Friday, September 22, 2023

Last Call For Supremely Corrupts Crooks, Cads, And Creeps, Con't

And as bad as Bob Menendez is with his bribery indictments, he's still not 1% as corrupt as, say, Justice Clarence Thomas.
On Jan. 25, 2018, dozens of private jets descended on Palm Springs International Airport. Some of the richest people in the country were arriving for the annual winter donor summit of the Koch network, the political organization founded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. A long weekend of strategizing, relaxation in the California sun and high-dollar fundraising lay ahead.

Just after 6 p.m., a Gulfstream G200 jet touched down on the tarmac. One of the Koch network’s most powerful allies was on board: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

During the summit, the justice went to a private dinner for the network’s donors. Thomas has attended Koch donor events at least twice over the years, according to interviews with three former network employees and one major donor. The justice was brought in to speak, staffers said, in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving.

That puts Thomas in the extraordinary position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most closely watched of the upcoming term.

Thomas never reported the 2018 flight to Palm Springs on his annual financial disclosure form, an apparent violation of federal law requiring justices to report most gifts. A Koch network spokesperson said the network did not pay for the private jet. Since Thomas didn’t disclose it, it’s not clear who did pay.

Thomas’ involvement in the events is part of a yearslong, personal relationship with the Koch brothers that has remained almost entirely out of public view. It developed over years of trips to the Bohemian Grove, a secretive all-men’s retreat in Northern California. Thomas has been a regular at the Grove for two decades, where he stayed in a small camp with real estate billionaire Harlan Crow and the Kochs, according to records and people who’ve spent time with him there.

A spokesperson for the Koch network, formally known as Stand Together, did not answer detailed questions about his role at the Palm Springs events but said, “Thomas wasn’t present for fundraising conversations.”

“The idea that attending a couple events to promote a book or give dinner remarks, as all the justices do, could somehow be undue influence just doesn’t hold water,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“All of the sitting Justices and many who came before them have contributed to the national dialogue in speeches, book tours, and social gatherings,” the statement added. “Our events are no different. To claim otherwise is false.”

In a series of stories this year, ProPublica reported that Thomas has accepted undisclosed luxury travel from Crow and a coterie of other ultrawealthy men. Crow also purchased Thomas’ mother’s home and paid private school tuition for the child Thomas was raising as his son. Thomas has said little in response. In a statement earlier this year, he said that Crow is a close friend whom he has joined on “family trips.” He has also argued that he was not required to disclose the free vacations. Thomas did not respond to questions for this story.

The code of conduct for the federal judiciary lays out rules designed to preserve judges’ impartiality and independence, which it calls “indispensable to justice in our society.” The code specifically prohibits both political activity and participation in fundraising. Judges are advised, for instance, not to “associate themselves” with any group “publicly identified with controversial legal, social, or political positions.”

But the code of conduct only applies to the lower courts. At the Supreme Court, justices decide what’s appropriate for themselves.

“I can’t imagine — it takes my breath away, frankly — that he would go to a Koch network event for donors,” said John E. Jones III, a retired federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush. Jones said that if he had gone to a Koch summit as a district court judge, “I’d have gotten a letter that would’ve commenced a disciplinary proceeding
Of course, that's the problem. Supreme Court justices are, again, not subject to any ethics rules other than their own recognizance. 

And Republicans keep making sure that will remain the case.


Big Bob's Bribery Blowout

A federal grand jury in New York has returned a sweeping indictment against United States Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

The investigation focused on a luxury car, gold bars and an apartment allegedly received by Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian. His wife was also indicted.

The indictment charges Menendez, 69, and his wife with having a corrupt relationship with three New Jersey businessmen -- Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daides.

The indictment accuses Menendez and his wife of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using the senator's power and influence to seek to protect and enrich the businessman.

"Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value," the indictment said.

In June 2022, federal agents searched Menendez's New Jersey home and found "fruits" of the pair's "corrupt bribery agreement" with the three businessmen, according to the indictment. Investigators found over $480,000 in cash, some stuffed in envelopes and hidden in clothing, as well as $70,000 in Nadine Menendez's safe deposit box.

Also found in the home were over $100,000 worth of gold bars, "provided by either Hana or Daibes," according to the indictment.

Menendez allegedly gave sensitive U.S. government information "that secretly aided the Government of Egypt" and "improperly advised and pressured" a U.S. agricultural official to protect an exclusive contract for Hana to be the exclusive purveyor of halal meat to Egypt, according to the indictment.
Yeah, all this is gross, comical, even cartoonish levels of corruption. Gold bars? C'mon.
It's New Jersey, but, damn.
Get his resignation by the end of the year, and Gov. Phil Murphy appoints someone who promises not to run in 2024 and leaves an open primary is the fairest way to do it.

Either way, Menendez has to go.

[UPDATE] Menendez has stepped down as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairas Senate rules require a chair indicted under a felony to do so. Multiple Dems are calling on Menendez to resign, including Gov. Murphy and former Obama-era AG Eric Holder.

Not looking good for him to stay on through this.

Shutdown Countdown, Clown Town Edition, Con't

Turns out GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy still doesn't have the votes to pass anything at all as far as keeping the government open as a second attempt to pass a Pentagon funding bill had to be pulled from the House floor, and with the House now in recess, it looks like a GOP-caused shutdown is all but guaranteed.
For the second time this week, House Republicans on Thursday failed to start debate on a key military funding bill after five conservative rebels blocked the measure over demands for additional spending cuts.

The defeat marked yet another public embarrassment for Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans as Washington barrels toward a government shutdown. Then, they left town for the week.

"We are very dysfunctional right now," Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said, adding that the failure proves that GOP leaders "obviously can't count" votes, unlike Democrats. "Speaker Pelosi, love her or hate her, she put something out there and they'd rally around it."

McCarthy had vowed that the House would work through the weekend to find a solution to the crisis, with votes expected through Saturday. Now, they've canceled votes for Friday and the weekend, telling members they'll get "ample notice" if any votes are scheduled.

Moderate Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., who is facing a tough re-election bid next year, has been describing the GOP dysfunction as a "clown show" and warned that pragmatists would work with Democrats to keep the government funded.
Even House Republicans themselves are calling this clown show a clown show! 

"For my colleagues, they have to come to a realization: If they are unable or unwilling to govern, others will. And in a divided government where you have Democrats controlling the Senate, a Democrat controlling the White House, there needs to be a realization that you're not going to get everything you want," he said.

"And just throwing a temper tantrum and stomping your feet, frankly not only is it wrong — it's pathetic," Lawler added.

The House paralysis bodes ill for preventing a government shutdown at the end of September, as Republicans remain unable to pass messaging bills that would represent their opening bid and have no chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate. The infighting could only escalate when they have to make policy compromises to accept a bill that President Joe Biden can sign into law.

“At the end of the day, any final bill is going to be bipartisan. And if somebody doesn’t realize that they’re truly clueless,” Lawler said.

Thursday's vote failed 212-216. The Republicans who voted no were Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; Dan Bishop of North Carolina; Matt Rosendale of Montana; and Andy Biggs and Eli Crane, both of Arizona. Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., later switched his vote to no, a procedural move that will allow him to bring the bill up again.

“The problem is, we’ve been doing CRs for 25 years or longer. And that works the same way. Lather, rinse, repeat. The Washington wash cycle,” Bishop said. “So there’s another CR and they get to a few days before Christmas and they pass on monstrous omnibus. That’s exactly the path. We all see it, we all recognize it. The only way to change it is to change it.”
But of course Republicans don't have the votes to change it, and they could have passed spending bills months ago without a single Democratic vote. They chose not to. 

Republicans are clowns, period. We're all here to watch the Big Top burn down with them -- and America -- in it.

And when the Villagers are openly asking if Kevin McCarthy is even still in charge and worse, answering that question with "No, Matt Gaetz is running the circus now" then yeah, I don't see how McCarthy seriously survives the next few weeks as Speaker. More than ever it feels like the Clown Town kids table is going to have to eat what the adults in the Senate give them, and that McCarthy's going to spend the holidays shooting hoops in his driveway in sweatpants and muttering about how he was A Contenda™.

His only hope is that Matt Gaetz would be so much worse as Speaker that the thought alone might keep him in the office as whipping boy, and in that scenario, McCarthy's just a puppet.

We'll see.
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