Tag Archives: crew

CREW sues to stop Trump from receiving payments from foreign governments

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit to stop President Donald Trump from violating the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit was being filed on Jan. 23 in the Southern District of New York.

The foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the president from receiving anything of value from foreign governments, including foreign government-owned businesses, without the approval of Congress.

“We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office,” CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said. “He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”

CREW said Trump is getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.

Trump, who won the Electoral College vote and was sworn into office on Jan. 20, does business with China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries. CREW said in a news release that “when Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman.”

“President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” said Bookbinder. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”

CREW is represented in the case by Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyers for the last two presidents, constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurence H. Tribe and Zephyr Teachout and Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC.

Report: Operator error caused train derailment, ethanol spill

Federal investigators said crew fatigue may have contributed to the derailment of a BNSF freight train that spilled more than 20,000 gallons of ethanol last year in western Wisconsin.

The engineer and the conductor scored poorly on the Federal Railroad Administration’s fatigue analysis tool, even though they each had more than 13 hours of rest prior to beginning their shift at 1 a.m. on Nov. 17, 2015.

The derailment occurred nearly eight hours later.

Both employees passed alcohol and drug screenings.

A report released this week said the engineer violated railroad guidelines by applying the brakes too suddenly, causing 25 cars to jump the tracks near Alma, Wisconsin. Braking rapidly can cause momentum at the rear of a train, which can push cars off the track, the La Crosse Tribune  reported.

According to the report, the freight train was traveling at 26 mph when it derailed, and was previously slowed from 54 mph. The maximum speed limit on the track where the incident occurred is 60 mph and the train was restricted to 55 mph, according to the FRA report.

The administration also determined the layout of the more than 100-car train, which had heavily-loaded cars behind dozens of lighter and empty cars, contributed to the derailment.

The FRA characterized the incident as poor handling. Spokesman Marc Willis said the agency didn’t fine the railroad because the engineer did not violate any federal regulations.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said as a result of the incident the engineer is no longer employed with the company.

No injuries were reported in the incident which caused about $2.1 million damage to rail equipment.

The derailment was one of several rail accidents last winter in Wisconsin and Minnesota.


Good government group says Walker among the worst governors

The good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on July 17 released its report naming the “Worst Governors in America,” which included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

CREW said it examined the job performance of the 50 governors for “shady and unethical conduct” to compile the study. The organization looked at:

• Corruption: Has there been outright corruption? Did a governor violate state ethics laws or campaign finance laws, or did the governor use his or her position to influence the awarding of state contracts?

• Transparency: Did a governor block access to records that state law deems discoverable? Did the governor oppose legislation to make public records more accessible or promote measures to make government less transparent? Did the governor take steps to foil transparency?

• Partisan politics: Did a governor appear to put partisan politics above the interests of the citizens of his or her state?

• Pressuring public officials: Has a governor attempted to pressure or intimidate other state officials in an inappropriate manner?

• Cronyism: Did a governor abuse his or her position to reward family, friends or major donors with state employment or other benefits?

• Self-enrichment: Did a governor use his or her position for personal financial enrichment?

• Scandal: Was a governor involved in a personal scandal that clearly distracted from his or her ability to govern effectively?

• Mismanagement: Did a governor fail to discharge his or her duties responsibly and in the public interest?

“CREW’s research reveals many state leaders aren’t always looking out for their constituents’ best interests,” stated CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a news release. “It seems some governors are more interested in what their states can do for them rather than what they can do for their states.”

The report divides the “worst” governors into three tiers — those who are the absolute worst, those whose conduct raises serious questions about their leadership and those who engaged in some troubling conduct.

The six worst, according to CREW, are Walker, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The middle six are Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

The governors CREW says are worth watching are Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Sloan said, “The problem of our elected leaders using their positions to benefit themselves, their families and their friends goes well beyond the Capital Beltway. Some of those named in this report could give Boss Tweed a run for his money.”

In its profile of Walker, CREW said the Republican governor:

• Violated the Wisconsin Constitution and state law by tracking down state senators to force a vote on a measure backed by his campaign donors to eliminate collective bargaining rights.

• Faced a wide-ranging investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney resulting in embezzlement charges and campaign finance-related charges against his aides.

On the Web…

CREW’s profile for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann earns ‘Scoundrel of the Month’ award

Voters with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann their Scoundrel of the Month for March for allegedly skirting campaign finance laws.

The ultra-right Republican from Minnesota sought her party’s nomination for president in 2012 and, at one time, was ahead in the polling. But CREW, in a news release issued April 24, said Bachmann “has fallen far from the heights of her political celebrity into a tangled mess of legal investigations.

Stated CREW executive director Melanie Sloan, “Rep. Bachmann was a presidential candidate only long enough to run afoul of campaign finance laws. For anyone who doubts the corrosive role of money in politics, Bachmann 2012 seems to present strong evidence to the contrary.”

In January, an ex-adviser to the Bachmann presidential campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming the candidate improperly paid a consultant using money from her PAC. The complaint also alleged that Bachmann concealed payments to another adviser, an Iowa state senator who legally could not accept payment for his work. That matter is now under investigation by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

CREW also cited reports from earlier this year that Bachmann refused to pay several staffers unless they signed agreements barring them from discussing “unethical, immoral, or criminal activity” witnessed on the campaign — agreements the staffers believe were intended to cover up the campaign’s alleged theft of an email list. The alleged theft is under investigation by the Urbandale Police Department in Iowa.

“While Rep. Bachmann may claim it is ‘routine’ to withhold money from staffers to buy their silence, in reality this demand is as atypical as it is unethical,” Sloan stated. “Given the inhospitable work environment she created, it’s not surprising Rep. Bachmann is proving as unpopular with her own staff as she was with voters.”