Harvey Weinstein Is Despicable. What About Bob?

Parody of the What About Bob? movie poster, feat. the Weinstein brothers and four of Harvey’s alleged victims: actresses Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, and Asia Argento (clockwise from left).

After nearly three decades of successfully squashing sexual abuse allegations, Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein is finally facing the music. When actress Ashley Judd came forward in the New York Times last week along with several former Weinstein staffers, the cone of silence surrounding the movie mogul broke. An explosive report by Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker followed days later with multiple allegations of rape and an audio recording of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault. Actresses including Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mira Sorvino joined the chorus of accusers speaking out publicly.

Weinstein’s fall from grace has been swift in the aftermath: he was fired from the company he founded and left by his wife, and is now under police investigation in London and New York.

But absent amidst the fury engulfing Weinstein is condemnation of his brother, Bob, who is also a co-founder of The Weinstein Company.

According to Harvey Weinstein’s former attorney, David Boies, the board of The Weinstein Company knew of at least three or four settlements with victims back when Harvey’s contract was up for renewal in 2015. Two company officials told the Times that there were eight settlements with victims over the years. And many within the company and across the entertainment industry have admitted that Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret. Kathy DeClesis, a former assistant to Bob Weinstein in the early 1990s, told the Times, “It wasn’t a secret to the inner circle.”

DeClesis was Bob’s assistant NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO. So if Harvey Weinstein is despicable and worthy of condemnation, what about Bob? What about the board of The Weinstein Company? What about all the other folks who were complicit in Harvey’s alleged crimes?

Harvey Weinstein did not act alone.


I Got 99 Problems with Hillary, But Hot Sauce Ain’t 1

Hillary Hot Sauce

The 2016 primary fight has veered into stupid territory once again. Nothing Hillary Clinton does can not be without controversy it seems. On a Monday morning radio show with one of the biggest hip-hop and R&B stations serving New York, Clinton was asked by one of the hosts, “What’s something that you always carry with you?”

Hillary replied, “Hot sauce. Yeah. Yeah.” (You can view that interaction here, around 25:00.)

Upon hearing this, another of the hosts joked that Clinton was “getting in formation,” a reference to the recent single by Beyoncé in which she sings, “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.” The same host, again jokingly, warned that people would say she was pandering to black people, to which Clinton replied, “Is it working?”

And indeed, these particular comments in the interview have been widely panned as pandering to the African-American community.

Cue Donald Trump, who jumped into the fray this morning on Fox, calling Clinton “phony” and “pandering.” That’s pretty rich from a guy who spoke to evangelicals at Liberty University quoting a Bible passage he misattributed, and who stood up in front of AIPAC and said, “I love Israel” — one of his many professed loves to varying audiences.

Politicians frequently pander, especially to the local cuisine of the constituents in question. Think corn dogs in Iowa or cheesesteaks in Philly. Never mind the fact that Hillary Clinton has a long documented love for hot sauce.

This is really a non-issue. I know this is hard this election cycle, but let’s try to keep our criticisms of Hillary Clinton valid. Talk about her close relationship to Wall Street, her vote for the war in Iraq, her promotion of fracking abroad, the potential conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State. There’s a lot of tasty meat there. We don’t need the sauce.


Ted Cruz: Natural Born Canadian

With just seven days until the Iowa caucus, this morning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump tweeted that Ted Cruz should either settle claims of his eligibility for office or get out of the race. What was initially dismissed as trolling by both Cruz and the media has turned into a legitimate question for many voters. And some legal scholars agree.

Suits challenging Cruz’s eligibility have already been filed in Texas and Utah, but others are sure to follow. Progressive firebrand Congressman Alan Grayson is pledging to file, and Trump himself is mulling it over.

Against the odds, Ted Cruz is uniting both the right and left — uniting them against a common target. Who said Ted Cruz is divisive?

Graphic below is a Lady Libertine original.   

Natural Born Canadian

American Family Voices Trolls Koch Brothers Group

In addition to my producing The Undercurrent, I am the executive director of American Family Voices, a progressive non-profit that advocates for working and middle class folks on issues like Wall Street reform, getting big money out of politics, and addressing climate change, to name a few. Thus, AFV does a lot of work to expose the Koch brothers, given that they sit at the nexus of all these issues, running a large oil conglomerate with business on Wall Street.

The largest organization in the Koch political network, Americans for Prosperity, has been key to building out long-term “grassroots” infrastructure for conservatives. In last year’s mid-term election, AFP planned to spend more than $125 million. According to Politico,

The projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms.

Now, AFV has nowhere near the resources as AFP, so we really have to be creative in order to get our message out and educate voters. We have found that humor is key (and it’s also a lot of fun). At the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit, we sent Koch puppets Jeb Bush and Scott Walker to crash the Koch group’s opening party. Hilarity ensued. Watch all of our antics in the video below, and subscribe to American Family Voices on YouTube for more just like it.

Koch Donor Fest Underway in Monarch Bay

Skew ViewDonors and staff of the Koch brothers political network are descending on the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort for their yearly summer seminar. Tables have been brought out onto the Grand Lawn; security personnel roam the halls; and Charles Koch himself has arrived.

The hot-ticket political event will host GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and network favorite Scott Walker in moderated discussions with beltway media insider Mike Allen of Politico. These candidate Q&As are to be streamed online to media.

After audio obtained by The Undercurrent from their summer seminar last year was released, the famously secretive Kochs and their fundraising hub, Freedom Partners, increasingly made efforts to appear more transparent. Their January meeting featured a live-streamed presidential candidate panel; they are openly working with Democrats on criminal justice reform; and Koch Industries has undertaken a big PR campaign called “We Are Koch.”

That transparency, though, does not go very far. Earlier this afternoon, Freedom Partners’ Executive Vice President of Communications James Davis approached this reporter in a passive aggressive manner offering answers to questions on their pet issues of criminal justice reform and ending corporate welfare. When asked to do so on camera, Davis declined. Perhaps he did not want to talk about this reporter’s pet issues: the corrosive effect of big money in politics and climate change.

The welcome parties start tomorrow and the actual conference runs from Sunday through Monday. According to OC Weekly, the Kochs will receive a different kind of welcome from the left: a protest by supporters of progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Republican Senate Banking Chair to DOJ: Prosecute Bankers

Shelby Thumb

Dodd Frank financial reform legislation celebrated its fifth birthday on July 21. Nearly seven years after the financial crisis, much of the law has yet to be enacted; not a single banking executive has been prosecuted; and too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger. The Heritage Foundation marked the occasion with remarks from Senate Banking Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and a panel entitled “Five Years of Dodd Frank: ‘Too Big to Fail’ Still Unresolved.”

Shelby hails from Birmingham, in Jefferson County, a place infamously victimized by Wall Street in a corruption scandal involving massive bribery of local officials and the financing of the county’s sewer system through muni bonds and exotic financial derivatives called interest rate swaps. The 2008 meltdown sent the county reeling, pushing it into bankruptcy.

Before Detroit, Jefferson County was the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country. JP Morgan Chase ultimately lost $1.6 billion in the sewer deal, and former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was sentenced to 15 years in a federal prison. Jefferson County slashed capital expenditures, and still faces major unfunded liabilities for its sewer system.

This reporter asked Sen. Shelby whether he supports prosecuting criminal bankers and regulating the very derivatives that inflicted so much damage on his home state. Watch Shelby answer these questions in the video below, and subscribe to The Undercurrent on YouTube for more independent, on-the-ground political reporting from Lauren Windsor.

Financial Foxes Are Guarding the Wall Street Henhouse

SEC Commissioner Slams SEC, and CFTC Commissioner Denies Role of Excessive Speculation in 2008 Crisis

“Capital Unbound: The Cato Summit on Financial Regulation in New York City,” Tuesday, June 2, 2015, New York City 

Wall Street regulators recently spoke at a libertarian financial conference alongside economists advocating for abolishing the Federal Reserve, FDIC deposit insurance, and Dodd-Frank financial legislation.

Asked if the Securities and Exchange Commission had ever reduced investor losses in its entire history, SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar replied, “Excellent question. The answer to that question can be answered in three words: I don’t know.” He also told the crowd that the job of the SEC should be to promote not investor confidence but investor skepticism.

Citing a lack of demonstrable data, Commissioner Giancarlo denied that overspeculation was a factor in the 2008 financial meltdown. He went on to say that it was less important what he thinks and more important what Congress thinks — that Congress could have found that excessive speculation caused the 2008 crisis but did not.

Á la Tony the Tiger, the director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, George Selgin, said with unabashed glee that bank runs are “great.” This remark came during an extended schtick mocking George Bailey, the protagonist of the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Selgin concluded that Bailey’s bank should have been run on because he spent too much time talking to angels rather than managing his investment portfolio.

After the conference, I asked Selgin to explain why bank runs are a good thing, given that most people would find that assertion counterintuitive in the post-2008-crisis era. He said that bank runs are a natural response by consumers and a needed penalty for bankers, and that federal deposit insurance should be eliminated. Without the backstop of the FDIC, consumers would be forced to thoroughly research bank balance sheets — regardless of the financial savvy it would require for the average American to do so.

And Selgin thinks this is actually feasible — according to his worldview, any investor or consumer dumb enough not to have thoroughly researched his investments deserves whatever losses he may incur. The problem with that line of thinking is that even savvy investors get taken for a ride. Remember Bernie Madoff? Collateralized debt obligations? AIG and credit default swaps? If so-called “smart money” investors get scammed in a regulated market, imagine the field day Wall Street would have on the dumb money in a deregulated market.

From the libertarian praise heaped upon these regulators, and from their own statements, it appears that they are big fans of deregulation. These men are charged with creating and enforcing the financial rules of the road, but they are anti-rule. Or, to put it another way, they are financial foxes guarding the Wall Street henhouse.

Uncovered: Corporate Lobbying Funded by Your Tax Dollars

UNC ALEC thumb

Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy tells us about CMD and Common Cause’s latest submission to the IRS showing that the American Legislative Exchange Council functions as a corporate lobbying group, in violation of the tax code for 501(c)3 charities. I talk to Common Cause legal associate Yael Bromberg about the tax man’s response…

The Undercurrent: Uncovered is a video collaboration with the Center for Media Democracy. Subscribe to the The Undercurrent on YouTube for more independent investigative reporting…

Donald Trump Will End Outsourcing If President

Trump ThumbAt the South Carolina Freedom Summit, Donald Trump said that he would impose a hefty 35% tariff on American multinational corporations like Ford Motor Company, in order to stop outsourcing to China and elsewhere. According to the Economic Policy Institute, between 2001 and 2013 the U.S. trade deficit with China cost 3.2 million jobs, with the majority of the losses coming from the manufacturing sector.

Flirting with a 2016 presidential bid, Trump is striking a populist chord with his stance on trade, and it’s a departure from that of the Republican establishment and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both have been working with the Obama administration to push through a massive trade deal with Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s stance is surprising, not only because of his background in business, but because it would reverse 30+ years of U.S. trade policy. Instituting such a policy reversal would be a Herculean if not impossible task, requiring the eradication of the neoliberal economic orthodoxy ingrained in the DNA of Washington.

Touching on the TPP, Trump said:

China is ripping us off and abusing us because we have leaders that don’t know what they’re doing, and the new trade pact is a disaster because they don’t talk about currency manipulation.

In a further break from the GOP, Trump decried the outsize influence of money in politics. With a personal fortune estimated at $4.1 billion, he said that he would “do the right thing” because he doesn’t need money from lobbyists or donors.

Watch the exchange in the video below, and subscribe to The Undercurrent on YouTube for more independent, on-the-ground political reporting…