Tag: politics

The Latest: Senate panel ends confirmation hearing for day | National politics

Feinstein and Democrats are expected to focus on healthcare during the hearings. Feinstein still faces criticism for her comments during Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing to be a federal judge. Feinstein had joined Republicans on the panel in asking Barrett about her Roman Catholic faith, but then went further by telling Barrett, then a Notre Dame law professor, that “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.″

Republicans are pushing to confirm Barrett before Election Day.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says Judge Amy Coney Barrett is in a “category of excellence” as a law professor and legal scholar.

Graham, R-S.C., praised Barrett as he opened Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Republican-led panel. Barring a dramatic development, Republicans appear to have the votes to confirm the 48-year-old conservative appellate judge to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.

Graham acknowledged “the COVID problem in America is real,″ but said, “We do have a country that needs to move forward safely.” Barrett was wearing a face mask, as were all the roughly 100 people in the cavernous hearing room.

Graham cited Barrett’s testimony that she follows the judicial philosophy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she clerked two decades ago. He called that a good summary of “who Amy Barrett is in terms of the law.″

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Politics has no place in your 401(k) but that’s just what the U.S. government is trying to do

OUTSIDE THE BOX



a close up of text on a white background: The Department of Labor released its interim final rule about employer-sponsored retirement account statements.


© Getty Images
The Department of Labor released its interim final rule about employer-sponsored retirement account statements.

Investors are inundated with brochures that market the “ideal” approach to crating a portfolio that addresses environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns.

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ESG has a lot of room for individual interpretation in both meaning and application, so it would seem appropriate for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to provide guideposts for investors. Instead, two recent ESG-related proposals from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are under consideration. Why the DOL? The agency regulates the massive $10+ trillion in employee benefit plans covered under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

Individually, each of the two proposals seems to offer solid investor-first logic for the fiduciaries that run these plans. The first looks to provide rails around what the plans can hold in ESG-themed funds, while reiterating its ban on sacrificing returns for other goals. The second aims to limit proxy voting when it doesn’t benefit performance, in order to save costs.

But taken together, there appears to be an ulterior motive. Both proposals point to a potential government action to reduce active stewardship by owners, framed as maximizing returns to savers. 

Read: The Labor Department is tearing down a landmark of investor protection

Plus: 401(k) plan managers will promote ESG funds despite pushback

It is a fluid situation. It appears the U.S. government may be sensitive to social or environmental special-interest groups having undue influence on companies. This influence could be exercised by leveraging the financial muscle of the funds under ERISA. In a market economy, regulators have a role that influences the balance of power between stakeholders.  It appears they are exercising some of that influence.

Any structural change to the balance brings the risk of unintended consequences. The concern is that returns-focused active stewardship could get pushed back in the process. Active stewardship that includes deep research, including on ESG issues, combined with engagement and voting acts as a guardrail to protect value. It’s common sense. If you rented out an apartment you owned, and didn’t visit it for 10 years, what are the chances it would hold its value relative to one that’s checked and maintained regularly? 

It is important to recognize that the connection between investors, the choices made by company managements, and a range of real-world consequences works more effectively for savers over the long term with active management. This is the true purpose, power and benefit of ESG. 

Puzzling motives

Here is a quote summarizing the goals of the ESG-related proposal, taken from the Federal Register: “This proposed regulation is designed in part to make clear that ERISA plan fiduciaries may not invest in ESG vehicles when they understand an underlying investment strategy of the vehicle is to subordinate return or increase risk for the purpose of non-pecuniary objectives.”

This rule covers both funds and direct investments held by the plans. The main three areas the proposal focuses on include:

1. Do

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Tight race in St. Louis County’s 6th District could help shape county government | Politics

Two other seats are up for grabs in strongly Democratic council districts. Incumbent Kelli Dunaway, the Democrat elected to replace Page in the 2nd District last year, and soundly defeated Creve Coeur Mayor Barry Glantz in the primary, faces Republican Jerry Bowen and Libertarian Arnold Trembley. Shalonda Webb, who upset incumbent Rochelle Walton Gray in the Democratic primary for the 4th District, faces Republican Curtis Faulkner and Libertarian Eric S. Harris.

Trakas has been in battle his entire term. The attorney from Oakville overcame a shadowy recall petition and a lawsuit to remove him from office on the theory that his legal work for outstate school districts disqualified him from serving — each of which he blamed on Stenger.

But the county also settled a sexual harassment complaint against Trakas by his former legislative aide, and Trakas has at times exploded at the county’s legal staff. And, in recent weeks, he’s lost support from several within his party who think he is too close to Page. Trakas said the lack of support from Republicans didn’t bother him.

‘Do the right thing’

“I don’t subscribe to any type of gospel,” he said. “I’m always going to try and do the right thing as God gives me the eyes to see what to do.”

Burns easily defeated two strong candidates in the August primary and has been supported by Councilman Tim Fitch, R-3rd District. While Days hasn’t made any appearances for Burns, she said she supports him as a party mate.

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Politics has no place in your 401(k) but that’s just what the U.S. government is now trying to do

OUTSIDE THE BOX



a close up of text on a white background: The Department of Labor released its interim final rule about employer-sponsored retirement account statements.


© Getty Images
The Department of Labor released its interim final rule about employer-sponsored retirement account statements.

Investors are inundated with brochures that market the “ideal” approach to crating a portfolio that addresses environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns.

ESG has a lot of room for individual interpretation in both meaning and application, so it would seem appropriate for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to provide guideposts for investors. Instead, two recent ESG-related proposals from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are under consideration. Why the DOL? The agency regulates the massive $10+ trillion in employee benefit plans covered under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).

Individually, each of the two proposals seems to offer solid investor-first logic for the fiduciaries that run these plans. The first looks to provide rails around what the plans can hold in ESG-themed funds, while reiterating its ban on sacrificing returns for other goals. The second aims to limit proxy voting when it doesn’t benefit performance, in order to save costs.

But taken together, there appears to be an ulterior motive. Both proposals point to a potential government action to reduce active stewardship by owners, framed as maximizing returns to savers. 

Read: The Labor Department is tearing down a landmark of investor protection

Plus: 401(k) plan managers will promote ESG funds despite pushback

It is a fluid situation. It appears the U.S. government may be sensitive to social or environmental special-interest groups having undue influence on companies. This influence could be exercised by leveraging the financial muscle of the funds under ERISA. In a market economy, regulators have a role that influences the balance of power between stakeholders.  It appears they are exercising some of that influence.

Any structural change to the balance brings the risk of unintended consequences. The concern is that returns-focused active stewardship could get pushed back in the process. Active stewardship that includes deep research, including on ESG issues, combined with engagement and voting acts as a guardrail to protect value. It’s common sense. If you rented out an apartment you owned, and didn’t visit it for 10 years, what are the chances it would hold its value relative to one that’s checked and maintained regularly? 

It is important to recognize that the connection between investors, the choices made by company managements, and a range of real-world consequences works more effectively for savers over the long term with active management. This is the true purpose, power and benefit of ESG. 

Puzzling motives

Here is a quote summarizing the goals of the ESG-related proposal, taken from the Federal Register: “This proposed regulation is designed in part to make clear that ERISA plan fiduciaries may not invest in ESG vehicles when they understand an underlying investment strategy of the vehicle is to subordinate return or increase risk for the purpose of non-pecuniary objectives.”

This rule covers both funds and direct investments held by the plans. The main three areas the proposal focuses on include:

1. Do not

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Coronavirus pandemic and election-year politics collide, eroding trust in science

The positive development immediately became entangled in election-year politics, with President Trump repeatedly making false and exaggerated claims about the new therapeutics. He called them a cure, which they’re not. He said he was about to approve them — a premature promise given that the FDA’s career scientists are charged with reviewing the applications.

This has been the 2020 pattern: Politics has thoroughly contaminated the scientific process. The result has been an epidemic of distrust, which further undermines the nation’s already chaotic and ineffective response to the coronavirus.

The White House has repeatedly meddled with decisions by career professionals at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other science-based agencies. Many of the nation’s leading scientists, including some of the top doctors in the administration, are deeply disturbed by the collision of politics and science and bemoan its effects on public health.

“I’ve never seen anything that closely resembles this. It’s like a pressure cooker,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.

Trust has been damaged by White House intrusions and the FDA’s own mistakes. Earlier this year, the agency granted emergency authorization to hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug wrongly touted by Trump as a treatment for covid-19, then reversed course when it became clear the medication could cause dangerous complications. In August, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn drew sharp criticism for inaccurately describing the benefits of convalescent plasma, statements for which he later apologized.

Millions of Americans have embraced some version of a conspiracy theory that imagines the pandemic as a wildly exaggerated threat, or even an outright hoax, pushed by politically motivated scientists and the mainstream media to undermine the president. This is a form of science denial that leads many people to refuse to wear masks or engage in social distancing.

Scientists, meanwhile, worry that the politicization of the regulatory process could undermine the rollout of a vaccine even if it is approved by career professionals at the FDA. This is shaping up as a communications challenge for the government: Many people will want to know who, exactly, is greenlighting a vaccine.

“If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic nominee for vice president, said in Wednesday’s debate with Vice President Pence. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

Moments later Pence said it is “unconscionable” for Harris “to undermine public confidence in a vaccine.” He added, “Stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

The scolding by Pence was remarkable given that Trump has repeatedly framed the vaccine effort in terms of the November election — including just hours before Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate, when he came close to accusing his own government’s scientists of trying to delay a vaccine.

“We’re going to have a great vaccine very, very shortly. I think we

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Judge throws out Trump campaign’s challenge to Pennsylvania’s poll-watching law | National politics

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Election 2020 Lawsuits Glance

In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke fills out an application for a mail-in ballot before voting at the opening of a satellite election office at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has seen a frenzy of election-related lawsuits as state officials prepare for some 3 million people, about half the expected turnout, to cast mail-in ballots. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)




HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday threw out a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign, dismissing its challenges to the battleground state’s poll-watching law and its efforts to limit how mail-in ballots can be collected and which of them can be counted.

Elements of the ruling by U.S. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan could be appealed by Trump’s campaign, with barely three weeks to go until Election Day in a state hotly contested by Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Trump’s campaign wanted the court to free county election officials to disqualify mail-in ballots where the voter’s signature may not match their signature on file and to remove a county residency requirement in state law on certified poll watchers.

It also wanted the court to bar counties from using drop boxes or mobile sites to collect mail-in ballots that are not “staffed, secured, and employed consistently within and across all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties.”

The lawsuit was opposed by the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the state Democratic Party.

The decision comes as Trump claims he can only lose the state if Democrats cheat and, as he did in 2016′s campaign, suggests that the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia needs to be watched closely for election fraud.

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Social media impacts our elections, protests, and politics

Last April, states began to sporadically reopen after weeks of being shut down. Georgia was among the first to begin the process, while some states didn’t start lifting restrictions until June. The uncoordinated reopening caused chaos, according to Sinan Aral, director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Why? Because Georgia pulled in hundreds of thousands of visitors from neighboring states — folks hoping to get a haircut or go bowling.

Aral was tracking Americans on social media, and it became clear to him that having uncoordinated policies for the coronavirus doesn’t make sense. As people watched their social feeds fill with images of people heading back outside, they stepped out too — even if their state wasn’t at the same phase.

Aral, the author of “The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health — and How We Must Adapt,” has used social media as a tool to gain insight into everything from pandemic reopenings to protests and politics. And core to what he’s learned is that “social media is designed for our brains.”

Humans have an intrinsic need to seek out and process social signals, he says — something we’ve used to our advantage throughout history.

But the invention of social media? It’s “like throwing a lit match into a pool of gasoline,” he said.

We can’t look away, no matter the cost.

Three takeaways:

  • Social media is immensely powerful, Aral says. The “tremendous leverage” it has to “influence opinions and behaviors in the physical world” can be captured for good or bad. How do we hang on to the good and scrap the bad? Aral says creating more competition could go a long way.
  • There’s a strange dance between real people tweeting fake stuff and fake accounts amplifying those tweets. That was clear in 2014 when Russians used social media to reframe the annexation of Crimea as an “accession,” rather than a takeover, Aral says. This changed its perception on the ground and internationally, as diplomats struggled to decide whether or not to intervene.
  • The Russian social media strategy in 2020 is “much more sophisticated” than it was in 2016, Aral says — and the US intelligence community agrees. As platforms have cracked down on fake accounts, Russia has covertly encouraged US citizens to “start and spread false propaganda and manipulative content.” Plus, they’ve moved their servers to US soil, which makes them harder to find.

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Supreme Court to review Arizona ‘ballot harvesting’ law | National politics

The high court in recent years has weakened the Voting Rights Act, throwing out the most powerful part of the landmark law in 2013. It could use the current case to go even further.

The case began after Republicans in Arizona passed the law making it a felony to return someone else’s ballot to election officials in most cases and Democrats sued.

Both parties had used ballot collection in Arizona to boost turnout during elections by going door to door and asking voters if they have completed their mail-in ballot. Democrats used the method aggressively in minority communities and argued their success prompted the new GOP-sponsored law. Republicans argued the law was aimed at preventing election fraud.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said in a statement he is pleased the court will hear the case.

The justices also said Friday they will review a longstanding effort by the Federal Communications Commission to relax restrictions in individual media markets on ownership of different forms of media — TV stations and newspapers — over fears that it would leave fewer outlets controlled by minorities.

The court also will take up cases involving how immigration officials evaluate the claims of asylum seekers and a lawsuit by the city of Baltimore against BP Inc. and other energy companies seeking money for their contribution to climate change, although the issue before the justices is a technical one involving where the case should be heard.

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Judge says government’s suit over Bolton book can proceed | National politics

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Judge says government's suit over Bolton book can proceed

FILE – In this Sept. 30, 2019 file photo, former National security adviser John Bolton gestures while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. A judge ruled on Thursday that the Trump administration can move forward with its lawsuit against former national security adviser John Bolton over that his tell-all book, which officials say contains classified information.




WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration can move forward with its lawsuit against former national security adviser John Bolton over his tell-all book, a judge ruled Thursday in denying a request to dismiss the complaint.

The Justice Department alleges that Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened” contains classified information, and the government sued in June to try to prevent the release. Though the book was published as scheduled, a suit accusing Bolton of breaking contracts with the government by disclosing classified information and by failing to complete a required prepublication review can proceed, U.S District Judge Royce Lamberth said in a 29-page opinion.

The book, which details Bolton’s 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser, contains descriptions of conversations with foreign leaders that could be seen as politically damaging to the president. Those include accounts that Trump tied providing military aid to Ukraine to that country’s willingness to conduct investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, and that Trump asked China’s President Xi Jinping to help his reelection prospects.

Lamberth in June denied the government’s request for an injunction to block the book from being published, given that thousands of copies had already been distributed. But he also scolded Bolton for moving ahead with the book’s publication without waiting for formal, written authorization that the book had been cleared.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Committee adjourns on eve of deadline to repeal bailout law | National politics

Rep. David Leland, the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has been pushing for action before the Thursday deadline for weeks.

“House Republicans are going to let October 1st go by without doing anything to stop this ratepayer rip-off,” Leland said in a statement this week. “That means, in the middle of a global pandemic and an unemployment crisis, House Republicans are going to make hardworking Ohioans pay more on their utility bills.”

Leland also criticized that proponent testimonies for the repeal bills are from the same entities that testified for the bill’s passage last year.

Newly elected House Speaker Bob Cupp, who created the committee last month, said he wants to untangle the legislation “expeditiously” but also with care, as to prepare for any ramifications of the repeal.

The only way for lawmakers to ensure their constituents do not see the additional fee on their electric bill in January is for an emergency clause on the repeal, which would require 66 members voting in favor of it. Currently, 58 out of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal the law.

While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have agreed the law and the process to which it was passed was corrupt, they have not proposed any concrete legislation to replace it with.

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