S1: I believe that Republicans and Democrats need to work together to have additional support, as you know, I’ve worked very closely on these before. I’m prepared to sit down with the speaker at any time to negotiate.
S2: So when we are talking about the climate crisis, we are talking about a public health crisis in terms of clean air, the potential or not for clean water, first of all, I find it fascinating. The president said Biden didn’t put in a mask mandate. I don’t know how, but I mean, he’s president.
S3: Hello and welcome to Tramcars Time, Virginia Heffernan. So I’m at a place in upstate New York where there are some, yes. Trump signs and flags, which is a nice test of my emotional balance. These flags are like that houseboy and the Pink Panther movies who Inspector Clouseau pays to attack him every time he comes home to keep him on his toes. I see these flags and I am on my toes. Oh, hey, Mr. Morgan, man, I’m sure you’re just a fellow human who wants to love and be loved with your human heart. The same kind I have. And maybe you have a touch of economic insecurity because don’t we all you’re not a Q and on death culture, who suspects? I know on the tender bones of Christian children and Battan on their blood, who has blown past even racist objectives like building the wall and greed objectives like screwing over the poor. Those were completely sane. But now you’re not all the way to ghoulish, otherworldly objectives. The ones that begin with convening a mass mosh pit of trumpets smack in the Holy Land saying See and thanks and don’t let the door hit you to Jews who kept your rapture seat warm for you and then getting beamed up to your heavenly reward with rapture influencers like Nut Jobs Bilborough and Mike Pompeo. Are you? When death is your destination, the road is paved with madness. And that’s why we keep seeing trumpets reject small morsels of paper that can keep them from dying of covid. And they think these masks impede their freedom. These are the ones preaching anti vax and beating and shooting black people on sight and dreaming up their Petto bloodbath theology that makes Heaven’s Gate and Nazism seem like science. And otherwise they’re not doing one thing that makes sense until you see them as wanting to be dead and wanting, of course, for the rest of us to be dead with them. Whoops. I was meant to be loving my neighbor, right? I lost the beginning of this, my neighbor with his Trump regalia. All right. Here are my thoughts on that. Even Christian love of neighbor. And remember, there’s also Christian love of enemy makes an exception for the despairing person, the one who wants to die. That’s the way I see trumpet’s, because love is fuel for survival. And if someone is working against his survival and mine, then that love fuel is no good. Paul Butler and I, you all may remember on this show discussed this, the foregoing of hope being in some strains of Christianity, the sin for which there is no forgiveness. And that may sound cruel, but at the very least, I want to give the despairing trumpets a wide berth. I see nothing but an absence of hope in their Trump ism. And the flags, the Trump flags signal to me that my neighbor over here is a Moethee frat dude waving a gun. And I’m not going to exactly give that guy a hug or hand him a daisy. And I’m certainly not going to try to convince him of anything. In fact, for as long as I’m in Redish America, I plan to leave all the Trump with their lunatic creeds and uncovered covid coughs alone. My guests today are Sally Herships and Sarah Kliner, they are part of the team behind the Heist, a podcast premiering today. Sally is the co executive producer of the show, and Sarah Kleiner is a reporter on the show. She is also a poverty and inequality reporter at the Center for Public Integrity. Sally and Sara, welcome to Dreamcast.
S4: Thanks for having us. Yes, thank you so much.
S5: I’m so happy that both of you are here because I’m going to need to pepper you with questions about the heist, this new podcast.
S3: I know it’s about taxes, but it is also about an actual heist. I think it’s more like not the heist is about taxes, but the taxes generally are about a heist. Tell me about the Dallas piggy bank where you get that phrase and the hero and antihero of Episode one.
S4: We’re on Zoome. Of course, you can’t see me, but I just raised my eyes and looked directly at reporter Sarah Kliner.
S6: Sure. So this episode focuses in on one particular major Republican donor. His name is Doug Dison. He is the son of a billionaire who lives in Dallas. And he is an interesting character because he opened up about the access that he has to politicians and about how he gets that access. And that’s through hosting fundraisers and through making campaign contributions. He and his dad make about three to five million dollars in campaign contributions every year, and that is split between candidates campaign committees that split between super PACs and PACs. And that’s also money that’s considered dark money that goes to 524 nonprofits.
S5: So for a figure like Doug Dison involved in giving dark money, he was incredibly candid with you. I mean, it was like going to, you know, someone who’s accustomed to talking or your custom that they’re going to talk in dog whistles and have them say, well, as a racist, I do X, Y, Z. OK, wow. You really told us. You know, you asked you asked him if it was pay for play that he was getting, if he was paying for access and he essentially responded. Yes. How did you find him and how did you. Yeah. I mean, I’d like to give all the credit to you guys as amazing reporters, but it didn’t take a lot to get this stuff out of him. It didn’t seem like you had to work your sources. You just found a big blabbermouth who said the quiet part out.
S6: He was very candid and very, you know, opened up about why he gives. And it was a bit surprising to to hear him say that, yes, he buys access. Now, he doesn’t consider it pay for play politics because and I think this is a matter of semantics. I think it comes down to everyone agrees that this is happening in the United States of America. Wealthy people have influence, wealthy people have access. So there’s no disagreement there. I think it comes down to is this pay to play politics? And the Democrats like to call it pay to play politics. Yes. That there is an exchange happening. You give money and you get something in return. That’s not how Doug decencies what he’s doing. He does not see it as pay to play. He sees this as a public service. He sees this as he is trying to get people elected who will make laws that he thinks are right for the country that he thinks are good for the country.
S5: And those were three in the case of Donald Trump. Those were three, three, four very specific things. Oh, sorry. You start the series with the promises that Trump made in 2016 and decent was indifferent to some of those promises and quite invested in others of those promises. Tell us about that. Tell us about that breakdown, because I don’t think we’ve seen in the last four years on this show a Republican. We’ve seen a lot of Republicans who got disillusioned with Trump entirely, who just cut him off and left the administration in a huff and are now campaigning for for Biden. But we haven’t seen a donor like this who really kind of turned the valve of money on and then when things weren’t going his way, turned the valve of money off on particular policy positions. So talk us through the policy positions that Dyson was invested in that he thought he was going to get for his money.
S6: Right. So we start the episode by exploring the three promises that Donald Trump made when he was running for office. And that was he was going to build a wall. Mexico is going to pay for it. He was going to repeal and replace Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act, and he was going to pass a tax bill that was going to lower taxes for corporations and for American workers. You know, it seemed at first like these were slam dunks. How could this not happen? Right. Republicans controlled the House, they controlled the Senate, and they had the White House. So donors started to get antsy after a while when there wasn’t any movement on these issues. And Doug Dyson really cared about the ACA and he really cared about the tax bill. Those are the two things that he was focused on. And he would have fundraisers for politicians and he would grill them and quiz them and say, hey, are you going to back these two measures? They would say, yes. He would say, OK, in the instance of John McCain and the ACA, I mean, he felt like he was lied to by John McCain, who had said, yes, I’m going to vote to repeal Obamacare.
S5: Yeah, it’s funny because in that very first episode, you replay McCain’s kind of thumbs down moment on Obamacare, which everyone watching from home that I know was in tears of joy when we saw that, you know, how had he come out of his sickness to make that such a humane vote that, you know, foiled Trump, who had been critical of him. And, you know, he wasn’t just going to take the bit like all these other Republicans and he was dying and it was his vote that counted. And we can imagine a movie about that thumbs down, you know, beautiful. And then we see it through the lens of of dison. And it’s an entirely different affair. It’s a betrayal. He is furious. And that’s when you sort of see that Dison is he’s just the flip side of an ordinary Democrat. So, like, he’s a pretty ordinary Republican. That’s right. He’s not trying to line his pockets. He says very specifically, his father made money selling his data company and otherwise they just invest. He’s not trying to, like, get kickbacks for for Rosol in Kentucky or whatever it is, other kinds of corruption we’ve seen. Nor is he a kuhnen person with a crazy agenda about Trump vanquishing the blood drinking libs or whatever. He just wants his right wing tax cut. And he also wants to wipe out Obamacare because for whatever reason, he believes that there’s a better health care system on the other side of it anyway. What I mean is he’s just a fascinating character and it’s somewhat refreshing to hear just, you know, someone who really, really wanted to repeal Obamacare. We’ve forgotten about that in the current world of, you know, vote for Trump. If you think that you shouldn’t put a piece of paper over your mouth to stop yourself from getting a deadly disease. You know, we’ve gotten so far away from normal policy objectives, so decencies this moment from McCain as this betrayal.
S3: And he starts to think maybe Trump’s not going to get done what I wanted him to get done. Well, moving on to my next agenda point, move on to the tax bill, what he wanted from that and when he thought he wasn’t going to get it and what that was like.
S6: Right. So he was very public at the time. In twenty seventeen, he spoke with the press at a Koch Brothers seminar in Colorado out loud and said, hey, these politicians aren’t doing what they said they were going to do. I’m cutting off campaign contributions and I’m going to ask that my wealthy Republican friends do the same thing. So he he sent an email to these wealthy donors who are friends of his and said, I’m going to cut off campaign contributions until they do what they said they’re going to do. And I suggest you do two. And most of the people he emailed agreed to do that. And then when they would wind up inviting him to a fundraiser a couple of weeks later, he would write back and say, hey, wait a minute, you said you weren’t going to do this anymore. And campaign finance data shows that actually there was a drop off that decent did stop. He he closed down his what he calls the Dallas Piggy Bank, which is a very wealthy part of the country. There’s a lot of money there. And politicians come through there to to basically help bolster their campaign funds. So anyway, he he cut off the Dallas piggy bank. And then, you know, when tax reform looked like when the tax bill was back on the table, he started donating again.
S5: It’s like someone who gives an allowance to their addict child, but like makes it like that. You have to be breathalyzed every month or something to get it. You know, that that, you know, it’s an allowance, basically. And, you know, you kind of have to do what I say or you don’t get the money. And by the way, once I switch my brain around to think about what a Dallas evangelical businessman might want from policy, I didn’t think that his I didn’t think that his decision making was, you know, all that appalling. I mean, there are lots of people that continue to give money to their kids as long as they behave the way they want them doing when they don’t they don’t want to sponsor that. Right. They don’t want to let them go off, you know, off a ledge. But what’s crazy to me is that these other Republicans turned out to be indifferent to policy that they or at least at. Wasn’t as important to them as what access or just the team, the Republican team continuing to win, or is it just kind of a habitual social thing that Dallas and he says North Texas like to see themselves as bankrolling the Republican Party so they don’t want to stop or maybe they’re the kind of parent that says, you know, take the money. I’m not going to earmark it for anything. You’re not obliged to, you know, quit drinking. You can just, like just do, you know, go to town, like the kind of codependent, you know, mom doesn’t do a show any tough love. I mean, why I’m less mystified by Dison than I am by these other Republicans in Dallas.
S4: So can I just break in for one second? Because I think it’s worth noting that Doug Dison, Usera has pointed out, inherited a ton of money from his dad and even says in the piece like he makes a big point of saying, like, hey, like no one’s ever accused us of of wanting to, you know, donate to politicians because of, like, anything personal from me or my dad. Right, Sarah. But he says something. What is it? I can’t recall maybe. Sarah, you remember the exact quote. Like, he implies that he doesn’t stand to benefit because they just invest. And I think it’s worth just pointing out here for for just a minute that because they invest in the stock market, they stand to benefit big time from the passage of the tax cut.
S5: Right. Right. I mean, that makes sense. But also, Trump and his ilk believe that the stock market is a proxy for the whole economy. So you can imagine that if you’re the type that thinks lower taxes benefit the economy generally and the stock market as they are as the economy’s proxy, that that’s I mean, I guess I don’t know why I’m trying to cut decent all these breaks, but see if you agree with this. You know, we’re so used to these families that buyoff governors or, you know, aget buddy, buddy with secretaries of state or politicians or presidents so that they can, like, just literally get pork to their my pillow company or whatever it is. And it does seem that maybe he has a portfolio that really stands to gain from this. And I don’t know, he’s probably in the oil business or who knows what he’s in. But he wasn’t like trying to do a deal with Qatar to save a building of his that could be brokered through the president’s office. And believe it or not, that I now have such a you know, the bar for corruption has been set so, so miserably. What high or low buy, buy Kushner that I feel like if even if if he wants to benefit the stock market, generally, that’s not what I would do, but that’s what a Republican would do. It’s not the same kind of total self dealing. Do you agree or no.
S4: First of all, I want to say like the my pillow company, I want to invest out and buy a my pillow, but I don’t know do. I’d be curious to hear from Sarah a reminder of the companies in the area portfolio that, yeah. That decent is invested in. And it also just makes me think like, do you really believe that multimillionaire business people are naive enough to think because he he made a point of saying that to you, Sarah. Right. That like his own personal taxes went up as a result of the tax bill, and then you kind of had to push him and say, but wasn’t he going to benefit? Like, how can someone with a multimillion dollar investment not think that he’s going to stand to benefit from a massive cut in the corporate tax rate? I don’t know that I believe that someone at that level of investment is that naive. I will defer to Sarah.
S5: Sarah, what do you think? And I mean, do you do you have any idea what his major investments are?
S6: Right. They have investments in oil and gas companies and investments in financial services, media company. It’s a pretty diverse portfolio of investments. And he manages his family’s money. Doug Dixon manages his family’s money. I will say that I asked him about if he benefited from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and he said, well, actually, personally, my taxes went up. His mortgage deduction went down so he could only deduct seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars instead of a million dollars. And so then I said, I feel like if you back up and look at the bottom line before and after the tax bill, why is it better for your investments? And he said, well, yeah, it probably was. Very casually. It wasn’t something that he really had, he didn’t have these numbers at his fingertips, but yeah, it probably was better for him. And we know that, yes, the stock market did improve and kept improving all the way up until when the pandemic hit and then boom, that was affected.
S5: Right. He seems to have brought his stewardship of his massive inheritance from his father. You point out he’s not self-made at all. This is not the my pillow guy and also his maybe evangelical beliefs in line in the usual way of saying tax cuts, whatever it is, wherever Reaganomics stands right now, that tax cuts that benefit the rich maybe benefit everyone else, or there’s some way that he can continue to tell himself he’s doing good for other people. I mean, I know these are just like shibboleths and ways that rich Christians console themselves, but I feel like he he does that, at least in your interview with him. He says, I want to help other people, something like that. Maybe he means the middle class. In any case, what he is not doing is a version of pay for play where he, you know, actually got some kind of deregulation that just exactly benefits his company decent. And co I don’t know why it’s important to make this point, except to say that the reason he was willing to talk to you, I think, is that he’s been able to hold Trump’s feet to the fire on policy, even if in some cases the policy that he wants enriches him. That’s what makes him such an interesting figure in the first episode. Talk about Dyson’s relationship to the tax bill. How does that work? If I want to be a big Republican donor, but I want to have specific policy initiatives, I want.
S6: So we at the Center for Public Integrity analyzed the campaign finance contributions, campaign contributions in twenty seventeen. As this was going on, we noticed that, yes, Doug Dyson stopped contributing for the most part to Republicans, whereas, you know, the year before he had given tens of thousands of dollars to campaign committees. And keep in mind that that money is capped. So that may not sound like a lot, but you’re capped at how much you can give per candidate per election cycle in 2017. That almost completely stopped. And then in November, when the tax bill was back on the table, that’s when his campaign contributions started up again.
S3: Got it. He also is a deficit hawk, right? That was another thing he cared about.
S6: That’s right. But and he did talk about this. I asked, well, how do Republicans support this bill when it adds so much to the deficit? Because as Sally explores in later episodes, this bill really added a lot to the nation’s credit card. And conservatives have been for years saying, well, we can’t do this or that because it’s going to add to the deficit. It’s going, you know, how does that jive? And he said that he doesn’t like the fact that it added to the deficit. It did bother him.
S5: Joe Walsh, who’s been on the show, you know, that was also where he turned. I mean, some it’s just very, very interesting to see how people come by their doubts about Donald Trump. I mean, most of us who care about integrity, thought or care about care about corruption, you know, had a moment where we said, well, we I guess we’ve got to give this elected president a break. And then when he refused to divest, gave up on Trump that way, you know, that he was like now at cross purposes and should have been conflicted out of the office. But other people came at other moments. And for Walsh, the rising deficit was part of it. And for Dison, he didn’t care about the wall, you said? I thought that was very interesting, but he did care about these two things and and and the deficit as a kind of a kind of byproduct of the of the tax break.
S4: It’s sort of easy to understand how a classic and loyal Republican could just fall into line here, because if you listen to Trump’s promises and mentions promises, it’s over and over again the same thing this bill will pay for itself. Right. I think at one point the was even saying this bill will not only pay for itself, but will pay down debt. So through the magic of trickle down work, that right. Cutting the corporate tax rate is going to generate so much economic growth that just stick with me, stick with me here. This bill will pay for itself. So I could see why someone who is a loyal Republican like Dizon would would buy that would do that.
S5: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, you know, this is why just once again, I just want to emphasize to listeners that this is a very different type than we’ve seen before, because it is filtered at least the policy stuff through an idea, an ideology that we can recognize as Republican. And, you know, if he’s not doesn’t care about social issues, certainly doesn’t care about. Q And on his evangelical faith, as someone in the background, he doesn’t think Trump’s. The chosen one and, you know, as we have learned, like it was a luxury of the 2016 before 2016 to dislike rank and file Republicans and even big Republican donors in the sense that they haven’t gone completely off a ledge in wanting to deport everyone, cage kids at the borders, you know, spread coronavirus. He doesn’t seem like one of the Republicans that’s trying to murder everyone. How about that? So let’s go through the episodes that I haven’t heard, because you tease the fact that one of everybody’s favorite villains is coming up, and that’s Steve Manoogian. Tell me what you learned about him and you got to talk to him.
S4: No, I spent months sending emails to the Treasury, requesting an interview with Russian. And at the very last minute, like last week, I think we sent an email basically sharing all of our reporting and asking one more time for a response. And we got one. We got a response from the Treasury, but not from Manoogian himself.
S5: And the response being to declined your request?
S4: No. Interestingly enough, the spokesperson did not respond to that specifically. They were a little selective in their response. We also didn’t get a response to, I think, one of the main items of interest, which is my main claim that this bill would pay for itself. So I actually have in my pile of papers here, I have a printout of all of their responses, but they sort of responded in great detail about different economic points, about the bill and things that we found in our reporting.
S5: So tell me how you did this report around Luis Linton. Of course, there’s like always in the background, you could always refer to her Instagram account, his big spending, high rolling English wife. But, you know, because he’s a mysterious figure, I just remember his. Think maybe before his confirmation, you know, a lot of his former classmates and colleagues at Yale wrote to say, you know, we we strongly disapprove of this choice. I mean, these people are such black sheep, even from the institutions that they’ve been associated with. You know, everybody thought it was a bad idea. And he is preened and done some you know, we know him from his exposure with his wife and a few other and some crazy other pronouncements. We know that he stands behind Trump, even though he would seem to be we know that he skips skips out on subpoenas and otherwise kind of just does all the Trump syndicate’s moves. One other side point about him is, you know, there’s always this conversation about who did that, who’s good for the Jews. And Gary Cohn was sort of a last hope. But when I asked some you know, some people, I guess, on the show who they thought was good for the Jews, they didn’t even give me a chance like he was just gone. And I mean, why is he why is his brain gone? And like, what’s his deal? And also, is he just another Trump lackey or is he working some black magic as a lot of questions?
S4: Let me start with the first one, which is how we reported around it. Yeah, OK. And so that was it took a lot of emails. And so the pandemic was happening, which made it really hard to, you know, do normal reportorially things like leave my apartment. But I mean, I reached out to everyone. This didn’t make it into the episode. But I when I first started reporting on him, I didn’t realize he had been a Hollywood producer. Right. I think he’s he’s he’s listed on IMDB as the executive producer of over 40 to 50 films that parts in the podcast. But what isn’t, is that I didn’t know that an executive producer, apparently that title is like given out like candy. So when I first learned, like, you give some money, you get an EP title. Thank you very much. Go home, be quiet till we need you to write another check. Yes. So when I first learned that he was EP of all these films, I was like, oh my God, amazing. I’m going to try Hollywood because that’s an untapped I’m in a right. I can. So I wrote to Alan Arkin. I texted Zach Braff. Zach Braff did not respond. Alan Arkin wrote me a very nice note back because I wanted to know what it was like to work with him. And that’s how I found out that like an EP title is actually meaningless.
S5: Right. Working with him was just getting his wire in the movie. Yeah. Yeah. And maybe he got to come to the premiere.
S4: Right. So, yeah. So I reached out to everyone. I talked to people who went to high school with him who were at college with him. I even tried like the manager at like a golf club. I think one of his family members went to like I tried so many different things. And eventually I found people who had worked with him or were close to the family who were willing to talk.
S3: And what did they tell you?
S4: Ultimately, Minassian does what he needs to do to keep his boss happy. And in this case, his boss is one of arguably the most powerful people in the world, the president, Donald Trump. And that’s how we end up where Manoogian is standing in the lobby after Trump says this, you know, it’s right after Charlottesville. Trump has made this like infamous statement, good people on both sides and mention a Jew stands there right next to him and he gets a lot of flak for that. His high school alumni and alumni from his college both write public letters calling on him to resign after this. And he responds on Twitter, he responds on Twitter and kind of just says something like, hey, I’m Jewish and kind of just sticks up for the president.
S5: That’s been an interesting one. You know, part of Michael Cohen’s repentance tour has been how he connected with his Jewish background to realize Trump’s racism and and the burgeoning anti-Semitism in Kuhnen. But Manoogian couldn’t be called back to that finding his soul seems, you know, up there in difficulty with finding Trump’s.
S4: I mean, I didn’t get to speak with him. All I can say is, you know, make of it what you will, right?
S5: I mean, did you find is there something he cares about? Like I mean, is it just he just likes to manage up and please his boss? If his boss had been Barack Obama, would he be the same?
S4: I mean, that’s a great question. He’s worked with George Soros, although I don’t know how closely I asked someone who worked very closely with him at the Treasury if he had any interests like that. That’s a question I asked almost everyone. Who is this guy? Everyone I spoke to was like, I have no idea, huh? So somebody who worked with him frequently was like I was like, does he have interests? And he was like, he likes to take I think it was soul cycle classes with his wife or something like like there was just not there was just not a lot of there there. Now, I don’t know if this is because he’s very secretive. I don’t you know, maybe he has some inner circle. Who knows? The man is a mystery like that’s that’s been confirmed before.
S5: So what is he I mean, he’s a great contrast to decent. And also one of the themes of this podcast has been why why do people like what brings people to become, as Anne Applebaum would say, collaborate with this particular regime? And it’s always a little different. I mean, and she said that’s always been true of collaborationists. Maybe someone if he worked for Soros before, he just likes to attach himself to powerful men and, you know, be a good servant no matter what their personality is, where Cohen had his motivations and decent had his motivations. And I think that that’s like the first two episodes capture that very well. What is Manoogian responsible for in the tax code and with economic decisions that we will, as ordinary citizens, feel experience?
S4: Ultimately, I think it would be accurate to label him the salesman for the tax code. Right. He’s the one who had to get up in public and say this tax bill is revenue neutral. But then we switched to this bill will pay for itself. This bill will pay down debt. So I think ultimately that was his job, like pushing this through and getting it done. So what is he responsible for? Ultimately, he I think it would be fair to say he is in part responsible for the debt, which we will all be saddled with for years to come, possibly our kids and grandkids.
S5: I mean, he you know, like you say, he stood up and said, I’m Jewish and this doesn’t offend me, basically. And, you know, I feel like with the with the tax decisions, he’s a little bit the Colin Powell selling the Iraq war. But he’s has some bona fides. He looks authoritative. He can probably do some degree of compound interest in his head. He’s a he’s he’s not innumerate. And for him to say these things was, what’s it called, whitewashing. When an intellectual does it, I don’t know, brainwashing something like they’re not brainwashed. That’s a different word entirely. But I mean, he gave it the sheen of integrity or something like that. You know, he’s not exactly charisma itself. So having him sell something doesn’t seem right. But maybe if you Republicans were persuaded by this, even if they, you know, even if they could do the math themselves, I mean, do you think that had any effect on Trump voters?
S4: That’s a good question. I don’t know how voters how much attention individual voters paid to him. I think his wife generated more interest rate. She had that famous Instagram spat because Louis Clinton, when she was like tagging her designer handbags or scarves or whatever. Yes, Tom Ford Sunnies. People know Manoogian because of that picture of him that went viral, where he’s a Bureau of engraving with Louise Clinton, his wife. And she’s got these long black I think they’re black leather gloves and they’re both holding up the sheets of money. And I think that’s interesting. Just to go back to something you were saying before sort of asking about what motivates him, that’s something I was really curious about. Right? He’s had he’s on wife number three. He’s had three beautiful wives. He’s got two beautiful kids. He’s earned a ton of money. He’s executive producer, Hollywood films. He gets to go to these red carpet events. He does not have a record of public service jobs. Why? Like, why would he want this job? And what one source who worked with him told me was in meetings at the Treasury or at the Treasury mansion would frequently ask, right. It’s the Treasurer’s job to sign the money like our paper bills. And that is something that Madison would frequently asked about. Ask about when now, when am I going to get to sign the money? I don’t know.
S5: Maybe if you’re rich and you’ve had three wives, like, it’s just cool to be Treasury secretary to like, you know, this is your in crowd, like the president, your name’s on all the dollars and that like that kind of like, you know, I mean, that might appeal to the Trump’s base to just want to do this baller thing and sign all the dollar bills. I mean, the way Trump wanted to sign all our checks, you know, just sort of seem like your baller. I remember someone saying that Larry Summers got to sign all the dollar bills and before that, all the Harvard diplomas and that sort of. I don’t know, he puts his imprimatur on every you know, on everything, he just gets to touch everything and that would seem to go to the kind of ID, the Trump sort of you know, Trump likes to put his signature on everything. That’s a very I mean, that that adds up in a sad way.
S4: Just going to say, I want to be 110 percent clear that this is pure speculation. Right. Again, I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t know. So just put that out there.
S5: Pure speculation. That’s our jam here. So the tax bill now here, Bob Corker, adult day care, he tweeted once that that’s what Trump needed all the time. Bob Corker was almost sort of like was the spoiler on the tax bill. And he was for a while a hero. So, you know, Steve Manoogian, I guess there was some possibility maybe that with his brains, he might might stand in Trump’s way. And then but obviously we let go of that pretty quickly after Charlottesville. But Bob Corker came up as a possible possible kind of you know, that he might stand up to him and be able to stand up to him. What happened here with Corker? Just kind of succinctly.
S4: Yeah, there was a point early on in the discussions around Trump’s tax plan where the bill, the the plan needed to go through, I think it was Budget Committee Corker on that committee. They need his vote. He’s this famous deficit hawk. I think he said something like, you know, we talk about the shirker side of things, but we need to talk about the spinach. So he gets called into Mitch McConnell’s office. The door closes, Toomey is in there to 10 minutes pass. He walks out. And he is going to support this bill. What the heck happened? No one knows. I mean, well, obviously, Bob Corker to me and Mitch McConnell.
S5: No, but anyone on the other side of the door, this is Bob Corker’s version of Lindsey Graham’s golf game with Trump, where he came back, lied about how much, you know, Trump had beaten him so brutally and then never said a word against Trump again. Corker continued to distance himself from Trump, but clearly something happened in the room that let him get in line. I mean, maybe maybe that’s where he decided he wasn’t going to run again and he would throw this victory to Trump. And I don’t know I don’t know if it was Trump hassling him with the little you know, he’s like Adam Schiff and some others, Marco Rubio. He’s someone that Trump, with his infinite sophistication and maturity, criticizes for his height. Was he tweeting about little Korkor before this?
S4: I can’t get into that level of detail because I wasn’t the Corker reporter. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Different reporter. But what I can tell you is that there was discussion because Corker, such a deficit hawk, there was discussion at some point about putting in a trigger so that if the bill was passed, if it generated more than a certain amount of debt, this trigger would go off and something would be like like I think the debt would be capped in some way. So I think what happened was that he was assured that there would only be a certain amount of debt, that that debt, you know, the bill would generate enough economic growth that the bill would pay for itself. So he thinks this trigger is going to happen and then they get his, you know, green light to move forward. And the trigger does not become part of the ultimate legislation.
S5: You can’t be telling me that Trump and McConnell broke their promise to someone in the history of Trump. We’ve certainly never heard about man of his word, Donald Trump breaking a promise even to Republicans. The tax bill is passed. This is Episode four and you zero in on a company that got massive tax breaks and then spent it on these things called share buybacks, if you can believe it. I just learned what that is. But that is in a huge amount of trouble right now. And that’s American Airlines. Tell us what happened with American Airlines.
S4: So I think big picture, what’s really interesting about American Airlines is the company had declared bankruptcy in the past. So it’s already like airlines are already known to be companies that have been in trouble. Then we do the tax cut, which is essentially a big handout to corporations. Then the coronavirus happens and all of the sudden the company that was getting the handout not too long ago is now getting a bailout. So that is like big picture, what happened. And so one of the critiques of American Airlines is that when it got the tax cut, instead of saving for a rainy day, strengthening the company, the money went to the wealthy people. You know, corporate investors, they did these share buybacks. And then you have workers who are pissed off. They’re not getting they are not seeing the green. They are not sharing in the wealth. The money is not trickling down as promised.
S5: Who. Right. Trickle down. How how does that everyone I mean, how in the world does anyone, even with a straight face, including Manoogian, say, oh, well, we know this really new way of thinking about money where give tax breaks to the rich and the and the poor get rich. Yeah, not true. Disproved time and time again. I still don’t understand how voters, you know, ordinary Republicans make their peace with that, how this never works and everyone wants to tax the rich more.
S4: This is like one of my favorite parts of our third episode. I got to talk to this amazing professor and historian, Molly Mitchelmore, and she described it so well and she said one of the reasons the theory of trickle down was so successful is it’s really easy to explain. It’s like a really great way to get votes. We are going to unshackle the economy. It’s going to grow and everyone’s going to benefit. Yeah, like, I get that. That’s so easy.
S5: And it’s kind of glamorous because that, like, you know, Trump was an 80s avatar of that idea that, yeah, make these people aspirational rich because taking the shackles off someday it would trickle down to you, actually you. But you could also just aspire to be them. Actual them. All right. Coronavirus. Oh, sorry. American Airlines. So then they’re hit by the coronavirus, which, you know, obviously also is another hit. And so then there are these companies that are like Donald Trump during his bankruptcies that are just, you know, worth less than nothing. And these hollow shells and still they’re kind of imagined to be great American companies that are shored up by this government. I mean, do you think that. The next administration that’s my podcast sound for, you know, God willing, is just going to let some of these companies fall apart.
S4: It’s interesting, I did talk to one economist who did not make it into the podcast, and he pointed out that just based on principles of simple capitalism, like, you know, this is everyone has their own opinion. This is this is his he said, you know, let the let the companies die. If we needed airlines, if we need airlines, then the airline companies will succeed. And so the whole argument that we need airlines and if we let them go bankrupt, then we won’t have airplanes is not true because the demand will create the company.
S5: Yes. I mean, the other thing is just reasserting common sense is just been the goal of. Yeah. That supply and demand are actually a like not a bad way to think of an economy instead of like zombie companies paid for with bailouts. Yeah, I like that. Your economists said if we need airlines we will have airlines. So coronavirus and this is your final episode. Episode five, October 15th Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help these small businesses, but it did not guess what it helped tell us about this episode.
S4: So first, I think it’s really important to point out that the paycheck protection program did help a lot of small businesses. It also had some big problems. Shake Shack, the Lakers. It’s questionable whether those companies and companies like those should have been getting coronavirus relief aid from the federal government intended for struggling small businesses, businesses with 500 employees or fewer, although the 500 employees or fewer was, I think, added in a subsequent round. It’s also important to point out that the Center for Public Integrity did receive a loan, as did a number of other newsrooms. They received a loan for about I think it was six hundred fifty eight thousand dollars. So what we look at in this episode is how a program meant to help small businesses instead ended up helping big businesses, potentially businesses. It was not intended to help. And so we look at a really interesting guy by the name of Ronald Gigged, sits in a company that he is connected to, which is seemingly a company that is larger and does not need the financial assistance of the PGP program. In order to qualify for a loan, you have to prove that you either do not have access to other sources of money or if you do have access, that tapping into those would be detrimental. And so we look at a company where that is potentially not the case.
S5: OK, how dire is this? If Trump leaves us in November, what is the extent of this particular shit show we’ve like? There’s all kinds of subject shows. It’s a multiple ring set of shows. But which what about this tax one in particular?
S4: I mean, I think Sarah hit the nail on the head earlier. We and this is something that a guy by the name of Mark Mazher shared with me and he used to be at Treasury. We are left with a big bill. It feels a little bit like a bait and switch. And we have this almost, you know, depending on the different numbers that are out there between a trillion and a half or up to two trillion dollar tab on the credit card for the country. And like, who’s going to pay for the who’s going to pay the bill for that?
S6: We are it’s astounding if you look at charts of dark money spending and spending by outside groups, which are super PACs who can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. If you look at a chart since 2010 that spending has gone through the roof, we are about to eclipse a billion dollars. According to ISSUE one, which is a nonpartisan advocacy organization in D.C., We’re about to eclipse a billion dollars in dark money spending. And this is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. This is a problem for democracy. If you talk to campaign finance reformers, should this amount of access be in the hands of so few people?
S7: Sally Herships is a producer of The Heist and Sarah Kliner is a reporter on The Heist. Thanks so much for being here, both of you. Thank you so much. Yes, thank you. That’s it for today’s show. Hey, what do you think? Give us a bouncing, healthy rating on your podcast app and then come to us on Twitter. Our arms are open to you. I’m at page 88. The show is at Real Dreamcast. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan and engineered by Richard Stanislaw. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.
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S9: We also aim to bring you important investigative features that you’re not going to read or hear anywhere else, like Season four, a slow burn, which looked at David Duke’s rise to power and what it took to stop him and which Vulture called a scorching listen with the class of RPG, an audio print production helmed by America’s host Dahlia Lithwick, who was staff writer Molly Olmstead, tracked down the nine other women in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg law school class and told the story of their lives and of an entire generation of American women. As we continue to cover the pandemic, the presidential election and the most consequential movement for justice and equality in this country since the nineteen sixties, we could not be more grateful to have you on our side.
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