Casual corruption, Trump style

Here’s how you do corruption:

On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump’s will argue, if they bother, that this isn’t illegal because … something. I don’t really care because it obviously is corrupt. If you think that China didn’t do this at least partly to get in good graces with President Trump, then you don’t live in the same world I do. And there’s more:

Instead, the first daughter and her husband have emerged as prominent interlocutors with China, where they have both had significant business ties. Last year, Kushner pursued hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate investments from Anbang Insurance Group, a financial conglomerate with close ties to the Chinese state. After media reports about the deal, talks were called off.

Pure corruption.

Who cares about corruption

Well, that didn’t take long:

House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate.

In its place, a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be set up within the House Ethics Committee, which before the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

Rep. Goodlatte defends the change:

“The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics,” he said, in his statement. “The O.C.E. has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work.”

People often make changes that will help against corruption behind closed doors and with no public input. On the other hand, it does align the House with Donald Trump who will probably run the most corrupt administration in generations.

Afghanistan and corruption

I don’t really like Afghanistan’s President Karzai. He obviously is willing to sell people out for votes and his government is corrupt enough that it might not make sense to back him. Still, I love this push back:

But Afghan officials have begun to push back, complaining the Americans are often overpaid, underqualified, and unfamiliar with the culture of the country. Even the best, most qualified advisers can sow mistrust because they answer to the US government or firms rather than to Afghan officials.

and when you see details like this:

A typical US adviser earns about $500 per day – several times what the average Afghan earns in a month. Add on the costs of security, accommodations, and support, and the cost reaches about $2,000 per day, or $500,000 a year, usually paid to a US firm, according to Paul O’Brien, a vice president at Oxfam America, a Boston-based international relief organization that monitors aid effectiveness.

you see that they have a point. They could get an advisor from India who knows the region better for much much less, but that wouldn’t help US firms. You can see the attitude here:

as evidenced in the case of Yeager, a Colorado geologist hired in 2006 to educate the Ministry of Mines staff about the process of soliciting bids for mineral exploration. Yeager, who was paid by a World Bank fund to which the United States is a major contributor, advocated the creation of investment conditions that would be attractive to Western mining companies.

But Afghan officials ignored his advice and chose a Chinese company in a process Yeager said was too secretive. The Chinese promised to build a railroad along with the mine, something that Afghans badly wanted. But Yeager said he believed that American companies should have been given more consideration.

“The United States has gone in there with our blood and treasure, but the US companies get no credit,’’ he said.

The secrecy complaint has merit (but how many non-bid contracts did the US give out in Iraq and Afghanistan?), but why exactly is an advisor to Afghanistan pushing so hard for US bids–isn’t he supposed to be working for Afghanistan’s interests?

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