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Monty Bennett was just another faceless right-wing millionaire on the long list of high-dollar donors to Donald Trump — until he suddenly surfaced in April as the nation's biggest bagger of government cash in the emergency Paycheck Protection Program.

The PPP is the $660 billion rescue package for America's thousands of small businesses, helping them keep people employed during today's shutdown of the U.S. economy due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bennett was among the first in line for payroll relief, applying for $126 million and immediately getting about 55 percent of that. But wait. There's nothing mom-and-popish about Monty's business. Operating through a maze of tightly interwoven financial trusts and corporate subsidiaries, he runs a sprawling Dallas-based conglomerate named Ashford Inc. that owns and operates 130 hotels and luxury resorts across the country including the Marriott Beverly Hills and the Ritz-Carlton in the U.S. Virgin Islands.


How does a multibillion-dollar empire get such payments while legitimate small businesses are shut out? The old-fashioned way: by paying lobbyists and lawmakers to rig the rules so corporate thieves can raid the treasury. Bennett, a major donor to Trump and GOP Congress critters, pressured his political henchmen and hired two lobbying firms in March to punch a huge conglomerate loophole in the PPP bill. Led by Sen. Marco Rubio, Congress inserted a special-interest proviso decreeing that while a big business cannot apply for payments, each unit of the corporation can.

So ... gotcha! In early April, before most of America's Main Street enterprises even knew relief was available, Ashford Inc.'s squad of manipulators was running all-night sessions for its hotels, getting them to rush out "individual" applications. This twisting of the PPP fund made the slick Dallas hotelier king of Bailout Hill, having scooped up 339 times more than the average applicant.

In addition to stiffing small businesses, Bennett balked at the requirement that the bulk of taxpayer dollars be used to maintain the paychecks of Ashford hotel employees. Instead, he loudly insisted that government aid should be available to bolster corporate owners — i.e., him.

Did you know that "boss" spelled backward is double SOB?

There's a general sentiment today that multimillionaire corporate chieftains are pigs. But I think that's unfair — to pigs. Those oinkers are remarkably intelligent animals with a sense of social responsibility to the common good of the group.

Compare that ethic to the pompous and petulant sense of entitlement that seems to infest corporate executive suites today. For one extra-ugly example, when Bennett grabbed millions meant for small businesses, it was so ethically stinky that even the thievish Trumpistas made him return the money. Yet, a shameless Bennett continues to insist that he was just taking his corporation's fair share: "What are all those taxes we paid supposed to provide us with anyway?" he whined.

Well, Monty, maybe a literate workforce, clean water, paved streets, fire and police protection, and other public basics that subsidize your profit. But our taxes aren't meant to guarantee your profit. Bennett flaunts his cluelessness: "I won't apologize for being a capitalist in America," he wrote in March as he pushed his way to the front of the line demanding a taxpayer handout.

Worse, he's apparently a very poor capitalist, having saddled his corporate empire with an unsustainable debt load even before the coronavirus catastrophe struck. Last year, the Ashcroft trust that he heads had a $113 million loss and saw its stock value nosedive from $5.60 a share to barely 70 cents today. Yet, he took special care of himself, pulling down $5.7 million in personal pay last year.

Meanwhile, Monty the Unapologetic Capitalist is still grabbing government goodies. He and his lobbyists have helped push Trump & Co. to create a new $500 billion pot of cash exclusively reserved as "emergency aid" for giant corporations ... like his. And, sweetest of all, Bennett and his ilk can take this public money with no requirement to use any of it to protect the paychecks or save the jobs of employees. Indeed, they can use our money to raise their own pay! In CEO World, taking care of No. 1 is Priority No. 1. Then, as a second priority, repeat Priority No. 1.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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