Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dana Rohrabacher Seems To Be Making Every Move He Can To Lose His Reelection Bid


When Dana Rohrabacher was first elected to Congress in the '80s his Orange County district was beet red. Last year, nearly three decades on, the PVI was a very daunting R+7. Next year, Rohrabacher faces a more hostile environment. Trump lost the district to Hillary-- albeit narrowly-- and the PVI shows a slide towards the Democrats. It is now R+4, winnable, especially in a wave election.

Back when he was first election, Rohrabacher got off to a peculiar start. His predecessor, right-wing crackpot Dan Lungren, was appointed state-- but never confirmed-- state Treasurer by Governor George Deukmejian. Rohrabacher, then a Reagan speech-writer, was helped by Oliver Noth to win the primary and then the general election. Instead of going to the congressional freshman orientation, he went to Afghanistan to smoke powerful, mind-altering hash-- I know how strong it is; I spent almost a year there-- and play dress-up with the Taliban. The only serious challenge Rohrabacher ever had to reelection was in 2008 when Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook held him to a 53% win. Not anticipating Hillary's win last year, the always backward-looking DCCC didn't bother to run a candidate and Rohrabacher beat Suzanne Savary, an underfunded local who had no help from the DCCC, by nearly 50,000 votes, 58.3% to 41.7%. The DCCC-- in backward-looking mode as usual-- says they plan to take Rohrabacher on this year and recruited a Canadian-American stem cell doctor/entrepreneur multimillionaire with no sense of politics, Hans Keirstead. Harley Rouda and Laura Oatman, also in the race, look like more effective candidates. As of the June 30 FEC reporting deadline Rohrabacher had $406,616 in his campaign account to Rouda's $177,974, Keirstead's $135,396 and Oatman's $68,870.

A neo-fascist Trumpist nut-case, Stelian Onufrei, is running against Rohrabacher from the right and attacking him for his marijuana activism (and for being "an entrenched career politician"). Former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh may also run and has raised $546,915 into a federal fund.

Rohrabacher is best known for his pot advocacy and his pro-Russia stands. Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told congressional Republicans that Rohrabacher takes money from the Kremlin, although he later said he was "joking." In the beautiful coastal district, his Climate Change denialism isn't a plus. Rouda has been primarily attacking Rohrabacher for his reactionary stands on economic issues, immigration and healthcare but he has certainly noticed Rohrabacher's bizarre relationship to Putin. He told us last month that "Rohrabacher has time and time again shown that he values the interests of Russia over the interests of his own district. The public doesn't have all the facts about Dana Rohrabacher's relationship with Russia-- but what we know already is enough to disqualify him. We need a Congressman who focuses on the 48th Congressional District; not a hostile foreign power."

Last week, Rohrabacher got himself embroiled in another crazy controversy that has Orange County voters scratching their heads and wondering if their congressman has smoked too much pot and hash lately. This time Rohrabacher is claiming the horrifying scene in Charlottesville with the KKK and Nazis marching in the streets, threatening Jews in a synagogue and murdering a young woman peacefully demonstrating against Nazis. Rohrabacher now says it was "a total hoax" staged by Clinton and Bernie supporters!
“It’s all baloney,” Dana Rohrabacher told the San Francisco Chronicle, speaking of the rally where police said a car driven by a white supremacist injured 19 and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer.

“It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation,” Rohrabacher said Thursday, in an effort to “put our president on the spot.”

His claims are just the latest in a tit-for-tat fight between the representative and Democrats.

The Unite the Right rally held August 12 was attended by avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, who helped lead a torchlit rally around a statue of Confederate army general Robert E. Lee in central Charlottesville the night before. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer website also promoted and defended the event online.

White supremacist Christopher Cantwell turned himself in to police at the end of August after finding out he was wanted on two counts of illegal use of tear gas and other gases. Hundreds of photos and videos on social media attest to the fact that the event was attended by neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan and the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist movement.

Yet that’s all bunk according to Rohrabacher, who pinned the events on a former “Hillary and Bernie supporter” who got Civil War re-enactors together to protect the statue of Lee, which would be removed under a proposal before Charlottesville’s City Council.

“It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,” Rohrabacher said of the Charlottesville rally.

All this, he claims, was a ruse to box in President Donald Trump over the issue of racism in America. On the day of the rally and at a press conference at Trump Tower a couple of days later, the president said blame for the violence fell “on both sides.” His response hurt his approval ratings among Republicans who saw his statements as divisive.

Rohrabacher’s claims are “disturbing,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said Thursday. The group works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives.

Both Rohrabacher’s claims and the DCCC’s response are the latest in a feud between the hard-right representative and Democrats who see him as a major Republican problem.

“Embattled Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, now apparently a person of interest to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, has no business chairing the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee that oversees Russia,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law at the end of August.

Law called for Rohrabacher to be stripped of his post chairing the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, which handles issues covering Russia-U.S. relations. The issue is particularly sensitive after U.S. intelligence agencies issued reports earlier this year that Moscow directed a campaign to sway the election toward Trump.

Rohrabacher told the Chronicle that these findings are “total bull” and that the reports are “full of weasel words.”

The Democrats went after the representative after congressional sources told CNN the Senate Intelligence Committee is considering calling Rohrabacher to answer questions after he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London last month. During his meeting, Rohrabacher was flanked by Chuck Johnson, the operator of conspiracy theorist website GotNews.com, who has ties to alt-right conspiracy theorists.

WikiLeaks released emails that U.S. intelligence agencies said with “high confidence” were stolen by Russian intelligence from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Rohrabacher said he wants to debrief Trump on what Assange told him.

According to Rohrabacher, Assange insisted he was not behind the leak of the Democratic National Committee emails last year.

House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Ed Royce’s failure to strip Rohrabacher of his position shows he is “unwilling to put country before party and unserious about the need to stop Russia from meddling in our elections,” Law said.

“The DCCC, obviously embarrassed by the DNC’s antics last year, does not know how to think strategically about foreign affairs and has descended to the guilt-by-association tactics reminiscent of America’s Red Scares,” Rohrabacher’s spokesman, Ken Grubbs, told Newsweek, in an email last month. “It compounds its own embarrassment.”

Rouda, again, busy talking with CA-48 voters about jobs and healthcare, took a minute to shake his head at Rohrabacher's most recent public display of bizarre eccentricity. "His latest conspiracy theory is really troubling," he told us this morning. "It is disturbing enough when he does the bidding of Julian Assange and Vladamir Putin, but now he is defending literal Nazis who killed an innocent American. We have a president who not only employs white supremacists, he claims there are good people attending these rallies and chanting anti-semitic and racist slurs. Now we have a congressman who says it was all 'a set up.' This madness has to end. Standing up to Nazis shouldn't be partisan. If Dana Rohrabacher is too afraid to denounce this hatred, he shouldn't be in Congress representing any corner of this country."

Oh, one more thing: remember the Panama papers? I bet Rohrabacher does too. McCarthy may have thought he was joking about Rohrabacher being on Putin's payroll. But Rohrabacher and Putin knew better.
Rohrabacher has been friends with Putin since the early 90’s when he famously lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with the then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg who was visiting Washington.

Five years ago, the FBI warned Rohrabacher he was being targeted by the Kremlin as an agent of influence. The congressman rebuffed the warning but his legislative record appears to back up concerns he’s somehow compromised.

Rohrabacher sided with Russia when Moscow invaded Georgia and opposed U.S. support of Ukraine. In September, he called the White House to push for a pardon of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who released the hacked DNC emails last year.

But nothing gets Putin and Rohrabacher’s back up more than the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 sanctions bill was enacted in response to the prison murder of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had exposed a scheme by Putin and his oligarchs to embezzle $230 million stolen from taxpayers.

Since then, Putin has waged a diplomatic war to get the sanctions dropped. First, he banned U.S adoption of Russian children. He then put together a strike team-- lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin-- to work on getting the sanctions lifted and he reached out to his old friend Dana Rohrabacher.

In 2014, Rohrabacher and his assistant Paul Behrends took a secret three day trip to Moscow. In the months following their return colleagues noticed a softening of their position on Russia.

Behrends also became the chief congressional contact for Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin (he has since been fired from his post on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee).

A year later, a whistle-blower leaked a full registry of off-shore companies known as the Panama Papers which exposed the corrupt dealings of world leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, South Africa, Qatar, UAE and Russia.

The papers exposed Putin’s theft of $2 billion stolen from Russians and transferred into offshore companies registered to his friends. The Magnitsky Act means those assets could be frozen. Putin is enraged by the sanctions because they hit his own personal fortune held in these offshore holdings.

The other connective tissue between Rohrabacher and Russia’s efforts to end the Magnitsky sanctions is Yuri Vanetik, a self-proclaimed financier and Republican official. Vanetik is a Rohrabacher donor and lives in California but was still somehow appointed the National Finance Co-Chair of the New York GOP in March.

Vanetik was born in Soviet Ukraine in 1970 and claims his family fled to the U.S. to avoid “political persecution.” This is striking because his father Anatoly was a major political and business figure in the Soviet Union working directly with the Russian Oil Ministry even after the fall of the USSR. In 2014, Yuri penned an op-ed calling for the U.S. to drop sanctions against Russia.

He claims a career in law but we couldn’t find any records of him being admitted to the bar in California, although he was licensed in Pennsylvania. He’s been embroiled in two lawsuits for allegedly defrauding investors in of Valueluck and Private Equity Management Group.

In February last year, Vanetik and several business leaders started the “Great America PAC” to help elect Trump. The PAC was well-funded with $26 million and was willing to accept donations from anyone, no matter how legal.

An undercover investigation by the Telegraph exposed PAC officials accepting a donation offer from reporters posing as Chinese donors, in exchange for implied promises from the new administration.

Vanetik also has financial ties to both Russia and Trump properties. In 2007, Vanetik bought a unit at the Trump Ocean Tower in Panama City. Trump Towers are viewed as a vehicle for Russians to launder money with Trump skimming off the top by charging overblown “management fees.” In 2011, Vanetik invested in Terra Resources, a U.K. based company with plans to develop Russian oil fields.

Rohrabacher and Vanetik traveled to Berlin together in April and posted an Instagram photo of their dinner with anti-Magnitsky documentarian Andrei Nekrasov.

During the same trip to Berlin, Rohrabacher met Putin lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin in a hotel lobby. When asked about Akmetshin’s possible ties to Russian intelligence agencies, Rohrabacher told CNN: “I would certainly not rule that out.”

Rohrabacher and Behrends also traveled to Moscow as part of a congressional delegation to Moscow where they received a “confidential” Russian document alleging the world was wrong about Magnitsky.  The Kremlin also gave the duo access to the aforementioned Russian documentary about Magnitsky. The document and film claimed human rights activist and Magnitsky sanctions champion Bill Browder lied about Putin’s money laundering.

Weeks later, Akhmetsin and a colleague showed up unannounced at Rohrabacher’s congressional office. “They said they were lobbying on behalf of a Russian company called Prevezon and asked us to delay the Global Magnitsky Act or at least remove Magnitsky from the name,” a congressional staffer told the Daily Beast.

On June 9, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya visited Trump Tower where they met Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner for a meeting arranged to hand over dirt on Hillary Clinton to the Trump Campaign.

A few days later, Rohrabacher attempted to stage a “show trial” of Bill Browder in the form of a congressional hearing. “During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him-- as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya,” according to the Daily Beast.

When senior Republicans caught wind of the plan, the hearing was cancelled. Browder instead later testified in front of a full committee. The treasury and state departments are now implementing the sanctions.

Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary efforts to get the Magnitsky sanctions dropped using a web of Russian and Republican operatives, and their vocal opposition to the Panama Papers, raises a tantalizing question: Just how much looted Russian cash is stashed in the shell companies detailed in the Panama Papers and is it connected to Veselnitskaya, Akhmetsin, Vanetik and Rohrabacher themselves?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does Rohrabacher give a shit anymore? He's grabbed all the money he'll ever need, and if he feels like working there's even bigger bucks in lobbying.

The shamelessness these days outdoes even the gilded age 1870's - 90's.

At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's been so bad for so long... it's kind of up to the voters to decide, as it always is, whether to keep that pos around or try someone better... or worse.

If they change, odds are it'll be someone worse. Voters are dumber than shit.


Post a Comment

<< Home