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Morning Reads: When Woody Guthrie Rented From Donald Trump’s Dad

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

Morning Reads: When Woody Guthrie Rented From Donald Trump's Dad

Left: Fred Trump (Wikimedia Commons); right: Woody Guthrie (Al Aumuller/Wikimedia Commons)

Silver lining? –> Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which profoundly reshaped how we elect politicians. (Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to lay out her opposition to the decision, and to various antidemocratic policies, like voter ID laws, that followed it.) Ironically, Citizens United might be “something of a political gift” for long-time proponents of campaign finance reform, writes Eliza Newlin Carney at The American Prospect. “The ruling has given voters fed up with the political system a concrete focus for their anger, and helped push the issue of money in politics from the margins to the mainstream. The surging popular concern over political money has set the table for a serious discussion of what’s wrong with the system and how it can be fixed.”

Being honest, briefly –> Nonprofit groups incorporated under the (c)(4) part of the tax code are incredibly active in politics in the post-Citizens United world. This type of group is appealing to political operatives because they don’t have to disclose their donors. Thing is, they’re also not supposed to engage in political activity. But most groups ignore that. The Center for Responsive Politics’ blog has the story of one that didn’t: Oklahomans for a Conservative Future “owned up to spending too large a share of its resources on politics — and promised to do better next time around. In effect, it gave the IRS a dark money IOU. All indications, though, are that the group will be reneging on that commitment.”

Breaking ranks –> The Center for Public Integrity has an interview with Walter Jones (R-NC), a lone Republican agitating in Congress for campaign finance reform. “Everything has gotten out of hand up here,” he says of DC. “It’s all about raising money. To me, if you are going to give the government back to the people, then you’ve got to clean your own house up.”

Mr. Guthrie and Old Man Trump –> Will Kaufman at The Conversation: “In December 1950, Woody Guthrie signed his name to the lease of a new apartment in Brooklyn. Even now, over half a century later, that uninspiring document prompts a double-take. Below all the legal jargon is the signature of the man who had composed ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ the most resounding appeal to an equal share for all in America. Below that is the signature of Donald Trump’s father, Fred. No pairing could appear more unlikely.” Kaufman notes that for Guthrie, the elder Trump — who he referred to in his writings as “Old Man Trump” — came to personify the institutional racism ingrained in American housing.

The Flint crisis –> At Mother Jones, Julia Laurie has the story of a Flint, Michigan, mother who helped expose the city’s water crisis after noticing her children were losing their hair and breaking out in rashes. AND: At the New America foundation’s blog, urban development expert Pamela Puchalski has a list of places where policymakers went wrong, including “Residents are experts, too. So listen to them. … Why did it take officials so long to respond to the public outcry for an intervention?” AND ALSO: At the NYT, John Eligon looks into this question: “If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?”

Longer than Deepwater Horizon –> The natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon, California, has been ongoing for 87 days, longer than the BP oil spill in 2010, notes Jo Miles at the environmental group Food and Water Watch. And the leak, which is sending huge amounts of climate change-causing methane into the atmosphere, won’t be plugged anytime soon.

New plutocrat on the block –> Bloomberg’s Zachary Mider has a profile of the eccentric, private, right-wing Long Island hedge fund manager and billionaire Robert Mercer, a Ted Cruz supporter who has so far spent more than anyone on the 2016 race. We learn Mercer has “one of the country’s largest collections of machine guns and historical firearms,” has a $2.7 million model train set, hardly ever speaks but often whistles, and has donated generously to far-right groups promoting everything from climate change denial to the gold standard to conspiracy theories about the UN.

So long –> Alan Yuhas at The Guardian: “The oil billionaire David Koch has stepped down from the board at the American Museum of Natural History, after 23 years and more than $20m in donations to the New York museum. The conservative magnate’s departure from one of the US’s pre-eminent science museums was cheered by climate scientists and activists who have campaigned for the museum to cut ties with fossil fuel companies and those who head them.”

Today’s Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Theresa Riley.

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