OptOut's Weekend Picks (Oct. 3, 2020)
This week’s been a long year. Republican super-spreader events are taking up a lot of the media, and for good reason. But if you’d like a respite from the cascade of GOP politicos who are testing positive for COVID-19 after congregating without masks at the presidential debate, Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination event, and Trump campaign rallies and fundraisers, OptOut has some stories for you.
This week’s theme is my personal favorite: money in politics. Since the disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United allowed unlimited corporate cash in U.S. elections, election spending has ballooned, and Americans have slowly woken up to the massive problem for democracy these mountains of money pose.
Independent media, including the OptOut partner publications we feature in the below news section, do some of the best money-in-politics reporting today. (Disclosure: I previously worked at Sludge and, before that, was a member of David Sirota’s investigative team at International Business Times.) So have a read, and then enjoy some analysis, podcasts, and videos from more of our many excellent independent media partners.
And a quick note: OptOut is an entirely volunteer operation, but there are numerous costs associated with starting a nonprofit organization and news app, including web hosting, incorporation fees, legal assistance, app maintenance, and, eventually, paid staff. We’ve raised roughly $4,000 through this Substack newsletter, and we’re incredibly grateful to all who’ve become paid subscribers. But there’s a lot left to raise for this operation to be successful—please consider helping us make the OptOut app happen.
Eyes on the Ties: Puerto Rico Debt Vultures Give Big to 2020 Candidates as Fiscal Board Appointments Loom
Wall Street firms are spending money to influence those who will decide if they can continue extracting money out of Puerto Rico’s struggling economy. Abner Dennis reports for Eyes on the Ties.
The vulture funds profiting off of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, and the law firms that represent them, are donating to the political campaigns of the presidential candidates and key players in Congress who are involved in the selection of the members of the oversight board.
Support the Public Accountability Initiative, the nonprofit behind Eyes on the Ties and its affiliate, relationship mapping site LittleSis.
Image credit: ToonariPost/Flickr
Sludge: Hawkish Dem Sherman is Next in Line to Replace Engel as Foreign Affairs Chairman
Eoin Higgins reports for Sludge that Eliot Engel’s likely replacement as head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is in the pocket of the defense and pro-Israel interests that his committee’s actions directly affect.
Sherman told Sludge that the current campaign finance regulatory framework is “an inappropriate system, and evil system, a system where if you want to influence policy, you must participate under the existing rules.”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate if we had a good system—but the system we have now requires us to do what Meeks has done, what Sherman has done, what every member of Congress has done,” said Sherman. “And that is to accept contributions from those who care about what we do.”
For the record, there is no requirement for members of Congress to accept corporate PAC donations, and plenty don’t.
Support Sludge, an investigative news site focused on money in politics.
Also on FOREIGN POLICY:
- For Jewish Currents, Mairav Zonszein writes about how the Arab world is normalizing relations with Israel while Palestinians are struggling to build consensus around a new way forward.
Image credit: Charlie Kaijo/Flickr
The Daily Poster: We Still Don’t Know Who Is Paying For Trump’s SCOTUS Seats
Trump has another Supreme Court nominee, and that means that the Judicial Crisis Network—a dark-money political organization that’s closely tied to Trump’s top judicial adviser and longtime Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo—is back again to spend another eight-figure amount on ads to push the court even more to the right.
Support The Daily Poster, an investigative journalism project led by award-winning reporter David Sirota.
Image credit: Judicial Crisis Network/YouTube
The Informant: Christopher Cantwell Guilty of Extortion and Threats
Welcome to our newest partner, The Informant! In this article, Hillary Sargent reports that Christopher Cantwell, often known as the “Crying Nazi,” was charged by federal prosecutors with threatening to rape a rival neo-Nazi’s wife and was found guilty of extortion and threats. He faces a maximum of 22 years in prison.
Support The Informant, a publication covering hate and extremism in America founded by Nick R. Martin.
Image credit: Vice/YouTube
Jacobin: Naomi Klein on How to Rebuild From the Disaster of Neoliberalism
When it comes to analyzing how capitalism takes advantage of disasters, Naomi Klein is THE person to read. Check out this Jacobin interview with Klein, who “connect[s] the fight against climate change to the fight for good jobs, and how COVID-19 is showing the utter failure of the neoliberal model.”
Support Jacobin, a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.
Image credit: Ilias Bartolini/Flickr
Counterpunch: Why Far-Right Paramilitaries are Not Just ‘Vigilantes’
University professor Zoltan Grossman explains how right-wing “vigilantes” are often agents of domestic terror, and we should get ready for them to show up at the polls to intimidate voters.
Support the nonprofit Counterpunch.
More on EXTREMISTS:
- The Humanist Report: Pro-Trump Far-Right Militias Are Preparing For a Civil War Depending on Election Outcome
- Jared Holt of Sh!tpost talks about the Proud Boys on the podcast Eat the Rich.
Image credit: Nathaniel St. Clair
Africa Is a Country: Precarious Somali Boyhoods
Bhakti Shringarpure analyzes two literary works by Somali-Canadian writers that expose the harsh realities of being Black, migrant, and Muslim in one of North America’s most multicultural and ostensibly tolerant cities: Toronto.
Support Africa Is a Country, a volunteer-driven non-profit.
Image credit: Brendan Church on Unsplash
The Gravel Institute: Is Big Government Really the Problem?
The Gravel Institute has officially launched its video initiative to challenge far-right propaganda channel PragerU! In its first video, Briahna Joy Gray explains how big business has a huge influence on federal policy, making the U.S. a wildly unequal nation.
Also on PRAGERU:
- See my December 2018 Sludge report on the money behind this sinister operation, which promotes white nationalist talking points and climate change denial.
The Laura Flanders Show: Reporting on COVID in the Country
Equipped with a face mask and a selfie stick, Laura Flanders reports in this episode (from a responsible distance) on the impact of COVID-19 on one poor, rural county just 100 miles from New York City. Talking to poultry workers, dairy workers, artists, activists and labor organizers, she looks at what the pandemic has revealed about their county from its economic fragility, to the strength of local social networks. What fears do people have facing a future of more budget cuts and what sort of investment is most needed now?
Support The Laura Flanders Show.
Media Roots Radio: How Biden and Harris Would Run U.S. Empire with Branko Marcetic
Abby and Robbie Martin are joined by Branko Marcetic, journalist and author of Yesterday's Man: The Case Against Joe Biden, for an extensive analysis of his and Harris' foreign policy record and potential plays in the regions where the U.S. has a presence and influence.
VOICES: River City: Jackie Fielder, Candidate for California Senate District 11
VOICES: River City interviews Jackie Fielder, a 25-year-old indigenous woman who is challenging state California State Sen. Scott Wiener from the left in San Francisco’s District 11.
Fielder shares with us how the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline shaped her political trajectory, as well as how later battles in San Francisco against police misuse of Tasers and for taxing the rich to help ameliorate homelessness—two issues on which she and Wiener disagreed—helped spark her campaign.
Support VOICES: River City, a new, progressive media outlet based in Sacramento, California.
The Nomiki Show: Live Post-Debate Coverage with Francesca Fiorentini
Nomiki Konst and Francesca Fiorentini offer some really smart analysis of the first “debate” between presidential contenders Joe Biden and serial interrupter Donald Trump (just hours before Trump got his COVID-19 diagnosis).
That’s all, folks. Stay safe, and please wear a mask!!
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