Welcome to our weekly, members-only Sludge column to let you know about the sludgiest characters in politics!
This week we’re putting the whole thing up online because…well, just because.
Another week, another onslaught of corruption, abuse of power, and political cowardice!
For this week’s toxic sludge bulletin, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. I’ve scoured Pitchfork, Spotify, and even did some crate digging to create your very own Sludge Report Mixtape!
Here are the five hottest tunes I’m listening to this week.
5. James Miller: “Criminal (feat. Renaissance Technologies)”
A former tax lobbyist at DLA Piper who represented the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition and Renaissance Technologies will serve a year of supervised release and pay $730,000 back to the government for…tax evasion. Miller massively underrepresented his income from 2010-14 and now has to pay for it. (Politico Influence)
In other tax news, Trump’s 2017 tax legislation is responsible for 91 Fortune 500 companies paying no federal income tax last year and 379 profitable Fortune 500 companies paying an effective tax rate of 11.3% in 2018, the lowest effective rate since the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy began publishing corporate tax studies in 1984. (Axios)
Drain the swamp!
[All hail the queen, Fiona Apple, btw.]
4. Pete and Joe: “C.R.E.A.M (feat. Reed Hastings)”
On Friday evening, as many Americans were logging off for the weekend, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign revealed the identities of its bundlers—those who collected $25,000 or more worth of campaign checks for the South Bend, Indiana mayor. Among the 113 bundlers are a partner at McKinsey, where Buttigieg previously worked and helped Blue Cross Blue Shield cut costs, and multiple Wall Street executives including the executive vice chairman of Blackstone. (Politico)
Photos of a Bay Area fundraiser on Sunday night for Buttigieg called “An Evening in the Vineyards with Mayor Pete” show what appears to be a luxury underground affair featuring not only the candidate himself eating dinner but a hell of a chandelier.
On Monday, tech executive Reed Hastings (Netflix) and family members of Eric Schmidt (Google), Sergei Brin (Google), and Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) were set to host a Buttigieg fundraiser. (Recode)
Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign chairman, a former corporate lobbyist, is fundraising for Biden with…current corporate lobbyists. Biden pledged to reject lobbyist campaign donations, but that’s not stopping him from affording lobbyists the kind of elite access that his biggest donors receive. (CNBC)
3. Don, Jr.: “The Killing Moon (feat. Argali Sheep)”
Rest in peace, poor argali sheep, felled by the Great Donald Trump, Jr., Slayer of Endangered Animals in Extremely Controlled Environments.
Yep, as his father and his personal lawyer continue doin’ crimes in Ukraine and panning the practice of trading on one’s family name, Don Jr. truly had no choice but to travel to Mongolia, just happen to randomly meet with the country’s president, and murder an endangered sheep, only to be issued a rare hunting permit after the fact. Argali sheep are the largest in the world; rams have horns that can span over six feet.
Of course, let’s not forget that taxpayers subsidized Don Jr.’s trophy hunting excursion, with his son Donnie in tow, via government security that accompanied the Trumps. The Mongolians offered their security as well.
It wouldn’t be a Trump endeavor if there wasn’t an obvious influence campaign. The trip, which took place a few weeks after U.S.-Mongolia talks, “was sponsored by a Mongolian tourism company and arranged by Jandos Kontorbai Ahat, a member of the Mongolian president’s political party. His company, Marmara International LLC, is on the board of the Mongolian hunting and wildlife association and has been recognized for its work on argali wildlife preservation by the Mongolian Environmental Ministry.” (ProPublica)
2. Seema Verma: “Diamonds (feat. Ivanka)”
Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid chief is faced with the predicament in which so many public servants in D.C. find themselves: nowhere to properly store your jewelry collection that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars.
As Verma—who ran a health care consulting firm that she sold hours after being confirmed to lead Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—fulfills her patriotic duty of cutting as many people from the Medicare and Medicaid rolls as is humanly possible, she has amassed quite a collection of pricey jewelry, high-end clothing, and $325-dollar bottles of moisturizer. But because of liberal D.C.’s strangling red tape, she couldn’t build a vault underneath her townhouse to securely store her riches, so she’s resorted to carrying them around with her wherever she goes.
After $47,000 worth of essential items were stolen from an SUV that took her to an event during a work trip, Verma did what any fiscally responsible government official would do: request that American taxpayers pay to replace these everyday, common-sense items.
Sadly for Verma, we taxpayers only had to foot $2,852.40 worth of the bill, not even half the value of her $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant! (Politico)
1. Jeff Van Drew: “You Give Love a Bad Name (feat. DCCC)”
After fewer than two years as a U.S. representative in one of the most politically polarized times in American history, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey is officially switching parties so he can defend Donald Trump as a Republican.
Once he saw a poll of his district showing that voters were more likely to vote for a representative who opposed Trump’s impeachment, the first-term Democratic congressman reached into his soul and discovered that he was, in fact, born to be an ally to a president who has broken the law multiple times and has inspired a dangerous wave of race- and religion-based hate crimes since coming to office.
The move prompted seven of his aides to resign. (New York Times)
That politicians are fickle is not news, but what’s notable here is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) weighed in on the Democratic primary in 2018 to endorse Van Drew over a progressive teacher. That year, the DCCC decided to influence Democratic primaries in several races, backing moderates over progressives such as Laura Moser, running for a Texas district, whom the DCCC attacked by publishing opposition research about her.
Yesterday we learned from reporters Aida Chávez and Akela Lacy that, while it blacklists political consultants who work for Democratic primary challengers, the DCCC has no problem hiring those who work to elect Republicans. (The Intercept)
Let me emphasize this again: The DCCC, led by moderate Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.) with the blessing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), would rather hire consultants who help Republicans get elected than work with consultants who contract with progressive women who are challenging anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, pro-gun, and pro-fossil fuels Democratic incumbents.
If that’s not a clear exemplification of the House Democratic leadership’s priorities, I don’t know what is.