Saturday, September 24, 2016


Earlier this month, I warned about the possibility of non-transparent influence of Russian oligarchs and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on Donald Trump under Citizens United. I argued that Trump could easily benefit from money flowing from Russia into his pockets and allow Russian militarism to run amok. This post focuses on that concern as well as our failure to secure our elections from computer hacking as I proposed in this law review article. The fear is that Trump will further the geopolitical ambitions of Vladimir Putin to the great detriment of long term US interests. A former CIA Director views Trump in precisely the same light, as do many mainstream conservative Republicans, as manifest here, and in the above image, from here. A Trump victory poses the unprecedented threat that a dictator could seize control of American foreign policy and politically defeat our armed forces that otherwise cannot be defeated.

Recent news spotlights the heightening of that concern.

First, media outlets reported yesterday that the US intelligence community is probing whether Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page (a former Moscow-based investment banker with investments in Gazprom) already opened discussions about lifting US-led sanctions with high level Russian agents and officials. This sort of tampering with US foreign policy on behalf of a dictator by a presidential campaign stands without precedent in US political history. Worse, the Trump effort appears to seek the patronage of Putin's vast arsenal of dirty political tricks, including his hacking capabilities (discussed further below). Of course, Trump has long called on the US to ally itself with Russian efforts to maintain its client state in Syria.

Second, earlier this week, ABC News reported its investigative findings into Trump's Russian business ties. They uncovered "hundreds of millions of dollars" flowing from Russian business interests into the coffers of Trump, Inc. Trump benefits directly from these Russian business ties through sales concessions paid to him as a result of Russian purchases of Trump-sponsored properties. ABC News also found that many Russian oligarchs frequently furnish investment capital for Trump business. Russian business leaders openly admit to these connections:
"The level of business amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars -- what he received as a result of interaction with Russian businessmen. They were happy to invest with him, and they were happy to work with Donald Trump."
Donald Trump, Jr., also openly admitted to these same links in 2008: "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." At this point, it is beyond dispute that Trump has major business ties with Russian business interests. These findings directly support conservative columnist George Will's position that Trump refuses to produce his tax returns because they would reveal unflattering ties with Russia.

Third, high level US Congressional leaders, from both parties, with access to classified material, recently warned that Russia appears poised to hack American democracy itself to get Trump into office. Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, released the following joint statement:
"Based on briefings we have received, we have concluded that the Russian intelligence agencies are making a serious and concerted effort to influence the U.S. election. At the least, this effort is intended to sow doubt about the security of our election and may well be intended to influence the outcomes of the election. We can see no other rationale for the behavior of the Russians."
In short, the axis of interests between Trump and Putin now poses an unprecedented external threat to the security of the US and its citizens. Even in the Election of 1940, which I previously identified as the last concerted effort by a dictator, Adolph Hitler, to interfere with American politics, Hitler had neither the capabilities nor brazenness to pull off what Putin and Trump appear to be doing: the subversion of US democracy and defense capabilities in the service of a dictator.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Corporate Justice

Hot off the presses, a new coursebook for law school classrooms entitled "Corporate Justice" has just been released by the Carolina Academic Press authored by blog contributors Todd J. Clark and andré douglas pond cummings.  This coursebook offers an alternative approach to traditional Corporate Law courses.

“Corporate justice” refers to a shared responsibility, even a moral obligation, between corporate decision makers, shareholders, external organizational constituencies, and society to ensure that the corporate decision making process is fair, civil, responsible, and just. More than that, corporate justice requires that corporations do no harm in their pursuit of profits and that shareholders as well as society in general have an affirmative responsibility to facilitate this pursuit. Corporate justice expects that founders, stakeholders, and executives in a business will honor human potential and eschew profits when such derive from unfairness, inequality, danger, and damage. This book explores each of these themes in depth, providing an insight practically non-existent in corporate law textbooks and treatises available today.

The book is available at the Carolina Academic Press site.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Trump, Putin, Hitler & Citizens United

The election of 1940 functioned as a referendum on US participation in WWII and the willingness of the US to defend western democracy as well as capitalism itself. FDR staked out a powerful anti-Hitler position. The rather farsighted measures he implemented to assure US survival prior to that fateful election include: 1) the Two Ocean Navy Act, the largest naval procurement act in US history which assured US naval dominance throughout the war and was signed into law on July 19, 1940; 2) the first peacetime conscription act which FDR signed into law on September 16, 1940;  and 3) agreeing in September of 1940 to trade 50 old navy destroyers to Great Britain (already at war and suffering daily bombing from the Luftwaffe)  in exchange for bases around the world. Hitler had no doubt that FDR was a foe to be reckoned with.

Image result for 1940 election amid a stormConsequently, Hitler possessed a strong incentive to try to influence the election of 1940 and history proves he did exactly that. William Shirer reported from Berlin at the time that the Nazis "ardently wished" that the GOP would triumph in the election of 1940 giving them time to overrun Europe before America could reverse the tide as they did in 1918. Due in part to recent books on the topic, we now know that Nazi operatives in the US solicited Hitler's government to fund ads in the New York Times to persuade American voters to stay out of the European conflict that was at full boil after the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Such ads ultimately appeared in the Times during the GOP convention in June of 1940. Further, Nazi Germany funneled $160,000 ($2.7 million in 2016 dollars) to defeat pro-Roosevelt democrats and to stop Roosevelt himself at the Democratic convention through William Rhodes Davis. Fortunately, Hitler's effort to defeat Roosevelt in the election of 1940 failed and the US once again destroyed the irrational autocrats of Europe.

This Nazi effort in 1940 counsels us today to exercise vigilance over the possible foreign influence over our elections and democracy. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court essentially gave all money--domestic or foreign--the green light to subvert American democracy in the Citizens United decision which today figures as a major Achilles heel in our national defense. Justice Kennedy basically invited any foreign autocrat to spend unlimited funds (through domestically domiciled corporations) to defeat our nation, which even Vladimir Putin admits cannot be defeated on the battlefield.

As a direct result of Justice Kennedy's decision to throw his weight behind big money we now need to fear foreign threats as never before. Autocrats like Putin no doubt understand that Justice Kennedy's ruling allows foreign dictators to use Citizens United to turn the Constitution into a suicide pact. They simply funnel their cash through a US corporation that does not coordinate with a candidate's campaign and they can spend unlimited funds to install a friendly government in Washington DC. Justice Stevens predicted all of this in his dissent in Citizens United highlighting that the majority's opinion in Citizens United opened the door to foreign controlled corporations.

This issue of opening the door for foreign enemies to influence US elections has not gone away since Citizens United. Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel tried earlier this month to cut back foreign election influence. She states that foreign influence over our elections poses a threat that was unthinkable a decade ago. 

Which brings us to the strange and unprecedented relationship between Presidential nominee Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post (banned from press credentials by the Trump Campaign):
"The overwhelming consensus among American political and national security leaders has held that Putin is a pariah who disregards human rights and has violated international norms in seeking to regain influence and territory in the former Soviet bloc. In 2012, one year before Trump brought his beauty pageant to Moscow, then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Russia the United States’ top geopolitical threat — an assessment that has only gained currency since then."

Trump has deep ties with Russia. His son Eric Trump admitted that Russian money has flooded into Trump investments: "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." On the issue of Russia's military aggressions into the Crimea and the Ukraine, Trump simply parrots the Kremlin's party line. Trump has been castigated by GOP leaders as well as others for weakening NATO in accordance with the very high priority that Russia has to divide the western allies. Conservative columnist George Will suspects that if Trump released his tax returns (like all other Presidential candidates) they would show even more financial connections to Putin. A former CIA Director suspects that Trump is already acting as an unwitting Russian agent.

Despite Putin's nasty conduct Trump has curried his favor just as he has with other dictators. Indeed, North Korea has officially endorsed Trump for president. Trump reportedly has directly solicited foreign campaign contributions.

Trump's candidacy thus poses a serious national security threat to the US without precedent. Hopefully, American citizens will disregard all super-PAC spending in favor of Trump for the simple reason that it could all be funded through foreign dictators that wish us ill, and seek to destroy America's traditional role as opponent of autocrats and dictators. If money pours into this election in favor of Trump it is likely to be from some foreign dictator.