Tag: reelection

How much government money does Trump plan to spend on his reelection?

You may be curious why the administration doesn’t simply take its time and make sure that the program, which would surely be received gratefully by senior citizens, is implemented effectively and smoothly. Except you’re probably not actually curious about that because you recognize what’s happening: Trump wants this done before Election Day to capitalize on that goodwill in the form of votes.

None of this is subtle. Sure, a White House spokesman told Politico that the plan “has nothing to do with politics.” It’s just that the team is trying to figure out how to make it happen before Nov. 3, a date with no special significance whatsoever.

When this was first proposed, the New York Times reported that pharmaceutical companies balked at the idea of distributing what they referred to pejoratively as “Trump cards”: cash handouts tied explicitly to the president. But Trump’s team made very clear that the cards would not bear Trump’s name, perish the thought.

According to Politico’s new reporting, the cards will instead be accompanied by a letter signed by Trump. No politicking here, no sir. It’s not as though Trump is trailing among voters over 65, a group he won in 2016. Were that the case, one would think that he’d release some sort of video explicitly focused on seniors, maybe calling them his favorite people in the world. Maybe putting “favorite” in all-caps, to really emphasize it.

The issue here isn’t only that Trump’s clearly trying to leverage the government in ways that will benefit him personally, the sort of thing that might get a fella impeached. What’s more remarkable is how expensive it is — how expensive his cumulative efforts to leverage the presidency to aid his campaign will turn out to be.

Here is a brief shopping receipt.

$19 million. Those letters which the administration hopes to send out with the drug-benefit cards aren’t free. Documents obtained by Politico estimate that sending them out to the country’s 39 million Medicare beneficiaries will cost $19 million, or about 48 cents apiece.

$7.8 billion. Then there’s the value of the cards themselves. If each of those 39 million people gets $200, as planned, the costs add up quickly: nearly $8 billion in costs to the government. The money would be paid out of Medicare’s trust fund.

$72.4 million. There are other costs, too, like buying and activating the cards and providing phone-based support for their use. The proposal obtained by Politico puts the price tag for these additional items at over $72 million, most of it in fiscal 2021, which began Oct. 1.

That’s about $7.9 billion — just for the drug-benefit card program. But that is by no means the only way in which Trump is leveraging government money in an obvious attempt to influence the election.

$11.6 billion. After spending years downplaying the damage done to Puerto Rico after it was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Trump announced last month that he was providing the island with $9.6 billion to

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USDA head cited for breaking law by backing Trump reelection

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal watchdog agency has concluded that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the law in advocating for the reelection of President Donald Trump during an August visit to North Carolina. The Office of Special Counsel called on Perdue to reimburse the government for costs associated with his participation in the event.

The Hatch Act prevents federal employees from engaging in political activities while they are on the job. The Trump White House has been dismissive of alleged violations of the act over the years.

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Politico in late August that “nobody outside of the Beltway really cares” about Hatch Act concerns that were raised during the GOP nominating convention. The White House also declined to act on the Office of Special Counsel’s calls last year to fire then-senior counselor Kellyanne Conway for being a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act. Conway has since left the White House.

The Office of Special Counsel said Perdue can refer to the president’s actions and how the administration is helping American citizens. But in North Carolina, he also chose to a make a case for the president’s reelection and encouraged those in attendance and watching remotely to support Trump’s reelection.

“While Secretary Perdue has an unquestioned First Amendment right to campaign for the president on his own time and in his personal capacity, he has no such right to do so in his official capacity and at taxpayer expense,” wrote Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the watchdog’s Hatch Act unit. The letter was addressed to an official at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a private advocacy group that filed a complaint against Perdue for his statements in North Carolina.

The USDA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Galindo-Marrone said the department has defended Perdue by saying that he did not encourage attendees to vote for a candidate or party. Instead, Perdue predicted future behavior based on the president’s focus on helping “forgotten people” and “farmers who were suffering.”

“We’ve never seen an outpouring of compassion like that for people who matter, because people matter to you,” Perdue said of Trump. “And that’s what’s important to me. And that’s what’s gonna continue to happen — four more years — if America gets out and votes for this man, Donald J. Trump,” Perdue said, prompting those in the crowd to chant “four more years.”

The Office of Special Counsel said it would close its file on the matter once Perdue provided documentation of his reimbursement to the federal treasury. It said if he continues to engage in prohibited political activity while secretary, “we will consider such activity to be a knowing and willful violation of the law that will likely result in further action.”

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Perdue rebuked for violating ethics law by boosting Trump’s reelection

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group, filed a formal complaint that Perdue’s remarks were a clear violation of the Hatch Act. The special counsel’s office on Thursday concluded that Perdue had indeed crossed the line and ordered him to reimburse the government for travel expenses and other costs of his involvement in the North Carolina event.

“Taken as a whole, Secretary Perdue’s comments during the August 24 event encouraged those present, and those watching remotely, to vote for President Trump’s reelection,” the office wrote. “His first words were not about USDA, but about the president’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.”

“Provided that immediate corrective action is taken and the U.S. Treasury is reimbursed for such costs, OSC will decline to pursue disciplinary action and instead consider this file closed with the issuance of the cure letter,” it added.

The special counsel’s office also noted that, when asked to explain Perdue’s remarks, USDA argued that “at no point did the secretary encourage or direct the crowd to vote for the president,” but merely “predicted future behavior based on the president’s focus on helping ‘forgotten people,’” farmers and unemployed workers. But the office said that USDA “offered no legal basis for its conclusion.”

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the final decision.

Ethics authorities have already issued warnings to a dozen Trump administration officials for violating the Hatch Act, but Perdue’s straightforward appeal to reelect Trump was seen as especially flagrant.

“Even in an administration that has racked up a record number of Hatch Act violations, it is still shocking to see a Cabinet secretary violate the law in such an egregious manner,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder in a statement.

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