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  • Media keep calling the GOP's corporate tax bill a "win" for Trump

    The extraordinarily unpopular bill is built on lies and ignores what we know about economics

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies are enjoying a round of praise from media commentators for finally getting a legislative “win” on the board as their tax bill closes in on passage before the end of the year. The budget-busting corporate giveaway will enrich the superwealthy and do little for Americans who have to work for a living.

    Republicans finally unveiled the finished version of their tax legislation last Friday evening, and -- despite the public having just days to absorb its 1,097 pages -- both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the bill before the end of the week. If everything goes according to plan, the president will sign the bill into law just in time for members to head home for the holidays.

    After a year plagued by self-destructive outbursts, failed policy changes, unprecedented legal troubles, embarrassing scandals, humiliating legislative defeats, and nationwide political upheaval, many in the press are framing the GOP tax proposal as a crucial “win” for Trump and his party.

    On the December 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow wondered how anyone could argue the past year “hasn’t been a win for the president on some big fronts,” given a handful of recent accomplishments, including the new tax bill. Reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns agreed with Harlow’s assessment while noting that such favorable framing fits “the way that the White House has been messaging their own achievements”:

    During an earlier segment on CNN’s New Day, guest A.B. Stoddard suggested that the Republican tax bill, which the Economic Policy Institute has labeled “a scam,” could count as “a great boon for Republicans” and “a win on the board,” if the bill actually fulfilled its over the top promises. (It won’t.) Commentary framing the expected party-line vote as a major victory for the GOP also cropped up in The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and The New York Times. Reporters have seemingly gone out of their way to pat Republicans on the back for endorsing legislation so historically unpopular it registers significantly less support than some previous tax hikes:

    In a December 15 video, Eric Schoenberg of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires explained how the GOP tax bill overwhelming favors wealthy people like him (and the Trump family) while doing little for lower- and middle-class people. Trump and the Republicans continue falsely claiming that the bill will spur business development, boost wages, and stoke renewed economic growth, but the message is such a fantasy even Fox News had to admit there was nothing to it. Previous studies from the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated little relationship between tax cuts for the wealthy and invigorated economic activity, which Trump and the GOP have promised will result from this tax bill.

    The bill permanently cuts taxes for corporations while giving only modest, temporary relief for working people. It loosens tax structures affecting the wealthiest Americans while threatening funds for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other initiatives that guarantee basic economic security to low-income families. The bill promises to add another $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade despite years of hysteria about Obama-era revenue shortfalls. The bill also senselessly repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will likely result in millions of Americans dropping out of the insurance market.

    Rather than praising the Republican Party for ending a remarkably unproductive year by managing to cobble together a tax giveaway to the super rich, journalists should report on what is actually in the bill. Trump and the GOP have definitely enjoyed some "wins" this year, but reporters need to point out that the Republican Party's successes have often resulted in pain and suffering for millions of Americans.

  • Fox & Friends lets Ivanka Trump shill for the GOP tax bill without asking her about the provisions she'll directly benefit from

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Fox & Friends hosted Ivanka Trump to shill for the Republican Party’s tax bill without once asking her about any of the provisions that will directly benefit her. If the bill is passed, the Trump family, including Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, stands to benefit enormously from changes to business taxation and to the estate tax.

    On the December 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts interviewed Ivanka Trump about her role in the GOP’s tax efforts, as well as some of the specifics of the current form of the bill. Co-host Brian Kilmeade spoke appreciatively of Trump for “getting her hands dirty through this entire process.” Co-host Steve Doocy exclaimed that there are “so many people this benefits.” But at no point did the hosts ask Trump about how the bill directly benefits her business, her eventual estate inheritance, her husband Jared Kushner's business, and his personal estate.

    In addition to benefiting from the corporate tax cut, which will likely lower taxes for Ivanka’s clothing company, Trump and Kushner will benefit from a provision that particularly impacts those working in commercial real estate, where both President Donald Trump and Kushner have built their careers. The Republican bill lowers taxes on “pass-through income,” or money earned through partnerships or groups that is then passed on to the owner and taxed at the individual tax rate. As The New York Times reported, Kushner stands to benefit dramatically from this cut because he owns properties through “limited liability companies [LLCs] and other similar vehicles.” Over the weekend, as lawmakers clambered to gain necessary support for the bill, a last minute provision was added that could further benefit Kushner and Trump by allowing companies with no employees to deduct a percentage of their pass-through income (both Kushner and Trump have LLCs that could qualify).

    In addition to likely increases in Ivanka’s and Kushner’s business earnings, both stand to gain from changes to the estate tax, which is a tax on the transfer of wealth from a deceased person. Members of extremely rich families, like Ivanka and Kushner, stand to benefit from the bill’s doubling of the amount of money that super-rich families can pass along tax-free.

    Despite the clear financial advantages of the GOP’s tax bill for Ivanka and her family, the hosts of Fox & Friends failed to question whether her support for the bill is impacted by the benefits she stands to gain. From the December 18 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Ivanka Trump has been actually getting her hands dirty through this entire process, talking to lawmakers about the deal, and making sure it comes out. Ivanka Trump welcome back to the couch.

    IVANKA TRUMP: Thank you. I love being here.

    KILMEADE: Is this about -- do you feel as though you're across the finish line?

    TRUMP: So in business until it's done, it's not done. But we feel very, very confident. So the momentum is there. We're very excited. When the vote is done, we'll be done. But we're going to deliver historic tax reforms, and it's going to happen before Christmas. It’s going to be the fulfillment of an enormous campaign promise, and something that's just tremendously important for the American people. We feel it. This is something the people of this country want. They want simplification. They want a tax code that they can understand. They want lower corporate taxes and understand the benefit if the companies they work for can invest in their workforces, invest in new equipment, and ultimately lead to wage growth. And I think what we've done on the individual side by doubling the standard deduction, by doubling the child tax credit and increasing refundability to $2,000 a child. By creating a dependent care tax credit for those in -- for those many Americans who take care of adult dependents who aren't children, who are above the age of 18, but who are still dependent on them.

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): There are so many people this benefits. You would think that there would be some Democrats who would say you know what? I'm for tax cuts for the middle class. I'm for helping small businesses. Why aren't there any Democrats?

    TRUMP: One would think that and there are a lot of Democrats and they're all across this country. So the voters --

    DOOCY: But what about the ones in the Senate?

    TRUMP: Well, we've had a lot of very productive conversations with Democrats who I believe are intellectually there. Their hearts are there but the party is not there and the leadership's not there.

    KILMEADE: Leadership's not letting them.

    TRUMP: And that is unfortunate. But I'm hopeful with this really enormous and historic win for the American people, we come into 2018 with such tremendous momentum that we galvanize support and cohesion -- not only within the party because I think one of the amazing things is how the party has come together, worked together to accomplish with what they know the American people want.

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Ivanka, we keep hearing [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer [(D-NY)] and [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [(D-CA)], we had some guests on this morning, they keep saying it's going to hurt the middle class. But when you look at the tax brackets, everyone's numbers go down. Where are they getting that? Is that just a sound bite, a narrative that they want you to believe? Or is it actually true?

    TRUMP: Well, keep in mind that the vast majority of Congress in advance -- of Democrats -- signed a letter in advance of knowing what was in the tax bill saying that they wouldn't be for tax reform.

    EARHARDT: Before they read it.

    TRUMP: Before they read it and before any of the details, even the principles, had been released. So I think we are in a very partisan climate, in that regard. But the core principles of tax reform, the president and all of Congress has been very, very articulate of since day one. The president said that he wanted to deliver middle income tax relief. Targeted middle income tax relief, and he also wanted to cut corporate rates to enable our businesses to be competitive and to thrive in a global economy. And this bill does exactly those things.

    KILMEADE: I mean, [President Ronald] Reagan went from 50 to 28 [percent], that was substantial. You go down 2 [percent], and they are saying this is tax cuts for the rich. But possibly the thing that's going to be the most outstanding about this and it's permanent is the corporate tax rate. So it goes from 35 to 21 [percent]. Now, if these CEOs and these corporations decide to invest in their own dividends and buy their own stock, that would not make it an effective corporate tax cut. It will make make all those naysayers say I told you so. Have you reached out to any of these CEOs and said what do you plan on doing with the tax break? And even though you can't make them do anything, do you let them know what is at stake if they don't?

    TRUMP: One hundred percent. And we've been working very, very closely with the whole business community. Businesses large and small. So from day one, their voices have been represented at the table. If you think about it, small businesses will have the lowest taxes since 1931. So think about how that gives them the latitude to be able to invest in growth. So, when you look at the developed world, the reality is that over the decades that have passed since the last major comprehensive tax reform under Reagan, the rest of the world realized that cutting taxes enabled them to be competitive and their rates dropped dramatically below ours. So this puts us on par or below. It's going to enable us to be competitive, and then it's going to enable these big companies and small companies to grow. And when you grow, you create jobs, you create wage growth, and we're seeing that. And that combined with the administration's aggressive deregulatory actions is really fueling tremendous growth.

    DOOCY: The one-two punch.

  • Former Sen. George Allen regularly appears in the media to defend manufacturers on taxes and regulations without disclosure that he works for them

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Former Sen. George Allen (R-VA) regularly appears in the media to push the interests of the manufacturing industry on issues ranging from the environment to taxes. What’s frequently left unsaid is that the Republican works for a leading manufacturing trade association.

    Allen is a former Republican Senator and governor who now heads George Allen Strategies LLC, which works for clients “on a range of issues including energy, technology, domestic, and international business development.”

    He most recently penned a December 12 Washington Times op-ed claiming that American manufacturers are facing “a formidable new threat: a cabal of activists, cunning lawyers, ambitious politicians and a network of well-heeled benefactors,” which includes philanthropist (and former Media Matters donor) George Soros and environmental activist and philanthropist Tom Steyer.

    Allen also wrote a May 24 Washington Times op-ed in which he encouraged lawmakers to reduce the corporate tax rate. In the piece, he cited a “recent National Association of Manufacturers study [which] indicated that smaller-sized manufacturers (under 50 employees) pay $34,671 per employee each year to comply with regulations. The regulatory burden, coupled with the high rates of our outdated tax code, are not the recipe for unlocking positive entrepreneurial growth in Virginia or anywhere in the United States.”

    Neither of those pieces disclosed that Allen works for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAM is a trade association that had revenues of roughly $60 million in 2015, according to its IRS 990 form. The group, which describes itself as “the largest manufacturing association in the United States,” frequently works to oppose regulations against the industry and is now working to pass the GOP’s wildly unpopular tax bill. It is headed by Jay Timmons, a veteran Republican operative who worked as Allen’s chief of staff when he was in office.

    In October 2013, the group appointed Allen as the co-chair of its “Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative.” He has done events this year in which business groups have identified him as working for NAM. His corporate biography states that he still works for NAM and he said in a June 2017 interview that he’s “working with the National Association of Manufacturers on their competitiveness initiative.”

    NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, which is part of NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action, tweeted out Allen’s op-ed twice on December 13. Allen’s piece closely resembles the stated purpose of the NAM project, which claims to “set the record straight and highlight the concerted, coordinated campaign being waged by trial lawyers, public officials, deep-pocketed foundations and other activists who have sought to undermine and weaken manufacturers in the United States.”

    The Washington Times, George Allen Strategies, and NAM did not respond to requests for comment.

    Allen has written other op-eds about the government's involvement with the manufacturing industry in which his ties to NAM were not disclosed.

    • He wrote a September 2016 piece for The Hill headlined “Support US manufacturing jobs.” The piece urged Congress "to reform our business tax code to make U.S. manufacturers more competitive internationally."
    • He wrote a July 2017 Daily Caller piece headlined “For American Jobs And Competitiveness, We Need A Better QB At The Ex-Im Bank.” The Caller piece cited the National Association of Manufacturers but still did not disclose his ties. NAM tweeted out the piece from its account.
    • He wrote a July 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch piece in which he pushed for corporate tax cuts and wrote: “According to analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers, a tax reform package that includes these important elements would create 6.5 million jobs in the USA over the next 10 years.”

    He has also appeared on television and mentioned the manufacturing industry without noting his ties. For instance, during the June 11 edition of CNN’s New Day Sunday, Allen claimed that President Donald Trump “has done a great job on a lot of regulatory reform issues” and “I think that you see a lot of optimism, for example, amongst manufacturers that this president is going to deliver. Now, the members of Congress need to act too.” He also appeared on Fox Business in March where he mentioned NAM when discussing taxes but didn’t say he worked for the organization; NAM subsequently promoted his appearance and posted video of it. 

    By contrast, a November 22 op-ed for the Washington Examiner disclosed that Allen works for NAM.

  • GOP leadership touted pro-tax plan op-eds that were deceptive cut-and-paste jobs

    Lobbying group NFIB placed virtually identical op-eds about taxes from different authors in newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    In the midst of the congressional debate over its wildly unpopular tax plan, Republican leaders attempted to create the impression of a “drumbeat” of support by touting opinion pieces from “real Americans” and “state leaders.”

    “The drumbeat for tax reform did not waver over the long Thanksgiving weekend,” proclaimed a press release about “state leaders” from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, which included that “West Virginia’s state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Gil White, doubled down on the benefits to small businesses in the state” in an op-ed. 

    “Across the country, real Americans recognize what they stand to benefit,” read a press release from the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, which cited op-eds from National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) West Virginia director Gil White and Dan Lloyd, the plant manager for Procter & Gamble's Green Bay, WI, manufacturing facility.

    But those op-eds were deceptive cut-and-paste jobs that appeared virtually word-for-word in other publications by different authors and were part of a pro-corporate tax cut media campaign by a deep-pocketed business lobbying group and one of the largest corporations in the country.

    NFIB placed four op-eds in newspapers that were virtually identical but were supposedly written by four different authors. Editors told Media Matters that the lobbying group didn’t inform them they were using the same language elsewhere and had they known they wouldn’t have run the pieces.

    Media Matters recently wrote about similar media efforts by Procter & Gamble to gain public support for the Republicans’ unpopular efforts on taxes. That included placing plant manager Dan Lloyd’s op-ed in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI) and subsequently four other op-eds under different names with virtually the same language.

    Editors also criticized P&G’s tactics, with two explicitly saying they would not have run the pieces had they known it was a cut-and-paste effort. The Press-Gazette later added an editor’s note stating “Procter & Gamble indicated in an email to the Press-Gazette that this op-ed was written by the Green Bay plant manager. A review found it had not been previously published. We have since learned that almost identical op-eds by different plant managers were published elsewhere.”

    The National Federation of Independent Business, which describes itself as “America’s leading small business association," has heavily supported Republican candidates and causes over the years. Mother Jones has written that NFIB is a "front group" that's been "leading the fight against taxing the rich." The group, whose IRS recent IRS 990 forms show annual revenues over $100 million, has received money from organizations backed by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. The group has spent over three million dollars this year on lobbying and is now backing the Republicans’ efforts on taxes, which include large cuts to the corporate tax rate.

    Part of the NFIB’s efforts to pass the GOP tax plan has included attempts to create the appearance of a groundswell of local support through opinion pieces by various NFIB leaders in local newspapers. While those op-eds have different authors, they are all virtually the same except for a sentence mentioning the U.S. senators who represent the paper’s readers. (Thanks to reader Waner, who previously wrote a post noting the similarities and notified Media Matters through our tip line.

    The op-eds include:

    • A November 17 op-ed by NFIB Kansas state director Dan Murray in the Topeka Capital-Journal (KS).
    • A November 23 op-ed by NFIB Louisiana state director Dawn Starns in the Shreveport Times (LA).
    • A November 26 op-ed by NFIB West Virginia state director Gil White in The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV).
    • A December 2 op-ed by NFIB Florida executive director Bill Herrle in The Palm Beach Post (FL).

    Here, for example, is a composite image that compares the texts of the November 17 op-ed by Dan Murray and the Gil White op-ed from November 26 that was promoted by GOP leaders:

    NFIB did not respond to requests for comment.

    Editors at the papers which published the NFIB op-eds criticized the organization for its tactics and said that had they known the opinion pieces were cut-and-paste jobs their outlets wouldn’t have run the pieces.

    Jeff Gauger, executive editor at the Shreveport Times, said: “We did not know it was an astroturf letter. If we’d known, we would not have published it. If NFIB reps send more letters, we’ll quiz them hard before agreeing to publish their letters."

    Matt Johnson, editorial page editor at the Topeka Capital-Journal, said: “The article in question was published in The Topeka Capital-Journal before it ran in any of the other outlets you mentioned. We were not aware it would be published anywhere else. In fact, NFIB senior media manager Todd Pack assured me that the organization hadn't sent the piece to any other newspapers when he submitted it.” He added that they wouldn't have published the piece had they been made aware of that.

    Mike Myer, executive editor at The Intelligencer, said that they "were not aware the same language was used by other authors. Had we known, we would have requested a change or, at the very least, noted similar or the same language was used elsewhere by other authors.”

    The Palm Beach Post did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Procter & Gamble placed nearly identical op-eds pushing for corporate tax cuts from different authors in numerous papers

    The op-eds have been touted by the White House and a Republican congressman

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Procter & Gamble has been placing virtually identical op-eds supposedly written by different authors arguing for corporate tax cuts in newspapers across the country. In comments to Media Matters, some of the editors of those newspapers criticized the company for their tactics, with one saying the company would be blacklisted from the paper.

    Procter & Gamble (P&G) is a Fortune 500 company that produces products such as Charmin, Head & Shoulders, and Tide. The company has publicly supported Republicans’ recent tax efforts, include a large cut to the corporate tax rate. P&G has also spent millions on lobbying efforts in recent years on issues that include corporate taxes, according to government lobbying records.

    In recent weeks, the company has been helping place op-eds by manufacturing plant managers across the country in their respective newspapers that tout the alleged benefits of cutting corporate taxes to the economy (numerous economists disagree). While those op-eds all have different authors, they are virtually the same except for a few sentences about the P&G plant in the area. The North Carolina-based website Greensboro 101 first noted the similarities in a December 11 post. (Thanks to reader R.K. for passing on the information.)

    Those op-eds are:

    • A November 24 op-ed in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI) by Green Bay plant manager Dan Lloyd. (Update: The publication has since added an editor's note to the top of the piece.)
    • A November 25 op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune (UT) by Box Elder manager Joe Tomon.
    • A December 5 op-ed in the Southeast Missourian by Cape Girardeau plant managers Jack Geissinger and Tim Hayner.
    • A December 6 op-ed in The Times-Tribune (Scranton, PA) by Mehoopany plant managers Laszlo Varga and Jose Manuel Sanchez.
    • A December 10 op-ed in the News & Record by (Greensboro, NC) Greensboro plant managers Kevin Hazel and John Sorjonen. (The paper has since added an editor’s note.)

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders promoted the Green Bay Press-Gazette op-ed on November 28 on her Twitter account, writing:

    Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC) promoted the News & Record op-ed in a press release headlined “ICYMI: Procter and Gamble Plant Managers: ‘Tax Bill Will Level the Field for Greensboro, Too.’”

    For the most part, the only interchangeable parts of the op-eds are information about P&G’s local manufacturing ties and the last sentence fragment about cutting corporate taxes allegedly helping “P&G’s U.S. employees in [place of publication].”

    Here, for example, is a composite image that compares the texts of the November 24 and December 10 op-eds (the News & Record later added an editor's note to the top of the piece online):

    P&G defended the op-eds in the following statement to Media Matters (the statement also appeared in the News & Record):

    When P&G decided to promote the benefits of corporate tax reform, we encouraged most of our U.S. plant managers to write Op-Eds or Letters to the Editor for their local newspapers. Many accepted. Working as a team, a format was devised that was consistent and accurate. The fact that many of our plant managers, from all over the country, agreed on the content further demonstrates that corporate tax reform is a necessity to keep U.S. companies competitive in the global market. This topic impacts every P&G business and manufacturing site, and we appreciate the leadership of our plant managers.

    Two editors criticized P&G’s tactics in comments to Media Matters and specifically said if they had known the op-eds weren’t unique they wouldn’t have run them.

    George Pyle, the editorial page editor at the Salt Lake Tribune, told Media Matters that P&G deceived the Utah-based publication and they’re now on his blacklist.

    “I specifically asked if this was exclusive to The Tribune and was told that it was,” Pyle said in an email. “Our policy is that all the submitted op-eds we run must be exclusive to us. After they run, we have nothing to say if the same person wants to pedal the same piece somewhere else. We don't pay for these and aren't buying any rights. But if I had known this same piece was going to show up in other newspapers under other bylines, I would have rejected it out of hand.”

    He added: “I was already uncomfortable with the increasing number of op-eds that come from PR firms or corporate sources rather than directly from their supposed authors. Corporate and nonprofit, liberal and conservative, are all doing this more and more and it bugs me more every day. These guys are now on my black list and I am going to be more suspicious of such things going forward.”

    Allen Johnson, the editorial page editor at the Greensboro News & Record, told Media Matters: “We were not aware of the shared authorship of the piece until after the fact. If we had known in advance, we would not have run it. We also contacted P&G about the issue and told them of our concerns.” He later said the paper would be open to publishing P&G “but only if they follow our standards.”

    Jim Fitzhenry, the executive editor and vice president of news for USA Today Network-Wisconsin, said the publication was “not aware that Procter & Gamble had submitted similar op-eds to various publications. A standard review of the op-ed did not show that any portions had been previously used in other publications. That is not surprising. Based on the information you provided, it looks like the op-ed was first used in the Press-Gazette.”

    He added that they would have “reconsidered publishing the op-ed if we knew it was a boiler plate submission. We give strong preference for letters and op-eds prepared specially for our readers, not mass produced material.” Fitzhenry added that they would “continue to review submissions for publication, from P & G and all readers, on a case-by-case basis.”

    By contrast, The Times-Tribune in Scranton, PA, said they didn’t have a problem with the op-ed.

    Patrick McKenna, the paper's associate editor, explained in an email that he was “not concerned that regionalized versions appeared anywhere else as long as it was exclusive to us in our market, where P&G has a major paper products plant. Whatever the plant managers endorsed obviously is P&G corporate policy, and I have no problem with that voice being heard regardless of whether the company expresses it through a single corporate spokesman or executive or through regional executives. We were under no illusion that the column was anything other than an expression of P&G policy, regardless of attribution, and the authors were of course identified as P&G executives.” 

    He added: "Regarding the op-ed itself, there is nothing surprising about a major corporation favoring a major corporate tax decrease. For us, it was a reasonable counterpoint to a cascade of other opinions we had published opposing the tax plan, which our editorial board also generally opposes on matters of process and substance." 

    The Southeast Missourian did not respond to a request for comment.

    Media Matters documented several months ago that numerous op-eds defending the pipeline industry were published without disclosing writer James “Spider” Marks’ financial ties to that industry. John L. Micek, opinion editor for PennLive, told Media Matters at the time that Marks and his public relations people misled the publication and if he had disclosed his industry ties, the piece never would have run.