Justin Miller

 Justin Miller is a senior writing fellow for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Jeb Hensarling: Trickle Downer of the Week

Wall Street’s favorite congressman wants to gut consumer protections. 

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP Chairman Jeb Hensarling runs the House Financial Services Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Feb. 2, 2017. trickle-downers.jpg T he Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement mission, crafted as a part of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, has long drawn the ire of congressional Republicans who are eager undermine its power and independence—and with a deregulatory fanatic as president, they may now have their best shot. Leading that charge is House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, whose Wall Street deregulation bill—the Financial CHOICE Act—forms the GOP’s blueprint for winding back Dodd-Frank. In a memo obtained by The New York Times last week, Hensarling outlined his plan to eviscerate the CFPB’s power. In a follow-up interview this week, the Texas congressman called the CFPB a “rogue, unconstitutional” agency. “I want to protect consumers from the Orwellian-named Consumer Finance...

Will Puzder Be the First to Fall?

Inside the battle to resist Trump’s ‘Anti-Labor Secretary’ nominee.

AP/Jack Plunkett CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder speaks at a news conference on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 in Austin, Texas. O n December 8, news broke that Trump would nominate Andy Puzder, the CEO of the company that owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains, to lead the Department of Labor. Since then, revelations about his controversial track record of comments and actions have painted a picture of a man whose every breath runs counter to the labor department’s mission: “ To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” Puzder’s Senate confirmation hearing has been delayed four times—allowing his opponents to build up a long dossier and prompting rumors that he was getting cold feet. He has denied those rumors, and after finally filing his financial paperwork with the Office of Government...

Q&A: Tom Perez Makes His Case

The former labor secretary talks about why he’s the person who can turn around the Democratic Party. 

Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post Tom Perez speaks during a debate for Democratic National Committee chair hosted by the Huffington Post at George Washington University in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. A s labor secretary, Tom Perez turned the Labor Department from a backwater federal agency into a powerhouse player in advancing President Obama’s second-term agenda. Before that, he took a demoralized Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and brought it back to life. Now he’s running to be the Democratic National Committee Chair as he tries to make the case that he can perform a similar turnaround on the party’s languishing machinery. Perez and Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison are considered the frontrunners amid a field of several other candidates. Usually a more under-the-radar position, the chair race has turned into a battle (albeit a mostly cordial one) over progressive bona fides, party vision, organizing chops, and political allegiances. On February 25, 447...

Q&A: How Democrats Can Win the Voter Suppression Argument

Jason Kander, a rising Democratic star, is leading a new organization that hopes to turn the tables on Republican voter suppression. 

AP/Orlin Wagner Democrat Jason Kander gives his concession speech at an election watch party in Kansas City after losing to Senator Roy Blunt. O n the national stage, nobody really knew who Democrat Jason Kander was until last fall, when his upstart campaign against Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt ran an ad of the U.S. Army veteran assembling an AR-15 rifle blindfolded, while explaining why he supports background checks for gun purchases. It quickly went viral and became one of the most successful campaign ads of the 2016 cycle. Although he lost his race, Kander came within just a few points of Blunt in a state that Trump carried by nearly 20 points. He was quickly tabbed as a rising Democratic star. After the election, Kander, who had served as the Missouri secretary of state for the past four years, admonished state Republican legislators for passing photo ID legislation in 2016. “I know some folks here and across the state try to pretend other elections issues would be solved...

Another First for Trump: A Policy Arm Operating Totally in Secret

Donald Trump isn’t the first president to enjoy the support of nonprofit groups that promote his policy agenda, but he may be the first whose outside backers operate entirely in secret.

When Trump allies announced last week the formation of America First Policies, a 501(c)(4) issue group that will be the president’s main outside advocacy vehicle, observers immediately drew comparisons to Organizing for Action, the nonprofit that allies of Barack Obama launched after he won reelection in 2012. But unlike Organizing for Action, which agreed under pressure to publicly disclose its big-money benefactors every quarter, Trump’s America First has given no indication that it intends to disclose who its funders are.

Such political nonprofits are not required by law to disclose their donors, but watchdogs worry that without public reporting, advocacy operations like America First could become dark money slush funds that allow anonymous donors to influence critical policy debates—with the public none the wiser. The group is run by conservative operatives like the Trump campaign’s digital director Brad Parscale and Vice President Mike Pence’s former top advisor Nick Ayers, and will run digital and TV ads to promote such Trump priorities as winning Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, repealing Obamacare, and cracking down on immigration.

“There’s nothing wrong with policy advocacy,” says Meredith McGehee, of the bipartisan campaign-finance reform group Issue One. “The problem here is that you have a group that is directly connected with the president, and it can well be anticipated that the donors who make contributions to this entity will ensure that the president or his aides know exactly what they’ve done. That will buy them both access and influence.”

Moreover, America First won’t be the only top-secret group advocating for Trump. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, both prominent supporters of Trump during his campaign, are also leading a nonprofit called the Greater America Alliance that will reportedly advocate for various parts of Trump’s agenda. At the top of the list will be the Gorsuch nomination and Trump’s economic and infrastructure plans. The group plans to spend $80 million on policy fights in 2017 alone, Politico reports. Two GOP operatives who ran the Great America super PAC, which spent about $22 million on behalf of Trump’s presidential campaign, will run the Alliance. And like America First, the Greater America Alliance has announced no plans to disclose its donors.

Yet another group, a 501(c)(4) dubbed the 45 Committee, is investing at least $4 million in ads to ensure that Trump’s cabinet picks are confirmed, according to a Washington Examiner report. The 45 group is also expected to finance attack ads on Democratic senators it deems vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections. That group is affiliated with a super PAC dubbed Future45, which is financed by conservative mega-donors Sheldon Adelson and the Chicago-based Ricketts family. Together, the two groups spent tens of millions backing Trump in the presidential campaign.

The secrecy surrounding pro-Trump advocacy groups is in line with the president’s own hostility to transparency, says Adam Smith, communications director for the money-in-politics watchdog Every Voice. Smith pointed to Trump’s refusal to disclose all his business ties, release his tax returns, or even publish a list of his campaign bundlers. This culture of secrecy could have real ramifications for pending policy battles on the Hill, says Smith, including the administration’s push for Wall Street deregulation.

“When it comes to the Dodd-Frank fight, when Congress starts introducing bills and these groups start running ads, we deserve to know whether its his Wall Street friends funding them,” Smith says. “If you’re the president of the United States and you have all these ties to Wall Street and rich people, people deserve to know who they are.”

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