Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Corporations Grow Nervous About Participating in Republican Convention
Some of the country's best-known corporations are nervously grappling with what role they should play at the Republican National Convention, given the likely nomination of Donald J. Trump, whose divisive candidacy has alienated many women, African-Americans and Hispanics.
An array of activist groups is organizing a campaign to pressure the companies to refuse to sponsor the gathering, which many of the corporations have done for both the Republican and Democratic parties for decades.
The pressure is emerging as some businesses and trade groups are already privately debating whether to scale back their participation, according to interviews with more than a dozen lobbyists, consultants and fund-raisers directly involved in the conversations.
Apple, Google and Walmart are among the companies assessing their plans for the convention, which will be held in Cleveland from July 18 through July 21.
In addition to Mr. Trump's divisive politics, there is the possibility that protests, or even violence, will become a focus of attention at the convention. Mr. Trump has suggested that there will be "riots" if he is not chosen as the party's nominee, and the city of Cleveland recently sought bids for about 2,000 sets of riot gear for its police force.
A reduction in support from major corporations would be worrisome for Cleveland, which celebrated the awarding of the convention last year as a symbol of the city's rebirth. The host committee is seeking to raise about $64 million for the event.
"I have talked to several people at companies who have said, 'I've always gone to the convention, I've always participated at some level, but this year we're not putting it in our budget, we're not going, we're not going to sponsor any of the events going on," said Carla Eudy, a longtime Republican fund-raising consultant.
Walmart, which contributed $150,000 to the Republican convention in 2012, has yet to commit to contributing this year. "We haven't made any decisions," said Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart, who emphasized that even before Mr. Trump's rise, the company had been discussing reducing its involvement.
Apple and Google declined to comment.
Coca-Cola has already declined to match the $660,000 it provided to the 2012 Republican convention, donating only $75,000 to this year's gathering and indicating that it does not plan to provide more.
Kent Landers, a Coca-Cola spokesman, declined to explain the reduction in support. But officials at the company are trying to quietly defuse a campaign organized by the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change, which says it has collected more than 100,000 signatures on a petition demanding that Coca-Cola, Google, Xerox and other companies decline to sponsor the convention. Donating to the event, the petition states, is akin to endorsing Mr. Trump's "hateful and racist rhetoric.''
"These companies have a choice right now, a history-making choice," said Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change. "Once they start writing checks, they are essentially making a commitment to support the platform of somebody who has threatened riots at the convention. Do they want riots brought to us by Coca-Cola?"
The situation is especially delicate for Coca-Cola, which is based in Atlanta and has devoted significant resources for decades to efforts to appeal to minority groups.
In the company's Washington, D.C., office, executives have been locked in conversations about how to handle the convention, according to two people directly involved in the discussions. In addition to donating cash, the beverage giant usually provides in-kind contributions, including sodas and other drinks.
In a statement, Mr. Landers, the Coca-Cola spokesman, said the company had also provided $75,000 to the 2016 Democratic convention, adding that, "The Coca-Cola Company is a nonpartisan business and does not endorse presidential candidates or nominees, nor do we endorse any specific party."
Emily Lauer, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, played down any concerns about fund-raising. She said corporations and other donors had already pledged $54 million of the $64 million needed for the convention.
But a senior Republican official with direct knowledge of convention fund-raising said there was growing worry inside the party about whether donors would follow through with their pledges if Mr. Trump became the nominee.
Asked how much of the $54 million the committee has in hand, Ms. Lauer said "the majority." The state of Ohio, the city of Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County are contributing generously to the effort, she said, along with local businesses.
The issue is a touchy one for American businesses, which until now have largely avoided the delicate choice between possibly offending Mr. Trump's passionate followers by distancing themselves from him, or angering the equally vocal constituencies opposed to his candidacy.But the question of what to do about the Republican convention is more complex for businesses than simply deciding whether to contribute to the host committee: They are also grappling with whether they should risk sending their executives, whether they can just quietly give to ancillary events benefiting other Republicans and even whether they ought to have their names removed from the off-site concerts that are often convention favorites.
"These are Maalox months for everyone," said Bruce Haynes, a public relations consultant at Purple Strategies, a Virginia-based bipartisan communications firm. "If this is going to look like 1968, there will be people that say, 'That's not where I want my product placement,' " he added, referring to clashes between police officers and protesters at the Democratic convention in Chicago.
The Color of Change campaign is now being joined by Hispanic, Muslim and women's rights organizations. While Coke has been the focus of the convention push so far, the advocacy groups have also been in contact with Google, Cisco and AT&T and said they would target these companies if the companies did not withdraw their contributions and vow to give no more.
Nita Chaudhary, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, a women's rights group, noted that many Republican governors had felt pressure from businesses over gay rights, as companies "compete with one another to be the most socially progressive."
She added, "Well, there's no greater threat to women and people of color in this country than Donald Trump."
Representatives from Cisco and AT&T issued prepared statements pointing to their technological support for both parties' conventions in the past. They indicated that they would offer the same in-kind assistance this year, while emphasizing that their support was aimed at benefiting the democratic process. They declined to comment further.
Color of Change, the advocacy group, has been effective in putting pressure on image-conscious companies. After the killing in Florida of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012, for example, Color of Change helped persuade corporations like Coke, McDonald's and Pepsi to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization that promoted the "Stand Your Ground" gun laws that became divisive after Mr. Martin's death.
In a letter sent to Coke last month, Color of Change implored the company to withdraw its support for the Republican convention, saying such a move would be "a sign of corporate leadership.''
That letter was followed by a provocativeonline petition with an image of a Coke bottle labeled "Share a Coke with the KKK," an apparent reference to Mr. Trump having initially declined todisavow support from the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
The push by Color of Change got the attention of the Coca-Cola executives, who quietly reached out to Mr. Robinson, the group's executive director, and, in a series of previously undisclosed telephone calls and email exchanges, sought to mollify the activist group.
"We walked them through what a public campaign would look like," Mr. Robinson recalled, explaining that he described possible protests outside Coca-Cola headquarters and similar protests in Cleveland against the company.
Coca-Cola has not sought a refund of the $75,000 it gave to the Republican convention, nor has it agreed to refuse to make in-kind contributions.
Other companies are hoping to avoid the controversy altogether. Some trade groups, including ones representing airlines and broadcasters, say they are planning to take a smaller role at both parties' conventions this year.
In addition to the strong feelings Mr. Trump generates, there are fears that fewer elected officials, to whom sponsors like to gain access at conventions, might attend if Mr. Trump is the nominee.
The question of corporate involvement is not the only challenge: In past campaigns, the Republican standard-bearers and their loyalists have played a big role in shaping and underwriting the party and its convention. But the Republican primaries are not over, and even if Mr. Trump emerges as the nominee, he lacks a traditional fund-raising base.
And for the first time since the Nixon era, federal funds will not be provided to defray the cost of the conventions, putting a greater burden on the parties to raise money.
Conventions are unwieldy productions that often exceed their budgets. In 2012, Mitt Romney's national finance team helped raise money to cover the costs of the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., and in 2004, when the Republican Party had its convention in New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor at the time, wrote a personal check to cover the host committee's shortfall.
Donald Trump aids and abets violence.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Supreme Court's tie vote upholds public employee fees for unions
The split decision preserves a long-standing rule that requires about half of the nation's teachers, transit workers and other public employees to pay a "fair share fee" to support their union.
The tie vote will come as a relief to union officials who feared the conservative court was on the brink of striking down the pro-union laws that authorized these fees.
But the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court without a majority to rule on the issue.
It's also the strongest sign yet that the court's conservatives cannot muster a majority to rule in their favor. At the oral argument in December, it looked as though the mandatory union dues would be struck down.
The National Education Assn. -- the nation's largest union, with 3 million members -- hailed the decision as a victory.
"The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.
The justices, following their usual practice, issued a short statement saying they had affirmed the lower court ruling by a tie vote.
However, employees who do not support their union do not have to pay dues to support the union's political activity.In this case, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the claim of an Orange County teacher who contended it violated her free-speech rights to be forced to support the union she opposed. The appeals court judges said they relied on a Supreme Court ruling from 1977 which had upheld laws that required public employees to help pay the cost of collective bargaining on the theory that all benefit to some degree.
California and more than 20 other states have laws that authorized such arrangements between unions and public agencies, including school boards.
If a majority of the employees vote for a union, the contract can require that all employees must pay a fee.
If the high court had overturned its 1977 precedent and struck down these fees on 1st Amendment grounds, the decision could have had a crippling effect on public employee unions. Their officials feared that many employees, even those who favored the union, would choose not to pay the fees to support one if they were free to do so.
Donald Trump aids and abets violence.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Sunday, March 27, 2016
SundayReview | EDITORIAL
Wall Street's Retreat From King Coal
The grave environmental damage from coal-fired power plants has done nothing to deter the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, from decrying a "war on coal" and orchestrating his own war against the Obama administration's climate change agenda. But he and other coal-state Republicans would be foolish to ignore the growing consensus on Wall Street that King Coal, for all its legendary political power, has turned into a decidedly bad investment.
JPMorgan Chase announced this month that it would no longer finance new coal-fired power plants in the United States or other advanced nations, joining Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley in retreating from a fuel that provides about one-third of the nation's electricity and accounts for about one-quarter of the carbon emissions that feed global warming.
Cleaner and cheaper natural gas is fast becoming the preferred investment, a blunt marketplace reality that is sure to weaken coal's grip on the planet as much as moral and environmental concerns. Last week's announcementby Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company, that it may have to seek bankruptcy protection, just as three other major coal producers have done recently, provided a dramatic confirmation of this trend.
Main Street also seems to be getting the message. Two weeks ago, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon signed ambitious legislation — agreed to by environmentalists, consumer groups and power producers — that requires the state's two largest utilities to stop importing out-of-state coal-generated power by 2030 and to use renewable energy to meet half of the demand of their customers by 2040. Oregon's only in-state coal-fired plant will close by 2020.
Even so, Mr. McConnell persists in his campaign to block the administration's clean power rule, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by steering power producers away from dirty coal-fired plants to cleaner sources of energy. Ever ready with new and more mischievous strategies, Mr. McConnell has encouraged court challenges to the rule and has gone so far as to tell Republican-led states to ignore it, further deepening his party's sorry retreat into science denial.
Though reeling now, the coal industry insists it will rebound by selling more to markets like China. But this is little comfort to workers who can read the markets better than Mr. McConnell can. Rather than encouraging obstruction, the senator, who received $273,850 in campaign contributions from the coal industry for his 2014 re-election, should be taking the lead in crafting government programs to help the industry, miners and communities as they face a hard period of inevitable transition.
Even as the administration cracks down on coal — in recent weeks it has also suspended new coal leasing on federal lands — it has called for job training and other assistance to ease the pain. These are the types of creative adjustments that Mr. McConnell and his colleagues should be tackling, instead of clinging to King Coal's fading past.
Donald Trump aids and abets violence.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
SundayReview | OP-ED COLUMNIST
Profiles in Paralysis
WHEN an old order is in crisis, something distinctive happens to the men who lead it.
A strange paralysis sets in, a curious mix of denial and resignation. W. B. Yeats' famous line about the best lacking all conviction captures part of this, but only part. What really goes missing isn't conviction itself but the capacity to act on it — to adapt swiftly, resist effectively, or both. Instead the tendency is to freeze, like mice under a hawk's shadow, and hope that stillness alone can save you from the talons.
For an unfortunate case study, in this year of Donald Trump's rebellion against the Republican Party as we've known it, look no further than the speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.
Ryan is not some corrupt functionary, some time-serving Roman official eating grapes while the barbarians come over the wall. He is an intelligent, principled, ambitious, and effective political operator, with a clear vision for the party that he helps to lead.
That vision is close to the worldview of his late mentor, the Republican congressman Jack Kemp. Kemp was a famous tax cutter, but also thought of himself as a "bleeding heart conservative," a passionate believer in the power of free markets and free trade to lift up the poor and dispossessed. He championed an open door to immigrants, he campaigned for votes in blighted inner cities as well as Sun Belt suburbs, and he believed that conservative principles could ultimately build a pan-ethnic political coalition, purged of racialized appeals.
Ryan has zigzagged during his career, but his Kempian core is clear. He's a pro-immigration free trader, a supply-sider and an entitlement reformer. He favors optimistic rhetoric about the American promise, paired with warnings about the perils of identity politics and the enervating effects of the welfare state. He spent the time between his months on the Romney ticket and his ascent to the speakership in conversations with antipoverty activists, on a Kempian quest for a new, less polarizing welfare reform.
And he has consistently critiqued Trump's most demagogic forays — theproposed ban on Muslim travel to America, the footsie with white supremacists, the violent climate at his rallies — as betrayals of what American conservatism ought to be.
But Trump isn't just a random demagogue promoting bigotry in some haphazard way. He has an agenda and a message, and it's a dagger aimed directly at Ryan's vision for the party. On issue after issue, from trade to immigration to entitlement reform, a Trumpized party would simply bury Ryanism/Kempism under white identity politics, and swing as far from Kemp's enthusiastic minority outreach as the G.O.P. could get.
One reasonable response to this kind of stark challenge, this incipient revolution, would be soul-searching and a course correction. Trump would not have gotten this far, would not have won so many votes — especially working class votes — if the Kempian vision had delivered fully on its promises, if mass immigration, free trade, deregulation and upper-bracket tax cuts had really been the prescription for all economic ills.
Another reasonable response would be clear defiance, in the style of the "never Trump" movement, based on a recognition that in this election conservatism as we've known it could be fighting for its very life, and that if Trump is not repudiated then the American right could be remade in his authoritarian image.
Personally I would favor both: a Republican Party that adapts to Trumpism by absorbing the legitimate part of its populist critique, while also doing everything in its power to resist Trump himself. But if you watch or read Ryan's recent CNBC interview with my colleague John Harwood, you'll see a man who seems unable to go down either path.
Repeatedly Harwood presses him on whether the party needs to change to address the concerns of the blue-collar Republicans who are voting for Trump. And every time, as The Week's James Pethokoukis pointed out afterward, Ryan simply returns to a 1980s-era message: cut spending, cut taxes, open markets, and all will be well. Asked about the possibility that some voters might see those policies as "taking care of people at the top more than you're taking care of me," he responds dismissively: "Bernie Sanders talks about that stuff. That's not who we are."
Yet when he's asked about the threat that Donald Trump obviously poses to "who we are," the speaker — despite his admirable willingness to condemn specific Trumpian outrages — can't bring himself to make a counterendorsement, or voice explicit opposition to Trump's progress. "I have to respect the primary voter," he says. "It's not my decision, it's their decision." And, "We're going to have to work with whoever our nominee is."
So in sum, faced with a potentially-existential threat to his vision of conservatism (not to mention his House majority), Ryan's answer is first, change nothing; second, do nothing.
Sit still. Just sit still.
Everyone might return to normal.
The hawk might pass. It might.
Donald Trump aids and abets violence.