Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Tax Returns Show Trump Lost Over A Billion Dollars In A Decade

In just a decade, Trump managed to lose over $1 billion. That’s quite an achievement.

The New York Times got access to 10 years of IRS transcripts of Trump tax data spanning 1985 to 1994. That data shows that the self-styled business genius lost money on an unprecedented scale during that time.

When Trump was running for office, he touted his financial acumen as the reason he should be president. Like so much else about Trump, it was a complete fabrication. By any metric, the man is terrible with money.

The piece is a brutal year-by-year slog through what the Times calls “a precise accounting of the president’s financial failures.” In 1985, for example, his main businesses wracked up $46 million in losses. In 1989? Much worse. That year, he started the ill-fated Trump Airlines, and his businesses hemorrhaged $181 million.

The next year saw the Trump Taj Mahal go so far into the red that it dragged his other casino businesses down with it, leading to a two-year stretch where he lost over $500 million. By the time 1994 came to a close, Trump had managed to lose $1.17 billion in just 10 years.

In fact, the only way Trump made money during this tumultuous decade was by lying. From 1986 to 1988, he had a rich person’s cottage industry of threatening to take over other companies, which netted him millions in the stock market. However, once people realized he was bluffing, he lost most of that money.

Trump’s losses were so spectacular that he outstripped the losses of nearly anyone else. His net operating losses piled up so high circa 1991 — almost $418 billion — that he personally accounted for 1 percent of all individual taxpayer losses in the year.

And that year wasn’t an outlier. By comparing his losses to publicly available information on high earners, the Times was able to conclude that “year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.”

The Times did give the president a chance to comment before running the piece, and his lawyer basically called the IRS fake news, saying that IRS transcripts before the era of e-filing were “notoriously inaccurate” and couldn’t provide a reasonable picture of Trump’s returns.

That nonsense was easily debunked. A former director of research at the IRS told the Times that the data used to create IRS transcripts was rigorously checked and had “undergone quality control for decades.”

Turns out Trump, who perpetually boasts of being the best at everything, really is the best at something: being a loser.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: The Trump Taj Mahal Casino is illuminated at dusk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in this October 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Mark Makela/Files


Billionaire Betsy DeVos Can’t Buy Her Way Into The Education Department

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

The defection of two Republican senators has imperiled President Trump’s nomination of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced Tuesday they would not vote for DeVos, whose wobbly performance in her confirmation hearings and lack of public school experience have encouraged Senate Democrats seeking to defeat her nomination.

“I will not, I cannot vote to confirm her as our nation’s next secretary of education,” Collins said on the Senate floor.

DeVos has contributed $5,000 to Collins’ campaigns. But Murkowski’s no-vote was perhaps an even bigger surprise. DeVos’ family businesses have contributed $33,400 to Murkowski’s political campaigns since 1989, according to OpenSecrets.

With all 48 Democratic senators expected to vote against DeVos, Democrats need only one more vote to kill her nomination. Attention has turned to two of the most moderate Republican senators, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Protests organized by public education advocates in Alaska may have made the difference. More than 200 demonstrators thronged Murkowski’s office in Anchorage on Monday, according to Alaska Dispatch News. Her staff estimated the senator’s office received an unprecedented 30,000 phone calls about DeVos.

Of all of Trump’s nominees, DeVos has attracted the most opposition, even from her fellow alumni of Calvin College, the private Christian school in Michigan from which she graduated.

Last month hundreds of Calvin College graduates signed a letter objecting to DeVos’ nomination.

While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify.

The Senate has not yet scheduled the final vote on DeVos’ confirmation.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. 

IMAGE: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Formula One Chief’s Bribery Trial Ends With Record 100-Million-Dollar Payment

By Andrew Mccathie, dpa

Munich (dpa) — Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone’s bribery trial ended Tuesday after a Munich court accepted his record 100-million-dollar settlement offer.

The 83-year-old British billionaire agreed to make the payment within one week. Prosecutors also approved the settlement.

“He leaves this court a free man,” a court spokeswoman said.

Ecclestone had been accused of paying a 44-million-dollar kickback to a German banker in 2006 to ensure that the motor racing business was sold to a preferred buyer, CVC Capital Partners.

The settlement was “based on the financial circumstances of the accused,” Judge Peter Noll said after his decision to accept Ecclestone’s offer, which was the highest in German criminal history.

The judge added that conclusions on Ecclestone’s possible guilt in the case could not be drawn from the size of the settlement.

Ecclestone had assured the court that the 100 million dollars represented a “noticeable proportion” of his assets, but that he would not be unduly burdened by making the payment, Noll said.

Of the settlement, 99 million dollars is to be paid to the Bavarian state government with 1 million dollars going to an institute for child care, the Deutsche Kinderhospiz-Stiftung.

The case, which opened in April, had been originally due to run until September.

“I have the feeling that he is relieved,” Ecclestone’s lawyer Sven Thomas said after the acquittal of the case.

Now all the “gossip” about him wanting to buy his freedom could end, said Thomas.

“This is not a deal,” said Thomas. “This has nothing to do with buying freedom.”

Prosecutor Christian Weiss told the court in Munich that ending the case was justified in the light of Ecclestone’s advanced age, the length of the proceedings and other extenuating circumstances.

If he had been found guilty the diminutive former second car salesman could have faced a jail term of up to 10 years.

Noll’s decision to accept the settlement allows Ecclestone to retain control of the sport that he turned into a multi-billion-dollar business after acquiring the global television rights for Formula One in the 1970s. The court considers him innocent of all charges.

“It would have been a disaster for the Formula One if Bernie had been forced to stop,” said Niki Lauda, the Austrian-born three-time F1 World Champion and member of the Mercedes motor racing team board.

Ecclestone had admitted to paying Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former banker with Munich-based BayernLB, but denied any wrongdoing.

The F1 chief alleged that Gribkowsky had threatened to make false statements about his tax affairs to the British tax authorities.

Gribkowsky was sentenced in 2012 to eight-and-a-half years in jail for tax evasion and corruption for accepting the money.

Eccleston has faced other controversies in recent years.

In 2005, he was forced to apologize after making sexist remarks about women racing drivers.

Four years later he was forced to publicly apologize for saying Adolf Hitler had been “able to get things done”.

Ecclestone stepped down from the board of the company that runs the Formula One Group in January, after the Munich court ruled that he had to stand trial over the bribery allegations.

But he has continued to have oversight of the business on a day-to-day basis.

AFP Photo/Peter Kneffel

Interested in world news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Billionaire Steyer To Spend $50 Million To Make Climate Change An Issue In Battleground States

By Evan Halper, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — One of President Barack Obama’s wealthiest supporters is pledging to spend at least $50 million in a bid to make climate change the central issue in hotly contested elections in New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan and a few other battleground states.

A group run by California billionaire Tom Steyer unveiled plans to aggressively target Republicans in seven states who have been skeptics of global warming. Among the Republicans are Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who hopes to win a Senate seat from New Hampshire.

The group plans to spend at least $100 million — half of it Steyer’s money, the rest raised from other environmentalists — on campaigns that will include micro-targeting voters, branding climate skeptics as deniers of basic science and highlighting the hardships climate change is already causing.

“We are not going to be talking about polar bears and butterflies,” said Chris Lehane, Steyer’s lead political strategist. “We are going to be talking about how this issue of climate impacts people in their backyards, in their states, in their communities.”

Steyer, who has emerged as a liberal counterpoint to the conservative Koch brothers, has been working aggressively over the last few years to make climate change — long an abstraction in campaigns — a pivotal issue on which elections can be won or lost. His advisers contend there are legions of voters who can be motivated to come to the polls on the matter, despite surveys that have shown climate change to be a relatively low priority for most Americans.

Steyer’s group, NextGen Climate, will probably represent the largest independent spending by liberals in the election. Its effort, though, is expected to be dwarfed by that of the Kochs, whose organization, Americans for Prosperity, has poured millions of dollars into races around the country, mostly focused on attacking Obama’s health care law.

NextGen’s plan suggests Steyer’s political reach is growing. Until now, the billionaire has kept his campaign activities narrowly focused. Last year, he spent more than $8 million to help Democrat Terry McAuliffe win his campaign for governor of Virginia against former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who had been long despised by climate change activists. Steyer also inserted himself into the Senate race in Massachusetts, attacking one candidate’s support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Steyer’s most notable victories, however, have not been in battleground-state gubernatorial or congressional campaigns, but ballot initiatives in California. He bankrolled a successful effort in 2012 to persuade Californians to raise taxes on out-of-state businesses by $1 billion a year, half of which will be spent on energy-efficiency programs. He also served as co-chairman of the successful effort in 2010 to defeat Proposition 23, which would have rolled back the state’s landmark global warming law.

In the upcoming election, NextGen faces a much tougher landscape. The president’s approval ratings continue to be tepid, and Democratic strategists are concerned that voters who traditionally support the party will stay home. Steyer’s advisers are hoping to use the climate issue to drive those voters to the polls in seven states.

In Florida, NextGen plans to seize on Scott’s musings that he is unconvinced that climate change is man-made, as well as his initial reluctance to join litigation against BP after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The campaign will link the extreme weather events that are disrupting life in the state to climate change, and seek to track down concerned voters who might otherwise stay home.

“We are not a traditional ‘super PAC’ where we are going to spend some money on television and leave,” said Sky Gallegos, NextGen political director.

“We are looking at creating a long-term conversation with voters,” Gallegos said. “We want to talk to them and make a real connection of how climate hits them at the household level.”

In Iowa, NextGen will raise the issue of climate change in the context of the drought that has hit the state and its agriculture. The campaign will highlight the reluctance of Republicans running for Senate there to embrace the warnings of climatologists and will warn that the policies those candidates favor will result in even more extreme heat and water shortages on ranches and farms in the future.

In New Hampshire, NextGen will seek to redefine Brown, who has a reputation as a moderate. It will charge that he is cozy with big oil. NextGen will also go on the attack in races in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Maine.

“The political tectonic plates are shifting,” Lehane said. “The issue of climate has become far less abstract … to folks on an everyday basis.”

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski