Corruption draws certain types of characters to DC the way flies are drawn to horse barns. And while there's never quite been anyone like El Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee before, who actually told the NY Times yesterday that “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this… The law's totally on my side, the president can't have a conflict of interest.” With about 2 million votes fewer than Clinton and not even voted president by the Electoral College, he's already using Trump Tower as a virtual Office of Emoluments, using his claims to the presidency to benefit his company and his family on a daily basis. Yeah, he's a disgusting animal but it's rare to find a conservative who isn't corrupt, even if their corruption doesn't rise to a Trumpian level.
Take Aaron Schock for example, a smug, right-wing little asshole– and self-loathing, anti-gay closet case– from Peoria, who was forced to resign from Congress last year. Monday the details of his 24-count indictment started coming out. People already knew about some of the basics– embezzling and stealing public funds, using campaign contributions to finance his lavish and racy lifestyle, charging the taxpayers $40,000 to redecorate his office to look like the set of the Downton Abbey TV show… all the regular stuff conservatives do in DC. He even used his clout to buy early Super Bowl tickets and then resold them at a hefty profit closer to the event.
But one for the books was his little side profit center of arranging for tours for his constituents– for a $785 fee, a fee that, in part, went right into his own personal bank account (a secret Florida bank account under a fictitious name that he set up for his ill-gotten gains). He was actually charging the voters from the suburbs of Peoria, Springfield and Bloomington to see a bit of DC and then have a meet-and-greet with the handsome young congressman who was always eagerly posing half nude for men's magazines.
His high-priced crooked lawyer says that the money seized from the secret bank account was going to possibly be used for future events for his constituents, referring to the thousands of stolen dollars as “small amounts.” Schock could face 20 years behind bars but he's white and well-connected so will probably just get a slap on the wrist sentence and back on the DC gay bar circuit in less than a year.
That would be penny-ante corruption compared to the course Trump has already embarked on. But there's a different kind of corruption that haunts American politics as well– as we see it everywhere and everyday– a kind of corruption that destroys the fabric of American democracy itself. Yesterday we mentioned that Wisconsin had a 4% drop off in voter participation compared to 2012. That was part of what made Trump president. And yesterday Michael Wines wrote about one of the reasons for that– GOP gerrymandering. “A panel of three federal judges,” he wrote, “said on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue. Federal courts have struck down gerrymanders on racial grounds, but not on grounds that they unfairly give advantage to a political party– the more common form of gerrymandering. The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it.”
Should the court affirm the ruling, it could upend the next round of state redistricting, in 2021, for congressional and state elections nationwide, most of which is likely to be conducted by Republican-controlled legislatures that have swept into power in recent years.
…Several election-law scholars said the ruling was especially significant because it offered, for the first time, a clear mathematical formula for measuring partisanship in a district, something that had been missing in previous assaults on gerrymandering.
The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin said that the Legislature’s remapping violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it aimed to deprive Democratic voters of their right to be represented. “Although Wisconsin’s natural political geography plays some role in the apportionment process,” the court wrote, “it simply does not explain adequately the sizable disparate effect” of Republican gains in the State Assembly after the boundaries were redrawn.
…[The] lawsuit said that in the 2012 elections for the Assembly, Wisconsin Republicans won 48.6 percent of the two-party vote but took 61 percent of the Assembly’s 99 seats.
Way too partisan, the judges found. And now there are serious questions if there was enough actual vote-fraud in Wisconsin to have taken the state out of Clinton's column and given it– inappropriately– to Trump. But none of this kind of corruption is likely to interest the new Trumpy-the-Clown Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (KKK-AL). He's more worried about citizens of states voting to end marijuana prohibition, which is what happened in California last week. Sunday, we heard from leaders in the cannabis industry about their expectations from the probable Attorney General. Yesterday, Mike McPhate singled out what Sessions could mean for legalization in California which was just approved 6,688,081 (56.4%) to 5,160,375 (43.6%).
Cannabis is illegal under federal law, and if Mr. Sessions were to be confirmed, many supporters of legalization worry that his past remarks about marijuana could portend a crackdown.
“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized,” Mr. Sessions said at a Senate hearing in April.
Thomas Fuller, our San Francisco bureau chief, wrote on Monday about the fragility of the truce that has existed between the federal government and states that have legalized the drug.
So, what are we to make of Mr. Sessions?
We asked John Hudak at the Brookings Institution to help explain. Mr. Hudak’s research has focused on state and federal marijuana policy. His book, Marijuana: A Short History, was published in October.
• How worried should California’s emerging marijuana industry be about Mr. Sessions?
As attorney general, Sessions would have the ability to rescind two Justice Department directives– known as the Cole and Ogden memos– that called for stepping back from marijuana prosecutions. He could also use federal law enforcement power against operators and sue state regulators to block state systems. The only person who can stop the attorney general is the president, and it is unclear whether Trump will direct or delegate drug policy– the latter option being what should worry California the most.
• What’s your read on Mr. Trump’s posture toward states with legal marijuana?
Trump has made statements that seem supportive of states’ rights around marijuana and made others that are unclear. It is also unclear whether this is a policy he will direct from the White House or just let his attorney general steer this ship. It all means, pot policy in the U.S. is up in the air.
• What might a marijuana crackdown in California look like?
First, the Justice Department would likely sue the state to prevent the enforcing of Prop 64. They could use other law enforcement entities– outside of the Drug Enforcement Administration– to begin physical crackdowns on existing operators. The law enforcement efforts would be expensive. The litigation approach might be cheaper and easier– if less effective.
• What does all this mean for the individual consumer?
It would be nearly impossible for federal officials to arrest every marijuana consumer in California (or elsewhere), but if the Trump administration strikes at the heart of the industry– shutting down the supply chain– it would drive producers underground and consumers back to the black market.
And it could take attention away from actual corrupt, the kind of corruption Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has no intention of having the Justice Department involved in.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis