Saturday, February 11, 2017

Corporate politicking

[Update 8/15/17: Kevin Plank is back in the news today for being the second CEO to resign from President Trump's manufacturing council. Under Armour's Kevin Plank makes confusing statement in resigning from Trump council]

President Trump is overseeing potentially far reaching transformations in our country's governance and electoral politics. One of these is how corporations may plunge, or be drawn, into full fledged politicking.

The typical traditional approach was that most businesses preferred political neutrality, and didn't want to offend one or another set of customers or business relationships by reason of public political advocacy. In this traditional mode, businesses, in a low keyed way, might advocate on matters having specific bearing on their business, but avoided politicking on issues not having a direct bearing on themselves that could alienate customers and other business relationships.

President Trump's personal "art of the deal" proclivities and style may be greatly transformational from the traditional mode.

Congress needs to inform itself about this development and make determinations about whether such alterations to the country's form of politicking and governance are advisable for the country, and, if not, what Congress might do to address the matter. This should be thrown into the hopper of what the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform should be addressing at this juncture. See Chaffetz letter.

The below Baltimore Business Journal article highlights the foregoing.

Feb 10, 2017, 12:53pm EST Updated Feb 10, 2017, 1:52pm EST

Joanna Sullivan
Baltimore Business Journal
I'm going to start this column by saying right off the bat that I expect to take heat from both the pro-Trump and anti-Trump contingents among our readers and social media followers.
As a journalist for three decades, I'm pretty used to criticism. I take complaint calls about everything from grammar mistakes, headlines to unflattering photos. Way before trolls picked apart posts on Twitter, I was getting copies of our stories mailed back to us covered in red marker pointing out everything the reader didn't like about them.

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is taking heat for his praise of President Donald Trump.

There are fraught times in our country — where no opinion goes unnoticed. Biting your tongue has become an art form and staying neutral means ignoring the obvious rise in your blood pressure.
But I'm paid to put aside my own personal biases and see both sides of an issue. So I just couldn't go the rest of the week without stepping into the mess that Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank got himself into when an interviewer on CNBC asked him what he thought about President Donald Trump.
The question came after a sweeping interview that focused on the Baltimore sportswear company's disappointing earnings. Plank was speaking a mile a minute, defending his company and its slower-than-usual growth.
"My two feet are planted in this company,” Plank said during the interview. “My management team’s two feet are planted in this company as well. As I tell you, everybody’s got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder right now but we look forward to making that right.”
The newsroom TV — always tuned to CNBC except during March Madness — was turned up and reporter Holden Wilen was busy reporting on what Plank had to say. I, too, was taking notes, making sure we didn't miss anything. The less-than-stellar earnings a week before was big news for what's now Baltimore's largest public company.
Then came the Trump question. It's one almost every CEO has faced in the past few months on CNBC. Some have clearly taken sides, while others have been careful to stay out of the fray. You never know how your brand will be thrown into the mix. Just ask Nordstrom, Boeing or Starbucks.
CEOs are in and out of the White House on a daily basis as Trump holds CEOs are in and out of the White House on a daily basis as Trump holds meetings with leaders from Wall Street and seemingly every industry. Plank was among a group of CEOs who met with Trump last month to discuss the future of manufacturing in the U.S., and is one of 28 executives named to a White House jobs initiative.
So it was only natural that the interview would focus on Plank’s relationship with the president. He was obviously prepared for the question — perhaps too prepared. What he wasn't prepared for was the enormous backlash by customers and the company's star endorsers Steph Curry, Misty Copeland and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Plank described Trump as “highly passionate."
"To have such a pro-business President is something that is a real asset for the country," he said. "People can really grab that opportunity. He loves to build I don't think there's any surprises here. When you look at the president he wants to build things. He wants to build things he wants to make bold decisions and be really decisive. I'm a big fan of people that operate in the world of publish and iterate versus think, think, think, think, think. So there's a lot that I respect there."
Plank's answers didn't seem unusual for anyone running a business. I've heard the same sentiments during the campaign from many of the businesspeople we cover, even in very blue Maryland. It's no surprise that small business and large business support a businessman president. It's one of the reasons why he won. The Trump stock market rally is further proof of what investors feel in the early days of this controversial administration. Simply put, a CEO offering an opinion on a sitting president’s potential impact on business while being interviewed on a cable business news show should shock no one.
But in today’s environment, so many of the people commenting on Plank’s remarks didn’t see the full interview. To be fair to Plank, his comments weren't all glowing. Asked about Trump's anti-free trade policies, he said.
“The border tax would have an absolutely very, very difficult effect on all companies in the consumer space, particularly retailers. It’s the No. 1 issue when you ask me about the new administration.”
Those words didn't quite resonate. Nor did Under Armour's (NYSE: UAA) statements the next day defending itself, saying "We engage in policy, not politics." The statement also said:
“We believe in advocating for fair trade, an inclusive immigration policy that welcomes the best and the brightest and those seeking opportunity in the great tradition of our country, and tax reform that drives hiring to help create new jobs globally, across America and in Baltimore,” Under Armour said, referring to several initiatives by the Trump White House. “We have teammates from different religions, races, nationalities, genders and sexual orientations; different ages, life experiences and opinions. This is the core of our company. At Under Armour, our diversity is our strength, and we will continue to advocate for policies that Protect Our House, our business, our team, and our community.”
Plank saying too much was a reminder why so many businesses stay on the sidelines when it comes to politics. You really can't win, especially in a time when being for or against Trump can wreck personal and business relationships in a second.
Some people plan to boycott Under Armour products after Plank's comments. It's an effective threat. As Curry and Copeland know well, the best way to get your message across is using your economic power. I have a feeling Plank got the message. His next CNBC interview probably won't be so free-wheeling.
But I'm hoping any boycott or lingering effect won't hurt the company and CEO. Not everyone may embrace every project that Plank is spearheading in Baltimore, but I can say almost unequivocally that Plank and Under Armour are investing in and boosting Baltimore and Maryland more than anyone we’ve covered over the years.
Baltimore needs the jobs, the redevelopment Plank has undertaken, the philanthropy and the pride the Under Armour brand has brought to this town.
Joanna Sullivan oversees the Baltimore Business Journal editorial staff.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tweeting for South Dakota

There is much anti-corruption work going on at state and local government levels. The effects of this work may percolate up to the Congressional level.

A full blown national story is happening in South Dakota, where, on November 8th, the South Dakota voters approved a South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act, and last week the South Dakota legislature overturned the will of the voters and repealed the Act. (For more information, see South Dakota.)

@RepresentDotUs is leading the charge for a South Dakota citizen effort to get the South Dakota legislature to reverse the action it took to repeal the South Dakota Anti-Corruption Act.

Contact @RepresentDotUs if you would like to help out.

There is a stark confrontation going on between South Dakota lawmakers and South Dakota citizens.

The confrontation threatens to expose much. Particularly it may expose the extent to which the reality of government in South Dakota is anti-democratic (or undemocratic), compared to what a democracy (or a representative democracy) is supposed to be.

Concern about this is not applicable only to South Dakota, and it is realistically a concern in other States and also regarding Congress.

State lawmakers and members of Congress need to answer up to their constituents on this concern.

The problem is many lawmakers will do everything they can to avoid facing up to their consitutuents on this, and massive demand by the voters acting in unison is needed to force their lawmakers to address the issue.

I tried to force facing up to this issue by running for Congress in the Alabama 6th Congressional district in 2014 but was ignored and got all of 500 votes. (If you want to investigate this dismal story, start with Just answer the question, Gary Palmer.)

The situation in South Dakota is a superlative opportunity for exhibiting what voters acting in unison can do to get their lawmakers to face up to their constituents.

As stated, @RepresentDotUs is leading the charge on this in South Dakota and is seeking to bring to bear public opinion from publicity outside South Dakota.

As discussed in the link given above (South Dakota), I am advocating that @RepresentDotUs use tweeting banks in carrying out its South Dakota efforts. (See How should tweeting banks be used.)

Tweeting banks require organization, formulation of appealing messaging, and some volunteers who are willing to initiate tweeting to get the pyramiding of tweets going that is the goal of the tweeting bank.

@RepresentDotUs has not yet been responsive to the idea. It has not given any explanation why it has not been responsive. Perhaps it is a lack of resources of @RepresentDotUs  to consider or experiment with the idea, or that @RepresentDotUs believes it could not get any volunteers to start the tweeting.

Readers of this blog entry are solicited to give their comments about tweeting banks being used in the South Dakota efforts and for other political messaging purposes.

"We can be babies"

President Trump has had an interview with Bill O'Reilly, which is going to air in full before the Super Bowl today.

In the below preview, President Trump says, "look, Bill, we can be babies".

This "we can be babies" comment is directed towards those who disbelieve President Trump's claim that three million illegal immigrants voted in the election. Have a listen.
I would like to ask who are being babies regarding the Trump Foundation contribution to Pam Bondi.

Candidate Trump said in the first Republican debate that, when he gave to politicians (and he gave a lot), they were "there" for him when he "needed" them.

Have a listen.

So candidate Trump confesses that he gives to politicians to get favors.

Then, later in the campaign, candidate Trump turns around and says, "naw it's not true" when it comes to a donation he made to Florida AG Pam Bondi. Have this further listen.

So let's all be babies with President Trump. Let's believe he did not give a donation to Florida AG Pam Bondi to get a favor from her. Let's believe the donation had nothing to do with Trump University.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


In his inaugural address, President Trump pledged: "The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer." and "You will never be ignored again."

With President Trump's announced goal of rolling back Dodd-Frank, who is he looking out for? Is President Trump looking out for the forgotten men and women of our country, or is he looking out for Wall Street?

The Dodd-Frank Act helps to prevent the big banks from cheating Americans and crashing our economy. We must fight to stop the Republicans from gutting Wall Street reform.

It's time to demand Wall Street reform and fight for a strong middle class.


I have been tweeting to users of #MAGA tweets which say, "Who is President Trump looking out for in rolling back Dodd-Frank?"rank.html 
What is your reaction to the foregoing reply?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting richer

The sky's the limit on how much richer the Trumps are going to get off Trump's Presidency.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

People power

In his inaugural address, President Trump said:
Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.
For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.
Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.
Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.
This is your day. This is your celebration.
And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

Who out there is not in favor of transferring power from Washington DC and giving it back to the American people?

Where are your reps in Congress on this?

Are you getting your reps in Congress to speak to this?

I am trying to do it in Alabama. See Please speak.

You should do the same in your state.

Friday, January 20, 2017

This hotel

January 20, 2017
Trump International Hotel, Washington DC
"this hotel" in "this town"

The New York Times

‘This Town,’ by Mark Leibovich

Of all the irritating things about Washington — the phoniness, the showy cars, the utter inability of a metropolitan area of 6.9 million people to produce a single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich with oil and not mayonnaise — none is more infuriating than the local insider habit of referring to the place as “this town,” as in “He’s the most important power broker in this town” or, more likely (and worse), “The way to get ahead in this town is to seem not to be trying to get ahead.”

So when Mark Leibovich sketches a portrait of the nation’s capital — a phrase used only by people who don’t live there — and calls it “This Town,” you know he’s got a sharp ear, and a sharp eye to accompany it. You also know that he’s got the sharp knives out.

Here it is, Washington in all its splendid, sordid glory: the pols, the pundits, the Porsches. Plus the hangers-on, the strivers, the image makers and the sellouts, all comprising what Mr. Leibovich calls “a political herd that never dies or gets older, only jowlier, richer and more heavily made-up.”

He’s an insider, Mr. Leibovich is, first a reporter at The Washington Post, now the chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, yet he seems to wear those special glasses that allow you to X-ray the outside and see what’s really going on. An unusual parlor trick that, particularly in light of the A-list insiders jammed into his acknowledgments, not a single one of whom could have pulled off this book, even though half of them will e-mail me and say they could. (Memo to all of you: Don’t.)

He opens with an account of the 2008 funeral of the NBC Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, and as a quarter-century resident now in happy exile, I suppose I should stick to form and mention, hideously, that we — Tim and I — came to Washington at the same time and were friends, although mostly because I had a wife from Buffalo, and he delighted in teasing her about her bowling. The people at this funeral (and as I recall, this was an invitation-only rite) adhered to what Mr. Leibovich calls “the distinctive code of posture at the fancy-pants funeral: head bowed, conspicuously biting his lips, squinting extra hard for the full telegenic grief effect.”

The book is already generating buzz over Mr. Leibovich’s account of White House efforts to shape a profile in The New York Times of the first friend Valerie Jarrett and the administration’s apparent push to encourage Capitol reporters to disparage the conservative stalwart Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California.

Start to finish, this is a brilliant portrait — pointillist, you might say, or modern realist. So brilliant that once it lands on a front table at thePolitics & Prose Bookstore on upper Connecticut Avenue, Mr. Leibovich will never be able to have lunch in This Town again, not that there is a respectable nonexpense-account lunch to be had in those precincts.

That said, this is a different Washington from the one I departed from a decade ago (Pittsburgh: what a relief!) and surely a different one from the era when, among the Washington royalty, only Alsop (and not Reston, Broder, Kraft, Evans or Novak) required a first name, and only because there were two of them (Stewart and Joseph).

The partisanship is worse, in part because the parties are different, with no liberal wing to the Republicans and hardly a conservative wing to the Democrats. And the rhetoric is mean, in part because it is less elegant.

All of which raises a separate point: Many of the Washington monuments most worthy of attention and praise, like the three Davids of capital journalism (Espo of The Associated Press, Rogers of Politico and Wessel of The Wall Street Journal), aren’t featured in this book and would be mortified beyond words if they were. They’re not at celebrity parties but at their battle stations, notebooks in hand. Nor is there a respectful bow, much deserved, to the thousands of unknown, selfless, deeply skilled bureaucrats who, since the Reagan years, have been pilloried but who, since the Franklin D. Roosevelt years, have made the country, or at least parts of its government, work.

In the old days, Washington — then as now a place where “disproportionate numbers of residents lie about reading The Economist” — was pretty much a bar where everyone knew your name, or in the case of John Paul Hammerschmidt, a former congressman from Arkansas, all three of them. Now it’s far less personal — but the personal matters far more.

So do personalities, which is why the book that Mr. Leibovich’s seems patterned after is Lytton Strachey’s 1918 “Eminent Victorians,” a classic of its time and all time, and the book it most resembles is “The Columnist,” Jeffrey Frank’s remorselessly hilarious work of fiction from 2001. As such, it is a wiseguy’s tour d’horizon of an entire city trying out for the role of Washington wise man.

So, striding self-importantly through these pages are the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid(“harshly judgmental of fat people”); Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican (“a blister on the leadership of both chambers, or sometimes something more dangerous”); SenatorChuck Schumer, Democrat of New York (“lens-happy, even by senatorial standards”); the lobbyist and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (“looks like a grown version of Spanky from the Little Rascals”); the former House minority leader Richard Gephardt (“whose willingness to reverse long-held positions in the service of paying clients was egregious even by D.C.’s standards”); and the modern super-flack Kurt Bardella (possessed of “a frantic vulnerability and desperation”).

And though much of this volume is a sendup of the capital of kissing up, there are some important insights tucked in among the barbs. Such as this: “Though Barack Obama won the 2008 election, Hillary Clinton won Obama’s first term.” And this: The political culture is full of “people who’ve been around the business forever, who never go away and can’t be killed.” And this one, about Representative Paul D. Ryan, that must have befuddled the publisher’s fact checkers: “Like most members of Congress with half a brain, Ryan had a pretty low opinion of many of his colleagues and had been thinking of how to escape.”

So here’s to all the big mouths, big egos, big shots, big machers and big jerks. In case you’re wondering, Mark Leibovich is on to every one of you, and his portrayal of “This Town” is spot on. Because Mr. Leibovich, perhaps alone among capital insiders, has realized that Washington, once an inside joke, now looks more and more like a bad joke.


Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital
By Mark Leibovich
386 pages. Blue Rider Press. $27.95.
David M. Shribman is the executive editor of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Pittsburgh Press and a former Washington bureau chief of The Boston Globe.