Recent Readings for July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 1, 2016

• “The Love Song of Robert Bentley, Alabama’s Horndog Governor.” GQ political correspondent Jason Zengerle dives into one of the recent scandals that has rocked the Alabama political world: The extramarital affair between Gov. Robert Bentley, a kindly dermatologist and grandfather whom some nicknamed “the accidental governor,” and a senior adviser. The whole thing is sordid, and includes the firing of one of the governor’s friends, a top state law enforcement official, because he crossed Bentley and his lover. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the entire affair is how Bentley’s entire character and life appear to have changed as a result of his dalliance.

• “Is Mike Hubbard the Most Corrupt Politician in America?” Gov. Bentley isn’t the only politician from the Yellowhammer State to have run into serious trouble. In 2010, former sports broadcasting mogul Mike Hubbard masterminded a Republican takeover of all branches of Alabama state government after Democrats had held the legislature for 136 straight years. In 2012, a grand jury indicted Hubbard on 23 felony counts. This article by Joe Miller was the first in a series of five New Republic stories describing the charges against Hubbard and his trial, which concluded in June with a mixed verdict.

The tale boasts many of the trappings of political scandals: Self-dealing, a public servant (that’d be Hubbard) complaining that public service was costing him money, a questionable lobbying arrangement, an apparent vote on a no-bid contract that may have directly violated anti-corruption laws that Hubbard himself had pushed through the legislature. There are also connections to Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, who collaborated with Hubbard associates to “to carry out a whisper campaign that Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice who had established two charitable foundations for children, was a pedophile.”

Read the whole series and marvel at how Alabama Republicans refused to expand Medicaid while backing “a bill that would give a monopoly over Alabama’s Medicaid prescription drug program, worth some $40 million a year, to American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. (APCI), with which [Hubbard] had a $5,000-a-month contract.” Kudos to these paragons of virtue — they must be very proud of all they’ve accomplished!

• “Donald Trump’s business disaster is worse than you think.” A few weeks ago, The New York Times published a deep dive into Trump’s sordid Atlantic City casino dealings. But back in March, MarketWatch published an opinion piece by Brett Arends that summarized Trump’s foray into the world of casinos. If you’re not up for a Times longread, you can save yourself some, er, time by reading this 481-word Arends joint.

He found that Trump’s publicly held Atlantic City venture lost 89 percent of its value at the same time other gambling companies saw their stock returns either rise modestly (Casino America went up 60 percent), more than double (Harrah’s, Argosy, Boyd Gambling and MGM stock rose anywhere from 140 percent to 430 percent) or, in one case, skyrocket (Penn National Gambling stocks went up more than 3,000 percent). But even though Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts tanked, their chairman and CEO made out like a bandit: “Donald Trump pocketed $32 million over nine years, while his public stockholders lost more than $100 million.”

• “Conservatives Have Groomed the Perfect Suckers for Trump’s Epic Scam.” Speaking of Trump and profits, New Republic editor Jeet Heer describes the Donald’s presidential run as a “scampaign” (borrowing a coinage from Republican consultant Rick Wilson) — an operation geared to making money. Referring to Rick Perlstein’s seminal article about the deep links between conservative politics and grifting, Heer notes that there is a long history of prominent conservatives raising funds from their gullible flock. He adds:

The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.

• “The GOP’s War on Voting Is Working.” Ari Berman compares and contrasts the status of voting rights in the neighboring Midwestern states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the former state, right-wing politicians have taken control of the executive and legislative branches of government, and it’s become very difficult for longtime voters — even veterans — to exercise their franchise. In the latter state, which has a Democratic governor, the public voted down a voter-ID law and consideration is being given to restoring voting rights to 47,000 convicts who are on probation or parole. Writes Berman:

The divide illustrates how the United States is fast becoming a two-tiered democracy, a country where it’s harder to vote in Republican-controlled states and easier to vote in Democratic ones. There are some notable exceptions…but the trend is unmistakable. Of the 22 states that have passed new voting restrictions since 2010, more than 80 percent were under Republican control, while the states, such as Oregon and California, that have recently passed ambitious reforms like automatic voter registration are overwhelmingly Democratic.

• “The Democrats’ Florida fumble: Rep. Patrick Murphy is a disaster candidate that might help Republicans keep the Senate.” U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is a Democrat who used to be a Republican; he also is the son of a generous Republican donor. Now, the Democratic Party’s hopes of taking the U.S. Senate back from the GOP partly rest with Murphy, who will be facing incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco “I will be a private citizen in January” Rubio. Unfortunately, as Heather Digby Parton chronicles, Murphy may be a spectacularly weak challenger: He appears to have lied about being a certified public accountant and about having patented a vessel to respond to the 2010 BP oil spill and about having started a successful small business. In a year in which the Republican Party seems bent on hurting its chances at the ballot box, a few Democratic bigwigs may have made a serious strategic error by bolstering Murphy’s Senate run.

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