What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Koch Brothers Back Major Media Buy; A “Make-or-Break” Month for Trump’s Presidency

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Koch Brothers Are Backing Major Media Buy

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.



Democracy alert –> The Meredith Corporation — the owner of Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens and AllRecipes — agreed to purchase Time Inc. in an all-cash transaction valued at nearly $3 billion. In addition to TIME magazine, Time Inc. publishes a dozen other magazines, including Fortune, People, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly. The deal was made possible, in part, by an infusion of $650 million from Charles and David Koch’s private equity fund. Sydney Ember and Andrew Ross-Sorkin report for The New York Times that the billionaire-backed deal to purchase Time Inc. is an investment that would “give the Kochs a way to combine the arsenal of voter information held by a data analytics company controlled by their network, i360, with the publishers’ consumer data.”

Utterly confounding” –> According to the Associated Press, “the FBI failed to notify scores of US officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.”

And in case you missed it while recovering from Thanksgiving, last week attorneys for Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, told Trump’s own lawyers that they would no longer discuss Robert Mueller’s probe. Elliott Hannon reports for Slate that the move is “a sign the early campaign surrogate is cooperating with Mueller’s team and potentially in the process of negotiating a deal.”

Power grab? –> On Friday, Richard Cordray, the outgoing chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), stepped down and named his deputy, Leandra English, acting head of the agency. But hours later, Donald Trump appointed director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, who once called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke,” to head the agency on an interim basis. As Brianna Gorod, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, explains at Take Care, “when Congress established the CFPB…it determined that the Bureau needed to be an independent regulator, insulated from direct presidential management and control,” and “it provided that in the event of a vacancy, the Bureau’s deputy director, appointed by the director, would serve as acting director of the bureau until a new director was named by the president and confirmed by the Senate.”

But the White House is defending its move to put Mulvaney in charge by citing the presidential appointment powers outlined in the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. At Notice and Comment, University of Michigan legal scholar Nina Mendelson takes a deep dive into the legal conflict at hand.

English has filed a lawsuit to block Mulvaney’s appointment. CNN’s Allie Malloy reports that both Mulvaney and English showed up for work at the agency this morning. Mulvaney brought donuts.

Sweet deal –> “Robert Mugabe and his wife will receive a ‘golden handshake’ worth many millions of dollars as part of a deal negotiated before the resignation of the ageing autocrat last week,” according to Reuters’ Jason Burke. While the exact sum wasn’t disclosed, Burke says Mugabe and his wife will get at least $10 million and immunity for any crimes they committed while in office.

How to destroy a federal agency –> Diplomats have raised alarms over Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s ongoing clashes with career foreign policy officers, and “Democratic members of the House Foreign Relations Committee, citing what they said was ‘the exodus of more than 100 senior Foreign Service officers from the State Department since January,’ expressed concern about ‘what appears to be the intentional hollowing-out of our senior diplomatic ranks,’” according to Gardiner Harris at The New York Times.

Approaching a crucial month –> Ryan Lizza writes for The New Yorker that December will likely be a “make or break month” in Donald Trump’s presidency, as he and his allies work to get a historically unpopular bill to cut taxes and partially repeal the Affordable Care Act across the finish line. A government shutdown is quite possible, says Lizza, and perhaps even likely.

Related –> Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new score of the Senate bill, and Heather Long reports for The Washington Post that it shows the legislation would have “large, harmful effects on the poor” while delivering “substantial tax cuts and benefits to Americans earning more than $100,000 a year.” And it would raise deficits by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill hope to have a vote on the Senate bill this week. Jim Newell reports for Slate that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “is operating on a tight timeline” because “Trump has publicly pushed to sign a bill by the end of the calendar year, leaving little additional time to reconcile the Senate legislation with the one already passed by the House. And any lingering delays would only give Democrats more time to marshal their opposition.”

And over at The New York TimesDavid Leonhardt writes that around 10 Republican senators now find themselves in a tight spot: “They are philosophically conservative. They believe in low taxes and small government. They share this belief with their Republican colleagues, their political base back home and, yes, their donors. Yet all of the potential swing senators have a problem: This tax bill also contains provisions that betray their stated principles.”

America’s dirty little secret” –> The Guardian’s Oliver Milman reports from Sandbranch, Texas, “a small, poor, largely African-American community just outside Dallas” that “hasn’t had running water in 30 years” and where “the donated bottled water they rely upon is in short supply.”

More to come –> Mike Allen reports for Axios that “Capitol Hill veterans expect that ‘a lot more’ sexual-harassment settlements by lawmakers will be uncovered. So now there’s a race to strengthen workplace rules that are scandalously archaic.”

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) “received a tough grilling in a 30-minute interview with WCCO on whether he has ever grabbed a woman’s backside,” reports Aidan McLaughlin at Mediaite. Asked directly whether he had “ever placed a hand on some woman’s butt,” Franken replied: “I can’t say that it hasn’t happened. In crowded chaotic situations, I can’t say I haven’t done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that.”

And Erin Gee, a 17-year veteran at CBS, filed a lawsuit alleging “rampant sex discrimination at the network.” Julia Marsh reports for The New York Post that among other offenses, Gee “was told by a boss that she would have to sleep with co-workers to get anywhere in the company.”

When we need it most –> Mother Jones CEO Monica Beuerlein writes that “virtually every news organization in America has seen its audience decline (and in some cases crater) since the record numbers of last winter,” and the ensuing cash-crunch from disappearing ad and subscription revenues represents an imminent threat to the Fourth Estate at a time when robust journalism is needed more than ever.

What’s the deal with The New York Times’ cuddly Nazis? –> Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple writes that The New York Times deserved the criticism it received for “normalizing” white supremacy by running a “half-baked” profile of an Ohio neo-Nazi who seems like a typical hipster and loves Seinfeld.

And Marc Lacey, The Times’ national editor, responds to the blowback with an explanation of the editorial process that led to the piece.

The war on coal is over” –> So said candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign, but Mark Sumner writes at Daily Kos that mining fatalities have spiked sharply this year. Sumner writes that Donald Trump left the top slot at the Mine Safety and Health Administration open for months before appointing “a coal exec from a mine with a horrible safety record” who sharply curtailed the agency’s ability to write citations.

The Mooch vs. free speech –> At The Boston Globe, John Hilliard reports that Tufts University has “postponed a Monday event featuring Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump White House spokesman, after he threatened to sue a student and the school newspaper for defamation following the publication of an op-ed column criticizing him.”

Someone better cover Santa –> On “Black Friday,” the FBI was flooded “with more than 200,000 background check requests for gun purchases, setting a new single day record,” reports Kevin Johnson for USA Today.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.