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Corporations Are Giving to Republicans--Again

After 147 House Republicans voted against certifying all the votes in the 2020 election, many corporations and their trade groups stopped donating to members of the Republican Party who voted against certification. Having people not accept election results and then rioting to stop the transfer of power from happening is not good for business. On the other hand, all that was almost a year ago, and who cares about ancient history? So companies are donating again. After all, if Republicans capture the House or Senate in 2022, there won't be any new tax increases from Jan. 3, 2023, until at least Jan. 20, 2025. The lure of blocking tax increases overrides all other concerns. It's business as usual.

The return to donating has been gradual, but it is there. PACs associated with Fortune 500 companies or their trade groups have donated $6.8 million to the 147 House Republicans who objected to the electoral vote count. In September and October alone, they gave $2.3 million to the objectors. The top donor was the Credit Union National Association, which gave them $177,000. The American Bankers Association, which represents the big banks, was #2 with donations of $166,000. Among Fortune 500 companies, General Dynamics, a military contractor, is the top giver to this group, shelling out $162,000 to 50 GOP objectors. These are not huge donations, but even in a time of high inflation, buying a congressman is still one of the greatest bargains around. And remember, this isn't even an election year. Next year the giving will get serious.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) were the top recipients among the 147, with takes of $255,000 and $202,000, respectively. McCarthy's district, CA-23, was R+14 and Scalise's district, LA-01, was R+24, so they don't need the money so much themselves. But by carefully doling it out to other members they can (1) shore up weak candidates who might otherwise lose, or (2) buy the loyalty of other members, or (3) do both. (V)

Trump Loses in Court--Again

When it comes to America's legal system, Donald Trump has a lot of irons in the fire. He's not only being sued by a whole bunch of people, he's also filed suits of his own. And in general, particularly in cases where he's the plaintiff, Trump has the weaker side of the argument. So it's not too surprising that he seems to get an adverse decision from one judge or another multiple times per week.

Tuesday's adverse ruling came in the case filed in an effort to keep House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) from laying hands on Trump's tax returns. Neal's argument is that the Revenue Act of 1924 says that he, along with two other officeholders (the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation) can demand a copy of anyone's tax returns from the Secretary of the Treasury. Trump's argument, in so many words, is "Nuh, uh!"

Trump must have been thrilled that the case ended up in front of Judge Trevor McFadden, who is a Trump appointee, and who has previously bent over backwards to make the law conform to Trumpian prerogatives (for example, killing Obamacare). But even McFadden couldn't find for Trump here. In his ruling, the judge said that the law is very clear here. He also encouraged Neal not to make the returns public, but acknowledged that is only friendly advice, and that the law empowers the Chairman to do pretty much whatever he wants with the returns.

McFadden stayed his ruling for 2 weeks so Trump can appeal. Undoubtedly, the former president will do so, with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the next stop, followed by the Supreme Court. The D.C. Court of Appeals has been handling his cases very rapidly, and this case is very simple, so his appeal doesn't figure to take very long. Oh, and he's already lost "keep my tax returns secret" cases at the federal circuit level (SDNY), and the Supreme Court level, in Trump v. Vance. Christmas is the season of miracles, and Trump is going to need one of them to win this case, or even to keep it going much past mid-January.

As usual, the Supreme Court is going to get the final call, as it does on everything important that happens in the country. But umpire-in-chief John Roberts likes to be thought of as a justice sometimes, just calling balls and strikes. Since he is planning to gut (or maybe even repeal) Roe v. Wade next year, calling one for the Blue Team might help his reputation for calling 'em as he sees 'em. Besides the law is crystal clear here, so it is an easy call. (Z)

Debt Ceiling Crisis Averted--Again

Clearly, it is déjà vu day today, as our first three items are about history repeating itself (over and over). Anyhow, consistent with the agreement hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate passed a bill that will lift the United States' debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. The House followed suit shortly thereafter, with all the Democrats and one Republican (Adam Kinzinger of Illinois) voting in support and all the other Republicans voting against. Joe Biden will apply his signature today, assuming he hasn't already done so (there aren't too many reporters on the "Oval Office—After Dark" beat).

The Democrats would have been best served to raise the debt ceiling by a much larger number. At the very least, that would have pushed the issue far into the future. And if they had increased it to some comically high number, like eleventy skajillion dollars, it would have blunted it as a campaign issue. However, the word is that McConnell insisted on this specific number, knowing full well that $2.5 trillion will only last until sometime in 2023. If the Democrats somehow hold both chambers of Congress, then the Republicans will surely get extra nasty in the next set of negotiations. If the Democrats lose one chamber, or both, then the debt ceiling will be rolled into some other bill as a form of poison pill, to make it hard for them to kill that bill in the Senate. For example, the bill might raise the debt ceiling and also cut taxes on corporations. If the Democrats balk, particularly if they are in the minority in the Senate and have to use the filibuster, then Republicans will say that the blue team is responsible for crashing the economy. (Z)

House Votes to Hold Meadows in Contempt

Yesterday evening, the House voted to refer former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the Dept. of Justice for prosecution for contempt of Congress. It was the second time the Select Committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 voted to ask the Dept. of Justice to indict someone for telling Congress to take its subpoena and shove it. The first one, Steve Bannon, has already been indicted. Meadows is virtually certain to be the second indictee. Meadows is also the first former member of Congress to be held in contempt of that body in nearly 200 years.

Unlike Bannon, who indeed holds Congress in contempt and has stonewalled it from the beginning and who might be willing to go to prison to defend his right to stonewall Congress, Meadows seems to have trouble making up his mind. At first he said he would cooperate. In fact, he delivered a huge pile of documents to Congress. The pile is so big that one of the questions the Committee wants to ask him is "Where in the pile should we look?"

It is hard to tell what Meadows' strategy is. Maybe he is planning to drag it out until Jan. 20, 2025, at which time he hopes Donald Trump will be president and can pardon him. Bannon's trial is set for next July. Throw in a couple of appeals and maybe we are indeed looking at 2025. But maybe not, so Meadows is clearly gambling here. And of course, there is no guarantee that Trump will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2025. Hell, he might not even run and there is no way a fresh President DeSantis would stir up immense controversy by pardoning him on day 1.

Meadows is not a lawyer. In fact, he doesn't even have a 4-year bachelor's degree (he has a 2-year associate degree), but he ought to know that he would be better off showing up and then pleading the Fifth Amendment on every question. You can't do that on every question, but the line between when that is allowed and when it is not is fuzzy and refusing to answer some questions is much more defensible than just refusing to show up. Be that as it may, Meadows is virtually certain to be indicted within a month and his trial will probably also be next summer. (V)

Omicron Is Bad News for the Democrats

An unnamed Biden administration official has said that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is set to explode all over the U.S. and there will be plenty of hospitalizations. A study from South Africa, where the mutant virus was first discovered, shows that a two-dose regimen of the Pfizer vaccine—the gold standard— is only 33% effective against Omicron. In Denmark, where 80% of the population is vaccinated, three-quarters of Omicron cases are among fully vaccinated people. A big surge of new infections would overwhelm many hospitals. A third dose raises the effectiveness strongly, but not enough people have had a booster to keep the new variant from running amok.

What is going on in England may be a preview of what will soon happen in the U.S. The health minister said Omicron will become the dominant variant in London in the next 48 hours. He also said it is spreading at a phenomenal rate that has never been seen before. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I'm afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need."

The problem for the Democrats is that a lot of people voted for Joe Biden because he promised to beat back the coronavirus, fix the economy, and make everything normal again. If a surging new variant overloads the hospitals, forces shutdowns in sectors of the economy, and especially if it requires schools to end in-person instruction, people will be hopping mad. And when people are mad, they blame the president, even if there is not much that he can do.

Of course, there are some things he can do, but they would not be popular. A vaccine mandate—with no exceptions—for entry to any government property as well as to interstate airplanes, trains, and boats would be a start. He could order all federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for all employees. Having OSHA speed up its mandates for companies with 100 or more employees would also help. From a political standpoint, having him demand that just about everyone gets vaccinated would immunize him from some criticism, especially if red-state governors flouted his orders and hospitalizations and deaths went sky-high in their states. Also, if the Supreme Court ruled against mandates, Biden could blame the Court and ask Congress to pack the Court to protect the nation's health. Biden doesn't have to win the battle to survive. He only has to convince most people that he really tried hard but Republican governors and the Supreme Court are at fault for all the new deaths. He's got the bully pulpit, but if he doesn't use it, it will cost him dearly next year.

Beyond that, all is not lost for the Democrats. Pfizer has developed a pill that, if taken within five days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, reduces the risk of hospitalization by 88%. This could be a life saver—literally—for people who contract the disease and, along with vaccinations, could help end the pandemic. It appears to work against the Omicron variant, so there is some good news there. (V)

Name Calling Works

When Republicans can't think of something better to call a Democrat, they call him or her a socialist. It is a general-purpose slur, where one size fits all, from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). A new report from a Democratic research firm, Equis, suggests that it actually works. Among people who voted for Donald Trump, over 70% were concerned that the Democrats are socialists. This was especially true of Latinos and may explain Trump's unexpected gains with them. Forty percent are concerned with the Democrats becoming socialists. The firm didn't ask "What is a socialist, exactly?" We suspect that not one in a hundred could give an accurate explanation if they had, but all of them know "socialist = bad."

In Florida, which has a large population of people from Latin America, "socialism" reminded them of the leftist dictators many of them fled rather than the workers owning the means of production. But the attacks also worked in other states with fewer immigrants from Latin America.

The survey also found that there was no drop-off as Latinos became better assimilated in American life. Actually, "socialist" rang a bell with fourth-generation Latinos more than with their parents or grandparents. The effect was greatest among people who get their news from WhatsApp group chats, which are popular among Latinos. It also found that Latinos believe that Democrats take them for granted. The blue team wants those votes badly, but when it comes time to deliver, they don't. Nevertheless, Democrats have the potential to do better with Latinos by emphasizing things like hard work as the key to the American Dream. (V)

Trump: Mike Pence is Mortally Wounded

Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate in 2016 because the thrice-married, p**sy-grabbing, church-avoiding, former playboy needed some help rounding up the evangelicals. Pence obliged and the team eked out a narrow victory in the Electoral College. Now that Pence's work has been completed, Trump has thrown him into the dumpster. The former president posted a video to a social media account that said: "I think Mike has been very badly hurt by what took place in respect to January 6. I think he's been mortally wounded, frankly, because I see the reaction he's getting from people." (English translation: Forget it, Mike, you will not be on the ticket with me in 2024). Trump has hinted that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) would make a good running mate. He is very Trumpy and he would likely bring in the mother of all swing states.

Pence's sin, of course, was following the Constitution and not announcing that Trump had won the Electoral College when he hadn't. But Trump may be right about Pence's future. The former veep would love to get the top job, but with Trump likely to run, he can't mount a challenge. That would be political suicide. If Trump doesn't run, Trump is never going to support Pence, so even then he has no chance.

Nevertheless, Pence is optimistic and is assembling a campaign-in-waiting, just in case lightning strikes. If Trump and DeSantis are both felled by the Omicron virus, Pence might actually look good to some Republicans compared to Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). But it is a slim chance. No doubt he can find a verse or two in the Bible about miracles that gives him hope. (V)

Delaying North Carolina Primaries Could Affect Many Races

As we noted last week, the North Carolina Supreme Court has postponed all of the state's primary elections from March until May on account of two lawsuits about gerrymandering. While gerrymandering does not affect statewide races—such as the hotly contested open Senate primaries—the Court did not want to burden the state with the expense of two primaries and did not want to burden the voters with two election dates.

Adding two more months to the primary schedule necessarily changes the calculus, at least some. If nothing else, the delay will help the candidates who are good at fundraising. It gives them 60 more days to outraise and outspend their opponents. Likewise, it will hurt candidates who aren't good at shaking the money tree.

Both parties have competitive Senate primaries. On the Democratic side, former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley and state Sen. Jeff Jackson have been the best fundraisers to date, so the delay will probably allow them to leave their rivals further back in the dust. Progressive favorite Erica Smith was not good at fundraising and has already dropped out and will seek a House seat instead of Sen. Richard Burr's (R) Senate seat. None of the other Democrats have a chance. At the moment, Beasley has $1.67 million on hand to Jackson's $1.18 million. Beasley is Black and Jackson is white. The state is about 20% Black, which means that the Democratic electorate is probably close to 40% Black. This could help Beasley get the nomination, but there aren't as many Black voters as in Georgia, so she must appeal to large numbers of white voters to win the general election. Jackson has the reverse problem; he is going to have a tough time making it through the primary, but is probably better situated to win the general. Neither candidate is a household name, so the candidate who can raise the most money and buy the most ads between now and May could have the edge. And if the winner can indeed make themselves into a household name, and make sure voters know what their policy positions are, then their race will be less important.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump has endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC). However, Budd is not as well known as former governor Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory. Also in the race is former representative Mark Walker. With help from Trump, Budd has $2 million in the bank now to McCrory's $1.59 million and Walker's $613,000. The delay is likely to make it more of a Budd vs. McCrory race. Budd is Trump's favorite, which may help him win the primary, but McCrory is likely stronger in the general election. Also, keep in mind that while Democrats think the bathroom bill McCrory supported is a terrible thing, many Republicans see it as keeping men in dresses out of women's rest rooms in public places and applaud it. This could drive Republican turnout for McCrory up, while the association with Trump could drive up Democratic turnout if Budd wins the primary. Polling earlier this year had McCrory way out in front, but Budd is rapidly catching up due to Trump's help.

In both cases, it looks like the stronger primary candidate might be the weaker general-election candidate. Of course, if both parties opt to go for their weaker general-election candidate, the effect could cancel out. (V)

Nevada Democrats Play Defense

Nevada has only four House seats (no change from 2010) but the Democrats have the trifecta there now and are trying to make the most of it. They have come up with a tentative map. Here is the 2011 map and the proposed 2021 map:

Nevada district maps; the old maps 
has a big district in the north and another big one in the center and then a small circular district that is clearly Las
Vegas and a fourth district that occupies the southern, triangular corner of the state. The new map has the large
northern and central districts, still, but has chopped up the other two, such that Las Vegas is clearly now split.

As we have discussed numerous times before, when one party has the trifecta, they can either get greedy or play it safe. Currently there are Democrats in three of the four Nevada seats. The Democratic map makers elected to try to keep it that way rather than getting greedy and trying to grab the fourth one. Here is a quick rundown of the Nevada map by district.

So here is a state where the Democrats control the show but they are playing defense rather than offense. There is no chance at all that they will pick up a seat here but they have tried to reduce the risk that they lose one or two by turning their safe district (NV-01) into a likely Democratic district to shore up Lee and also help Horsford. (V)

D.C. Sues Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for Damages

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine (D) has sued 31 members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers for millions of dollars in damages as a result of the Jan. 6 coup attempt. He said they organized an act of domestic terrorism. He also said: "The defendants, as you know, were not tourists, nor were they acting patriotically. They were vigilantes, members of a mob, insurrectionists who sought to crush our country's freedoms."

This isn't the first civil lawsuit filed against them. Several members of Congress have already done so, as have seven Capitol police officers. But this is the first lawsuit from a government agency. Racine did not give a number for the damages he wants but said he will seek the maximum financial penalties possible.

In addition to the various civil suits, the Dept. of Justice has charged several of the Oath Keepers with a federal criminal conspiracy. One difference between the civil and criminal suits is that winning a civil case is easier than winning a criminal case because the standard is "preponderance of evidence" rather than "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." So it is possible for the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to win their criminal cases and stay out of prison but lose the civil cases and be hit with massive damages. (V)

Biden Nominates a Black Woman to Run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

During his campaign, Joe Biden promised to nominate more minorities and more women to top federal positions. He is continuing to deliver on his promise. He has now picked Sandra Thompson, who is Black, to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the 11 federal home loan banks. This will give Thompson much power over the $11-trillion mortgage market. About half the mortgages in the country are backed by the FHFA. For these people, she will largely be able to determine who qualifies for a mortgage and at what cost. The agency does not grant mortgages, but buys mortgages from banks, bundles them into packages, and sells shares in the packages to investors. It guarantees that the investors will get their original investment back, even if some of the underlying mortgages default.

If the Senate confirms Thompson, she will have a five-year term running FHFA. However, that term isn't actually worth much. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the president can remove the head at will, which was definitely not Congress' intention. Biden took advantage of this ruling in June by firing Donald Trump's appointee, who had been largely focused on privatizing Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. After he was gone, Thompson then became the acting head of the agency.

It is widely expected that Thompson will have a completely different set of priorities from Trump's appointee. She is expected to try to make it easier for Black families to get mortgages and reduce racial discrimination in housing markets. Currently the home ownership rate for white Americans is 76% and for Black Americans is 46%. She wants to work on that. As acting head, she also demonstrated her interest in reversing the Trump policy of moving risk from the investors to the government. She wants the investors who buy shares in a mortgage fund to accept more risk so the taxpayers will have less risk. If investors have no skin in the game, markets don't function efficiently and people do things that are foolish.

Thompson is also likely to change the model mortgage lenders use. The current model is that people buy a house, live in ait for their whole lives, and take out 30-year mortgages on the property. In reality, people move much more often now and the concept of a 30-year mortgage needs some updating. She may want to change the norm to 20 years or even 15 years. Her power comes from the fact that banks want to sell the mortgages they issue to Freddie and Fannie to get themselves off the hook for defaults. But these agencies buy only conforming mortgages and she has a big say as to what a "conforming" mortgage is. Just as one example, do mortgages on low-cost mobile homes qualify?

Another item on her plate is the housing supply. House prices are rising because there is more demand than supply. She can't do anything about demand, but she can about supply. For example, she can give builders low-interest loans to build more affordable housing. If Thompson is confirmed, she could shake up the housing market quite a bit. (V)

What Does Chris Wallace's Departure Mean for Fox News?

For years, Fox News had two actual journalists working for it: Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace. Smith left a year ago and Wallace left last week. Does that matter?

On the one hand, Fox used to say that it had an actual news operation, separate from the opinion operation. With the departure of Smith and Wallace, they can't say that with a straight face anymore. On the other hand, probably few people tuned to Fox just to see Wallace. His Sunday show was rated #4 in its slot. And remember, Fox is taking in a lot of money. It is a profitable operation because talk shows are fundamentally cheap, even if the host makes north of $10 million.

A lot depends on who Wallace's replacement is. It could be another actual journalist—if they can find one willing to work for Fox. Or it could be someone who just takes the RNC's daily talking points and calls them today's news. Ultimately the call will be up to Rupert Murdoch and/or his son, Lachlan Murdoch, who is going to succeed him in time, and who has already taken a role in managing the cable network.

Fox has had to deal with high-level departures before. When Bill O'Reilly, then the network's top draw, was forced out due to his habit of sexually harassing his staff, he was replaced with Tucker Carlson, who is simply a younger, smoother, and probably richer version of O'Reilly. Maybe it is appropriate that Carlson is on TV since his stepmother, Patricia Swanson, inherited much of the Swanson TV dinner fortune generated by the company her grandfather created (and later sold to Campbell's). Carlson is now more popular than O'Reilly was. Similarly, the network has easily survived the exits of Megyn Kelly and Paula Zahn. The Fox formula, at least for prime time, is to find hosts who are loud, bombastic, and get their audiences worked up. And each hour feeds into the next one. Roger Ailes once said: "I could have put a dead raccoon on the air this year and got a better rating than last year." Probably true, particularly if the host an hour earlier said the Democrats murdered the raccoon in cold blood for not being a socialist.

Wallace won't be easy to replace, but actual news isn't so important for Fox's bottom line, so it doesn't matter that much who the replacement is. The only value Fox would get from putting an actual journalist in his spot is a very small amount of credibility from liberals. The main audience won't care at all. Frank Sesno, the former director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, put it this way: "It means that [Fox has] lost a very important and significant part of their brand, but it may be a part of their brand that has fallen out of favor with a large part of their audience." (V)

Rick Perry Is Running for Governor of Texas

As you probably know, Rick Perry served as governor of Texas for the last 2 years of George W. Bush's term and then three full terms of his own, making him the longest serving governor of Texas ever. He was also Secretary of Energy in the Trump administration, somewhat by accident. He thought the job was about selling American oil overseas. Actually it is about safely storing America's nuclear weapons at home. In any event, he has probably close to 100% name recognition in Texas.

So when Texans go to vote in the gubernatorial primary next spring, some of them are sure to see the name "Rick Perry" on the ballot and fill in the box next to it. Only the "Rick Perry" on the ballot is Ricky Lynn Perry, a contract employee at Lockheed Martin, not James Richard Perry, the former governor.

Is this an example of ratf**king, to divert votes from Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX)? We don't know, but when low-information voters see a name they know and like, they might just go with him. It's an interesting idea. You could make a movie about it. In fact, Eddie Murphy already did make a movie based on that idea, namely "The Distinguished Gentleman." In the film, Murphy's character, a small-time con man, notices that he has almost the same name as the local congressman who suddenly dies. Murphy's character decides to run for the seat on the slogan "The name you know" and wins. That would be a pretty good slogan for Rick Perry, actually. (V)

A December to Rhymember (Parts 17-18)

We are caught up with Advent now, but we'll probably keep doubling up.

We've gotten some critiques about the quality of the verse being proffered as part of this series. For example, former English literature professor B.N. in Manhattan, KS, writes: "Most of the versifiers whose work has thus far been exhibited on your site appear to have no sense of rhythm. Given that rhythm is the very backbone and lifeblood of limericks, its lack makes for an utter absence of zing and spring in nearly every one. Lacking an ear for rhyme (or assonance) is a serious liability, but lacking a feel for rhythm is fatal. As with any other fundamentally musical form of expression, there are certain unbreakable 'rules' that if flouted flat out kill the spirit of the form."

We've also had critiques written in limerick form; two of those follow now. Wonder if they will pass muster with B.N.? Anyhow, from R.S., San Mateo, CA:

A limerick needs accurate cadence
Which your postings have held in abeyance.
Violations of form
Have become the sad norm.
Your submissions require more aidance!

And in concurrence is R.C. in Newport News, VA:

On a site named Electoral-Vote
With limericks your readers emote
Some don't rhyme, some don't scan
And so we must pan
The efforts of amateurs who try to make political statements with verse.

There once was a reader from Nantucket, who really should just go off and...never mind. (Z)

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