Propping Up A Dictator

One America News is reporting today that two Russian air force planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops. This is reported by a local journalist.

The article reports:

Reporter Javier Mayorca wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the first plane carried Vasily Tonkoshkurov, chief of staff of the ground forces, adding that the second was a cargo plane carrying 35 tonnes of material.

An Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military cargo plane left for Caracas on Friday from Russian military airport Chkalovsky, stopping along the way in Syria, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.

The cargo plane left Caracas on Sunday afternoon, according to Adsbexchange, another flight-tracking site.

It sounds as if the Russians are attempting to duplicate what they did in Cuba many years ago, support an unpopular dictator who will be a thorn in the side of America. The Russians have another reason to want to keep Venezuela indirectly under their control.

On March 22nd The Miami Herald reported:

Cuba would have to spend nearly $2 billion a year to meet its domestic oil needs if Venezuela’s National Assembly and interim president Juan Guaidó manage to stop deliveries to the Caribbean island.

“Cuba’s demand for oil is about 130,000 barrels per day, and Cuba produces about 50,000 barrels per day, which means a deficit of about 80,000 barrels per day,” said Jorge Piñón, director of the Latin American Energy Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Piñón estimates that Cuba has fuel reserves for about 45 days. But the end of deliveries by Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company would force the government to spend nearly $5.2 million per day at the market price of $65 per barrel for the 80,000 barrels per day it would need to import to meet demand.

By the end of one year, that would add up to nearly $2 billion for an economy that economists agree has not reached 2 percent annual growth in recent years and has probably experienced a recession.

The National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, recently ordered a suspension of crude shipments to Cuba, which started under an agreement to exchange oil for medical services negotiated by the late Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

PDVSA now ships an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 barrels per day to Cuba, not quite half of what the oil company sent before it spiraled into an unprecedented crisis under the Nicolás Maduro regime.

There is also another aspect of Venezuela’s oil shipments.

In November 2013, I reported:

On Friday the Associated Press reported that PDVSA, the government-owned oil producer in Venezuela, seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services. The company had shut down the rigs because the Venezuela oil monopoly was behind on payments.

Nicolas Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chavez, has not taken over any industries during the six months he has been President of Venezuela. This is the first move he has made in that direction. When Hugo Chavez began taking over industries, one news analyst observed that it would be difficult for him to keep those industries running at their profit levels without the knowledge of the companies that owned them. The seizure of these two rigs, which are repair rigs, is an illustration of that point.

Like it or not, free enterprise generates more wealth for more people than socialism.

It is a safe bet that oil production is only a fraction of what it was before Maduro took over the oil industry. That adds to the financial woes of Venezuela and will also have an impact of Cuba.

Campaign Finance Violations On Steroids

Yesterday The Washington Examiner posted an article about some campaign finance violations by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti. The violations listed are not minor violations, there are some major amounts of money involved here.

The article reports:

Two political action committees founded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s top aide funneled over $1 million in political donations into two of his own private companies, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

…The arrangement skirted reporting requirements and may have violated the $5,000 limit on contributions from federal PACs to candidates, according to the complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group.

Campaign finance attorneys described the arrangement as “really weird” and an indication “there’s something amiss.” They said there was no way of telling where the political donations went — meaning they could have been pocketed or used by the company to pay for off-the-books campaign operations.

PACs are required to disclose how and when funds are spent, including for expenditures such as advertisements, fundraising emails, donations to candidates, and payments for events and to vendors.

The private companies to which Chakrabarti transferred the money from the PACs are not subject to these requirements.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article for the details.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. Was it a rookie mistake or was it planned corruption? Is this coming out now because AOC has become a problem for the Democrats–she is so far left that she may cost them votes in 2020?

The article concludes:

Bradley A. Smith, a former chairman of the FEC, said he has never seen such an arrangement. “It’s a really weird situation,” he said. “I see almost no way that you can do that without it being at least a reporting violation, quite likely a violation of the contribution limits. You might say from a campaign finance angle that the LLC was essentially operating as an unregistered committee.”

Chakrabarti declined to comment on the FEC complaint or provide details about his companies’ financial activities. Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment.

Zeynab Day, communications director for the Brand New Congress PAC, said Chakrabarti was not currently affiliated with the group and that it recently went through a “transition period.” She referred questions about the LLC to Chakrabarti. “I’m unable to answer any questions about the LLC … I am not informed about them. We are not an affiliated group,” she said.

A spokesperson for Justice Democrats said he did not know why the PAC paid so much money to Chakrabarti’s LLCs. When asked what the Justice Democrats PAC does on a daily basis, he said, “It’s very clear what we do,” but declined to elaborate.

Chakrabarti founded Brand New Congress PAC, in April 2016. According to a statement released by Justice Democrats PAC last May, Chakrabarti “was the only controlling member” of the company Brand New Congress LLC and “took no salary.” The statement added: “Saikat is lucky to have a small side business that generates him enough income that he is able to do all of this work as a volunteer.”

If this story is accurately reported, it is bound to get more interesting!

What The Media Reported vs. The Truth

Yesterday The Daily Caller posted an article debunking some of the recent attacks on Scott Pruitt. The article reports that recently Democrats had claimed that Scott Pruitt asked his staff to establish a new EPA office in Tulsa, Oklahoma (his home town). This was characterized as a misuse of taxpayer dollars. The House Democrats stated, “This most recent case of questionable financial management adds to the growing concerns about Administrator Pruitt’s misuse of taxpayers’ funds and potential ethical lapses in judgement.” The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) investigated and found out that this was a total misrepresentation of the actual events.

The article reports:

EPA officials asked questions about how Pruitt could periodically work from his hometown, Tulsa, in a way consistent with past administrators, utilizing existing office setups or working with federal officials to find suitable office space, emails show.

Pruitt is under fire for alleged overspending and ethical lapses, including flying first class at taxpayers’ expense and renting a room from the wife of a D.C. lobbyist. Congress and EPA’s Office of Inspector General have investigations into Pruitt’s actions.

House Democrats are claiming Pruitt wanted to put his own convenience over taxpayers’ money by establishing an EPA office in his hometown.

Democrats based their claim on emails from EPA officials, including Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, who at the time was still working for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The Daily Caller notes that the Democrats never disclosed how they discovered the emails and did not release the emails to the public.

The article explains exactly what the emails were about:

The DCNF obtained emails that likely encompassed those cited by Democrats based on descriptions detailed in their letters to EPA and GSA. Democrats’ letter described two emails sent in January and February of 2017.

What the emails do show is Pruitt asked Jackson “where he could work” while home in Oklahoma.

Emails sent primarily between Jackson and Senior Policy Advisor James Blizzard show the two working to find Pruitt office space to rent while he was in Oklahoma, where his family and permanent residence are.

Jackson asked Senior Policy Advisor James Blizzard if the Office of Administration and Resources Management and GSA “could put their heads together and get something prepared for him.” Blizzard provided Jackson with a solution in a follow-up email sent Jan. 31, 2017.

Pruitt would need an “episodic telework agreement” so he could periodically conduct official business while in Tulsa, Blizzard said. Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has a similar arrangement, Blizzard suggested.

Lied to again by the mainstream media.