While half the country watched Wimbledon and the other half obsessed over handshakes at the G-20 summit, these people were hoping you missed the embarrassing articles about them.
Check them out below to get caught up on the top corruption stories of the week.
267 FORMER CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS ARE NOW PAID HEALTH INDUSTRY LOBBYISTS
A new analysis of lobbying disclosures shows that hundreds of one-time aides and politicians went from working healthcare legislation to lobbying for the health industry.
The revolving door keeps on turning – and it’s a pretty big door: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 267 people who used to work for health care-related congressional committees are now registered as health industry lobbyists. They were joined by 18 former members of Congress. Of the 285 total former staffers or members of Congress now lobbying for the field, almost 40 percent reported being paid to influence the AHCA. We’ve written previously about industry contributions to senators drafting the American Health Care Act (AHCA), but this analysis sheds more light on the other side of the special interest machine: lobbying. The next round of lobbying disclosures is due July 21, so strap yourself in to learn about even more paid influence on health care.
The bottom line: Public policy should reflect public interest. When hundreds of staffers leave the public sector and lobby the same issues they used to work on, public policy is more likely to reflect special interests.
STEP 1: GIVE YOURSELF AN IMPROPER BONUS AND LOSE YOUR JOB. STEP 2: GET $300K FROM YOUR DAD’S CAMPAIGN
Tennessee Rep. John Duncan, Jr., paid his son thousands of dollars a month to keep a seat that has been in the family for 52 years.
Holy nepotism, Batman. Try this one out: Rep. John Duncan, Jr., son of former Rep. John Duncan, paid his son, John Duncan III, roughly $6,000 a month for five years. The payments, which totaled just under $300,000, came from the elder Duncan’s campaign and went first to Duncan III directly and then to “an apparently non-existent business” registered at Duncan III’s home address. As noted in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, candidates can legally employ family members in their campaigns, but only if they’re compensated a fair-market rate. The Campaign Legal Center’s Brendan Fischer, quoted in the article, questions the payments, noting the district itself is noncompetitive. In fact, Duncan Jr. or his father have held the Tennessee seat since 1965. And to make matters worse, this isn’t Duncan III’s first money-related legal snafu. In 2013, just before payments from his father’s campaign started coming in, then-Knox County Trustee Duncan III pleaded guilty to official misconduct after improperly giving bonuses to himself and his staffers.
The bottom line: At best, this mess was all a case of political obliviousness. At worst, it was blatant nepotism, a hallmark of the way entrenched power can breed corruption.
HOW DO YOU GET THE RULES YOU WANT? TRY SPENDING $562 BILLION ON LOBBYING
A new study revealed that Internet service providers and trade groups spent half a billion dollars in the last ten years lobbying federal government agencies.
Want an example that shows how special interest pressure can overpower wide public support? Look no further than net neutrality. Under current Federal Communications Commission rules, internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon aren’t allowed to give preferential access or loading speeds to some websites over others – aka, they have to keep the internet fair and open. But companies and political committees in the industry have saturated Congress with cash in an attempt to eliminate those rules. New MapLight research highlights how much further internet service providers have gone: since 2008, corporations and trade groups have spent $562 million to influence government agencies. That amounts to $100 for every public comment made on the FCC’s website about proposed net neutrality rule changes.
The bottom line: Which is louder, millions of public comments, or hundreds of millions of dollars? With majority support for net neutrality in recent polls, we’ll get a better sense when the FCC makes a final decision this summer.
THE VICE PRESIDENT IS HOLDING SECRET DINNERS WITH CAMPAIGN DONORS
Without revealing attendees, Vice President Pence has held a number of dinners with top donors and political operatives at his Navy Observatory residence.
One of the perks to being vice president is getting the opportunity to live in Number One Observatory Circle, a mansion on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. As the New York Times reported, Vice President Mike Pence has hosted several private dinners for major campaign donors at the official residence since taking office in January. Of course, the vice president is by no means the first official to use taxpayer-funded property to entertain donors: President Clinton and President Obama both brought funders to the White House, and Vice President Biden used the Naval Observatory residence in the same way Pence has. While the events may have been designed to maintain relationships with past donors, there may also be a forward-looking element. Two groups created to support President Trump and Vice President Pence and their policy agendas – America First Policies and America First Action – helped organize the dinners. And here’s a fun revolving door tidbit: Nick Ayers, one of America First Policies’ founders, has been instrumental to planning the dinners and is set to leave the group to become the vice president’s chief of staff.
The bottom line: It’s against the law for officials to fundraise on government property, but meeting with donors – even secretly – doesn’t run afoul. The important element here is transparency, or the lack thereof.
ATTENTION NORTH CAROLINA SPECIAL INTERESTS: YOU CAN DONATE TO LAWMAKERS NOW WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING UNTIL 2018
Before work resumes in August, North Carolina legislators can accept contributions from the people and groups their upcoming legislation could affect.
If you’re a lawmaker in North Carolina, you can’t take any campaign contributions while the legislature is in session. That’s not to say you can’t accept donations while major bills are still on the table, though. No, as WRAL noted, legislators can raise campaign funds now, before the session resumes in August, even though they’re carrying work over from the last time around. What might be even more troubling is the disclosure schedule: per North Carolina law, donations politicians accept today won’t be reported until January 2018.
The bottom line: We know what the legislators will be working on in August – “changes to environmental regulations, taxes, business regulations and state administrative procedures,” the article lists. You can count on interested parties knowing, too, and the contribution loophole gives them the opportunity to pass along a good word or buck.
Thanks for reading, folks. Read a story you’d like to see featured in the corruption rundown? Send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org.