Joe Biden tells New Hampshire voter he opposed Three Strikes provisions in the federal crime bill, but the truth is more complicated

Former VP Joe Biden was in New Hampshire and was asked by an ACLU activist about the 1994 federal crime bill, which he authored. He mostly defended the law, but argued he did oppose components of it:

Biden also said, “We should not be putting people in prison for drug offenses,” praised New Hampshire for getting rid of the death penalty, and offered a brief defense of the 1994 crime bill (officially known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994), once considered a bipartisan achievement and now the source of deep and bipartisan criticism 25 years later. “When I wrote the crime bill, which you’ve been conditioned to say is a bad bill,” Biden said, “there’s only one provision that had to do with mandatory sentences that I opposed, and that was a thing called the ‘three strikes and you’re out,’ which I thought was a mistake, but had a lot of other good things in the bill.” He then went on to talk about drug courts.

Notice that Biden says he opposed the three strikes provision. But the truth is more complicated. In an interview with Katie Couric in 1994, Biden explained that he does support some three strikes provisions, if they are limited to violent crimes.

COURIC: You’re quoted in–in the recent issue of Time magazine as saying this whole idea of three strikes and you’re out is wacko. I understand you’ve had a change of heart. Why?

Sen. BIDEN: No, I haven’t had no change of heart. The context of that question that was asked is, `Did I like some of the provisions that were passed?’ There were two provisions passed in the crime bill that said if there were non-violent crimes, in three strikes you’d be out. In the–the–what I support is a three strikes and you’re out, if in fact, they’re very violent crimes–arson, rape, murder, manslaughter. Three strikes in those areas, and you should be out. Six percent of the most violent felons in America commit the vast majority of the crimes in America, and we should put those people away for life.

COURIC: Do you think in some cases too wide a net is being cast…

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely.

COURIC: …and too many crimes are being included?

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely, positively.

There’s a–there–there’s a referendum that’s being sought on the California ballot by a gentleman named Mr. Reynolds. Now, he has a three strikes and you’re out provision, which makes sense. It’s very narrowly drawn, it says that–if defines what violent crimes are, it says it’s violent crimes against persons, they’re all crimes that carry heavy sentences with them.

But what you don’t want to do is have three strikes and you’re out when a 17-year-old kid snatches a purse, and pushes someone down, and then steals a car and the next thing gets in a barroom brawl and ends up in, you know, in an assault and battery. There’s three strikes, you shouldn’t be out for that. So, what we should focus on are three strikes, meaning serious felonies against a person that are violent. We should take those predators off the street. But the truth of the thing–the matter, Katie, is, if we do that federally, even if we pass the laws that are in the crime bill, like the Lott Amendment, which I supported, under the federal sentencing commission guidelines, we asked them, `How many people would that put in jail for life under the federal system?’ And the answer was 290, only 290. And there’s over 5-1/2 million felonies committed a year.

This is an important point because, depending on the year or the state, around half or a majority of felons are in prison for violent crimes.


As Bernie Sanders declares war on charter schools, Democratic primary voters remain divided on the issue — with large racial gaps

CNN reports that Bernie Sanders will essentially be declaring war on charter schools, trying to ban for-profit ones while calling for a moratorium on others:


In a major education policy speech set to be delivered Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders will call for a ban on all for-profit charter schools, a position that puts him directly at odds with the Trump administration and becoming the first of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to insist on such a move.


The Vermont independent also will call for a moratorium on the funding of all public charter school expansion until a national audit on the schools has been completed. Additionally, Sanders will promise to halt the use of public funds to underwrite all new charter schools if he is elected president.
A senior Sanders campaign official shared the details of policy proposal with CNN ahead of the Sanders speech in South Carolina — the crucial early primary state where the African-American vote is a key voting base. The moratorium on the funding of public charter schools was initially called for by the NAACP; Sanders will say in his speech that he supports the group’s efforts.
Sanders will also make the case that the growth of charter schools has done disproportionate harm to the black community because it has pulled public dollars away from community public schools.
It’s interesting that Sanders is taking the lead from the NAACP, the nation’s leading civil rights group. The move could be framed as in favor of teachers unions, but Sanders seems to instead be prepared to portray his anti-charter policies as in solidarity with civil rights activists.
It’s true the NAACP took a sharp critical turn when it comes to charter schools. However, most of the reduction in support for public school choice is among white Democrats, not African Americans.
The policy package Sanders is proposing should be debated on the merits, of course. But tying opposition to charter schools so closely to racial opposition to charter schools suggests that Sanders has the polling backwards, and is over-reacting to the NAACP’s recent position. (It is far more likely Sanders’s call will make him popular with teachers unions.)

How Barack Obama used a Fox News interview to help him win the 2008 Democratic primary

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced she won’t be doing a Fox News town hall. This is being read by some as a political counter to Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who did do one (to strong reviews).

A portion of the Democratic Party’s base strongly dislikes Fox News due to its conservative leanings, so the play would be to assert herself as a stronger partisan than Sanders.

Whether someone wants to isolate themselves from the most popular cable TV news channel is probably an inside-baseball question among liberals — and not a super interesting one. Fox News exists, is quite influential, and many liberals and Democrats will continue to appear on it for that reason. Sanders’s strong performance probably has his camp sitting strong thinking it was the right move, to expose the Fox audience to ideas they rarely see defended.

However it is interesting to think about the political dynamics of the Fox play. Warren is probably betting this will excite a portion of  partisan Democratic voters (the kind who would never watch a conservative network) and help her differentiate herself from Sanders. (She did appear on Fox News last year, but it wasn’t for a full town hall, rather a Sunday show.)

But it’s worth recalling that in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama took the road Sanders did, using the channel to appeal to more conservative voters.

This is how NPR described an April 2008 decision for Obama to appear on Fox News Sunday during his close primary campaign with Senator Hillary Clinton:

Barack Obama refused to appear on TV’s “Fox News Sunday” for more than two years. Now he’s trying to win over blue collar and socially conservative voters. They’re key in the two states that vote next week – North Carolina and Indiana. So today, finally, he sat down with Fox’s Chris Wallace.

During the interview, Obama stressed his wins in states like Idaho and Colorado, stressing the fact that despite recent Clinton wins in states like Ohio, he had more support among the white working class than the Clinton campaign was portraying. He also faced certain issues head on, like incendiary language from his former pastor the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Obama understood that Fox News’s viewer base is actually more diverse than one might imagine; about half of its viewers are people other than conservative Republicans. “Fox is substantially better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans,” one study of its viewership found.

Obama then went on to narrowly lose Indiana to Clinton while winning North Carolina. In other words, it was a net win.

Is Joe Biden really avoiding attacks on fellow Democratic candidates, or is he doing it through surrogates?

Former VP Joe Biden has now on a number of occasions passed on the opportunity to directly engage with his fellow Democratic candidates.

This is likely to earn Biden some applause from a Democratic base that is largely focused on the incumbent president, Donald Trump.

But is Biden really avoiding attacks on his Democratic opponents?

In late April, as Biden was gearing up to announce his campaign with the endorsement of the International Association of Firefighters, its General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly appeared on Fox News to condemn Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposal to let all incarcerated people vote — including the Boston Bomber.

Kelly, who has been a strident advocate for Biden, called the Sanders proposal “ridiculous.” It’s an important detail to note that Kelly was one of the firefighters in Boston who responded to the Boston Bomber’s attack.

There’s also this article in the Philadelphia press that notes that Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren fundraised with some of the same people she criticized Biden for fundraising with during his campaign launch week. Note that the timing of this article came shortly after her initial criticism of Biden and that people who attended the fundraiser were interviewed.

It’s highly likely these events were coordinated by the Biden communications team.

If so, it would be a clever way to maintain an image of not fighting with your Democratic colleagues while also effectively attacking them through surrogates.

75 percent of Americans opposing Bernie Sanders’s proposal to enfranchise prisoners, suggesting messaging on the topic is an uphill battle

A new INSIDER poll finds that 75 percent of Americans oppose Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposal to enfranchise all U.S. prisoners. Although Sanders has no concrete plan to do so — it’s unclear whether how a plan could even come from the federal government, as it is generally handled as a state issue — his proposal has spurred much debate.

None of his rivals are willing to go as far as Sanders — and the states of Vermont and Maine, who allow all prisoners to vote. But a few of them have offered the idea of letting some non-violent prisoners vote.

Fifteen percent of people in the poll said all prisoners should be allowed to vote while twenty percent said those convicted of non-violent offenses should be able to vote.

All of this suggests the messaging on the topic is an uphill battle. There is a need to de-fang the issue, instead of just being chauvinistic about it — as if it’s just obvious that prisoners should be able to vote and anyone who disagrees is out of their mind.

One thing I haven’t seen from camp Sanders is promotion of the reality that even under relatively conservative Republican governments in Maine and Vermont, prisoners have had and continue to have the right to vote. Just take it from the

Mike Donohue, a spokesman for the Vermont Republican Party.”The last thing we want to do is start putting up insurmountable barriers to participation in civic life because someone may have been convicted of a crime,” he said, defending the rights of Vermont prisoners to vote. “People’s right to vote is sacred.”

Why Israel’s Supreme Court restored the right to vote of the man who assassinated its Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

In November of 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin — a relative dove who began the modern Israeli-Palestinian peace process under the Oslo Accords — was murdered by a far-right assassin.

Rabin’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, as many in Israel, the Palestinian territories and throughout the world interpreted his killing as a blow to the very concept that an Israeli and Palestinian leader could sit down and talk to eachother to make peace.

Yet the very next year, the Israeli Supreme Court denied an attempt to bar Amir from voting, ruling that he cannot be denied this right, despite being an incarcerated person. The court was taking a bold stand here — Amir was one of the country’s most hated individuals, and anyone who murders a head of state is considered to be among the most dangerous terrorists.

Rabin’s widow Leah was furious. “It’s appalling,” she said. “He shouldn’t be treated like anyone else.”

Israel’s Supreme Court stood by Israeli law that ensured voting rights for every Israeli citizen, declaring that “we must separate contempt for his act from respect for his right,” and that denying voting rights even to political assassins would mean that perhaps “the base of all fundamental rights is shaken.”

“We punish the person, but we don’t take away their basic rights because this affects the state of the nation,” said Uriel Lynn, a once-Likud lawmaker who worked on electoral reform.

All of this is relevant because Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has come out for letting prisoners vote. This is an extremely unpopular position — it polls out in the 20s. But it’s also the status quo in Maine and Vermont which allow their prisoners to vote.

Sanders is standing by his conscience on this one, and his stand is unlikely to be politically helpful to him (you can tell this is the case simply by the other candidates refusing to support his position). However, he may very well help spark a debate on this issue, one that is sure to be especially painful for victims of crime and their loved ones, as it was for Leah Rabin.


How the UAE courted David Rothkopf, the former head of powerful Foreign Policy Magazine

Editors note: I had started working on this story when I was still at The Intercept, but I didn’t get it out to publish in time by time I left to do my fellowship. However in writing this story several former staff at Foreign Policy told me it was important to write, so I decided to get it out via this blog. It is not directly related to 2020, however it is important to realize that the UAE has tried to influence presidential candidates and policy debate; furthermore, Rothkopf is an important foreign policy commentator who likely will be tapped to advise candidates. Lastly, I just want to say that both Rothkopf and his wife were gracious in terms of responding to inquiries about this story and that although they are the focus of this particular story, I don’t think they are that important as individuals. This is a broken system and it can influence just about anyone, even if someone else was in their place.


David Rothkopf is one of the country’s most influential foreign affairs journalists. From 2012 to 2017, he was the CEO of the Foreign Policy Group. In this prestigious position, he was tasked with conducting and overseeing journalism that was read by elites both in the United States and abroad. If Hillary Clinton had won the presidential race, there was speculation he would have served at a senior level in her administration.

It’s no wonder that Rothkopf soared to such heights under the banner of FP. The Foreign Policy Group oversees a small empire of products bearing its name: publishing Foreign Policy Magazine;; and managing FP Events, which has, according to its website, for decades “convened global leaders at the intersection of business and policy.”

Rothkopf left Foreign Policy in 2017 but he continues to be an influential foreign affairs pundit – a pundit whose work is hobbled by a key conflict of interest. As The Intercept recently reported, Rothkopf’s private firm, the Rothkopf Group, held a lobbying contract with the United Arab Emirates. Despite the contract, Rothkopf appeared in several media outlets opining on Middle East policy without his role lobbying for the Gulf dictatorship being disclosed.

The lobbying contract with the UAE may have only come into effect in September 2018, but Rothkopf’s informal relationship with the UAE stretches back years — well into his tenure at Foreign Policy Group.

While he was the CEO of Foreign Policy Group, Rothkopf arranged a series of event that were openly underwritten by the government of the UAE. The events were called “Peace Games.” Influential foreign policy elites would meet to tackle the big foreign policy problems of the day through simulations and discussion. It was amid the planning of these events that the compromises of tangling a journalism business with a PR-minded dictatorship came into focus.

In an email to me Rothkopf denied that the parent company’s business decisions affected the news side’s editorial judgement. “I can’t comment specifically on any aspect of my work at FP,” Rothkopf wrote to me. “That said, the UAE was treated like any other client of the business side which included a wide variety of governments and businesses. There was a strong, clear separation of the business side and the editorial side on such issues as would be the case in any media organization. No business relationship influenced our editorial coverage of any story ever.”Conflict, however, sometimes arose on the business side itself. One case was the events put on by the FP group, inevitably with the patina of journalistic integrity offered by the news side’s brand. I have reviewed emails between Rothkopf and the UAE’s Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Otaiba that describe, in detail, the level of control that the UAE exerted over the format and composition of the FP events.

In April 2014, prior to the first Abu Dhabi Peace Games in the summer of that year, Rothkopf wrote to Otaiba and a UAE embassy adviser, the Washington lobbyist Richard Mintz, asking them for advice. “Hi Richard, as we have discussed with Yousef last week, one thing we will need the help of the Foreign Ministry on is inviting guests from the region,” he wrote. Rothkopf noted that “we can’t really identify who is [sic.] acceptable to the government of the UAE. We need to work with them to understand parameters, develop the lists and then the letters of invitation need to go out from the UAE to ensure the invitees get the right message.” Rothkopf particularly wanted to know how the UAE would like Qatar and Israel to be treated. (Mintz did not respond to a request for comment.)

Through underwriting the events, the UAE had gained the ability to control the message at an event that was put on by a company whose core mission was ostensibly journalism. Rothkopf, according to the email exchanges I obtained , deferred to the UAE government’s sensibilities throughout the process of planning and carrying off the events.


The emails I obtained  come from a group calling itself Global Leaks, which came to posess a copy of Otaiba’s inbox and began selectively distributing its contents to media outlets, including at The Intercept, over the summer of 2017. It’s not clear whether Otaiba’s inbox was hacked or passed along by someone with access to the account. Nor is it clear who controls Global Leaks, though the name is a winking reference to DC Leaks, the group responsible for leaking Democratic operatives’ emails during the 2016 election that has been linked to Russian state hackers.

Included in the batch of emails I receivedwas a draft contract between Foreign Policy Group, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, and the Canales Project, an arts nonprofit founded by opera singer Carla Canales. The draft contract doesn’t specify an event, but the parties listed match up with the sponsors of a “Culture Summit” hosted by the UAE. (The UAE’s embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.)


In a statement to me, Canales said that her arts firm TCP Ventures was the co-creator of the Abu Dhabi “Culture Summit,” an Abu Dhabi-based event that was co-sponsored by the Foreign Policy Group and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
TCP Ventures “handled the artistic curation of the project in year one and in year two. The organization is no longer affiliated with CultureSummit,” Canales said. (She also clarified that the Canales Project, the arts nonprofit she founded, was not involved, despite being on the draft contract.) A Facebook post by the Canales Project features a photograph of Canales, Rothkopf, and UAE Culture Minister Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan. The minister has one arm draped across Rothkopf, with a broad smile on his face. Canales said that the company is under a non-disclosure agreement and thus cannot confirm the amount of money that she was paid.

Canales had a previous relationship with Foreign Policy. In 2015, she was named to the magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers list. Shortly after that, she became involved in a romantic relationship with Rothkopf and, in 2017, they married. More than one former Foreign Policy staffer told me their understanding was that Rothkopf had insisted that Canales be included on the list.

The draft contract says that FP would receive $3.45 million over the “initial three year commitment” and TCP would get $1.05 million over the same period of time. The contract itself has no date, but it notes that the agreement is being made prior to the first meeting of the “governing committee” that runs it, which was schedule for June 16, 2016.

In a lengthy article on the Foreign Policy website, Rothkopf explained the rationale behind co-sponsoring the event with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and TCP: “The five-day event will feature government ministers, internationally known artists and arts administrators, media and tech leaders, and philanthropists in a program designed to explore the future of culture and how its power can be harnessed to produce positive social change: from combating violent extremism to reversing climate change, from empowering women to promoting arts education.”

He concluded, “Foreign Policy is committed to making this an annual event. But we also hope to produce an impact right now, raising awareness of the opportunity that exists if we recognize that the most potent force for good on the planet is our collective imagination.”


During this period of lucrative financial arrangements for Foreign Policy, Rothkopf’s public writing on the UAE was glowing. In March 2016, he wrote a piece that was so effusive it could be mistaken for a diplomatic prospectus. In the story, Rothkopf lauds the UAE’s crown prince as “one of the most thoughtful world leaders I have ever met.” He praises the country’s standard of living and educational attainment. He boasts that the UAE had only been around 44 years and had accomplished so much, while the United States was in its first 44 years still embracing slavery and conducting genocide.

The fulsome praise didn’t sit well with everyone. “I can only marvel at the tragic irony that Rothkopf would present as a regional role model a country that punishes non-violent dissidents with jail terms and the stripping of citizenship,” wrote Iyad el-Baghdadi, a human rights activist who was raised in the Emirates before being deported under mysterious circumstances.

Rothkopf, who said he recused himself from editing others’ stories about the UAE while at Foreign Policy, denied that the financial relationship with the UAE affected his own work. “Not only have I never hesitated to be critical of them, they have never commented to me in any way or sought to influence my position,” he said. “It has always been clear that was not for sale.  When I see something wrong or that I disagree with, I say so. When I see something that I think is positive, I say so.”

The e-mails I obtained when I worked at The Intercept show an extraordinary coziness between the two men — a friendship, even. As they exchanged emails — on everything from analysis of events in the Middle East and North Africa to arranging private meetings with officials — Rothkopf lavished praise on the young and powerful diplomat. There were signs of ideological convergences as well.

In the summer of 2013, Egypt’s democratically elected, Muslim Brotherhood government was overthrown in a military coup backed by massive protests. Long a bete noir of the Gulf monarchies, the UAE had been particularly opposed to Islamist populism of the Brotherhood. Otaiba was elated by the developments, emailing a number of media figures to say that the “situation in Egypt is a second revolution.” He urged the United States to get off the sidelines and support the new military government.

Rothkopf quickly replied, “Great analysis.”

The magazine editor went on to urge Otaiba to consider writing it for publication, but Otaiba noted that his official title may get in the way. Otaiba later added, “By the way, I think I’m a terrible writer.” Rothkopf sought to cheer him up: “You’re not a terrible writer. You’re actually a very good writer. And a terrific analyst. Even if your current job title means most people can’t read your candid take because it is so valuable.”

Rothkopf seemed to wholesale adopt Otaiba’s view of events. “Will be very interesting to see how the Brotherhood responds…short term and long term. Military has been very canny about handling this so far. Packaging of statement…folks on stage with Sisi…was smart.”

Another media executive on Otaiba’s email, Sam Feist, a VP at CNN, was more skeptical. He said Otaiba offered some “great thoughts,” but worried that if the “U.S. Abandons Morsi, isn’t the U.S. Abandoning the election that the U.S. pushed for? How does the U.S. Support democracy and at the same time push out the democratically elected president, however inept he may be.” Otaiba quipped back, “Hamaz, Hezbollah, and hitler were democratically elected too.” (Feist did not respond to a request for comment.)

In his statement to me, Rothkopf said his relationship with Otaiba did not affect his analysis. “I like and respect Yousef,” he said. “But my views are shaped by 40 years of experience in government, business and the media and I have always been assiduously careful that they are independent.”


In addition to his analysis, Otaiba offered Rothkopf opportunities for access — especially to Emirati officials. In April 2013, Otaiba wrote to Rothkopf, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, and others to invite them to a “private off-the-record chat” with UAE Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed .

“I’d be delighted to attend,” Rothkopf wrote back. (The exchange came just as talks were getting started over FP’s UAE-sponsored Peace Games event, and Rothkopf took the opportunity to let Otaiba know he’d be sending along a document about the event soon.) Rothkopf and Friedman both confirmed to me that the meeting occurred. Otaiba followed up with another email twelve days later. “Once again, thank you for taking the time to meet with the crown prince last week,” he wrote. “He was extremely happy with the discussion and he found it very helpful in understanding where the US is on many of these subjects.”

Despite the tenor of Otaiba’s follow-up email, Rothkopf inisited to me that the purpose of the meeting was to give the journalists an opportunity to hear out Bin Zayed. “It was an off-the-record conversation with several journalists,” Rothkopf said. “It was purely to listen and ask him questions.  There was absolutely no advisory role.” (Ignatius did not respond to a request for comment. In an email, Friedman said, “I have a vague recollection of a meeting with journalists with MBZ in DC that was at Otaiba’s residence. But I do not remember who all was there or what year it was. I also have no idea if it is even the meeting to which you are referring.”)

Rothkopf’s chumminess with UAE officials extended beyond Otaiba. In a January 2014 email, Rothkopf wrote to Otaiba to offer him an update after a meeting with the UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash.

“We had a great discussion. Actually, we had two. I met with him for 90 minutes this afternoon and then he invited me to join him for dinner,” Rothkopf wrote. “So we (joined by one of his sons) had a great Catalonian meal at the Rosewood Hotel” — liklely a reference to the hotel’s location in Abu Dhabi. Rothkopf went on: “It was a wide ranging discussion, his enthusiasm for the Peace Game was clear, his ideas were very much dovetailed with ours…and we spent a considerable amount of time talking about how great you are at your job.”

Rothkopf told me his lavish praise of UAE figures never affected his journalism. “I have, over the course of my career, developed lots of relationships worldwide and I would like to think one of the reasons I have been able to maintain them is that my friends and acquaintances value my candor and independence,” he said. “In any event, even if it was sometimes uncomfortable for the relationship, I have been direct in the views contained in my writing or media commentary.”His flattery went beyond just Otaiba’s analytical and diplomatic acumen. In one exchange, Rothkopf wrote to Otaiba that he was “very impressed by your culinary know-how.”

Rothkopf seemed eager to please — even in his capacity as a purportedly objective commentator on the news. After the UAE bombed Libyan militias in the Summer of 2014, U.S. officials reacted angrily. Rothkopf, however, struck a different note. “If indeed you were involved you should have received a thank you note and a fruit basket from the White House,” Rothkopf wrote to Otaiba. He also shared a tweet quoting an appearance he made on CNN condemning the U.S. response.



In 2017, Rothkopf would leave the FP Group. “I left to pursue other ventures,” Rothkopf told me. With his departure, the company’s interim CEO Ann McDaniel sought to shore up FP Group’s lucrative relationship with the UAE. She wrote to Otaiba to inform him of Rothkopft’s departure and to make a bid to keep the country’s business nonetheless.

“The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates is a valued client of the FP Group,” McDaniel wrote to Otaiba during May 2017, “and we are committed to continuing to deliver the high quality events and reports that have defined our work together to date, while exploring new approaches and seeking greater depth and new analytical insights. The full FP Group team that has undertaken all work for you to date is still in place and looking to this new era of the organization with energy and enthusiasm.”

The following year, however, the Foreign Policy Group would be absent from the list of sponsors for the UAE’s Culture Summit. Instead, the sponsors would be the Abu Dhabi culture ministry, TCP Ventures, and the Rothkopf Group — David Rothkopf’s new private consulting firm.

Though he said he could not comment on specifics, Rothkopf told me that he had been involved in initiating the Culture Summit while at FP, which was born out of discussions with a friend, a former UAE media figure who now serves in the country’s government. “When I started TRG, my company continued in that role given my involvement in the conception of the project,” he told me.

In his role as a pundit — in his written works as well as a podcast he hosts — Rothkopf told me he discloses all his conflicts. He said the Rothkopf Group’s recent contracts with the UAE for “some events in the US on arts and culture, green energy, tech education, tolerance and women’s empowerment issues” were “immediately announced it on our podcast in the interest of transparency.”

Seth Moulton is only 2020 candidate who sponsored legislation that would restrict taxpayer aid to Israeli units who abuse Palestinian children

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who has a reputation for being a more pro-business Democrat, announced that he is running for president this week.

Despite his reputation for being less friendly to some left-wing causes, Moulton did co-sponsor the HR 4391, the  Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.

Under this legislation, the Secretary of State would have to certify that taxpayer aid isn’t being used to detain or abuse Palestinian children. It is to my knowledge the only piece of legislation in Congress that could restrict any type of aid to Israel.

Several other 2020 contenders — Democratic Reps. O’Rourke, Gabbard, Ryan, and Swalwell — all failed to endorse this legislation. No Senate companion exists although it is worth asking Senators if they would support this legislation.

A lawyer who defended Chiquita from death squads lawsuits, a Goldman Sachs lobbyist, and other interesting donors to Mayor Pete

When Mayor Pete raised an impressive $7 million in his first quarter, I was curious about how he raised so much money. 64 percent of his donations are under $200; donors who give less than that we usually call small donors. However, donations are not the same thing as donors because donors sometimes give more than once (this is one reason why campaigns ask you to donate repeatedly, or donate just $1 to inflate their number of donors).

I was looking through Mayor Pete’s FEC filings and found some interesting big donors:

Some candidates are prohibiting donations from lobbyists or at least corporate lobbyists and many candidates are prohibiting donations from corporate PACs (although it’s not clear what is a corporate PAC and what isn’t). Ultimately the best way to keep big donors from having disproportionate impact would be to have a campaign that is mostly small donors. Any candidate could, for instance, propose a lifetime cap of $200 on what any individual donor is allowed to give to them, however no candidate has taken that step.


Constructive criticism of the Center for American Progress has helped make it more transparent and responsive over time

By now many readers have likely seen Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’s salvo at the D.C.-based think atnk Center for American Progress — claiming it is attacking progressives and noting it has been financed by corporations and foreign governments.

I think many would wonder what the merits of these criticisms are. Is there a point to clashing with CAP?

My day job is to study and work on social and political polarization, and so I try to keep my political engagement to three areas based off what I’m learning there: keep your political criticism measured, civil, and constructive.

What can be demonstrated from the evidence is that constructive criticism of CAP has pushed it to improve its transparency and responsiveness.

For instance, CAP did not always disclose most of its donors. While I worked at the institution from 2009-2012, most of its donors were kept secret. However, following investigations by journalist Ken Silverstein, the think tank decided to disclose most of its donors.

Similarly, I wrote several articles based off of presumably hacked and leaked emails from the inbox of the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that showed that the UAE was both financing CAP and using its senior staff to lobby the Trump administration and influence Washington policy. After a series of articles noting these ties, CAP eventually decided to end its financial relationship with the UAE, as was reported earlier this year.

Measured, constructive, and civil criticism gives us room to strongly disagree with others in politics while still influencing them to do the right thing. That has been the case with CAP in the past, and it’s possible that Sanders’s campaign against them could achieve one of two things: 1) It could influence them to end the practice of soliciting corporate donors and giving them access to their policymaking process 2) It could influence them to have a transparent and democratic process for how they influence policymakers — rather than a tiny handful of people with D.C. jobs influencing policy, they could have a grassroots, national network deciding their direction and how they influence the government.