Talk About Conflicts Of Interest….

A recent report issued by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) finds that President Trump has 2,300 conflicts of interest. (For some reason, I’m having trouble linking to the report, but it’s easily Googled.)

We see a number of vague accusations of this administration’s “corruption,” but that all-encompassing description doesn’t tell us what the improprieties are, or why the behaviors are unethical. As a result, we are in danger of normalizing them.

The most common definition of a conflict of interest is a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity. CREW puts meat on the bare bones of that definition. The report begins with an explanation of the importance of divestment and the reasons for it.

Prior to President Trump, every modern president divested their business interests before entering office. For decades, this norm of presidential conduct has served as an important signal for both Republican and Democratic administrations to show that, as the nation’s most powerful and prominent public servant, the president would not put personal financial interests before the interests of the country. Divestiture also served as an assurance to the public that the president would not open himself up to undue influence from special interests and foreign governments that might use his businesses as a way to curry favor with him and his administration.

And Trump?

The president has visited his properties 362 times at taxpayer expense during his administration, sometimes visiting multiple properties in a single day. The number of days he’s spent time at a Trump-branded property account for almost a third of the days he’s been president.

One-hundred eleven officials from 65 foreign governments have visited a Trump property.

CREW has recorded 630 visits to Trump properties from at least 250 Trump administration officials. Ivanka Trumpand Jared Kushner are the most frequent executive branch officials to visit Trump properties, other than the president himself. Jared has made 28 known visits, while Ivanka has made 23.

Members of Congress have flocked to President Trump’s properties: 90 members of Congress have made 188 visits to a Trump property.

President Trump has used the presidency to provide free publicity for his properties, which he still profits from as president. As president, Trump has tweeted about or mentioned one of his properties on 159 occasions, and White House officials have mentioned a Trump property 65 times, sometimes in the course of their official duties.

Political groups have spent $5.9 million at Trump properties since President Trump took office. In more than a decade prior to his run for president, Trump’s businesses never received more than $100,000 from political groups in a single year.

Foreign governments and foreign government-linked organizations have hosted 12 events at Trump properties since the president took office. These events have been attended by at least 19 administration officials.

There is much more.

Trump’s behavior has been a truly shocking departure from that of previous presidents, but in all fairness, the expectation that government officials will avoid both conflicts and the appearance of conflicts has been eroded over the years by practices in the Senate.

An article a few weeks ago in The Guardian focused on those practices.

As they set national policy on important issues such as climate change, tech monopolies, medical debt and income inequality, US senators have glaring conflicts of interest, an investigation by news website Sludge and the Guardian can reveal.

An analysis of personal financial disclosure data as of 16 August has found that 51 senators and their spouses have as much as $96m personally invested in corporate stocks in five key sectors: communications/electronics; defense; energy and natural resources; finance, insurance and real estate; and health.

The majority of these stocks come from public companies, and some are private.

Overall, the senators are invested in 338 companies – including tech firms such as Apple and Microsoft, oil and gas giants including ExxonMobil and Antero Midstream, telecom companies including Verizon, and major defense contractors such as Boeing – in the five sectors as categorized by Sludge.

As the article noted, this ownership is not illegal, but such investments raise real questions about lawmakers’ motivations.

We have a lot of work to do.

In 2020, Americans’ first priority must be delivery of an overwhelming, crushing defeat to Trump and the obsequious Republicans who continue to enable him.

Our second must be a wholesale “clean up” of government– reform of electoral systems and governmental structures that facilitate unethical behavior, from state-level gerrymandering and voter suppression, to Senate-level conflicts of interest.

 

16 thoughts on “Talk About Conflicts Of Interest….

  1. IMO add to that wholesale “cleanup” some serious work on the Constitution. The founding fathers never imagined a country inhabited by over 300 million people. Because of that large population increase over two centuries their outdated formula for legislative representation clogs up the law making process and confuses the electorate as to who to hold responsible for “nothing getting done”.
    Another area that needs to be addressed is “who is in charge of your body?” That question never arose in that early Congress where the members were all male and some actually owned other people’s bodies via slavery or marriage. They could not see a day when so many would want to be able to decide themselves when and if to bring new life into the world and when to die.
    And then there is the gun thing. And environmental issues that hang over land rights. And immigration matters. And freedom of religion and what that really means going forward.
    Yes, there is lots of work to be done. We don’t need a “freshening up”; we need a remodeling and room addition.

  2. I fear that a large segment of the population, especially among Trumpsters, would approve of this behavior, considering it smart business and would be likely to do it themselves if in the same position. It certainly is evident in our local and state government. After all, we had a former governor who appointed familiars to trustee positions at a major public educational institution who in turn selected him to head that organization once he left office. All the while he was moving the entire publicly funded state educational system into private hands (with intent).

    Members of township trustees’ families routinely get appointed to administrative positions, without any experience other than birth. Efforts to reform that system have failed repeatedly because the local pols keep it that way to their benefit.

    State representatives and senators step through the revolving door of opportunity to work for the very corporations, businesses and lobbying firms that they once oversaw (cough, cough).

    On a local level, it is often not what you know but who you know that gets you contracts and approvals, especially in zoning variances and TIF funding for developments. Insiders with connections getting rich on real estate deals when a new highway is planned is so common as to be almost laughable if it where not so egregiously abused by those in power and their political as well as family connections.

    Cleaning the mess up will take political knowledge and will. Neither is apparent in the current political climate in this state and, I suspect, in most places in this country. Outrage is saved for strictly personal insults and injuries. Sad and cynical as it sounds, it seems to be true over and over again. Reformers are viewed with suspicion and hostility whenever they call out the abuses. It is an age of corruption and graft that may be the downfall of any real chance that our democratic republic, our grand experiment, will succeed.

  3. Copied and pasted from CREW’s official web site, “About Us”:
    “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) uses aggressive legal action, in-depth research, and bold communications to reduce the influence of money in politics and help foster a government that is ethical and accountable. We highlight abuses, change behavior, and lay the groundwork for new policies and approaches that encourage public officials to work for the benefit of the people, not powerful interests, in accordance with the principles of ethical government the founders set out in the Constitution.”

    Copied and pasted from Sheila’s blog:
    “We see a number of vague accusations of this administration’s “corruption,” but that all-encompassing description doesn’t tell us what the improprieties are, or why the behaviors are unethical. As a result, we are in danger of normalizing them.”

    CREW is self-reported to be a non-profit, nonpartisan organization to report facts regarding our government. Those “vague accusations” and lack of “all-encompassing description” appear to be almost totally partisan which poses the question are they being paid to submit these reports which provide no information regarding the issues and actions we witness daily from this Trump administration? They obviously do not name names of those behind the curtain who are supporting Trump violating his Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution by ignoring their own Oaths of Office. There are no “conflicts of Interest” in democracy, Rule of Law and upholding the Constitution. This entire administration is unethical and none of them have been held accountable for their own actions. Did the members CREW have an Oath of Office regarding their non-profit, non-partisan basis?

    Last night’s local and state elections made another “small step forward for man”; this can mean the 2020 elections hold the possibility of “one giant leap forward for mankind” if we can maintain the momentum we have witnessed in the 2018 and 2019 local and state elections.

  4. It is not just the corruption of President Agent Orange and his “Family”, it is the whole system of campaign financing. President Agent Orange as with most things connected to him has no limits, so if he can insult, lie, twist the facts or profit from his position he will do so.

    Nepotism, patronage, etc., is a part of system that predates President Agent Orange. President Agent Orange has taken it to the level of “in your face”.

    It is not just enough that President Agent Orange is tossed in 2020, the New Democratic President must be someone who is committed to reform and will do so based upon on track record of being Progressive. Warren and Sanders come to mind.

  5. ALL politicians have a conflict of interest at the national level unless they are self-made millionaires.

    What’s comical is you want to clean up the government from these corporate conflicts, yet elect a president from a party who are owned by Wall Street. LOL

    @AOC chose not to accept corporate donations, which helped her handily defeat a corporate DNC beast. She then endorsed Bernie Sanders for POTUS because he has been fighting corporate influence in our government for decades.

    Yet, in yesterday’s post, Biden’s name was mentioned numerous times. This lacks any logical sense whatsoever. It’s one of the definitions of insanity.

    If the problem is the corporate influence of government and the apparent conflicts it presents, the solution is not electing more candidates in the pockets of Wall Street corporations. This is illogical.

    The 35 and under crowd understand this very well. Our Boomer generation is applying the same flawed logic, which created this Oligarchic mess. SMH

  6. Random thought 1 – Fewer people saying they are religious, fewer people attending religious services, lack of civic education…where will the source of standards and values be?

    Random thought 2 – Much research suggests that the single biggest deterrent to “crime” of any kind is the likelihood of being caught and charged….

    Random thought 3 – When it seems to be clear everywhere you turn that the crooked get ahead and get by, then it becomes the culture of everyday life. We know that corruption is now inbred in societies all over the world. It had to be “carefully taught” over generations….

    So many “what ifs”….if the IRS went after the richest tax evaders with the same effort they go after the poor (you don’t want to know the research on this – they have fully admitted to the opposite)….

  7. It all starts with Jared and Ivanka on the Whitehouse staff. The other dimension of the problem is no objection to any of it by any Republican.

  8. We must admit Trump has proven one old adage to be true, “ANYBODY can grow up and become president of the United States.”

  9. One hundred and fifty years of regulation have taught us one thing. The necessary regulations are determined by the least competent and more corrupt among each demographic.

    Republicans have shown us how inadequate regulation of the Presidency has been until now and how far we have to go as the cops to get ahead of would be Presidential robbers.

  10. “As the article noted, this ownership is not illegal, but such investments raise real questions about lawmakers’ motivations.” Now that I’ve stopped laughing…. this is SO obvious. More than half the Senate is in the tank for their conflicts. The ridiculous president has been in the tank since he hit the ground.

    In case anybody missed it, all these “conflicts” are part of basic human nature: GREED! HOARDING! SELF-SERVICE! But when these things are allowed to be part of governing large, complex societies, we get what we have now. These times, culminated by the Trump phenomenon, merely shines a light on our political and civic sloth and the failure of the electorate to select representation that represents itself. Instead, the richest, most greedy and most corrupt are allowed to rule at their pleasure, not ours.

    Why are we so surprised? Shiela, your continued stream of truisms needs to be expanded to rural and “red” America on a much larger scale. Otherwise, the collective sloth and ignorance of the electorate will continue to give us the most corrupt representatives we can generate.

  11. thanks everyone,the views here are my own. i maybe a working class no one,but the fact we all can still reconize the importance of not just one issue,but everyone from a admin that encourages its own style of corruption,of all the issues combinded,above and beyond duty.. my conversation with like minded,and same working status, is paying off. they are listening. so many here in NoDak have long heard the conspiracy stuff,anti goverment rehetric,etc, its deafening here.. its been on the tables for so long,no one even wants to listen,hense,they in turn disregard the converstion,and go back to their own little world,and just status quo it all…too many here are in the same boat,loans,medical,land,operation,ag markets,and weather. but they still all disregard the ones who would help them,and straighten out, in time,the mess created by the admins since reagan. we could use a few bernies amd warrens to show up, and visably meet with these people,and discus,save the speach,and get to know some of these people,and know what shoes they wear. NoDak has been overlooked by the demos and its known,we cant get much of a voice in, but, if someone had the balls,er,to come around and make a effort,thay may wind up changeing the,conversation.. bestbwishes in 2020, we do have a lot of work,and a lot of minds to endure…

  12. Jack, I have to say that I admire and value your perspective. Acting tribal is the default position for all of us so you help ground the conversation here.

    I’ve realized over time that my choice for government is free and fair and light.

    Freedom at all is freedom for all.

    Fair means equal choice for all in who governs as well as sharing the financial consequences of both good and misfortune through insurance.

    Light means driven by continued rational improvement rather than emotions like hate and anger and resentment.

  13. Trump would not have run for president if he hadn’t foreseen ample opportunity for corruption. He is simply continuing and expanding a lifetime habit of fleecing suckers who can’t see through his criminal nature. Being abetted by nearly all Republicans has lightened his load. When people educated at federal expense, like Mike Pompeo, see their mission as protecting the Corrupter in Chief, we have reached a point at which saving democracy becomes a huge challenge. But shouldn’t we pity the boobs who believe that something more rewarding than democracy awaits their traitorous acts? It has often been called an experiment. No one guaranteed success.

    Keep a bounteous supply of barf bags nearby as Senate Republicans demonstrate during the impeachment trial that, like the president, they despise American democracy and are made of the wrong stuff.

  14. Is it true what Donald Jr said on CBS morning that they haven’t opened new business agreements? He stated they were continuing with contracts they made prior to the election only.
    Are Trumps statements about those who are on government business that stay in his hotels get wholesale prices? Is he giving a better deal to those staying at “his” hotels?
    I’m not sure I’d want my staff to be full of family members, ha.

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