In case you missed it this week, the scope of corruption surrounding Harvey Weinstein is growing bigger by the day, Google hands over evidence of Russia-linked ads on their sites, and President Trump makes moves to raise repeal and replace Obamacare back from the dead.
Movie mongrel | If you’ve been living under a rock, you may have missed the news that broke last week about allegations of sexual assault and harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein—since then, 32 women have come forward, and multiple investigations have been launched. But as the floodgates continue to open, the scope of possible corruption is widening. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance accepted a $10k donation from Weinstein’s attorney months after deciding not to prosecute him for assault—despite having a confession on tape. After the Weinstein Company board opened an internal investigation, three of nine board members resigned. Lance Maerov, the member responsible for handling contract negotiations, said he was concerned company money was used to pay for previous settlements related to other assault allegations, but that he didn’t “know what else [he] could have done.” Right.
In Soviet Russia, Google searches you | Google has unearthed some evidence that Russian operatives bought tens of thousands of dollars on ads displayed on their platforms, including YouTube, Google search, and Gmail. Recently Facebook coughed up Russia-linked ads to Congress, and Twitter’s been getting some serious side-eye. But it looks like the agents who spent the cash on Google aren’t the same group that bought ad-time on Facebook, suggesting that their efforts to spread #fakenews may have been bigger than we originally thought. Talks about upping regulation on social media were already in the air, but now that the Silicon Valley giant has entered the ring they might get moved up on Congress’ to-do list.
Try and try again | President Trump is looking to make good on a promise he made back in his campaign days to repeal and replace Obamacare. Congress spent seven years saying they’d repeal, and no time coming up with a plan. That left them with their pants down more than once this year as they tried to rush solutions. But the president is tired of waiting, so this week he’s signing an executive order to allow the formation of association health plans, which lets people buy cheaper, leaner plans. Critics say this will spark healthy people to leave insurers, driving up costs for the remaining users. People looking for a silver lining say maybe it’ll push Congress to hammer out a bipartisan solution.
Raising ethical eyebrows | This week Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is joining the ranks of Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin as the Office of Special Counsel digs into whether Zinke’s travel history mixed business and personal trips. Since being sworn in, the Interior Secretary has hosted at least half a dozen events, including fundraisers that cost $3k-$5k a head, during official trips. To make matters worse, Zinke didn’t disclose his appearances. Fifty shades of shady. Speaking of which...
Calling all ethicists | Following the resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price, and the overall mounting list of ethically questionable actions in the current administration, David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent a memo encouraging employees to double-down on ethics efforts. In it he said, “I am deeply concerned that actions of some in government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible.” That's putting it lightly.
Charity, schmarity | Jason Posey, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, has plead guilty to fraud charges, in relation to a scheme that Posey says Stockman conceived. According to Posey, at Stockman's direction, he funneling more than $800,000 earmarked for charity into Stockman's 2014 Senate campaign. Stockman denies any wrongdoing but faces charges of fraud and conspiracy, and will go on trial this January.
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