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  • Anti-LGBT National Review Writer Reportedly Being Drafted To Run For President

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is reportedly considering drafting David French -- a staff writer at National Review -- to run for president as an independent candidate. French has repeatedly demonized the LGBT community in his writing and worked as a lawyer at a right-wing legal group that has defended laws criminalizing homosexuality.

    According to Bloomberg, Kristol -- who has been trying to kickstart a “never Trump” movement among Republicans -- has recently focused his search for an independent candidate on French:

    Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

    [...]

    Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support. However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.

    At National Review, French has written extensively against LGBT equality and women’s access to abortion. He announced in 2010 that he had changed his mind and decided to oppose marriage equality, later warning that America was “racing off on our own cultural experiment.” He’s written multiple pieces attacking the transgender community, lamented “transgender entitlement,” described a young transgender woman as a “man” who is “on the verge of mutilating himself,” and argued that states should reject federal education funding rather than prohibit discrimination against transgender students.

    French previously served as a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund -- from 2006 to 2010. He also offered legal advice to anti-abortion activist Lila Rose.

    Both before and after French’s tenure there, ADF worked to defend domestic and international anti-sodomy laws that criminalize homosexual behavior. ADF is also the group behind the recent wave of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws and anti-transgender “bathroom bills.” The group has a history of fighting to limit access to reproductive healthcare, including testifying against Planned Parenthood and taking part in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case.

  • TPM's Josh Marshall: Media Must Pressure Trump Over His "Openly Racist" Remarks About Judge In Trump U. Lawsuits

    Marshall: Any Reporter Who Does Not Ask Trump About His”Dangerous” Attacks Is “Not Doing His Or Her Job”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Following presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest remarks attacking the federal judge presiding over two lawsuits pending against his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar business, Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall highlighted the “unprecedented” personal attacks and “openly racist argument” Trump has launched against Judge Gonzalo Curiel over the last several months.

    Trump has identified Curiel as a “Mexican” and “Hispanic” while criticizing his actions in the case, suggesting that Curiel is treating Trump unfairly and with hostility because of Curiel’s heritage and Trump’s position on immigration.

    Marshall implored media to hold Trump accountable for the repeated, “dangerous” racialized remarks the candidate has made about Curiel, arguing that, “any reporter who gets a chance to ask Trump to justify his actions and doesn’t is not doing his or her job.”

    From Marshall’s May 31 blog post:

    It is unprecedented for a presidential candidate to personally attack and even threaten a federal judge. (To be fair, I'm not sure there's been a nominee being sued for fraud during the presidential campaign.) But here we have Trump making an openly racist argument against a federal judge, arguing that Curiel is pursuing a vendetta against him because Trump is, he says, "I'm very, very strong on the border."

    [...]

    The press routinely goes into paroxysms - often rightly so - about innuendos or phrasings that might in some way be racist or suggest racial animus. Here we have it in the open, repeated and showing itself as basically Trump's first line of attack when he is in anyway threatened. That's infinitely more dangerous than most things that routinely focus all the media's attention. Any reporter who gets a chance to ask Trump to justify his actions and doesn't is not doing his or her job. Few cases show more vividly how dangerous a person Trump is.

  • How Donald Trump Dodged A Media Discussion Over Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Trump

    Donald Trump used a press conference about millions of dollars in donations he says he raised for veterans’ groups to hijack the cable news discussion and largely avoid coverage of an anticipated document release today as part of  a lawsuit alleging misrepresentation by his now-defunct Trump University business. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted more than five hours to previewing, airing, and discussing Trump’s press conference between 6 am and 4 pm, compared to less than one hour of discussion of the Trump University lawsuit.

    After intense and admirable pressure from the press, Trump last week finally took steps toward personally donating $1 million to a veterans’ charity, four months after he falsely claimed he had done so. Trump had organized a January 28 nationally televised fundraiser as a substitute for appearing at a debate moderated by Fox News, which Trump was feuding with at the time. That night, he claimed to have raised $6 million, including his own gift. He subsequently avoided repeated questions about where the donations had gone.

    Trump’s campaign originally scheduled a press conference for May 30 to discuss the donations. But on May 29, he moved the appearance to today.

    It’s not hard to see why. On May 27, a federal judge ordered the release this week of internal documents from Trump University, a Trump-owned real estate seminar business that is facing several pending fraud and misrepresentation lawsuits brought by former students and by the state of New York. CNN reported that the documents would begin coming out today.

    Donald Trump does not want the media talking about whether he defrauded thousands of people who trusted his company to give them good business advice. By moving his veterans event to today, Trump was able to use what The New York Times has termed his “unrivaled ability to hijack a news cycle,” ensuring that the media would spend the day focusing on his comments rather than coming back from the holiday weekend with a focus on the contents of the pending Trump University lawsuits.

    All three cable news networks broadcast the entirety of Trump’s 40-minute press conference live, and devoted substantial time afterwards discussing his comments, which included both a detailed list of donations he had channeled to veterans and attacks on the press. As Politico noted, Trump “game[d] the media, again.”

    While the cable news coverage of the Trump event was by no means universally flattering, with many journalists criticizing the candidate’s attacks on the press, it did move the subject of that coverage to Trump’s preferred topic. As CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield noted after one such segment, “The question needs to be asked: what about this news conference and what happened, and is it overshadowing another case?”

    It did. While both CNN and MSNBC devoted segments to discussing Trump University -- and CNN’s Jim Acosta used a question during the press conference itself to ask Trump about the lawsuits -- all three networks devoted significantly more time to discussing Trump’s veterans event. (Acosta’s question and Trump’s response during the press conference, and a single 11-second tease on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, represented the entirety of that network’s coverage of Trump University.)

    And that’s exactly what Trump wanted to see happen.

    Research by Rob Savillo and Cydney Hargis, graph by Sarah Wasko.

    Methodology. Media Matters​ reviewed our internal video archive for discussion of Trump's press conference about raising money to donate to veterans’ organizations and discussion of the allegations against Trump University. We reviewed all mentions of "Trump" for these two topics between 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, and we then timed the relevant discussion. Trump's press conference was included in the data, with all discussion related to veterans during the event coded as time devoted to the Trump Veterans Presser and all discussion of Trump University during the event coded as time devoted to Trump University.

  • Trump's Economic Policy Team Spreads Right-Wing Media Lie Tying Clintons To Housing Crisis

    Larry Kudlow And Stephen Moore Attempt To Distract Media Scrutiny Of Trump’s Statement On Housing Crisis By Attacking Clintons

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing economic pundits Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore claimed that Bill and Hillary Clinton are partly to blame for the housing crisis that rocked the economy during the Bush administration because of their support of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a program intended to expand American home ownership. Kudlow and Moore, who both have served as economic policy advisers to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, pushed this repeatedly debunked myth while attempting to deflect attention from Trump's 2006 statement relishing the potential profits he could reap during a housing and financial crisis.

    Kudlow and Moore falsely claimed Hillary Clinton was partly responsible for the housing crash in a May 29 op-ed in The Washington Times, adding that she has no right to lambast Trump for stating in 2006 that he had hoped the housing market crashes so he could buy properties cheaply. Trump has faced continued scrutiny over this statement. New York magazine even called it “a new, lurid reason why he should never be president” and media interest only grew after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called the GOP front-runner “a small insecure money grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes money off it.” From Kudlow and Moore’s Washington Times piece:

    It turns out that Donald Trump has been very good at buying low and selling high, and it helps account for his amazing business success.

    Now Hillary Clinton seems to think it’s a crime. Campaigning in California last week she’s wailed that Mr. Trump “actually said he was hoping for the crash that caused hard working families in California and across America to lose their homes, all because he thought he could take advantage of it to make some money for himself.” She’s assailing Mr. Trump for being a good businessman — something she would know almost nothing about because she’s never actually run a business, though she did miraculously turn $1,000 into $1 million in the cattle futures market many years ago.

    [...]

    What is so hypocritical about the Clinton attacks is that it wasn’t Trump, but Hillary, her husband, and many of her biggest supporters who were the real culprits here.

    Kudlow and Moore’s anti-Clinton attack is based on their claim that expanding access to mortgages to help low-income Americans buy homes was part of the catalyst for the housing crisis. The two also claimed that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton “went to bat for the housing industry” -- ignoring that Clinton actually pushed for tougher regulations on the financial industry in 2007.

    Top economists reject the idea that President Clinton and his policies are to blame for the financial crisis -- including the current and former Federal Reserve chairs from Republican and Democratic administrations. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke disputed this myth in a November 2008 statement demonstrating that after studying the CRA for over 30 years the Federal Reserve's findings “runs counter to the charge that CRA was at the root of ... current mortgage difficulties." Current Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen found that the CRA did not cause problems but instead the CRA increased “responsible lending” in a March 2008 speech when she was the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

    Kudlow and Moore have a long and well-documented history of distorting facts on the economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has spent years documenting Moore's repeated failures in economic policy, recently slammed the right-wing commentator’s "impressive lack of even minimal technical competence." Kudlow has made many statements berating Americans and even lectured single parents about poverty at an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- even though he admitted to having "virtually no knowledge in this field."

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Highlights “Sinister” Effect Of Super PAC Ads On Voter Turnout

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board stressed the negative impact super PAC ads have on voter turnout as outside money targeting the presidential and Senate races begins coming into play across the country. Research highlighted by the Post-Gazette showed that the negative ads run by super PACs can discourage voter turnout, a result the board called “sinister and profoundly anti-democratic.”

    The May 30 editorial cited research from the Ohio Media Project -- “a consortium of radio and television stations and the largest newspapers in the state” --  which found that negative campaign ads like the ones often funded by super PACs “are designed to suppress voter turnout as much as they are to persuade voters to support one candidate over another.”

    The Post-Gazette underscored that while super PAC spending occurs in support of both Democratic and Republican candidates, the 2012 presidential election saw “$424.4 million [spent] supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $145 million supporting Democratic President Barack Obama.” The editorial named the billionaire Koch brothers -- who have committed at least $30 million for ads aimed at influencing Senate races in the 2016 --  as a major supporters of super PACs behind negative ads. From the Post-Gazette:

    Researchers found that only about 1 percent of voters, primarily independents, are moved from one camp to another because of negative ads, but in swing states, like Ohio, sometimes elections are decided by 1 percent or less. But the researchers also found that, “especially with moderate voters, you get a demobilization effect, where they just kind of turn off, ‘This is a nasty campaign, I just want to stay home.’ ”

    That is truly sinister and profoundly anti-democratic.

    Equally disturbing as the attack ads and their intent is the answer to this question. Who is paying for this garbage? In the 2012 presidential election, independent spending — by groups not connected with either political party — came to $424.4 million supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $145 million supporting Democratic President Barack Obama.

    The sources of that money, often called “dark money,” are being kept secret, and that is wrong.

    [...]

    The super PAC Americans for Prosperity is a good example. Look up its 2012 expenditures in opensecrets.org and the only line that comes up is: $33,542,051 spent against President Obama’s re-election.

    The Center for Responsive Politics identified AFP’s biggest contributor as Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which is controlled by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch. But the FEC did not require this disclosure.

  • WaPo Editorial Board Blasts Trump's "Dangerous, Nonsensical Energy Plan"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s editorial board lambasted the energy proposals put forth by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump as “illogical” and “dangerous,” adding that his vow to undue environmental protections will cause future generations to “suffer.”

    After Trump gave a speech about energy issues at an oil conference last week, media figures quickly ripped apart his comments as “utter nonsense” demonstrating a “lack of basic knowledge” about the energy industry. Industry experts later questioned the feasibility of Trump’s energy-related pledges in The New York Times, in part by pointing out that his vow to restore coal jobs contradicts his pledge to expand the natural gas industry, which according to Harvard economics professor Robert N. Stavins “would actually have the effect of lowering demand for coal, causing more mines to close.”

    The Post added to the criticism by pointing out that Trump’s promise to achieve energy independence is misguided because the “best way to insulate the country from oil price volatility would be to make the economy less dependent on oil, but Mr. Trump has no interest in doing so.” The Post also argued that Trump’s pledge to kill the U.S.’s major climate policy and “cancel” the Paris climate agreement would be a “massive blow against climate change,” concluding that if he succeeds, “[f]uture generations will suffer.”

    From the May 29 editorial:

    Last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that voters think Donald Trump would handle the economy better than would Hillary Clinton. But from his destructive tax proposals to the illogical energy plan he detailed on Thursday, there is little basis for that belief.

    [...]

    Setting “energy independence” as an overriding policy goal is a policy mistake of long standing in Washington. In fact it is far less risky to participate in the global market than to erect barriers to energy imports or ban them entirely. If you rely only on yourself for your oil, you put all of your eggs in one supply basket. Disruptions due to a natural disaster or anything else that would be relatively localized in a global oil market would cause major volatility in a closed domestic one. The best way to insulate the country from oil price volatility would be to make the economy less dependent on oil, but Mr. Trump has no interest in doing so.

    Mr. Trump’s error reflects a deeper contradiction in his thinking. He praises the unencumbered free market, insisting that, “the government should not pick winners and losers” and that he would “remove obstacles” in the way of private enterprises. At the same time, he promises energy independence, a renaissance for the coal industry and other goals that would require government interference in the market. The decline of coal, for example, has occurred in large part because under the Obama administration natural gas drilling has boomed, lowering the price of gas and spurring utilities to move away from coal.

    Mr. Trump’s plan is dangerous as well as incoherent. In his zeal to revoke environmental regulations, Mr. Trump promises to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon dioxide rules and pull the country out of the Paris climate agreement. He also promised “clean air and clean water,” but over the past half-century, it has been government regulation, sometimes market-based, that has helped clear up the nation’s air and water. Mr. Trump’s plan would lead to dirtier air and water — and to a massive blow to the global fight against climate change. With great care and difficulty, President Obama persuaded major polluting countries such as China to listen to scientists and move with the United States toward cuts in emissions.

    Future generations will suffer if Mr. Trump succeeds in reversing that progress.

  • La Opinión Blasts Trump Yelling About Heritage Of Judge Overseeing Trump University Case

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    La Opinión’s editorial board criticized presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for pointing to the Mexican heritage of the federal judge who ordered records unsealed in the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Trump University.

    On May 27, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ordered the release of documents related to Trump University after The Washington Post requested they be made public. In response, Trump devoted 12 minutes to attacking Curiel during a rally in San Diego, saying that Curiel, “a hater of Donald Trump” and a “Mexican,” was biased against him. A Trump surrogate followed up on CNN, criticizing Curiel’s membership in a Latino lawyer association. Polling data indicates Latinos will be one of the most challenging voter groups for Trump to win over, since more than 70 percent view the candidate unfavorably.

    According to the May 30 editorial in La Opinión, “Trump said that Curiel’s supposed animosity comes from being ‘Mexican.’” As the board pointed out, “In his ignorance and irresponsibility, Trump’s attack is carried out against a Mexican-American,” showing that, regardless of immigration status, anyone with a “Hispanic last name and disagreement with Trump” is “in his eyes, suspicious of deliberately antagonizing him.” From La Opinión’s May 30 editorial:

    Students who paid tens of thousands of dollars to study at Trump University must have suspected something was wrong when they were offered to take a picture with a cardboard figure of the mogul instead of with the real man. This is only one of the irregularities cited in the lawsuit for multi-million dollar fraud filed by former students. Still, Donald Trump believes that he is being accused because the judge is “a Mexican.”

    [...]

    The response of the presumptive Republican nominee was to say that Curiel is “a hater of Donald Trump,” adding that the judge – nominated by President Obama – must leave the case, citing bias. Trump said that Curiel’s supposed animosity comes from being “Mexican.” Spewed from the podium, the claim rouses a crowd of followers who feverishly wants to “build that wall,” this time to prevent judges from attacking the candidate.

    In his ignorance and irresponsibility, Trump’s attack is carried out against a Mexican-American born in Chicago, not an immigrant. His criticism is no longer directed to undocumented people or foreigners but includes dozens of millions of people born in the U.S. whose Hispanic last name and disagreement with Trump makes them, in his eyes, suspicious of deliberately antagonizing him.

  • Washington Post: “It’s Time To Shut Down The Special Panel On Fetal Tissue Research”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Posts editorial board wrote that the congressional investigative panel created in the wake of the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood should be “shut down” because there is “no legitimate reason” for the panel’s existence. The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives was established by Republicans in Congress following the release of videos made by the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress which baselessly allege fetal tissue was being illegally sold. The Washington Post's editorial board noted “as we now know, those videos are bunk, neither accurate nor reliable,” and multiple investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. However, the Republican-led select panel has continued to rely upon so-called evidence collected by anti-choice activists and has “issued indiscriminate subpoenas [and] intimidated witnesses” as well as potentially put individuals at risk for targeting by anti-choice extremists by not safeguarding their names. Without a “legitimate reason” for the panel’s work, the Post wrote, Speaker Paul Ryan should “should put an end to these sordid proceedings.”

    From The Washington Post’s May 27 editorial:

    Any doubt about the kind of investigation into fetal tissue research that would be conducted by a special House panel was erased at its first hearing, when one of the witnesses called by Republicans drew comparisons between this life-saving medical work and the experiments of Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. And the panel has gone downhill since.

    The committee has issued indiscriminate subpoenas, intimidated witnesses and relied on misleading information. It is abusing power at taxpayer expense, and Democrats are right to demand its shutdown.

    […]

    There is no legitimate reason for this inquiry. Individuals and organizations are being unfairly targeted and placed at risk. [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, who took office with talk of wanting to change how the House does business, should put an end to these sordid proceedings.

  • NY Times Highlights Television Networks’ Imbalanced Focus On Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times’ Michael Grynbaum explained that because presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “has become a daily fixture on influential programs” on television news, “even personally calling [networks] to shape coverage,” networks have struggled to provide equal time for other presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

    Media outlets have been widely criticized for showering Trump with nearly endless coverage. According to a study by The New York Times, Trump has received nearly $2 billion in free earned media over the course of the campaign. Networks have also been criticized for allowing Trump the unprecedented advantage of conducting interviews over the phone rather than in-person.

    In a May 30 piece, Grynbaum noted that while cable networks “are seeking novel ways to maintain balance” by getting other candidates coverage, “the presence of Mr. Trump can be irresistible” due to possibly getting “tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for an industry threatened by digital competition.” The article quoted anchors, executives and news producers who “admit[ed] unease at the unfiltered exposure [Trump] has received,” including one anchor “describing frustration about being asked to conduct on-air interviews with Mr. Trump by telephone, rather than in person.” From the May 30 New York Times piece:

    Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has become a daily fixture on influential programs, startling producers by even personally calling control rooms to shape coverage.

    Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, is not absent from cable news; she called in to CNN and MSNBC last week to rebut attacks from her rival. But she remains leery of TV’s unscripted nature, appearing far less often than Mr. Trump and irking some bookers who complain about the difficulties of luring her on the air.

    […]

    Networks are seeking novel ways to maintain balance, like staging voter town halls that provide candidates with equal airtime; seeking a wider spectrum of on-air contributors and campaign surrogates; and bringing more fact-checking into segments, as Jake Tapper has done recently on CNN to some acclaim.

    Still, the presence of Mr. Trump can be irresistible, especially in an election where viewership and advertising rates have soared, generating tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for an industry threatened by digital competition.

    Last week, none of the three major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC — carried Mrs. Clinton’s speech to a workers’ union in Las Vegas, where she debuted sharp new attack lines against Mr. Trump.

    Instead, each chose to broadcast a live feed of an empty podium in North Dakota, on a stage where Mr. Trump was about to speak.

    [...]

    In interviews, more than a dozen anchors, executives and news producers displayed admiration for Mr. Trump’s facility with their medium. Some expressed a bit of soul-searching, admitting unease at the unfiltered exposure he has received, with one anchor describing frustration about being asked to conduct on-air interviews with Mr. Trump by telephone, rather than in person. But several offered the defense that whatever viewers make of Mr. Trump, he is undoubtedly newsworthy — and always accessible.

    “I don’t think anybody has seen anything like this,” said Bret Baier, the chief political anchor at Fox News.

    Mr. Baier, who has moderated a Democratic town hall with Mrs. Clinton and has interviewed Mr. Trump on his show, said that producers are “really trying to think outside the box” to balance Mr. Trump’s ubiquity onscreen.

    He also said he was stunned when Mr. Trump telephoned a control room at CNN this month, urging a midlevel producer to pursue a story he deemed favorable. It was an intervention virtually unheard-of in presidential politics, where candidates typically rely on an army of media handlers for such tasks. Mr. Trump had called producers at MSNBC that morning, as well.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • There Is A Paid Speech Controversy The Press Should Cover: Trump’s

    Trump Made Millions Addressing Alleged “Scam” Marketing Company

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Signaling long ago that it would never tire of writing about -- and generally denouncing -- the topic of paid speeches Hillary Clinton gave as a private citizen, the press keeps piling on. Just last week, The Washington Post added to its already mountainous Clinton speech coverage by publishing another long take, this one complete with charts and graphs.

    Following the press’ lead, Republican operatives are reportedly scouring the political countryside in search of what are now often portrayed as Clinton’s near-mythical speech transcripts.

    But note that this media spotlight only searches out one target: Hillary Clinton.

    And that’s been among the most baffling elements of the media’s obsession with Clinton’s speaking fees: Why are her lecture circuit earnings the only ones that matter? When so many prominent Republican candidates previously cashed big checks making paid speeches (and some of them cashed the checks while running for president), why are only the Democratic front-runner’s speeches considered to be newsworthy and borderline controversial?

    Those recent Republican candidates include Mike HuckabeeBen CarsonJeb BushCarly FiorinaMitt RomneyHerman CainNewt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani, who pocketed more than $11 million in the thirteen months prior to announcing his candidacy in 2007.

    And yes, Donald Trump.

    It turns out that a big chunk of Trump’s speaking fees revolve around ACN, a controversial multilevel marketing company that’s been accused of bilking people out of millions of dollars.

    If presented in proper context by the press, Trump’s long-running and lucrative relationship with ACN would essentially eliminate questions about Clinton’s speeches. And if queries persisted, the press would have to demand Trump also release nearly a decade worth of transcripts.

    In truth, there has been some good reporting on Trump's questionable relationship with ACN. (Interestingly, some of it has been done by the conservative press.) But apart from the initial flurry of reports last summer, Trump’s ACN association -- like so many scandals involving the presumptive Republican nominee -- has largely faded from view. And virtually none of the coverage has focused on the issue of paid speeches, or suggested Trump release transcripts to his six-figure ACN pep rallies, the way the press has hounded Clinton over that issue.

    Here’s the key point: Clinton’s paid speeches, whether to financial institutions, universities or trade associations, have never represented endorsements. On the other hand, Trump has spent years giving paid speeches and appearances specifically to ACN and quite clearly endorsing the company: “ACN has a reputation for success, success that’s really synonymous with the Trump name.” 

    In 2009 and 2011, ACN executives appeared on Trump’s NBC reality show, Celebrity Apprentice. And during one episode, Trump touted a “revolutionary” videophone that ACN was rolling out: “I simply can’t imagine anybody using this phone and not loving it.” (The product quickly flopped.)

    ACN’s website once bragged how, "Trump is a fixture at ACN International Training Events, setting the record for the most appearances from the ACN stage by any ACN special guest speaker." (The boasts have since been deleted.)

    In fact, it seemed the whole point of his speeches and personal appearances were for Trump to boost ACN’s brand and convince more people to buy into its sales system. “To prop up its business, ACN relies heavily on Trump to recruit news salespeople into the fold,” The Daily Caller noted.

    Being a multilayered marketing company means ACN relentlessly recruits people to sell its products.

    As Slate explained:

    Products sold through the multilevel marketing model aren’t sold in stores. Instead individuals purchase a startup kit (always encouraged, but not always required) and then contract with the company for the right to sell the merchandise to other individuals. They receive a commission on each sale but are not actually employed by the company. So far, so familiar. That’s the classic Avon Lady model.

    But selling goods one by one to your neighbors and friends isn’t the way to riches, no matter how much you hound them or otherwise guilt-trip them into making purchases. So multilevel marketing companies incentivize their salespeople to recruit other salespeople, promising them a cut of all that person’s sales, as long as both the original seller and the new recruit remain active.

    Becoming an ACN salesperson costs money. The company charges a $499 initiation fee, and then “ACN representatives are charged a $149 annual renewal fee, and they often pay $39.99 a month for a package of technology and marketing materials, plus extra fees to attend company meetings and conferences.” 

    Trump now seems to realize the political downside to his ACN cheerleading. When asked about his cozy, decade-long relationship with ACN, Trump last year told The Wall Street Journal he didn’t really know much about the company. (“I know nothing about the company other than the people who run the company.”) This is a company, as the Journal reported, that has paid Trump “millions of dollars” “over the past decade.”

    Indeed, Trump once bragged that in 2006 the company paid him $2.5 million for a single speech. And last year when Trump filed a financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission, three ACN speeches/appearances from 2014 and 2015 were listed among his income. Trump pocketed $450,000 for each one.

    Why are Trump’s ACN six-figure paychecks a big deal? And why, if Hillary Clinton had spent years hyping a company as suspicious as ACN, would there probably already have been Republican-led congressional hearings into that relationship?

    From the Journal [emphasis added]:

    Mr. Trump’s endorsement helped entice people such as Donna Roberson, 47 years old, a disabled Army veteran near Tacoma, Wash., who signed up as an ACN independent business owner in 2011. In an interview, she recalled thinking at the time: “If he’s pushing it, it’s got to be a good company to get into. Yeah, we can make money at this.”

    Ms. Roberson, a single mother of four, said she lost as much as $2,000 on ACN“I feel like it’s a big scam,” she said. “It was costing me more to stay in the company than what I was making.”

    Here are some additional reasons why Trump likely wants his ACN past to disappear:

    • In 2010, Montana’s securities commissioner alleged ACN was an “illegal pyramid scheme” and sought to have it shut down, according to WSJ. State regulators dropped the charge after the company promised to better train its workers.
    • The Journal also laid out how Maryland regulators accused ACN affiliate Xoom Energy of jacking up energy rates for its customers and is seeking at least $1 million in payments for customers.
    • Xoom is also the subject of a class action lawsuit in North Carolina and is accused of making “false and misleading” sales pitches. “The lawsuit includes the text of almost three dozen online complaints alleging similar acts of fraud against ACN and/or Xoom,” National Review reported.
    • A former ACN salesman confessed to a local ABC affiliate in New York that he was unintentionally “robbing people” when he got them to sign up for Xoom Energy.

    In other words, ACN is a mess and ACN is precisely the kind of questionable company a presidential candidate should stay away from, and certainly the type of company a candidate should not have spent years breathlessly endorsing in exchange for $450,000 paychecks.

    Keep that in mind the next time reporters hover around Clinton speech transcripts.