We start off on today's BradCast with how the FBI's startling new revelation that a Russian oligarch tied to Vladimir Putin essentially owns the state of Maryland's public election system, underscores yet again what we've been trying to explain for about 15 years here: Private corporations have no place in public elections! [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
Only oversight by the public can possibly prevent our electoral system from being manipulated (or owned) by insiders (like election officials and/or private election vendors) or outsiders (like foreign nations and/or hackers). Amazingly, Maryland says they had no clue about the Russian ownership of the private server company which hosts the state's electoral systems --- including voter registration, election management (ballot programming and tabulation), election night results reporting and more. They were notified by the Feds just last Friday. (For a sense of how long we've been yelling about the threats related to the corporatization our public elections, see our August 2008 article by Ellen Theisen, linking to Voters Unite's then-new report on how private "Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections".)
Next, speaking of public oversight being stripped away from the public, author and financial journalist DAVID DAYEN joins us to discuss several topics. First, the US Treasury Department announced this week, incredibly enough, that it is doing away with the requirement for non-profit "social welfare organizations", such as the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity, to reveal the names of their donors to the IRS.
"You can sort of squint and say, well, any organization, whether it's the Chamber of Commerce or Planned Parenthood, on the left or on the right, can benefit from this," says Dayen. "But lets' be real. The practitioners of dark money are overwhelmingly on the right. That's why politicians on the right support burying this information, whereas politicians on the left generally support disclosure."
The new regulation, experts and journalists argue, will make "dark money" in our elections even darker. The three right-wing groups cited above were the top spenders on elections in 2016 and they are celebrating the new announcement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin today, even as Treasury used what Dayen describes as a "Zombie Lie" (which just wont die) in their official announcement --- citing the long-debunked "IRS targeting scandal" --- as one of the reasons for the new policy, which has long been lobbied for by the Right.
The announcement comes just days after the federal indictment of a Russia national who had infiltrated the NRA along with another oligarch who had helped funnel millions of foreign dollars to the group. "Foreign spending within US elections remains illegal, whether the IRS collects this information or not. And it seems like they're giving themselves less of an opportunity to connect the dots and make sure they are properly enforcing federal election law." That, I argue, is a feature, not a bug.
Then, Dayen explains the remarkable turn of events over the weekend in Oakland, where the California Democratic Party's executive committee voted --- by a huge margin --- to endorse state Senator Kevin de León over four-term, 26-year incumbent U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein in her reelection bid this November. Dayen describes what happened and why.
Finally, Dayen details why progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders and NY U.S. House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are barnstorming the so-called "red" state of Kansas this weekend to stump for several progressive U.S. House candidates in advance of the state's August 7 primary. Early voting in the state is under way as of today.
Also, though we didn't have time to dive into the details, Dayen teases his recent "long read" over at HuffPost's Highline, which he worked on for about year, documenting the jaw-dropping story of what happened to a whistleblower who tried to sound the alarm on sexual harassment at international banking behemoth HSBC...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)