The Right’s Grifter Problem

FROM THE NATIONAL REVIEW

by Jim Geraghty

The following are excerpts from a recent National Review article.  Not everyone saying they are supporting conservative causes or trying to wrap themselves in all things President Trump are what they say they are.  They are offered for your consideration.

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Back in 2013, Conservative StrikeForce PAC raised $2.2 million in funds vowing to support Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign for governor in Virginia. Court filings and FEC records showed that the PAC only contributed $10,000 to Cuccinelli’s effort.

Back in 2014, Politico researched 33 political action committees that claimed to be affiliated with the Tea Party and courted small donors with email and direct-mail appeals and found that they “raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs.”

Back in 2015, RightWingNews reviewed the financial filings of 21 prominent conservative PACs and found the ten 10 groups at the bottom of their list spent $54.3 million only paid out $3.6 million to help get Republicans elected.

In 2016, Roger Stone founded the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness. It raised $587,000 and spent $16,000 on independent expenditures supporting Trump.

In 2016, Great America PAC raised $28.6 million from donors. They donated $30,125 to federal candidates. In 2018, Great America PAC raised $8.3 million from donors. They donated $31,840 to federal candidates.

In the 2018 cycle, Tea Party Majority Fund raised $1.67 million and donated $35,000 to federal candidates. That cycle, Conservative Majority Fund raised just over $1 million and donated $7,500 to federal candidates. Conservative Strikeforce raised $258,376 and donated nothing to federal candidates.

Put Vets First PAC raised $3.9 million in the 2018 cycle; they gave $9,000 to federal candidates.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that David Bossie’s group, Presidential Coalition, had raised $18.5 million in 2017 and 2018 to support state and local candidates in furtherance of the Trump agenda. Only $425,442, or 3 percent, went to direct political activity.

When these individuals get called out for the way they’re spending donors’ money, they revert to a familiar responses of denial, evasion, and blaming the messenger. When asked about how little of the money his group raised was spent on political activity, Bossie’s first response was “this is fake news brought to you by a collaboration of the biased liberal media and unabashed left-wing activists.” Never mind the fact that the criticism was based upon his own group’s periodic reports of contributions and expenditures with the IRS (forms 8872) in addition to annual tax returns (forms 990).

Of course, assessing that folks like David Bossie and Roger Stone are part of a major impediment to the effectiveness of the conservative cause means criticizing people who are considered close to Donald Trump. And for far too many inattentive grassroots conservatives, an association with Donald Trump is a moral get-out-of-jail-free card — even when these guys are acting contrary to the president’s interests and putting their own self-interest first. There are a lot of self-proclaimed watchdogs that will find it easier and more convenient to bark at whatever talking head said something about Trump on Morning Joe that day rather than point out that former allies of the president are using his name to raise money and line their own pockets, diverting funds away from efforts that would actually help the president enact his agenda. If you’re a Trump supporter, you should be livid with these guys.

See the entire article here.

https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/the-real-problem-conservatism-faces-today/

 

 

No such thing as a “temporary” tax in Nevada

This letter originally appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Kudos to state Senate Republicans for challenging the unconstitutional Modified Business Tax extension. The voter-approved, two-thirds constitutional requirement for any tax increase is too vital a taxpayer protection to diminish.

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But on the heels of this legal challenge, one may be inclined to ask: Do taxes ever actually sunset as planned? There’s plenty of recent evidence to suggest “temporary” taxes, in practice, are about as rare as unicorns. Besides the MBT extension, here are a few other “temporary” taxes that have already been, or are likely soon to be, extended into perpetuity:

— DMV technology fee — This $1 fee was supposed to expire in June 2020, but Senate Bill 542 of the 2019 session extended the fee for at least two years. This extension is also being challenged in the pending litigation, having been approved with less than two-thirds support in the Senate.

— Clark County’s “more cops” sales tax — The authorizing legislation called for a sunset date of October 2025. However, Assembly Bill 443 of the 2019 session eliminated the sunset provision.

— The Southern Nevada Water Authority sales tax — This 0.25-point sales tax increase is set to expire in six years. However, the authority recently voted to ask the Clark County Commission to drop the sunset provision.

So when politicians promise a tax will be temporary, voters should proceed as if it will eventually be made permanent and act accordingly.

Printed with permission from NPRI.

Our “Awesome Daughter” Turns Eighteen

By Ron Knecht – 22July2019

Our daughter Karyn turns 18 this week.

The two greatest days of my life were when I married Kathy and when, three years later, Karyn was born.  I was awestruck as the doctor handed me the dark-haired little angelic bundle.

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In a few weeks, her hair fell out – not uncommon for newborns – and we called her “Little Baldy.”  Her new hair was ash blond, lighter even than Kathy’s.  It waxed golden brown over the years and now reaches her waist.

Like many fathers, I had visions of what she would become.  She’d be a great athlete, a fine engineer, economist and lawyer, and a Renaissance polymath.  Things her daddy aspired to.

But she has little interest in athletics and only somewhat more in engineering, economics and law.  Nonetheless, she’s become an energetic, bright, creative and engaging young lady with a wide range of interests and skills.  A glib tongue and wicked sense of humor.

Her vivaciousness wasn’t certain from the start.  In preschool, she seemed like a closed up little flower in the corner.  When she turned five, we had her tested at a private school.  They said she wasn’t yet ready for kindergarten.

So, we took her to the local public schools.  I foolishly spilled the opinion of the private school, and the district assigned her to a developmental program, where she was the tallest and least in need of special help, as Kathy noted in helping with the class.

There, she and a classmate bonded to the great benefit of both.  At year’s end, we went to conference with the staff, expecting her to be promoted to regular first grade because she had done so well.  Instead, we got the A word: autistic spectrum disorder.  She would not be promoted to regular first grade.

We left with Kathy crying and me profoundly upset, believing the funding the school would get for an ASD student had influenced the decision.  Watching a developmental first grade class convinced us that putting her there would be a sentence, not a help.

Finally, Daddy had a non-linear thought: Let’s go back to the private school and see if they would take her in their regular kindergarten class after her year of growth.  In about 30 seconds of interviewing, they declared they’d love to have her in their next class.

I was surprised they gave letter grades in kindergarten, and based on experience, I had adjusted my expectations as I opened her first report card.  I was shocked with delight: straight A’s!!

Later, at her request, we put her in online home school, which has been even more academically challenging and satisfying for all of us.  Her junior year chemistry class this year was broader, deeper and more rigorous than the chemistry majors’ class I took as a college sophomore.

She’s worked harder and been more successful than I allowed myself to hope, with nine A’s for every B.  She truly is the best-behaved and most mature kid I’ve ever known.  For example, after being accepted by a modelling and talent agency, Karyn was selected for their team at the annual International Modelling and Talent Show last January.  Despite our encouragement, she declined that opportunity to study and keep up her grades to get into the university of her choice.

She wants to be a director and film-maker, and she loves all behind-the-camera aspects of the art.  She scripts, films, edits and posts her own videos on YouTube and photos on Instagram.  She creates her own sets and props, and even has a green screen and sophisticated lighting and camera equipment in her room.  And she very well understands the marketing aspects of the business, while maintaining a realistic understanding of the challenges she faces.

Daddy’s the luckiest boy ever, having the perfect wife and the “Awesome Daughter.”

Five years ago, Karyn fell in love with American Girl dolls and now has a great collection of them and accessories.  She takes great care of them and uses them in her videos and photos.  So, for her birthday this year, we took her to the annual AG warehouse sale in Wisconsin that benefits a children’s museum.

Happy birthday, Karyn, with all our love forever.

Ron Knecht has served Nevada as state controller, a higher education regent, college teacher, legislator and economist.  Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.

Things Really Are Much Better Than They Used to Be

By Ron Knecht – 6August2019

Many folks have had enough of the anger, condescension, dishonesty, hate, bitterness, aggression, etc. that are so plentiful these days.  So, despite my inclination to answer so much of it (and it needs to be answered), I write today about some reasons to be grateful for the world we inhabit — and hopeful about the future.

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Our family recently travelled back to the Midwest for the biennial coast-to-coast extended family reunion on my mother’s side.  The fact that many folks can travel economically such long distances for brief stays is something to appreciate, because it wasn’t possible in the past and still isn’t in most of the world today.

Mom’s the oldest surviving member of the family, while our daughter Karyn’s the youngest of her generation of cousins.  So Karyn has had a great opportunity to learn first-hand some real and important history others get only in passing in school.

Her grandmother, until she turned eight, was a barefoot, dust-bowl, depression era Kansas farm girl.  My grandparents (Mom’s parents) did well as young farmers in the Kansas farm boom of the 1920s, but as the water table sank, their well went dry and they lost the farm.

Having been diligent and productive farmers and paid their loan to the end, the bank asked them to take over a farm that still had water but had been abandoned by folks who went to California.  When the well at the second farm also went dry, the bank asked them to try once more.

When the third farm went dry too, as the water table continued downward, they gave up farming and moved into Wichita.  From my grandfather’s funeral many years later, the salient thing I remember is he continued to deliver eggs to neighbors even when they couldn’t pay.

Mom vividly remembers that the only time she ever saw her parents cry was after they moved into town and the pastor came to tell them he had found Grandpa a job.  They cried at the family table because they knew their seven (soon to be ten) children would not go hungry.  Those were really hard times.

Karyn also has such a story on her mother’s side from the same period.  Kathy’s dad’s family owned a restaurant (25-cent full meals!) and then a general store in Lily, South Dakota, population 33.  As things went downhill for everyone, they had to accept barter from folks at the store because no one had cash.

Ultimately, they couldn’t make the last payment on the family car and lost it, and then the store closed.  They packed everything they could into their suitcases, including the family silverware, and boarded a train for the west coast.  Eventually they landed in California, where Dad and his father worked in the Marin shipyards in World War II (and Dad caught asbestos fibers in his lung that killed him half a century later).

As I told Karyn when we watched Ken Burns’s documentary, The Dust Bowl, that was something of a family history for her.  But both families worked hard and prospered after the war.  Kathy and I have been more fortunate than most, and so today Karyn will be able to go to college wherever she can get in.

Not everyone has been so fortunate, but a very large percentage of the population lives much better today than their forebears.

For example, in the last century, the portion of the average family budget that goes for food has declined from 25 percent to less than 10 percent.  And over half of today’s food dollar is spent eating out, with much greater selection than at home and no dish-washing.  A couple of years ago Karyn ordered Australian lobster at an Elko restaurant in February – something completely unheard of when I was her age.  (Yeah, I really said that.)

Clothes, furniture, tools and all kinds of material things are plentiful and inexpensive today.  So, much of our spending now goes to goods and services only the very wealthy could afford in previous decades.

Yes, economic growth has slowed, and we may not see such rapid progress going forward.  But next time I’ll give some reasons to be hopeful and optimistic for the future.

Ron Knecht has served Nevada as state controller, a higher education regent, college instructor, state legislator and economist.  Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.

GOP lawsuit vital to protecting our representative system of government

GOP lawsuit vital to protecting our representative system of government

Robert Fellner ,  NPRI Director of Policy

 

In an effort to defend our state constitution and representative system of government, the Senate Republican Caucus recently filed a lawsuit to invalidate a pair of tax hikes that were passed without the constitutionally required two-thirds support.

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After successive, landslide votes in 1994 and 1996, Nevadans amended the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the Legislature to pass any bill “which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form.”

Thus, when Senate Democrats sought to pass a pair of bills that would prevent the expiration of one tax and the scheduled decline of another, most expected those bills would require at least two-thirds support to pass.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau, however, determined that a bill which prevents the scheduled decline of an existing tax does not increase revenue and, as such, can be passed by a simple majority vote.

While most would consider the two-thirds provision to be remarkably clear, the LCB found it vague and ambiguous, and ultimately concluded that it only applies to bills that create a new tax or directly increase an existing one.

The LCB claimed that when the constitution references a bill that “creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form,” it’s actually only referring to bills that “directly increase revenue,” either by overtly raising an existing tax or creating a new one.

But such an interpretation is strictly prohibited by the rules of statutory construction as articulated by the Nevada Supreme Court, which requires courts to avoid rendering any constitutional text “meaningless or superfluous.”

Because the text of the two-thirds provision references any bill that “creates, generates, or increases” any public revenue, even if one finds that text unclear and in need of further clarification, the resultant definition must be more expansive than just bills which directly increase revenue, in order to prevent rendering the terms of “creates” and “generates” meaningless.

In other words, the constitutional text of “creates, generates, or increases” cannot be reduced to just “increases.”

This is why the LCB’s citation to the state Supreme Courts of Oregon and Oklahoma is not persuasive, as both of those courts were interpreting the narrower phrase of “bills for raising revenue.”

So, what might Nevada’s much broader language apply to, beyond just new taxes or increases in existing taxes as the LCB contends?

Ironically, the answer can be found in the LCB’s own exploration of the intent and purpose of these types of voter-approved constitutional amendments, which were enacted “in response to a growing concern among voters about increasing tax burdens.”

Semantics might allow one to claim that preventing a tax from declining as scheduled isn’t technically a direct increase in revenue, but it unquestionably generates revenue and, more to the point, increases the burden imposed on taxpayers.

Taxes can be thought of as financial instruments where the government collects payments from the public in exchange for producing certain goods or services. Just like bonds or other forms of financial instruments that provide fixed payments over a defined time period, the duration of these instruments is just as important, if not more so, than the payment amount.

One of the unconstitutional bills being challenged by the GOP lawsuit is Senate Bill 542. In 2015, the Legislature imposed a temporary $1 fee that would be collected for five years in order to offset the cost of a new computer system for the DMV.

Nevadans dutifully paid the fee, which raised more than expected, but the new computer system was never implemented after the contractor wasted nearly $30 million due to gross negligence, corruption or both.

Because failure in government is routinely rewarded, the Legislature responded by passing a bill that extended the tax, rather than letting it expire as the original statute required. But notice the absurdity of the LCB’s position: a bill that imposed a $1 fee to be collected for five years would trigger the two-thirds majority, but a bill that would make that fee permanent would not, despite the fact that it would unquestionably impose a much larger burden on taxpayers and yield significantly more revenue than the original bill.

That is basically what happened with Senate Bill 551, which prevented the Modified Business Tax (MBT) from declining as scheduled and, instead, made the higher rate permanent.

Businesses plan and invest based on anticipated long-term costs, including taxes. By changing the law to prevent a scheduled decline in the MBT from taking effect, SB551 unquestionably increased the cost of doing business in Nevada. And because higher taxes on businesses has been empirically shown to reduce job creation, the burden imposed by SB551 will extend to all Nevadans.

Thus, by ignoring the increased taxpayer burden that comes from extending the duration of a tax, the LCB position not only contradicts the plain text of the two-thirds provision, but also its intent.

Adopting the LCB’s position would also create profoundly perverse incentives that would encourage legislators to deceive the public.

Future legislators seeking to raise taxes will face a choice: advertise the proposed tax hike as permanent and reduce the chance of getting it passed, or promise that it will be temporary and increase the chance of getting it passed, knowing it can then be made permanent the following session with a simple majority vote.

This is not a hypothetical concern. Part of the reason Republican lawmakers voted for the Commerce Tax in 2015 was because the law required that some of the added cost would be partially offset by a scheduled reduction in the MBT. As Senator Ben Kieckhefer reportedly said, the scheduled reduction in the MBT “was a mechanism that was inserted specifically to function as it is functioning now and to unravel that, unravels the entire concept of what we approved in 2015.”

By ignoring the plain text of the two-thirds provision and proceeding to reinterpret it in a way that renders multiple parts of the text meaningless, the LCB violates two of the most fundamental rules of statutory construction: First, that courts may not look beyond the statute’s language if it is clear and unambiguous on its face and second, that any reinterpretation of the statute is done in a way that avoids rendering any part of the text meaningless or superfluous.

Further, the LCB interpretation violates the intent of the two-thirds provision by ignoring basic economic, financial and legal principles to falsely claim that extending a tax’s duration does not represent an increase in the revenue collected or burden imposed on taxpayers.

Finally, the LCB interpretation leads to a set of political incentives that encourage legislators to deceive the members of the public they ostensibly represent.

In a representative system of government, where all political power is inherent in the people, it should take much more than semantics and wordplay to subvert the plain text of a constitutional amendment that voters approved by a landslide margin, twice.

The judiciary must uphold the intent and plain meaning of the constitution and require a two-thirds majority vote for any bill that creates, generates or increases any public revenue in any form, so that Nevadans are protected against rising tax burdens, as intended.

 

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