SLUDGE REPORT: Horrible Bosses, Middle East Grifters & Dark Money

Your biweekly summary of the most shameful corruption in politics.

SLUDGE REPORT: Horrible Bosses, Middle East Grifters & Dark Money
Billionaire libertarian Charles Koch

Welcome to the preview edition of our biweekly, members-only Sludge column to let you know about the sludgiest characters in politics!

Today’s roundup includes some sketchy campaign finances, former government officials using their connections to rake in cash from Middle East monarchies, and a few of the most shameless corporate executives in the U.S.

Here are the 10 sludgiest political forces in the last few weeks.

10. National Rifle Association

I can’t say it doesn’t warm my heart to watch the demise of the infamous organization that makes money off of mass shootings. The extensive drama within the NRA continues as a former senior official is questioning massive bills that the NRA’s outside counsel, William A. Brewer III, has been charging. Over 13 months, Brewer’s firm charged $24 million, or over $97,000 per day. Brewer allegedly “obstructed the work of NRA accountants and vastly exacerbated the organization’s financial woes as he charged it hefty legal fees.” A stand-up guy exploiting a stand-up civil rights group! (ProPublica)

9. Rep. Kenny Marchant, cupcake cheapskate

In “you can’t make this shit up” news, the ranking member on the House Ethics Committee got hit with an…ethics complaint. Rep. Marchant, a Texas Republican, made nearly 20 impermissible reimbursements from his campaign account to his House staffers. Congressional staff are barred by House and Federal Election Commission rules from helping out with their bosses’ campaigns. The reimbursements totaled nearly $7,800 and paid for office carpeting, picture framing, and cupcakes. (The Hill)

Come on, man, you can treat your underpaid staff to some baked goods every now and then without dipping into your campaign funds!

8. Sen. Susan Collins, clean elections warrior?

Gage Skidmore

Yeah, not so much. Maine’s Republican Senator, Collins, is upset that after giving a horrifying 45-minute speech announcing her vote to confirm accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, restoring a conservative majority that will have lasting effects for years to come, dark money groups are attacking her. “The divisiveness of our country and the unceasing attacks by dark money groups in Maine have clearly had an impact.” (Bloomberg)

End Citizens United’s Adam Smith pointed out on Twitter that Collins “could’ve been the 60th vote for the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, which would have ensured its passage.” The DISCLOSE Act would, shockingly, require “dark money” groups such as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofits that spend money on elections to disclose their major donors, and it would prevent foreign money from secretly seeping into our elections. Collins’ colleague Sheldon Whitehouse reintroduced the act this year.

Collins is still considering whether or not to run again in 2020 (I think she will), as she’ll face a well-financed opponent this time.

7. Democratic Iran Hawks

In These Times is out with a very sludgy article this week about seven House Democrats who voted against a bipartisan amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting “unauthorized military force in or against Iran.” The amendment passed. And whaddyaknow: Four of these Dems—Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and “Big Oil’s favorite Democrat,” Henry Cuellar (Texas)—“have been aggressively courted by lobbyists for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” the countries involved in the proxy war against Iranian interests in Yemen. Three of those members—O’Halleran, Gottheimer and Murphy—”have collectively received $18,000 in contributions from lobbying firms representing Saudi Arabia and the UAE.” (In These Times)

There’s a reason why lobbying is a multi-billion-dollar industry.

6. Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, Iraq grifter

Department of Defense

The general who led the raid that killed Saddam Hussein’s sons left the military in 2011, only to return to Iraq one year later to cash in. Plenty of ex-generals make piles of money by joining the boards of military contracting giants. Helmick’s been more hands-on: He joined private military contractor SOS International and has been an active agent for the firm, using his extensive Iraqi contacts to help bring in more than $2 billion in base-protection contracts in Iraq. Turns out the company has “substantive ties” to “an Iraqi oligarch who has been linked to Iranian terrorist networks, and a criminal group backed by Iraq’s former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.” The FBI is investigating at least one of the company’s shady deals. (Daily Beast)

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