Eliza Newlin Carney

Eliza Newlin Carney is a weekly columnist at The American Prospect. Her email is ecarney@prospect.org.

 

Recent Articles

Ethics Watchdog Can Only Do So Much

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
democracy_rules.jpg For more than 30 years, watchdogs have pleaded in vain with Congress to strengthen the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent agency set up in the wake of Watergate to ward off executive branch conflicts of interest. Now, lawmakers may finally take notice. Until this year, it’s been easy for Congress to overlook the OGE’s relative lack of clout, sleepy profile, and reluctance to take forceful action. After all, until now all presidents have voluntarily followed fixed ethics conventions, such as disclosing their taxes and placing their assets into blind trusts, and have stood squarely behind the OGE in its inevitable clashes with other federal agencies. But Donald Trump’s determination to throw those conventions out the window, and his administration’s moves to not only reject OGE’s advice but block it from doing its job, have made it impossible to ignore just how tightly the ethics agency’s hands are tied—as OGE...

Trump’s Assault on the ‘Administrative State’

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
democracy_rules.jpg Among those alarmed by FBI Director James Comey’s firing last week are surely many federal workers, who may see it as emblematic of Donald Trump’s deliberate attack on the nation’s 2.7 million civil servants. Trump’s eagerness to fire government employees, for political or other reasons, has been on display since his campaign pledge to freeze federal hiring and end “waste, fraud and abuse.” Presidential chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon put it more bluntly following Trump’s election, pledging the “ deconstruction of the administrative state .” Some of Trump’s firings, such as his dismissals of Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, have raised questions about his motives. Like Comey, Yates, and Bharara—who refused to step down alongside 45 other U.S. attorneys asked to resign— were conducting Trump-linked investigations. Other firings, such as Trump’s...

Lobbying for Foreign Interests -- and Not Reporting It

Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has thrust foreign governments’ growing influence on American politics and policy—and U.S. officials’ failure to police it—front and center on Capitol Hill. The immediate question facing Congress is whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s role in the U.S. presidential race, something Democrats demand and GOP leaders reject. But the Russia probe has also shed light on another problem that worries lawmakers on both sides of the aisle: the secrecy that shrouds foreign influence peddling. In theory, U.S. lobbyists representing foreign governments and interests must register and disclose their activities with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 law written to stop Germany from using American firms to spread Nazi propaganda. In practice, though, the FARA is riddled with loopholes and barely enforced by the Justice Department, which has...

Shareholders Demand Disclosure -- and Republicans Push Back

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
rules-logo-109_2.jpg Corporate political spending has spiked noticeably in the business-friendly Trump era, but so has the pressure on corporations to fully disclose the money they pour into politics. Shareholders have filed dozens of resolutions this proxy season that call on companies to explain and account for their political spending. In January and February alone, shareholders filed 90 resolutions relating to political activity, including one that comes before the Berkshire Hathaway board on May 6. By one estimate, such resolutions numbered 105 in 2016. But Republicans on Capitol Hill, under pressure from business lobbyists, have introduced legislation authored by Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling that would silence most shareholders as part of a larger bill to overhaul the Dodd-Frank regulations. The resolution would be “a disaster” for the shareholder movement, says Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, which publishes an annual...

Should ‘Dark’ Money Power the Resistance to Trump?

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
rules-logo-109_2.jpg When a pair of former Democratic Hill aides put out a Donald Trump resistance manual dubbed the Indivisible Guide in December, they deliberately set out to emulate the hyper-local tactics so successfully deployed by the Tea Party. Not lost on the authors of the guide, which went instantly viral and garnered $1 million in contributions to fund a group dubbed the Indivisible Project, was that Tea Party organizers had run afoul of the Internal Revenue Service for allegedly diving into politics while seeking tax exemption. Pressured by Republicans following a critical inspector general report, the IRS later apologized for improperly targeting Tea Party groups, but the flap exposed the perils for nonprofits that enter the political fray. Undaunted, the Indivisible Project sought and won IRS approval in January to organize itself as a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, and has just spun off a 501(c)(3) charitable arm dubbed the Indivisible Fund to train citizen advocates...

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