SLUDGE REPORT: Baby Jail Grifting, Ripping Off Trump Fans, and Luxury Lobbyist Retreats

Your biweekly summary of the most shameful corruption in politics.

SLUDGE REPORT: Baby Jail Grifting, Ripping Off Trump Fans, and Luxury Lobbyist Retreats
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks to the media in the briefing room at the White House, on May 2, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Welcome to the fifth installment of our biweekly, members-only Sludge newsletter to let you know about the sludgiest characters in politics!

I’m senior investigative reporter Alex Kotch, and I’ll be hosting this SLUDGE REPORT.

Here are the 10 sludgiest political figures in the last two weeks.

10. Kristi Boswell, former farm lobbyist-turned-USDA official-turned-Kushner adviser

First, former American Farm Bureau lobbyist Boswell joined Trump’s Dept. of Agriculture to advise Sec. Sonny Perdue on foreign worker visa matters. Now she’s working with the president’s son-in-law on the same immigration issues, almost certainly a push to make sure the flow of cheap labor from Latin America doesn’t slow down. (Charlotte Observer)

I’ve reported on Boswell several times, including this story on her and three other food industry lobbyists who joined Trump’s USDA. Because of the conflicts of interest, then-White House counsel Don McGahn gave her a waiver to participate in H-2A visa matters despite her having just lobbied the USDA for the Farm Bureau on the topic.

9. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

The harmful effects of the DCCC’s new policy to blacklist any political consultants who work with candidates challenging incumbent Democrats are becoming more and more apparent. Because of the policy, codified by DCCC Chair and Illinois moderate Cheri Bustos, a progressive woman has struggled in her campaign to oust one of the Democratic Party’s only anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ members of Congress, Dan Lipinski, also of Illinois.

Marie Newman lost four consultants after Bustos’ rule came into effect. Now, some liberal groups are stepping in to support her as Bustos and the DCCC hold strong in their promise to defend every Democratic incumbent in the House. Democracy for America is endorsing her, and DFA and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee will raise money for her campaign. NARAL Pro-Choice America stands with Newman as well. (The Intercept)

(Read our reporting on the anti-Medicare for All health industry interests that are pouring money into the DCCC.)

8. Mike Crapo, Republican U.S. senator from Idaho

Crapo, the primary sponsor of a 2018 law that deregulated commercial banks, has hired a finance industry lobbyist as counsel to the Senate Banking Committee, of which he is chair. BNP Parabas lobbyist Catherine Fuchs, who lobbied Congress on the 2018 bank deregulation bill, is now on the other side of the revolving door. The French bank is the eight-largest in the world. (LegiStorm PRO)

And the door swings both ways with Crapo. A former senior policy adviser of his lobbied Congress on that 2018 deregulation bill on behalf of American Express. (TYT)

7. Multiple 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates

Since candidates such as Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden have taken up a lot of space in recent SLUDGE REPORTS, I’m going to put them together for this one to leave more space for other sludgey folks!

As I’ve been tallying, the massive 2020 field is split on certain campaign finance planks, including whether or not to accept contributions from federal lobbyists and the fossil fuel industry. While some reluctant candidates recently came around on some of these promises, they’re sidestepping them quite openly.

After reaping the benefits of lobbyist fundraisers, Mayor Pete decided to refuse future contributions from lobbyists or endorse fundraisers hosted by lobbyists. But here’s the catch: He’s disinvited lobbyists from the very fundraisers they arranged, yet the events are still going forward. In other words, the same donors will show up with checks, only they won’t be able to hobnob with the lobbyist who invited them.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who recently gave in to environmental activists and signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, had a New York City fundraiser last night, and finance executive Mark Gollogly helped out. Gallogly, whose firm as a major Puerto Rico bondholder, sent out an email encouraging people to attend the event, which cost a minimum of $250 to enter and encouraged donors to raise as much as $25,000 for the candidate. (Politico)

Biden, whose poll numbers have remained high since officially entering the race, pledged to refuse campaign cash from corporate PACs or federal lobbyists (something I was surprised to hear, given that his first fundraiser was hosted by Comcast’s top government affairs official). But that’s not preventing him from getting assistance from American Possibilities, a PAC he created in 2017 that’s taken in lobbyist donations. American Possibilities received nearly $30,000 in contributions from federal lobbyists as well as $5,000 from the corporate PAC of medical device company Masimo. (Maplight/The Intercept)

Another of Biden’s early fundraisers took place on May 8 at the home of an Obama fundraiser whom Obama awarded with an ambassadorship to Spain and Andorra. Biden reportedly raked in $700,000 that night. Read our story about it.

And last but not least, Biden will reportedly offer a “middle ground” climate policy that promotes natural gas. We reported last week that, shockingly, the architect of this seemingly inadequate approach to the climate crisis is a former Obama adviser who recently made over $1 million from a board seat at liquified natural gas company Cheniere Energy. Check out our Sludge story on the adviser.

Don’t miss Sludge’s page on the campaign finance promises made by all 23 declared presidential candidates. We’ll be updating this throughout the campaign.

Read all of our SLUDGE REPORTS.