Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If Elected, Could Ken Stolle Handle The Job?


Is Ken Stolle hallucinating? Or just lying?

-by Aleurophile

In a recent DownWithTyranny post, I gave a rundown on the Stolle political machine in Virginia Beach, with Ken Stolle, Sheriff and former State Senator at its head. Stolle is up for re-election on November 7 and is being opposed by John Bell, a former Virginia Beach Deputy Chief of Police.

Ken Stolle has been the Virginia Beach Sheriff since 2009, but serious questions need to be raised about whether he has the health and stamina to perform the job and fill out the term. Stolle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 11 years ago, and it is apparent even to a layperson that the disease has progressed (see videos below). Stolle acknowledged his diagnosis in the 2009 campaign; at the time he said: "What Parkinson's has done is it's made me re-evaluate my priorities, where I want to be in two years, five years, 10 years." Well, it's been 11 years since the diagnosis and eight years since that statement, and Ken Stolle needs to re-evaluate again - and voters need to be informed about his current health status. The press has been silent on this issue, but voters deserve to know from an independent medical specialist-- not from Stolle’s own self-assessment - whether he’s up to taking on the arduous and critically important position of Virginia Beach Sheriff.

These two videoclips tell their own distressing story:

Above is a video clip of Stolle in 2009 announcing his first campaign for Sheriff. The video above is from a candidates' forum earlier this month.

It’s difficult to speak plainly about this situation without causing offense. Parkinson's is not something any of us could wish on another human being, and we can all want anyone who suffers from this or any other disability to do all they can for as long as they can. But common sense dictates that there are limitations. I cared for my beloved father for the last three years of his life and watched the Alzheimers take over. But my attitude-- and his, too-- was for him to have as happy and fulfilled a life as possible for as long as possible. He was an artist-- a painter-- and produced many paintings during those years, finishing his last work a month before his death. But was he able to pay bills, drive a car, live alone? No. Chronic, progressive, and incurable diseases bring sad realities that have to be faced. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease that can often be managed, but that cannot at present be cured. People with Parkinson’s can and do perform all sorts of jobs, but limitations may well arise as the disease advances, especially since "there is ample evidence that PD symptoms worsen during times of stress." Over time, the characteristic tremors may become more severe; fatigue is a common problem, as is cognitive impairment, including executive dysfunction. According to the American Parkinson Disease Association website:
“Executive function includes the ability to plan, organize, initiate, and regulate goal directed behavior. One can think of the ‘CEO’ (chief executive officer) of a company and the many tasks involved in directing the organization. These activities may include multitasking, solving problems, starting new tasks, and switching tasks. Executive function involves the prefrontal cortex of the brain and the dopamine system, which are affected in PD. Executive dysfunction is one of the most common cognitive changes reported in PD.”
My earlier article made plain my view on the dynastic ambitions of the Stolle family. My guess is that Ken Stolle would, if he won re-election and became incapable of performing his duties, hand over the office to a relative or crony, thus entirely circumventing the democratic process and keeping the family in control of this key position in the region.

Some may say it's dirty politics to consider Stolle's health, but I disagree. Stolle himself has been, perhaps necessarily, open about his diagnosis-- though not about his prognosis. It is this to which we need to call attention for the sake of the voters and of the staff and inmates of the Virginia Beach Jail. This is an elected position of high importance and voters have the right to know whether Stolle has a fair chance of performing his duties well and of finishing the term. Naturally, no one can foretell their own or another’s health with 100 percent accuracy, but common sense should enter the discussion at some point, and when there appears to be a fair chance that a candidate-- already during the campaign period-- may not be able perform the required duties and won't be able to finish the term, then I believe that voters have the right to ask for an independent assessment from a qualified medical specialist. That is clean, indeed transparent, politics.


Since Aleurophile brought us back to Virginia and since next Tuesday is election day (for more than just Stolle), I figured we'd check in on the other races. As you know, the whole Virginia House of Delegates is also up for reelection. Jeff Shapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch did a quick state of the race report worth looking at. He noted that "In the final countdown to Election Day, the Republican ticket is a ticket in name only. [Ed] Gillespie, the nominee for governor, is working to regain traction against Ralph Northam. [Jill] Vogel is spoiling to overtake Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor and salvage a semblance of dignity for Republicans currently shut out of all five statewide offices. [John] Adams, facing incumbent Mark Herring for attorney general, may be caught in a downdraft. Worried about the possibility of a second consecutive Democratic sweep, Republicans comfort themselves with the knowledge that their majority in the House of Delegates-- artificially lopsided because of partisan gerrymandering-- is safe, though it is expected to shrink." But by how much is the big question. The current House of Delegates has 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats, which is what extreme gerrymandering will do for ya.
To their bankrollers in a Republican-heavy lobbying corps, legislators are predicting manageable losses; perhaps three to five seats. But they could be worse. Indeed, the conduct of several Republican incumbents, particularly in deep-blue Northern Virginia, telegraphs concern.

That Donald Trump is poisoning the environment for Gillespie, Vogel and Adams is an understatement. Because of the president, who lost Virginia to Hillary Clinton last year, the GOP statewide candidates cannot be themselves; that is, generally mainstream Republicans, approachable even to people who disagree with them.

Trump’s endorsement notwithstanding, Gillespie is a big-tent Republican. He advised presidents and presidential candidates who recognized that demographic diversity is remaking politics and that the GOP-- heavily white, increasingly rural, male-dominated-- must embrace it to survive and thrive.

Gillespie has attempted to balance that with the immigrant-hostile themes that Trump Republicans demand. The idea is to simultaneously arouse the conservative GOP base and reach out to moderate voters in the suburbs, increasingly a Democratic bulwark.

Instead, Gillespie wounded his candidacy, running a racially charged television commercial linking Northam to violent Hispanic gangs. Thrown on the defensive, especially in multi-hued, vote-rich Northern Virginia, Gillespie is spending the closing hours of the contest repairing self-inflicted damage.

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Time To Rehabilitate John Boehner? Not So Fast


Tim Alberta did an exhaustive piece on post-congressional Boehner for Politico over the weekend, based on 3 interviews he did with him over the summer. Boehner, he wrote, has fucked up his golf game horrible since he resigned from the Speakership and Congress. He just can't concentrate anymore. But he hasn't lost his mind. 'Fuck Jordan. Fuck Chaffetz," he told Alberta. "They’re both assholes."
To outsiders, Boehner might just be the happiest man alive, a liberated retiree who spends his days swirling merlot and cackling at Speaker Paul Ryan’s misfortune. The truth is more complicated. At 67, Boehner is liberated-- to say what he spent many years trying not to say; to smoke his two packs a day without undue stress; to chuckle at the latest crisis in Washington and whisper to himself those three magic words: “Not my problem.” And yet he is struggling-- with the lingering perception that he was run out of Congress; with his alarm about the country’s future; and with the question of what he’s supposed to do next. After leaving office, Boehner says a longtime family friend approached him. “You’ve always had a purpose-- your business, your family, politics,” the friend said. “What’s your purpose now?” Boehner says the question gnaws at him every day.

...[T]he story of Boehner’s 25 years in Washington is also the story of the Republican Party, the Congress and American politics in the post-Ronald Reagan era: an account of corruption and crusading, enormous promises and underwhelming results, growing ideological polarization and declining faith in government. The same centrifugal forces that made Boehner’s job impossible have bedeviled his successor, Ryan, and kept the GOP majorities in Congress from passing any landmark legislation in 2017. Now, as the revolutionary fervor that swept Boehner into the speakership degenerates into a fratricidal conflict centered around Trump, the former speaker’s frontline view of the Republican civil war is essential to understanding what went wrong.

...To Boehner and his allies, [Jim] Jordan was the antagonist in the story of his speakership-- an embodiment of the brinkmanship and betrayal that roiled the House Republican majority and made Boehner’s life miserable. Although he would tell me in later conversations that he holds no grudges against anyone, today Boehner unloads on his fellow Ohioan. “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate,” Boehner says. “A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.”

If he sounds exasperated, it’s because this is the central irony of his career: A quarter-century before the conservative insurgency stormed Washington and derailed his speakership, John Boehner was the conservative insurgency.

...The year 1994 didn’t just usher in new leadership to the House and the GOP; it marked a profound shift in Washington’s partisan relations. Gingrich, a master messenger with a zero-sum approach to ideological warfare, perfected the art of launching poll-tested attacks on Democrats as “radicals” who threatened liberty. With a penchant for turning personal disagreement into political Armageddon, Gingrich weaponized the speakership as never before.

“The beginning of the scorched-earth policy really began with Gingrich winning in the mid-’90s, the Gingrich revolution, and the enormous pressure put on moderate Republicans to walk away from anything remotely approaching a compromise,” says former Vice President Joe Biden, who was then a senator from Delaware.

Another change, one that would later inform some of the opposition to Boehner’s speakership, was the consolidation of power at the expense of committee chairmen and rank-and-file members. “Gingrich basically created a process where the speaker was the epicenter of the House,” says Joshua Huder, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

As the fourth-ranking House Republican-- behind Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay-- Boehner could see the toll these institutional transformations took on GOP members, who felt disempowered by Gingrich’s imperial style. After Clinton won reelection in 1996, Republicans grew restless. The GOP had suffered terribly from Gingrich’s handling of a lengthy government shutdown from December 1995 to January 1996-- a lesson that informed Boehner’s aversion to such tactics years later-- as well as his constant public feuding and a barrage of ethics charges against him. In January 1997, Gingrich became the first speaker ever reprimanded for an ethics violation.

“When I saw that Boehner was becoming speaker, I thought that was a positive thing,” Biden tells me. “I thought there could be actually some work together, some collaboration together, and we could actually get some things done. But I thought, most of all, he was going to treat the president with more respect than some of his colleagues had.”

The class of 2010 wasn’t interested in collaboration. These rowdy freshmen lawmakers saw Boehner’s “Hell no” speech as a blueprint for their slash-and-burn strategy. When they realized after arriving in D.C. that he would not lead accordingly, dozens of them gravitated toward someone who would: Jordan, the newly installed chairman of the Republican Study Committee. When I ask about those factions forming in 2011, Jordan cites the “Hell no” speech and shrugs. “That’s the John Boehner we were hoping for.”

The Republicans Party's incipient civil war moved quickly from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill. The fundamentally irreconcilable approaches of Boehner and Jordan, and the members who followed them, produced an increasingly volatile series of intraparty collisions during the new GOP majority’s first term in 2011 and 2012.

Some of this owed to Boehner’s not taking the campaign rhetoric of his new colleagues at face value. “These were people who ran against Washington and planned on voting that way,” explains Tim Huelskamp, who was elected in the 2010 wave and then lost his Kansas district’s Republican primary in 2016. Boehner rejects the notion that he was ill-prepared to deal with these rookie legislators, but his allies concede there was a blind spot. “He thought of himself as someone who was of the Tea Party mentality before the Tea Party was a thing … so I think there were some assumptions made that he got these people, and that they would see he was one of them,” says Anne Bradbury, Boehner’s former floor director. “But that really never came together.”

Some of the freshmen took one look at Boehner-- the golf-tanned back-slapper who wore handsome, tailored suits and rented his D.C. apartment from a registered lobbyist-- and saw the embodiment of everything they were sent to destroy. “They never gave him a fair shake,” says Kevin McCarthy, the California congressman who was then Boehner’s majority whip.

...The fiscal cliff further diminished Boehner’s standing on the right. When the new Congress convened in January 2013, some two dozen House conservatives plotted to overthrow him. Any speaker needs a majority of votes cast on the House floor on the first day of a new Congress; Huelskamp and others concluded that if 17 Republicans voted against Boehner, that would force a second ballot-- and he would step aside out of shame. Huelskamp says the coup participants “signed their names in blood” the night before the vote-- not literally-- and he was stunned the next day to see just 12 of them follow through. Boehner survived, but was embarrassed by the revolt. It was the first attempt on his speakership, though not the last.

...The Freedom Caucus has begun to squeeze Ryan, much as it did to Boehner-- warning him that without changes his tenure could be similarly endangered. And Ryan, as Boehner did, is telling friends that he’s losing patience with the job. When I tell Jordan about Boehner’s description of him-- “a legislative terrorist”-- and ask about whether he’s holding the speakership hostage, he flashes surprise and eventually irritation. “Oh, my goodness. I feel sorry for the guy if he’s that bitter about a guy coming here and doing what he told the voters he was gonna do. Wow. I feel bad for him,” Jordan says. “But in the end, we were not doing what the voters elected us to do and what we told them we were going to do. We just weren’t. And I would argue the same thing is happening now.”

Jordan’s veiled threat only partially explains the frustration written all over Ryan’s face when we meet: Earlier that day, after Ryan scoffed at a Democratic proposal to pass a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, Trump met with Pelosi and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and gave them exactly what they wanted. “Um, yeah, that one-- yeah, that’s kind of par for the course these days,” Ryan tells me, his tie loosened and a sense of resignation in his voice. “This is a presidency that offers some surprises.” Weeks later, when I ask Boehner about Trump’s deal with the Democrats, he erupts into a cough-laugh. “My guess is that he thought he was doing everybody a favor. He had no idea he was cutting off McConnell and Ryan’s legs.”

Trump himself is less a source of apprehension for top Republicans than what he represents: a fracturing of the party and a corollary decline in its ability to govern. “We basically run a coalition government without the efficiency of a parliamentary system,” Ryan complains.

When I ask Boehner whether the Republican Party can survive this, he cuts me off. “There is no Rep...” He stops himself. “You were about to say, ‘There is no Republican Party,” I tell him. He shrugs. “There is. But what does it even mean? Donald Trump’s not a Republican. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist. He doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body.” So who, I ask, is the leader of the party? “There is nobody,” he says.

I ask Boehner what he thinks historians will make of his speakership. “They’ll be talking about the end of the two-party system,” he replies.

In our months of conversations, Trump was the lone subject about which Boehner seemed reluctant to speak freely... [W]hen I raised the matter of this summer’s march in Charlottesville, and Trump’s equivocations. “I do not believe that he is a racist. I do not believe that he is a white supremacist,” Boehner tells me. “He has clearly done some things to lead people who never liked him to say those things about him.” So, I ask, how can Trump fix that? Boehner arches an eyebrow. “Is it fixable?”

Boehner worries about the deepening fissures in American society. But he sees Trump as more of a symptom than the cause of what is a longer arc of social and ideological alienation, fueled by talk radio and Fox News on the right and MSNBC and social media on the left. “People thought in ’09, ’10, ’11, that the country couldn’t be divided more. And you go back to Obama’s campaign in 2008, you know, he was talking about the divide and healing the country and all of that. And some would argue on the right that he did more to divide the country than to unite it. I kind of reject that notion.” Why is that? “Because it wasn’t him!” Boehner replies. “It was modern-day media, and social media, that kept pushing people further right and further left. People started to figure out … they could choose where to get their news. And so what do people do? They choose places they agree with, reinforcing the divide.”

He continues: “I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]. When I went to Palm Beach I would always meet with Rush and we’d go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin? He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys-- I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living shit out of me.” Boehner, seated in his favorite recliner, lights another cigarette. “I had a conversation with Hannity, probably about the beginning of 2015. I called him and said, ‘Listen, you’re nuts.’ We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.”

Boehner believes Americans are ill-informed because of their retreat into media echo chambers, one of two incurable causes of the country’s polarization. Another is inextricably related: the unwillingness of lawmakers to collaborate across the aisle, for fear of recriminations from the base. Boehner says the fact he and Obama golfed together only once-- and agreed that it was usually better for him to sneak into the White House-- speaks to how the two parties punish compromise. He doesn’t foresee this toxic political climate improving, ticking off potential fixes-- term limits, redistricting reform-- that he says won’t make a bit of difference. “It’s going to take an intervening event for Americans to realize that first, we are Americans,” he says. An intervening event? “Something cataclysmic,” he responds, gazing upward.

...Boehner’s 25 years in Washington saw the dissolution of a party, the vandalizing of a government and the splintering of a nation. That Boehner watched as the GOP transformed from the party of George H.W. Bush into the party of Donald Trump. That Boehner funded and helped recruit a class of majority-makers who ended up driving him from office and destabilizing the Congress he cares deeply about. The triumph of John Boehner is that he achieved reform and ascended to the speakership and often rose above the uncompromising dogma of both parties; the tragedy is that he came to Congress an insurgent only to be swallowed by the insurgency, and that he wasted key opportunities, as with the shutdown and immigration battles of 2013, to lead in a way that might have quelled it. “At times,” Sommers admits, “we fed the beast that ate us.”
I'm not weeping for Boehner. Meet Rich Iott, an actual Nazi he tried getting elected to Congress from Ohio in 2010. Watch Anderson Cooper interview him:

Boehner's favorite Nazi, who liked dressing up like an SS Officer on weekends used to pretend to be a U.S. military veteran. The GOP made him a Young Gun and Boehner put money into his campaign. The video above shows him defending "valiant" SS volunteers as defenders of "freedom" and "liberty," exactly the same twisted way some people-- basically Republicans-- claim Republicans are defenders of freedom and liberty. Freedom and liberty for the rich and powerful to exploit the vulnerable? Oh, yeah-- that's just what a normal person thinks of when they think about freedom or liberty! Marcy Kaptur saved Boehner further embarrassment by beating Iott 117,890 (59%) to 81,876 (41%).

John and Grover

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Paul Manafort’s Lawyer Kevin Downing is Yet Another Department of Justice Prosecutor Who Took a Spin Through the Revolving Door


Here's Where We've Met Him Before-- And What It Tells Us About The Swamp

-by Skip Kaltenheuser

Birds of a feather. Ever notice the gravitational pull that brings sleaze together in the legal world, how those of similar ilk find each other? Sure, everyone’s entitled to a defense, but too often the ethics of high profile, highly connected power clients dovetail with those of their attorneys. We’ve seen it time and again with the finance sector, as attorneys lay out roadmaps for the business model of taking what doesn’t belong to you.

Now we have the dramedy of Paul Manafort and his lawyer, Kevin Downing to ponder. Before giving Downing a closer look, a quick thought on Manafort: How deep in the anything-goes corruption bubble must one be to accept neon-lit roles like manager of a presidential campaign after allegedly laundering money or fudging taxes? This arrogant detachment from reality, most recently on display with energy grid contracts for Puerto Rico, is what might jerk the White House rug sooner than later. How delighted Putin must be at the prospect of a national turmoil gifting us a President Pence. Yes, be careful what you wish for, as Jane Meyer cautioned in the New Yorker.

American Gothic Revisted 2 by Nancy Ohanian

For a sober analysis of recent indictments, it’s well worth your time to catch Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley on this morning’s C-Span program Washington Journal. For those with limited time, this should top your list. Turley: “The moral high ground in Washington has always been measured in millimeters.” Here’s hoping Turley’s right, that ripping off all the scabs in this neck of the swamp will prove a great public education on both major parties.

Now to Kevin Downing. DWT readers might recall his Oct. 21st, 2016 appearance in A Devil’s Advocate Rings in a Bad Night for Bankers, a piece on Swiss bank whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld and his book Lucifer’s Banker.

I interviewed Birkenfeld some time back for a still-in-progress essay on the revolving door. Birkenfeld went to the US government to reveal the jaw-dropping extent of US tax evasion via Swiss bank enablers. In a frightening insight into how the fix was in for banks, even foreign banks, at the Department of Justice under the Eric Holder crowd, the only person to go to jail was whistleblower Birkenfeld. Downing was lead DOJ prosecutor putting the screws to Birkenfeld. It appeared to this writer that an example was made of Birkenfeld, warning others who might throw light on or otherwise inconvenience the Big Money that lubricates so much of Washington’s political machinery. Think of Birkenfeld’s prosecution as the brilliant colors on a poison dart frog. It must rankle DOJ no end that while in prison Birkenfeld was awarded the largest IRS whistleblower award to come down the pike.

The whole book is an entertaining if alarming read, but at least zip through Devil’s Advocate and/or explore Birkenfeld’s site for the flavor of what happened. And don’t miss surprise guest appearances such as then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which raises important questions that to my amazement media has thus far ignored.

Excerpted from Devil’s Advocate:
The lead prosecutor (Downing) negotiated Birkenfeld’s plea and signed off on his motion for a sentence reduction. Then Downing sat quietly while a judge nailed Birkenfeld with a much longer sentence than Birkenfeld was led to expect.

Later, Birkenfeld discovered (Downing) signed a secret non-prosecution agreement for the UBS kingpin who oversaw the 19,000 US accounts (including all of the North and South American offshore business), the show-runner for approximately $20 billion in assets. That banker was quietly allowed to go back to Switzerland two weeks later while the US Senate committee was on summer recess.

Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor then left DOJ to partner with a law firm that's now defending a Credit Suisse private banker who also handled US accounts (which Birkenfeld told the DOJ prosecutor about in 2007). The Credit Suisse banker is being prosecuted by another prosecutor, still at DOJ, that also dealt with Birkenfeld. Before leaving DOJ, Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor (Downing) supervised the indictment of the Credit Suisse banker, which was signed by both prosecutors. The former prosecutor now with the law firm isn’t listed as attorney of record on the case. He’s merely a partner in the firm.
Birkenfeld sent me a September 6th, 2016 letter after he sent it to the Federal judge hearing the case regarding the Credit Suisse banker. It’s a splendid view of revolving door ethics and of Downing.

Downing departed from that law firm when he took on Manafort’s defense, because of an existing client matter. I’ll bet that conflict is an interesting one.

It wasn’t Downing that uncovered UBS, it was the whistleblower. Birkenfeld says Downing took credit for uncovering the UBS scandal, an imaginative stretch toward class-leading irony.

Birkenfeld dropped me a note this morning, noting that Manafort opened multiple Cyprus accounts (2008-2012) during the period Downing was at DOJ Tax. Birkenfeld say’s it’s a shame Downing didn’t uncover those accounts. Instead he’s now representing Manafort. Birkenfeld said when Downey departed DOJ, Downing claimed he would only be representing corporate clients. Would one judge Manafort a corporate client? Looks like an individual to me, though from a revolving door perspective, what’s the difference?

But Birkenfeld wonders how many thousands of offshore accounts Downing had access to due to Birkenfeld’s whistleblower actions. In any case, Birkenfeld believes former government lawyers like Downing should be removed from legal matters involving off-shore accounts. How else does one make sure former government attorneys once charged with oversight on such matters don’t tumble into the swamp? Birkenfeld raises the specter of attorneys who fail to uncover or expose illegal offshore accounts who might still know of them and later cash in defending clients who had those accounts.

Whether that concern applies to Downing regarding Manafort isn’t something I know. But it is the sort of issue that ought to get close consideration by any inspector general staff still lingering in government who are worth their salt.

We’ve already seen Downing in the swamp on Swiss bank matters, doing an impressive backstroke.

The Swamp by Nancy Ohanian

Readers can locate DOJ’s secret non-prosecution agreement with UBS, signed by Downing, and some other interesting items, here.

Below is an open letter to President Obama that Birkenfeld sent him along with a copy of his book. Darn interesting questions, yet to be answered, though I’m confident President Obama is on the case.

Robert Muller Investigation by Nancy Ohanian

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Time For Democratic Candidates To Stand For Something Voters Want-- Meet Iowa's Austin Frerick


Austin Frerick is a 27 year old candidate for Congress, running for the Iowa congressional seat held by Paul Ryan rubber stamp David Young. The district, stretches from Des Moines across southwestern Iowa to Council Bluffs and the Omaha suburbs. It includes 16 counties though most of the votes come out of Polk (Des Moines), Pottawattamie (Council Bluffs), Dallas (Adel) and Warren (indianola) counties. Obama won the district both times he ran but Hillary's corporate, establishment image couldn't have been worse for the area. She lost to Trump 48.5-45.0% despite winning pretty substantially in Des Moines.

The DCCC seems to have found a candidate to run for Congress with all of Hillary's perceived flaws and none of her positive attributes, Theresa Greenfield-- some rich conservative with (big surprise) no issues page on her website, no issues page because she doesn't want Democratic primary voters to know how conservative she is. Luckily there are half a dozen other candidates running for the seat, including Frerick. His website issues page is one of the best ones I've seen all year. Looks like he's proud to share his positions with Iowa voters.
I oppose the Monsanto-Bayer merger because it hurts small farmers and rural Iowa.
I support reinstating the Glass-Stegall Act to ensure that Wall Street bankers don’t play around with our savings.
I believe that climate change is human-made and will support policies that stem the tide of global warming.
I support funding the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and other sustainable centers through the Farm Bill.
I support making it easier to vote by: 1) Automatically registering voters with an opt-out provision, 2) Making Election Day a national holiday, and 3) Resisting efforts that infringe on any American’s right to vote.
I support a woman’s right to choose.
I support the right of LGBTQ people to enjoy the rights and privileges afforded to every Iowan.
I support the creation of a single-payer healthcare system by expanding Medicare to cover every American.
I support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and support passage of the DREAM Act.
I support building on the legacy of Senator Tom Harkin by expanding the rights guarantee under the Americans with Disabilities Act and by working toward the promise of full employment opportunity for Americans with disabilities.
I support the creation of a universal higher education system through the expansion of free public community colleges and state universities.
I support the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other cost-saving prescription drug measures.
I support the immediate infusion of federal money to expand high-speed broadband to rural Iowa communities.
I support a federal $15 minimum wage.
I support an increase of federal funding for libraries, museums, and the performing and creative arts.
I oppose policies, such as non-compete agreements, that restrict a person’s ability to find a new job.
I support protecting the right of unions, including public sector unions, to collectively bargain for a fair contract and reasonable benefits.
I support family-friendly policies like paid leave, universal child-care, and a child allowance.
I support defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in order to ensure that Iowans get a fair deal when buying a house or car, banking, or taking out loans for school.
I support a federal budget that bolsters the middle class and the economy rather than cutting essential services.
I support affirmative action.
I support protecting Social Security including Disability Insurance.
I support the national enactment of Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting process to stop gerrymandering.
I support campaign finance reform and I oppose taking money from corporations.
I support overhauling the shamefully inadequate Native American public assistance system.
I support reforming mandatory minimum sentencing and I oppose the privatization of prisons.
I support nationwide patient ratios to ensure safe staffing for RNs and patients.
I support the cultivation of advanced manufacturing jobs by expanding Manufacturing USA.
So who's this guy going up against the DCCC's establishment pick? Before he decided to run for Congress he was getting a name for himself as one of the people in the Obama administration who was serious about anti-trust. An economist for the Treasury Department, he has made a name for himself opposing Big Pharma monopolies and the proposed Monsanto-Bayer merger.

The best Iowa blog that I know of, Bleeding Heartland, is where I first heard of Frerick. Without endorsing anyone, they make a very compelling case for nominating him to take on Young.

About a month before Frerick stepped into the race, he wrote an OpEd for the Des Moines Register, To save rural Iowa, we must oppose Monsanto-Bayer merger.
Iowa farmers face a crisis. Crop prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, with no end in sight. At the same time, farmers hold more debt and possess fewer capital reserves to fall back on. In fact, farmers’ debt levels are almost as high as they were prior to the farm crisis of the mid-1980s.

Meanwhile, a wave of mergers among the world’s agricultural giants is upending the markets for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. If approved, the proposed merger would result in just two companies-- Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont-- controlling about three-quarters of the U.S. corn seed market. The power that these corporations would hold in the seed market is unprecedented.

Farmers are already being squeezed. The price of corn seed has more than doubled in the past 10 years-- from $51 per acre in 2006 to $102 in 2015-- as a result of similar consolidation, including Monsanto’s purchases of DeKalb and Cargill's international seed business. If the Monsanto-Bayer merger is permitted, this problem will only intensify, further limiting farmers’ choices and making the products they need even more expensive.

The merger does not just strengthen Monsanto’s control over the corn seed industry. It also helps the company grow its dominance in other areas, like fertilizers, pesticides, and precision farming technology. Monsanto’s goal is to bundle all of these products together, sort of like how a cable company bundles internet, phone and television. And just like with most cable companies, the service will be overpriced and shoddy because it will leave farmers with no other option.

Yet this mega-merger is moving forward with barely a murmur of concern from our elected officials in Washington. Not a single senator raised this matter at confirmation hearings for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Even worse, the nominee to lead the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division is a former lobbyist who asserted in a recent interview that “a monopoly is perfectly legal.” It is not surprising that Monsanto and Bayer alone spent $120 million in the last decade on lobbying elected officials at the federal level.

And while stopping the Monsanto-Bayer merger would be a good first step, we need to go even further to prevent these giants from bullying Iowa farmers. Monsanto and other agricultural giants like it are just too big. A century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts and monopolies of his time because he understood that the deck was stacked against consumers, farmers and small businesses.

We need to take a cue from Roosevelt and break up Monsanto and other Big Ag corporations like it. Time and again, studies have shown that monopolies result in less innovation, fewer choices and higher prices for farmers and consumers. We cannot continue to line the pockets of wealthy executives in far-off big cities. By breaking up these giants, we can restore competition and bring vitality back to Iowa’s rural communities.
Frerick is the kind of independent-minded, out-of-the-box candidate who can take back this district and defeat Young, wave or no wave, based on real issues that are important to Iowa voters, not to Beltway consultants. Another DCCC assembly line construct is not going to do it, no matter how much money she has.

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Question Du Jour: Who Is George Papadopoulos?


Comrade Papadopoulos proactively reaches inside to adjust his wire

Thumbnail: Papadopoulos was a Trump foreign policy adviser and the first of the Trumpanzee bandits to plead guilty in the Putin-Gate investigation. Now 30, he worked for the kooky right-wing think tank, the Hudson Institute from 2011 'til 2015 and then joined the Ben Carson presidential campaign. After Trump drove Dr. Ben out of the race, Papadopoulos, a pro-Putin operative, went to work for Trump. Currently the Trump Regime is describing him as "a hanger on" rather than as an actual member of the campaign. Everyone is eager to hear the tapes he made by wearing a wire for the FBI. Earlier, he had tried, unsuccessfully, setting up at least one meeting between candidate Trumpanzee and Czar Vladimir. Yesterday the Washington Post reported that "Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner who claimed to have high-level Russian connections. The agreement was unsealed Monday. Court documents described extensive efforts Papadopoulos made to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign, though some emails show his offers were rebuffed." Here's the full court document that was unsealed yesterday.

Papadopoulos ultimately admitted to lying to the FBI about his interactions with people he thought had connections with the Russian government. He has been cooperating with investigators for months-- having been first arrested and charged in July after landing at Dulles International Airport on a flight from Germany-- and has met with the government on “numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions,” according to a court filing.

...Papadopoulos’s case appears directly related to the investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In a January 2017 interview with the FBI, Papadopoulos told the agency that a London-based professor claimed to him he had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails.” But Papadopoulos said initially he viewed the professor as a “nothing.”

In reality, according to his plea, Papadopoulos understood the man had connections to Russian government officials, and he had treated him very seriously as he tried to arrange a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

After a March 2016 meeting with the man, who was not identified in court records, Papadopoulos emailed a campaign supervisor and other members of the campaign’s foreign policy team and claimed the professor had introduced him to “Putin’s niece” and the Russian ambassador in London.

Papadopoulos, a low-level member of the Trump campaign and a former intern and researcher at the conservative Hudson Institute, claimed the purpose was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

The government noted, in fact, the woman was not Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s niece, and while Papadopoulos expected the professor would introduce him to the Russian ambassador, that never happened. But in the months that followed, Papadopoulos continued to correspond with the woman and the professor about a possible meeting between the Trump campaign, possibly including Trump himself, and Russian officials.

“The Russian government has an open invitation by Putin for Mr. Trump to meet him when he is ready,” Papadopoulos wrote to a senior policy adviser for the campaign on April 25. Two days later, he emailed another high-ranking campaign official wanting “to discuss Russia’s interest in hosting Mr. Trump.”

The campaign officials were not identified in court records. Papadopoulos’s effort continued into the summer of 2016, and in August 2016 a campaign supervisor told Papadopoulos and another foreign policy adviser they should take a trip to Russia. That ultimately did not take place, according to the plea.
Was Papadopoulos the only "low level volunteer" and "coffee" boy at this table of Trump's top advisors?

NY Times reporter Matt Apuzzo explained that Papadopoulos' guilty plea "represents the most explicit evidence that the Trump campaign was aware that the Russian government was trying to help Mr. Trump and that the campaign was eager to accept that help. As part of that effort, the Russian government hacked Democratic accounts and released a trove of embarrassing emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. The Trump campaign has repeatedly denied any inside knowledge about that... The documents released on Monday said that several senior campaign officials knew about some of Mr. Papadopoulos’s interactions with the Russians." Unnamed, the "senior campaign officials" are presumed to include Manafort, Flynn, Kushner-in-law and Trumpanzee, Jr.

In January, Papadopoulos told the FBI that the mysterious professor was "a nothing" but has since admitted that he knew the professor had "substantial connections to Russian government officials." He also lied to the FBI by telling them in January, when they first interviewed him, that he began communicating with the professor and the bogus Putin niece before he became a Trump foreign policy adviser but has now confessed that he was trying to mislead the FBI and that the meetings took place after he was working for Trump.
“The professor only took interest in defendant Papadopoulos because of his status with the campaign; and the professor told defendant Papadopoulos about the ‘thousands of emails’ on or about April 26, 2016, when defendant Papadopoulos had been a foreign policy adviser to the campaign for over a month,” according to the documents.

In February, Mr. Papadopoulos deleted his Facebook account, which included his communications with the Russians. Later that month, he began using a new cellphone number.

The documents say that Mr. Papadopoulos knew that the professor had met with senior officials in Moscow to discuss Mrs. Clinton’s email.

Mr. Papadopoulos alerted his supervisor and several members of the foreign policy team about his contacts, referring to his “good friend” the professor and a woman he called Mr. Putin’s niece. The campaign supervisor-- who was not identified in the documents-- said in response that he would “work it through the campaign” and added “Great work.”

The Justice Department said that Mr. Papadopoulos had hurt their investigation.

“Through his false statements and omissions, defendant Papadopoulos impeded the F.B.I.’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” the documents said.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

The big day is here everybody! Happy Halloween! Of course, by everybody, I don't mean rightwing fake Christians. I know they don't like Halloween. They don't like to say "Happy Halloween." They don't even say "Happy Holiday". WTF! They look down on us for saying "Happy Halloween." It's some sort of political correctness or, should I say, religio-correctness kind of thing; something to do with witches or Satan, or something. Hell, the Christian wacko element has been engaging in their "War On Halloween" for a very, very long time, but that never stops me. So, I say it again. Happy Halloween! Happy Halloween! And again, Happy Halloween! Up yours Christonuts!

About today's meme: It's a picture of what is called a Trumpkin. Trumpkins are very big this year. People all around the country have been carving their pumpkins to look just like that fat-faced orange fascist freak who's infesting the White House. It's too easy. All you need is a knife and a pumpkin.

Some patriotic Americans have even left their Trumpkins out in front of their houses with signs that invite bratty neighborhood kids to blow them up with cherry bombs. I didn't do that but I did leave mine out on the front steps. The most interesting thing that's happened to it is not that spiders, maggots, and worms (all things traditionally associated with Trump) have naturally started to call it home. That hasn't happened, yet, but it will happen if I leave it out too long and the weather stays warm. No, the most interesting thing that has happened to my Trumpkin, so far, is that a raccoon came along and peed on it one night. Strangely, I swear I had carved my Trumpkin with sad eyes and a frown, but, ever since that raccoon came along and did what it did, my Trumpkin has the biggest smile and happiest eyes you ever saw. And the raccoon did it for free. Who wouldn't?

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Distracting From The Distractions That Distract From Other Distractions-- Paul Singer, Rubio And Bannon


Trump-world generates so much hair-on-fire news... how does anyone keep up? For example, I thought Bannon's pledge to Trump on Friday night to destroy GOP billionaire Paul Singer for financing the Steele pee-pee dossier on behalf of Marco Rubio, would be big news today. But then Trump's Kremlin-paid campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted on 12 charges including "conspiracy against the United States" and Trump campaign advisor George Papadopolous already pled guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian interference.

Singer and his group are the single biggest contributors to the NRSC, so exactly who Bannon wants to cripple in his campaign to replace mainstream Republicans senators with fascists. Singer, a bloodthirsty vulture capitalist preying on misfortune throughout the world, is not exactly a sympathetic figure. After Singer worked to elect Rubio, then derail Trump, he contributed $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee-- money that went straight into Trump's own pockets. From the Axios report that broke the Singer-Bannon story:
Trump loathed Singer during the campaign, when the billionaire was a lead financier of the "Never Trump" movement. But the two made up earlier this year, and Singer has been financially very helpful since Trump won the presidency... Bannon has long despised Singer. In Bannon's worldview, Singer belongs to a "globalist" cabal that favors open borders and includes other bogeymen and bogeywomen such as George Soros and Hillary Clinton. It's also helpful to Bannon that Singer has close ties Mitch McConnell-- the Senate GOP leader whom Bannon is obsessed with destroying.

Breitbart has been obsessing about Singer (and Little Marco) all weekend. Want to wade through this sewage?
5 Times Paul Singer Funded Globalist Nonsense Before the Anti-Trump Dossier
Anti-Trump Dossier Original Funder Paul Singer an Open Borders Establishment Republican Billionaire
Paul Singer-Funded Washington Free Beacon Behind Initial Fusion GPS Trump Effort
The Marco Rubio Connection: Senator Dodges Questions About Megadonor Paul Singer’s Funding of Anti-Trump Research Firm Behind Dossier
And while all this has the media's shared head exploding, Ryan and McConnell are moving to deliver on the one thing that keeps them glued to Trump: tax cuts for the billionaires (like Singer). As we pointed out on Sunday, the billionaires are threatening the abandon Trump and the GOP if they don't deliver the promised mammoth tax cuts. Ryan will unveil his final-- ever-changing-- plan on Wednesday. Ryan has been begging Trump to stop with all the twitter-feuds and distractions and just focus on the most important thing in the GOP universe: tx cuts for the rich. Trump, though, is heading for Asia for the early 2 weeks of the debate about some extremely controversial issues that the GOP needs his bold-faced lying for. They want him to keep repeating the Big Lie that the tax cuts will promote economic growth and jobs for Americans.

Ironically, when Ryan was asked if he worries that Trump will screw up the tax roll-out and tweet something insane that will blow up the whole project, Ryan's immediate response was "He’s going to be in Asia."

Key issues Ryan doesn't want Trump meddling in include the way the GOP is changing retirement planning by phasing out 401 (k) accounts, ending federal tax deductions for state and local taxes and mucking around the mortgage deductions. Trump admitted that the Republican plans are to use these popular programs as "bargaining chips." And while Trump blunders around he says if Ryan and McConnell can't get something passed-- he doesn't care what it is as long as it eliminates the estate tax-- they'll get the blame. "I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest," he said oddly (since he's never honest... about anything... ever.)

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GOP Tax Agenda Conflicts With Their Hopes To Keep Congressional Majorities In 2018


You've probably already seen the new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The headline was all about how Señor Trumpanzee's approval ratings had dropped to new lows. Trumpanzee's "job approval rating has declined to the lowest point of his presidency," was what everyone took away who looked at it. More important, at least for me, is that the preference for Democrats to take over Congress as a check on Trump, has continued to increase.
Looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, which take place a year from now, 48 percent of registered voters in the poll say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 41 percent want a Republican-controlled Congress.

That 7-point advantage for Democrats is up one point from September’s NBC/WSJ poll, but it’s smaller than the double digit margins they enjoyed in the 2006 and 2008 cycles, when they picked up a sizable number of congressional seats.

Still, a near-majority of voters, 46 percent, say their vote in November 2018 will be to send a message for more Democrats to serve as a check and balance to Trump and congressional Republicans.

That’s compared with 28 percent who say their vote will be a message for more Republicans to help Trump and congressional Republicans pass their agenda. Another 22 percent said their vote would be a different message than either of those two choices.

And the Republican advantage in GOP-held congressional districts has decreased from +14 in September (52 percent preferring a GOP-controlled Congress versus 38 percent preferring a Democratic-controlled Congress) to +6 in October (47 percent GOP, 41 percent Dem).

“This is a flashing yellow light for Republicans,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster.
Trump and the GOP are getting killed by independent voters, who have now turned away from the Republicans by big margins. Democrats will largely stick with Democrats and Republicans with Republics-- although turnout and enthusiasm are important factors-- but in most states, it is independents who will determine the outcomes. And they are OVER Trump and over Ryan and his Congress.

Tony Schwartz, the guy who wrote the book that made Trump famous, Art of the Deal tweeted yesterday that "Trump is consummate sociopathic grifter-- expert at deflection, deception, & misdirection. When base finally notices, it will be too late." A few hours later he tweeted that "Trump attacks rise when he feels most endangered. Transmutes his panic into rage in the face of tomorrow's indictment(s) by Mueller & team." He knows Trump better than anyone who writes about him and what he's been writing this year clearly points to a Trump who will continue alienating more and more voters-- for himself and for the Republicans in Congress.

Paul Ryan is a complete mess. He doesn't know how to deal with Trump and he's making it worse for himself and for his caucus. If the report over the weekend in Politico about Republican changes to home deductibility on federal taxes is true, the GOP won;'t be looking at a couple of dozen House seats lost; they'll be looking at a number closer to 100. The GOP plan would cost middle class homeowners thousands of dollars in increased taxes yearly so that Trump and Ryan could give multimillionares and billionaires giant tax breaks? How could anyone think this is a good idea?

The National Association of Home Builders on Saturday accused House Speaker Paul Ryan of abruptly reversing course on a mortgage tax credit proposal and announced it would oppose the tax-reform proposal that GOP lawmakers expect to unveil on Wednesday.

The about-face by the housing-industry lobbying group strips Republicans of a powerful ally. Tax breaks for homeowners have long been one of the flashpoints of any attempt to rewrite the nation's tax laws.

"All the resources we were going to put into supporting are now going to go into opposing the plan," NAHB Chief Executive Officer Jerry Howard told Politico.

Homebuilders and other groups had been working with Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) on a plan to preserve tax breaks for homeowners. House Republicans have been planning to weaken the deduction that home mortgage borrowers currently get for the interest they pay on their mortgages by raising the standard deduction, leading much of the housing lobby to line up against the plan.

As an alternative, Brady had agreed to a tax credit that would combine mortgage interest and local property taxes, Howard said.

Friday night, Brady told Howard that that idea had been rejected by House leadership. In a phone call Saturday, Ryan said rank-and-file members weren't comfortable with the concept of a homeownership tax credit, Howard said.

"I don’t think it's fair of the speaker to take a concept that his own committee chair is in favor of and deep-six it without vetting it with the conference," Howard said.

"He told me there wasn’t enough time and the concept would not be put into the document," Howard said. "I told the speaker candidly we had shopped the proposal to the White House and we had support there."

A Ryan spokeswoman confirmed the call had taken place but had no other comment.

...A person familiar with the tax discussions said rank-and-file House members weren't well-versed on the concept of a mortgage and property tax credit. The idea also wasn't consistent with the original GOP framework, this person said.

The framework called for preservation of "tax incentives for home mortgage interest" but didn't explicitly endorse the mortgage-interest deduction.

The mortgage-interest deduction has been widely criticized by economists and housing advocates because most of its benefits flow to wealthier Americans. A tax credit, by contrast, reach more low- and moderate-income buyers, especially under the GOP framework, which increases the standard deduction.

"Under the framework, the mortgage-interest deduction becomes simply a subsidy for the very wealthy," Howard said. "It doesn’t do anything to promote homeownership."
Last week, the Chicago Tribune looked very pointedly at how the Ryan tax bill could affect property taxes and mortgage interest. Reporter Ken Harney noted that "the political jostling and frenetic lobbying on Capitol Hill over the Republican tax overhaul bill are producing unexpected developments that could prove important to homeowners, sellers and buyers. The drafting of legislative language is a work in progress behind closed doors, but it appears that there have been some key changes in thinking since the White House and congressional Republicans released their 'framework' for the tax bill Sept. 27."
One of the biggest shifts involves deductions of state and local taxes. Republican tax plans have called for a doubling of the standard deduction-- to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint filers-- paired with the elimination of a slew of popular write-offs, including the state and local taxes deduction.

The so-called SALT deduction is among the most widely used in the U.S. tax code, and it includes income taxes, general sales taxes and property taxes. Eliminating it would raise federal revenues by an estimated $1.3 trillion over the coming 10 years. Zeroing-out SALT has been a crucial element in the Republican tax framework, which badly needs revenue-raisers to counter deep losses caused by rate cuts for corporations and others.

Homeowners, especially in the high tax corridors of the Northeast; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia; parts of the Midwest; and California, are among SALT's heaviest users. Most of these areas have higher-than-average home prices and household incomes. They tend to vote Democratic but have some Republican representation in the House and Senate.

Those blue-state Republicans, in fact, have been a key force behind the rethinking on SALT. They know their constituents would be disproportionately affected by a total elimination of the SALT deduction, and they've lobbied House and Senate tax-writing committee leaders for relief. Among the possibilities:
Allowing homeowners to write off property taxes, but not income or sales taxes.
Giving homeowners the choice of either writing off state and local taxes or mortgage interest, but not both.
Setting a household income ceiling for eligibility to take the SALT deduction.
It's not clear which, if any, of these might show up in a final legislative package, but the SALT issue is definitely in play. Any of these changes would lower revenues compared with completely eliminating SALT deductions. Limiting the deductions to property taxes but not income or sales taxes, for instance, would cost the government an estimated $300 billion over 10 years. But compromising on SALT would solidify political support for the tax plan among blue-state Republicans, whose votes could be essential to passage.

Another noteworthy area where there's been some rethinking: the mortgage interest deduction. Under the framework proposal, this popular benefit would be left untouched in the tax code. But doubling the standard deduction would mean that far fewer homeowners would choose to itemize and claim it. As a result, say critics, the deduction will be watered down as a financial spur to homebuying. The 1.2 million member National Association of Realtors has been outspoken in demanding that tax writers preserve the effectiveness of the deduction. But in recent weeks, other major housing groups, such as the National Association of Home Builders and the Mortgage Bankers Association, have expressed willingness to explore alternatives-- and that has helped spark interest in creating a new form of subsidy: a mortgage tax credit, perhaps in conjunction with a substantial reduction in the current $1 million ceiling on deductions for mortgage interest.

Under the credit concept, borrowers might be able to subtract some percentage-- say 10 or 15 percent-- of interest payments off their federal tax bottom line, no matter what their income tax bracket. (Deductions, unlike credits, vary based on tax brackets; the higher your bracket, the bigger your deduction.)

J.P. Delmore, a top lobbyist for the home builders association, said his group is seeing “serious interest” in the credit idea. “There is a recognition that a properly crafted credit would provide a broad, meaningful tax incentive to millions of middle-class homeowners who do not itemize currently,” he said. In a speech last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, confirmed that he is open to re-examining the mortgage interest deduction, including ways to open it up to “all phases of homeownership.” A credit, which would be available to nonitemizers, would fit that description, say supporters of the idea.

Where's this all headed? Republican leaders hope to pass their tax overhaul bill before the end of the year. That's optimistic. But keep this in mind: Whatever happens to the bill, there's a surprising willingness afoot to re-evaluate decades-old approaches to encouraging homeownership with tax benefits while simplifying the tax code.
We'll see how that plays out in the midterm elections in districts with high homeownership, like Orange County and Texas districts like TX-07, TX-21 and TX-32, where GOP incumbents John Culberson, Lamar Smith and Pete Sessions are holding on by a thread. As for Paul Ryan, DC scuttlebutt is that he's realized he can't beat Randy Bryce and that he'll announce his retirement as soon as the GOP passes his tax bill, probably this spring.

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