Politics: Dealings in Atlantic City, redemption in California

3 years ago

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I’m Christina Bellantoni, the Essential Politics host today. Hope it was a lovely Christmas wherever you were. Let’s get started.
It was a quiet weekend in politics, offering plenty of time to read up on Donald Trump, who remains his party’s national front-runner.
Joseph Tanfani starts in Atlantic City, digging deep into Trump’s dealings over more than three decades.
In his Republican presidential campaign, Trump sells himself as a brilliant businessman and consummate dealmaker. With his showman's knack for positive spin, he depicts his history in Atlantic City, bankruptcies and all, as more proof of his genius for timing, Tanfani writes.
"I had the good sense — and I've gotten a lot of credit in the financial pages … I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered," Trump said during the first Republican debate.
The real story of Trump's rise and fall in Atlantic City is more complicated. His casinos were profitable early. As he expanded, though, Trump's aggressive borrowing and go-go strategy left them laboring under high-interest debt. When he decided to leave, in 2009, the exit was far from smooth and graceful; he gave up after last-ditch battles with bondholders.
Read the piece to hear from people who still love Trump, even those who lost money, along with people who have bitter memories.
As for the Democrats, New Hampshire is shaping up to be a fascinating contest.
Mike Memoli does an analysis of New Hampshire’s significant wild card: undeclared voters. Campaigns will work overtime to monitor their changing attitudes in the final weeks before the first ballots are cast, Memoli writes, though many undeclared voters are not truly independents and vote consistently in one primary or the other. Still, in a close primary contest, those voters can make a significant difference. So can undeclared voters who lean toward one party or the other but don't vote in every election. Both groups add another unpredictable element to a state where more than a third of voters often make up their minds in the final three days before the primary, according to exit polls taken over the years.
That continues to present opportunities for candidates who might not fare so well in other states. Evan Halper examines Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Granite State ground game.
The Sanders team sees New Hampshire as its ticket to redefining the race, Halper writes from Hampton, N.H.
In a reflection of how fierce the electoral battle is there, the Sanders campaign has 41 hired staffers whose main job is to build a steadily expanding grass-roots network of volunteer door knockers, phone bankers and rally organizers. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has even more such people on its staff.
Sanders also made a sort-of appeal to Trump supporters in an appearance Sunday on CBS’ "Face the Nation."


Gov. Jerry Brown continued his Christmas Eve tradition of granting pardons, putting his totals for clemency and commutations far above his predecessors.
Paige St. John reports that Brown has granted executive clemency to 1,087 people, including 683 since returning to office in 2011.
Mega-star Robert Downey Jr., who was inducted into the California Hall of Fame a few months before Brown’s pardon of his many previous drug offenses, understandably drew the most attention Thursday. But our team learned the stories of the other 90 people on Brown’s "nice" list, made as the governor saw stories of redemption.
Sacramento bureau chief John Myers, Melanie Mason and Christine Mai-Duc report that the crimes listed in Brown’s pardon proclamations run the gamut of severity; one man was pardoned for stealing $20 from a convenience store, another for a manslaughter conviction stemming from a traffic collision.
There was Aaron Malloy, now 38, who was 16 when he was arrested for robbery. He entered state prison on his 19th birthday, served five years and seven months and spent two years on parole.
And Amos Hathway, now 45 and a pastor in Oregon, was convicted of possession of an eighth of an ounce of marijuana with intent to sell soon after his 18th birthday. His criminal past didn’t stop him from working and traveling the world as a pastor, but when his children started signing up for Little League baseball — and he had to acknowledge on the application that he was a convicted felon — Hathway started looking into clearing his record.
The same crime today, of course, would merit little more than a slap on the wrist in California, and is not illegal in Oregon.
A Brown spokesman said the governor was weighing the final decisions as late as Thursday morning, based solely on his own instincts about each individual's attempt at rehabilitation.


Who knew Rep. Doug LaMalfa had so much to say? The Richvale Republican is the member of the California delegation who spent the most time talking on the House floor, even though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hail from the Golden State.
Sarah Wire took C-SPAN’s tally and explained what it was that LaMalfa wanted America to know.


For California political watchers, 2015 began with a bang — the decision by Sen. Barbara Boxer to retire — and never let up. From an epic climate change clash in Sacramento to maneuvering over ballot measures in the year to come, John Myers and his reporter roundtable offer an overview of the most notable stories in this final episode for 2015.
The free California Politics podcast is now on iTunes — subscribe today!


— Doug Smith examines the religious history behind Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration.
— By most accounts, Roberta Jacobson’s confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Mexico should have been a shoo-in. Fluent in Spanish, expert in Latin American politics and skilled in cross-border trade negotiations, the career diplomat was nominated by President Obama to take over the crucial foreign service post six months ago. But her nomination is in limbo, hostage to GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s staunch opposition to Obama's diplomatic opening with Cuba, which Jacobson helped negotiate as assistant secretary of State, Tracy Wilkinson reports.
— David Savage introduces Edward Blum, the most effective legal strategist before the Supreme Court these day — a retired stockbroker and liberal-turned-conservative who admits he sometimes finds plaintiffs by cold-calling strangers on the phone.
— Molly Hennessy-Fiske previews a number of immigration issues that could play a role in the campaign next year.
— Don’t expect to see Sen. Rand Paul on a smaller debate stage next month. The Kentucky Republican said if he doesn’t make the main forum, he will boycott the undercard debate.
— Chris Megerian notes everyone gets a stocking at the governor’s mansion this year.


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