Trump Foundation Involved in Yet More Corruption

Donald Trump's foundation is in the news again:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole. In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

Sorry Donald. You're not allowed to use your charity to pay off your business obligations:

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

I don't think I can count the number of reporters who have investigated the Clinton Foundation or the number of pieces they've written. The net result has been (a) no actual serious misconduct uncovered, but (b) a steady drumbeat of stories implying that something improper was going on.

Now then: how many reporters have been investigating the Trump Foundation? I might be missing someone, but basically the answer is one: David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. The net result has been (a) plenty of actual misconduct uncovered, but (b) very little in the way of public attention to it.

This is why so many people can somehow believe that Hillary Clinton is less trustworthy than Donald Trump. In truth, it's not even close. Trump is probably the world champion in the sport of lying; he cares about nothing but enriching himself and getting even with his enemies; and his political positions change with the wind. He's just about the least trustworthy person on the planet.

But he's entertaining. Gotta give him that. And really, isn't that what matters?

Atrios:

The savvy thing for liberal pundits to do is to write think pieces that millennials will never read about how stupid millennials are for considering voting for 3rd parties, even though millennials (according to polls) are voting for Team D in a higher proportion than any other age group. Amazingly they figured that out without the sage wisdom from their elders, who are voting for Trump. Stupid Kids Today!

I've been ignoring the sudden popularity of this meme, but enough's enough. As it happens, millennial support for Hillary Clinton isn't higher than any other age group when you poll a 4-person race—which is, after all, the actual race being contested. But even if it were, the issue isn't raw support. Young voters are far more liberal than older voters and have voted heavily for Democrats for years. The issue is relative support compared to previous years.

The chart on the right compares exit polls from 2012 with a recent Quinnipiac poll. It's not a perfect match with the exit polls, but it's close. And what it shows is that millennial voters prefer Hillary Clinton at far lower levels than they preferred Barack Obama four years ago. Other age groups are down too, but just a few points. Only among young voters has support plummeted, and it's plummeted by enough to put the election in genuine doubt.

So yes, Hillary Clinton really does have a big problem with millennials. As for third parties, I'll say only this: in 1980, when I was 22, I voted for John Anderson. That sure was stupid. Eight years of Ronald Reagan because Jimmy Carter didn't quite meet my idealistic standards of excellence for presidents. I've never made that mistake again.

The Case for Calm

A couple of worried Democrats are coming over for dinner tomorrow. Since I'm the voice of calm, my job is to explain why they probably shouldn't be panicking over polls showing that Hillary Clinton's lead is shrinking. This is pretty easy to do, but first this year's standard disclaimer:

This is the weirdest presidential campaign in my lifetime. Everything I know might be worthless. Caveat emptor.

OK, so why am I still feeling pretty calm? I could show you the pretty picture from Pollster, which really doesn't show much change over the past year, but I've already done that—and anyway, haven't I said that Sam Wang is my preferred pollster? Indeed I have. So here is Sam Wang:

Roughly speaking, Hillary Clinton has had a steady 3.5 percent lead over Trump all year. Then she got a boost from the Democratic convention, followed by a few bad weeks for Trump. That wore off and she dropped back to a little below where she's been all along. In the last few days, Clinton has started rising again, and my guess is that over the next few weeks she'll meander back to her longtime lead of 3.5 percent. Pollwise, the single most remarkable thing about the Clinton vs. Trump race is how stable it's been ever since the day Trump took his famous escalator ride down to the ground floor of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy.

To the extent that Democrats are panicking, I think it's because a few weeks ago Clinton was ahead by 7 percent or so, and everyone was licking their chops and wondering if a landslide was possible. It was deflating when that turned out to be a mirage. I got caught up in that a bit too, and it was probably foolish. In reality, it was just a temporary bump and was never likely to last.

Still, even if Clinton has a fairly reliable 3.5 percent lead, isn't that pretty disappointing? I mean, she's running against a clown like Trump. This isn't some normal Republican like John McCain or Mitt Romney. She should be ahead by 6 or 7 points. What the hell is wrong with America?

I'm not sure about that. But keep in mind that election fundamentals—Democrats have held the White House for eight years; the economy is in adequate but not great shape; Obama's approval level has been only fair until very recently—suggest that this should be a Republican year. Alan Abromowitz, whose forecasting model has had reasonable success, figures that Trump should win the popular vote by 3 percent. If, instead, Clinton wins by 3-4 percent, it means she's outperformed the fundamentals by 6-7 percent. That's not bad.

Ahmad Khan Rahami appears to have been a pretty incompetent terrorist. One of Josh Marshall's readers says this is no surprise:

Good intelligence work, good police work, more aware citizenry and other measures set up since 9/11 have limited — for now, and hopefully far into the future — the ability of major terrorist plots to get off the ground in the US. Major cells get disrupted, chatter on social media leads to arrests, and then great police work over this past weekend gets the bad guy in no time. There simply isn't any scope for large-scale, mass-casualty events at the moment in the US. Our strategy is working.

If all the serious plotting gets discovered and broken up, the only plots left are small, poorly thought out ones. That's the good news. But there's no way to stop every single one of these penny-ante Osamas, so it's inevitable that we'll periodically get hit with smallish-scale attacks. That's the bad news—especially since Ed Kilgore thinks Ross Douthat might have been right about which candidate benefits most from pint-sized terrorist attacks. Here's Douthat:

I don’t think it’s a simple case of “the worse the blow, the better for Trump.” The Man From Mar-a-Lago is many things, but he isn’t a reassuring figure or a steady hand, and the prospect of putting him in charge in the midst of an enormous national security crisis might give many undecided voters pause.

....What Trump benefits most from, I suspect, is a more limited sense that things are out of control — a feeling of anxiety about the world that pulses through your TV set or your computer screen but hasn’t yet hit your neighborhood or family or bank account directly....He would benefit more from another spate of Islamic State beheadings than he would from a terrorist attack that required a major military response,

Maybe so. It's an interesting, if unsettling theory, anyway.

Patrick Caldwell summarizes the effect of third-party candidates on Hillary Clinton's standing among millennials:

In a Quinnipiac poll from last week, when Stein and Johnson were included, Clinton received just 31 percent support from likely voters 18-34. Johnson came in second with 29 percent, while Trump garnered 26 percent and Stein 15 percent. When Stein and Johnson weren't offered as options, that age cohort sided with Clinton over Trump by a 55-34 margin.

Oof. She loses 24 percent of the millennial vote to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. But wait. Jacob Levy says that, on net, Johnson helps Clinton because he's also taking away votes from Trump. On a net basis, it's only Stein who's really hurting her:

Quinnipac is unusual in directly comparing people’s answers in the two-way and four-way match-ups. Of people who chose Clinton in the head-to-head, 85% stay with Clinton in the 4-way, 8% go to Johnson, and 7% go to Stein. But of people who chose Trump in the head-to-head, 90% stayed Trump, 9% went to Johnson, and 1% went to Stein.

....What this suggests to me is: Clinton’s widely-reported overall loss in the switch from two-way to four-way polling match-ups is entirely due to Stein. Although Johnson is polling much higher than Stein and seems like he should therefore be having a bigger effect on the race, that effect is largely neutral between the two leading candidates, or perhaps favors Clinton slightly.

Hmmm. Maybe. The question is whether you can take the behavior of all voters and extrapolate it to the behavior of young voters. I'm not so sure about that. But even if we assume we can do that, I think it misses something.

Among people who are left of center, Jill Stein is a pretty obvious choice if Hillary Clinton isn't your cup of tea. That's especially true among former Bernie Sanders supporters who are far to Clinton's left. But Gary Johnson doesn't make any sense at all. At a policy level, he's a left-wing disaster. Bernie Sanders would rather cut off his big toe than put Gary Johnson in the White House. So why is Johnson getting any love from voters on the left?

From an electoral point of view, my guess is that it's a waste of effort for Clinton to try to peel off young Stein voters. Stein makes sense for them. But peeling off Johnson voters should be pretty easy. Just point out that he wants to repeal Obamacare, slash Social Security, supports Citizens United, and doesn't want to do anything about climate change. He's a pretty ripe target.

Over at Wonkblog, Jeff Guo provides the skinny on women in Hollywood:

Women in their 20s get a fair number of starring roles. But as soon as they hit 30, their careers fall off a cliff. By their 40s they're all but invisible.

This data is for films made over the past century. I'd be curious to see the same thing for the past ten or twenty years. I can't quite figure out if I think it's likely to be better or worse. But I think I'd guess worse.

The Bridgegate trial has started, and while Chris Christie isn't actually on trial, it's still not going well for him:

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey knew that his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him, prosecutors said on Monday.

....Defense lawyers have also said that Mr. Christie knew. But the statement on Monday was striking in that it was prosecutors confirming that assertion.

....Prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office said that two of the alleged co-conspirators in the case, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, had bragged to the governor about the lane closings, and that they had been done to “mess” with the mayor of Fort Lee because he had declined entreaties to endorse the governor’s re-election. Mr. Christie also knew that phone calls from the mayor, Mark Sokolich, raising concerns about a public safety emergency, were deliberately being ignored, prosecutors said.

I think most of us have pretty much assumed this was true all along. But who knows? If the evidence confirms this, maybe Donald Trump will start treating Christie with a little more respect.

Via Tyler Cowen, Murray Weiss and Aidan Gardiner tell the story of how police caught the Chelsea bomber so quickly. On Saturday night a couple of enterprising street socialists saw a fine looking suitcase on the sidewalk and decided it was something they could use. This suitcase, it turned out, contained the second bomb, which never went off:

The young men, who sources described as being well-dressed, opened the bag and took the bomb out, sources said, before placing the explosive into a garbage bag and walking away with the rolling suitcase. In doing so, investigators believe they inadvertently disabled the explosive, sources said. That allowed investigators to examine the cellphone attached to the bomb intact and discover that it was connected to the family of Rahami.

From there, they were able to identify pictures on social media of Rahami's family and of him, and they matched one of his photos to surveillance footage captured in Manhattan.

Another pair of thieves snatched a backpack near a New Jersey train station. When they opened it and found explosives, they dropped it and called the police. They may be thieves, but they aren't crazy.

Today's Boring Policy Number: 16%

Remember all that stuff about how Donald Trump's tax plan treats pass-through income? (Quick refresher here if you don't.) Apparently the Tax Foundation gave up on getting a straight answer about how this works, so they're now giving two estimates of the impact of Trump's plan. If we assume he's going to keep the low pass-through rate—the one that would benefit his own businesses—they figure his plan would create a whopping 215,000 new jobs per year over the next decade. And that's with lots of dynamic scoring pixie dust sprinkled around.

In other words, I think we can safely say that Trump's plan would create approximately zero jobs. However it would blow a huge hole in the deficit (about $6 trillion without pixie dust) and it would be a huge windfall for the rich, increasing their after-tax income by a whopping 16 percent. And make no mistake: unlike a lot of Donald Trump's fanciful ideas, a Republican Congress would be delighted to pass something like this. And they'd do it in a way that couldn't be stopped by a filibuster.

Once again, I get it. This is BORING. It's policy stuff. Ugh. We really don't want a bunch of dull numbers like this mucking up our beautiful front pages or our lovingly hand-crafted nightly news programs. That's why I kept this post short.

Zack Beauchamp has a long piece at Vox today that runs down the recent rise of far-right populists in Europe and the United States. Has this been driven by anger from blue-collar workers lashing out at their losses from globalization?

This anger plays some small part, but it doesn't tell most of the story. A vast universe of academic research suggests the real drivers are something very different: anger over immigration and a toxic mix of racial and religious intolerance. That conclusion is supported by an extraordinary amount of social science....This research finds that, contrary to what you’d expect, the "losers of globalization" aren’t the ones voting for these parties. What unites far-right politicians and their supporters, on both sides of the Atlantic, is a set of regressive attitudes toward difference. Racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia — and not economic anxiety — are their calling cards.

....Donald Trump is a manifestation of this backlash, as are Brexit and the surge of support for far-right European parties. They show the extent of white Christian anger — the privileged who are furious that their privileges are being stripped away by those they view as outside interlopers.

It is that fury over immigrants that offers the best explanation we have for why the forces of intolerance are currently on the rise in the West. If we want to understand the world we live in today — and the one we’ll be inhabiting for years to come — we need to understand how immigration and intolerance are transforming the way white Christians vote. We need to understand that the battle between racist nationalism and liberal cosmopolitanism will be one of the defining ideological struggles of the 21st century. And we need to understand that Donald Trump is not an accident. He’s a harbinger.

I don't know that I agree with every word of this essay, but I agree with a lot of it. It's worth blocking out 20 minutes to give it a read.