.  (Or maybe by then he was a former partner? Attorney Orr resigned from the firm sometime in March.)  Different media reports give different dates;  and from this many miles away, it’s impossible to figure out what happened in what order.

And then there’s the law firm.

I’m human; I can’t help but sometimes judge a law firm by its clients.  And Jones Day’s client list includes Koch Industries, as well as Mitt Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital.

And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers, challenging a ban on political contributions by foreign sources (including foreign corporations).  And then there’s the lawsuit, filed by Jones Day lawyers not long before last year’s election, challenging an Obama administration regulation regarding insurance coverage.   (Also can’t help but wonder at all the work this law firm is apparently doing for free!)

And then there’s the attorney.

According to his official bio, Attorney Orr worked for the FDIC’s Resolution Trust Corporation in the 1990s; and while there, his duties included “serving as the agency’s chief lawyer responsible for the agency’s participation in the Whitewater investigation.”  Yeah, you read that right: the Whitewater investigation.

Starting to think that maybe there’s politics involved here, somehow?

And then there’s the Governor.

Last December was a busy month for Gov. Rick Snyder.  Not only did he push through a new emergency manager law, to replace the one rescinded by voters, he also pushed through a Right to Work bill.  Read “GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan” here.  (Yes, there’s the Koch brothers, again.)  He was so effective at pushing stuff through the Legislature that the Washington Post named him “The Scott Walker of 2014”.

And… oh, dear:  is there really a Rick Snyder for President Facebook page?

Got a headache yet?

The big trouble here is, whatever happens with Detroit – with its very expensive law firm, with its history of highly-political cases…

whatever happens in Detroit will set a legal precedent for other politicians and other employers who may want to relieve themselves of their obligations to public workers. Yesterday’s USA Today even has an interactive graphic; read “Detroit not alone under crushing pension obligations” here.

So… you think you’ve got retirement benefits? Think again.

That Ice Miller report has a state-by-state breakdown of the requirements to go through the Chapter 9 bankruptcy process.   Including a note that, when the report was published, Michigan didn’t have any law authorizing a municipality to declare bankruptcy.  Which it didn’t, until Governor Snyder and the Republican-led Legislature pushed through “The Local Financial Stability and Choice Act” last December… just days after pushing through the Right to Work bill.

If it’s happening in Detroit, it can happen almost anywhere.

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