A quick note: This episode was recorded on October 31, 2020, before Election Day or any of the subsequent events surrounding the results or the transition process.
Like many Americans in the run up to the presidential election, we had politics on the brain, and our state of mind is reflected in this episode. After a quick check-in, we dive headlong into a discussion of the strong connection between money and politics in the US. First, in our Flipping the New segment, we examine the New York Times’ report on Trump’s tax documents, with brief digressions for beards, scamming, and the Constitution along the way. For the Main Event, we move beyond the soon-to-be ex-President’s taxes and business dealings to discuss the role that money has always played in US politics and all of the ways that money influences who holds political power. The Electoral College doesn’t meet until December 14, but even after the new administration takes office on January 20, 2021, huge questions remain: why is it so expensive to run for office? How representative can a democracy possibly be if elected officials are more likely to listen to a corporation than they are to their constituents? If it doesn’t have to be this way, what can we do to ensure that the US actually has a “government of, by, and for the people?”
Show notes and bonus material under the cut:
- The New York Times’ full reporting on Trump’s tax information
- 18 key takeaways from the full Trump tax documents story for those who’d rather read a digest. (The New York Times)
- What the emoluments clause of the Constitution says and what that actually means.
- Ethics experts on the potential problems with Trump’s personal debt.
- Why Trump’s debt could be a national security risk
- If the shoe fits…
- From the Conversation: Trump’s ultra-low tax bill as a consequence of using taxes as an engine of social policy.
- Speaking of taxes and social policy: More about one of the more unusual ways of using taxes to influence behavior tsar Peter I (The Great)’s beard tax. (Smithsonian Magazine)
- The costs of running for president over the last 40 years, visualized (Howmuch.net)
- Business organizations, including the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are inserting themselves into public conversation about the upcoming election, releasing an open letter asking voters to “trust the process” amid what could be weeks or months of uncertainty about the results. [this is, of course, a preemptive attempt to head off social unrest around the election, which could be bad for business domestically and internationally].
- How the Federal Election Commission limits political contributions
- From the Brenan Center: What was the decision in Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission, and what does it mean for US politics?
- What is a PAC? (Investopedia)
- How lobbying works in all 50 US states.
- From Opensecrets.org: The top federal lobbying spenders in 2020 so far.
- Also from Opensecrets.org: Dark money, explained.
- From the Associated Press: Judges in Florida rule that all of the people previously convicted of felonies who had their right to vote restored with the passage of Amendment 4 in 2018 will need to pay all court and legal fees, fines, and restitution associated with their cases before being allowed to cast a ballot.
- From the Pew Research Center: How address requirements are being used to disenfranchise Indigenous voters
- From NPR: How much does it cost to cast a ballot in the US? (Audio with transcript)
- The costs of voting in the United States go beyond money.
- From the National Council of State Legislatures: The state of public election funding in the US.
- From DCist: Assessing the impact of the District of Columbia’s public election financing program
- From the Campaign Legal Center (h/t Marketplace): Who is paying for the Trump campaign’s lawsuits and recounts?
- Protect the Sacred founder Allie Young talks to Harpers Bazaar about organizing “Ride to the Polls,” an initiative aimed at increasing turnout among young Native American voters, the power of early voting on horseback, and the barriers to voting that still exist for Indigenous communities across the US.(Harper’s Bazaar)
- The important role of the Navajo Nation in turning Arizona blue.
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