Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Last Call For Chaka Convict

It's official: Philadelphia Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah has been rung up on all corruption charges that he faced in federal court this afternoon.

Fattah, 59, had been charged with bribery, racketeering, money laundering, bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, and filing false statements as part of a years-long criminal scheme that even included Fattah lobbying President Barack Obama for an appointment for one of his co-conspirators. Fattah was found guilty on all charges, as were four co-defendants. 
The guilty verdict brings to a stunning end Fattah's three-decade career in Philadelphia politics, and is a major victory for the Justice Department and Zane David Memeger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Memeger's office prosecuted the case against Fattah, who was first elected to Congress in 1994. 
“Chaka Fattah Sr. and his co-defendants betrayed the public trust and undermined our faith in government,” Memeger said. “Today’s verdict makes clear that the citizens of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania expect their public officials to act with honesty and integrity, and to not sell their office for personal gain. Hopefully, our elected officials in Philadelphia and elsewhere hear today’s message loud and clear.” 
Fattah is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4. He could face as long as 20 years behind bars on the bribery charges alone, but it is not yet clear how much prison time prosecutors will seek. Fattah is likely to appeal his conviction.

So what becomes of Fattah's seat?  He had already lost his April primary to Pennsylvania state Rep. Dwight Evans, so should Fattah be forced from his office (and I can't see how he stays now with these convictions) it would be up to Gov. Tom Wolf to set a special election date.

Wolf can set the election date as the next regular election if he wants, he just can't set it any sooner than 60 days from the point where the seat is certified to be open according to state law, so yeah, Wolf can stretch it along if he wants to, but he can't appoint anyone to the office in the interim as state law doesn't allow it.

I would think that neither party would complain too much about the election happening in November as usual, so we'll see if Fattah leaves now or later.

Once again, not all corrupt politicians are Republicans, not by any stretch of the imagination. I've no pity or sympathy for the man ripping off his constituents for years, and hope he serves as an example in a very unpleasant section of substandard federal housing.

Gunmerica The Beautiful

USA Today's editorial board is really disappointed that Senate Republicans (and more than a few Senate Democrats) are in the pocket of the NRA. Guys? Where the hell have you been for the last 15 years?

You'd think that if there was one step both parties in Washington could support in the wake of the nation's worst mass shooting, it would be to close a yawning gap in federal gun background checks — a strategy supported by nearly 90% of Americans. 
Yet in an extraordinary act of cowardice on Monday evening, 56 senators — 53 Republicans joined by three Democrats — threw away yet another opportunity to keep guns out of the hands of more felons, fugitives, the mentally ill or people prone to domestic violence. 
These spineless lawmakers voted against advancing a commonsense measure to expand background checks to virtually all sales of guns, not just those sold by federally licensed dealers. The existing gap allows buyers who purchase from private sellers at gun shows, online or from newspaper ads to simply avoid the federal background check system. 
That system, run by the FBI, is efficient for buyers: More than nine of 10 gun buyers get a yes or no within minutes. And the system is effective for screening out those barred by federal law from buying firearms: It has denied guns to 2.4 millionprospective buyers since it was created in 1994. The largest category is felons and people who've committed serious misdemeanors. 
This was the third time since the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 that the Senate has derailed similar measures. (Senators also rejected three other gun amendments on Monday.) 
Would expanding background checks be a panacea? Of course not. The Orlando killer, a security guard, was able to purchase his guns legally. But no one should buy into the absurd notion, pushed by the gun lobby, that to be worthwhile a measure must demonstrate that it could have prevented the most recent atrocity or all mass murders.

I'll say this again for the cheap seats: nothing will happen until lawmakers start getting voted out of office for supporting the NRA. Until that happens, nothing will get done on background checks, nothing will pass on smart gun technology, nothing will happen on weapon or clip/magazine restrictions nationally.

Yes, 90% of Americans support background checks.  The 10% who don't have enough power in the Senate from low-population red states to prevent anything from ever being signed into law. Until that changes, nothing will get done, and you can copy and paste this editorial after the next bloody, hideous mass shooting.  And the next. And the one after that.

And all the rest that will come.

Yes, Trump Is Flat Broke, And No, It Won't Matter One Bit

As TPM's Josh Marshall keeps saying, all the sturm und drang over Donald Trump's fired campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and the bad month of June in the polls so far really are symptoms of the fact that the Trump campaign is effectively broke, and that's because Trump himself has been conning the world about his wealth.

So it all comes down to, where's the money? We tend to look at Trump's threadbare campaign as a product of epic disorganization or the candidate's mercurial personality. But as the mammoth TV ad campaigns ramp up unanswered and field operations fail to materialize, those explanations are really no longer sufficient.

Trump may be unwilling to abase himself by dialing for dollars and his digital fundraising may be anemic. But at the scale of Trump's purported wealth, the sums in question are actually paltry. It may take a billion dollars to run a presidential campaign. But at this moment Trump is in dire need of a few million dollars. To go back to cash on hand, Trump currently has $2.4 million and Clinton has just over $30 million. Remember, Trump is allegedly worth $10 billion, which at the risk of stating the obvious means he is worth ten thousand million dollars. Someone in that position might be hard pressed to quickly produce billions of dollars or even hundreds of million in actual cash. But we're talking tens of millions or even just a few million dollars he needs right now.

Trump may be stingy. He may be saying that the RNC should take responsibility for fundraising, which is something it's clearly not capable of doing. (The RNC has massive fundraising capacity but it can't simply take on singlehanded what the candidate was expected to raise.) But as big a disaster as Trump's campaign is at the moment he stands a real shot at being the next president of the United States. It is simply not credible that he is standing on principle in not giving his campaign any more money at such a critical moment when his bid is being so deeply damaged.
The only credible answer is that it is difficult or perhaps even impossible for him to produce these comparatively small sums. If that's true, his claim to be worth billions of dollars must either be a pure sham and a fraud or some artful concoction of extreme leverage and accounting gimmickry, which makes it impossible to come up with actual cash. It's true that he's already loaned his campaign over $40 million, which at least suggests a substantial amount of liquid assets to draw on. But we've never really known where that money came from or whether it needs to be repaid to some other party. Indeed, Trump's unwillingness to give up his right to be repaid, essentially reimbursed for the primary campaign, by GOP high rollers has always been a telling but largely ignored detail.

It's been a subject of endless fascination for many to try to make sense of Trump's business empire and a producer of schadenfreude on an epic scale for those poking holes in his account of his billions. Perhaps later this week he'll prove me totally wrong and announce he's loaning himself another $100 million or $200 million. But I doubt it. If he could, why would he have allowed himself to get into this money crunch? This is now perhaps the critical question in the campaign: what happens if Donald Trump is effectively broke and can't produce critical funds for his campaign at make or break moments let alone self-fund the whole endeavor?

We've seen what happens: he blames other people and will continue to.  This is why Lewandowski was fired, and this is why when things magically fail to improve heading into the GOP convention next month, Paul Manafort will most likely get the axe too.

The reality is that Trump is a broke con man running the most ambitious con in American history, a guy who is running on being a self-sufficient paper billionaire who doesn't have two nickels to rub together when it comes to funding the day-to-day operations of his own campaign.

Here's the dirtiest secret of the 2016 election: Trump is broke but it doesn't matter one bit. Since facts don't matter to his supporters, he'll continue to run with the grift as long as they let him, and he's most likely right that the GOP now has no choice but to play along or be destroyed by the same voters. They will turn on the party so rapidly that the blood won't have time to hit the floor. The rough beast slouching its way towards Cleveland won't be denied.

Since we have empirical evidence that Republicans and their supporters are moral cowards (that they let Trump get this far is all the evidence you need) again, we're somehow counting on Republican establishment donors and major players to show courage here and cut him off?  Hardly. The marks bought into the Ponzi scheme and now they have to keep it going or they get ruined too.

Believe me when I say that while GOP donors with big pocketbooks are supposedly standing up to Trump now (and it's helping that Trump is too lazy to do fundraising, his all-consuming narcissism means that it's beneath him to go begging to anyone who doesn't automatically agree how great Trump is) once Trump becomes the nominee, the donors will fall in line just like the rest of the party, and they will do so out of abject fear.

Yes, Trump is broke, but he'll get the money he needs anyway from the party, or his fanatics will abandon the Republicans and take the GOP's hard-fought power at the state and congressional level with it. The GOP knows it. They talk a big game, but they've already beaten and were beaten on this months ago. They will fold.

At some point next month, Reince Preibus will have a conference call with the Super PACs and say "If you don't support the guy at the top of our ticket, then we'll lose it all. Pay up." And they will. They have no choice.

All Trump has to do right now is get through the convention and whatever money problems he has will vanish, out of necessity. If not, he takes the entire Republican apparatus down with him, and 2016 will become the biggest national landslide in generations...for the Democrats.

It still may.  He's broke, but he still wins.  Trump's a winner, you see. And if the GOP's not going to go along, that makes them losers by default.

And nobody likes a loser. Losers get fed to the rough beast.


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