What We're Reading

Morning Reads: Think Tanks as Tax-Exempt Corporate Lobbyists; The Rich and Powerful Track Journalists, Activists and You

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

Morning Reads: Rich and Powerful Track Journos, Activists, You

White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice (R) speaks to Strobe Talbott (L), president the Brookings Institution, on February 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Lobbyists, without the disclosure or the taxes –> Eric Lipton and Brooke Williams — of The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, respectively — have an extensive report on how big-name think tanks use their research to further the agenda of their donors. They write:

“Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings [Institute] and other donors — like JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate — show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide ‘donation benefits,’ including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.”

Trump’s business-focused economics team –> Patricia Cohen at The New York Times: “Donald J. Trump may rail against Wall Street and business elites at his campaign rallies, but that has not stopped him from turning to many of them for economic advice. On Friday, Mr. Trump announced his economic team, just days before he is expected to give a speech in Detroit on Monday about what he would do to improve American growth. The 13-member team — all men — includes several billionaire bankers and investment managers, and even a part-time professional poker player. Many have been in business with Mr. Trump before.”

And: How does Trump’s team compare with former Republican presidential candidates? Timothy Lee points out at Vox that unlike Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain, Trump has chosen very few policy experts, with only one academic economist and two others with some government experience. The result, concludes Lee, is that “a man who needs seasoned policy advice more than any other recent major-party nominee is going to struggle to get it.”

So the topic of Trump’s speech in Detroit tonight should be not at all surprising. Bloomberg: “Donald Trump will propose a temporary moratorium on new financial regulations in an economic speech Monday in Detroit in an effort to draw a stark contrast with the domestic policies of Hillary Clinton, who he says ‘punishes’ the American economy. The Republican presidential nominee’s speech will focus on providing regulatory relief for small businesses, according to senior campaign aides familiar with its contents.”

Kaine speaks up –> Michael M. Phillips and Paul Sonne at The Wall Street Journal: “Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine said he didn’t believe the US had legal authority to carry out airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Libya this week, underscoring differences over the issue with his running mate, Hillary Clinton. In an interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. Kaine (D-VA) blamed Congress for failing to update the congressional war authorization passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, despite new terror threats that have emerged in the subsequent 15 years.”

Watching journalists –> Roger Ailes, the ousted head of Fox News, apparently used Fox money to conduct surveillance operations against journalists and others who he considered his personal enemies. “Targets of the campaigns included journalists John Cook and Hamilton Nolan, who have aggressively covered Ailes for Gawker,” writes New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, who was also targeted. “According to one source, private detectives followed Cook around his Brooklyn neighborhood, and Fox operatives prepared a report on him with information they intended to leak to blogs. (According to the source, one proposed line of attack claimed that Cook — whose wife, Slate news director Allison Benedikt, is Jewish — was anti-Semitic.) ‘I’m honored to be among Roger Ailes’s enemies,’ Cook said.”

Watching activists –> In a New York Times op-ed, environmentalist Bill McKibben writes that he and Tom Steyer, a billionaire who backs green candidates, have been tracked and recorded for months by a Republican opposition research group, America Rising. McKibben: “To be watched so much is a kind of never-ending nightmare. And sometimes it’s just infuriating. I skipped the funeral this summer of Patrick Sorrento, an important mentor to me at my college newspaper, because I didn’t want my minder to follow me and cause a distracting spectacle. When my daughter reports someone taking pictures of her at the airport, it drives me nuts.”

And: At DeSmogBlog, Ben Jervey writes of the group tracking McKibben: “Almost as startling as the tactics of the campaign is how closely it is tied to the mainstream Republican establishment. Core News (and by extension, America Rising Squared) might have the look and feel of a Right Wing lunatic fringe campaign funded by the darkest of oil and gas money. But in actuality it’s a foundational block of a prominent GOP opposition research firm, the heads of which have collectively spent decades working for big name Republicans like Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, John McCain, and even the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee itself.”

Watching you –> David Gauvey Herbert writes at Bloomberg Businessweek that public records and marketing data are being utilized in new ways by corporations and others to monitor people and their lives. One new company in the data-fusion business is IDI, whose CEO tells Herbert that “it’s already built a profile on every American adult, including young people who wouldn’t be swept up in conventional databases, which only index transactions…

“Steve Rambam, a PI who hosts Nowhere to Hide on the Investigation Discovery channel, says marketing data remains a niche monitoring tool compared with social media, but its power can be unparalleled. ‘You may not know what you do on a regular basis, but I know,’ Rambam says. ‘I know it’s Thursday, you haven’t eaten Chinese food in two weeks, and I know you’re due.'”

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Theresa Riley. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!

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