Tag Archives: bribery

Will Bribery Work?

Apparently, today’s Republicans–who sure don’t look like the Republicans I grew up with–are no longer bothering to hide their corruption from public view. All of America has witnessed the travesty of the Senate’s impeachment “trial,” and reports of the party’s operation “Redmap” and other efforts at gerrymandering and voter suppression have become ubiquitous.

Now Politico reports that even garden-variety bribery is out in the open.  

Allies of Donald Trump have begun holding events in black communities where organizers lavish praise on the president as they hand out tens of thousands of dollars to lucky attendees.

The first giveaway took place last month in Cleveland, where recipients whose winning tickets were drawn from a bin landed cash gifts in increments of several hundred dollars, stuffed into envelopes. A second giveaway scheduled for this month in Virginia has been postponed, and more are said to be in the works.

The cash giveaways are supposedly under the auspices of an outside charity, the Urban Revitalization Coalition. That stratagem permits donors to remain anonymous and make tax-deductible contributions. (That adds insult to injury–taxpayers are subsidizing partisan bribery.)

One leading legal expert on nonprofit law said the arrangement raises questions about the group’s tax-exempt status, because it does not appear to be vetting the recipients of its money for legitimate charitable need.

“Charities are required to spend their money on charitable and educational activities,” said Marcus Owens, a former director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the Internal Revenue Service who is now in private practice at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. “It’s not immediately clear to me how simply giving money away to people at an event is a charitable act.”

The CEO of the organization is a longtime Trump ally, and the rest of the Politico report is enough to turn your stomach.

But this is hardly the only evidence that the GOP is trading money for votes. Salon has an article documenting contributions to Republican senators in advance of the sham impeachment trial.

President Trump’s legal team made numerous campaign contributions to Republican senators overseeing the impeachment trial.

Former independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray, who both investigated former President Bill Clinton ahead of his impeachment, contributed thousands of dollars to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year before they joined the president’s team, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CFPR)….

The contributions came months before McConnell bragged to Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would be in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.”

It would also be enlightening to know how many projects were recently and generously funded by the federal government in states represented by Republican senators–especially purple states.

And I suppose promising that a senator’s head wouldn’t be “on a pike” might be considered a bribe as well..

Along with raising money for senators who will decide his fate, Trump has also been accused of threatening Republicans after a Trump confidant told CBS News that senators were warned: “vote against the president, and your head will be on a pike.”

In all fairness, Trump has never made a secret of his belief that bribery is just part of doing business. According to the Washington Post,

For years, President Trump has criticized a more than 40-year-old law banning companies from bribing foreign officials to win business.

In 2012, he told CNBC that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was a “horrible law.” In a 2017 Oval Office meeting, Trump ordered his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to do away with it.

“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump said, according to “A Very Stable Genius,” a book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig that published in January.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said recently that the Trump administration is “looking at” making changes to the global anti-bribery law.

Because of course they are.

Honesty, morality and integrity are so last administration.

 

Economic Development Develops

Every so often, we need to take our eyes off the clown show in Washington, D.C., and consider what’s happening elsewhere. For example, the much-hyped competition for Amazon’s second headquarters.

I hate to be Debby Downer, but that competition is an excellent example of what’s wrong with current approaches to economic development. Economic development offices around the country participate in what is nationally a zero-sum game–attracting businesses from one locality to another, and spending lavishly to do so. (According to several sources, states and counties have awarded over $1.3 billion in incentives just to attract Amazon’s fulfillment centers.)

As a Brookings Institute report recently noted, this approach to job creation is problematic.

The most obvious is that in each of these cases, Amazon was going to come with or without incentives. It is a core tenet of Amazon’s strategy to be able to rapidly deliver products directly to people’s homes, increasingly with same day service, so they must have a major presence in every large region. Seemingly every metro area we’ve worked in over the past several years has highlighted the attraction of an Amazon facility as a major local economic development success story. (A quick web search confirmed the presence or recent announcement of one or more major Amazon fulfillment centers in or near each of the 40 largest US metro regions.) In these cases, state incentives make no sense. And county incentives are used only to influence selection of the actual site within a region, thus pitting local jurisdictions against each other to claim a political win, with no actual competitive benefit to the regional economy….

Another issue is spatial mismatch. In our work across the country, many employers such as Amazon express frustration in not being able to find enough workers—while at the same time, workers complain of not having access to good jobs. This problem is predictable. While traditional retail jobs are spread throughout metro areas to be near customers (and by default, the workforce), warehouse and logistics operations (such as Amazon’s) consolidate employees under one roof on the periphery of the metro…. The Amazon jobs that replaced these are less accessible to many of the lower-skilled employees that are best suited to fill them because workers do not live nearby. Lack of access to transit, zoning decisions that limit nearby affordable housing, and childcare responsibilities severely limit the number of workers in a given region for which this type of job commute makes sense.

The Amazon Headquarters frenzy highlights what economic development has become; a system that revolves around government giveaways to corporations.

There’s a better way. And the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce has recently partnered with Brookings to research that better way, culminating in a report titled “Rebuilding the Dream: Inclusive Growth in the Indianapolis Region.” It begins with a recognition that the economy is “misaligned between employer needs and workforce capability, and riddled with barriers to upward mobility,” and it urges policymakers to focus on removing those barriers and creating the conditions for inclusive and sustainable growth.

Rather than a competition to bring new employers to the region, the report advocates an emphasis on expanding companies that are already here, especially but not exclusively in so-called “advanced” industries (tech, very broadly defined). If those companies are to grow, however, they need access to a workforce capable of doing the jobs they are creating. The report enumerates the multiple barriers those potential employees face, and recommends a comprehensive and strategic approach to their removal: improved transportation, childcare,  health care innovations, language and training opportunities, etc.

This makes so much sense.

Rather than prospecting for companies willing to relocate and then bribing them with our tax dollars, the Chamber wants us to spend those dollars on measures that will reduce the mismatch between employer needs and the ability of unemployed or underemployed residents to meet those needs.

This is an investment that would pay real–rather than PR– dividends. Policymakers should endorse it.