POLITICO Playbook PM: Dems push culture of corruption message

 In Politics

THE BIG PICTURE FROM COLUMBUS, OHIO … A “CORRUPTION ELECTION”? … FOR MONTHS, Democrats have tried to find ways to paint House Republicans as creatures of the Washington swamp, corrupt political figures who are taking advantage of their station in public life.

AND NOW, WITH 90 DAYS UNTIL ELECTION DAY, Democrats seem to be getting handed that theme on a silver platter — just like they were when they took the House in 2006 on the heels of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

CONSIDER THIS …

— NEW YORK REP. CHRIS COLLINS, an ally to and surrogate of PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, was arrested on a massive insider trading scheme, that accused him of passing non-public information from an Australian pharmaceutical company to his son, who then traded on those tips. He got a call that led to the charges while at the White House picnic. He was on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, the company at question. To make it worse, a number of House Republicans were invested in the company — some at Collins’ urging. It doesn’t seem at this point that Collins is long for Congress. SPEAKER PAUL RYAN removed him from the Energy and Commerce Committee for now.

— FORMER HHS SECRETARY TOM PRICE was one of the investors. He was later pushed out of the president’s cabinet for pricey travel habits. Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt also left his post after an endless stream of stories detailed his penchant for the luxe life.

— PROPUBLICA’S ISAAC ARNSDORF has a jaw-dropping story about Trump’s rich Mar-a-Lago friends exerting a stunning level of influence over the Veterans Affairs department.

— TRUMP’S campaign manager — Paul Manafort — is on trial, and being accused of illegal business practices and hiding taxable money while working as a political consultant overseas.

OF COURSE, each House race is its own discrete contest. But put together, Democrats could have an opportunity to paint in broad strokes just as they did in 2006. HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI seized on this already, saying in a news release that “The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today.”

THE DETAILS … “GOP Rep. Collins indicted, charged with securities fraud,” by Kyle Cheney and Jimmy Vielkind: “He was charged, along with his son, with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

“Collins had been under scrutiny from the Office of Congressional Ethics for his connection to the biotech company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. He was the company’s largest shareholder and sat on its board. Now, prosecutors say he passed inside information to his son, who then passed it to another alleged conspirator. The three avoided about $768,000 in losses as a result of the information, prosecutors allege.

“Collins’ attorneys rejected the allegations, which were brought by prosecutors in the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.” POLITICO

FLASHBACK, PLAYBOOK, Jan. 11, 2017: “OVERHEARD IN THE CAPITOL — NEW YORK REP. CHRIS COLLINS talking loudly into a phone just off the House floor, bragging about how many ‘millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo’ in the last month. He was bragging about a stock tip he had shared with people.”

— THE NEXT DAY, OKLAHOMA REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R) bought between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of the company’s stock.

— REPUBLICANS bought a ton of Immuno stock in January of 2017. LATER THAT MONTH, COLORADO GOP REP. DOUG LAMBORN and his spouse bought between $15,000 and $30,000 in Immuno stock. He sold at least part of it for less than $1,000. He said he took a bath on the stock. “[Collins] wasn’t pushing it,” Lamborn told POLITICO in an interview earlier this summer before the indictment. “If asked about it, it was in the media, first of all. If asked about it, he would respond to questions. He wasn’t being pushy. And I figure I’m a big boy and I can make my own decisions. Even if they’re wrong decisions.”

— TEXAS REP. MICHAEL CONAWAY (R) bought between $2,000 and $30,000 in January and February of 2017.

— MISSOURI REP. BILLY LONG (R) bought between $15,000 and $50,000 on Jan. 25, 2017.

— TEXAS REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R) reported that he bought between $1,000 and $15,000 in January 2017, and sold it for the same range in early June.

THE STOCK is now practically worthless. No other members of Congress have been implicated.

THE SHADOW CABINET … PROPUBLICA’S ISAAC ARNSDORF: AFTERNOON READ — “The Shadow Rulers of the VA: How Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter and two other Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly shaping the Trump administration’s veterans policies”: “Last February, shortly after Peter O’Rourke became chief of staff for the Department of Veterans Affairs, he received an email from Bruce Moskowitz with his input on a new mental health initiative for the VA. ‘Received,’ O’Rourke replied. ‘I will begin a project plan and develop a timeline for action.’

“O’Rourke treated the email as an order, but Moskowitz is not his boss. In fact, he is not even a government official. Moskowitz is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service ‘concierge’ medical care. More to the point, he is one-third of an informal council that is exerting sweeping influence on the VA from Mar-a-Lago …

“The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, who is a longtime acquaintance of President Trump’s. The third member is a lawyer named Marc Sherman. None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government. Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them ‘the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.’ … In a statement, they downplayed their influence, insisting that nobody is obligated to act on their counsel.” ProPublica

… FALLOUT FROM THE STORY — @AdamWeinstein: “Some personal news: I just resigned as acting EIC of [Task & Purpose] after our publisher reamed us out for his investigation and demanded the headline be changed, the latest in a series of such demands over our editorial content.” Task & Purpose, a military/veterans news site, had reposted the ProPublica story Wednesday morning.

THE LATEST VOTE TALLIES — TROY BALDERSON is up 101,574 to 99,820 over DANNY O’CONNOR in Ohio’s 12th district special election, with more than 3,300 provisional and absentee ballots outstanding. In the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary, KRIS KOBACH leads incumbent JEFF COLYER 126,257 to 126,066. Neither race has been called yet. Detailed results in Ohio … Kansas

Good Wednesday afternoon. WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 10:31 a.m.: “5 for 5!”

… at 11:14 a.m.: “The Republicans have now won 8 out of 9 House Seats, yet if you listen to the Fake News Media you would think we are being clobbered. Why can’t they play it straight, so unfair to the Republican Party and in particular, your favorite President!”

… at 11:25 a.m.: “As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates (within reason), they will win! I LOVE the people, & they certainly seem to like the job I’m doing. If I find the time, in between China, Iran, the Economy and much more, which I must, we will have a giant Red Wave!”

TRADE WARS WITH CHINA …

— ANNIE KARNI: “Trump rails against China during dinner with executives”: “Trump told the executives that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt One Road Initiative,’ China’s economic plan that has the potential to disrupt trade worldwide, was ‘insulting’ and that he didn’t want it, according to a person in the room. Trump said he had told Xi as much to his face. …

“At one point during the dinner, Trump noted of an unnamed country that the attendee said was clearly China, ‘almost every student that comes over to this country is a spy.’” POLITICO

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