Wednesday, March 29, 2017

With Trump Struggling, Wealthy Backers Rush in to Shore Him Up



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With Trump Struggling, Wealthy Backers Rush in to Shore Him Up

Joshua Green


President Donald Trump listens in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2017.© AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Donald Trump listens in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

(Bloomberg) -- With President Donald Trump trying to find his footing after his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a group of wealthy backers is launching a 10-state media blitz to pressure Democratic senators to support him -- or at least think twice about piling on.

Making America Great, a nonprofit run by Rebekah Mercer, one of Trump’s most influential donors, will begin airing $1 million in television ads on Wednesday, coupled with a $300,000 digital advertising campaign. The TV ads will run in the District of Columbia, along with ten states Trump carried in the presidential election where a Democratic senator is up for re-election in 2018: West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Montana and Pennsylvania. The digital campaign also will focus on voters in those states.

“Our group will be a conduit to highlight President Trump’s achievement to the rest of the country,” says Emily Cornell, who is moving from the Mercer-funded data firm Cambridge Analytica to run Making America Great’s day-to-day operations. “We are here to promote successes and hold accountable broken promises -- not just to those who voted for Trump, but to all Americans.”

Trump can use the PR boost. On March 27, Gallup reported his job approval rating fell to a new low of 36 percent, two points lower than his predecessor, Barack Obama, ever reached during his eight-year tenure in the White House.

The president could soon face added difficulties from House Republicans in passing legislation to keep the government running. Current funding runs out later this month. He’ll also have to contend with Democratic opposition to his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Trump donors, including Mercer, were upset that the Trump-backed Republican health care bill did not receive more outside support to counter its critics.

“Over the last couple weeks, we’ve aggressively tried to launch Making America Great,” says David Bossie, the group’s chief strategist. “We have the full support of the White House, and our effort is proud to be stepping up to help President Trump move his agenda forward.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Making America Great’s first television ad emphasizes Trump’s early accomplishments: the 298,000 jobs created during his first month in office, his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The ad does not mention the health-care bill.

In addition to Mercer, a daughter of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who was one of Trump’s most important backers during the presidential campaign, the new group’s donors include Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot Inc., and W.E. Bosarge, the chief executive officer of Houston-based Capital Technologies Inc.

Bosarge did not immediately return a call for comment. A spokesman for Marcus would neither confirm nor deny his involvement with the group.

The new advertising campaign marks the belated public entry of outside groups formed after the election to provide support for Trump and his agenda. In December, Mercer registered Making America Great as a nonprofit. At around the same time, a group of Trump campaign aides led by digital director Brad Parscale formed a different nonprofit, America First Policies.

On March 23, one of those aides, Rick Gates, left the group over concerns about his relationship with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who has offered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee about his ties to Russia. Bossie, too, was among the former Trump aides who started America First Policies. Bossie has now defected to Mercer’s group.

“We’re hopeful that everybody can work together,” Bossie said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Green in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wes Kosova at, Michael Shepard, Michael B. Marois

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Federal judge in Hawaii extends court order blocking Trump travel ban

Federal judge in Hawaii extends court order blocking Trump travel ban

Reuters 55 minutes ago

ONOLULU (Reuters) - A federal judge in Hawaii indefinitely extended on Wednesday an order blocking enforcement of President Donald Trump's revised ban on travel to the United States from six predominantly Muslim countries.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson turned an earlier temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by the state of Hawaii challenging Trump's travel directive as unconstitutional religious discrimination.

Trump signed the new ban on March 6 in a bid to overcome legal problems with a January executive order that caused chaos at airports and sparked mass protests before a Washington judge stopped its enforcement in February. Trump has said the travel ban is needed for national security.

Hawaii and other opponents of the ban claim that the motivation behind it is based on religion and Trump's election campaign promise of "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

(Reporting by Hunter Haskins in Honolulu; Additional reporting and writing by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Ken McBee’s views on the Belvidere Township Highway Department



It’s more than snowplowing and filling potholes…

By Ken McBee

As I campaign, one of the remarks that I often get is “can you plow snow and fill potholes?”    This is a benchmark question of most residents. The answer is Yes I want to point out how this job is much more than plowing snow, mowing grass or filling potholes. Though these are very important aspects of the department, the Township Highway department has a very qualified staff of employees that I will work with and beside to get the job done.  It is very important to lead by example.   I will foster an atmosphere of pride and productivity among the employees in the work we do for our township. I will bring needed skills to this office and be ready to serve you on day one. I also will have the benefit of a well-trained and able road crew.

My first employment was operating heavy earth moving equipment in Byron.  I have learned how to properly supervise employees with respect, contract for services from vendors, and prepare and manage large budgets. I have successfully managed my own company for 27 years and will bring this experience and drive to the Belvidere Township Highway Department as well.  I do want to point out that the current office holder did not enter this office with “Commissioner experience” on day one. He learned it and made it work. While I disagree on several things he has done, he gets my respect for holding the office so long and leaving on his terms.

I look forward to an open communication of the township’s business with its residents to an extent that exceeds what has not been seen in the past. The Fix My Road App , email, an interactive website and text message alerts are some of the technological tools I will use to bring the department into the 21st century in its service to you.  I will be available to you, in person, by phone, email or text.  I will include extended office hours and be more visible in the community. 

I will not need to rely on other elected officials to do what this office requires of me.  The township highway commissioner must be mentally and physically involved in all aspects of the department.  This includes an accurate budget assembled by the road commissioner. History indicates you the taxpayer have been overtaxed for the services needed. Reserves and fund balances exceed those required and recommended by accounting professionals. To have adequate fund balances is good planning. To have substantially large fund balances is not explainable. A popular statement by a candidate is to say "I will reduce taxes". Never has such an opportunity existed to deliver on such a promise.

I will eagerly approach each day to improve your impression of the highway department, its employees and the value you receive for the taxes you pay.   

Your consideration of me for your vote on April 4th, is the first step in moving our highway department forward.

Wisconsin Shows Us What A Future With A Hobbled EPA Could Look Like


This State Shows Us What A Future With A Hobbled EPA Could Look Like

Hint: Our water is almost certainly not going to get cleaner.

By Joseph Erbentraut


In rural Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, there are about five cows for every human resident. About half of those people rely on private wells for their drinking water.

Now it looks like the cows are polluting the water.

A 2015 analysis funded by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found that more than one-third of the private drinking wells tested had levels of nitrates and coliform that exceeded health standards. Both of those contaminants are found in cow manure.

Environmentalists argue that the county’s wealth of dairy farms are largely to blame for its water woes. The state’s powerful dairy lobby has rejected that claim, pointing to septic tanks leaking human waste as another factor.


Regardless, Kewaunee County residents are eager for a solution to a problem that has been many years in the making. The fact that they’re still waiting may serve as a warning about what’s to come if an already underfunded Environmental Protection Agency gets hit with budget cuts from a hostile president.

In 2011, farmer Lynn Utesch launched an advocacy group called Kewaunee CARES aimed at addressing water pollution. When its efforts failed to garner much of a response from local or state officials, the group partnered with a coalition of state and national environmental groups in 2014 to petition the EPA to intervene. 

In the two-and-a-half years since, Utesch said little has changed. While the EPA helped form a Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup and pledged further monitoring, the local water remains undrinkable, according to Utesch. He ran for the state assembly last fall in an attempt to elevate the county’s water concerns, but lost to the incumbent

“The citizens of Kewaunee County have not seen any real action,” Utesch said. “The EPA has not actually come into our county to help out. No state agency has provided clean drinking water. Our government is not looking out for our people here.”

The EPA participates in a Department of Natural Resources committee considering changes to Wisconsin’s manure spreading requirements and continues to review the situation, the agency told HuffPost. It is also coordinating with the state Department of Natural Resources to implement the working group’s recommendations, which include revamped enforcement procedures for non-compliant dairy farms.

But Utesch has little faith in future EPA action in Kewaunee, particularly given the drastic cuts the Trump administration has proposed for the agency.

“The way it looks right now, we might be waiting indefinitely for something to take place,” he said. “We may never see a response and that’s very disheartening to our population here. How long do we have to wait until we can have clean water for all our citizens?” 

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Under Gov. Scott Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin’s water is dirtier than it has been in years.

Utesch appears to have even less confidence in the state Department of Natural Resources, which did not respond to a request for comment. 

“I have no faith in the state of Wisconsin to do what’s right, unfortunately,” he said. “It will take someone with the courage to stand up and say we need to fix this. I don’t see anyone at the state or federal level who can do that.”

There’s good reason for that lack of faith, environmental groups say. “Fast and furious” changes to the way Wisconsin approaches environmental issues began shortly after Republican Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011, according to Kerry Schumann, executive director at the state League of Conservation Voters. Almost immediately, Walker and the Republican-dominated state legislature pushed to roll back protections, including a rule aimed at limiting phosphorous runoff in state waterways, which Republicans called too costly for businesses. 

Under Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin has slashed Department of Natural Resources funding, eliminating scientist and environmental educator positions. There has also been a push to silence discussions of climate change at the agency, and all climate change language was quietly scrubbed from its website late last year. 

“At the DNR, there is a culture shift in how the work is done,” Schumann told HuffPost. “There’s been a huge exodus of experts and a change in the enforcement of laws. Even if we had the best laws in the world, it wouldn’t matter because they’re not being enforced.”

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Office buildings line the Milwaukee River. Environmentalists fear that cuts at the EPA could further threaten the state’s water.

Schumann’s last comment refers to a state audit released last year that found the Department of Natural Resources was mostly ignoring its water pollution rules, issuing notices against polluters in only 33 of 558 cases reported over the last decade. The state Department of Justice has also drastically shrunk its environmental protection unit at a time when fines against polluters were already at a nearly unprecedented low

Meanwhile, the number of Wisconsin waterways that made the EPA’s “impaired” list doubled between 2004 and 2016. 

It’s no wonder that environmentalists in Wisconsin are anxious about what might happen if their federal backstop loses funding.

“Water issues are near a crisis level in Wisconsin,” said Amber Meyer Smith, director of programs and government relations at Clean Wisconsin. “It’s been a tough few years for the environment in Wisconsin, that’s for sure.” 

Looking at the federal picture, Meyer Smith described the proposal to zero out funding for the EPA’s Great Lakes restoration initiative — a cut that Walker has said he opposes and will fight — as “stunning.” 

But groups like hers will keep fighting for the environment, regardless of what comes from the Wisconsin capitol or the White House. And she is ready to take that battle to the courts, if need be.

“At the end of the day, we still have the Clean Water Act to be upheld and the Clean Air Act to be upheld,” Meyer Smith said. “Either that happens at the EPA or there’s going to be a lot of lawsuits.”

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